Thursday, July 11, 2019

Independence Day at Mill Race Village: A Spirit of '76 Celebration

I have loaded up the photographs for this week's posting to show our 4th of July celebration at Historic Mill Race Village in Northville, Michigan.  Yes, there is a small history lesson here as well,  but it's mainly a visual tour - a depiction  of  life for the common people who lived during the period that produced the Declaration of Independence.  It is an article about patriotism and how we, as an ever-growing group of living historians, help to bring the past to life on this Independence Day holiday in such a celebratory manner as to bring excitement about our country's past to the forefront.


BOOM!  The cannons leaped backward, the air was full of flying grass and weeds.  Everybody was exclaiming about what a loud noise they had made.
"That's the noise that made the Redcoats run!"  Mr. Paddock said to Father.
" was muskets that won the Revolution."
B&K Photography took this amazing photo.
"Maybe,"  Father said, tugging his beard.  "But it was muskets that won the Revolution.  And don't forget it was axes and plows that made this country."
"That's so,  come to think of it,"  Mr. Paddock said.
That night when they were going to the house with milk,  Almanzo asked Father:  "Father, how was it axes and plows that made this country?  Didn't we fight England for it?"
"We fought for Independence, son,"  Father said.  "It was farmers that took that country and made it America."
"How?"  Almanzo asked.
"Spaniards were soldiers that only wanted gold.  The French were fur traders,  wanting to make quick money.  And England was busy fighting wars.  But we were farmers, son;  we wanted the land.  It was farmers that went over the mountains,  and cleared the land,  and settled it,  and farmed it,  and hung on to their farms.  It's the biggest country in the world,  and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America.  Don't you ever forget that." ~
(taken from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder as the Wilder family celebrated the 4th of July in the 1870s) 

I really like this explanation. It is, more or less, what I taught my kids when they were tiny tots, and now they, too, love and appreciate history and America in their own right. 
And that makes me proud!


The spirits of  '76  live on!
Though there's no great history lesson in today's post, there are quite a few - over 50! - pictures showing 1776  as best as we can, with a few explanations showing how we,  as colonial/RevWar reenactors,  celebrated the 4th of July this year.
I hope you enjoy 'em.
Members of the Citizens of the American Colonies  (and friends)  who gathered together to celebrate the 243rd birthday of the
United States of America.

(Another great B&K photo.
Check out their link at the bottom of this post)
This is my third year celebrating Independence Day at Mill Race Village,  located in Northville,  Michigan,  and it just keeps getting bigger and better.  Back in 2017, a few of us reenactors - only five of us - just kind of showed up on our own to Mill Race and began to mix and mingle with the guests.  The good folks who run the historic village really enjoyed what we did and formally invited us back the following year.  We certainly did return---in full-force, for nearly two-dozen joined in on the fun! we are back in 2019.  If you take a quick count of the reenactors in the above picture,  you will find 25 of us in the group.  And that's not counting the dozen or so who did not make it down for the picture.
The young man holding the flag, once again, did an amazing job as 
our  "liberty boy"  (as he did during our Patriot's Day reenactment in April),  and he spent much of his time walking up and down the road carrying the Taunton flag and letting everyone know he was a true patriot.
We certainly passed last year's count!
I'm not sure if the numbers will continue growing in this manner every year,  but for now I am as pleased as the proverbial punch!  And we all had an amazingly fine time indeed!
Yeah...that's me on the right.
In this portion of the picture I spy six of us who also reenact the Civil War era.  And we're not the only ones - there's a few more who travel between the two time periods in our group,  another way to keep reenacting fresh and interesting.
In fact,  I've found quite a few reenactors who,  stemming from Civil War,  have found themselves in a couple of different eras of the past,  including Revolutionary War or War of 1812 or French & Indian War or WWII,  and even beyond that.  To me it's only natural,  for one can only reenact a four year period for so long before boredom can set in.  And for those who joined me in the 18th century,  I am very grateful.  In fact,  I believe they are enjoying themselves much more than they anticipated!
I also feel that this 4th of July event at Mill Race was a catalyst for many who were on the fence,  for I can think of no better way to celebrate Independence Day than to be in 18th century clothing, strolling down a country lane from a time long past...
Mill Race is actually a Victorian village, but I believe we did a fine job converting it into an east coast town from the good old colony days for this Independence Day.  
This could be a lane in any 1776 town or village of America...
from colony to state...this is part of what we hoped to recreate.
The visitors were not yet inside the Village,  so I was able to capture a period scene without having to use photoshop to keep it more accurate.

I do a lot of thinking as a reenactor.  Oh, not always just strict scholarly historical thoughts - sometimes quite the opposite - -  and this time I found myself in this little fantasy world of how I might handle a sudden time-space continuum, where I am hurled into the past.  There are many different aspects of such an unlikely happening.  One speculation I had well would I like the people of the past?  I mean, let's face it,  we here in the 21st century are a very different sort than those who lived in the 18th century.  We are much more open.  Our morals and values - as much as we may like to think are traditional - are very different from our ancestors in nearly every way.
We speak much faster...mostly without giving a second thought of our verbiage.
We are a different breed - not better nor worse.  Just in a different time.
Neighbors Meg and Rae enjoying a conversation.
Knowing these two ladies the way I do, I am willing to bet they 
were talking about sewing and fashion.
They are both amazing seamstresses.
Photo taken by Lynn Anderson
So I was very recently reading about the language usage of days gone by, and I learned of a few examples of the differences in our speech patterns from 18th century til today.  Robert Burchfield,  who studied the English language extensively in the 20th century,  said that George Washington probably sounded as British as Lord North,  England's Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782,  and Lord North probably sounded more American than any British minister today.
Lovely ladies of the 18th century~
They, too, may have spoken the same as 

Washington and North.
Just a small example in the older pronunciation:  the words  bath  and  path  would have sounded very much in the American way as we say them today.  Burchfield also feels that the late 18th century folk would have given  r's  their full value in words such as  cart  and  horse.
Lynn portrayed Betsy Ross last year and returned again this year.  Considering the news events of late about this historic flag known as the  "Betsy Ross"  flag,  she had quite a bit to say indeed.
Another interesting finding of Burchfield's is that the words  tea  and  speak  would have been pronounced as  "tay"  and  "spake."   He also says that  certain  and  merchant  were pronounced as  "sartin"  and  "marchant."
"Ladies,  I am sartin I must go purchase tay at the marchant.
I look forward to joining you presently thereafter."
An interesting bit to our language is that we Americans still use certain terminology today that was common in the Revolutionary period,  though has since died in England, such as  gotten  (for got), fall  (for autumn),  mad  for angry,  and even  trash  for rubbish  (among other words).
It would be interesting to hear a conversation spoken  (spaken?)  in the dialect of  Revolutionary America.

Meanwhile,  whatever the dialect,  all the talk on the street was about the colonies declaring independence from the tyrant king, George.
"I heard the Patriots had declared independence!
Oh, I am not certain how that should be for us."

All along the road there were multiple scenes and 
scenarios for the visiting public to witness.
Ken, there, on the right, has been reenacting since
the 1960s and has been in numerous movies
including the great Last of the Mohicans with
Daniel Day-Lewis.

Jackie & Charlotte - both are Civil War reenactors as well.
We're glad they've joined us four score and seven years earlier.

As you can see, it did not take very long for the guests to come a-visiting and a-celebrating the Independence Day holiday.
And the variety of people that show up never cease to amaze me.  Many are foreign-born U.S. citizens,  of whom I love to speak with.  Their knowledge and excitement of American history is very admirable.  If only our own natural-born citizens could get as excited.
I also loved seeing all the folks wearing the red, white, and blue shirts, pants. dresses, hats, and even shoes.  And the American flag abounded.  Aside from Christmas,  I can't think of another holiday where so many folks decorate and dress in such a festive manner.
Okay...Hallowe'en...but the 4th of July is right up there!
See that mountain over there?
One of these days I'm gonna climb that mountain!
That's me with Susan in the above picture.  She is wearing her newly made dress for the first time on this day.  Just a few days later she found herself in Colonial Williamsburg - a long-time dream that came true!  Guess what she wore?  Believe me, if you ever want to have an immersion experience in the good old colony days, Williamsburg is the place to visit...while wearing period-correct attire.

You know, reenacting has changed my perspective on many things, including holiday celebrations.  Memorial Day Weekend is one good example;  I now spend this  "first weekend of summer"  holiday at historic Greenfield Village,  not eating hotdogs and hamburgers,  but remembering those who had given  (and those who are still willing to give)  their  last full measure of devotion  for the protection of our country by serving in the military.  Not that celebrating with burgers and dogs and beaches isn't a good thing,  but taking a moment - only a moment - to remember why we have the Memorial Day Holiday should always play a part as well.
Which brings me to the 4th of July - Independence Day:
Mingling with Benjamin Franklin.
For most of my life I've celebrated the 4th of July up north at our family cottage,  with fireworks, good food, bonfires at night, and going to the beach.  It was absolutely wonderful.
For the past decade I celebrated this holiday by visiting historic Greenfield Village.  One complete decade.  And,  per what had become my usual routine,  I enhanced my patriotic experience by wearing appropriate period attire,  and oftentimes a few living historian friends - sometimes more than a few - would join me in this time-travel adventure.
However,  this year of  2019  was different.
Due to the overwhelmingly large amount of participants who planned to take part in the Mill Race Village celebration,  I did not make it to Greenfield Village for July 4th,  for, as the so-called overseer of the reenactors here,  I needed to be at Mill Race earlier to ensure everyone knew the schedule and placement of events.
So, for now, Greenfield would have to wait a bit.
I have to say that I can't explain the feeling I get when I  dress the part in period clothing on Independence Day.  I almost feel like I blend into the era,  especially when I have so many others join me, as they did once again this year at Mill Race.
The spirits of '76 indeed!
My good friend Jackie has been a Civil War reenactor
longer than she cares to admit,  and she enjoys it
immensely,  but she is also enjoying her foray into the

era of our Nation's founding as well.
So glad she joined us!

This picture was taken by Lynn Anderson

The one thing I attempt to do with my photography
(or when I use other's pictures) 
is to take or use
as many with more  'natural scenes'  as I can in my
attempt to give the viewer a sort of past-times vision.

Visiting with Betsy Ross and Susan.
This picture is from the Northville Historical Society

We may not always stay in 1st person, but you won't catch us in modern speak either, for our conversations generally stay in the vein of history.
Picture taken by Richard Reaume

Eyeing Miss Stanard in her clothing,  which was a bit on the unusual side,  I asked her if she could give me a little background,  for what she was wearing was quite different from what the other ladies were wearing:
A Richard Reaume photograph
"It is transitional.  The original is French 1790 and is pictured the book,  "Revolution in Fashion."   It was also worn by the Maria Cosway character in the movie,  "Jefferson in Paris."
The hat is a Lunardi.  The Lunardi Brothers sent up some of the first hot air balloons  (circa 1785).  It set off a fashion trend of clothing with the hot air motif.  The hat is supposed to look not so much like a balloon as a fallen soufflĂ©.
There are numerous plates of this time in "Eighteen Century French Fashion Plates."

As I was researching the information for my July 4, 2019  posting about the contemporary reactions to the first readings of the Declaration of Independence,  I found a common thread that ran the gamut of the towns and villages in the American colonies,  from north to south;  after the citizens heard the Declaration read for the very first time,  they all seemed to react in the same manner, no matter which village they lived:  they cheered, bells were rung,  muskets were fired,  illuminations were set off,  candles were lit at night...
And that's what we tried to replicate here at Mill Race Village.
To begin with,  Richard alerted the townsfolk of
Mill Race Village of the very special reading.

And gather they did!  It's not often one can hear the Declaration read by a member of the five who helped to write it: Dr.  Benjamin Franklin.

But before the  'headliner'  came on,  I got to be the warm-up act:
I gave a quick history of the Declaration and the reaction of the founding generation upon hearing it for the first time.
To be honest,  I had a feeling there were many in the audience who had never read or heard the entire document.

Then the guest of honor took center stage and opened the broadside and began to read...

"In Congress, July 4, 1776.
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America
In General Congress Assembled.
When in the Course of Human Events..."

But then, something happened as he read it;
he began to roll the broadside up...but he continued
to say the words that were written upon it!
He had it memorized!
It is over 1300 words long!
Some of those in the modern clothes noticed his memorization and wondered if he was reciting the Declaration or simply just talking about it.  I let them know every word he was saying came directly from the document.
For many of us, great attention was given to every word. 

And,  just as what occurred when the Declaration was read for the first time nearly two and a half centuries earlier...
...muskets were fired...and the church and school bells were rung...

Three cheers for: 
The new United States of America, 
for Benjamin Franklin, 
for Thomas Jefferson, 
for George Washington, 
for John Adams 
all came from the crowd, whether dressed in period attire or in modern clothes, helping to stir patriotism to all.

It was a wonderful scenario to reenact and to be a part of, because we all were truly celebrating being a part of the greatest country in the world!
At some point in the reenacting world, the three of us here in this 
picture portray a known person from the past.  I think it's pretty 
obvious that Bob,  on the left,  does a pretty amazing job as 
Benjamin Franklin.  Lynn in the middle speaks as Betsy Ross.  
And then there's the guy on the right - me - who comes out every-
so-often as Paul Revere.

There were concerns of the Redcoats rising up once they hear of this independence thing,  so some of the local militia were prepared.

But with Benjamin Franklin in our midst,  we were
certain the uncertainty of declaring independence, which weighed 
heavily on the minds of the townsfolk,  was the right thing to do.
A Lynn Anderson production

Some of the men gave a loading and firing demonstration to the visitors, who enjoyed the sights and sounds of musket fire.

A few members of the ever-growing 1st Pennsylvania.
These guys are making all of their clothing and sewing by hand.
That's dedication!

Members of the 1st Pennsylvania had a set up of guns and accoutrements, and were able to give a bit of history of their unit to an interested public. 

Included in this collection was a specially scrolled powder horn done for Master Gerring:
Note the powder horn.

Marty and Chris.
is in the 1st Pennsylvania, did some leather 
work for his presentation.
Chris, here, is in Roger's Rangers of Michigan.
It was good to have both come out with us.

Members of the British 49th Regiment of Foote portraying members of the Continental Army.  It was difficult for them to do this, but they did!
Seriously, I love these guys - they have supported me and I appreciate that.

It was a special treat to have a few of the
Voyageurs come out and participate with us,
for they, too, had a historical tale to tell.
The Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs have been taking part in more of our events,  and we have been joining in on a few of their events as well.  It has made for more of a well-rounded presentation and history lesson.
I look forward to more of this!

Visiting the 1st Pennsylvania.
Tony Gerring heads up this American Rev War group and I 
appreciate that he and the guys have also been there for me and 
my time-travel excursions as well.
My son Rob is a member.
A Lynn Anderson photo

So, the second reading of the Declaration turned out to be a little, um, wet.
Yes, the very last half hour of the event a sudden downpouring of rain enveloped our area,  and the entire region was flooded.  Luckily, it only lasted about 30 minutes - but unfortunately, that was also the length of time it took to do the Declaration presentation and reading.
But would our founding fathers have let a little rain stop them?
When the rain came most ran to hide their heads.  But the die-hards remained, and all came up onto the large gazebo, safe from the drenching, 
to hear Dr.  Franklin give his reading one more time.

The rains came...

And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain...
No radio, tv, computer, phones  (cell or otherwise).  Just a good 
opportunity to spend a rainy moment together inside as friends.
This is a Rae Bucher picture

Some of the reenactors were on the small porch of a house right 
near the gazebo.
And since part of this scenario presentation was to replicate the  "pomp and parade"  of nearly 250 years ago when the Declaration was first read,  why would we let a little rain prevent us from playing that out?
"Boom!  That's the noise that made the Redcoats run!"
And with that,  along with the flooding puddles that covered the historic village, our Independence Day celebration at Mill Race Village was over.
But wait---what's this?
We always enjoy going out to eat at the local Big Boy restaurant afterward.  And both patrons and employees alike get a kick out of seeing all of us in our 18th century finery in their  modern establishment.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable day.  My thanks to all of the reenactors who came out to take part,  for it's because of everyone's participation that we could make 1776 come alive in a way that I hope our founding generation would be proud.


Wait---one more quick thing:
I very rarely politicize here,  but coming on the heels of a football player who cannot play very well and is therefore not wanted by any major team but seems to feel the need to find a way to keep his name in the news,  I felt I had to say something.
I just can't let it go.
To begin with, this was a glorious 4th of July.  Numerous visitors of different races thanked us for being there and made sure to let us know that they loved our nation's history,  through good and bad,  and made it a point to comment on how they were not offended by the  so-named  "Betsy Ross flag."  In fact, most said they were tired of having our country's past either seemingly erased, maligned, or vilified - some felt the need to state whether they leaned liberal or conservative.
Wow---opposite sides of the political spectrum on the same side here - - !!
How such a large international company can bow to one person....did you get that?  One person.
I believe Americans in general, be they liberal or conservative - Democrat or Republican - are simply fed up with protests that are going way too far.  I believe this situation will backfire to an extent that those very few who are perpetrating it will find themselves alone on the proverbial desert island.
I,  myself,  have had enough of this divisiveness that's been going on for well over a decade.  Through my Passion for the Past blog I try to keep the pre-20th century generations,  including my ancestors,  in their time, not our time, as I write and publish each post.  They need to placed in their own environment - their surroundings and influences - to do them justice and to be fair.  There is enough negativity about America's past being taught in our colleges, and sometimes our high schools - and, of course, we must always remember the atrocities that occurred, but these atrocities are not our entire history.  And that's why I choose to keep my postings on the more positive as well as informative side of everyday life in early America.  And if my writing can stimulate emulation of the prouder virtues of our founding generation and maybe lead to real patriotism and caring for our country,  then I have achieved my goal.
Not a Democrat.  Not a Republican.
But an American.
God shed His grace on thee, America.

In fact, that's the way most of us are:
Three cheers for the United States of America!!

Until next time, see you in time.

Many thanks must go to the 1st Pennsylvania,  the 49th Regiment Of Foot,  the Lac Ste. Claire VoyageursRogers Rangers of Michigan,  and any of the independent walk-ons for joining Citizens of the American Colonies in making this 4th of July celebration such a success.
Also thank you to the good folks at Historic Mill Race Village and the Northville Historical Society in Northville, Michigan for allowing us to bring the colonial past to life.  We certainly enjoyed it!

And, yes, though I took many photographs with my  "stealth camera,"  there were other photographers there who did an amazing job in capturing the day for all of us.  Especially B & K Photography,  who tend to come out to our events and, between the two of them  (Beth and Kevin)  leave no stone unturned.  My heartfelt gratitude and thanks to these two amazing people.  In fact,  if the pictures have the B&K Photography watermark in the lower right corner, it's theirs, and if you are ever interested in posting any of their pictures on your page, please do not hide the watermark.
Then there are the pictures taken by the following,  also of top-notch quality:
Lynn Anderson
Rae Bucher
Sam Goldwater
Northville Historical Society
Richard Reaume
Thank you all.
(By the way, if no name is underneath the photo, it was taken with my camera so I get the credit! Ha!)
Hear ye!
Hear ye!
To learn more about our Patriot's Day reenactment at Mill Race Village, click HERE

To learn more about the writing of the Declaration of Independence, click HERE
To learn more about the printing and delivery of the Declaration, please click HERE
To learn more about the reaction from those who were there when it was first read, click HERE
To learn a bit on the everyday lives of those who lived during the time of the Declaration, click HERE
To learn a bit more about the road to liberty, please click HERE

The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

~   ~   ~

1 comment:

Barbara Rogers said...

Hoorah for you ALL. Thanks for the great collection that well depicts the day. I imagine I'd also like to do something like this, but for now, it's just wonderful to share it with you here in blog-land.