Sunday, March 29, 2020

Michigan Train Depots: The Edison Route from 1859 to 1866

To begin with,  for anyone who plans to use this posting to debate Edison vs Tesla,  please go elsewhere,  for this is not at all what today's article is about.  Rather,  it focuses on the early Michigan roots and routes of  Thomas Edison and how he spent his time as a young teenager working on the railroad.  Many of these train stations that Edison was familiar with when he rode the rails back in 1859 still exist to this day,  as you will see in the photos below.  Most of these depots allow for visitors to enter and learn a bit more about its history as well as the connection to Thomas Edison.
Come along and join me on this journey.


~   ~   ~


Statue of Thomas Alva Edison 
in Port Huron
Thomas Alva Edison's roots are in Michigan.  Particularly Port Huron,  Michigan.  That's one of those facts that many folks are unaware of.  No,  he was not born here;  he was born in the town of Milan, Ohio on February 11,  1847.  His parents,  Sam and Nancy Edison,  were of Canadian origin and had six children prior to Thomas,  only three of whom survived.  Edison’s family moved to Port Huron in 1854.  Throughout his childhood,  young Alva  (or Alvy or Al)   was full of curiosity about how things worked and always asked a lot of questions,  which did not set very well in a traditional school setting.
So it was after spending 12 weeks in a noisy one-room schoolhouse with 38 other students of varying ages when young Tom's overworked and short tempered teacher finally lost his patience with the child's persistent questioning and seemingly self centered behavior.  Noting that Tom's forehead was unusually broad and his head was considerably larger than average,  he made no secret of his belief that the hyperactive youngster's brains were  "addled"  or scrambled.
14 year old Thomas Edison
in Port Huron circa 1861 
If modern psychology had existed back then,  Tom would have probably been deemed a victim of ADHD  (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)  and prescribed a hefty dose of the  "miracle drug"  Ritalin.  Instead,  when his beloved mother,  whom he recalled  "was the making of me...she was always so true and so sure of me...and always made me feel I had someone to live for and must not disappoint,"   became aware of the situation,  she promptly withdrew him from school and began to  "home-teach"  him.  Not surprisingly,  she was convinced her son's slightly unusual demeanor and physical appearance were merely outward signs of his remarkable intelligence.  "My mother taught me how to read good books quickly and correctly,"  he later said,  "and as this opened up a great world in literature,  I have always been very thankful for this early training."  At the same time he was learning the entrepreneurial ways of his father,  who had numerous careers,  including land speculation,  shingle making,  and truck farming...that is,  the production of crops of vegetables on an extensive scale grown primarily for shipment to distant markets.  The same entrepreneurial attributes ascribed to his father were later applied to Edison:  "a lively disposition always looking on the bright side of things"  and  "full of most sanguine speculation as to any project he takes in his head."
His interest in science was initially sparked when his mother bought him his first science book,  "The School of Natural Philosophy."  He thoroughly studied the book and performed all the experiments described in it at home.  He soon set up his own laboratory in his room and began performing original experiments.  After a few disasters,  he was asked by his parents to move his laboratory to the basement.  But the explosions from the basement constantly shook the house,  often upsetting his father.  
Edison also helped in the family garden.  But as  "hoeing corn in a hot sun is unattractive,"   he found other work when the opportunity arose.

While the St. Clair River and the Great Lakes were vital to the development of Port Huron,  the railroads also played a pivotal role.  The Grand Trunk Railway connected Port Huron to the expanding nation through Detroit and to Ontario,  Canada,  via the railroad ferry,  and through those cities to the rest of the world.  The historic Fort Gratiot depot was built in 1858 and is the actual depot that Edison worked out of as a newspaper reporter.
In late 1859,  Edison's mother gave him permission to work as a  
"candy butcher,"  selling sweets,  newspapers,  and magazines to 
the train travelers. 
The Fort Gratiot Village Train Depot is of classic clapboard construction,  used frequently throughout the Midwest.  Opened in 1858,  the depot has amazingly stayed in its original location over the course of its entire 160+ year history.  Part of the vast plans of British investors to connect eastern Canadian cities with Chicago and points west,  this was a standard Grand Trunk Railway depot,  with a passenger waiting area, baggage/freight room and an office for the station agent,  of which there were several examples built both in the United States and Canada between roughly 1851 and 1860.
Each morning,  twelve year old Edison boarded a 7:00 am 
Detroit-bound train,  selling his wares,  and would return 
home to Port Huron at 9:00 pm.  

In the above picture,  I am standing just a few yards in front of 
where the Edison house once stood,  and the orange arrow points 
to the train depot;  this is how far Young Alvy had to walk to get 
to the train station every day.
Edison's house is no longer standing,  but the location is still 
known and pointed out:
His house,  which burnt down in 1870,  was a bit behind the area 
where the arrow is pointing.  Upon excavation of the site, 
evidence of Edison's lab was found,  and many of the items 
brought out of the dirt are now housed inside the Depot:
Here are a few of the neat things found where the Edison house 
once stood.  The depot has multiple artifacts that were unearthed 
displayed throughout.
While most of the stations of this design were constructed of brick,  the Fort Gratiot depot was instead constructed of wood,  due to the vast supply of said material in the area at the time.  One other unusual material was cut stone,  used in the construction of the near carbon-copy example station at St. Marys,  Ontario,  Canada.  These two remain the only surviving examples of these materials – all other surviving examples,  including Smiths Creek,  Mt.  Clemens and New Haven   (originally New Baltimore),  in Michigan – are of brick construction.
As a candy butcher,  young Edison soon showed an 
entrepreneurial flair and eventually employed two Port Huron 
boys to sell vegetables,  fruit,  butter,  and magazines.   He 
stocked his shelves with produce purchased in Detroit at 
wholesale prices or from farmers along the railroad. 
The primary definition of a candy butcher is a concessionaire hawking sweets on trains,  circuses,  or state and county fairs.  It was a popular profession for young boys who were strong,  for they had to carry their wares in a large carton/tray hooked around their neck.
The candy butcher also needed to be outgoing to actively promote their wares to make money,  and they needed to be savvy and be able to spot potential customers,  as well as be able to make change on the spot.
To save on shipping costs,  Edison used unoccupied space in the 
baggage car and enlisted the cooperation of railroad workers by 
selling discounted butter and vegetables to their wives.  
~A baggage car made to look like when Edison worked there~
Edison also expanded his news business by hiring boys to sell
newspapers on other trains.

The first stop along the ride to Detroit after leaving the Port Huron/Fort Gratiot Station was at the Smiths Creek Depot,  located in the community of Smiths Creek,  which was southwest of Port Huron.
From Smiths Creek looking toward Port Huron

This original building was removed from its location and restored 
inside of Henry Ford's historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn,  
Michigan.  What we have pictured here is the original depot as it 
sits inside Greenfield Village,  but let's pretend it's still in the 
town of Smiths Creek.

The Smiths Creek Depot,  originally built around 1858-59,  could 
have suffered the same wrecking ball fate as so many of the 
classic train depots of the 19th century.  But,  with the Thomas 
Edison connection,  this building was different.
By the early 1860s the Civil War was raging,  and when the battle of Shiloh was reported in the Detroit Free Press,  Edison talked the editor into giving him extra copies on credit and then had the headlines telegraphed ahead to the train's scheduled stops.  The crowds were so large and the demand for the papers so great that he steadily increased the price at each station,  selling all the papers at a handsome profit.  It is clear that young Al had already learned valuable lessons about the power of the telegraph and the press.
In early 1862,  Thomas Edison purchased a second-hand printing press of his own and began publishing a newspaper,  The Weekly Herald,  in the train's baggage car.  For a monthly subscription of eight cents,  the newspaper provided readers with local news,  train schedules,  birth announcements,  advertisements,  and egg,  butter,  and vegetable prices.
During stops in Detroit,  Edison made good use of his free time by continuing his education while working on the train and reading/studying in the Detroit Public Library during his daily layover as well as learn the rudiments of telegraphy.  He had also set up a laboratory in the baggage car of the train where he performed experiments during other moments of free time.
It was during a trip,  in 1863,  that an angry conductor threw 
young Tom off the train at this Smiths Creek depot when the boy 
accidentally set the baggage car on fire while conducting a 
chemical experiment using a jar of phosphorus.  The chemicals 
and his printing press were also tossed off as well. 

When Henry Ford heard this story from Edison himself,
he decided to see if the depot still existed. 
Ford found the depot still in pretty decent condition in rural Smiths Creek,  Michigan,  and negotiated with the town and Grand Trunk Railroad for its removal to his own historic Village,  agreeing to build a replacement,  which was built on the original location.
Where the station master lived.
I have visited Smiths Creek but cannot find where the depot once stood.  It seems that even its 1929 Henry Ford-built replacement is no longer there,  having been removed to a farm near Richmond,  according to the  "When Eastern Michigan Rode the Rails"  book.  So I did stand right in the middle of town and take a few photos of the tracks,  on which trains still run.
From Smiths Creek looking toward the next stop,  Beebe's 
Corners,  and then eventually winding up in Detroit.

A little history of the Beebe's Corners/Richmond here------
~Beebe's Corners/Ridgeway beget Richmond:  fortunately,  I was  'sent'  the following three pictures of the depot courtesy of Thomas C.  Pilarowski,  who is a member of the Friends of Greenfield Village Facebook page.
It is unfortunate that this wonderful piece of history was razed in the fall of 1988.
The depot as it looked in probably the 1980s.

October,  1988:  no one was able to save it.

But it certainly was appreciated back in the 1940s and 50s!
At least we have a bit of history about it:
Originally founded in 1835,  it was not until December 1,  1859,  that Beebe's Corners/Ridgeway/Richmond's success as a community was secured,  for the Grand Trunk Railway had arrived,  providing easy access to the area's lumber and agricultural products;  commodities much needed by a young nation in its time of Civil War.
In the decades that followed,  industry flourished and prospered.  By 1878,  the voters of Beebe's Corners and the two nearest neighboring communities,  Ridgeway and Cooper Town,  agreed to incorporate as one community.  The following year,  by an act of the Michigan Legislature,  the Village of Richmond was born.~
Though the Beebe's Corners depot is no longer,  we can safely assume its architecture is more than likely the same as the others we see on the route.

The following stop after Beebe's Corners for Thomas Edison was this depot,  which was,  as the others,  built in 1859,  and known then as the New Baltimore Station,  since New Baltimore was the nearest incorporated community at that time.
Ten years later,  in 1869,  the Village of  New Haven was 
incorporated,  and the depot then became known as the 
New Haven Station.
But this was the  New Baltimore Station  while Edison worked 
on the line.
Wall plaque of the year of construction
The depot was the anchor of the major transportation hub serving not only New Baltimore and New Haven,  but also the surrounding communities of Lenox,  Chesterfield,  Macomb,  and Ray.  This station was essential to the development of a wide range of local commerce ranging from farm product,  lumber production,  millers,  retailers,  and even bootleggers.
The placard at the New Baltimore/New Haven Station states that 
it was a favorite stop for Edison as he sold his papers and fruit.  
It's said that Edison had a physical altercation here when he ran into some competition in the fruit selling business.  Edison and his competitor eventually became friends,  and the descendants of his  "nameless"  competitor still live in the area.

In 1990,  the railroad company decided that the old depot had outlived its usefulness and announced that it would be torn down.  Soon,  a community group was formed called Save Our Depot,  and they did save the New Haven Depot/New Baltimore Station.  In 1997,  the group purchased the depot from the Grand Trunk Railroad,  along with 1.3 acres of land,  for the charitable sum of $5,000.  The Save Our Depot,  Inc.  group then raised about $100,000 for its restoration.  A majority of the money came from community development grants,  with an additional $50,000 worth of services contributed.  The restoration was finished in the spring of 2004 and the depot officially reopened on June 27,  2004 as a museum for the New Haven and Lenox Township community.  The Save Our Depot organization has evolved into the New Haven/Lenox Twp. Historical Society.

I discovered this depot quite by accident while driving in the rural area of its location during an early spring evening in April 2019.  After taking care of some business,  I made it back to the station to take photographs of it.
Just my luck...
...a train happened by!
No,  it was not a ghost train of an old steam locomotive.
It was a modern train and I was able to snap a couple of decent pictures as it rounded past the old depot.
And the last remnants of the train headed off into the sunset 
while evening had come to pass.


The historical markers
for Mt.  Clemens



Now we are heading to the next stop,  Mt.  Clemens.


It seems that 1858 and 1859 were busy years for the Grand Trunk Railroad,  for virtually every depot built along this line were constructed during this time,  including the one in Mt.  Clemens.  The Mt.  Clemens station was nearly identical to the other stations built in Smiths Creek,  New Haven/Richmond,  and,  most likely,  Beebe's Corners;  they are also very similar to stations constructed earlier by Grand Trunk in Ontario which were likely based on an 1841 English design.











From the Michigan Transit Museum:  "The Mount Clemens Train Station was Built in 1859 and served the Community until 1954.  It was purchased by the city in 1980 and then leased and restored by MTM."
The Mt.  Clemens Train Station as it stands today.
This depot,  like its sister depots,  was built for the Grand Trunk Junction Railway,  and it served the growing village and county seat of Macomb County:  Mount Clemens.  But,  as with the others,  there is also Thomas Edison history connected to it.  It was in 1862 at this depot that an act of bravery occurred when then 15 year old Al Edison rescued the toddler son of telegraph operator James MacKenzie from the path of a rolling freight car,  saving the small child playing on the tracks from certain death.  In appreciation, the station agent taught Tom telegraphy.
After practicing intensively all summer,  Edison took a part-time telegraph job in Port Huron.
The depot is restored to its 1900 appearance.
Inside are exhibits surrounding railroading of that era.

Inside the Mount Clemens Depot

I suppose  "tried & true"  fits here,  for it can be
difficult to figure out which depot is which - -
they really do all look alike!

"Some of Edison's earliest inventions
were based on the telegraph."
Within a year Edison had embarked on a four-year stint as an itinerant telegrapher,  a path followed by many ambitious,  technically oriented young men.  During those years he advanced to the front rank of telegraphers,  becoming an expert receiver known for his clear,  rapid handwriting.  He joined the elite press-wire operators,  the men who handled the lengthy,  important news dispatches.  He associated with journalists and editors,  frequenting their offices and joining their conversations into the early morning.  Some of his fellow operators later became newspaper reporters,  and a few of them would help push Edison into the public eye.
The restoration of this depot,  still on its original location,  is a 
blessing to the state,  not just for railroad or Edison buffs,  but to 
lovers of history as well.
A little background on the fair city of Mt.  Clemens that I believe you might find interesting:
In 1818,  Christian Clemens,  who first came to this area in 1796 as part of a surveying venture,  laid out lots and streets with names;  in other words,  he plotted a village he named Mount Clemens.  On January 15,  1818,  Michigan Territory Governor,  Lewis Cass,  signed a proclamation establishing the County of Macomb,  named after General Alexander Macomb,  hero of the War of 1812.  Three months later,  Governor Cass named Mount Clemens the County seat and appointed Christian Clemens Judge of the County Court.  On January 26,  1837,  the little settlement was incorporated as a village,  the same date that Michigan became the 26th state admitted to the Union.
But Mount Clemens was not yet the destination that it was soon to become.
Looking the same as it did all those years ago.
It was during the 1870’s,   after Thomas Edison had long left the railroad for bigger and better things,  that attempts to develop salt wells had proved unsuccessful but resulted in the discovery of the famed mineral waters.  Soon a mineral bath industry flourished that made Mount Clemens famous throughout the world as a health spa.  During the heyday of the mineral bath era,  23 major hotels and bath houses along with many smaller hotels and rooming houses prospered.
Around World War II,   this thriving industry began to decline,  and fewer and fewer people came to stay the three weeks required to obtain the curative powers of the baths.  Reminders of the era can still be seen throughout the City,  in the neighborhoods with the stately old Victorian and early 20th century homes and in the downtown with its picturesque buildings.
A little of old Mt.  Clemens can still be seen as it
once was well over a hundred years ago

Grand Trunk closed the Mt. Clemens station in 1954,  after which they used it for storage and other railroad-related services until at least 1972.  
In 1980,  the building was purchased by the city of Mount Clemens,  which restored the structure.
It is currently leased from the city by the Michigan Transit Museum.

So now we have traveled from Port Huron to Mt.  Clemens.   We have not made it to Detroit yet,  for there is yet one more stop:  Utica Plank  (Frazer)  station.
In 1858,  the Chicago,  Detroit and Canada Grand Trunk Junction Railroad Company purchased their right-of-way through Fraser,  and a depot was later built on what is still called Depot Road.  These two factors,  the Utica Road and the Railway Depot,  created a crossroads community that grew into a village and center for commerce in the immediate area.
Drawn by its commercial prospects,  a Detroit lawyer,  Alexander J.  Frazer,  came to this area in 1857 or 1858.  His father,  also a lawyer,  was a prominent figure in Detroit.  He purchased land in Fraser in 1858 near the Grand Trunk right-of-way.  He plotted a subdivision and may have built some houses.  It is also possible he built and perhaps operated a hotel near the depot.  Between 1860 and 1870 various pieces of this property were sold.
Following the train track on a map from Port Huron to Detroit,  I found that this is the same line on which Thomas Edison rode,  but surprisingly,  in Fraser's history,  there is nothing written of him that I found.  Did he not get off at the layover?  Did nothing interesting or exciting happen to him here?
It is unfortunate that the Utica/Fraser depot was razed in,  I believe,  sometime in the later 1980s,  for just the fact that this was part of the line Edison rode should have been enough to keep and restore it in the same manner that the citizens of New Haven did.
Here is a sort of  "then & now" photo showing
the Utica/Fraser depot as it looked before it
was torn down,  and how the area looks now.
I have no idea who to credit the pictures to,
but I certainly hope they do not mind me using
them,  and I would be happy to give credit
where the credit is due.
Now on to Detroit.
It is unfortunate that,  according to train enthusiast  (and all-around good guy)  Ian Kushnir,  all of the original Grand Trunk depots that were located in Detroit have been demolished.
Well,  at least we have what we have,  right?

An employee timetable from January 10,  1865:
So,  this is the listing of Edison's stops from 
Port Huron to Detroit during his tenure on 
the Grand Trunk Rail Line in the 1860s.
The depot stops on today's post matches up pretty good with the listing from 1865.  What is very neat for me personally is that I learned from looking at the current Detroit to Port Huron map is that the train tracks I cross daily to go to work is of this same line...and I never knew that!
I cross the same railroad line daily that Edison travelled upon daily!
It just goes to show you that history is all around us...sometimes without even realizing it.
To me this is so very cool.
By the way,  as a sort of quick postscript,  it was in 1866,  at age 19,  that Edison moved to Louisville,  Kentucky,  to work for The Associated Press.

I would like to add one more note of interest I learned recently that tells of the speed of the trains in the 19th century.  They could reach a top speed of 60 to 70 mph.  However,  the average  speed was much slower - in the range of 15 to 20 mph.  This sounds slow to us but to put things in perspective here are the estimated average speeds of contemporary transportation modes:
*Pony Express -- 7 to 10 mph
*Stagecoach -- 3 to 5 mph
*Horse & wagon  (long distance)  2 to 4 mph  (this was the preferred mode because it was so much faster than ox teams
*Ox team & wagon -- 1 to 2 mph  (this was the preferred mode for most western pioneers as they could walk comfortably alongside the wagon and load more freight in the wagon)
*Walking -- 2 to 3 mph
*River boat  (downstream) -- 5 to 10 mph
*River boat  (upstream) -- 1 to 5 mph
So 15 to 20 mph is a pretty decent speed,  all things considered.

And before we leave,  I would like to make one more depot stop----Holly,  Michigan - -  which,  as far as I know,  Edison did not come through here.
But it is another interesting depot built in the same style as the others,  though it is not on the same line.
Read on...
I see the train a-comin,'  it's comin'  'round the bend...
Right past the old Holly train depot.
Holly’s Union Depot was built in 1885-86 to replace an earlier wood depot built in 1865 which burned on August 10,  1884.  Built by the Detroit,  Grand Haven & Milwaukee Railroad to serve as a union depot for that line and the Flint & Pere Marquette,  which intersected it there,  the depot served as Holly's railroad passenger station for eighty years.  The depot is a well preserved example of a small town local passenger depot of late Victorian style.
I walked up one day after visiting Holly's many antique
shops and took a few snapshots of the old building.
The township was incorporated in 1838.  A small village grew up about the site of saw and grist mills established in 1843 and 1844,  respectively,  and a post office was established in 1846.
The real growth of the village of Holly began with the completion of the Detroit & Milwaukee Railway  (later the Detroit,  Grand Haven & Milwaukee)  as far northwest as Holly from Detroit in 1854 or 1855.
Unfortunately,  I saw a sign posted on the window that said if I 
could read this then I was trespassing,  so I promptly left.
After the first wooden depot burned,  the railroads fitted up freight sheds for waiting rooms while they worked out the plans for a new union depot.
The interior of the new depot was paneled with Norway pine.  Each of the railroads had their own ticket booth,  and the depot had two waiting rooms:  one for women only,  and the other with a lunch counter.  The lunch counter was an unusual feature for a small-town train depot -- most small towns did not have enough train traffic to support one.  It may have succeeded in Holly because the station served two lines with transferring passengers.
The depot continued to serve rail passenger traffic on the Grand Trunk Western until about 1964.
It is too bad that it is not open to the public as a historical site,  for I'm sure,  considering that most of Holly's buildings and homes are from the 19th and early 20th century,  it would only add to its history.
Hopefully,  this idea is part of the future vision for the old depot.

...........................

And with that,  we have now visited some wonderful Michigan historical sites,  mostly associated with Thomas Edison.  To think this young boy would one day,  with his workers,  change the world by inventing and/or contributing to inventions such as the first practical incandescent light bulb,  the phonograph,  the motion picture camera,  the kinetoscope,  an improved stock ticker,  as well as improving the telegraph and telephone,  among many,  many others.

As far as I know,  no other has put out such a work as this,  visiting the Edison depots.  At least,  not that I've seen.
I am pretty proud of this.
So,  until next time,  see you in time.


Some of the information came from THIS site
Some came from THIS site
And still some other info came from THIS site
Another site I used was THIS site
I also grabbed text from THIS book
Holly's info came from THIS site

To learn what life was like for Thomas Edison's workers while at Menlo Park,  click HERE
























~   ~   ~

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Attempting to Find Solace...March 2020

Attempting to find solace.
My personal solace,  outside of my family,  is living history and visiting Greenfield Village.  And I'm missing both.  No,  I am not placing our reenactments or anything like that above anyone's health.  This is just my way of working through and dealing with all of the insanity of the coronavirus to keep 
myself sane and cooled.  
And I can be a bit saddened as well,  can't I?
It's life changing.
But this is not a  "preachy"  kind of  posting - you know me better than that! - rather,  it is a bit informative on how this virus is affecting those of us who practice the art of living history.
By the way,  once again,  you will see a lot of my favorite historical house,  the Daggett breakback/saltbox, here in today's post....but there is a neat story behind it.

~  ~

I had high hopes for the month of March.  With the weather beginning to warm,  the sun setting a bit later,  and much less precipitation than last year,  plans were in place to wear my period clothing on three separate occasions this month.
Alas,  it was not to be.  Due to the coronavirus and the insane media coverage with all of the  *extreme*  fear-mongering it garnered  (and how much toilet paper can you fit in your car?),  two events were cancelled and another had to be rescheduled.
~2019~
A small showing of what Samson's Historical
offers for 18th century reenactors at the 
Kalamazoo Living History Show.
We'll start with the Kalamazoo Living History Show  ("the largest,  nationally recognized,  juried show in the Midwest devoted to pre-1890 original or reproduction living history supplies,  accouterments and related crafts),  which really hit all of us in the hobby pretty hard,  for that's where many reenactors in this part of the country obtain their period clothing and related accessories.  It's a sort of  'gathering of the tribes'  (so to speak);  living historians representing numerous eras,  from the French & Indian War through the Civil War,  can be seen intermingling with each other,  talking history,  finding the perfect item that is needed for the upcoming season,  and,  especially,  newbies to the hobby trying to build their first kit.  So,  yes,  it is a real blow to have such a show cancelled.
Hopefully this whole coronavirus thing will be over soon and normalcy can reign once again.
However,  knowing ahead of time what I had hoped to buy really helped me out,  for I,  instead,  was able to purchase my must-haves on-line.  In fact,  each accessory was bought from the same vendor:  Samson's Historical.
But,  we will get to the accessories in a few moments.  First we need to  "set the scene"  on why I purchased what I did:
You see,  I have made the valiant attempt to replicate,  to some extent,  a bit of the interior of the Daggett Farmhouse,  which now sits inside historic Greenfield Village.  Oh,  believe me,  if I had the money I would build a total replication of this mid-18th century home - inside and out.  But,  alas,  that is not to be,  so I must improvise.
Now,  if the local visitors of Greenfield Village are  (or were)  also fans of the AMC TV series,  "Turn:  Washington's Spies,"  which told the story of  America's first spy ring,  the Culper Spy Ring,  (which was aired a few years ago),  then they may have noticed similarities between the Woodhull home and the Village's Daggett house.
The farmhouse  'set'  of Abraham and Mary Woodhull in  "Turn."
And,  just to show you how authentic this  "set"  is,  below is a 

similar-style photo taken of an actual 1750s saltbox/breakback 
farmhouse relocated and situated inside historic 
Greenfield Village in Dearborn,  Michigan:
Pretty cool,  eh?
Now,  if you don't already know,  "Turn"  was a show that I absolutely loved - still do - and for four years I watched it on AMC,  then I purchased the DVDs of each season,  and I have placed it at or near the top of my all-time favorite television shows.
No foolin'.
It was so well done in  *nearly*  every way:  from the script to the storyline  (not all historically accurate,  but still great historical drama)  to the clothing  (okay...for the most part)  to the amazing sets.  And given the fact that it is based around our early American history - the Revolutionary War! - makes it so much better!
But aside from the story itself,  the sets used in filming the show blew me away;  for instance,  Abraham and Mary Woodhull's breakback/saltbox house in Season One was perfect. 
The Woodhull saltbox house as depicted in  "Turn"...
And below we see another shot of the Daggett 

saltbox/breakback from 1750.
It makes me wonder if the house on Turn is real or truly just a 'set'? 
And if it is a set,  then they did a remarkable job.
Now,  let's take a closer look at the Daggett original:
By the way,  this home built by and once belonging to Samuel Daggett is,  perhaps,  my favorite house inside Greenfield Village.

Mary Woodhull sitting near her hearth in  "Turn,"  and below is a 
picture I took inside the Daggett House at the hearth.
The past comes to life in person and on TV.
'Tis a far cry from TV shows of old.
In another scene from  "Turn,"  we see the inside of a different colonial home,  not the Woodhull's breakback.
However,  it still bears a striking resemblance to the Great Hall 
inside the Daggett House in the photo below,  doesn't it?
One has to admit just how authentic these sets 
are in the TV show when compared to the real deal.  The 
designers truly went above and beyond in historic authenticity.
(By the way,  many thanks to Marlene DiVia,  administrator of a Facebook TURN page for extracting  the photos for me from the show.  I certainly do appreciate it!)

I have always been infatuated with the Daggett house,  and if I could live in such a structure,  I would.
But that is not to be.
However--------
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,  as it is said.
So I decided to imitate portions of my favorite house inside my own home.  Since my living history presentations center from around 1765 through the 1780s - and since I do portray a farmer quite often  (it makes sense with my 18th century ancestors being farmers as well) - I thought I would have a bit of fun,  replicating a bit of my favorite historical home using my own living history accessories,  most purchased from a variety of vendors  (see link at the bottom of this post).
Or maybe I'm just going a bit crazy...
Because my home is a 1944 bungalow,  and the Daggett Farmhouse is an 18th century break-back/saltbox,  replicating it to any great extent would be virtually impossible to do.
Sooo....time to use the ol' noggin and see how I could sort of possibly bring Daggett into my own home.
If you recall,  in 2019 I wrote about how I was able to redesign some of our back  "gathering"  room,  giving a portion of it an 18th century feel  (click HERE).  Now,  it is not historically perfect in every way,  mind you,  but it certainly does give the desired effect I was looking for.
Susan tries out my antique walking wheel in the little colonial 
portion of my back room.
Portraying a colonial-era farmer means attempting to complete the period look I am striving for,  which means acquiring some of the everyday items I notice when I visit another 18th century farmhouse - Samuel Daggett's.  The curators of Greenfield Village have placed throughout the house items he and his wife,  Anna,  would have used during their time.  For instance,  in the buttery off the kitchen are shelves that hold a variety of interesting items:
Above:  shelves in the buttery of the Daggett House.
Below is my own replication:
I may not have everything,  but I think I got it pretty close.
And here are two more buttery pictures:
Showing the Daggett buttery from a bit of a different angle-----
and my replica:
The corner cupboard here is about 200
years old,  so my cool little accessories
actually work quite well here.
One more Daggett comparison:
This was a little set up inside the great hall of the Daggett House,
and here is my copy:

Again,  not exact,  but it works.
The items I own as seen in these pictures were purchased at a variety of places,  including Samson's Historical and other vendors at the Kalamazoo Living History Show,  the various gift shops at Greenfield Village,  Lehman's in Ohio,  and countless on-line searches,  including Amazon and Ebay,  to find just that one specific item.
I am not bragging here;  I am trying to show that  (1)  living history is much more than clothing alone,  and  (2)  if you would like to add to your living history - or bring a bit of history into your own home - it can be done,  and for not too much of an outlandish price,  especially if you spread it out over time.  It's actually quite easy and a lot of fun to do.
You see,  I've studied history now for over 50 years  (yes,  I am that old),  but it was when I became a living historian that I found myself really paying much closer attention to the smaller,  mostly background details that the more casual fan of history tend to overlook;  lighting apparatus,  walking wheels in the background,  type of chairback,  seeing kettles in the hearth or over a fire,  kitchenware,  drinking glasses,  type of writing implements...that's what will attract me to a movie,  a series,  or another living historian every bit as much as clothing.  I aspire to improve my impression with each new season,  for it is my hope that when a visitor enters my camp,  or  even,  to some extent,  my own home,  they feel as if they stepped out of the future and into the past.
Yes,  it definitely is  the little things like what you see here that'll bring history to life...
By the way,  if you had planned to attend the Kalamazoo Living History Show for specific items,  won't you consider purchasing them on-line?  Many of the dealers who planned to sell their wares there are offering specials if you order over the internet.  Click HERE for the page filled with links to the vendors.

~   ~

"The Patriots"



~Another cancellation we had was the patriot presentation of Benjamin Franklin,  Sybil Ludington,  and Paul Revere for the Sons of the American Revolution.
It was a difficult decision for the SAR to make  (though Michigan's governor  "helped"  quite a bit),  and Bob,  Larissa,  and myself were all saddened at the fact that it was not going to happen.  I do understand they had to postpone it,  but it still bummed me out,  for portraying Paul Revere alongside of Bob/Ben and Larissa/Sybil is such a great time.
On the plus side,  we are looking into rescheduling for sometime this summer or fall.





~   ~

~And yet another March sadness  (instead of madness)  was the rescheduling of the second annual  "Patriot's Day"  reenactment.  Originally to take place on April 18,  it will now  (hopefully)  occur on May 3.  That is,  as long as this corona-thing goes away.  
But,  at least there is somewhat of a possibility it can still happen...God willing.
Reenacting April 19,  1775
I will keep you updated.

~   ~

One thing that was not cancelled,  however,  was a gathering of around a dozen friends & members of my Citizens of the American Colonies living history reenactors group.
Since it was formed in 2015,  I've held annual period-dress meetings to discuss ways of improving our 18th century personas,  meet any new members,  to share clothing and accessory information  (given that the multi-hall Kalamazoo Living History Show is usually only a week or two later),  to speak on upcoming reenactments,  and now,  especially,  to hype up our Patriot's Day event.
Plus it's always a good time to just get together while wearing our period clothing.
And this year's meeting was well within the perimeters of what Michigan's governor said was allowable.
Twelve reenactors came to the meeting this year,  some of whom 
also are part of the Lac Ste.  Claire Voyageurs.
And I was very glad they came!
We also spoke on making sure we support the vendors who would have been at Kalamazoo but,  with the show cancelled,  will now be left with needing customers to come to them via the internet.  I told my guests to please spend the money they intended on the items they planned to purchase - and all were given a link to the page where they could locate what they were looking for.
We need our sutlers and vendors,  not only for clothing  (for many of us),  but for the accessories,  as you've seen in this post,  to help us keep the past alive.
HERE is the  "official"  page.
And HERE is a wonderful Facebook page where many of the vendors continuously post their deals.  And most are giving some sort of deal,  whether it is free shipping or something else.
Please support your vendor.
Those who have not been to my  (obviously not saltbox)  home 
before had no trouble figuring out which house was mine!
"All these bungalows look the same! I wonder which one is Ken's?"

"Um...maybe the one with the historic flags?"
lol
And we had homemade chicken soup,  White Castles sliders,  fruit cake,  various cookies, scones,  shortbread,  and soft drinks.
A good mix of fine treats! 
I am not sure what the future holds for this coming year's reenactments.  At this point I have a great fear that most,  if not all,  of the spring and early summer events may be cancelled.  Yeah,  I am allowed to be disappointed if that does happen,  and I can & will complain.  Just remember:  when the time comes that I do,  it doesn't mean I don't have concern for my fellow man.  It will just be me venting.
Ah...one day soon I pray to be able to time-travel again...
I suppose,  aside from the accessories,  I can re-read a few of my older posts  (see links at the end of this posting),  work on new ones,  and continue to research from my personal library.
I don't know...God willing,  this whole thing will end sooner than thought...
Anyhow,  scroll down just a bit to see links to a large amount of my postings concerning life during the later 18th century.
Also,  remember to click HERE and HERE  for the pages I mentioned that are filled with links to the vendors.
Some of my 18th century favorites?
Why,  all of them!

Until next time,  see you in time.

~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   ~  ~  ~   

Postscript:
~I write often about the Daggett Home.  There is simply something that pulls me to it like no other.  And it always has,  ever since I saw it for the first time back in 1983.  Now I always stop in every time I visit Greenfield Village,  even if it is just a quick walk through,  from the front door to the back kitchen/buttery door.  And while the Village is closed during the winter months,  I will drive along the road that runs alongside the Village,  and I can see it from my car.
It's like an old friend---a really old friend - that I enjoy visiting!
And writing about.~

Here is a collection of links to my blogs concerning everyday life in the colonies:
Diaries,  journals,  letters,  newspapers/broadsides,  remembrances...this is what I used to garner these very personal stories from those who were there - actual witnesses,  men & women,  of the Battle of Lexington & Concord.
Their tales will draw you into their world.

Sarah and Rachel: The Wives of Paul Revere
Paul Revere was married twice and,  between his two wives,  he fathered 16 children.
What I attempted to do in this post was to find virtually everything available about these two Mrs.  Revere's.  I think I succeeded - -

Unsung Patriots: The Printing of the Declaration of Independence
There is so much more to this most important American document,  from the idea to composing to printing - who is going to print this? - to delivery...oh yeah,  there is a lot more history to our Declaration than I ever realized!

Declaring Independence:  The Spirits of  '76
Something very special happened almost 250 years ago,  but is that story being promoted?
Come on a time-travel visit to colonial America during that hot summer of 1776 and learn,  first hand,  of the accounts on how we were making a new and independent nation.

Travel and Taverns
The long air-conditioned  (or heated)  car ride.  Motels without a pool!  Can we stop at McDonalds? I'm hungry!
Ahhhh....modern travelers never had it so good.
I've always had a fascination of travel back in the day,  and I decided to find out as much as I could about them.
I wasn't disappointed - - - I dug through my books,  went to a historic research library,  'surfed the net'  (does anyone say that anymore?),  and asked docents who work at historic taverns questions,  looking for the tiniest bits of information to help me to understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in the colonial times.
This post is the culmination of all of that research.
Our country's founding relied greatly on the tavern.

Cooking on the Hearth
No stoves or fast food restaurants.  Everything made from scratch.
What was it like for our colonial ancestors to prepare,  cook,  and eat their meals,  and what kinds of food were available to them?  How did they keep their foodstuffs from spoiling and rotting?
If you have questions such as this,  I believe you will enjoy this post.

In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies.  And I do mean  "pictorial,"  for there are over 80 photos included,  covering nearly every aspect of colonial life.
I try to touch on most major topics of the period with links to read more detailed accounts.
This just may be my very favorite of all my postings.  If it isn't,  it's in the top 2!

In the Night Time:  Living in the Age of Candles in Colonial Times
Could you survive living in the era before electric lights or even before the 19th century style oil lamps?
Do you know how many candles you would need for a year?
Do you know what it was like to make candles right from scratch,  or what it was like to visit your local chandler?
That's what this posting is about!

Revolutionary War History - Preventing Tyranny at Salem in 1775 
How Salem townsfolk pulled together and beat the British - a true pre-RevWar story that'll make you raise your fists and shout for America!

The Boston Massacre
The causes and tribulations that occurred on that March evening back in 1770.  Some say this was the spark the lead the colonists to unite against the British.
You be the judge.

Buried Treasure:  Stories of the Founding Generation
Interesting true tales of  everyday folk of the later 18th century,  including an interview with a soldier who was actually at Concord on April 19,  1775,  the powder horn of James Pike,  the true death-defying,  battle-scarred story of Samuel Whittemore,  runaway slaves & servants,  smallpox inoculations,  and Nabby Adams experience having breast cancer.
Quite a history lesson here!

It's the Little Things
Another post that touches on a variety of subjects,  such as Shadow Portraits, Bourdaloues, Revolutionary Mothers, and a few other interesting historical odds & ends.

A Year on a Colonial Farm
See what it was really like,  month to month,   for farm folks like Samuel Daggett and others as you spend all four seasons on an 18th century farm.

With Liberty and Justice For All: The Fight for Independence at the Henry Ford Museum
An amazing collection of original Revolutionary War artifacts on display for all the world to see,  telling the story of America's fight for Independence.  An original Stamp Act notification.  A letter written by Benedict Arnold.  George Washington's camp bed,  a coffee pot made by Paul Revere,  a writing desk that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson...yeah...this is some great stuff here!

The Extraordinary Story of Sybil Ludington
Some say her story is not true,  though history tends to side with our young female patriot.  Check out what I wrote in this posting and then decide for yourself if her own daring ride is true or just a fable.

Modern historians like to relegate Paul Revere as more fable than fact,  no thanks to Longfellow's poem.  But this man deserves his place in our history,  and rightfully so,  for his ride was as important as nearly any other occurrence of his time.
I have searched multiple sources to find the true story of Paul Revere's Midnight Ride,  and put it all here.
I think you just might be surprised at what Revere actually did.

William Dawes' Story
Supposedly,  this man was relegated to the footnotes of history due to his name being Dawes.   But he,  too,  has a story to tell of his ride as a partner messenger with Paul Revere.

Other riders who rode out on the night of April 18,  1775...and there were plenty more.  This was the 18th century version of the telephone...or messenger...or e-mail.

What many visitors don't realize is that inside these hallowed walls of history  (Greenfield Village)  there are three specific homesteads which are situated near each other,  and the long past inhabitants of  each of these historic 18th century houses played a role to some varying degree in the Revolutionary War.
This is their collective story.

This posting is geared toward the reader who has a basic interest in the average daily occurrences of  18th century citizens,  and thus,  will hopefully help to give an idea of more of what went on inside many colonial homes.  Thus,  as mentioned,  it is not a  "how-to"  guide,  but a "how they did it"  informational,  for it was a process every man,  woman,  and child  would be quite aware of,  even if  they didn't necessarily do it themselves.

Winter in the Colonial Days - A Pictorial
A modern picture album of winter life 250 years ago,  mostly taken at Colonial Williamsburg and Greenfield Village.  And,  yes,  there is history to be told as well.

A Colonial Harvest
It's the fall,  and that means it's time to harvest your crops.
Let's take a step back in time to see how this was done in the age of the founding generation.

A Colonial Thanksgiving
Aside from what we call the 1st Thanksgiving in 1621,  there is much more to the story in the formation of this most beloved American holiday.

To Drive the Cold Winter Away: ~ A collection of notations of surviving wintertime past - Colonial and Victorian~
Just how did our colonial,  and even Victorian,  ancestors survive in such harsh weather?  How did they stay warm in below 0 degree temperatures?  How did they entertain themselves on cold winter nights without radio,  TV,  or the internet?
This is how.

A Colonial Christmas
Read on to learn that,  contrary to popular belief,  many of our colonial ancestors - from New England to the South - truly did indeed celebrate this glorious holiday ...
...and how they celebrated
Oh!  Myths thought as truth can sometimes be so hard to change,  even with primary sources ~ ~ ~

A Colonial New Year's
In our modern era we think of the New Year's holiday as a time for celebrators to stay up extremely late,  getting stupidly drunk,  watching the ball drop,  and then gorging themselves on pizza,  chips,  and other snacks for 12 hours-plus while watching more football in one day than anyone does in an entire season.
My how times have  *somewhat*  changed...

Hallowe'en Through the Ages
This posting shows a varied celebration of Hallowe'en,  and interspersed throughout are snips and bits of Hallowe'en history and lore.  The many pictures and the historical information should hopefully bring what was  (and still is)  a children's holiday up to the level of adults as well,  for,  initially,  Hallowe'en was actually meant for adults.

Researching 18th Century History
Here is a collection of my favorite books in my library that I use,  seemingly,  on a daily basis,  especially when writing in this Passion for the Past blog.
Other people spend their money on sporting events and the like,  I buy books.















~   ~   ~