Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Time Passages...February 2nd: Celebrating Groundhog Day, Candlemas, or Imbalc

Every February 2nd  we celebrate Groundhog Day.  However,  Europeans in earlier centuries and many of the American colonists during the 18th century celebrated the Candlemas holiday that same day.  
So how are the two celebrations intertwined?
And just what is Imbalc?
I took this candle light photo inside the
1780 McGuffey Cabin.
Candlemas,  mayhaps?
In reading and researching this February 2nd date I have learned that long ago the celebration of Candlemas was a very religious occasion.  In a book I have called  Observations on Popular Antiquities,  Chiefly Illustrating the Origins of our Vulgar Customs,  Ceremonies and Superstitions by Henry Ellis and John Brand  (copywrite 1815),  it explicitly shows us this in no uncertain terms.
Candlemas occurs at a period between the December solstice and the March equinox,  marking the 40th day after Christmas;  many people traditionally noted that time of the year as winter’s  “halfway point”  while waiting for the spring,  and celebrated the annual triumph of light/spring over darkness/winter.  It was the day when the blessing of  the year’s supply of candles would take place,  for candles blessed on this day were among the most powerful talismans   (or religious  "protectors")  available to ordinary folk in the Middle Ages.  
Here in America,  the colonials did much the same as their European counterparts:  they also lit candles and held them during parts of the church service,  then brought them home.  They believed the lit candles protected the home during storms,  warded off evil,   and comforted the sick.
The name Candlemas comes to us from England and refers to the custom of  which is much of what we've been talking about - blessing and distributing candles in procession before the celebration of Holy Mass.  And since many Christians consider Jesus as the  “light of the world,”  it is fitting that candles are blessed on this day and that a candle-lit procession precedes the religious service.
It should also be noted that Candlemas celebrates three occasions according to Christian belief:  the presentation of the child Jesus;  Jesus’  first entry into the temple;  and it celebrates the Virgin Mary’s purification  (mainly in Catholic churches but there are notations that all Christians celebrated).
Candlemas marks the day Jesus was brought into the Temple by the Mother of God and acclaimed by the elder Simeon as  “the light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of … Israel.”  He also told the Mother of God that a sword would pierce her own heart during the ministry of her Son.
It was by religious festivals such as Candlemas that villagers told the passing of time,  especially in the Middle Ages.  Events in the recent past or near future would be dated by their coincidence with - or proximity to - a particular saint's day or festival.  Few in the Medieval period knew the exact year according to the Christian chronology,  and even literate men & women living in the manor houses looked at the passing of time in terms of the monarch's reign.  The hours of the day were calculated by the position of the sun or sundial on the church tower.  In fact,  not too long ago I read an excellent novel,  The Outcasts of Time  by Ian Mortimer,  about two time-traveling Englishmen - John & William - who were originally from the year 1348 but travel into the future at 99 year intervals,  witnessing the changes made in each near century.  And since we are speaking of  marking time,  I thought the following passage and exchange in the book was well-suited at this point,  for it speaks of  the ultimate man-made time-keeper:  clocks.  You see, mechanical clocks,  as we know them to be,  did not exist in John & William's starting point time.  However,  a major breakthrough occurred around 1360 when a device designed and built by Henry de Vick established basic clock design for the next 300 years.  Of course,  ideas and inventions took much longer to spread in those long ago days,  and minor developments were added over the decades and centuries,  such as the invention of the mainspring in the early 15th century,  which allowed small clocks to be built for the first time,  but the basics were there early on and remain to this day.
So,  as the Outcasts of Time story continues on,  at one point the two men find themselves in the year 1546 - 198 years past their own time - and in meeting a man named Tom,  the following occurs  (written in 1st person from John's perspective p. 134):
St.  Michael the Archangel's Church,  Chagford
The church bell in Chagford  rings out nine times. 
"Nine of the clock,"  remarks Tom.
"What is  'the clock'?"  I ask.
He looks at me.  "How can you not know what a clock is?  It is a machine for telling the time.  With weights and cogs and things like that.  Surely you've heard one?  They're proud of their clock in Chagford.  All the folks there live by its chimes.  But those from the town are constantly saying  'sorry,  sorry'  for their lateness - and why?  Because their clock tells them so.  If they didn't have a clock,  they would never be late.  No one would know."
I am still mystified.  How do you get a machine to tell the hour?  Time is reckoned by the motion of the sun around the Earth,  which is down to the Will of God,  so how do you make a machine that tells the Will of God?
You see,  because the seasonal tasks were the same every year,  and because only a major public or private event,  such as a plague epidemic,  a drought,  or the death of a monarch or a family member,  for example,  would distinguish any one year from all the others,  the perception in the passing of time meant little to most people,  and only few were even aware of any differences in the physical conditions of their lives compared with those of their grandparents  (even though such differences may have been minimal). 
So Candlemas was one such religious festival or celebration to help the marking and passing of time.

Brigid's Cross
February 2nd was also a holiday to honor a woman named Februa as well,  "after which many people have opinion that the moneth February is called.  The Romaines this night went about the city of Rome with torches and candles brenning  (burning)  in worship of this woman Februa,  for hope to have the more helpe and succoure of her sonne Mars."  (Mars being considered a God to which they prayed,  and succourre meaning to have assistance and support in times of hardship and distress.)
It was also on February 2nd that Pagans celebrated Imbalc,  an ancient Celtic festival associated with the goddess Brigid,  to mark the beginning of spring,  and,  as in ancient times,  celebrants would light candles,  make beds for Brigid to visit and bless their house,  make offerings to her,  and engage in weather divination.
Special feasts were had,  holy wells were visited,  and,  as mentioned,  it was a time for weather divination.  
Although many of these customs died out by and before the 20th century,  February 2nd is still observed by some Christians as a religious holiday and by some non-Christians as a cultural one.  Many of these ancient customs have been revived in some places throughout the western world.
1780 badger painting
by Henri De Seve
Speaking of  weather divination,  by at least the seventeenth century a popular superstition had arisen that,  if the sky was clear on Candlemas and the Sun was shining,  there would be more winter to come.  This was before any rodent was brilliant enough to predict when spring would arrive.  
As for Groundhog Day:  it was sometime around the eighteenth century that the idea arose in German-speaking lands that if a badger comes out of his hole on Candlemas and lies out in the sun,  there would be four more weeks of winter,  but,  if the badger comes out of his hole and finds it is too cloudy to sunbathe,  he will go back in his hole and winter will be over soon.  A variant of this was brought over to the English colonies in America by the Pennsylvania Dutch soon after.  It was here that the badger was replaced with a groundhog,  the number of weeks winter would last was extended to six rather than four,  and the determining factor of how long winter would last depended on whether or not the groundhog  saw his shadow rather than if the badger decided to sunbathe.  It was in 1887 when a newspaper editor in Punxsutawney,  Pennsylvania,  declared a random groundhog who later became known as  “Punxsutawney Phil”  as the United States’ official forecasting groundhog as part of an advertising scheme  (that continues to this day).
According to the lore,  there is only one Phil,  and all other groundhogs are impostors.  It is claimed that this one groundhog has lived to make weather predictions for spring's arrival since 1886,  sustained by drinks of  "groundhog punch"  or  "elixir of life"  administered at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the fall.  
The lifespan of a groundhog in the wild is roughly six years.
Punxsutawney Phil is the name given to a groundhog residing in
Young Township near Punxsutawney,  Pennsylvania
Every year that Groundhog Day falls on a weekend,  up to 30,000 visitors descend on Punxsutawney,  prompting a significant tourism boost for the small town of just 5,770 residents.  When Groundhog Day falls on a weekday,  12,000-20,000 visitors attend. 

So why the pictures of  me hunting?
Meat on the table during these last six weeks of winter!
Mmmm....ground hog...

Coming back from the woods...empty handed.
Nope - not even a ground hog...

Painting from 1874
Groundhogs are not only edible,  they're tender and delicious if properly cleaned and prepared.  They live on a completely vegetarian diet,  and carry no life threatening diseases for humans.  Groundhogs are similar to rabbit in taste,  and most recipes for groundhog have you prepare them in the same manner.
Meat on the table during these last six weeks of winter!
What is the difference between a groundhogs and a woodchuck?  Absolutely none:  there is no difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck whatsoever.  In fact,  the terms woodchuck and groundhog are interchangeable.
Groundhogs are likely called woodchucks due to the indigenous people’s name for this unique creature.  The Algonquin people called groundhogs  “wuchak”,  and this name was likely adapted by the English settlers living in North America at the time and is probably the reason behind the groundhog vs woodchuck debate.  Groundhogs do not chuck wood,  as their alternative name suggests,  nor do they spend their time eating wood.

.....

Now you know more than you ever thought you would about Groundhog Day.  I hope this adds to your knowledge of everyday history.  Whichever you celebrate,  it’s nice to know we are at the midway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox,  and winter will hopefully stay in the winter months and spring will hopefully come when it's supposed to in the spring months.  Of course,  the earth doesn't always follow the calendar!

Until next time,  see you in time.

Celebrating another religious festival - Lammas Day

Information on groundhogs came from HERE
Some of the Candlemas information came from the book mentioned:  Observations on Popular Antiquities
Candlemas information also came from HERE  and from  HERE  as well.
Groundhog Day information came from HERE and HERE,  while a bit of the celebration information came from Wikipedia.
Time information came from TimeFrame:  The Domestic World






























~   ~   ~

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Historic Homes Brought to Life: The 1789/1790 McGuffey Cabin - One of the Oldest American Log Cabins Still In Existence

As you know,  I enjoy researching the many historic homes inside Greenfield Village
(see my complete linked listing at the bottom of this post for those I've done so far),  
and in doing so I get a deeper,  almost encyclopedic history lesson on the houses 
and the people that lived in them - a sort of  mental immersion - and this material 
mostly includes the little-known information in our American history.
Yep---trying to bring the past to life. 

...................................................
 
The cabin you see here in Greenfield Village is the 
birthplace of William Holmes McGuffey,  who would,  
beginning in 1836,  publish the most popular 
school text books of the 19th century,  The McGuffey 
Eclectic Reader.
This log cabin was originally built in western 
Pennsylvania around 1789.
We know well the homes of George Washington,  John Adams,  and Thomas Jefferson have been preserved...and why wouldn't they be?  They were our first three presidents - three of  the men among the chosen few who set the foundation of the United States of America.  
For so long it was taught that it was only the rich or those who did  "great things"  whose homes were worth saving.  But it took a man like Henry Ford,  the automobile magnet and his Greenfield Village,  to help us to realize that saving homes of  the every man and every woman were just as important.  For instance,  I am certain that the original owners of  such homes and buildings once belonging to house wright & farmer Samuel Daggett,  merchant John Giddings,  school teacher John Chapman,  Dr. Alonson Howard's office,  and this cabin/birthplace of McGuffey Reader author William Holmes McGuffey would have been quite surprised to learn the houses they were born in or lived in would one day be preserved in a museum where millions of people could walk through,  admire,  and learn from.  And most of these structures certainly would have met the wrecking ball,  for most of  America and the world would be going,  "Who are these people and why are we saving their homes?"
Chopping and gathering wood was a top chore.
And not just any wood,  but the correct wood to be
used for cooking or for warmth.
Well,  according to Henry Ford,  these are the people who made America.   Mr.  Ford has been quoted as stating:  "History is more or less bunk..."  which has been repeated often ever since,  actually getting him in a bit of trouble in those days of the 1910s.  But what most folks don't know is that this  "bunk "  comment was stated for reasons other than what the press said.  It is here that I quote from the book,  A Home For Our Heritage by Geoffery C. Upward:  "...what  (Ford)  meant and explained many times in later years was that written history reflected little of people's day-to-day existence."   As Henry Ford said,  "History as it is taught in the schools deals largely with...wars,  major political controversies,  territorial extensions and the like.  When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the land,  I discovered that the historians knew nothing about harrows.  Yet our country depended more on harrows than on guns or great speeches.  I thought a history which excluded harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk and I think so yet."
Hear!  Hear!
Oh!  Not that the wars and politics were not important in building our country---of course they were!  But without the harrows - the farmers - and the every man and woman,  there is  no country.  And it's these good folk that Ford championed,  and it's who I champion as well  (as if you couldn't tell from my living history posts here lol).
So let's look into the lives of one of these everyday people who actually gained some fame - not necessarily great fame such as Ben Franklin or James Madison - but of  a more or less forgotten fame in his important accomplishment and contribution:  writing the most well-known school books of the 19th century.
Since there is very little information about the actual McGuffey's who lived in this tiny log home,  I will also include on what their lives may  have been like,  to give the reader - and any visitor to the cabin - a better understanding of  these frontier folk from over 200 years ago.  In this manner we can piece together what their lives could very well have been like during their time living here,  including the type of furnishings used,  the foodstuffs that gave them sustenance,  and other strong probabilities of daily life,  for researchers at The Henry Ford have excellent resources on,  for instance,  household furnishings from the same time period and geographic location,  including twenty five probate inventories of families from the general area of the cabin's location,  specifically those of the Scots-Irish heritage.  I also combed information from my own personal library,  which is fairly extensive in its own right. 
My lovely wife,  Patty,  and I in the doorway of the 1789 cabin.
Perhaps we are representing 
William and Jane Holmes,  the grandparents
of  William Holmes McGuffey.  Yes,  we are of that age...
According to sources at the Benson Ford Research Center,  located on The Henry Ford campus,  there is a strong probability that this cabin was built by William Holmes McGuffey's maternal grandparents,  William and Jane Holmes,  in West Finley Township,  Washington County,  Pennsylvania,  likely a first-stage frontier cabin  (meaning they planned to build and move into a nicer home as soon as possible).  
The Holmes family first settled in West Finley in February 1789 and were one of the first settlers in the area.  This fits in perfectly in research showing that log cabins began to rise throughout the American back-country at this point in time.  There are few such cabins from the 18th century or older that are still around;  just by being a frontier log cabin of the early republic period gives it the important link to America's past.  However,  through my research at the Research Center I learned that this cabin was in very dilapidated shape when Henry Ford acquired it.  It was no longer being used as a home but,  for many years,  was used as a loom house,  spinning room,  and then a sheep barn.
The McGuffey Cabin on its original site
(click the picture to enlarge)
As the structure had largely collapsed by the time Ford saw it - no walls were completely standing - Edward Cutler,  Ford's architect,  measured the remaining chimney foundation for later recreation,  and had trees - suitable to replace the missing deteriorated logs - cut down and prepared for shipment to Greenfield Village in Dearborn in November of 1932,  and from January to August 1934 the reconstruction process began,  though with some modifications.  Originally a rectangular cabin,  when completed in Greenfield Village it was no longer rectangular but squared,  and one log higher  (10 logs high)  than as was originally built in 1789  (9 logs high).  
A smokehouse was found on the Pennsylvania site and recorded,  but was not moved with the McGuffey House.  The smokehouse in Greenfield Village was a replication completed at the same time as the house,  and in 1942 a pen with sheep had been added,  giving visiting guests to the Village a more complete picture of  early American life.
When the cabin was originally reconstructed inside the Village,  it was done so with materials and techniques popular at that time.  Time has shown that some of the choices made during the reconstruction actually greatly increased the rate of the structure's deterioration.  The materials used had a serious harmful effect on the cabin.  Later efforts to repair the house aggravated the problem,  so in 1995 the building was determined to be a safety hazard and was closed to visitors.
In the Fall of 2002,  the McGuffey Cabin was re-renovated and re-restored  (though it would have been cool I think to have restored it back to its original rectangular shape).

It was Henry and Jane Holmes'  daughter,  Anna,  aged 21,  who married Alexander McGuffey,  aged 30,  shortly before Christmas in 1797,  and the two began their married life in this log home.  While living there they had their first three children:  Jane  (1799),  William  (1800),  and Henry  (1802).
It was Alexander and Anna's 2nd child,  William Holmes McGuffey,  who would one day author the McGuffey Readers School Books.
Now let's have a look at the general history of life in a cabin during those late-18th century days:
The men and women who built and lived in these small one-room cabins out on the frontier cleared the land and lived in what we would consider to be primitive conditions.  You’ll notice that most of these early log cabins look different to the well refined,  round logged cabins that we are used to seeing today.  The logs used in early cabins were usually hewn to achieve flat walls;  this made the appearance of the structure more house-like,  and also helped to withstand the elements,  as all of the soft outer sapwood was removed.  
The type of furniture we see in its current state inside Greenfield Village was what
would have probably been seen inside most homes of the period and area as this. 
There are ladderback chairs,  stools,  a small table,  and a bed.  They may have bone, 
horn,  or wooden eating utensils,  plates,  and bowls.  Oftentimes they used tin cups, 
and even perhaps some redware.  We see a spinning wheel,  a few hand-made toys, 
 a butter churn,  a couple of candle holders and maybe even a Betty lamp,  along with
kitchen tools,  a broom,  a chamber pot,  a cradle,  and a niddy noddy  (part of the
spinning process).  Along the wall in the bottom picture we see fireplace cooking
utensils and a corner cupboard that held numerous other items considered necessary
for a family living in this time and place.
The McGuffey Birthplace is furnished as it might have looked in 1800 - 1802, 
the period that the McGuffey family resided here during William Holmes
McGuffey's birth,  infancy,  and toddlerhood.
  
Greenfield Village keeps the cabin in pristine condition with needed upgrades,  
such as the cabin receiving a much-needed new floor in 2021.
For those living north of the Mason-Dixon the climate could be very harsh,  and settlers also dealt with annoying insects and dangerous animals,  including bear.  Having left friends and family behind in the East,  many women faced homesickness and isolation.  In the early years of settlement,  women experienced many other challenges as well.  Commonly,  there were no close neighbors or nearby towns to provide much social interaction.  Men were usually away from the home for long hours,  working in the fields or hunting and leaving their wives with no adult companionship.  There were numerous accounts of loneliness and depression.
However,  from what I've read,  at this cabin the McGuffey's lived in a more close-knit community with neighbors and family not too far away.
This young lady is lucky,  for her cabin home has a window.
The men in these frontier communities were often found farming the fields - manuring,  plowing,  harrowing,  planting,  and weeding - or hunting for game in the nearby woods,  chopping wood for heat and for cooking,  repairing tools and fencing and any possible problems about their homes  (roof leaks,  etcetera).
Women also contributed to frontier life.  They made much of what the family needed to survive,  resulting in a self-sufficient farm.  In addition to taking care of the home and raising children,  frontier women provided medical care,  raised livestock,  and grew vegetable gardens to supplement the family's diet.  They made butter,  candles,  and soap,  preserved food for the winter months,  and made their family's clothing,  often of cloth that they wove themselves.  This work kept women extremely busy.  In addition,  some women also helped with farm work and also performed other men's duties when necessary.
Neither the men nor the women questioned their roles in the family structure.  Each played as important a role in the family as the other,  and both knew it. 
Children had their chores as well:  the breached boy would be out with father on the farm or hunting or chopping while the daughter would be learning to run a household like her mother,  among their other daily duties.  Girls and boys would both care for the animals,  including grooming and feeding,  as well as gathering eggs,  plus empty the chamber pots and trim the candles.
The household ran like a well-oiled machine:  everyone had their part and place,  and one missing link could throw a wrench into the entire operation.
Now,  think about this:  within a matter of minutes you just read of daily chores done by a frontier family.  But these chores took hours,  days,  weeks,  and months to complete,  and,  for farming or weaving/spinning,  a year to complete.  Each chore was a necessity and each had to be done,  in many cases,  for survival.  We can be proud of such pioneers as the McGuffey’s,  who survived and thrived out on the frontier.
"I wonder when my husband shall be home.
'Twill not be too long,  I pray..."
However,  there was another family that settled in that very same county not too many years before:  the Hamiltons  (no relation to Alexander Hamilton).
For regular readers of  Passion for the Past,  you may recall in other postings where I have mentioned a book about life in colonial times called  "The Cabin Faced West"  and how it affected me and played a pivotal role in my future in history.  I bought my copy at a school book fair many years ago when I was only around nine or ten years of age - we're talking around 1970 here.  And,  as a young boy,  I didn't care that it was a story based around a girl who was about the same age as I,  for it was also about history that showed daily life in 18th century America,  and there weren't very many like it available at that time.  In school,  even way back then,  we were instructed to learn names of  famous people  (as I mentioned earlier),  historic events  (usually wars),  and dates of said events.  Though I understood the importance of knowing this information - and I did learn it - names and dates was what I was not quite as interested in.
Preparing dinner...
I wanted to know how people in the past lived their daily lives.
I wanted to read what it was like for people like me to live  "back then";  the average sort of  people I may have known had I lived in those old days.
I wanted to know of their everyday experiences.
It was this one book,  more than any other I have read,  that was life-changing for me,  for it directed my future course into my passion for American History.
There is one particular part  (or scene)  that I did enjoy where the author dramatized an actual historic event that took place when George Washington just happened to visit the Hamilton family at their cabin as he explored western Pennsylvania.   You see,  throughout the story,  Anne Hamilton wanted nothing more than to be back in her nice home in Gettysburg in eastern Pennsylvania,  not in a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere.  That is,  until General Washington showed up.  Ms.  Fritz wrote a dramatization of how the event may have played out on that September 1784 day when George Washington and his party were preparing to leave that he said what Ann would treasure forever afterward.  He stood at the doorway,  looking toward the west,  his eyes resting on Hamilton Hill,  yet somehow going beyond.
“The future is travelling west with people like you,”  he said to Miss Hamilton. “Here is the rising world – to be kept or lost in the same way a battlefield is kept or lost.”
George Washington turned to Ann and put his hand gently on her shoulder. “Through the courage of young girls as much as anyone’s.  Some day you will live to see this whole country a rolling farmland,  bright with houses and barns and churches.  I envy you,  Miss Hamilton.”
Ann felt her heart turning over within her.  She looked out on Hamilton Hill.  It seemed to her she had never seen it so beautiful - the trees more stately,  the sky closer...
Though this conversation was the author's own dramatization,  Washington actually did visit the Hamilton family at their western Pennsylvania cabin in 1784,  and even wrote about it in his own diary!
(To read more about Jean Fritz and this wonderful book - the book that plowed me head-first into my initial love of American history - click HERE)
The association I make of this book with the McGuffey Cabin is that both homes were built in the same county and both stood at the same time!  It would not surprise me if the cabins were very similar in style.

Most rural families had a smokehouse on their land to help preserve their meat.  When Henry Ford's men went to dismantle the cabin for shipping to Dearborn,  Michigan,  there was also a shed  (smokehouse)  found on the Pennsylvania site and recorded but was not moved with the McGuffey House.  The smokehouse now in Greenfield Village was a replication completed at the same time as the house.  
Smokehouses were invaluable to the pioneer of the 18th and 19th centuries,  for it was a necessity for food preservation.  After rubbing the ham or bacon  (maybe even fish)  with a salt mixture and letting them set for a few weeks,  the meat would then be hung from the rafters in the smokehouse. 
Behind the cabin is the smoke house,  where,  even without refrigeration, 
meat could be preserved.
The smoke was created directly below the hanging meat by a fire in the floor of the structure and was made from aromatic woods such as hickory or apple and sometimes even corncobs,  which flavored the meat and created a crust that prevented its ruin by flies or other pests.
Not much meat left hanging from the smokehouse rafters.
But there sure is a lot of gray hair on this old man!
If this were 1790  (instead of 2023)  and I was my same age, 
my birth year would have been 1728.

The McGuffey family would probably have eaten a combination of foods found wild and those grown or raised.  The surrounding forests were filled with game:  white-tailed deer  (venison cooked fresh,  dried or smoked,  made into a stew),  wild turkey,  wild hogs,  opossum,  raccoons,  squirrel,  rabbit,  quail,  passenger pigeons,  wild nuts such as hickory nuts,  chestnuts,  walnuts,  hazel nuts,  berries such as strawberries,  raspberries,  black berries,  fish from nearby streams,  and wild greens.
And grown in the kitchen garden or,  if they had the land,  on their farm:  wheat,  potatoes,  greens,  corn,  sweet potatoes,  squash and pumpkins,  cabbage,  cucumbers,  carrots,  beans,  onions,  herbs...  
Looks like it's fall harvest time for the kitchen garden.
I did a little photo-trickery for this picture
They would/could also have had meat and poultry from their own livestock such as pigs & hogs,  cows,  chickens,  geese,  ducks,  turkeys,  sheep/lambs  (great for their wool as well!),  and the variety of cakes to be made from their corn,  such as corn bread,  hoe cakes,  corn meal much,  porridge,  pone,  puddings,  and the staples of bread.
We mustn't forget the fruits grown,  including apple trees  (much more widespread in the later 18th century and into the 19th than a hundred years earlier),  and pear trees.  

I can say from experience that it is tough to stay warm while inside a cabin in the pre-furnace days of the 18th and 19th centuries.
A constant chopping of wood was necessary.  But that's one chore that would warm you twice:  while you were chopping the wood and while you were burning the wood!
But one still had to dress for the weather while inside.
Winter wear stockings,  flannels,  shirts,  trousers,  coats,  and double layered gowns,  petticoats,  and jackets all had to be altered and repaired after being stored away for the summer months,  while new items had to be made to replace those worn beyond repair.  Anne Eliza Clark thanked her mother for the yarn mitts,  which were of   “great service to me when I sweep my chamber and make my bed.”  Mittens were commonly worn inside as well as outside because,  in many cases,  there was little difference in the temperature.  
We are not in the McGuffey Cabin,  but,  instead,  the Waterloo Cabin.  What you see here are a few of us all bundled up and eating our dinner meal right next to the hearth,  for the weather outside was frightfully cold.  This would had been our lives had this actually been in the 18th century...and living in a cabin.
Knitted mitts and extra layers under the skirts were common winter-wear for the 18th and 19th century woman,  while wool coats & cloaks,  knitted hats & mittens,  and boots were all a necessity for the man.  My knit cap you see me wearing here,  I am proud to say,  came from raw wool that my wife first sorted,  scoured,  then picked the dirt,  dung,  straw,  and other impurities out of,  hand-carded,  spun into yarn on her spinning wheel,  dyed with natural dyes  (I believe she used black walnut here),  then knitted.
Yes,  perhaps we both may had been Alexander & Anna McGuffey!
Looks cozy,  doesn't it?
Many people would cover their front doors with blankets or by pulling a heavy curtain across it to keep out the cold,  but for those with an upper floor bed chamber or,  in the case of a cabin,  a loft,  there seemed to be little difference from the outside;  in 1793,  Abner Spanger spent time clearing his attic bed chambers of snow!
A dim light and little warmth comes from the fireplace.
A low level of lighting created only pockets of brightness,  leaving most of the room in darkness.  
It is highly unlikely that two candles would be burning in such a tiny area.  Light coming from the hearth would be plenty,  and frugalness would win the day...er,  night.  
Gray skies and fallen snow outside can make for a brighter inside.
Too much daylight for a candle,  but this is for historic atmosphere.

A feeble circle of light emanates from the cabin's tallow
candles with extra illumination from the fireplace.
Forget about the TV shows and Hollywood movies showing a brightened room by a single candle,  or,  better still,  a cabin filled with a dozens candles all lit at once  (talk about waste!);  I believe most of us have had the candle light experience and know better,  especially with our  'modern'  eyes used to the electric light.
These two photos do give a fair idea of what it was like to be shrouded in the darkness of a long winter's night.
Taken without a flash,  it seems my camera grabbed every spec of
light it possibly could,  giving this picture a brighter atmosphere.
For most,  these candles were sparingly used.  This attitude was not unusual,  for it was a great luxury for many to have candles,  especially out on the frontier.  George Channing recalled his youth in Rhode Island where  "little children were obliged to find their way to bed in the dark."
"This day Jack Frost bites very hard..."

And bite hard he certainly did,  as you'll see in the story below:
I sat there inside the cabin on a bitter winter's night...
see the story below:
I recollect a nasty late December storm with a wintery rain/snow/wind mix occurring while I was at Greenfield Village a few years ago during Holiday Nights.  It was a damp biting-cold mess,  that's for sure.
On such a night,  very few visitors bothered to even show.
But I was there,  dressed in my 1770s period clothing,  and, even though I covered myself with my thick woolen cloak,  I was soon soaked,  from my leather buckled shoes up to my tricorn  (cocked)  hat.  With each step along the slushy Village streets,  my toes soon went from cold to numb,  and,  thus,  I became much colder and was just covered in the large,  heavy wet snow that continued to fall.
It wasn’t long before I had enough - it was time to leave.
On the way out I made one more stop,  and it was to the 1789 McGuffey log cabin,  for I saw smoke billowing from the chimney.  I opened the wooden door and peaked in to see  (and feel)  a warm fire blazing in the hearth with the solitary presenter sitting near the fireplace.  The warming glow from the candles and hearth were inviting.  The presenter could tell I was pretty miserable.  Seeing the wet mess I had become,  she beckoned me in to sit on the bench near the fire and to dry off.  So there I sat,  feeling very similar to what our ancestors must have felt in the same situation.  The heat emanating from the fireplace felt so good,  especially as I could see and hear the wind-swept wet pellets beating -tap! tap! tap! tap! tap!- against the outside logs and lone window.  I could even hear the sizzling that each drop made as it came through the chimney and landed in the fire.
I sat on the bench...and got warm...and,  as the presenter and I had a fine conversation  (centering on history,  of course),  I actually somewhat dried off.
It was one of the most magical living history moments I had,  and it happened without trying.  The immersed feeling,  with no modernisms about,  was as if I were in the past of over 230 years ago...
At one point,  a visitor happened in and graciously took a few pictures,  one of which you see here,  taken that very night while I was hold up,  drying off,  and warming inside the small cabin;  it could have been 1789…a cold moment in time...

By the way,  contrary to popular myth,  our ancestors did not  "go down  (go to bed)  when the sun went down"  (except maybe in the summertime when the sun set much later and rose earlier).  Yes,  it's true that activities such as reading,  writing  (either in diaries or letters),  mending,  any paperwork for business transactions  (bartering/selling),  and doing necessary textile chores by hearth and candlelight actually was the way of the pre-electric light world during the evening hours.
It's unfortunate that I still hear this false comment at historical museums.
With the right preparation of supplies,  transport,  and heating sources, 
the rural residents of the 18th century made the best of  the cold winter months, 
and they survived.
 In 1802,  just five years after they married and moved into this cabin,  Alexander and Anna McGuffey moved their young family further west to an unsettled area of Ohio.  There they settled on 160 wooded acres,  built a new homestead,  cleared the land,  and established a small farm. 
Five more children were born to the McGuffey's.  
As the eldest son,  William probably worked alongside his father and assumed many of the same responsibilities mentioned earlier of other boys raised on frontier farms.
Without a nearby school or church or even a community life of any sort,  his parents played a significant role in his life.  William's father was a fearless,  adventurous,  disciplined,  and hardworking man,  which seems rather obvious.  But he was also illiterate.
His mother was a strong,  serious,  pious,  and literate woman,  and also had an especially great influence on her son.  Anna taught all of her children to read and do arithmetic.  She was always attempting to find ways for her children to receive more education.
As a young man,  William Holmes McGuffey established a reputation as a lecturer on moral and biblical subjects while he was teaching at Miami University.  In 1835,  he was asked to create a series of four graded readers for primary level students.  He had been recommended for the job by longtime friend Harriet Beecher Stowe.  
The most popular reader
of the 19th century.
The Eclectic Readers  (commonly,  but informally known as the McGuffey Readers)  were a series of graded primers for grade levels 1–6.  They were widely used as textbooks in American schools from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century,  and are still used today in some private schools and homeschooling.
Most schools of the 19th century used only the first two in the series of McGuffey's four readers.  The first Reader taught reading by using the phonics method,  the identification of letters and their arrangement into words,  and aided with slate work.  The second Reader was used once students could read.  It helped them to understand the meaning of sentences,  while providing vivid stories which children could remember.  The third Reader taught the definitions of words and was written at a level equivalent to the modern 5th or 6th grade.  The fourth Reader was written for the highest levels of ability on the grammar school level.
He compiled the first four readers  (1836–1837 edition),  while the fifth and sixth were created by his brother Alexander Hamilton McGuffey during the 1840s.
Other types of schoolbooks gradually replaced McGuffey's in the academic marketplace.  The desire for distinct grade levels and less overtly religious content,  and the greater profitability of consumable workbooks,  all helped to bring about their decline.  McGuffey's Readers never entirely disappeared,  however.  Reprinted versions of his Readers are still in print,  and may be purchased in bookstores across the country.  Today,  McGuffey's Readers are popular among homeschoolers and in some Protestant religious schools.

If you recall what I wrote above how it was the everyman and woman who helped to build America as much as the great founders we study about in our history books,  well,  here is something to ponder:  if each of us researched our own family history,  these long forgotten or unknown everymen and women would be recognized and remembered by their contributions,  even if they were  "just"  farmers,  blacksmiths,  coopers,  merchants,  teachers,  writers,  house builders...just the same as the McGuffey's,  Daggetts,  Giddings,  Plymptons,  Chapmans,  Howards,  and so many others.
Yes,  they,  too,  will live on...
Lovin'  America's fine history...

Until next time,  see you in time.

~

Nearly all of the McGuffey information here came from the Benson Ford Research center,  located on the campus of Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum,  though I gleamed some from internet sources as well.
As for the daily life activities,  I garnered snippets from a variety of  sources in my own personal library,  a list of which would be very long.
Instead,  here is a link to a posting I wrote of some of my favorite research books:
.

To read on other Greenfield Village homes and structures I researched,  please click the following links:

Ackley Covered Bridge 1832
At one time, covered bridges were commonplace. Not so much anymore. But Greenfield Village has one from 1832.

Daggett House  (part one)
Learn about the 18th century house and the family who lived there.

Daggett House  (part two)
This concentrates more on the everyday life of the 18th century Daggett family,  including ledger entries.

Doc Howard's Office - The World of a 19th century Doctor
It's 1850 and you're sick.  Who are you going to call on?  Why,  good ol'  Doc Howard,  of course!

Eagle Tavern
Learn about the Eagle Tavern and 19th century travel

Eagle Tavern: Eating Historically 
Taste history while being immersed in the 1850s
 
Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village
Learn about the boyhood home of Harvey Firestone, the tire magnate.

The Giddings House
Revolutionary War and possible George Washington ties are within the hallowed walls of this beautiful stately colonial home.

Mills  
These buildings were once a part of everyday life in American villages and towns and cities - including the Gunsolly Carding Mill,  the Loranger Gristmill,  Farris Windmill,  Hanks Silk Mill,  Cider Mill,  and the Spofford and the Tripps Saw Mills,  all in one post!

Noah Webster House
A quick overview of the life of this fascinating but forgotten Founding Father whose home, which was nearly razed for a parking lot, is now located in Greenfield Village.

The Plympton House
This house,  with its long history  (including American Indians)  has close ties to Paul Revere himself!

Preserving History
Henry Ford did more for preserving everyday life of the 18th and 19th centuries than anyone else! Here's proof.

Tales of Everyday Life in Menlo Park (or Francis Jehl: A Young Boy's Experience Working at Menlo Park)
Menlo Park is brought to life by one who was there. First-hand accounts.

Richart Carriage Shop
This building was much more than a carriage shop in the 19th century!

And for some haunted fun, 
Ghosts of Greenfield Village
Yep - real hauntings take place in this historic Village.

Yes,  some of the structures that now sit inside Greenfield Village have connections to America's fight for Independence.

Follow the route that Thomas Edison took as he rode and worked on the rails in the early 1860s,  including the Smiths Creek Depot.

Virtually each structure inside Greenfield Village has come from another location,  I took on a project to seek out the original  locations of many of the local buildings.  
Where they first stood when they were first built.

Homes that played a role in our country's fight for Independence.

Research has shown that,  as a young attorney,  Abraham Lincoln once practiced law in this walnut clapboard building.  I think this post will make you realize just how close to history you actually are when you step inside.

Recreating this store to its 1880s appearance was extremely important as the overall goal,  and so accurately reproduced items were needed to accomplish the end result,  for many original objects were rare or too fragile,  with some being in too poor condition.  

This post is part history and part family history:  a blending of the two.  And one way to show how you can place your ancestors in their time.

Saving Americana - that's what Henry Ford did - and in doing so he showed everyone the importance of  everyday life history.  This is how it all began.   

Nothing is placed randomly inside the structures at Greenfield Village.  The curators carefully consider each and every object before allowing it to become part of the site. 
And the Clothing Studio at The Henry Ford covers over 250 years of fashion  (from 1760 onward)  and is the  premier museum costume shop in the country.



































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Monday, January 16, 2023

21st Michigan Civil War Reenacting Members 2023 Christmas Party

January is when we usually will have our reenacting Christmas party.
December is just too darn busy.
So that's why you see 2023 in the title of today's post.

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

It's been since January 2020 that we in the 21st Michigan have had a large Christmas gathering.  Covid hit soon after,  in March,  and though we still had a small gathering in 2021,  and another the following year  (2022),  with each growing in size,  we still hadn't had a full-blown party just like the ones we used to know.  
But we did this year when even more members showed up!
Besides the oh-so-delicious food,  we also danced and played parlor games appropriate to the Civil War era.
And what fun we all had!
And quite a few did show up!

Pearl and her ensemble performed the old carols
for everyone's enjoyment.

We had quite the feast to eat,  including ham,  mac & cheese,  mashed potatoes, 
green beans,  soup,  stuffing,  and plenty more food plus desserts.

Some of our beautiful ladies...

Mrs.  Cook and my wife.
Jean Cook played a large role in Patty & I getting
so involved in reenacting.

Three centuries of  Patty & Ken~~~~~:
My wife and I in the 1860s:
My wife and I in the 1760s.  
Here we are in 2022:
I love how we go together in any time~

Andy and Miles.

Sue must be telling the Lynches a very exciting story!

Ian,  with his sort of hand-held instrument that has the sound and feel of a mountain dulcimer,  and Pearl with her fiddle.  The two played dance music...parlor music.

A few of our members enjoyed dancing.

I believe they were dancing the Virginia Reel.

I imagine this old school house from 1872 has seen plenty of dances in its day.

I would love to see looks on faces of anyone peeping through the windows,
as if they saw ghosts or...Amish people lol.

We also played a variety of parlor games,  including the 12 Days/12 Gifts of Christmas,  Barnyard Animals,  Questions & Answers,  and a few others.

I usually have a small gathering of friends over to my house as a sort of  "afterglow"  once the party ends at the schoolhouse.  I,  unfortunately,  cannot have everyone over,  for I simply don't have enough room,  so I have just a few come by.  And we'll eat snacks and enjoy each other's company.
I also will sometimes light the candles on our Christmas Tree one last time;  oftentimes there are some who have never seen an actual candle-lit tree,  and this year was no different.
As Larissa wrote when she posted the picture she took:
"It’s still Christmas for one more night."

I was glad to be able to light our tree one more time before the
Christmas season ended.

I try to keep our room candlelit for this gathering,  although...

...to get a few good pictures I had to turn the lights on,  but kept  'em low.

Carrie & Ian's four-year-old daughter
loves our rocking horse!
Christmas is past. 
12th Night's the last.
It was so good seeing folks that I haven't seen in ages.  I only wish the Civil War side of the reenacting hobby was healthy.  I don't buy the silly stories that people-are-concerned-about-protests-of-the-confederate-flag  garbage as a reason reenactments are not as plentiful.  I think of it as more of an excuse.  You want to save the hobby?  Come out to the events and stop making excuses why you don't.  And get young people involved.  Yes,  many are interested.  You see,  I also don't buy the kids-don't-want-to-reenact---they'd-rather-be-on-their-phones garbage either.  I see more older people on cell phones than younger people these days.  Again,  another excuse.  The fact that hardly any reenactors showed up at the Port Sanilac event last August says a lot  (and I so appreciate those that did come out).  Then they've complained that  "we need more events!"  
Frustration indeed!
But I firmly believe that if we want this hobby to survive and want to keep truth in history alive,  we need to get ourselves out to the events first and foremost,  turn to the young people and get them interested and involved,  and teach them - share our own knowledge with them - and let them allow it to grow.  We need to teach them about the past crafts of everyday life long gone,  of military life,  of the battles,  and show them the cool stuff they can do rather than just be bored campers in funny clothes,  I believe we can get interest and it will grow.  That's our chance.  If we don't,  then the hobby dies with us.
Just my two cents.

Until next time,  see you in time.

Remember:
The Kalamazoo Living History Show on March 18th & 19th.
And...also,  look for the Reenactors Shop n Swap at the Eastpointe School House on March 4th.
Yep---take advantage of  while you can.
Of course,  for some of us,  there is no down time...

































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