Monday, February 19, 2024

Revolutionary War 250: American History - Faneuil Hall and A Conversation With Revolutionary War Patriot Samuel Downing

What you are about to read will change American History forever!
Okay...not really...I just get a kick out of hearing comments like this on many of the PBS and History Channel's documentaries!  I shake my head,  grimace,  and snicker each and every time I hear it.
Anyhow,  nothing you read in today's posting will change American history forever,  but there may be things here you've not heard before and might change your outlook on our past forever...lol!
If nothing else,  you might add to your knowledge!

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I've not been to Boston or even Massachusetts yet.  Notice I wrote  "yet."  My wife & I have plans to do so but no date has been set as of this writing.  Could be this year...or sometime in the more distant future.  But mark my words,  we are planning to go.  I've been researching and reading all the books and guides I can get my hands on - - I have had the itinerary in my head for a while:
That gray wooden building was
the home of Paul Revere.
(Photo by Andrea M. Rotondo/The Points Guy)
~Boston and the Freedom Tour  (especially Paul Revere's House)
~Lexington & Concord and all the sites that go with it
~The Wayside Inn to see its history as well as where the Plympton House originally stood before being moved to Greenfield Village
~John Adams Birthplace
~Plimouth Plantation
And before we return to Michigan,  I absolutely want to 
~Visit the graves of Samuel & Anna Daggett in Connecticut,  and possibly visit the original location of where the Daggett Home was originally built by Samuel around the year 1750 in Coventry - now Andover - before its move to Union,  Connecticut by Mary Dana Wells in 1951,  and then its move to historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn,  Michigan in 1977 / 78,  where it remains to this day as a historical home museum,  visited by thousands every year.
The Daggett House where it was originally built over 270 years ago,  flanked by the graves of the builder and his wife.  I hope to visit each site.
God willing...
Words can seemingly transport one to other places or even back in time.  That's what the following does for me - - - 
Now,  I would like you to think of yourself as a Boston citizen at the very beginnings of the early American Revolutionary War period.  Whether male or female,  you would be mostly aware of  what you are about to read - your 18th century surroundings as described here - for it is a description of that grand city as it was just before the American Revolution:
(The following comes directly from the book The British Are Coming by Rick Atkinson - pp 44,  45):
Boston - 1769
Daily life plodded on.  Goods smuggled or stockpiled before the port closing could be found for a price,  including candles for five shillings a pound in the Faneuil Hall market,  along with indigo and a few hogshead of sugar.  Greenleaf's Auction Room sold German serges,  Irish linens,  and Kippen's snuff by the cask.  Harbottle Dorr's shop in Union Street advertised spades,  Smith's anvils,  and brass kettles,  "none of which have been imported since the port was shut up."  A vendor near swing bridge offered fish hooks,  cod lines,  and  "nails of all sorts."  With spring coming on fast,  W.  P.  Bartlett's shop in Salem sold seeds for crimson radishes,  yellow Spanish onions,  tennisball lettuce,  and several kinds of peas,  including black-eyed,  sugar,  blue union,  and speckled.  "Choice cayenne cocoa"  could be found on Hancock's Wharf,  and pearl dentifrice---reputedly invented by the Queen's dentist  "for the preservation of the teeth"---was peddled in a shop on Ann Street. 
Auction houses sold the furniture of distraught residents determined to move---to England,  to Halifax,  deeper into New England,  or just  away.  Mahogany tables,  featherbeds,  and looking glasses went for a song.  For those who preferred to dance away their troubles,  an unlikely new school in Boston offered lessons in minuets,  hornpipes,  and English country steps  "in the most improved taste." 
Freeholders  (property owners)  gathered for meetings in Faneuil Hall.  The town agreed to borrow 600 pounds to buy grain for the almshouse poor.  A report in late March noted that thirty-eight smallpox patients were quarantined on a hospital scow  (a ship)  in the Charles River,  "some distance from the wharf."  The Freeholders voted to continue a recent ban on inoculations;  many now feared that it posed a greater risk of epidemic than natural infection.  Any household with sick inhabitants was required to display a large red flag on a six foot pole or incur a fifty pound fine.  For those intent on inoculation,  newspapers advertised the services of a private hospital in New York...
"View from Beacon Hill,"  Artist Unknown,  c.  1775-1780.  (Library of Congress)
Mentioned above is Faneuil Hall market.
You would be well aware of that,  too,  and not just as a market place:
Faneuil Hall in 1775. Charles Bryan, etching 1840. Boston Public Library.
Faneuil Hall,  dubbed the  “Cradle of Liberty,”  is located in the city of Boston.  Faneuil Hall was a large market building that served as a meeting place for Patriots on the eve of the American Revolution.  Meetings to discuss the Stamp Act,  the Boston Massacre,  the  “tea crisis,”  and other grievances with Britain were all held at Faneuil Hall between 1764 and 1775.
Faneuil Hall was a thriving business hub,  marketplace,  and meeting center prior to,  during,  and after the American Revolution.  Faneuil Hall was home to merchants,  fishermen,  meat and produce sellers,  and assorted peddlers of goods.  (All of the Faneuil Hall information comes directly from the Boston Tea Party site).  I take no credit in writing the following:
It was at Faneuil Hall in 1764 where American colonists first met to protest the Sugar Act,  then again in 1765 with the passing of the Stamp Act,  and in 1767 with the passing of the Townshend Acts. Samuel Adams wrote the following in response to the passing of the Stamp Act:  “The freeholders & other inhabitants,  being legally assembled in Faneuil Hall,  to consider what steps are necessary for us to take at this alarming crisis,  think it proper to communicate to you our united sentiments,”  the townsmen are  “particularly alarmed & astonished at the act,  called the Stamp Act,  by which a very grievous & we apprehend unconstitutional tax is to be laid upon the colony.”  With the repealing of the Stamp Act,  in April 1766 a town meeting was held at Faneuil Hall to vote on  “the methods to exhibit their joy”  of the Stamp Act’s repeal.  At the meeting at Faneuil Hall it was unanimously decided  “to prevent any bonfire from being made in any part of the town,  also the throwing of any rockets,  squibs,  and other fireworks in any of the streets of said town,  except the time that shall be appointed for general rejoicing.”
On the morning of March 6,  1770,  Faneuil Hall was packed beyond occupancy with the angered citizenry of Boston.  The night before soldiers of the Grenadier Company of His Majesty’s 29th Regiment of Foot had fired on the people of Boston – killing five civilian men.  The incident has become known to history as the Boston Massacre.  Witnesses to the Boston Massacre stood at the platform describing the events which transpired on the night of March 5,  1770,  and Samuel Adams delivered an impassioned speech about the incident.  At Faneuil Hall,  Samuel Adams was appointed to lead a committee to urge Thomas Hutchinson,  the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Justice of Massachusetts,  in the removal of all British soldiers from Boston at once or the safety of the citizenry and soldiers would be compromised.
On November 5,  1773,  Guy Fawkes Day  (celebrated as Pope’s Day in colonial Boston),  Samuel Adams called a town meeting at Faneuil Hall in response to the  “tea crisis”  and declared anyone who aids or abets the  “unloading receiving or vending the tea is an enemy to America!”  It was at this meeting Samuel Adams was appointed to handle the  “tea crisis.”  The meeting first held at Faneuil Hall and relocated to the Old South Meeting House on November 29 was the first of a series of meetings which culminated in the December 16,  1773 Boston Tea Party.
After the British occupied Boston and passed the Quartering Act under the Intolerable Acts in 1774,  Faneuil Hall was used as a theater to entertain British officers.  Faneuil Hall was also used to quarter British soldiers under the Quartering Act and had previously housed British soldiers prior to the Boston Massacre.
Following the first shots of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord on April 19,  1775,  on April 27,  the military governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and commander-in-chief of all British forces in North America,  General Thomas Gage,  ordered all firearms owned by the Boston citizenry stored in Faneuil Hall.
During the American Revolution,  on July 4,  1777 – one year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence- George Washington toasted the new nation on its first birthday at Faneuil Hall.
Interior at Faneuil Hall.

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There!  Well,  now that we have your mindset in the right frame,  let's learn a different aspect of the War for Independence through the eyes of one who was there in a conversation with Samuel Downing,  one of the last survivors of the Revolutionary War.  
You are looking into the eyes of one who was there!
A contemporary of Washington,  Adams,  Franklin,  Hancock,  Revere...
...and Arnold & Andre' - - - 
(photo taken about 1864)
During the Civil War that threatened to tear the United States apart came the realization that only a handful of veterans of the American Revolution still survived—men who had fought the war that created the nation.  Six of these men were photographed and interviewed for a book by Reverend E.  B.  Hillard that appeared late in 1864.  Their images and stories have captivated generations since then.
Here is the story of one of those Revolutionary War soldiers  (from Hillard's book  "The Last Men of the Revolution"):
Mr. Downing lives in the town of Edinburgh,  Saratoga County,  New York.  His age is one hundred and two years.  To reach his home,  you proceed to Saratoga,  and thence by stage some twenty miles to the village of Luzerne,  on the upper Hudson. 
From Luzerne the home of Mr. Downing is distant some twenty-five miles up the valley of the Sacandaga River,  and for it I set out early on the following morning.  Indeed,  once in the vicinity you have no difficulty in finding him,  as all in the region know  "Old Father Downing,"  and speak of him with respect and affection. 
The celebration of his one hundredth birthday,  to which the whole country around gathered,  served to make him acquainted with many who might otherwise,  in the seclusion of his age,  have lost sight of him.  On entering the yard I at once recognized him from his photograph,  and addressing myself to him, said,  "Well,  Mr.  Downing,  you and the bees seem very good friends."  (There was barely room for him between the two hives,  and the swarms were working busily on both sides of him.)  "Yes,"  he replied,  "they don't hurt me and I don't hurt them."  On telling him that I had come a long way to see an old soldier of the Revolution,  he invited me to walk into the house,  himself leading the way.  The day was extremely warm.  I inquired of him which suited him best,  warm weather or cold.  "If I had my way about it,"  he answered,  "I should like it about so.  But we can't do that:  we have to take it as it comes."  The day before had been one of the hottest of the season,  so much so that coming up by stage from Saratoga,  we could scarcely endure the journey.  Yet in the middle of it,  the old man,  they told me,  walked some two miles and a half over a very tedious road to the shoemaker's,  got his boots tapped,  and walked home again.  Mr.  Downing is altogether the most vigorous in body and mind of the survivors.  Indeed,  judging from his bearing and conversation,  you would not take him to be over seventy years of age.  His eye is indeed dim,  but all his other faculties are unimpaired,  and his natural force is not at all abated.  Still he is strong,  hearty,  enthusiastic,  cheery:  the most sociable of men and the very best of company.  He eats his full meal,  rests well at night,  labors upon the farm,  "hoes corn and potatoes,  and works just as well as anybody."  His voice is strong and clear,  his mind unclouded,  and he seems,  as one of his neighbors said of him,  "as good for ten years longer as he ever was." Seated in the house,  and my errand made known to him,  he entered upon the story of his life,  which I will give as nearly as possible in the old man's own words.
"I was born,"  said he,  "in the town of Newburyport,  Mass.,  on the 31st of November,  1761"  (Ken's note:  November has 30 days and always has - he got something a bit mixed up.  I suppose at his age and all he'd been through,  he's allowed).  "One day,  when I was a small boy,  my parents went across the bay in a sail-boat to a place called Joppa.  They left me at home;  and I went out into the street to play marbles with the boys.  As we were playing,  a man came along and asked if we knew of any boy who would like to go and learn the trade of spinning-wheel making.  Nobody answered;  so I spoke up,  and said,  'Yes,  I want to go.'  'Where are your parents?'  asked he.  'They ain't at home,'  said I;  ‘but that wont make no odds;  I will go.'  So he told me that if I would meet him that afternoon at Greenleaf's tavern,  (I remember the tavern keeper's name,)  he would take me.  So I did.  They asked me at the tavern where I was going.  I told them I was going off.  So we started;  he carried me to Haverhill,  and the next day to Londonderry,  where we stayed over Sunday.  It was the fall of the year.  I remember the fruit was on the ground,  and I went out and gathered it.  I was happy yet.  From Londonderry he carried me to Antrim,  where he lived.  His name was Thomas Aiken.  Antrim was a wooded country then.  
The wheel & spokes of a spinning wheel.
When I got there I was homesick;  so I went into the woods and sat down on a hemlock log,  and cried it out.  I was sorry enough I had come.  When I went back to the house they accused me of it;  but I denied it.  I staid with Mr.  Aiken till after the breaking out of the war,  working at wheels during the day and splitting out spokes at night.  I had lived with him so six years.  He didn't do by me as he agreed to.  He agreed to give me so much education,  and at the end of my time an outfit of clothes,  or the like,  and a kit of tools.  So I tells aunt,  (I used to call Mr.  Aiken uncle and his wife aunt,)  'Aunty,  Uncle don't do by me as he agreed to.  He agreed to send me to school,  and he hasn't sent me a day;'  and I threatened to run away.  She told me if I did they'd handcuff me and give me a whipping.  'But,'  said I,  'you'll catch me first,  wont you.  Aunty?’  'O,'  she said,  'they'd advertise me." 
 Well,  the war broke out.  Mr.  Aiken was a militia captain;  and they used to be in his shop talking about it.  I had ears,  and I had eyes in them days.  They was enlisting three years men and for-the-war men.  I heard say that Hopkinton was the enlisting place.  One day aunt said she was going a visiting.  So I said to myself,  'That's right,  Aunty;  you go,  and I'll go too.'  So they went out,  and I waited till dinner time,  when I thought nobody would see me,  and then I started.  I had a few coppers,  but I darsn't take any of my clothes,  for fear they'd have me up for a thief.  It was eighteen miles,  and I went it pretty quick.  
Could this be young Sam?
The recruiting officer,  when I told him what I'd come for,  said I was too small.  I told him just what I'd done.  'Well,'  said he,  'you stay here and I'll give you a letter to Col.  Fifield over in Charlestown and perhaps he'll take you.'  So I staid with him;  and when uncle and aunt came home that night they had no Sam.  The next day I went and carried the letter to Col.  Fifield,  and he accepted me.  But he wasn't quite ready to go:  he had his haying to do;  so I staid with him and helped him through it,  and then I started for the war.  Uncle spent six weeks in looking for me;  but he didn't find me."
''But did your parents hear nothing of you all this time?"
"Yes;  Mr. Aiken wrote to them about a year after he stole me.  They had advertised me and searched for me,  but at last concluded I had fallen off the dock and been drowned.
“The first duty I ever did was to guard wagons from Exeter to Springfield.  We played the British a trick;  I can remember what I said as well as can be.  We all started off on a run,  and as I couldn't see anything,  I said,  'I don't see what the devil we're running after or running away from;  for I can't see anything.'  One of the officers behind me said,  ‘Run,  you little dog,  or I'll spontoon you,'  ' Well,'  I answered,  'I guess I can run as fast as you can and as far.'  Pretty soon I found they were going to surprise a British train.  We captured it;  and among the stores were some hogsheads of rum.  So when we got hack to camp that night the officers had a great time drinking and gambling;  but none for the poor soldiers.  Says one of the sergeants to me,  'We'll have some of that rum.'  It fell to my lot to be on sentry that night;  so I couldn't let  'em in at the door.  But they waited till the officers got boozy;  then they went in at the windows and drew a pailful,  and brought it out and we filled our canteens,  and then they went in and drew another.  So we had some of the rum;  all we wanted was to live with the officers,  not any better.
Afterwards we were stationed in the Mohawk valley.  Arnold was our fighting general,  and a bloody fellow he was.  He didn't care for nothing;  he'd ride right in.  It was  'Come on,  boys!'  'twasn't  'Go,  boys!'  He was as brave a man as ever lived.  He was dark-skinned,  with black hair,  of middling height.  There wasn't any waste timber in him.  He was a stern looking man,  but kind to his soldiers.  They didn't treat him right:  he ought to have had Burgoyne's sword.  But he ought to have been true.  We had true men then;  'twasn't as it is now.  Everybody was true:  the tories we'd killed or driven to Canada."
"You don't believe,  then,  in letting men stay at their homes and help the enemy?"
"Not by a grand sight !"  was his emphatic reply.
"The men that caught Andre were true.  He wanted to get away,  offered them everything.  Washington hated to hang him;  he cried,  they said."
The student of American history will remember the important part which Arnold performed in the battle connected with the surrender of Burgoyne.  Mr.  Downing was engaged.
"We heard,"  he said,  "Burgoyne was coming.  The tories began to feel triumphant.  One of them came in one morning and said to his wife,  "Ty  (Ticonderoga)  is taken,  my dear."  But they soon changed their tune.  The first day at Bemis Heights both claimed the victory.  But by and by we got Burgoyne where we wanted him,  and he gave up.  He saw there was no use in fighting it out.  There's where I call  'em gentlemen.  Bless your body,  we had gentlemen to fight with in those days.  When they was whipped they gave up.  It isn't so now.
"Gates was an  'old granny '  looking fellow.  When Burgoyne came up to surrender his sword,  he said to Gates,  'Are you a general?  You look more like a granny than you do like a general.'  'I be a granny,'  said Gates,  'and I've delivered you of ten thousand men to-day.’
General John Burgoyne surrenders to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga
on October 17,  1777.
"Once,  in the Mohawk valley,  we stopped in William Johnson's great house.  It would hold a regiment.  Old Johnson appeared to us:  I don't know as you'll believe it.  The rest had been out foraging.  One had stolen a hive of honey;  some others had brought in eight quarters of good mutton,  and others,  apples and garden sauce,  and so forth.  Ellis and I went out to get a sack of potatoes,  some three pecks.  When we got back to Johnson's,  as we were going through the hall,  I looked back,  and there was a man.  I can see now just how he looked.  He had on a short coat.  What to do with the potatoes we didn't know.  It wouldn't do to carry them into the house;  so I ran down cellar.  When the man got to the middle of the hall,  all at once he disappeared.  I could see him as plain—O,  if I could see you as plain!
"By and by they began to talk about going to take New York.  There's always policy,  you know,  in war.  We made the British think we were coming to take the city.  We drew up in line of battle:  the British drew up over there,  (pointing with his hand.)  They looked very handsome.  But Washington went south to Yorktown.  La Fayette laid down the white sticks,  and we threw up entrenchments by them.  We were right opposite Washington's headquarters.  I saw him every day."
General Washington's Headquarters,  Yorktown,  VA 1781 by Sidney E.  King 
“Was he as fine a looking man as he is reported to have been?"
"Oh!"  he exclaimed,  lifting up both his hands and pausing,  "but you never got a smile out of him.  He was a nice man.  We loved him.  They'd sell their lives for him."  
I asked,  "What do you think he would say if he was here now?"
"Say!"  exclaimed he,  "I don't know,  but he'd be mad to see me sitting here.  I tell  'em if they'll give me a horse I'll go as it is.  If the rebels come here,  I shall sartingly take my gun. I can see best furtherest off."
"How would Washington treat traitors if he caught them?"
"Hang 'em to the first tree!"  was his reply.
He denounces the present rebellion,  and says he only wishes to live to see it crushed out.  His father and his wife's father were in the French War.  His brother was out through the whole war of the Revolution.  He has a grandson now in the army,  an officer in the Department of the Gulf,—a noble looking young man,  as represented by his photograph.  He has been in the service from the beginning of the war.
"When peace was declared,"  said the old man,  concluding his story of the war,  "we burnt thirteen candles in every hut,  one for each State."
I have given his narrative in his own words,  because to me,  as I listened,  there was an unequaled charm in the story of the Revolution,  broken and imperfect though it was,  from the lips of one who was a living actor in it.  The very quaintness and homeliness of his speech but added to the impression of reality and genuineness.  I felt as I listened to him that the story which he told was true.
At the close of the war,  Mr.  Downing returned to Antrim,  "too big,"  as he said,  "for Aunty to whip."  Soon after his return,  he married Eunice George,  aged eighteen years.  She died eleven years ago.  By her he had thirteen children . Three of these are now living.  The one with whom he resides is his youngest son,  and,  though himself seventy-three years old,  his father addresses him still as  "Bub."  He came from Antrim to Edinburgh in 1794,  "And to show you,"  said he, “that there was one place I didn't run away from,  I will give you this,"  handing me the following certificate:
To All whom it may Concern.
This may certify that the bearer,  Samuel Downing,  with his wife,  have been good members of society;  has received the ordinance of baptism for their children in our church;  and is recommended to any church or society,  where Providence is pleased to fix them,  as persons of good moral character.  Done in behalf of the Session.
Isaac Coshran,  Session Clerk.
Antrim,  Feb.  27,  1794.
"It must have been a pretty wild country when you came here?"
"O,  there wasn't a marked tree;  it was all a wilderness."
"How came you to come?"
They said in Antrim we could live on three days'  work here as easy as we could on six there.  So we formed a company to come.  There were some twenty,  but I was the only one that came.  I sold my farm there,  one hundred and ten acres,  for a trifle;  and my brother and I came out here to look.  As soon as we got here and saw the country,  I said to my brother,  ‘I've given my farm away,  and have nothing to buy another with:  so I've got to stay here.  But you've sold well:  so you go right back and buy another.’
All the land round here was owned by old Domine Gross.  I took mine of a Mr.  Foster;  and when I'd chopped ten acres and cleared it and fenced it,  I found my title wasn't good:  that Mr.  Foster hadn't fulfilled the conditions on which he had it of Mr. Gross.  So we went down together to see the Domine about it.  I told him I'd paid for the land.  ‘No matter,'  said he,  ‘it isn't yours.'  'But,'  said I,  'Mr. Gross,  I've chopped ten acres and cleared it and fenced it;  ain't I to have anything for my labor?'  “I don't thank you,’  he replied,  'for cutting my timber.'  Then I began to be scared.  So says I,  'Mr. Foster,  I guess we'd better be getting along towards home,'  'O,  you can have the land,'  says the old Domine,  'only you must give me fifty pounds more;  and you can make me a little sugar now and then.'  'Well,'  said I,  'I will go over to your agent and get the papers.'  'O,  I can do the writing,'  said he.  So I paid the money and got the land."
And on it he has lived and labored for seventy years.  Its neighborhood to his old battle-grounds might have had its influence in determining his selection of it for a home.
At the age of one hundred,  Mr.  Downing had never worn glasses,  or used a cane.  The fall before,  he had pulled,  trimmed,  and deposited in the cellar,  in one day,  fifteen bushels of carrots.  His one hundredth birthday was celebrated by his neighbors and friends,  upon his farm,  with a large concourse,  estimated at a thousand persons,  the firing of one hundred guns,  and an address by George S.  Batcheller,  Esq.,  of Saratoga.  On this occasion the old man cut down a hemlock tree five feet in circumference,  and later in the day a wild cherry tree near his house,  of half this size.  He says he could do it again,  and it is likely that he could.  The trees were sold upon the ground,  and stripped of their branches by those present for canes and other mementoes of the occasion.  The stump of the larger one was sawed off and carried to Saratoga by Robert Bevins,  of that place.  The axe with which the trees were cut was sold for seven dollars and a half.
Mr.  Downing lives very comfortably with his son,  James M.  Downing.  His health has always been good.  His pension,  formerly eighty dollars a year,  was increased at the last session of Congress to one hundred and eighty dollars.  He pays no particular attention to his diet;  drinks tea and coffee,  and smokes tobacco.  He gets tired sometimes,  his son says,  during the day;  but his sleep at night restores him like a child.  It is a curious circumstance that his hair,  which until lately has been for many years silvery white,  is now beginning to turn black.  In a lock of it,  lying before me,  as I write,  there are numerous perfectly black hairs.
By religious persuasion,  Mr.  Downing is a Methodist. "Why,"  said he,  "I'll tell you:  because they are opposed to slavery,  and believe in a free salvation."

Samuel Downing abt 1865
He is as stanch in his religious belief as he is in his personal character;  expounds his faith intelligently and forcibly;  believes thoroughly what he believes,  and rejects earnestly what he rejects.  Among the latter is the doctrine of reprobation,  concerning which he tells the story of a controversy which he had with an old Methodist preacher,  who held and preached the doctrine.
"‘You believe,'  said he,  'that God from eternity has elected a part and reprobated a part of mankind?’  'Yes,'  replied the preacher,  'that is my belief.' –Have you wicked children?'  'Yes.'  'Do you pray for them?'  'Yes.' ' Have you wicked neighbors?'  'Yes.'  'Do you pray for them?'  'Yes.'  'But how do you know but they are reprobated?'  He didn't say anything in reply then.  A while after I met him,  and asked him if he still believed in reprobation.  'No,'  he answered,  'I've thrown away that foolish notion.’"
Mr. Downing's faith in the Invisible is firm and clear,  and his anticipation of the rest and reward of Heaven strong and animating.  He greatly enjoys religious conversation,  invokes a blessing at the table;  and when prayer was offered,  at his request,  responded intelligently and heartily,  in true Methodist style.  Doubtless,  when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved,  he will find awaiting him  "a building of God,  a house not made with hands,  eternal in the heavens."
The sun was drawing low as I left him,  to return to Luzerne.  My interview with him had been most interesting and delightful.  I parted from him with regret.  His eyes filled with tears as,  in bidding him good-bye,  I mentioned that better country where I should hope again to meet him.  As I rode away,  I turned my eyes southward over the valley of the Mohawk,  bounded in the dim distance by the Catskill Mountains.  I felt anew how great the change which a hundred years has wrought,  which a single lifetime covers.  I had just parted from a man still living who had hunted the savage through that valley now thronged with cities and villages—in place of the then almost unbroken wilderness,  now fair fields and pleasant dwellings—in place of constant peril and mortal conflict,  now security and peace;  and my heart swelled afresh with gratitude to the men who had rescued their land from the tyrant and the savage,  and had made it for their children so fair and happy a home.
Sadly,  Mr.  Downing would die on February 19,  1867,  at 105 years of age.
157 years to the date of the publishing of this blog post.

These words from Samuel Downing brings it all home,  in my opinion.  I felt almost transported back in time,  and now have a greater understanding of daily life during this period.  I have a few friends who have been interviewing  WWII vets and getting their stories,  which I think is very cool.  It is the exact same as this,  only a different war.  Imagine the importance of those interviews in years to come.  My father,  who fought in WWII,  and I were just starting to talk about such things when he passed away at the young age of 55.  I have extremely little on his life in the Army and of his adventures in Okinawa in 1945.  Oh,  how I wish I knew his story...But stories that others gather certainly helps.  That's also why I believe reenacting and living history are so important.  
Keeping the past alive.

Until next time,  see you in time.


The following are all connected to America's Revolutionary War past:
It's the Little Things
A post I wrote that touches on a variety of subjects,  such as Shadow Portraits,  Bourdaloues,  Revolutionary Mothers,  and a few other interesting historical odds & ends.

Lucky for many of us who live in the metro-Detroit area - or even in the Midwest region - for we can visit houses that played a small part in the fight for Independence.
Or you can read this post.

Paul Revere's midnight ride is told here with factual accounts.  
Many these days tend to down play Revere's importance to America's Revolution.  This will show just how important he was!

Billy Dawes road with Paul Revere on that fate-filled night of April 18,  1775,  and they were eventually joined with Samuel Prescott.  Here is the Midnight Ride as told from a slightly different perspective.

Paul Revere was just one of many other riders on the night od April 18th in  '75.  Here are stories of a few other warning riders.

Did you like reading in today's posting of what Samuel Downing said,  and hearing stories of the Revolutionary War from one who was there?  Well,  this is along the same lines,  only it centers on the first battles of the American Revolution.  One of my favorite RevWar posts!

The Henry Ford Museum has amassed a very large collection of Revolutionary War-era objects over the years,  and they displayed them prominently during the Bicentennial in 1976.  Since that time the collection has been spread out in different areas throughout the museum.  Well,  they now have put many of those objects in their  "With Liberty and Justice For All"  exhibit.  I did a posting based solely around the 18th century items...and here  'tis.


























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Monday, February 12, 2024

Wintertime at Greenfield Village

~ We come from the land of the ice and snow...

At the time of this writing - February 2024 - we really haven't had much of a winter.  We've had little snow and,  considering the time of year here in the north,  mostly downright balmy temperatures.  
Taken years ago, back when Greenfield
Village was open into early January
I'm a four seasons kind of guy and I enjoy each one that Michigan has to offer,  which is why I live here  (plus,  my Michigan roots go back to 1883 - quite a long period of time.  I just can't pack up and leave with roots that deep).  And I would probably enjoy winter even more if my favorite historical out-door museum,  Greenfield Village,  would remain open during the months of January,  February,  and March.
You see,  they open in mid-April,  and by the 1st of December they close up the Village for the daytime and only remain open for their special Christmas Holiday Nights evenings.  And though the adjacent indoor Henry Ford Museum stays open year  'round,  Greenfield Village closes its gates in late December,  only a few days after Christmas.  Then the wait until mid-April begins again...
My own wish would be for them to remain open during the snowy months - even if it were only on weekends:  how cool would it be to visit on a Saturday or Sunday and be able to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride  (which I actually have done before back when they were open during early January)?  Or,  perhaps remain open during the late winter and early spring,  allowing folks to watch and possibly partake in maple sugaring  (which they also used to do many,  many years ago)?  And then there is learning how folks whiled away the hours during the winter - the chores and crafts of wintertime past.
I know...I've heard all the reasons why they don't do this  (though,  as I pointed out,  they used to many years ago),  but in my opinion they would only have to have their  'main'  houses open:  the 1880's Firestone Farm, 1750's Daggett Farm,  the 1870s Ford Birthplace/Farm,  perhaps  1930s Mattox,   1789 McGuffey Cabin,   just as a few examples.  Open to the public so the visitors could see wintertime activities in the 18th,  19th,  and even 20th centuries.
And take a sleigh ride to get to those locations to boot!
And maybe,  as an extra added attraction:  behind their Porches and Parlors area there is a sort of steep grassy incline that would be perfect for sledding.  How many young kids today  (besides those who have traditional parents like us)  have ever been sledding?
Not many,  I'm willing to bet.
And one of the best things is that the visitors would be able to enjoy the historic scenic beauty of wintertime that only Greenfield Village has to offer.
It's activities like this that can make the harsh cold winter that we usually have that much more bearable. 
And it's history! 
But,  unfortunately,  this not to be.
At least for now. 
However,  one never knows the changes that lie ahead...right?
So,  in the meantime,  since visitors are not allowed inside Greenfield Village during the off season,  I must consider it a blessing when we do get a goodly amount of snow before the Village closes up,  therefore allowing many of us to enjoy the sites of each season.
In today's posting I have a collection of wintertime photos taken throughout the years,  whether they were taken while the Village was still open during the day in November,  whether taken during a particular snowy December evening during Holiday Nights,  or whether I got antsy and snapped a few  over the wall shots in January,  February,  or March.  They're all mixed in together.
So!  Are you ready for a winter journey to our favorite place in time?
It's always somewhat magical when one can visit Greenfield Village after or during a snowfall,  and I have been able to visit during near white-out conditions as well as afterward,  when the sun sometimes pops out.  In this post,  you will see gray skies and snow falling,  sunny days,  and even gray skies at night,  for they were not all taken the same day or even same year.
Winter at Greenfield Village - - - - 
I remember the excitement of a 2015 snowfall in mid-November.  I scurried to the Village the following day,  camera in hand.  As I trudged along the wintry road to my favorite part of the Village,  I passed the 1870 home and boarding house on the left there belonging to Sarah ("Aunt Sally") Jordan,  who gave room & board to Thomas Edison's workers at his Menlo Park laboratory.

The Sarah Jordan Boarding House,  built in 1870,  originally stood near the laboratory where Thomas Edison and his men toiled in Menlo Park,  New Jersey.  Widowed in 1877,  "Aunt Sally,"  as Sarah was known,  lived in Newark,  and was sent for in 1878 by her distant relative,  Thomas Edison,  to run a place for his workers to eat and sleep.  With little employment opportunities for women,  Mrs.  Jordan accepted the offer and opened the home as a boarding house that same year.
Several of Edison's single employees lived here and would sleep two to three to a bed in the six rooms on the second floor.  In fact,  at the height of the laboratory's activities in 1880,  sixteen boarders called this structure  'home.'

The Ackley Covered Bridge was built in 1832 in West Finley,  Pennsylvania.  
This bridge is one of my very favorite historic structures in all of Greenfield Village.

Did you know that in the old days before the age of the horseless carriages,  they used to shovel snow onto  the roads and bridges so it would be easier for the sleighs to travel?  Yep - it's true,  for many people would either own a sleigh or,  in some cases,  convert their carriages into sleighs for winter travel.

A beautiful scene out of the past - welcome to the 19th century!

I am not sure who took this photo - the person who 
I thought it was said it was not him - 
but it is a truly beautiful scene of 19th century Americana.

This is one of my over-the-wall  pictures - where I am outside the brick wall that surrounds Greenfield Village and hold my camera up as high as I can,  snapping away in hopes that the image turns out.
This one certainly did - and there are more coming.

A presenter scurries past the 1750 Giddings House.

Giddings,  a prosperous merchant and shipbuilder,  built and lived in this home with his wife,  Mehetabel,  and their five children:  Mary  (1752),  John  (1754),  Dorothy  (1758),  Mehetabel  (1764),  and Deborah  (1770).
In December of 1790,  it became the home of New Hampshire's first Secretary of State,  Joseph Pearson,  who,  inside this house,  married Captain Gidding's daughter,  Dorothy,  in April of 1795.

On the right,  there,  you see a house that was initially thought to have been built in the 18th century,  but after some research and detective work by a few very astute historians,  they found that this home, the Susquehanna Plantation,  was actually built in the 1830s.
I am very proud I was able to snap this,  capturing the sun in this manner. 

Henry and Elizabeth Carroll and their family built this house,  known as the Susquehanna Plantation,  in the mid-1830's,  where it sat upon 700 acres,  and they enjoyed a prosperous life,  including hosting extravagant parties.  They had five children.
Their 75 slaves,  however,  did not enjoy the same good life;  they slept in 13 small,  wood shacks with dirt floors and were made to work brutal hours in the fields,  especially during harvest time.
The Carroll family was one of the wealthiest in St.  Mary's County - the slaves alone,  according to the 1860 census,  were valued at $49,000.  Among the slaves were skilled craftsmen,  including blacksmiths,  carpenters,  coopers,  shoemakers,  tanners  (leather makers),  and seamstresses.

The Plympton House,  built in the early 1700s in Sudbury,  Massachusetts.
It was Abel Prescott,  a brother of Samuel Prescott  (who rode with Paul Revere),  that pounded upon this door on the morning of April 18,  1775,  to warn home owner Thomas Plympton,  a member of the Provincial Congress,  that the Regular Army was on the march to Concord.  Warning guns were fired to summon militia companies,  and within thirty-five minutes the entire town of Sudbury had been awakened.
 

What do we spy just beyond the Plympton House?
The Daggett House - my favorite in all the Village!

Samuel Daggett,  a housewright,  built this  "saltbox"  house right around the year 1750.
The lean-to  (saltbox)  style was a very popular style of architecture in colonial New England.  The most distinctive feature is the asymmetrical gable roof,  which has a short roof plane in the front and a long roof plane in the rear,  extending over a lean-to.
It is a wonderful example of distinctive 17th and 18th century architecture.

Though  'saltbox'  is the most familiar term for its style for us in modern times,  those who lived in Connecticut  (where this house was originally built)  in the 1700s would have called it a  'breakback,'  while folks in Massachusetts favored  'lean-to.'  

The mid-1600's Farris Windmill relocated to Greenfield Village from Cape Cod is on the left of the home of Samuel Daggett and his wife,  Anna.  No,  it wasn't originally part of the Daggett farm back in the 18th century,  by the way,  though it looks like it fits perfectly.

There were still root vegetables in the ground in the kitchen garden when the snow fell
on this mid-November day.

Here is an over-the-wall shot I was able to grab.  Most often,  these over-the-wall snaps were usually taken in January,  February,  or early March,  during a time when there is no entrance into the Village.
This style of New England architecture utilized a central chimney,  with this one in particular having three fireplace openings on each of the two floors.  English settlers created this style by adapting a medieval house form to meet the different needs and climate of North America.  The design was perfect for the harsh New England climate.

Across the street is the Cotswold Cottage collection that I snapped the same day from,  again,  over-the-wall..
Henry Ford desired to show America's ancestral European life and sent his agent,  Herbert Morton,  to find a typical Cotswold stone house for Greenfield Village.  Morton eventually located this circa 1620 Rose Cottage in Chedworth,  Gloucestershire,  England,  and found that it was for sale.
The workers dismantled the structures stone by stone - numbering each one individually - and packed them in gravel sacks.  Soon the Cotswold collection was on its way to Dearborn,  Michigan  (via boat and then train),  as were a number of the English builders,  eager to help with the reconstruction.

Now here are a couple of colonial winter scenes that not only includes the Daggett House,  but the Plympton House as well  (with Cotswold peaking in the background).
You guessed correct if you said these were taken over-the-wall.  I got pretty good at it,  though my feet were wet from the snow  (I wore my shoes instead of my boots).

There is the Adams House on the left - more on that in the photo below.

Believe it or not,  I was able to capture the Adams House from over-the-wall,  for my camera's zoom was able to seemingly get a close up.
As you may or may not know,  this former home of newspaper columnist George Matthew Adams,  since being brought to the Village back in 1938,  has been presented to show everyday life from around the time of  Adams' birth in the 1870's.
However,  I have been told it is going through a major change:  supposedly sometime in the future the Adams House will become the  "Saline Baptist Parsonage,"  showing the structure as it was during the 1840's when it actually was a Baptist Parsonage.
I am personally very excited for this change to happen,  for the 1840's is one era that I felt was under-represented inside Greenfield Village.  However,  I say  "supposedly"  because it's been over ten years and nothing has been done,  which is a real shame.

In this winter photo we have,  on the far left,  the 1831 Eagle Tavern.  This Tavern has the distinction of being the second structure brought to Greenfield Village.  Only the JR Jones General Store was brought earlier.
In the center we can see the beautiful Martha-Mary Chapel.  This non-denominational chapel design was based on a Universalist church in Bradford,  Massachusetts.  Built inside Greenfield Village the year it opened,  1929,  the bricks,  doors,  and door knobs came from the building in which Henry Ford and Clara Bryant were married in 1888 - the Bryant family home in old Greenfield Township.  Joseph Warren Revere,  the son of the famous silversmith Paul Revere,  cast the circa 1834 bell that is up in the steeple.  This bell hung in the belfry of the Universalist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts from 1834 to 1927, before being installed at the Martha-Mary Chapel in Greenfield Village.
On the right we can see the Scotch Settlement School from Dearborn,  Michigan,  built in 1861.
Henry Ford attended class here in 1871.  Even though it was Ford’s first probable Village acquisition,  it was not brought to the Village until the summer of 1929, after the JR Jones General Store and the Eagle Tavern were already settled in their respective places.

The Village Green also hosts a few more structures:  the gray building on the left is the Logan County (Illinois) Courthouse - the very same one in which Abraham Lincoln himself practiced law in the 1840s.
The little red structure on the right began as a school house in 1838 but was purchased by Doctor Alonson Howard in 1855 and turned into his own doctors office.

Also facing the Village Green is the JR Jones General Store  (and the Eagle Tavern in the distance). 
The JR Jones General Store,  built around 1870,  is from the Waterford area of Michigan and,  as mentioned earlier,  has the distinction of being the first building brought to Greenfield Village.

And we have another over-the-wall picture!
This is a photo showing a part of the  'town'  area of Greenfield Village.  From the left is a replica  (albeit much smaller)  version of the first Ford Factory from 1903.

Next we have the Cohen Millinery Shop,  originally located at 444 Baker Street in Detroit.  It represents the new wave of specialized stores in the larger cities in the late 19th century.  It was here that Mrs.  Elizabeth Cohen made her living decorating women's hats from 1892 to 1903,  catering to mainly the middle class genre.

To the right of the millinery we have the Heinz House.  It was in the early 1860's in this Sharpsburg,  Pennsylvania brick house,  built in 1854,  that Henry John  (H.J.)  Heinz  (b.  1844),  the son of a German immigrant brickmaker,  produced the first of his more than  "57 Varieties"  of ketchup.  Using horseradish grown in the family's truck garden along the Allegheny River,  the boy grated and bottled it in vinegar in his mother's new basement kitchen.  Yep,  Heinz 57 was born right here in this building!

It was in this simple two-story clapboard farmhouse  (the white house on the left),  built in 1861 on the dividing line of Springwells and Dearborn Townships in Michigan,  that Henry Ford,  the first of William and Mary's six children,  was born on July 30,  1863.
The dark gray building on the right is the barn.
Yes,  another over-the-wall snap I took.  Hey---I got pretty good at it!

On the side yard of the Ford Home,  the sheep were poking through the snow to find grass in which to graze.

From colonial times and throughout the nineteenth century,  gristmills flourished in America,  especially after the summer and fall harvests,  by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities:  grinding the farmers'  grain into flour,  usually using large,  circular stones.  Gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities by grinding the farmer's grain into flour. 
Henry Ford purchased the 1832 Loranger Gristmill,  located on Sunny Creek near Monroe,  Michigan,  in January of 1928.  It was one of the few structures moved to the Village without prior disassembly.

Here is the dirt road that leads us to Firestone Farm.  The corn shocks seen in the distance are set for animal feed.  If you look above the house and barn you will see a flock of geese flying over head.

As we move toward the house,  we spot the snow-covered heirloom apple orchard. 
 Luckily the apples were picked by the time this early snowfall struck.

The following three photographs are not mine.  They were taken by a few of the presenters who work for the Village,  and I am sorry to say that I cannot remember their names.  But they all know my love for this place and have very kindly shared their winter pictures with me,  and I appreciate them allowing me to use these wonderful photos in my blog post!
The Firestone Farm was originally built by Peter Firestone in 1828 in Columbiana,  Ohio  (just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border),  and was  "updated"  in 1882.  It was brought to Greenfield Village in 1983 and is now a gem among gems inside the Village.

The Firestone Farm,  as it stands now in Greenfield Village,  is a living history re-creation of life on a farm of the 1880's in Eastern Ohio,  and has been restored to look as it did in 1882,  when tire manufacturer,  Harvey Firestone's,  parents remodeled the house to give it a more modern look.  The wallpaper and furnishings throughout the house show what was considered stylish in the later Victorian era.

This is one photo I wish I could claim,  for it could be on a calendar.
I love it - - but it is not my picture.

However,  we are now back to my photos:
The Firestone Barn,  where sheep and horses are kept.

Brrr!
A can't imagine visiting that out house in this kind of weather!

A cozy fire meant for warming and not for cooking.

Back in the day,  visitors were sometimes allowed to see the upstairs of Firestone Farm,  where the family slept.  On this day,  I was lucky to be able to do so and I snapped this picture.

 Here are the corn shocks put up at harvest time,  protecting the feed for the livestock.

The road home...

One cool gray day a number of years later a few of us were back to the Village,  and even wearing our period colonial-era clothing.  It was a dry day,  though very cool and cloudy.  Of course,  at one point,  the snow began to fall after we made it through half the Village,  so I had to backtrack a bit to retake some photos:
Not everyone had a horse,  you see,  so walking was the mode of travel for most who lived in the 18th century,  as long as the snow wasn't too deep.  However,  I've been dealing with sciatica,  and walking has been tough.  So as painful as it was,  I zipped as fast as my painful legs could carry me  (for management would not allow me to bring my horse into the Village)  back to Daggett and the other colonial houses.  Okay,  so I don't actually have a horse...so I had to walk.  Quickly.  But you shoulda seen me huffin'  and puffin'  like an old man!  Well---I AM over 60 years old!
lol
That's not too old,  I know...but it certainly isn't 20!
Especially with sciatica---ouch!
Also unbeknownst to me,  Lee Cagle,  a driver of the Model T's  (and quite an amazing photographer),  also took a photo of me making my way back to my favorite house. 
He was taking a break inside the Swiss Chalet when he snapped it.
SO  glad he did!
Okay,  so I did  bring my horse!
sigh
Okay...I actually didn't.
Yes,  that is actually me riding a horse,  but I wasn't riding inside Greenfield Village. 
I did a little photo-trickery here.
But can you imagine?

When such a storm occurs,  my winter-wear will keep me warm and dry.
My cloak is 100% thick wool.  

So I returned to my favorite house;  the stark dark gray structure was such a wonderful welcoming sight!  And there was Gigi:  "I was wondering who that crazy colonial person was out there in the snow taking pictures!"  she kidded.  "Come on in!"

Invited into the house once again,  the coziness was felt as I glanced out the window into the winter wonderland that lay all around.  I don't believe I've ever looked out these windows during the daytime while snow fell.  That may not sound like anything to most people,  but to me it meant something special - another similar sight that eyes from those who lived 250 years ago had seen,  and now I myself was experiencing the very same.  Oh,  perhaps not this very same scene,  but the experience is there.

And,  along the same lines,  stepping out the back kitchen door,  one is easily drawn
into the world of long ago,  for a snippet of the 17th century windmill and the
red Plympton house from the early 1700s - both now standing as a much older version of their former selves when the Daggett House was built in the mid-18th century,  but looking quite the same. 

Wintertime in the colonial era brought in discomfort and dread to most in the United States,  especially to those living in New England,  the mid-west,  and the plains areas.  For Samuel Daggett and his wife,  Anna,  winter preparations would occur year  'round.  Piles of firewood were cut and stacked in the warmer months for heat in cooler times and for cooking year round.  Corncobs were saved for smaller fires,  or for an extra touch of flavor in hams and bacon smoked over them.  If the fire went out,  flint and steel could spark a new one,  or a child could scamper to a neighbor and bring home a hot coal in a cook pot or a tray of green bark.

Gary Thomas took this photo of myself,  Jackie,  and Charlotte on that snowy
late November day.

I love this country lane that actually leads to Firestone Farm,  which was originally built in the 1820s but greatly updated in the 1880s ...however,  with a little photo-trickery,  I modified this photo slightly to have this lane lead to the Daggett House & farm,  which is more suitable to not only my clothing,  but to this post.  I moved past the Loranger Gristmill  (actually from the early 1830s,  though looking very similar to gristmills 70 years earlier)  and the Weaving Shop (built in 1840 but,  again,  having a strong 18th century look)  that now houses historic spinning wheels and looms dating back to the 18th century.  

This picture of the home of Samuel & Anna Daggett was taken on a late afternoon during a late December snowstorm in 2021.  We were going to Holiday Nights,  but I knew it would be dark when they let us in,  and I wanted a daytime picture with the snow falling,  so I did another over-the-wall image.  Probably my favorite of them all.  The thick,  heavy,  gray snow clouds and the falling snow made for the perfect 18th century winter picture.

"Whose woods these are I think I know.  
His house is in the village though.  
He will not see me stopping here.  
To watch his woods fill up with snow." 
Robert Frost
This was taken at night,  but my camera captured the bright snow with the gray sky and gave it a more late afternoon look.  My friends Jennifer and Amy were with me here.

The soft glow through the window gives off a warm  times-past  feeling
while the snow lay all around.
This is another nighttime shot brightened by the snow and clouds.
In fact,  for many of these nighttime shots taken at Holiday Nights,  with the snow and clouds,  tended to become a bit more brightened up due to the camera taking it all in.  
According to the Exeter,  New Hampshire Probate Records of 1824,  this building was referred to as  "the mansion house."  One can see just by the exterior alone that it represents a more well-to-do residence of 18th century colonial America,  suitable for a man of means such as our Mr. Giddings.  This beautiful structure was situated on property that also included a warehouse and mercantile shop,  both of which Giddings operated,  and over-looked a wharf on the Squamscott River.

The McGuffey Log Cabin Birthplace

When I first saw this photo,  it reminded me of a movie set.  It all looked so fake.
Even the lighting looked staged.
But I assure you everything is real:  the trees,  the snow...and...me!  lol 
So there you have Greenfield Village winter scenes - straight out of the past.  As for us who reenact and wear period clothing,  the cold does not bother us nearly as you might think,  for we are enjoying ourselves in not only what we are doing,  but in weather that adds greatly to our experience and the entire look.
And we know how to dress for the weather.
We here in lower Michigan are used to having full-blown snowstorms.  Not just a few flurries,  but actual inches and sometimes even feet of the white stuff,  falling as early as October and ending as late as May.  And,  contrary to popular belief,  many of us love the snow and enjoy the winter weather...at least until early March!   Especially when we're inside the walls of Greenfield Village~

Until next time,  see you in time.


To explore what an 18th century winter was like,  please click HERE
To explore what a Victorian winter was like,  please click HERE




























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