Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Had You Been In Gettysburg the Week Before the Battle…

If you love the Civil War era and have never been to Gettysburg, you should make it a point to visit. To walk amongst all of that wonderful history just gives one chills, and seeing the actual historic buildings and homes that are still there, and walking onto the fields where so many men died during the battle is, simply put, a feeling words can't describe.
But, I could feel another story in the air there...something more that had to be told aside from the battle itself. During my last couple of times in Gettysburg I had taken home tours and began to search out books - books that told another part of the story that one rarely hears about.

The streets of old Gettysburg. Baltimore Street looking up from the 'Diamond' (town square) near the time of the infamous three day battle in July of 1863

One book in particular is very well written: Firestorm at Gettysburg: Civilian Voices June-November 1863 by John Alexander and Jim Slade. It is filled with quotations and stories as told by those who were there: Tillie Pierce, Sarah Broadhead, Sallie Meyers, et al.
After reading this book, the streets of Gettysburg
had a whole new (old?) feel to them for me. I imagined all that took place here - right where I stood as the quotes from actual eyewitnesses swirled around my head. The constant flow of traffic disappeared and a few horses with and without carriages replaced them, the souvenir shops magically became the homes, livery stables, and other 'ancient' businesses they once were.
And old Gettysburg came back to life.
I should like to present here a few of the recounts and journal entries covering the weeks leading up to the battle. One must remember that there was much excitement that took place in the days and weeks before the bloodshed befell the borough.

SARAH BROADHEAD: “June 15, 1863 – To-day we heard the Rebels were crossing the river in heavy force, and advancing on this State. No alarm was felt until Governor Curtis sent a telegram, directing the people to move their stores as quickly as possible. This made us begin to realize the fact that we were in some danger from the enemy, and some persons, thinking the Rebels were near, became very much frightened, though the report was a mistake.”
Sarah Broadhead
SALLIE MEYERS: “June 20, 1863 – Some cavalry from Philadelphia who armed and equipped themselves came to-night. They are entirely and altogether volunteers.”
SARAH BROADHEAD: “June 23, 1863 – As I expected, the Rebels have, several times, been within two or three miles, but they have not yet reached here. Two cavalry companies are here on scouting duty, but they can be of little use, as they have never seen service. Deserters come in every little while, who report the enemy near in large force.”
NELLIE AUGHINBAUGH (while learning a milliner’s trade at the home of Mrs. Martin): “June 26 – Mr. Martin excitedly rushed into the work room, exclaiming that the Rebels were coming. ‘They’re at Cashtown now. Send the girls home,’ he told his wife. Several of the girls stopped immediately and left. I was working on a bonnet that Mrs. Martin, who was very particular, had made me rip twice that day and start over again, and I said ‘I’m not going home until I finish this bonnet, not if the whole Rebel army comes to town.’
Once more, Mr. Martin came running in and, hurrying over to me, he grabbed my work from my hands and exclaimed, ‘Go home, girl! The Rebs are at the edge of town.’
I did. As I reached the center square, the Rebels were riding into it from the other direction with yells and cheers. I was frightened and ran all the way home. I had to cross the square and go down Carlisle Street. When I reached the house, Mother was standing in the doorway, ringing her hands.
‘My God, Child! Where have you been?’
Never in my life had I ever heard my Mother use the Lord’s name in that way, and I always told her that she frightened me more than the coming of the Rebels because I thought she had suddenly lost her mind.”
TILLIE PIERCE: “June 26 – What a horrible sight! There they were, human beings, clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home, shouting, yelling most unearthly, cursing, brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left.”
Tillie Pierce
SARAH BARRETT KING: “June 26 – My father was sitting by a window, busily engaged reading a daily paper, little dreaming the Rebels were so close by. I said to him, ‘Here they come.’ He asked, ‘Who?’ I answered, ‘The Rebs, don’t you hear the yell?’ And he looked out and saw them in pursuit of Captain Bell. He said, ‘Bring the children in and close the door.’ I said, ‘No, I want them to see all they can of this’ and remained on the porch of the house.”
SARAH BROADHEAD: “June 26 – We all stood in the doors while the cavalry passed, but when the infantry came, we closed them, for fear they would run into our houses and carry off everything we had, and went upstairs and looked out of the windows. They went along very orderly, only asking every now and then how many Yankee soldiers we had in town. I answered one that I did not know. He replied, ‘You are a funny woman; if I lived in town I would know that much.’”
ANNA GARLACH’s (speaking of her Grandmother: “Some of the (Rebels) asked her what she thought the Rebels were like (before they came to town), whether they had horns. And she replied she was frightened at first, but found them like our own men.”
SARAH BROADHEAD: “The Rebel band were playing Southern tunes in the Diamond (town square).”
HARRIET BAYLY: “June 29 - Looking west at night we could see camp fires along the mountain side eight miles distant, and it seemed as though the enemy was there in force.”
HARRIET BAYLY: “June 30 – The whole air seemed charge with conditions which go before a storm; everybody anxious, neighbor asking neighbor what was going to happen and what will we do if the worst should happen?”
MICHAEL JACOBS: “June 30 – (I) saw General John Buford’s Union cavalry division, including two brigades, riding into Gettysburg from the Taneytown Road, on the south. He flung one of his brigades directly north, along Washington Street; the other he dispatched to the west along the Chambersburg Road.”
TILLIE PIERCE: “June 30 - A crowd of us girls were standing on the corner of Washington and High Streets as the soldiers passed by. Desiring to encourage them who, as we were told, would before long be in battle, my sister started to sing the old war song ‘Our Union Forever.’ As some of us did not know the whole of the piece we kept repeating the chorus.”
SALLIE MEYERS: “June 30 - How they dashed by! Their horse’s feet seemed shod with lightning. Along the street we stood – all the girls and women of the town. We had prepared food in advance, and had baskets and trays in our hands. They came by, snatching in their hasty passage whatever they could lay their hands on – sandwiches, pieces of pie, cold meat, bread, cakes, cups of coffee, and bottles of water.
The eyes of the soldiers blazed, they smiled and some joined in the song. It was the last song many of those brave men ever heard, and the bite we gave was the last many ever ate.”
Period photograph of Washington street near High street where Tillie Pierce and the other girls of Gettysburg sang patriotic songs and passed out food and drink as Gen. Buford’s soldiers passed by on June 30, 1863.

SARAH BARRETT KING: “July 1 – I heard two cavalrymen talking and one of them said, ‘Well the ball is about to open.’
SARAH BROADHEAD: “July 1 – I got up early this morning to get my baking done before any fighting would begin. I had just put my bread in the pans when the cannons began to fire, and true enough the battle had begun in earnest, about two miles out on the Chambersburg Pike. What to do or where to go, I did not know. People were running here and there, screaming that the town would be shelled.”
And thus began the battle that would last three days proper and for infinity in the history books. Little did the folks realize at the time just how significant the time and place in which they were living truly was.

This post presents only a hint of the journal and diary entries from the Firestorm at Gettysburg book. There is so much more before, during, and after the battle.
It very much made me feel as if I were there experiencing the excitement through their eyes. Time travel indeed...


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The World of a 19th Century Midwestern Tavern

(Please click here for an updated version of this post)

Here is another blog in my Michigan / Midwestern social history series, once again taken from the Greenfield Village blog I have. Even though I do have a separate blog dedicated to the Village, I realize that there are many wonderful social history facts and stories that I feel readers who may not read that blog might find interesting. I feel it's stories like this that helps to bring the past to life.
I do hope you enjoy it.

Early in the 19th century, a stage line was operated between Detroit and Tecumseh on what was originally an Indian trail. With the coming of the early settlers from the east, however, it became the settler's route as well. As traveling increased and roads were made possible for stagecoach travel, taverns were built along this route. The Eagle Tavern, as it was then known, was built around 1831 in Clinton, Michigan, and served originally as the first overnight stagecoach stop between Detroit and Chicago, offering food and drink for the weary travelers, back during a time when horses were the main mode of travel.
Eventually, the road extended to Niles, Michigan in 1832, and then, by 1833, on to Chicago, which became the Chicago Turnpike, and eventually Chicago Road/US 12 (
Semi-weekly stages were tried first, but daily coaches soon followed and, before long, there was double daily service, with extra coaches often necessary.

I should like to present here a couple of descriptions of what it was like traveling by stage on this Detroit to Chicago trail. This first one is in the words of Levi Bishop from 1835: "I started west from Detroit in a stagecoach. I had to secure my seat three days in advance. This was when the land speculation fever began to rage somewhat extensively. When the time came, I started west on the old Ann Arbor Road. We broke down once on the way, but there happened to be a wagon maker on board and he repaired the damage in about 15 minutes. We made nine miles the first half day."

Part of the road was corduroy and vehicles broke down, and sometimes stagecoach passengers had to get out and walk. This sets the stage for our second traveling story:
There is a story told of a stage that left Clinton's Eagle Tavern for the west one morning loaded with passengers. The road was very muddy and the coach had managed to get a mile from the village. The passengers walked back to the inn to spend the night, and early the next morning returned to the coach. During the second day it got three miles from Clinton. Again, the passengers returned to the Eagle Tavern. On the third day the coach must have reached another tavern, for the passengers did not return.

The folks that stayed at the Eagle Tavern never left for want of food. As stated, in part, from a Village hand out:
"The foods that tavernkeepers offered came from local farms and grew wild in the countryside, and tavern menus varied tremendously with the seasons. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available only at harvest time, and winter meals relied heavily on foods preserved by salting or drying. Since Calvin Wood, proprietor of the Eagle Tavern in 1850, was also a farmer, much of the food that he served might have come from his own nearby farm.
As quoted from a Detroit News article from 1927:
"People nowadays would be appalled to see the quantity of food that was served then. There were never less than three kinds of meat. There were side dishes of vegetables and salad. Red cabbage was a favorite for salad because of its decorative appearance. Then there were pickles and crackers and cheese always on the table."
Also, the article continues to tell of jellies and preserves, five or six kinds of cake, and two or three kinds of pie, particularly mince pie. On each table were two casters of pepper, vinegar, mustard, and spices in brightly polished containers.

Once again, from a Village hand out:
Alcohol consumption during the 19th century reached a peak that has never since been duplicated, so it is not surprising that the American temperance movement came into being during that time."
Besides being a stopping place, the tavern was also famous for its dance parties and balls.
One who lived near the "Eagle' (as it was affectionately called by the locals) explained in a letter to Henry Ford one her most pleasurable experiences while at the Eagle Tavern:
“My childhood and girlhood home were within 6 miles of that old tavern, and I danced all night in the ballroom at my last ball in July 4, 1859. There was a dance pavilion, a bowery on one side that was covered with flowering vines. I think it was 100 feet long, and the dining hall was at one side in the house, a hall connected it. On that 4th of July night there were 100 couples. I remember well every detail of my last ball at that old tavern in my ball dress. I was a week devising and making it (the dress) sitting up late nights. I was not sorry later, as the best dressed & best dancing couple that won the most votes were to lead in the Grand March. I must say it, with my dress and dancing, won as the leading lady, and a tall young man, whom I had never seen before, and, I think, from Lansing, won as my partner, and was brought to me by the ballroom manager and introduced to me, and we were ever soon gliding down the Ballroom…followed by the other 99 couples. We marched around back to the place we started, and the whole party formed in double rows in a cotillion. I was then dancing with my evening escort, Charles Wood, of Grand Ledge.
The midnight banquet was spread on two long tables, where all the good things were put on, decorated with summer flowers and lighted with hanging chandeliers. At one end of the table a whole roasted pig with a cob of corn in its mouth, and at the other end of the table was several roast turkeys, and in the middle of the table was a huge pyramid cake about 3 feet high, and there were high glass bowls of raisins, nuts, and candies, and every other good edible. The dining room was on the other side of the building from the ballroom, connected by a hall.”

The above is an actual recollection by 89 year old Mrs. Marie L. Moreaux (formerly Tripp), speaking of what was, perhaps, the most special night of her life. The ballroom in which she writes of still exists but is no longer in use, and is located on the 2nd floor. It was constructed so that the floor had a slight spring to it to give the dancers the experience of a
-->“delightful sense of exhilaration as they glided over the smooth surface.” The ballroom was known throughout that section of the country for its spring dance floor. Mrs Moreaux continued, -->
“It was a very popular place and supported the finest ‘orchestry’ music in that part of the country, especially the violin…of whom was one Ray Anthony Niles, who was a pattern of old Beau Brummell of ancient times. He played the violin that charmed all his hearers, and helped to make that old tavern popular. He was before my time as he went with the crowd of gold diggers to California.”

That may have been the former Miss Tripp's last ball but it certainly was not the last at the Eagle Tavern. In 1872 it hosted a "Union Dance Party" and a leap year ball in 1876. This last ball was truly the final dance for the tavern - the Clinton Town Hall was built in that year and all future dances were held there instead.
The inn became the Union Hotel during the Civil War, and lodged soldiers going to and coming from the front.
Walter Hubbell Smith purchased the inn in 1864, and it was his daughter and heir, Mary Ella Smith, that sold it to Henry Ford.

A gathering room (or a ladies room) is off to one side, this being a spot for the women to gather before or after dining, out of earshot of the, at times, boisterous men.

On the other side is the tavern itself, for the men who like to drink while they have discussions that could be too harsh for feminine ears.

Of course, the large dining area was where politeness reigned and folks fed on the delicious fare offered. The following are two pictures taken from either end of the dining area.

Henry Ford purchased the building and renamed it the Clinton Inn in 1925. To look at the dilapidated structure at the time of the exchange made his ardent helpers and followers wonder what he saw. "There was only one man in 4,000 that would consider it anything but a pile of junk," said his right-hand man, Ed Cutler.
And the inside was even worse! Piles of old magazines, ten year old bottles of milk, eggs, and "tons of stuff."
But, restore and relocate the structure they did, and by the spring of 1929, the restoration was complete, using original materials whenever possible.

In 1982 the name was changed from the Clinton Inn back to the Eagle Tavern, for this was in line with Greenfield Village's new goals of making itself more functional and accurate. Period correct meals continue to be served along with desserts of the season, much as it had over 150 years ago, and is done so by candle light. During the Christmas season, a roaring fire in the fireplace helps to give off an ambiance rarely found elsewhere. It is one of the few locations in Greenfield Village where 1st person is practiced (1st person is where the workers dress and act as if they are from the time they are portraying, in this case, 1850).

What so many do not realize while strolling the hallowed grounds of Greenfield Village is the 'hidden' social history of the structures that are there. I do not mean purposely hidden, because one could hear hours of stories about each building if all were told! But, it is these little facts that make the buildings come to life. To think that the Eagle Tavern, of which my wife and I frequent often for lunch and considered to be our favorite place to dine, held grand balls in the mid-19th century never even crossed my mind. As with all the buildings here that I research extensively, I will look at it a little differently than I have before, and I will try to imagine the 100 couples entering this wonderful piece of Michigan history back in the summer of 1859.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It'll Nearly Be Like A Picture Print By Currier & Ives

One of the great things for those of us who make the attempt to recreate life in the mid-19th century are the journals and diaries of the time transcribed for us for research, written by people who, unwittingly, tell us in their own words of the happiness, sadness, worries, fears, anxieties, and daily activities they experienced, helping us to emulate people of the past as close to accurate as we possibly can (with full knowledge, of course, that we can return at anytime to the *comfort* of our own modern 21st century homes).

My wife, myself, and our daughter at the Firestone Farm
Greenfield Village, December 2009

Another major help is the wealth of photographs available to give us a first-hand account on the clothing folks wore during that time. However, these (mostly) posed photos are just that - posed. There are very few, if any, "action shots" - because of extremely slow shutter speeds, cameras could not capture movement. And, like today, when folks went to the photographer to have their image taken, they usually wore their Sunday Best, not normally their every day clothing (I do understand there are exceptions here - I'm speaking generally).
Since I began reenacting in the earlier part of this decade, I have been told (and shown) what I should wear: three button shirt, trousers with braces (suspenders), a waistcoat (vest), a sack coat over the waistcoat, a cravat, and a hat.
I do wear these items, and there are times when one cannot tell the difference from an image taken of me (with a period camera) to an original.
I am proud of that, I must say.
But, I have often wondered: did men wear this ensemble all the time, like I am told I should do? Did they dress in this manner for work as well as for play? Did they wear their sack coat indoors with just the family about?
This was very important to me, for, I feel if I am to do living history at all, I want to do it as authentically as I possibly can.
Recently I had this discussion with a friend, who pointed out a pretty good way to possibly find the answers - Currier & Ives prints.
I have numerous books of the prints of C&I, and have enjoyed looking at "scenes from the past" immensely; they take you away to another time and place. But, I never really looked at them until my friend pointed out the clothing of both the men and the women, as well as the children. Here were images showing, in great detail, everyday life in America - an America the average middle class citizen could easily identify with. And they were extremely popular in the mid-19th century. Nearly every middle class home had at least one Currier & Ives print hanging in their parlor. Americans saw themselves in these lithographs that showed "the whole panorama of our national life in the mid-19th century." In fact, C & I were known as " 'Printmakers to the American People.' A whole heritage of American tradition is caught vividly. In these prints can be found that wholesome national flavor, which makes their work the finest representation of the habits and customs, life and tastes...of the exciting era which witnessed the building of a great republic." (Quoted from the book CURRIER & IVES by Harry T. Peters.)
I chose a few prints that, although women are included, features mainly the men of the time, to show the clothing they wore in a number of different activities. This is in no way an authoritative tome by any means. It's just my own quick observations written simplistically so one can understand what I am hoping to convey. This first one shows a father - supposedly middle aged - arriving home being greeted by his family. Did he come home after a long journey? Does he have a job and came home for the evening? It's hard to say. He is, however, dressed rather typical of the average middle class man of the mid-1860's (this print is from 1868): shirt, waistcoat, ascot, sack coat, and high-waist pants, topped off by his ever-present hat. His family, too, is typically dressed for their class, sex and age. This is an extremely fine example of an American family of the mid-19th century inside of their home.

This next example, called 'American Country Life,' from 1855, again shows an average family out for a walk in their yard. As before, notice the clothing on the gentleman - roughly the same style and number of garments as the man in the previous print. If you look in the background, however, you will see the farmhands working diligently, a few without their (gasp!) sack coats and waistcoats. I have heard this was common for the working farmer. I can guarantee that when his work was done, they more than likely put on all the accouterments of a proper gentleman.

Here we have a man fishing for trout in a brook from 1862. Nothing unusual...except what he is wearing. I would have never thought that a man in this era would have gone fishing while wearing the same completed outfit he wore at his home. But here is *proof* that men did, in fact, wear everything he would normally wear while enjoying this activity. Note that he has his tie, waistcoat, sack coat, hat - and wading boots. He even has his pocket watch attached to his fob. This print in particular took me off-guard. I figured he would have had a different set of clothing to go fishing in -and definitely not a sack coat - much in the same way that fishermen have today. But, that's my 21st century sensibility creeping in. This is why I enjoy this sort of picture - it helps me to get a stronger feel for the thought and attitude of one who I attempt to emulate.

Finally, another from the 'American Country Life' series from 1855. I cropped this print in order to bring the subjects closer to the viewer. The men (father and son perhaps?) are returning home from what looks to be a small game hunt, for the one gentleman holds up a rabbit while the other carries...well, I'm not quite sure what it is, but it was once an animal and will now, no doubt, be dinner. Dressed fully as gentlemen should - even while hunting - this tells me that it was a rarity to see your typical American man without all of his apparel on. And, it seems, the same for the women of the era.

What this all does for me is to help solidify what I have read and have been told by the clothing historians. Are there exceptions? Absolutely. And there always will be. Just as in today's society. But, I believe what is presented here is the rule rather than the exception. And this can only help us, as living historians, in our presentations in showing others, as close as our knowledge will allow, life of another era.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

The World of a 19th Century Country Doctor

~Updated January 2023~

19th century medical practices fascinate me,  and I've always had an interest in the subject.  In fact,  as a youngster,  the doctor on  "Little House on the Prairie"  (Doc Baker)  was my favorite character on the TV show.  But there is one real-life doctor from the past who really piqued my interest:  Dr.  Alonson Howard of Tekonsha,  Michigan  (not far from the Jackson area).
We had our own version of Doc Baker right here in Michigan!  And what a fascinating character he was - a true Victorian doctor in every sense of the word.
The posting you are about to read is not only about Dr.  Howard,  but it is also about the office he practiced out of,  which guests can now visit inside Greenfield Village.
I should like to present here a bit about this amazing man and his practice.
I think you will enjoy it:

Dr. Howard's Office

A visit to the Dr.'s office
This simple Greek Revival structure began as a one-room schoolhouse,  built in 1839 in the rural Michigan town of Tekonsha.  It retained heat better than most buildings of its time as it was built with  'nogging' - that is,  rough bricks placed between the interior and exterior wooden walls to provide insulation,  as well as for protection against fire and infestation from rodents.

Dr. Alonson Howard
In 1840,  the Howard family,  including 17 year old Alonson, migrated to Tekonsha from upstate New York and established a farm they called Windfall that was located just behind the schoolhouse,  hence the original name of the school - Windfall School.  Folks that remembered Howard recalled a gruff,  outspoken individual who got into medical practice because of his friendship with the Pottawatomie tribe of the nearby Indian reservation.  They taught him the use of herbs and roots in treating illnesses,  and he learned to concoct many of the remedies himself. After he had practiced  "doctorin'"  in this fashion for several years,  he earned money to to go school to study medicine.  In this manner,  Dr.  Alonson B.  Howard,  in 1851,  was one of the first to attend and receive his medical degree from the new medical school at the University of Michigan.  Though  "quaint"  by today's standards,  the medicine he practiced was modern and scientific for his time.
Entering the front door
of Dr.  Howard's office

As a practicing physician,  he enjoyed the high respect of the patients he served.  But,  this medical degree did not divorce this pioneer physician from the Indian cures for illness;  he combined everything he knew to treat his patients.
From those that remembered him,  a physical description of the man comes to light:  he was large yet not fat,  his hair was sandy and he had blue eyes.  He was almost never seen without his clay pipe,  even on one of the very few occasions he sat for a tintype,  where it remained in his pocket.  His young niece,  Rita,  loved to watch him mix his powders and medicines and said that his hands would just fly.  For such a ponderous man,  he was amazingly quick in movement.
It was in 1855,  when Tekonsha built a new school,  that Dr.  Howard,  who already owned the farmland in which the old school house sat upon,  bought the building as well.
He remodeled it and created a reception room,  a laboratory,  and a personal office.  While most doctors of the 19th century worked out of their homes,  Dr. Howard had his own doctor's office.
Waiting to see the Doctor.
Known as  "Doc"  Howard,  he became a very respected doctor in Tekonsha and the surrounding communities.  Besides seeing patients in his office,  Doc Howard made housecalls on horseback on his white horse he called  'Mel,'  short for Melchizedek.  He could be seen throughout much of south central Michigan,  riding atop Mel,  saddlebags bouncing off the sides of the horse.  Doc Howard would also ride the train circuit,  treating patients between Marshall,  Battle Creek,  Kalamazoo,  and Coldwater,  as well as other towns north and south of Tekonsha, and even Jackson to the east.
Doc Howard's office in its original location - - see it there?
Yep, right there on the bottom left.
This is that very same spot and same angle  today  
(photo taken by me in early 2022)

By arrangement,  the engineer of the Michigan Central Railroad would begin blowing his whistle after leaving the Burlington Station three miles away and then watch the country road where the tracks crossed a quarter mile south of the doctor's home.  If the engineer saw a white horse racing toward the crossing,  he pulled the train to a stop.  Doc Howard would jump from the horse,  his bag in hand,  give the animal a resounding slap on the rear and yell,  "Go home,  Mel,  go home!"  As the physician climbed aboard the train the horse would turn around and trot off toward home.
The doctor eventually built a hitching post a quarter mile long along his property and it was not unusual to see horse-drawn vehicles hitched along its entire length while patients waited to see him.
Sickly patients waiting to see Doc Howard
Howard treated everything from a toothache to consumption and all ailments in between,  and would perform surgery if needed.  In other words,  he combined the attributes of a chemist,  apothecary,  dentist,  physician,  and surgeon.  He charged a standard twenty five cents for a normal housecall,  but staying the night with a patient would cost two dollars.  He also accepted grain or tallow,  or even labor on his farm for pay.  The cost of medicine was included in the fee.  There are numerous entries of financial transactions:  12 cents for pulling a tooth,  25 cents for filling a tooth,  $2 for sitting all night with a patient,  which he did frequently.
The sick bed in the waiting area of Dr. Howard's office
Sometimes his patient approach was such that it would surely shock a psychiatrist of today.  Stories are numerous from the old-timers who remember Doc Howard and his bluntness with his patients.  For instance,  his niece,  little Rita,  recalled being in his office one afternoon with him when he got his first look at a patient coming into his inner office.  He said very positively,  "God-dee Almighty,  lady!  You're on your way to Glory!"
Looking toward the front entrance in the waiting area
Another time,  while examining a patient he knew when she was a young girl,  he asked her,  "Fanny,  are you married?"  As she replied in the negative he popped,  "Well,  you oughta be!  There's nothing the matter with you.  Go find a good man and marry him!"

I like to come up with scenarios at our reenactments,  and so,  during one of the Civil War Remembrance events I came up with a sick patient scenario:
Poor Jenny...the extreme heat had overtaken her, so her friends, 
Jackie and Carolyn,  brought her to see the local doctor - Doc Howard.

"God-dee Almighty, lady!  You're on your way to Glory!"

"Miss Jackie,  would you fill this bowl I have in my bag with extract of
butternut bark?  I believe that may cure her ills."

The barrels in which you see here are the real deal - 
they originally belonged to Dr.  Howard and were kept inside 
this building,  just as he left them, 
after he passed away in 1883.
And that's how Greenfield Village found them when it was all donated in the 1950s.

This extract should cure Mrs.  Long's ills.
It was a fun little scenario that we did.
AND we did it inside of Doc Howard's original office!

Doc Howard's medicine
As gruff as he was with adults,  he was quite the opposite with children.  He had such a way with the little ones that they liked and remembered him fondly,  with much affection and respect.
But there is a story from a magazine I found in the Benson Ford Research Center collection of the Henry Ford,  written by Rae S.  Corliss in 1955,  that I would like to share here:
Mal,  the white stallion,  raced through the blackness of the stormy night,  jolting the doctor's buggy over rutted mud roads toward the home of Jake Newton.
After the office was first moved into Greenfield Village,  a white horse and doctor's
carriage was often used to accent the appearance of the building.
Jake,  who had driven to the Doctor's home with word the new baby was coming,  had been left far behind in his own carriage.
"Git up,  you blasted white imp,  " Dr.  Alanson B.  Howard had shouted into the cold dripping atmosphere so many times he was becoming hoarse.  At long last,  he abandoned Mal in the Newton drive and stamped in through the side door of the farm house.
"Well,  how's the patient?"  he roared as he slammed the door,  pulled off an old felt hat and in the act dumped a pint of water on the dining room floor.  "Speak up,  child,  speak up---how's your ma?"  he demanded of ten-year-old Lizzie Newton,  who had come into the room at the sound of his footsteps on the porch.
"She's feelin'  a mite better,  Doctor Howard,"  answered the child,  and then as the physician threw his soaked great coat over a chair and started for the bedroom,  came the voice of her mother,  exhausted from the long wait:  "Guess Jake brung you on a wide goose's chase,  Doc.  I don't feel no mite of pain now.  The wee stranger must've dozed off for a spell."
Doc Howard dropped his huge frame into the biggest chair in the room,  wiped the rain from his face with a red checkered handkerchief and began to fumble in his saddlebag.  He was on the case,  and here he would remain until the baby arrived.  It was an old story---ever new---and he loved the life of a country doctor.
"Put a pot of coffee on the stove,  Lizzie."  he called out into the kitchen,  and then added gruffly,  "I don't want none of that warmed up brew left from supper."
It was 18 minutes before midnight on the night of November 2,  1853,  that Doctor Howard reached the Newton home.  He drank black coffee,  catnapped,  ate heartily at meal time,  and played checkers with Jake in the interim before a baby son was born to Sylvia Newton at 10 pm.,  November 4.  He had been on the case for a total of 44 hours.  Jake Newton was charged $5 for the delivery---ultimately paying the bill with a slab of pork and a dozen fat hens for the doctor's table.
This embellished but true story was rural medicine over a century and a half ago.
Looking toward the medicine room.
It is unfortunate that his life ended sadly.  He had been a very active and energetic man all his life.  When he was 61,  he was attacked by the same disease that killed his parents,  known in those days as  "softening of the brain."  Today,  that disease is known as hardening of the arteries.  He knew there was no hope and accepted his fate.
Shortly after his death in 1883,  his wife,  Cynthia,  sent the medical instruments to their son in Arkansas,  who was also a physician.   Mrs.  Howard promptly padlocked the building, which her husband had used as his office for 28 years,  and it remained mostly untouched as Doctor Howard left it until 1956 when their great grandson donated it and its contents to Greenfield Village.
Any doctor who keeps medicine in wooden barrels is all right by me!
According to the great grandson,  "For weeks I worked  (in the office)  at times I could spare.  I used an old tub to put things in and for taking into the house for drying  (there was a leaky roof),  reading and sorting.  I had reached the last tub full when I decided there was nothing of importance in that load and dumped it in the driveway for burning.  Late that night I thought  'you have been careful up to this point,  why be impatient now?'  The next morning I went out and gathered it all up from the driveway.  That tub load was the one that produced  (among other things)  the first account book of Dr.  Howard's.  The book included an itemization of expenses while at the University of Michigan."
The family tried placing the office with a historical group that would preserve it,  to no avail.
"I tried Greenfield Village,  but with no success.  Henry Ford had died and they were very slow about additions."  After numerous tried elsewhere,  "Mother made a stop-over visit in Dearborn and she started things in the right direction.  They  (Greenfield Village)  finally got the idea that we were interested in giving,  not selling,  and from then on things moved.  It was accepted by the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in 1956,  which probably puts our family in the group of the very few that have given something to the Fords' in recent years."
Dr. Howard's Office was open to the public in 1962.
This is not your CVS or Rite Aid pharmacy.
That is an original sign of the good doctor's...
The original furnishings,  financial records,  equipment,  patent medicines,  and medicinal formula books are still contained within the building inside of Greenfield Village.  Wooden kegs,  which he himself painted and labeled for his herbal remedies and most extracts,  still remain and stock the homeopathic laboratory.  And some of what he used was skunk cabbage,  bloodroot,  butternut bark,  white snake root,  spotted lung wart,  juniper,  witch hazel,  dandelion roots,  and numerous others.
The photographs herein show the office not only as it looks in its restored
condition today, but pretty much as it looked in the 19th century.
I've always felt that to know more of the background story of any historic structure and of those who once used or lived in it can add greatly to a visitor's experience.  Otherwise it's just another old building in a museum.
This building - Doc Howard's Office -  is a living testament to not only this Michigan physician,  but to all 19th century practitioners.

I like to think of this posting as another chapter to help bring the past to life for those of us who enjoy studying history.  And Greenfield Village has more of the past than practically any place I know.
I hope you enjoyed it.

Black and white photographs courtesy of The Henry Ford Collection


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.

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.

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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