Thursday, June 30, 2011

Historical Preservation - Let's Keep It Going

The "Stone Castle" from Lexington, Michigan - made from the stones that came off the beaches of southern Lake Huron in the early 1930's. It is now a family cottage

You've read about my living history excursions, no doubt, and how there are those of us who take it so seriously that we make the attempt to, in a way, travel through time.
You've also read (in my previous posting) how reenacting inside a period house nearly accomplishes my time-travel wish.
I like to think that as living historians and reenactors we are preserving history by our actions, appearance, manners, surroundings, and speech.
But there is too much actual history, probably right there in your own town, that is disappearing before your eyes.
I am speaking of the historic structures that tend to go unnoticed until it's too late.

From 1844 - this home still survives in Romeo, Mi.
Romeo itself is a historic village of the 19th century - not unlike Colonial Williamsburg is with the 18th century

Saving old buildings is something that doesn't happen nearly enough. It seems that every week I hear of or read about a historic building being torn down for one reason or another. A consistent complaint of mine is how the city fathers will let a structure sit for years, turning down all offers of purchase until it becomes dilapidated, just so they can do what they originally wanted to do...raze it.
This nearly happened in my hometown of Eastpointe. We have numerous old homes in this very modern suburb of Detroit, most having been built from roughly 1920 to 1950. But we have a few that were built in the 19th century such as the Kern home built in 1874 and the 1892 Ameis house.

The 1874 Kern Home in Eastpointe, Mi

We almost lost the Kern home, however, when a few years ago it was listed for sale as commercial property. You see, being on a main street gives the property that much more value for a business. And, as is normally the case, a Wal-Mart or some other chain store purchases the land and house, tears it down, builds their own very modern (and hideously ugly) structure, and voila! all signs of the past are gone without a care.
Lucky for us this did not happen with the Kern home; it was purchased by a law firm and the historic building remains for all passersby to enjoy, hopefully, for generations to come.
What really threw me was that it was the Kern descendants who sold the house. I mean, if you had the opportunity to live in your ancestral home (and it was in a nice family town), wouldn't you just grab it with both hands?
Anyhow that got me to thinking about how quickly so many of our historical treasures are being disposed of, so lately I've been photographing many of the old structures that I see while I drive around my state. A few I've seen my whole life but never gave a second thought to. Others just seem to pop up out of nowhere, and I'll yell out to my wife, 'Look! We gotta stop and take a picture!"

One of my "stop the car!" moment houses - located in Vicksburg, Mi

And we do.
Most often I have no idea the age of the building - I can make an educated guess and come fairly close - but I still take the picture. Unfortunately, I do have some photos of subjects that have since been torn down. Yup! A Wal-Mart (no kidding) and gas station have replaced two of them.
And this is out in the country where one would think such structures would be safe.

Port Huron certainly has its share of beautiful Victorian homes

I suppose if the houses belonged to someone famous they might stand a chance. But as you probably well know most were just owned by plain everyday folk like you and I.
And who cares about houses owned by nobody's?
Well, for one, Henry Ford did. The greater majority of the homes inside of his Greenfield Village were owned by regular folk like you and I: George Matthew Adams (a newspaper columnist), John Chapman (a school teacher), Dr. Alanson Howard (a, um, doctor), and Samuel Daggett (a housewright) for example. The funny thing is, Mr. Ford was laughed at for the houses he chose to preserved. As a newspaper article from 1977 stated: When (Ford) started out, hardly anyone believed that old buildings were worth saving unless they had been the homes of the very famous, like Mount Vernon or Monticello, or that old furniture was worth saving unless it came from palaces.
But it was because of Ford's ordinary home collection that preservation became a national concern.
Ford, however, even had his critics amongst preservationists; what most modern experts agree on is their objection to Ford uprooting buildings from their original sites and moving them to his Village in Dearborn, thereby stripping them of their historical context. For example, in 1937 Ford bought and moved from Dayton, Ohio, the Wright Brothers childhood home and their cycle shop where they built the world's first successful airplane.
And he had Orville's blessings to do so.
And it wasn't just the Wright Brothers structures that have been removed: the homes of Harvey Firestone, Luther Burbank, H.J. Heinz, and others also are now located in the same "neighborhood."
Many historical preservationists find this disturbing and even slightly bizarre.
But, in Ford's defense, one can argue the fact that if it wasn't for this tourist attraction known as Greenfield Village, buildings kept on their original sites might not have been utilized as they would have, nor, possibly,would home preservation have become popularized in the way that it did. Also, in the case of the Susquehanna Plantation, The Eagle Tavern, the Ackley Covered Bridge, or Noah Webster's home, some may have been razed, denying future generations from enjoying and learning about not only American history, but social history in general; Mr. Webster's homestead had already begun to feel the force of the wrecking ball before Henry Ford's son, Edsel, saved it for his father's village.
Even Ford's own home faced demolition if it hadn't been moved due to the widening of the street.
I do understand that not everything from the past can be saved, but...
The Ford Farm, all safe and sound and restored.
...Wait - no, I don't understand! Why can't we save whatever and as much as we can? Why tear something down because it doesn't fit the local government or the modern chain store owner's vision? We hear so often of how the chain stores plow into the small towns and attempt to build their ugly modern monstrosities that would most certainly take away from the charm of small town America. We also hear of those townsfolk fighting - and winning - against those big guns.
I pray that trend continues.

Downtown Holly, Michigan - no modernized garbage amongst this group of 19th century buildings! Um...except the cars...

Please see the following postings for further preservation-type information:
Save Our History
Michigan History
Where Did All the Farmland Go?
My Modern Suburban City Was Once A Village of the 19th Century


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Favorite Place To Reenact

Our Farmhouse - okay, our home when we time travel

I have written numerous times over the past few years about what is consistently my favorite living history event, Waterloo Farm, located in Waterloo, Michigan. What makes Waterloo so special…? Well, for a civilian it’s comparable to a reenactor soldier in the military participating in a battle. That's his "high," so to speak. Now, for me to be able to reenact in a period farmhouse with authentic 19th century surroundings is my high. It’s my opportunity to “see the elephant.”
First off, the house, which was built in the 1850’s, is, as I stated, decorated authentically to the mid-19th century. It's also pretty much out in the country in the middle of nowhere, which is a good thing, for there is very little modern outside intrusions to ruin the atmosphere. Well, there is the modern street nearby, but that's not even noticeable, to be honest. So, with the wonderful surroundings it is a perfect opportunity where one can present themselves in 1st person, not only to the visitors who tour the place, but even when it's only those of us who reenact. In this way we truly bring the past to life and try not to step out of the *zone,* if you know what I mean.
I think the historical society board enjoys having my wife & I and our family (including our domestic) here, for when we stepped out of our "carriage" and headed toward the farmhouse, the people that run the museum literally greeted us with open arms and said, “Welcome home!” Do I have to even tell you how that made us feel? For living historians, this is as good as it gets!
But, you know, it's because we have been actively using the farmhouse as our home for some years now - even at Christmas time - that they have continued to allow us to use this structure in the way we do. I mean, this place is almost like our home. And we make sure we follow the Waterloo Area Historical Society's rules about where to sit, etc. The President of the Waterloo Historical Society told Patty and I that when we are there to consider the house “ours” and we are to treat it as such.
How cool is that?
In past years we have presented ill health, mourning, and Christmas (how's that for variety?). So, this year Patty and I, with our two youngest and our domestic represented a family during a summer Sunday afternoon. My wife and our young helper worked on sewing projects (as women would have done on a Sunday afternoon - very period appropriate for the 1860’s) while I read some of the latest news from the *current* (June 22, 1861) Harper's Weekly. We also had friends stop over for a visit as well. The patrons passing through enjoyed our presentation immensely as we showed them a slice of everyday life from the past.
I would like to add here that I am very proud of the young lady who portrays our domestic: her real life boyfriend showed up and was hoping to spend a bit of time with her. They did go to lunch, which was fine. But he was hoping for more time than that, but I denied it, letting her know there was work to be done. She then told him that she was at work and that she needed to finish her duties.
19th century realism at its best!

As a civilian living historian, this is my time travel. I am not amongst tents but inside an actual mid-19th century house living as close to who I am emulating as one possibly can.
It just doesn’t get any better!


Friday, June 24, 2011

More Photos of Civil War Remembrance

My good friends, Mari & Darrin, came to the Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village on Memorial Day (you can see my other posting for here). It was their first time coming to a Civil War reenactment and were amazed at the number of reenactors as well as to what extent that they go to for this *hobby*.
They both took some very good pictures while there and I would like to share a few of them with you all. Not all the photos herein were taken by them, however...a couple are mine and there are one or two by another friend.
This event is really a very fine one indeed. Most participants really make the attempt for accuracy in their clothing and presentation, and the opportunity to speak with literally thousands of visitors is at a premium. And there are also the dozens upon dozens of actual period structures that surround us.
All in all, this is one of the most fun events due to the shear size and historic content of Greenfield Village. Plus, it's the first really BIG event of the year, and seeing friends you haven't seen since last fall is always a good thing!
I hope you enjoy this part two of Memorial Day/Decoration Day in pictures:

The Union army marches onto the Village Green for the Decoration Day service

The Cavalry join the infantry on the Village Green

The Civilians join the military in this solemn service

The Ladies in Mourning play a prominent role

The brass music of Dodworth Saxhorn Band add greatly to the occasion

Literally thousands of visitors watch from the sidelines

Ladies in Mourning at the Adams House
(click here for more information on this presentation)

A period fashion show, hosted by Beth Turza, is always a very popular feature at this event

Of course, for those who have never been to 1861, there is a fashion show everywhere you turn!

Looking over the scene of the military taking over the Village

And period music can be heard throughout the Village

.A farm boy emulates his big brothers off fighting to preserve the Union

One can view the military from Dr. Howard's office window
Click here for more information on Dr. Howard)

Three military men walk the streets of town

The men of the 21st Michigan are ready!

I wonder what these two brothers are saying to each other...?

~Of course, clothing does need to be washed and dried after a long and hot weekend~


Friday, June 17, 2011

Down in Monterey

Dear Friend,
You'll never guess where I am right now...I'm at the Monterey Pop Festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in California! We are having such a groovy time - the weather has been pretty decent. My gosh are there a lot of people here!! Some say they expect nearly a hundred thousand! But it's been peaceful.
So many of my favorite bands are here. The only group that isn't (but I wish they were) are The Beatles. Well, there's always tomorrow. Maybe they'll surprise us and show! Wouldn't it be really groovy if they performed their new album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band!!
Anyhow, yesterday I saw Simon and Garfunkel, the Animals, the Association, Lou Rawls, and Johnny Rivers.

If you think yesterday had some cool music, wait to you hear who I saw so far today: Country Joe & the Fish, Canned Heat, the Byrds, the Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and some new group with a chick singer called Big Brother and the Holding Company. The girl could scream! Wow! I can't wait to see if they have an album out!! They're supposed to perform again tomorrow - I can't wait!
Do you know who else will be playing on stage tomorrow? Buffalo Springfield, the Who, Jimi Hendrix (not sure who this guy is. he's black so I suppose he's a soul singer), Scott McKenzie, and the Mama's and Papa's! The Grateful Dead are also scheduled to perform but they're too way out for me.
Well, this weekend of June 16, 17, and 18 1967 will certainly go down in history as one of the grooviest ever!

If you would like, you can enjoy the festival, too!
Just click here for the DVD
click here for the CD.
To me, the Monterey Pop Festival was the beginning AND the end of the music festivals.

Here's my DVD review from
If, through some miracle, I was given a choice of being able to attend Monterey or Woodstock, Monterey would win hands down. Musically, Monterey had so much more variety to offer without any of the overt "coolness" and the pretentious attitude the performers and announcers had at Woodstock. Where Woodstock musically purposely pushed the counter-culture, Monterey just "let it all hang out," (as was the term in '67). Pop artists freely and without care mingled with the new underground. Where else could you find Peter Tork of the Monkees introduce the Buffalo Springfield? Monterey was innocent - the musicians, the announcers, and the patrons - and there was no "smile for the camera" smugness that Woodstock seemed to convey.
Plenty of fresh new music abounded for an audience that responded with child-like glee (except for the wide-eyed young girl who witnessed Jimi Hendrix for the first time! Don't you just love her expression?).
There were no tye-dyed shirts or guys with hair down to the middle of their backs in the audience. That style was 1969 and into the 1970's. In fact, most guys wore their hair not much longer than the Beatles did in 1964 - collar length with the ears showing. And, for those who wore glasses, the horn-rimmed style was still the most common and not the John Lennon type from the Sgt. Pepper album. Still a few years to go before that caught on.
Monterey is truly a time capsule of 1967. This magnificent DVD box set has more social history of the times than any musical documentary I have seen. Do you want to know the way it really was in the Summer of Love? Watch the Monterey Pop Festival box set.
Because, that IS the way it really was.


Monday, June 13, 2011

1st Person Trip to the Past Written By Those Who Were There

If you ever want to really know what life was like for those who lived in the past, might I suggest reading the journals, letters, and diaries of persons from the 19th century? It's by reading these thoughts, feelings, and events-as-they-happened that one can fully immerse themselves into the past, even, dare I say, more than re-enacting can. Which is why I read as many of the early-mid-and late 19th century diaries and journals as often as I can. They create an understanding of everyday life of the time-period much greater and more accurate than any historian can.
Nearly all journals and diaries available seem to be written by women. The few written by men (at least that I have seen) are mostly written by soldiers. Nearly all of what you are about to read in today's posting has been in previous blog posts of mine, although a couple are new to my blog. I hope you enjoy this (mostly repeated) first person trip to the past.
The first diary snippet I will present is of a young teen named Caroline Cowles of New York, written on a Friday in May, 1854:
"Reverend Mr. Dickey, of Rochester, agent for the Seaman's Friend Society, preached this morning about the poor little canal boy. His text was from the 107th Psalm 23rd verse. He has the queerest voice and stops off between his words. When we got home (younger sister) Anna said she would show us how he preached and she described what he said about a sailor in time of war. She said, "A ball came---and struck him there---another ball came---and struck him there---he raised his faithful sword---and went on---to victory---or death." I expected Grandfather would reprove her, but he just smiled a queer sort of smile and Grandmother put her handkerchief up to her face, as she always does when she is amused about anything. I never heard her laugh out loud, but I suppose she likes funny things as well as anybody."
This puts some flesh on the bones of those long gone, doesn't it? Couldn't you see (and even hear) young Anna imitate the preacher, with the grandparents trying very hard not to burst out laughing?
How about something a little closer to home (for us that live in Michigan) - here are a few excerpts from letters written in late 1832 and early 1833 by Elizabeth Chandler, a young Quaker girl born in 1807 and died in 1834:
"We have had fine weather this fall in Michigan, and it still continues so. The farmers are still ploughing, and may perhaps do so for some time longer.
Our country is filling up fast but the Indian war and the Cholera have been great drawbacks on emmigration during the last season. Although the hostile Indians were two or three hundred miles from us, many fabulous and exaggerated accounts respecting them were spread abroad sufficient to deter numbers already prepared from removing at that time, and immediately after the appearance of the Cholera in various places was a sufficient cause to arrest the tide of emmigration."
Michigan, at this time, was considered Indian country.
How about life in a factory working woman's boarding house? Let's look into a typical 1844 evening for a young adult named Susan who was staying in a boarding house in New York:
"We had tea, flapjacks, and plum-cake for supper. There was also bread, butter, and crackers upon the table, but I saw no one touch them. After supper, the tables were cleared in a trice. Some of the girls came in with their sewing, some went to their own rooms, and some went 'out upon the street' - that is, they went to some meeting or evening school, or they went shopping, or visiting upon some other corporation, all of which is 'going upon the street' in factory parlance.
I retained my seat with the girls in the great keeping room, for Mrs. C had company in her own sanctum. Some book peddler, shoe peddler, essence peddler, and candy boys came in and made very strenuous exertions to attract our attention. By most of the girls they were treated with cool civility, but there were some noisy self-conceited misses who detained them under the pretense of examining goods for purchase, but who were slyly joking at the expense of the peddler."
Let's go back further into history - back to August 20th, 1787, where we find a journal written by the local (Hallowell, Maine) midwife, Martha Ballard. All spelling is as was originally written:
"Clear. Mr. Hinkly brot me to Mr. Westons. I heard there that Mrs. Clatons child departed this life yesterday & that she was thot expireing. I went back with Mr. Hinkly as far as there. Shee departed this Life about 1 p.m. I assisted to lay her out. Her infant laid in her arms. The first such instance I ever saw & the first woman that died in child bed which I delivered. I came home at dusk. Find my family all comfortable. We hear that three children expired in Winthrop last Saturday night."
A mother and child dying, three more children dying and nary a sad word except, "at least my family is well"...just everyday life in the 18th century.
Here's something to show the glamour of traveling by wagon train in 1865, written by 24 year old Sarah Raymond:
"When we had traveled about an hour the rains came down. I was likely to get very wet before our wagons came, for they were among the last in the train; I took the saddle and bridle off Dick, sat down on the saddle to keep it dry, and to wait for the wagons. I was resigning myself to a drenching when Mr. Grier, driver of the front wagon, came and spread a great big rubber coat over me, so that I was completey sheltered and was hardly damp when our wagons came.
There are more pleasant things than camping in the rain. The water is so impregnated with alkali that I fear it will cause sickness; the stock are in greater danger than we, for we can guard against it."
In 1847 Mrs. Elizabeth Dixon Smith was traveling with her husband and others in a wagon train heading west to Oregon, and through her journal she regales us with this incident involving another member of their party (I added some much needed punctuation to make it a bit easier to read. But all the words are as originally written):
Sept. 15, layed by this morning. one company moved on except one family. The woman got mad and would not budge nor let the children. He had his cattle hitched on for three hours and coaxing her to go but she would not stur. I told my husband the circumstance and him and Adam Polk and Mr. Kimble went and took each one a young one and cramed them in the wagon and her husband drove off and left her sitting. She got up, took the back track, traveled out of sight, cut across, overtook her husband. Meantime, he sent his boy back to camp after a horse that he had left, and when she came up, her husband says, "Did you meet John?"
"Yes," was the reply, "and I picked up a stone and nocked out his brains." Her husband went back to asertain the truth and while he was gone she set one of his waggons on fire, which was loaded with store goods. The cover burnt off and some valueable artickles. He saw the flame and came running and put it out and then mustered spunk enough to give her a good flogging.
Wow! How times have changed...

In the mid-19th century Michigan schoolhouses were one-room buildings, and the teachers were mainly young women who were paid $3 to $5 a week in the wintertime, and $2 a week during the summer months. Teachers boarded at pupil's homes, which could be very lonesome for the young girls, whose families were likely many miles away.
This first collection is from the 1857 journal of Elizabeth Wilcox, age 22, a homesick teacher living in Macomb County (the county, north of Detroit, in which I now reside!):
July 5 - Mr. Cone came for me. I was soon ready and in a short time arrived at my new home, when I was possessed with a feeling of loneliness which I could not overcome. And to-morrow morning I am to enter upon my duties for the coming summer. 'Tis a dread.

July 6
- A little more reconciled to my lot. To-day I met eight of the scholars that are to be trusted in my care for a few weeks. Eight strange faces and as many different dispositions to become acquainted with.

July 10
- At Mr. Hill's again to-night. Oh dear me, the miseries of school teaching. Here am I, afflicted most to death with the toothache. And what is still worse, I have been obliged to play sociable for the last two hours. But to every day there follows a bedtime and how glad I am it has come so early to-night. Now I am left to myself. No one to speak to me and if there was, I should be uncivil enough not to answer.

July 11
- Back again at Mr. Cone's. It is almost as good a home as my own. I could ask for no better, at least no person can find better when away from their own home and friends.

July 13
- To-day I had five new scholars. To-night am to Mr. Gibson's. I made my appearance unexpected to them as the little boy forgot to tell them I was coming.
July 14 - To-night went to Mr. Brant's from school. Never before has my courage so failed me as it did the moment I entered his house. Mrs. B. came running up as though she was going to take off my bonnet and shawl for me and at last pointed me to a seat. I soon found there was to be no formalities as each one was to help themselves. After dinner, a brother of Mr. B's came. Just returned from Kansas. Also two gentlemen from Detroit and one from the old country. All gentlemanly appearing Dutchmen. All was gibberish and jabbering, and with the tobacco smoke which I had to endure, for all were smoking. Was a little more than I could stand, so I excused myself to Mrs. B and made my way back to Mr. Cone and here I shall spend the remainder of the night unless there is an army of Dutchmen coming or something else of importance to prevent.

Miss Wilcox overcame her homesickness and taught in Macomb County until 1862, when she married Charles King and moved to a farm near Port Huron, Michigan.

Next we have Eliza Moore, a young lady who was living on her family's homestead farm, located between Belleville and Pullen's Corners (now Romulus) Michigan (about 22 miles west of Detroit). Word came to her that Smithville, located in Hillsdale County, near the Ohio border, needed a teacher.
The following comes from Miss Moore's 1866 diary:

Jan. 2 - Father and (brother) Jasper butchered three hogs and started with two of them for Detroit about 9 o'clock this evening. I don't envy our folks their ride to Detroit tonight.

Jan. 3
- Our folks came home about dark, cold, tired, hungry, and sleepy, which is apt to be the case in riding so far. They sold their pork for $11 per hundred weight. Oats 37 cents per bushel; butter 31 cents per pound, eggs 35 cents per doz. Mother and I knitting in the evening. Our folks gone to bed.

Jan. 6 - J.L. from Smithville came here in search of teacher for Smithville school, their teacher having left.

Jan. 18
- About 11 o'clock Mr. B from Smithville came to see me about teaching school there. I agreed to teach for $5 per week and board to commence next Monday.

Jan. 21
- Very cold this morning, almost too cold to venture out, but teachers must go in all kinds of weather. Father started about noon and had rather a cold ride. The roads are so icy that it is very hard traveling for a horse.

Jan. 22
- School commenced this morning. I have 25 scholars of all ages and sizes. They are strictly speaking rather a rough set, but I hope they will improve. There is plenty of room for improvement. One of the inspectors called at school this morning. He asked me some questions this evening and is to give me a certificate.

Jan. 29
- Instead of washing day as usual, it is school day. I have several large boys who all seem to try to study, for which I am very glad. I was intending to go to Mr. L to-night but it is so sloppy that I went to Mr. B, which is not so far from the schoolhouse. I have now 38 - rather a larger school than expected.

Jan. 31
- Some colder this morning and not as good a fire at the schoolhouse as Freddie generally has.

Feb. 5
- Now have all the scholars that the schoolhouse can conveniently hold and now I have to crowd them together as I have 89 names.

Feb. 9
- Another sleigh ride to school this morning. I am lucky. School has passed off as usual except the smoke the stovepipe has given out, and we had more smoke than I agreed for, but it was not as bad as might be.

Feb. 20
- A teacher living around has a good opportunity of observing the government of children. How many different ways there is of doing the same thing and no two persons govern alike. I can tell by being a short time in a house whether obedience from children is through love or fear, and there are some who have no government at all. I like to see people at home to judge of their good qualities or bad ones. Some have two faces, one for home and one for abroad. The face at home is usually clouded by a frown and every word is harsh. But while they are away, smiles are on their faces always, and all say what a pleasant person that is, but little do they know the real character.

~~~~~~~~Now Let's Head to Gettysburg~~~~~~~~

The above words from the journals and diaries show everyday life of folks doing everyday things in their time. But, what about when something truly historic happens in your town? For example, did you ever wonder how the folks felt in the weeks before the carnage of Gettysburg? The following are snippets from the many journals and diaries released in book and pamphlet form that will put the reader right smack dab in the middle of the fear and uncertainty of living in the Borough of Gettysburg, June 1863. I've presented them here a few times previous, but I know I have gained a few more followers in the time since, and, even if you've read it before, I think you may enjoy it again, especially since it covers the dates of the coming days ahead:
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.”
Many of you, I'm sure, have seen the movie 'Gettysburg,' but many more of you probably never gave a second thought to those folks who lived right there in the thick of it all. You can hear the fear as they wrote and told of their adventures. Again, something that the history books rarely, if ever, expound on.
I continue to search out these books written so long ago. They not only shed light on life once lived, but they truly flesh out the old sepia photographs and help one to realize that these were once living, breathing people like you and I. They had happiness, sadness. They laughed and felt sorrow.
It would do us good to emulate them as best we can - to use their stories maybe as our own - so we, as living historians, can give the patrons an even better, more accurate idea of what life was like in the past. And in this way we can keep the past, and those who lived back then, alive.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Civil War Remembrance 2011

As Civil War reenactors/living historians, many of us spend our time over the Memorial Weekend Holiday at Greenfield Village, as my family have been doing since 2005. Now, I am not going to write another day-by-day journal this year of our daily activities as I did last year (Decoration Day at Greenfield Village), or recite the reason why Greenfield Village does this special event annually as I did in this posting in my Greenfield Village blog: Civil War Remembrance Weekend. Both cover well enough this event and, except for some different scenarios, it doesn't change too much year to year. And that's not a bad thing. In all honesty, I believe this event improves every year and, noticeable this year were the lower number of farbs. Maybe word is catching on...

I am including in today's post a few photos with little blurbs connected to each one to help tell a bit about the scenario that we presented on this wonderful weekend. It is, by the way, written with a northern bent - I hope my southern friends do not get offended. It's all in good fun!

Imagine if you will... is the spring of 1861. The United States is at war with itself – brother against brother - a war that we know will only last a few months at the most. President Lincoln has called for volunteers to join up to help end the tom-foolery with the seceding southern states.

There, on our town's village green, were a group of Northern soldiers marching and drilling and preparing to go off to fight the rebellion in the south.

A large group of locals are watching, both men and women, admiring the boys in blue. Many of the farm boys are there watching as well. Of course, fathers, mothers, sisters, beaus, and friends are all goading the farm boys to show they're not cowards and to join up with the military to squelch the rebs.

Most, if not all of them, do show an interest, and are lined up by the recruiting officer there on the spot. He wants to make sure he gets as many boys from our village as he can. After speaking to them and making sure they wanted to join, he and the soon to be military men are paraded, amidst hurrahs and whoops and song, down the road to the Smiths Creek Depot.

The townsfolk are filled to the patriotic brim with all the vim and verve they could muster

Our beloved Mayor Morgan gave another rousing speech...

...and the chaplain said a prayer, the townsfolk bowed their heads solemnly, and then the boys are sworn in.

After they are sworn in the recruiter notices that one of the boys seems to be a bit too effeminate to be a...well, to be a boy! He asks the young man to remove his hat. The young lad, in a higher voice than normal for a young man, refuses to oblige. The recruiter asks again, a bit more sternly. The hat is removed and long sandy blond hair came flowing down around "his" shoulders in ringlets. Gasps were heard amongst the townsfolk - - wait! I recognize that 'boy' - "That's my neighbor's daughter!" I yelled as I grabbed her by the arm. She struggled to get away but I held her arm tightly, letting her know I was taking her home where she would feel the sting of her father's anger. She pleaded with me to please do not take her home, to no avail. She must learn that she is a young lady, and young ladies simply do not have a place in the military.

(I'm sorry that no photos have showed up of this part of the scenario. Perhaps some will but, alas, not at this time)

After the raucous, the final goodbyes were said, with tears flowing and calls of “see you at harvest time!” between the new recruits and those who will remain home.

All of the recruits then march into the depot to prepare to board the train to go off and fight to keep our country as one.

This scenario was one that we in the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society put together and, with the help from the members of the 21st Michigan, as well as a few other units, it was presented to the public at Greenfield Village. I am very happy and proud to say that this year we had record-breaking crowds - nearly 35,000 - in spite of the evening showers that graced our area Saturday and Sunday. But the daytime hours were almost perfect! And Monday - whew! - it reached a humid 88 degrees!

A few of the military members of the 21st Michigan (including my two oldest sons: 2nd from left and far right).

Just Before the battle Mother....the boys in blue prepare for battle