Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You Are Sick in the 19th Century: Home Care and a Visit to the Doctor

Something's happening here,
what it is ain't exactly clear...
This is not my room!
You went to sleep last night in your own bed,  your own room,  here in the 21st century.  But this morning,  upon awakening,  you found you were no longer in your room or in your bed.
Instead,  you were in a beautiful Victorian house,  with a beautiful Victorian wife.
And you may ask yourself,  “Well...How did I get here?”
And you may ask yourself,  “Where is that large automobile?”
And you may tell yourself,  “This is not my beautiful house!”
And you may tell yourself,  “This is not my beautiful wife!”

Wait------you suddenly realize that--ZAP!--you have been suddenly transported through time!  You are now in the 19th century!
(With unabashed help from Buffalo Springfield & The Talking Heads)
Unfortunately,  the time-travel must have affected you greatly,  for you feel terribly sick.  What do you do now?
Luckily,  your 19th century wife knows how to take care of you and has plenty of home remedies to help.  As is written in the pamphlet  Historic Uses of Herbs in the Mid-19th Century and Home Remedies  by Virginia Mescher,  "Women on farms...were expected to treat a majority of the sickness and injuries of their family and workers using herb lore passed down from mother to daughter.  Doctors were often used only in extreme circumstances and frequently by then nothing could be done.  Knowledge of using herbs as an alternative to the more conventional medicines then used by doctors was more widely used in the rural areas.  In such localities there might be a local  'wise woman'  or  'granny woman'  that treated the people in the area." (Note from Ken:  my 3rd great grandmother was such a woman!)
I was sick on Sunday last...very sick.  My cousin thought I had 
scarlet fever,  but my wife felt I had the summer fever instead.  
Either way,  I had a fever and was put into what is normally the 
dining room day bed,   where,  as a healthy soul,  I usually try to 
take a quick nap after a hearty dinner before venturing out to 
continue the afternoon work in the fields.  
Hey!  Don't farmers get sick days??
Mother's books and women's handbooks,  usually filled with advice on the complete task of running a home,  were very popular in the 19th century,  and sisters Catherine E.  Beecher & Harriet Beecher were considered to be the era's most successful domestic writers.  Many homes wouldn't be without such a remedy bible,  and lucky for us in the 21st century,  many have been re-published.  But rather than be a passing curiosity of times gone by,  these books give us a window into family life of a century and a half ago.
Including caring for the infirm.
In their guide book,  The American Woman's House,  Catherine and Harriet write,  "It is interesting to note in the histories of our Lord the prominent place given to the care of the sick.  When He first sent out the apostles,  it was to heal the sick as well as to preach.
When He ascended to the heavens,  His last recorded words to his followers,  as given by Mark,  were that His disciples should  "lay hands on the sick,  that they might recover."
So caring for those who were not feeling well was considered of utmost importance.
"The two great causes of the ordinary slight attacks of illness in a family are sudden chills,  which close the pores of the skin,  and thus affect the throat, lungs,  or bowels,  and the excessive or improper use of food.  In most cases of illness from the first cause,  bathing the feet,  and some aperient drink to induce perspiration, are suitable remedies."  (Aperient is a food that acts as a laxative.  Yep - had to look that one up!).
Bed rest,  of course,  was  (and still is)  highly recommended.
Unfortunately,  since I was feeling rather poorly this Sabbath 
afternoon,  the day bed was used as the sick bed so I could be 
nursed back to health.  The dining room location was chosen so 
family members could watch me closer to ensure I was well taken 
care of instead of being in an upstairs bedroom,  so far away from everyone.

But what if that isn't enough?  What if you have something more severe than a mild cold or a sore throat?
"When a cold affects the head and eyes,  and also impedes breathing through the nose,  great relief is gained by a wet napkin spread over the upper par of the face,  covering the nose except an opening for breath.  This is to be covered by folds of flannel fastened over the napkin with a handkerchief.  So also is a wet towel over the throat and whole chest,  covered with folds of flannel,  often relieves oppressed lungs."
You must remember to also keep the sick room in order,  for  "a sick room should always be kept very neat and in perfect order;  and all haste,  noise,  and bustle should be avoided.  In order to secure neatness,  order,  and quiet,  in case of long illness,  the following arrangements should be made:  
Keep a large box for fuel,  which will need to be filled only twice in twenty-four hours.  Provide also and keep in the room or an adjacent closet,  a small tea-kettle,  a saucepan,  a pail of water for drinks and ablutions,  a pitcher,  a covered porringer,  two pint bowls,  two tumblers,  two cups and saucers,  two wine-glasses,  two large and two small spoons;  also a dish in which to wash these articles;  a good supply of towels and a broom.  Keep a slop-bucket near by to receive the wash of the room. Procuring all these articles at once will save much noise and confusion.
A sick person has nothing to do but look about the room;  and when everything is neat and in order,  a feeling of comfort is induced,  while disorder,  filth,  and neglect are constant objects of annoyance which,  if not complained of,  are yet felt."
They go on to say,  "In nursing the sick,  always speak gently and cheeringly;  and,  while you express sympathy for their pain and trials,  stimulate them to bear all with fortitude,  and with resignation to the Heavenly Father who  'doth not willingly afflict,'  and  'who causeth all things to work together for good to them that love Him.'  Offer to read the Bible or other devotional books,  whenever it is suitable,  and will not be deemed obtrusive."
The day bed was in the dining room,  a very airy area with the 
windows and door,  allowing the breeze to flow throughout,  
which helped to keep me comfortable on this warm summer's day.   While in the sick bed,  I was given medicine - feverfew mixed 
with lemon and water - and since I could not lift my head very 
high, an  invalid cup  was used so the medicine would not drool 
out of my mouth.

There are hundreds of home cures for nearly as many illnesses,  and there is a large list of plants that were used for medicinal purposes,  and what I have here are but the tip of the iceberg.  If you are interested in a more complete listing you may want to search out the books and pamphlets I have mentioned at the bottom of this post.
According to Virginia Mescher's research,  applying mustered plaster was one way to cure bronchitis.  Another way was to use onion poultices,  all cut up and heated,  placed on a cloth and then put on the chest.  Molasses and vinegar could be mixed together for a cough syrup.
Different plants were used for different ailments such as alum,  which stopped bleeding.  Feverfew leaves were good for headaches,  fever,  hysteria,  diarrhea,  and other sicknesses.  Ginseng root was used as a tranquilizer while cloves were good for a toothache.  Pennyroyal was a digestive aid  (among other things),  hops a sleeping aid,  and St. John's Wort helped with wounds,  skin irritations,  and consumption.  And there's witch hazel,  aloe,  goldenseed,  and yarrow for cuts and sores.
So many plants to know and their purposes to remember!
The Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping book tells us that fruits and vegetables of all sorts helps those who are ill.  Of course,  these items may not be of much help when they're out of season.  But,  if you find yourself sick in the summer,  you're in luck!
"Watermelon act on the kidney's,  and are good in many cases of fever,  bowel complaints,  etc.  Celery is also good in some diseases of the kidney's and in nervousness.  Fresh,  crisp,  raw cabbage,  sliced fine and eaten with good vinegar,  is easily digested,  and often highly relished by a patient suffering from a weak stomach.  Fruits and berries,  raw,  ripe and perfect,  used in moderation,  are admiral remedies in cases of constipation and its attendant diseases."
After all this,  if you still are not feeling better,  then you may need to be seen by a doctor.
Are you in luck!  Since you have time-traveled and now live near Cold Water,  Michigan,  the finest doctor around is in the not too distant town of Tekonsha,  where the office of Dr. Alonson Howard is located.
Let's learn about this doctor and his credentials.  I believe you may find he just may be the man to cure whatever it is that is ailing you.

The office of Dr. Alonson Howard:  This simple Greek Revival 
structure began as a one-room schoolhouse,  built in 1839 in the 
rural town of Tekonsha,  Michigan.  It was warmer than most as it 
was built with  'nogging' - that is,  rough bricks placed between 
the interior and exterior wooden walls to provide insulation,  as 
well as protection against fire and infestation from rodents.

The waiting room

Here is Doc Howard himself!
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 Pottawatomies 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.  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 the village of Tekonsha built a new school,  that Dr.  Howard,  who already owned the farm,  bought this particular building - the old schoolhouse.
The entrance to Doc Howard's Office
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.
Known as  "Doc"  Howard,  he became a very respected doctor in Tekonsha and the surrounding communities.  Besides seeing patients in his office,  Doc Howard was a circuit-riding doctor,  that is,  he made house calls on horseback on his white horse he called  'Mel,'   short for Melchizedek,  which was kept saddled and ready outside his office.  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.
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 way Greenfield Village presented Doc Howard's office years 
ago,  showing his white horse,  Melchizedek,  as it all may have 
looked in the mid-19th century.
One night,  in November of 1853,  he saw to a woman about to give birth.  This true first-hand account went along like this  (from the January 1955 edition of Inside Michigan Magazine):
Melchizedek,  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. 
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.
"Gidjup, you blasted white imp!"  Doc Howard shouted into the cold dripping atmosphere so many times he was becoming hoarse.  At long last,  he abandoned Mel in the Newton drive and stamped in through the side door of the farmhouse.
"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 10-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 wild goose's chase,  Doc.  I don't feel no mite of pain now.  The wee stranger must've dozed off fer 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 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 13 minutes before midnight on the night of November 2,  1853,  that Doc 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 p.m.,  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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mentioned toward the beginning of this posting are a few of the plants used in curing the sick.  Here now are a few more that have been documented treatments (among others) used by Doc Howard:
I wonder if this is what Rite-Aid's pharmacy looks like?

Horehound used as a laxative,  cough remedy,  or for snakebites
Wormwood was for expelling worm
Horseradish as a diuretic  (to increase the volume of urine flow)

The cure for what ails ya.

Lungwort was for coughs
Wahoo as a purgative  (TOXIC!)
Fennel to stimulate the digestive system

What a fine presentation at a reenactment, 
to have bottles with the 19th century cures on the labels.
Yes,  you are now a patient of a doctor who practiced medicine in rural Michigan during the mid-19th century!  This is not your descendants  "take two aspirin and call me in the morning"  generation.
So,  what was it like to actually visit the good doctor at his office?  We have accounts of this,  so at least you can know ahead of time what to expect upon stepping into his place of business.
"Patients"  waiting to see Doc Howard

Doctor Howard's office was a busy one and he 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. 
Howard treated everything from a toothache to consumption and all ailments in between,  and would perform surgery if needed.  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 doctor's sick bed
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 neice,  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!"
Waiting room.
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!"
Shelves of 19th century cures.
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.
Most of what you see in Doc Howard's office is original to not 
only the building,  but to Doctor Howard himself!
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 untouched and exactly as Doctor Howard left it until 1956 when their great grandson donated it and its contents to Greenfield Village.
I wonder how many of these old medicines would 
still work today?
Methinks more than what we are being told.
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.
The photographs herein show the office not only as it looks in its  'cleaned up'  and restored condition today,   but it still pretty much as it looked in the 19th century.
Written in Howard's own hand
It is a living testament to Dr.  Howard and all 19th century physicians.
At least the practice of bloodletting was over!

Another chapter to help bring the past to life for those of us who enjoy studying social history and make the attempt to bring the past to life through living history.  It only touches upon the subject of health care practices during the mid-19th century.  It is not,  by any means,  meant to be anything more than a very basic guide for the curious or for the living historian to accent their presentations with some color and tales.
I hope you enjoyed it.

And here is where some of my information from this posting came from:
Historic Uses of Herbs in the Mid-19th Century and Home Remedies by Virginia Mescher
The American Woman's House by Catherine E. Beecher & Harriet Beecher
Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping
as well as information from the
Benson Ford Research Center located on the grounds of Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan

~     ~

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Charlton Park 2014: "The Immersion Zone"

Most writers tend to wait to the end of their posting to thank the people for making events happen, but I am going to thank the powers-that-be here at the beginning, because without them, none of this would have happened at all.
My first set of "thank you's" goes out to a few who play a very important behind the scenes role: if it weren't for Sally, Sheri, and Samantha from the 24th Michigan, as well as Shannon who works at Charlton Park, none of what you are about to read would take place at all. For it's through these ladies that I receive approval to take over the historic 1858 Sixberry House during the Civil War reenactment.
The busy ladies mentioned here know me well enough from past experience, and they know that we who use the house treat it with the utmost respect and care.
But it's not only what I do in the Sixberry House - these wonderful women help make the Charlton Park event in general run so smoothly for all reenactor participants, and have for years.
All of us who take part thank you for all of your hard work.
Second, it takes very special people to bring history to life.
I mean bring history to life!
And I am honored to say I have been blessed to work with and befriend the best!
First and foremost is my friend, Larissa, who will, a couple times a year, portray my wife during a reenactment. My real life wife, Patty, does not particularly care for 1st person very much and has given her blessing for the two of us to present history in this family way. Larissa's husband, Mike, does not reenact at all and also has given his approval, so given the fact that we are married to such wonderful and trusting spouses makes it very easy for us in our portrayal.
Then there is Larissa's mother, Violet (yes, her actual real life mother, and when Larissa plays my wife, Violet becomes my mother-in-law), who falls right into whatever role she may be given or chooses - especially as a grandmother to "our kids" - and through knowledgeable casual conversation greatly helps to bring the mid-19th century to life. And she does it well and willingly.
Another member of our organization, Jackie, joined in as part of our family by becoming my older sister, and she greatly enhanced our many discussions throughout the day. She can and does keep us in a period mode. And she does it so well!
And then we have Candy, our domestic servant. Candy has been portraying a servant for nearly a year now and has found her way and purpose as such and really knows the do's and don'ts of her life of servitude. And she can cry on the spot, should the need call for it.
The youngest living historian in our group, Sarah, had never experienced doing 1st person before this event, but you coulda fooled me! She fell into her role as our daughter quickly and comfortably and she played it perfectly - it was easy to see she has studied the role of a young lady's place during the Civil War and treated her elders - especially her, ahem, father - with utmost respect.
We also had numerous friends (whom you shall meet momentarily) come to visit and added greatly to our everyday life on the homefront scenario.
Enjoying a peaceful morning in our back parlor.

One more thing before we get to all the photos and story:
A lot of preparation goes into bringing history to life in this manner. It would be nearly impossible to go into an immersion without knowledge of everyday life of the times. So we research.
And research.
And research.
We do our best to get a deeper understanding of the lives of those who lived during the time of the American Civil War: their manners and mannerisms, thought patterns and mindset, modes of speech, etiquette, and ideals. We study the tools & trades and how they would have played a role in our everyday lives. We learned about what it was like to travel, what kinds of seasonal food to eat, political turmoil of the time, about mourning etiquette, and, well, about our everyday lives in general. We have period-dress meetings multiple times each year to work exclusively on bringing these long-dead folk back to life in a non-Hollywood history way, and in doing so we try to turn off, as best we can, our 21st century thought process. 
And besides utilizing the shared historical knowledge and being in an authentic period home, what helps us maintain the authenticity that we strive for is that we don't come out of our immersion; whether there are people around or not, we remain in the 1860's.
To help keep us in this frame of mind for Charlton Park are the notices I put up on a few different reenactor group pages on Facebook to notify participants of our plans in case anyone wanted to visit us:

Good day Everyone -
A few of us will be in the Sixberry House on Saturday. We will be portraying a southern-sympathizing family and are planning to be in immersion.
We are asking our fellow (and fellow-ette) reenactors to act accordingly upon entering the house.
We would love to have friends come calling, and although it's not a *must*, we are asking any reenactors who do visit to act as if you entered our real home in the summer of 1864 and stay in period.
We will have a servant who will answer the door upon knocking, by the way.
Thank you!

To some this may sound silly.
"As adults, you're acting like little kids pretending to play house!"
Yeah...I guess in a way we are.
But why should the kids have all the fun?
'Grown ups' need to have fun, too, or is our fun strictly limited to only "adult" things like card playing, going to the bar, or attending a sporting event?
That may be considered fun for many, but not these grown ups! In fact, we take our 'pretending' to entirely new levels!
At the Charlton Park event we had numerous reenactor friends who had never done living history/immersion/1st person before, and they were all coming up to us afterward glowing in how great an experience it was for them. A few said that was as close to "being there" as they'd ever been!
And isn't that what we are attempting to do, to get "there?"
With that being said, please allow me to take you on a journey through time and space - - - - - -
you are now in a farming community somewhere in Maryland...and the War Between the States is etching closer...you have entered---the Immersion Zone.
Welcome to our home here in Maryland. I had it built only a few years ago, back in 1858.

Here is our family. I am surrounded by the ladies of the house: my wife Elizabeth on the left, her mother Violet next to her, Candace our domestic servant in the back, our daughter, Sarah, to the upper right, and my dear older sister Miranda there on the right.

My sister and mother-in-law arrived by train and coach on this day and, as this is considered to be a special day, we decided to wear our Sunday Best. The Maryland summers can become as hot as a steam engine, and today was one of those days, so after the initial arrival of my relatives, I succumbed to the heat and removed my jacket.

This is Elizabeth, my wife. Although we have no children together (our daughter Sarah is from my first marriage - my poor first wife had passed away ten years ago during the birth of what would have been our second child), Elizabeth has taken to Sarah as if she were her own flesh and blood and has helped to raise her with a firm but loving hand.

We had some very serious (and very *real*) family conversations during our immersion. An example of a pretty intense discussion was one we had with daughter Sarah of her want of the frivolities of the finer things in life, including a new silk dress and bonnet, ideas which came about after visiting her Aunt Sarah (my first wife's sister) last Christmas in the big city of Annapolis. Her Aunt put ideas of living a grandeur life of silk dresses and bonnets into my daughter's head, and went so far as to be given, without our knowledge or consent, a catalog book of life's supposed finer things.
Our daughter, Sarah, joined us in our back parlor.
Elizabeth found this booklet in Sarah's chest of drawers, and was none too happy upon doing so. One must understand that since we have no sons, the help of our daughter in the running this farm - inside and out - was of utmost importance to us, and we needed to banish these foolish ideas from her thoughts immediately.
Elizabeth read to us some of the advertisements listed in this "book of folly" she found in Sarah's room. Now we knew where our daughter was getting thoughts of foolish living ideas.
So Sarah was called down from her bedchamber and was confronted of our concerns of late.
Her insistence in wanting such fine things caused me to become most stern:
"You must get these foolish thoughts out of your head!"
"But Papa, I can wear a new silk dress to the local ball."
"Sarah, you know we have barn dances here, not balls. If anything, I will get you material to make a new work dress. That is much more useful than something as frivolous as a silk dress and bonnet."
"But Papa..."
"Another word and I will send you to your room to memorize bible verses!"
Meekly, looking down, "Yes Papa..."
To back me up, her mother read from The Mother's Book by Mrs. Child, which, in part, says "A dress distinguished for simplicity and freshness is abundantly more lady-like than the ill-placed furbelows of fashion. It is very common to see vulgar, empty-minded people perpetually changing their dresses, without ever acquiring the air of a gentlewoman."
Sarah thought about this for a moment and seem to understand. She then looked at Violet in hopes of lifting the mood and asked, "Grandmother, how was your journey here?"
And, thus, went our day. Very real.

Now, please understand that we also had some great laughs during this immersion experience, just as folks would have had "back then." At times we had tears from laughing so hard (to write it out would not be nearly as funny, so you will have to take my word that it was a real LOL moment!).
And we enjoyed hearing of the travel adventures of Elizabeth's mother and my sister, including how they needed to sit away from the window in the train car because of the sparks flying in caused by the steel wheels upon the tracks.

Then there is my sister.
We are a southern-sympathizing Maryland family, though my sister Miranda married a man who, after moving to Michigan years before the War, joined the Union army. She turned Yankee with him!
Miranda's husband was killed in the summer of '63 and she has been wearing black ever since, though she is now in second stage mourning and shows a bit of white on her sleeves and collar. My sister has struggled to survive this past year but, alas, try as she might, she could not make it on her own, so she has come to live with us. This makes for interesting conversation, considering the differences in our loyalties between north and south.
My sister Miranda photo by Lenore Jordan

Aside from the constant bantering back and forth between Yankee sympathizer Miranda and the staunch supporters of the southern cause of Elizabeth & I, it was a pleasant afternoon, though sometimes the discussion became a little disconcerting to my mother-in-law.
One fun conversation, however, came when Elizabeth asked Miranda to tell stories of my youth. Of course, she had to tell of the time I went astray on the way to school one particularly cold winter morning. I sneaked over to the mill pond behind the gristmill and decided to slide on the ice. Well, I only got a few feet on it before falling through! Luckily for me, it was only up to my waist, but they had a heck of a time pulling me out! I knew if I went to school I would get the switch from old Mr. Chapman, and then another whipping after I got home. One whipping is better than two so I went straight home.
Yep - I got it good!
But only once!
Of course, I have my own tales to tell, like of the suitor, Mr. Bagley, who showed a deep interest in Miranda. Our father was well aware of this man and forbade my sister to be with him. Mr. Bagley came to our home late one evening and, in an attempt to get my sister's attention to secretly meet, threw pebbles at her bedroom window. Only it was not her window that the tiny rocks hit, but my mother and father's instead. You can imagine the look on Mr. Bagley's face when our father answered his call by showing his gun. Ha ha! Mr. Bagley skeedaddled out of there faster than a jack rabbit on hot coals! Father was none too happy and Miranda felt his wrath as well.
See? Stories can go both ways!
This is how our day in immersion went, with conversations and stories done much in the way we would imagine it may have actually been like.
And it was, simply said, a wonderful time-travel you are there experience for all involved.
Hey - when you work with the best...

Mother-in-law Violet, though a native to Maryland, has spent time in the northern state of Michigan visiting relatives. Upon hearing of my sister's plight, she chose to travel back home with her by train and by stage. It was arduous traveling, but with Maryland considered a border state, there was little trouble in getting here.

As you can see, we made the attempt to portray a normal family of 1864. We did so by reading aloud to each other, sharing stories of our youth, and hearing the tales of travels from Violet and Miranda. And we kept it real.

We lost our domestic servant, Agnes, to marriage last year - at least she married a local farm boy who also sides with the south - so we hired a new girl, Candace.

A born and bred Marylander, Candace cooks up a fine oyster stew and crab meat.

This day's dinner repast consisted of that fine southern-cooked Maryland ham, summer vegetables such as cucumbers and carrots, and fresh-baked bread from Candace's Prussian grandmother's receipt.

 What really made this day come to life for us was having visitors come over. Some, such as Miss Jones and Miss Mansfield (pictured here with young Cora and my sister) had never taken part in 1st person, but found themselves, not by choice necessarily, immersed in our world. They loved it!

Initially, 1st person can seem intimidating. But if you are surrounded by other practitioners of the art, it becomes quite easy to fall in with everyone else. And it's when you don't take part that you will feel uncomfortable. Miss Mansfield and Miss Jones did a fine job for their first time!

Our daughter (center left) and her friends - Miss Fross, Miss Mitchell, and Mrs. St. John - enjoyed a game of croquet.

The friendly game did not last very long before Sarah came running into the house with great consternation, letting us know they were seeing soldiers marching down our road!

And, yes, the war was ever so near. In fact, it was in our own back yard: the soldiers were sitting on our back porch! Yankee soldiers! What to do we did not know. I did my best to keep everyone calm, but it was very unnerving.

Just look at what we saw outside our window! The War has come to our home!
We did our best to entice the reenactor soldiers into our world of immersion by showing our concern by continuously watching them, asking questions of what their plans were (they did not know, they only do what they are told), and letting them know that there were people inside this house including frightened women - and the concern was great.

There is more to this photograph than meets the eye. Look up into the second floor window. What do you see there?

Yes, young visitors felt safer spying on all of the excitement from Sarah's bedroom window.

And there they were, right outside our back parlor window, men preparing for battle. Talk about disconcerting! My worried wife eyed the men with concern through the back parlor window. But it got worse...

Elizabeth called me to the front parlor. The artillery were stationed directly across the road from our house! Can you imagine seeing this looking out your front window? If so, then you will know how nervous we felt. Soldiers in the back and now the front of our home!

Our daughter's visitors were still at our home when all of this took place, and the fright - even though we were only "pretending" - became real. Remember when I said Candace could cry "on the spot"? Well, she did here, and it became all the more real for everyone.
I stepped out to the back porch and asked one of the men if they expected a battle in the vicinity. We were assured there were no plans of such a thing, but something told me he was not telling me the truth.

Seeing the men form up was very disconcerting.
Inside our house, we continued with our immersion, and you could actually feel the fright and helplessness. I commend all involved, for it was amazing.
The ladies sang hymns such as Amazing Grace and Nearer My God To Thee to help them to overcome their worry. 

My wife suggested something more upbeat such as "Ol' Susannah," but nothing seemed comforting. They looked to me for guidance and I assured them that should there be a battle that we would skeedaddle into town. This war's history has shown the safest places to hide is either in the cellar, though ours is very small, or in town, for the soldiers do not shell a town where there are citizens. At least they have not yet.
"When should we leave?" the ladies kept asking me. I assured them I had no plans to leave the security of our home unless we were in imminent danger. My wife, still spying out of the window, asked me, "How much closer can the War be to be considered imminent danger?"
It seemed the entire Union army was in our town!
Shortly before the battle occurs at this event, someone will let us know beforehand so we can take part as scurrying citizens of the town. This year, Sheri, from the 24th Michigan, let us know in such a way that we could continue our time-travel experience by pounding upon our door frantically, which actually did startle our house guests.
I did not wait for Candace to answer, but flung it open myself, expecting to see soldiers wanting our food, only to find our neighbors, white as ghosts, urging us to leave and find shelter away from the area, for a great battle was truly at hand! We wasted no time in gathering a few meager items and fleeing our place of solace...our home. I made sure the doors were locked tight - no thieving Yank will enter my home if I can help it!
As we hurried toward town we were told to hide between the houses, for the battle was actually taking place upon our village green!
So you can imagine how everyone felt seeing all of the soldiers in and around our home, then are told to run to the safety of town only to find this long line of Union soldiers marching down your very street!

 The battles at Charlton Park are some of the best I've ever witnessed! Even my son has said he would put Charlton Park battles on par with those from national events, though on a smaller scale. They utilize the town and townsfolk in ways not found at other local events. Usually civilians will go out onto the grounds where the devastation takes place and help the wounded and cover the dead once the battle has ended. For some reason this did not happen this year - I'm not sure why, because it adds a realism not seen at most reenactments.
But what you will see in the next few photos are frightened people watching as the horror of war unfolds before their eyes right in their town and around their homes. Believe me, the fright you see is real in a sense that all participants had worked their 1860's thoughts into that mindset.  
Is the fright real or imagined?

And the line of men kept on coming, stretching seemingly for miles. Where does one go when your entire town is in the midst of such a quandary?

It seemed as if the line of men went on forever.

Candace was beside herself with worry. My wife tried consoling her, to no avail.
As living historians, this makes it all that much more real for us. Again, we remained in our 1st person/immersion state. We continued on as if this were actually occurring before our eyes.
And, in a very real sense, it was.

Obviously, none of us would have been out in the open like this had it been an actual battle with real bullets and all. I called these ladies out and positioned them to try one of my "artsy" pictures. Maybe I can entitle this one "Battle Bonnets."

As you can see by these photographs, the historic town of Charlton Park is used very effectively.

Most "deaths" were very well done and gave the presence of what the townsfolk may have seen in Sharpsburg or Gettysburg, but on a much grander scale.

And the battle continued on, with more death and devastation...

The gallant southern men forged ahead, but their loss was many.

In the humid heat of July, the stench from so many dead bodies rose quickly and was nearly unbearable! Miss Mitchell kept a pinch of penny royal to her nose to help mask the awful odor coming from town.

At one point, Miss Mitchell fell to the ground, not moving and deathly white in color. Mrs. St. John swore she was hit by a stray bullet, but upon further examination, I found no sign of a wound - no blood or holes in her dress. She had passed out from fright or from the smell of death. Two men from the cavalry galloped up on hearing Mrs. St. John's calls for help, but I assured them the young lady would be all right. Photo by Lenore Jordan
Mrs. St. John's cries for help sounded very legitimate - authentic - and the two from the cavalry actually thought something was wrong.

After what seemed like hours, the battle was finally done. On a surprise note for my wife and I, we discovered the husband of our hired help, Candace, was a Yankee soldier!! So, what do we do? Do we keep her or let her go? We had a discussion with her about our concerns of her hiding her true sympathy. Again, through tears, she promised that she'd never let her alliance prevent her from her work. Elizabeth and I decided we would keep her on. After all, she makes the best oyster stew around! Candace later told a friend, "I work for such a nice loving and forgiving family!"

This event at Charlton Park is always top notch - I would not miss it except under dire circumstances. We've really worked at earning the annual use of the Sixberry House, and have been told it's "ours" for as long as we want it. Well, as long as we have the quality living historians that participate in this way to bring the past to life, we will continue on and try to come up with different, but real, scenarios each year.
We had a truly fine day living in the past and presenting it to the public of the future. It is also exciting and satisfying to challenge ourselves to do it as authentic as we can. I am proud to call all of the wonderful living historians you see here and in the other photographs my friends, and, in a sense, my family - my reenacting family. In our 21st century lives we call and visit each other frequently, and we've attended each others gatherings: graduation parties, weddings, holidays, and, unfortunately, even funerals of loved ones. And it doesn't get more family than that!

Not pictured but did participate as visitors were Jeannie and Patrick messenger, two people who fall into a 1st person as natural as if they were living in the 1860's. They, too, added so much to our day.
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Let's take a look at a few other fun things that occurred at this Charlton Park event:

A pie auction! Yep---we enjoyed a homemade peach pie for dessert after our meal!

A barn dance...in a real barn...with a real string band providing the music! (Yes, that's our Candace dancing with her beloved!)

What could be more fun than swinging while in a hoop skirt? Well, I could not tell you, for I've never worn one (nor will I ever!), but Miss Mansfield certainly looks like she is having an enjoyable time!

A fun series of what were initially innocent pictures that I took involved my friend Sheri. Sheri and her friend Brian were enjoying a simple conversation, and the scene just looked to be almost like a painting. That is, until someone yelled out that it looked like Brian was proposing:

My dear, may I have your hand?

Kind sir, I am spoken for!

But does your man have one of THESE???

And there you have it - our time at Charlton Park in July of 2014. It was, perhaps, the best one I've participated in yet. One has to wonder when the "best ever" feeling ends, for I see no signs of that happening at all. Not at events like this!
Until next time, see you in time.