Sunday, April 17, 2016

Colonial Ken Celebrates Patriot's Day 2016 at Greenfield Village

 Patriot's Day is coming! 
Patriot's Day is coming!
A painting by Mort Kunstler from the 2016 "New Nation" calendar depicting the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Tell me, doctor
Where are we goin' this time?
Is this the 1860s, or 1779?
So take me away, I don't mind,
but you better promise me
I'll be back in time…
Gotta get back in time!

(Slightly modified lyrics from Huey Lewis’ 
“Back in Time” from the film “Back to the Future”)
~Photo by Lee Cagle~ 
Yes, for the last few years, especially ever since I've renewed my strong interest in 18th century American History, I have been celebrating Patriot's Day. This is a holiday commemorating the events of April 19, 1775, which, unfortunately, is only celebrated in three states: Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin (and to a lesser extent, Florida). What occurred, for the most part, is lost to most Americans:
"What happened on April 19th?," is what I usually hear upon speaking to people about why I celebrate this day. "Must be something historical if it's coming from you."
I then attempt to remind them of the "midnight ride" of Paul Revere (and other riders) as well as what is considered to be the first battle of the Revolutionary War - Lexington & Concord - perhaps the most important time in our nation's history.
Then they understand.
I would like to see our entire country celebrate this great day in our nation's past. Maybe one day people will...but until then, I shall keep on celebrating and spreading the word as best I can. I suppose I better if I plan to present as Paul Revere!
And that's just what I did while dressed in my 1770s clothing at Greenfield Village recently. Of course, I spent a good part of my day over on the far side of the Village where the numerous homes from the 18th century sit. Aside from Colonial Michilimackinac at the tip of Michigan's mit, we have no other (as far as I know) colonial-era structures in this state, so I treasure what Henry Ford and Greenfield Village has done by bringing a little bit of New England (and even England itself!) here.
                                                                                   And what treasures they are!

A picture-perfect spring day in Michigan.
The chapel here could *almost* pass for 
the Old North Church.
Unfortunately for this year, I am not able to visit the village on April 19th due to work commitments, but I did go on the 15th.
The weather on this day was about as perfect as an April day can be: mid-60s and filled with sun. Spring has sprung in Michigan!
In the pictures here you'll see that I am in my colonial clothing once again. Yep - I love wearing 'em every chance I can get, and what better place around here than in the midst of colonial structures all situated together at the far end of Greenfield Village!
As one who enjoys wearing fashions of the past and pursuing living history, I get asked many questions about my hobby such as "aren't you hot in those clothes?"  and "is that a real fire?" and "do you really sleep in your tent?"
But there is one question that I have only been asked once: "Is it embarrassing to wear clothing like that in public?"
Excellent question!
Initially, for me, it was. But the more I went out in public dressed in 1770s or 1860s styles, the more comfortable I became and, thus, the easier it was.
It helps a whole lot that most folks think my period clothing is pretty cool.
I will say this, however: it is a little tougher for me to go out in colonial clothing than my Civil War garb, mainly because the style is so different in comparison. Probably the hardest part, besides wearing knee breeches, is having my hair tied back with a ribbon in a ponytail, known at the time as a queue. That was the fashion for men from about the mid-1700s through the early part of the 19th century.
If you know me at all, however, you know that I am pretty anal about being period correct and I place great importance upon it, whether I am at an actual reenactment, doing a presentation, or "just visiting." Nothing modern on me, from the inside out (although on this day my daughter was sick so I did have my cell phone with me on vibrate in case she needed to get in touch. Health and family before anything else).
I take "living history" seriously: my queue is plainly seen as I watch Samuel Daggett plow his field.
Notice the popular break-back style house (also known in modern times as a saltbox house) belonging to Mr. Daggett in the background. He built this house around 1750.
Our 2nd President, John Adams, was born in a structure very similar to this one. 
A posed picture makes it look like I am heading up the 
stairs to the 2nd floor. Although I have been up there 
before, I didn't ask this time, but it does make 
for a pretty realistic look, eh?
Opening Day at Greenfield Village is, for history nerds here in the metro-Detroit area, as big and as special as opening day for the Detroit Tigers or at any major league baseball game. It's an event, and many begin planning for it weeks beforehand. Since it was on a Friday this year I had to take a personal day from work. But my co-workers all know me well and expect it. Some folks even have a little fun with my passion for the past. I mean, think about it: it's just boring old history. And, really, who cares? It's all in the past, dead and gone. Now, a Tiger's game, well that's something altogether different, right?
Ha-----I think not!
I love the Detroit Tigers as much as anyone, but, no, I'll take Greenfield Village.
So that's where I went on Friday April 15. In fact, my friend, Lynn, rode along with me, and she also had on her colonial garb.

When I wear my 1770s clothing at Greenfield Village, my first stop is always the Daggett house you see in the above farming picture. It is probably my favorite house in the Village.
By the way, I did a rather extensive posting about this house and the family who lived in it (click HERE to read it).
Looking through the parlor into the back of the kitchen.
I love watching and talking to the ladies as they prepare
their food for the day. Yes, they really do eat what they cook
over the open hearth.
Though the presenters who work inside do not do 1st person or immersion of any sort, they do give a wonderful presentation on preparing and cooking the food as it would have been done during the 18th century (click HERE for my post on colonial cooking).
We see people preparing food practically daily, but how often do we get to see it prepared in such a manner and in such a kitchen as you see here? Yep - that's why the Daggett House is so special. And the presenters are top-notch in every way.
The presenters not only speak about the daily activities women and men of the period would do, including spinning wool into yarn, beer making, cleaning, farming, woodcutting, and other chores most here in the 21st century have little knowledge of, but they give us information on the Daggett family as well, which is always very interesting.
But the best part to me is understanding that life in the 1700s was seasonal, and here at the Dagget House (and also at the 1880s Firestone Farm), each season is well represented, which is why I continue to return throughout the year. Um...okay...I did make a little mistake: since Greenfield Village closes up after Christmas and reopens in April, we don't get to see winter activities...

By the way, remember when I said my friend Lynn came along with me? Well, here is a photo I took of her sitting in the great hall of the Daggett house:
I saw Lynn sitting here during a lull in visitors, so I grabbed the opportunity to take a few period-appropriate pictures, including the one you see here.
If at all possible, I *try* not to use a flash so I can capture the natural light our ancestors would have seen.
Almost like a painting.
Here I am, walking toward the great hall (the main room) 
from the parlor.

Our next stop was another colonial favorite of mine, the home of John Giddings, built right around the time Samuel Daggett constructed his. The difference, however, is Daggett's was from the more rural farming community while Mr. Giddings, a prosperous merchant and shipbuilder, was a city dweller.
I always seem to be heading up the stairs.
Since the rest of the house is, unfortunately, plexi-glassed
off, a visitor really doesn't have much else to look at here.
I wish, I wish, I wish that the good folks  who run
Greenfield Village would allow presentations in Giddings
all season long as they did a few years back instead of 
only during the Fall Harvest and Holiday Nights. It was
interesting to compare colonial city life to colonial farm
life. The two houses would play off each other well, 
and the learning experience was wonderful.

Speaking of city versus country, this cabin, the birth place of William Holmes McGuffey, was built around 1780 in rural Pennsylvania.
One can never have enough firewood. Besides its use for warmth, it was also necessary for cooking as well as for preserving meat in the smoke house (the small out-building you see).
The pile of wood you see here would barely get the McGuffey's though a week during the non-heating summer months. It would probably only be enough for them to cook on the hearth. 
A wintertime quantity for one week would be double the amount seen here...and that's only one week's worth! 
Woodcutting was a never-ending chore for our ancestors.
And because it is in an open-air museum and no longer an actual home, it is reasonable to understand why Greenfield Village cannot show the public the insanely large amount of wood needed to run even a small cabin such as this.

Now, I have a little beef about this next structure, the birthplace of famed horticulturalist Luther Burbank. Built about 1800, Burbank was born here in 1849.  Over his 55 year career in studying and experimenting on plants, he developed more than 800 strains and varieties, including the Burbank potato.
His home is such a beautiful picturesque building, and for years the seven rooms inside were portrayed as they were during the time Burbank lived there, and even included the original cradle that Luther's father made for him at his birth. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Village management is not quite sure what to do with it; for a while it was a souvenir shop, but now it is mostly vacant, except for special events such as Holiday Nights. 
I have an idea! How about returning it to it's former glory as a historic home!
Well, at least I found the exterior of the house and surroundings to be perfect for an old colonial such as myself to utilize...
I did say "picturesque," right? How can it not be with the beautiful Ackley Covered Bridge in the background?
Because this house is from about 1800, it still has much of the same architectural design and characteristic in its style as houses built thirty years before it.
In fact, below is an old picture of the inside of the Burbank House when it was still furnished as a historic home:
Wouldn't it be great to see it like this once again? 
Ah, well, maybe one day it will return...
In the meantime - - - 
One final picture in front of this magnificent house. 
(A Lynn Anderson photo!)

As you probably know, I love eating at the Eagle Tavern, which was built right around 1831, so it's about 50 to 60 years into the future from my time in the 1770s. Pay no mind to the year of its construction, because this building can easily pass for a tavern during the Revolutionary War.
This is, perhaps, easily in my top two pictures taken of me on this day. Shelley Martinez planned, posed, and photographed me here, and it turned out perfectly.
My tricorn is off to you, Shelley (figuratively!), for taking such a fine shot. 
Thank you.

One of the nice things about visiting Greenfield Village in period clothing is making visitors happy. I am stopped frequently and asked to pose for pictures with them, which is always great fun. Many comment on how they enjoy seeing "American history" in me, which makes me proud. Yes, I am a true blue-blooded patriotic American, even if it's uncool to say so these days. I do let the visitors know, however, that I am not an employee but just a nut who enjoys doing this sort of thing any chance I can.
I also enjoy speaking to them a little about the importance of knowing our American history and to take advantage of this wonderful local gem - Greenfield Village - we are so lucky to have in our area.

The bridge, the goldfish, and the turtles. The beauty of a Michigan spring really shines inside Greenfield Village.

Over at the 1880s Firestone Farm, we find the girls
gathering the tools they'll need to work in the garden.

Today's chore at Firestone is working in the herb garden.
The piece of land right next to them will soon become
the kitchen garden. Every home should have one. We do.

Out in the Firestone field, the farm hands are training the new Morgans as they use a spring harrow to break up the clods of dirt.

The horses were a little skiddish but if anyone can break them in, these guys can. They have plenty of years and experience behind them to get the job done.

The spring harrow in action. Steve is a top-notch horse trainer along with his knowledge of 18th and 19th century farming.

To see real farmers doing the real thing as was done over a century ago is one of the many real historical pleasures that makes Greenfield Village so special. I can (and have) watched them for hours.

And in the end...that's it for my visit to Greenfield Village on Opening Day 2016. I always have such a great time there, and the wearing of period clothing always accents my visits, though I do wear modern clothing there once in a while (when I am in sort of incognito).
But wait---if you act now, you can see two more photographs not seen elsewhere in this post:
Just in time for Patriot's Day: look what I found on Ebay! A Paul Revere figurine and beer stein. Pretty cool, eh? The figurine goes well with my Colonial Williamsburg lighted-house collection (yes, I know it happened in Boston!), and the stein, well, that sits right next to the Old North Church lantern I have.
And, finally, here I am, Colonial Ken, out of time,
wearing a very nifty shirt I purchased from
 1776 United
Oh, and my tricorn hat!

So there you have it, my time celebrating Patriot's Day at Greenfield Village. Though I didn't go on April 19th - I do have to make a living, you know - the spirit of the date was with me. And since I hope to present as Paul Revere (click HERE to learn about my intent on that), it is even more exciting for me to get the word out.
Please do me a favor: even in these trying times, try to remember Patriot's Day and take a moment to either read about the events of that day or watch something about it on TV, for, to me, it's almost as special and important of a date as the 4th of July.
Til next time, see you in time.

If you want to read about the real story of Paul Revere's ride, please check out my post HERE.



Jackie said...

I quite enjoyed this post as well as your enthusiasm for American history. We've been taking our kids to Greenfield Village at least once a month since they've been in a strollers. We see and learn new things every time we go. Friday we got to see 'Paul Revere'!

Kosovo-is-SERBIA said...


Excellent reading and thank you so much for keeping History alive.

Cincinnatus said...

Another excellent post. What a gem you have there in Michigan.