Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Spirit of '76 Lives On With Citizens of the American Colonies: Visiting Historical Villages on Independence Day

~The spirits of '76~ 
"Where liberty dwells, there is my country."
Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Vaughn, 
March 14, 1783
Picture taken by Charlotte Bauer
There is something to be said about reenacting the colonial past...especially on the 4th of July - Independence Day.
Yes, even during the political turmoil of our modern day, I am patriotic and believe in our great nation. And I love what this holiday stands for, with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it, including the fireworks, the red, white, and blue everywhere I look, the American flags flying in front of houses...yes, I love it all.
And the history...obviously, the history.
One thing that doing living history has taught me over the years is to learn to appreciate just what it is we are celebrating in this country during our patriotic holidays. This happened with me for Memorial Day as well as for Independence Day. Now, please understand, I'm not, by any means, knocking the way people (including myself!) may celebrate, whether it's heading to the beach, camping, being with family and friends for a barbecue, sit by the bonfires at night, and - particularly on the 4th of July - enjoy the exorbitant amount of fireworks that surround us.
This has always been great fun for me, and still is - - -
But now there is an additional reverence I pay, and I hope this posting will convey that.
As reenactors, we certainly live interesting lives, don't we? We can experience times past in ways most folks can't even imagine. It's almost like we've jumped into our history books. Some people think we are totally off our rocker because of our hobby!
I suppose, in a way, we are.
Bonkers, that is.
But then, all the best people are! (Yes, I swiped that from the Alice in Wonderland movie).
Seriously - who else would dress the way we do on steamy hot summer days, right?
Beginning our Independence Day celebrations at Greenfield Village...
Picture taken by Betsy Cushman
It was only a couple years ago that I began a brand-spanking-new reenacting group I called Citizens of the American Colonies. With very few exceptions, this is a group mainly made up of Civil War reenactors who want to add to their living history adventures by spending time in the 18th century. But most of all, as you shall see herein, the members of Citizens of the American Colonies are adventurous and willing to 'take it' to the next level.
When I am out there, in time, I learn that every great day has a story to tell...
Picture taken by Kestrel Bird
I have found one of the best days to enjoy the time-travel experience is on July 4th. You see, Independence Day has become my second favorite holiday; only Christmas garners more anticipation from me. And the more I continue to study our Founding Fathers, the birth of our Nation, and the times they lived in, the more excited I become.
It is the way I now spend this great American Holiday here in the 21st century that has greatly changed from my own past; for nine years now I have spent the glorious fourth by donning appropriate period attire to help me observe and enhance this most patriotic of days while visiting the local historic open-air museums of Greenfield and Mill Race Villages. More often than not, a few living historian friends will join me in this time-travel venture, which heightens all of our patriotic experiences.
So it was off to Greenfield Village early in the morning of July 4. When dressed in 1770s fashions we will spend most of our time in the colonial area of the complex, and today was no different, though on our way to that point we made a quick stop at the Edison Cottage, built by the grandparents of the Thomas Edison. The home is now set up as it may have looked in 1915, very "modern" in comparison to most of the other structures inside Greenfield Village.
Colonials standing in front of a white picket fence near a covered bridge, a weeping willow at hand...Americana 
Fear not: as living historians of the colonial era, we know not to enter a house out of our time, lest anyone think that we do.
After a few quick sketches in the Edison yard, we continued on to the few houses that have been relocated to Greenfield Village that are very acceptable to the way we were dressed, especially the former home of Samuel & Anna Daggett. Now, if you are a regular reader of Passion for the Past and follow my time-travel adventures regularly, you know that I am a frequent visitor of the Daggett homestead, originally built around 1750 in Coventry (now Andover) Connecticut. And it is now considered one of the main points of interest inside this open-air museum, for the presenters here help to bring the period of the Daggetts to life through household chores, crafts, open-hearth cooking, and various other activities, all the while wearing clothing of the later 18th century.
We fit right in:
The break-back style Daggett home (more commonly referred to now as 'saltbox') was very popular architecturally during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In fact, John Adams, 2nd President, was born in a break-back home in Massachusetts, so it seemed fitting for us, on this Independence Day, to enter a house similar in style.
Were they expecting us...?
"Yes, Anna?"
"We have visitors."
From the inside looking out - - picture taken by Kestrel Bird
An interesting fact about Samuel Daggett that I learned while doing research is that he paid for someone named Jacob Fox to take his son Isaiah's place in military duty so that his young 17-year-old offspring could stay home and tend the farm. Coventry sent 116 men to Lexington at the start of the war. The community also sent clothing and supplies to aid the war effort.
Oh! If these walls could talk!
Knowing of the involvement of the Daggetts and the Revolutionary War added greatly to our Independence Day celebration.
The four of us were greeted warmly as we entered the 'great hall.'
The room known as the great hall would not be too far removed from our modern-day living room. Whereas the formal parlor (or 'best' room) was reserved for the closest of friends or maybe a special guest such as the minister, the great hall would have been the room where family and friends of all kinds would congregate for visits, where crafts and tasks such as quilting, spinning and weaving would occur, and, yes, even eating a meal could take place.
Something I never tire of is being inside an 18th century home while wearing clothing of the same period. It just works, you know?
As it was a rather hot and humid day, we soon ventured out to the back garden where we received a lesson in the differing types of plants - all of the heirloom variety - that were planted.
The door off the back kitchen...

Along with the more common vegetables and herbs known in our modern times, this garden is filled with such a variety of heirloom plants as such one never sees or hears about unless in a historic situation. 

Besides the varieties of squash, beans, lettuce, asparagus, and other vegetables used to help sustain the family, Anna Daggett would have also grown plants for medical purposes as well, including wormwood, which was a purgative for stomach issues or worms, tansy was used to stop bleeding and bruising, and chamomile, which was used, same as it is today, to make a calming tea.

I never cease to learn something with each visit to the Daggett Farm. But time waits for no man (or woman), so we had to take our leave. There was one more place to visit here before heading to another historic village.

Good day to you. We must take our leave now.

If it weren't for the modern-style brick wall, this would be an almost perfect colonial picture, for we see, on the left, an exact replication of Independence Hall. Next we see the Farris Windmill (built in 1633 in Cape Cod) which, we are told, is the oldest windmill in the United States. The gray building on the right is the Daggett House, and the red building in the distance is our next stop - - 
The Plympton House has such a wonderfully patriotic history, and what better day to remember this than on Independence Day?
'Twas between 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning of April 19, 1775, that an express came from Concord to Thomas Plympton Esq., who was then a member of the Provincial Congress, and was told that the British Regular Army were on their way to Concord. The sexton was immediately called on the bell ringing and the discharge of Musket, which was to give the alarm. By sunrise the greatest part of the inhabitants were notified. The morning was remarkably fine and the inhabitants of Sudbury never can make such an important appearance probably again.
"Pardon me, but Master Plympton is not here. If you are looking to join the militia, young man, 'twill be best for you to head to town where the other boys are preparing to go into Concord."
Thomas Plympton also had a Revolutionary War son, Ebenezer Plympton. Ebenezer is listed on the muster role as a private in Captain Aaron Haynes' Company of Militia (North Militia 1775) which was part of an Alarm Company that marched to Cambridge by Concord during the Lexington Alarm on the nineteenth of April, 1775. He was also part of Captain Asahel Wheeler's company in 1777.
In other words, this Plympton House sitting inside Greenfield Village has direct connections to not only the Revolutionary War itself, but to the very beginnings of it: the Battle of Lexington & Concord!
Oh the history one can find by digging a little deeper than a simple placard sign...
By the way, the information about the Daggett and Plympton Houses here came from the Benson Ford Research Center, located on the same campus as Greenfield Village.

Jennifer walks along the stream
that borders Mill Race Village
Our next stop in celebrating our Nation's birth: Historic Mill Race Village. Mill Race is located in the Detroit suburb of Northville and was initially created back in 1972 by the Northville Historical Society. It is built upon land donated to the City of Northville by the Ford Motor Company. Originally the site of the city's first gristmill (hence the name Mill Race), it is now home to 11 historic structures, all from the general surrounding area of Northville. Unfortunately, the original gristmill, built in 1827 - and its successor, built in 1847 - were razed nearly a hundred years ago. However, the 11 buildings now situated here have been beautifully preserved for future generations. If you have not been, you would do yourself well by visiting, and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised of the top quality this open-air museum is.
And it's here where, for the past two years, Citizens of the American Colonies members have celebrated Independence Day.
2017 was the first time my reenacting group came here for this birthday bash, which has been celebrated annually for decades, and there were less than a half-dozen of us, but we certainly had a wonderful time. You see, for Mill Race Village, Independence Day spans from the early colonies through the 20th century - a time-line - so we did fit in with the plan.
Well, after the great time last year, I knew that my group wanted to come back and do it again. However, this year was going to be different for me; my Citizens of the American Colonies group was, for the first time since forming in 2016, formally invited as living historians to help pay tribute to the founders of our great country.
Now, I have to tell you, after building this Independence Day event up for a few weeks on our Facebook page, I was so very excited and proud at how many members showed up - especially the numerous first-timers!
Ladies & Gentlemen, please meet the crazy and fun members of Citizens of the American Colonies (& friends).
Are we not excited to celebrate Independence Day at Mill Race Village?
You bet we are!!
After the day had ended, all said they had an amazing good time.
And, as Rae is pointing out in the picture below, we had our name on a large sign:
It was very kind of the good folks at Mill Race to allow Citizens of the American Colonies use of the Cady Inn, which was originally built around 1835 (according to the Mill Race guide book). Yeah...I know that 1835 is nearly 60 years into the future for us, but most inns/taverns from the 19th century can easily pass for a publick house of the 18th century, as you can see in the photos here.
Picture courtesy of Rae Bucher
Now, please understand, I realize that women and men, for the most part, did not usually mix and mingle inside of a tavern in the 18th century. But since we had a rather large showing of our group participate in this event, well, we certainly wanted to enjoy each other's company on such an occasion!
Taverns were the pulse of 18th century urban life, and their importance to the local community cannot be overstated. Taverns were also the main source of information for the locals. These "publick houses" (or 'ordinaries,' as they were also known) have played an important part in social, political, and even military life.

By the 1760s and 1770s, the ordinaries were the rendezvous for those who believed in the Patriot cause and listened to the stirring words of American rebels, who mixed dark treason to King George with every bowl of punch they drank. 

The story of our War for Independence could not be dissociated from the old taverns, for they are a part of our national history, and those which still stand are among our most interesting Revolutionary relics.

Charlotte is a long-time Civil War reenactor, but this was first time coming out as a colonial and she decided she wanted to be a tavern wench. She looked great! 

Toddy (hot toddy), flip, and other drinks were generously passed around until, tired and worn out from the long trip and long talks, the new arrivals gradually retired to their rooms.

Rae was one of the very first members of Citizens of the American Colonies. She was "in" from the first time I mentioned it to her nearly a year before I actually formed it. She came to our first meeting and also participated in our initial "outing" as a group. 

Susan has also been a participating member of our new group from very early on. By early 2017 she had her dress made and wore it at our second group meeting. 
Bob, who presents as Benjamin Franklin (pretty obvious, eh?), was present at that first meeting back in spring of 2016. Though he is a member of my group, as well as another, he reenacts many times as an independent. So he sorta has his hands in three different baskets, you might say! 
But we love having him a part of our Citizens group.

Lynn has been involved in history in various ways for many, many years, especially in historical fashion, which covers the gamut from early colonial through the 1970s, as well as reenacting. I was pleased when she mentioned that she was interested in presenting as Betsy Ross, the possible/probable first stars and stripes flag maker. She has been researching the widow Ross for quite some time and has her "pro" arguments ready for discussion, though she does agree that there is no positive proof either way.
Lynn was with me during my own first-time colonial outing back in 2014 when we went to Greenfield Village to celebrate Patriot's Day in April of that year, and though she was not at the first meeting of Citizens of the American Colonies, she did sign up as a member early on. However, this event just may have been her very first showing as an actual member!  
Set up in her own little spot near the fireplace of the Cady Inn, Lynn, as Betsy Ross, spent much of her time speaking to the public about the flag and her thoughts on the possible role Mrs. Ross played in the making of it.
General Washington inspects the flag to ensure it's as he intended.

As I have mentioned earlier, women, especially unaccompanied women, were generally not seen inside a tavern unless they were working.  
We'll just say that our ladies here were traveling with their husbands to witness a reading of some sort of declaration while a-waiting for the coach to arrive. 
All except Charlotte on the left, who works at the inn.

Heather also presented herself as a barmaid. This is her (I believe) 2nd outing as a member of our reenacting group. 

I had purchased replicated period 18th century coins to add to some of the realism. 
I would like to expand on this tavern scenario in hopes of making the Cady Inn come alive as a real 1770s-style ordinary at our next outing to Mill Race Village.

Here are a few of the period accessories I brought along to add to the air of authenticity, including playing cards, a game called "Shut the Box," a copy of the pamphlet "Common Sense," my 13 star flag, lantern, a clay pipe, and money.
Oh! There's my cocked hat and tankard, too..

So let us travel out among the villagers and see what all of the excitement is about.
Here I am with my good friend Jackie. Jackie is a long-time Civil War reenactor, and this was her very first time ever as a colonial. And she loved it!
Doesn't she look great?

As you may have read in my previous posting, a friend of mine presented himself as George Washington for the first time a few weeks back at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne. Well, I was telling him about this 4th of July Mill Race event and do you want to know what he did? He drove from his home in Fort Wayne, Indiana all the way to Northville - around three hours! - to help us celebrate our colonial Independence Day!
Bob, who, as General Washington, came as my special guest, did a wonderful job interpreting as the Father of our Country. And, just like a few weeks back, visitors knew exactly who he was representing upon seeing him.
We also have my friend Karen, here. Karen belongs to the Ottawa Long Rifles reenacting group, but she is also a Citizens member as well and has come out with us a few times.
Then we have have my friend Tony, who heads up the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment.
In fact... son Robbie is also part of Tony's unit.
A wealth of Revolutionary War knowledge...
So members and special guests of Citizens of the American Colonies spent the afternoon, roaming, mingling, and just generally became a part of the colonial populace of Mill Race Village. A long-time participant of this event said to me, "There has never been this level of 18th century participation all the years I've attended!"
That is a good thing, yes?
Imagine...strolling along a lane...and finding these two young ladies taking a breather from their day's chores...

Of which visiting with friends, on this sultry day, is of utmost priority!

Benjamin Franklin was much loved and respected, even in his own time, 
especially in France where he was like, what we would call, 
a rock star.
And yet he was popular here at home as well. 

The ladies spot Dr. Franklin!

And, of course, they swarm around him, a-waiting to hear his 
stories of science and of his time in France.

Of course, Dr. Franklin seems not to be too bothered by his admirers.
Notice that some of the pictures here have the B & K Photography watermark upon them...Beth and Kevin do an amazing job taking pictures at our reenactments - click the above link - and they have graciously allowed me to post them on my blog pages. A big THANK YOU to you both!
Sir! That is such a queer apparatus you have there!

Meet Amy and her daughter, Kylie. 
They, too, are new members to our organization and, like a few others on this day, are enjoying their first time out as colonials.

A Tale of Two Kens:
As we crossed the replicated Concord Bridge, we both could have sworn we saw Redcoats in the trees and brush.
To arms!
We guided the sites of our muskets to the spot where we had seen them...

Alas, it was not the King's Army as we had thought.
Lucky for them...

(though we did spot a member of the 42nd Highlanders milling about):

Now, how can you have an Independence Day celebration with a bunch of colonials and not have a reading of the Declaration of Independence?
The director of this event and I felt that way as well, so we worked out a plan to have this most important document read, but not just read by anyone - - nope----but to give the honors to one of the writers, Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
Since every picture tells a story, let's look at a few taken during the presentation and reading of the Declaration.
Yes, I do interpret as Paul Revere, and, yes, it's true that Mr. Revere had nothing to do with the actual Declaration of Independence.
So what the heck am I doing here with a copy of it?
Well, I am giving a little bit of a background of how it all came to be (which is explained HERE). I also show where, for the first time on any official document, we are now considering ourselves The United States of America.
This is a copy of the first printing printed by John Dunlap, who spent the afternoon and evening of July 4th and into July 5th typesetting and printing about 200 copies to be distributed throughout the colonies...and even to King George III in England!
I then introduced to the waiting public one of the writers of the Declaration, Dr. Benjamin Franklin:
Dr. Franklin began reading the opening lines:
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another..."
And as he continued to read, he looked up to the audience and...
...began to carefully roll the document up as he continued to recite the words written by he, Jefferson, Adams, Livingston, and Sherman.
In other words, Dr. Franklin has the entire Declaration of Independence memorized!
When it came time for the twenty seven grievances against King George, Franklin gave General Washington the opportunity to read them: 
The History of the Present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. 
He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, 
without the consent of our Legislature.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior 
to the Civil Power...

For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders 
which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:
For imposing taxes on us without our Consent...
And the General continued until each grievance was read.
And then Franklin completed the recitation, ending with great applause and the stomping of feat by members of the audience.
In the photographs here we see only 18th century folk sitting in the seats, for we did a few posed shots, but there were many modern visitors in the audience as well, some hearing the Declaration in its entirety for the first time. It was easy to see they were moved by it. I believe I speak for most, if not all, of the members of Citizens of the American Colonies when I say this was a definite highlight of our Independence Day celebration.

So, as you can tell by the pictures, we had a wonderful time bringing the founding generation - the spirits of 1776 - back to life. And even better was hearing the excitement of so many who had never been to Mill Race Village to witness the Independence Day celebration here before, especially from my friends who had read my posts advertising it on Facebook and decided to come on a lark.
One of the things I enjoy doing, whether I am reenacting colonial or with my Civil War unit, is to take group pictures. This event at Mill Race has been the largest assembly of my Citizens of the American Colonies living history organization, and I am just so proud and happy that we made such a good showing. 
Strike a pose - - - - - - -
Heather and yours truly...

I see Lauren up front, and Ken & Susan
in the background

Rae and Jackie and Ken...with a bit of Bob and Lauren.

Amy's daughter, Kylie, my son Robbie, Rae, and Jackie up front,
and I see Bob (Washington) and a part of another Bob (Franklin) in back. 
And we had an absolutely fantastic time!
And here is our group picture!
All but three are bonafide members of the Citizens of the American Colonies (though one is considering joining). And of our members, nine are also Civil War reenactors.
I am so proud and happy to have such a turn out!

I certainly hope you enjoyed this journey to America's colonial past. Oh, I know I'm looking at the colonist's world through rose-colored glasses - it was a holiday - a celebration - and therefore we kept it on the lighter side. And on such a day I'm not going to reenact the past and be miserable, for I have my own era in which to do that! I want my time *there* to be more on the upbeat side of life.
Yet, we try to be accurate in what we teach and authentic in the way we teach it, utilizing the best we have at hand.
No matter what we do or how we do it, I hope to continue to improve in my attempts to recreate more realism in the things we do. I don't know...maybe we can work out doing strictly a colonial event at Mill Race Village sometime...and if so, you know I will announce it, so stay tuned!

Until next time, see you in time...

~   ~   ~

Besides the pictures taken with my camera, either by me or any number of other people (most notably Beth Roossien), I would like to give many thanks to the photographers who also contributed and allowed me to use their images to help illustrate this week's posting:
Cyndi Carlson
Charlotte Bauer
Lynn Anderson
Jennifer Long
Rae Bucher

More Independence Day postings of mine:
~The Printing of the Declaration of Independence HERE
Some of the unsung heroes of the Revolutionary War: the men who risked life and limb to typeset and print this broad side that declared independence from Kin George III

~The story behind the Declaration HERE
My visit with Dr. Benjamin Franklin and the stories he had to tell about how the Declaration of Independence came to be.

~Everyday Life for the Common Folk during the time of the Declaration HERE
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies. And I do mean "pictorial," for there are over 80 photos included, covering nearly every aspect of colonial life.
I try to touch on most major topics of the period with links to read more detailed accounts.
This just may be my very favorite of all my postings.

~Lexington & Concord from those who were there HERE
Diaries, journals, letters, newspapers/broadsides, remembrances...this is what I used to garner these very personal stories from those who were there - actual witnesses, men & women, of the Battle of Lexington & Concord.
Their tales will draw you into their world.

~Travel and Tavern Life HERE
The long air-conditioned (or heated) car ride. Motels without a pool! Can we stop at McDonalds? I'm hungry!
Ahhhh....modern travelers never had it so good.
I've always had a fascination of travel back in the day, and I decided to find out as much as I could about them.
I wasn't disappointed - - - I dug through my books, went to a historic research library, 'surfed the net' (does anyone say that anymore?), and asked docents who work at historic taverns questions, looking for the tiniest bits of information to help me to understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in the colonial times.
This post is the culmination of all of that research, and it made me realize just how much our country's founding relied upon the tavern.

For a basic guide to purchase men's colonial clothing (and more), please check out my post called Clothing Fashion, Hair, and Language for the Colonial Man

One of the sources of information about Betsy Ross came from THIS site, as well as the book Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla Miller.
There are also a number of other reputable web sites available on the subject with the best giving both the pros and the cons on whether or not she did (since this post is not necessarily about Mrs. Ross, I have chosen to mostly supply the pros). To read a very good point/counter-point article, please click HERE.
Evaluate the circumstantial evidence
And to read a very good point/counter-point article, please click HERE

As for next year...
...please come out to Mill Race Village and pay the 
Citizens of the American Colonies a visit, won't you?

~   ~   ~

1 comment:

Historical Ken said...

From Facebook:
David -
"Never expected Michigan to look so much like the eastcoast colonies."