In my opinion, learning history should be an experience - not merely a grade. In science class we teach students by doing hands-on experiments. In writing classes, students read the classics and then aspire to write in a similar vein. In Physical Education (aka "gym class"), students actually take part in the physical activities. And with these direct experiences, students understand the subject matter to a much larger degree than only by reading books, looking at pictures, or listening to a droning lecture.
It is the same with history. Oftentimes when I am at Greenfield Village, I see the excitement in youngster's faces upon watching a horse with a plow, a Model T drive by, an ancient printing press print out typeset copies as was done over a century ago, sheep shearing, and the spinning of wool into yarn. I also see the wonderment in their eyes as they are bearing witness to the old-time activities; the questions they may have of the different objects that might look strange to their modern sensibilities, and the whys & wherefores of the chores of a long ago time before modern technology took over.
It's these children and others like them that we must pull into the world of the past in an engulfing way, for I believe with all my heart that to have a better future, we must know the past...and not just think of it as a passing grade in class, but to understand that it was filled with real people with real feelings of happiness, sadness, love, anxiety, and even pride and loyalty.
And that is one of the main reasons why I do what I do the way I do: to teach, and to teach as historically accurate as I can.
Also, admittedly, there is some self-gratification as well. For it's in this way I, too, can continue to learn, and, thus, teach that much better.
Let's take Patriot's Day, for example.
|Larissa took this shot of me holding|
my new flag - the Liberty and Union
Taunton Flag of 1774/75.
So my own personal way to commemorate the events of Patriot's Day is to dress in period clothing and walk among the few houses in the colonial section of historic Greenfield Village, just feeling the presence of the past. You see, I have to admit, it does give me a very special feeling knowing that I am in and around a home that was already standing at the time of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, during the Intolerable, Townshend, and Stamp Acts, and even the French & Indian War. And also to think that these houses of which I speak - Daggett, Giddings, and Plympton - were in existence during the time of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution, and of the time of the Declaration of Independence; this does something to me that simply cannot be explained. I mean, I have little doubt that discussions involving the topics of the day had taken place inside these walls by those who lived there at the time.
Thus, whether rain or shine, by myself or with others, I do try to do my own personal remembrance of our country's founding and of the Founders. And the three New England homes mentioned above that have been relocated to Michigan's Greenfield Village all have a Revolutionary War connection.
But more on that shortly...
This year it seems my Patriot's Day celebrations have been extended to more than a single day. You might recall that my friend, Larissa, and I formed a partnership we call Our Own Snug Fireside, and under that moniker we travel throughout metro-Detroit and Michigan giving historic presentations, mostly on Colonial and Victorian farm life. But, especially during this spring time of year we frequently get asked to do our Patriots program. This is where folks get to meet and hear the stories of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
And Benjamin Franklin.
Yes, when we 'become' part of the Founders, a third presenter, Bob Stark, joins us.
The best part is, Bob actually looks like who he is portraying. No one actually knows what Sybil Ludington looked like. As for Paul Revere, well, he looked strikingly like Jack Black, but most people do not know that, so I am fairly safe in that end of my representation.
So it was on that historic date of April 18 that the three of us took turns in telling our story. Since I work at the building in which we were presenting, Warren Woods Tower High School, all of the kids knew me very well, so I had a bit of a tougher time convincing them I was no longer "Mr. Ken," but, rather, I was now the most well-known of the midnight riders, Paul Revere.
|Okay kids, today is April 18th, 1775.|
Do you realize the importance of what happened 244 years ago
this very night?
And then I gave a very brief overview of the causes of the Revolutionary War, going back to the French & Indian War leading up to the Stamp Act and the other "acts" for the following eight years, then to the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party up to the night of April 18 of '75, when the moonlight shone bright as dozens of us went out a-riding to warn the towns and villages throughout Massachusetts and beyond of the Regular Army being on the march to Lexington and then to Concord.
Of course, I concentrated on "my" most famous of warning rides, though I did include Williams Dawes, Samuel Prescott, and others who were out that night. "And it worked!" I exclaimed. "The web of couriers alerted thousands of men who came to the aid of their patriot brethren and pushed the Redcoats back to Boston...and then some."
I concluded my talk with a summary of the next day's events - April 19th - and what happened on Lexington Green and in nearby Concord.
But I like to take history a step further:
The flag that I am holding in the picture below is known as the Taunton Flag (of Taunton, Massachusetts) - also known as the Liberty and Union Flag. It came one year after the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and the collective punishment from the British as a result. And let's not forget about the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia as they voiced united opposition to the British Crown and Parliament.
A plan was proposed for a symbol of defiance against British rule. After the Sons of Liberty had forced out American Loyalists from Taunton, they commemorated the event on Friday, October 21, 1774, when the Patriots of Taunton erected a liberty pole, which was 112 feet high, outside of the Taunton Courthouse and the house of Tory Loyalist lawyer Daniel Leonard, of whom was attacked and run out of town.
|On this Liberty Pole, they raised a red ensign with the words |
"Liberty and Union" sewn onto it.
"We have just received the following intelligence from Taunton... A liberty pole as raised. Attached to it was a Union flag with the words Liberty and Union sewed on."
The news spread quickly in Boston newspapers about the Taunton citizens’ act of defiance. The wife of William McKinstry, the only Loyalist permitted to remain in Taunton, expressed her disdain for the flag, and in response female Patriots dragged her from her house and forced her to march in front of the liberty pole where it was flying.
The sympathy for the emotion that the flag showed could have been very dangerous for the citizens. But Taunton showed that it was its own hub of rebellion, and prominent resident, Robert Treat Paine, went on to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Learning about the flags is a history lesson in itself, and the kids seem to enjoy hearing about this one.
There were heroes throughout the colonies in these tumultuous times, including a brave 16 year old girl who actually made a ride in a similar vein as Paul Revere, rallying Patriot soldiers nearly two years to the date of Revere's.
|Please meet Sybil Ludington of Putnam County, New York.|
|She rode all night through dark woods and in the rain, |
covering anywhere from 20 to 40 miles (estimates vary).
Some say the ride of Sybil Ludington is a myth, that it didn't happen, for there is no proof.
In my opinion I feel there is more fact than fiction here to her story. However, statues have been erected in her honor, a postage stamp commemorating her ride was sold by the US Postal Service in 1975 (at the beginning of the Bicentennial), and you can even follow the path she took on the night she rode nearly 250 years ago.
Yeah...I believe there is little doubt to this young lady's accomplishment.
And for our third Patriot presenter we have none other than Dr. Benjamin Franklin himself!
Now, Ben Franklin is a pretty recognizable fellow; his face is on the $100 dollar bill and was once on the half-dollar coin. His likeness is in virtually every American history book, portraits of him hang in public libraries, in schools, and have been emblazoned in the minds of billions throughout the world.
By sight, he is arguably the most famous American in the world.
My friend, Bob, has been blessed - blessed, I tell you! - to have strong similar facial features of this true American Patriot. I mean to say that we cannot go anywhere without someone recognizing him as his historic counterpart.
|At Warren Woods Tower, Dr. Franklin spoke a bit about|
his early life as a candle and soap maker for his father
and as a printer's apprentice (and eventual indentured servant)
with his brother, James.
James Franklin and his friends never caught on. They could not figure out who was writing the Dogood letters!
|Dr. Franklin also told of his experiments with his kite and key.|
Meet the Patriots:
Well, I can tell you first-hand that the kids here have pride and patriotism...and a much clearer understanding of how we became a nation.
And for that I am thankful.
Now, earlier I mentioned how I told the kids to remember what occurred that very evening of our presentation: April 18, 1775.
Well, I certainly remembered, and made my own small commemoration in my own home:
|Around ten o'clock on the evening of April 18,|
I lit two lanterns in honor of the two that "shewn"
in the Old North Church tower 244 years earlier.
And so I do...
Now, it was on the very next day, April 19th, that I continued my commemoration of Patriot's Day, for that was when the Battle of Lexington & Concord occurred, and so I made the trek to historic Greenfield Village to take a Revolutionary War home tour...right here in Dearborn, Michigan.
Yes, in my period clothing.
Please remember, however, I am not, nor have I ever been, an employee of Greenfield Village. I am just a guy who enjoys immersing myself in the past, and there is no better way than the wearing of my mid-to-late 18th century clothing while being in and around homes of the period.
Of course, upon entering Greenfield Village I went directly to the colonial section, where the Plympton House, the Giddings House, and the Daggett House are located. Each of the long past inhabitants of these historic 18th century houses played a role of some sort in the Revolutionary War. I am not fully sure if this was known when each home was brought here from the east coast, but I did find the information in this posting from the on-site Benson Ford Research Center.
Samuel Prescott was one of three riders to head to Concord on that fateful night, the other two being Paul Revere and William Dawes. In fact, he was the only one of the three to make it to that town, for Redcoat scouts prevented Revere & Dawes from completing their desired course. As the scouts captured Revere and chased Dawes, Prescott circled about and headed quickly to Concord, carrying Revere's warning to his townsmen. He entered Concord at approximately 1:30 AM and alarmed Colonel Barrett and the Concord militia. Afterwards, he rode on to Acton and then possibly to Stow. While in Concord he triggered his brother, Abel Prescott, who rode to Sudbury and went directly to the home of Thomas Plympton, the leading Whig in Sudbury, and the town's alarm bell began to ring about 3:30 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning. Warning guns were fired to summon militia companies on the west side of the Sudbury River and also in East Sudbury (now Wayland). Within thirty-five minutes the entire town of Sudbury had been awakened.
|I moved up to the door - the door - that Abel Prescott himself may have pounded upon, awakening the sleeping Thomas Plympton and have him alarm the town of Sudbury that the Regulars were on the march to Concord.|
|As I opened the door, there I saw...the Plymptons... |
at least, I think I saw the Plymptons....
Hmmm....Maybe it's best that I leave.
| For me personally, it is an honor each and every time I pass |
through the doors of this house knowing what occurred back in 1775.
The next stop on my Revolutionary tour on this Patriot's Day is the home of Samuel and Anna Daggett. I can imagine this would be the type of house I would have lived in had I been from this era.
|This break-back home, more commonly referred to as a salt-box house in our modern day, is a must visit for me each and every time.|
Mr. Daggett was also apparently stationed in the State House in New London. In 1774, during a town meeting in Coventry, citizens agreed to a non- importation agreement, which was a formal collective decision made by the local merchants and traders not to import or export items to Britain.
|Samuel Daggett also paid for someone named Jacob Fox to take his son Isaiah's place in military duty. This was so 17-year-old Isaiah could stay home and help tend the farm, not an unheard of practice at the time.|
Another connection to our country's founding!
I must say that I always enjoy standing inside the Daggett house, taking it all in, especially in period clothing, for there is no feeling like it for me. No, not as a presenter (who are amazing, by the way), but simply of the period I am representing.
|The spirits are still within the walls here|
in the Daggett House. No, not ghosts,
necessarily. Just the past itself.
|I spent a bit of time out back inspecting the trellis where the hops |
for beer-making have been planted.
Now, this next picture was taken a year ago, for I was not able to stay at the Village as long as I would have liked to on this Patriot's Day, and since the Giddings House, like the Plympton House, is usually is plexi-glassed off for much of the year, I didn't get pictures of my visit this time around.
|But I have visited this historic home on this special date of April 19th in years past, such as when this photo was taken.|
Here is another picture from the previous year showing me inside the front door of Giddings with two Greenfield Village presenters. I like to think that Gigi, with the firewood in hand, is a servant helping the mistress of the house.However, Gigi was actually working at Daggett on the day this photo was taken. It is wonderful to see the differences between the two homes. There was a time when both Giddings and Daggett would each have period dressed presenters to play off the differences of urban and rural 18th century life. I wish they would bring that back.
|When there are no visitors about, I greatly enjoy interacting with the wonderful presenters of Greenfield Village.|
John Giddings, one of the most active and trusted supporters of the patriotic cause in the Legislature, commanded a company of those who marched from Exeter to Portsmouth to support, if necessary, the party of General Sullivan and Laughdon in the raid upon Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor in December 1774. In 1775, Giddings was nominated for the important appointment of delegate to the Continental Congress, but modestly withdrew his name.
In the book "Rolls and Documents Relating to Soldiers of the Revolutionary War," I found a Captain John Giddings under the "Exeter Account." The documentation at the Benson Ford Research Center confirmed that this was the one and the same John Giddings who built and lived in the house now situated inside Greenfield Village.
There were four other members of the Giddings Family, along with Joseph Pearson (who married a Giddings daughter), who served in the Revolutionary War.
|Yes, my third venture into a Revolutionary War home.|
Again, it is such an honor.
Now the fourth and final American colonial-era home I visited has, as far as I know, no connection to the War.
|The 1780 log cabin was the birthplace of William Holmes McGuffey, who would, beginning in 1836, publish the most popular school text books of the 19th century, The McGuffey Eclectic Reader.|
|Another picture taken the previous year that gives off a nice |
impression of a later 18th century frontier cabin.
|However, I did take this picture on April 19th of this year.|
I also had quite the time on the day before during our school presentation.
There is so much more to history than what the textbooks tell us. Visiting the past and digging deeper to find the untold stories is what helps the world of long ago come to life for me. And then I can share those stories...
Now, just so you are aware, I am still not quite done commemorating Patriot's Day. As I wrote HERE, my Citizens of the American Colonies is hosting, for the first time, a Patriot's Day event at Historic Mill Race Village in Northville, Michigan.
I believe you'll be reading how that turned out in my next posting.
Until next time, see you in time.
To learn more about the Plympton House, please click HERE
To learn more about the Daggett House, please click HERE
To learn more about the Giddings House, please click HERETo learn more about Paul Revere's ride, please click HERE
To learn more about Sybil Ludington's ride, please click HERE
To learn more about William Dawes' ride, please click HERE
To learn about Samuel Prescott and other Midnight Riders, please click HERE
To learn more about the events of April 18th & 19th in 1775, please click HERE
For my post entitled With Liberty & Justice For All, please click HERE
To see an overview of everyday life in the colonies, please click HERE
To visit a year on a colonial farm, please click HERE
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