Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Spending Time in an 18th Century Summer

The farther back in time we go,  the more difficult it is to find information.
So we use what we have...

Summertime:  the 4th of July celebrations,  the beach,  barbecues,  vacations,  summer camps,  
shorts and sandals,  the ice cream truck...
For those of us in the north country,  we look forward to summertime probably more than any from other parts of our country,  for we begin to bundle up for the winter season as early as  October and stay that way,  for the most part,  until May.  But summer is the time to let loose - to get out and be free!
That is...unless you are living in the 18th century.
Let's begin in the city,  then we'll find our way to the farm.


Hot is hot,  and come June,  July,  and August the summer heat in the lower 49 can be stifling at times,  including here in southern Michigan  (like it is as of this writing).  My younger self kept the heat away by swimming in Lake Huron,  wearing my t-shirt,  cut-offs,  and going bare footed...that was it---that's always been the summer way and fashion I wore growing up in the 1960s,  '70s and '80s.
It was my way to keep cool while we were having fun all summer long.
Like today,  swimming in a pond,  stream,  or lake was not uncommon in the 18th century,  and neither was dressing for the temperature,  which was one of the most important means of beating the heat.  Just as the family had seated itself as close to the fire as possible all winter to keep warm,  it now moved closer to windows and doorways in an attempt to breathe in cool air.
A traveler in the early 1730s described the summer clothing of Virginians:  "In Summertime even the gentry goe Many in White Holland  (linen)  Wast Coat and drawers and a thin Cap on their heads and Thread stockings  (knitted linen).  The Ladyes Strait laced in thin Silk or Linnen."
A Colonial Williamsburg stroll on a summer morn in late June.
I was in unlined linen,  my wife in cotton.
During this time of year,  men often wore unlined coats and thin waistcoats of cotton or linen fabrics.  Advising his brother about what to wear when he attended the College of William and Mary,  Stephen Hawtrey,  in 1765,  wrote,  "Your Cloathing in summer must be as thin and light as possible for the heat is beyond your conception . . .your Cloth suit unlined may do for the Month of May,  but after that time you must wear the thinnest Stuffs that can be made without lining.  some people . . . wear brown holland  (linen)  Coats with lining –some Crape –You must carry with you a Stock of Linnen Waistcoats made very large and loose,  that they may'nt stick to your hide when you perspire."
A key here is they wore natural fibers:  linens,  wools,  and even cottons.  That makes a difference,  for polyester,  nylon,  rayon,  and other modern synthetics tend to hold the heat.  It's true.  That's why when I remove my period clothing upon returning home from a reenactment I usually put on a cotton t-shirt instead of one made of modern synthetics.
Visiting while sitting  'neath a shade tree is one of the best ways to beat the heat.

In the early 1780s,  Gentry woman Sarah Fouace Nourse wrote in her diary about a particularly hot day while in Virginia.  So hot,  in fact,  that after dinner and before tea she stayed in her breezy room and wore nothing but a petticoat - not even her stay!  On even hotter days she would go into the basement for relief,  where she could be found taking meals and working.
(THIS site)
Both the photograph above  (taken by Lynn Anderson)  and below have 
good examples of summer wear for a variety of classes.
Above you see a farming couple wearing the linen clothing to 
help beat the heat.  Larissa,  while working 
in the sun,  would have also worn a straw hat.
Below is my alter-ego  'of a higher class'  with friends at the 
Giddings House,  home of an 18th century shipping merchant.

Then there was summertime travel.  In the present time,  traveling by train,  plane,  or automobile is usually a quite pleasurable experience,  with music from the radio to help the driver stay awake,  passengers can sometimes view a movie,  and then the air-conditioning is blowing,  keeping everyone cool.  Now,  compare that to 18th century travel  (from Alice Morse Earle,  one of the first historians of American everyday life):
There were days in July,  in midsummer,  when in spite of the beauties of Nature,  the journey by stagecoach on the unwatered roads was not a thing of pleasure.  Whether on  "inside"  or  "outside,"  the traveller could not escape the dust,  nor could he escape the fervor of the July sun.  And when the eye turned for relief  to green pastures, and roadsides,  there was reflected back to him the heated gold of the sunlight,  for the fields flamed with yellow and gold color.
Feel the heat.
18th century Springhouse
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
As far as refrigeration goes,  for centuries,  people preserved and stored their food — especially milk and butter,  fresh meat,  fish,  even fruits  and vegetables— in cellars,  outdoor window boxes or even underwater in nearby lakes,  streams or wells.  Or perhaps they stored food in a springhouse,  where cool running water from a stream trickled under or between shelved pans and crocks.
But even these methods could not prevent rapid spoilage,  since pasteurization was not yet known and bacterial infestation was rampant.  It was not unusual in colonial days to die of  “summer complaint”  due to spoiled food during warm weather.
Food preservation also used time-tested methods:  salting,  spicing,  smoking,  pickling and drying.
Though not common for most,  late 18th century wealthy citizens were building elaborate ice houses.  George Washington spent several seasons developing an efficient ice house at Mount Vernon,  one that was designed by James Madison.

You may recall a posting I wrote on 18th century Springtime and all of it's chores,  including a thorough spring cleaning as well as preparations for the coming year.  (Please take a few minutes to read it if you haven't,  for it is a wonderful lead-in to today's post)
This deep cleaning was one of the most important chores of the calendar year,  even back in the 1700s.  The women scoured the entire home from top to bottom and left no stone unturned.  Though it may not had been called  "spring cleaning"  at the time,  all of my research material tends to agree there was most likely a  "turning out of the winter dirt"  when warmer weather finally hit after months of winter - an annual ritual as we know it to be,  if only by action and not by name.
One of the items that I did not mentioned in my spring posting is the cleaning of the fireplace.  This is due,  in part,  to cool weather striking as late as the end of May or early June.  So,  in many cases,  this chore would be put off til the last minute.
Just look at that fireplace!
But once the sultry heat of summer came and remained,  it was time for that chore to be taken care of,  which included emptying ashes,  having the hearth thoroughly scrubbed,  and then cleaning the andirons and shovel & tongs,  which could glow from an  "honest rubbing."  The black pots and copper kettles would have been cleaned inside and out and hooked onto the swinging frame,  while the toaster and waffle-irons would hang on the side of the fireplace.  And then to close up fireplaces with wooden fireboards.
However,  they would not have closed up the kitchen hearth, 
for there were meals to be prepared.

Then there was the everyday eternal grime and the odor of chamber pots.  Tucked beneath a bed,  usually with a lid,  the chamber pot was where one did their,  shall we say,  duty not usually mentioned very often in history classes,  but,  being humans,  had to be done.  I remember being told that it was the youngest family member's job to take care of the chamber pots in the morning,  providing they could handle it without spillage,  dumping it far from the house and then cleaning it up before replacing it back under the beds.  Whether this is true or a myth,  I cannot prove either way,  but I thought it at least worth a mention.
Some homes may also have had a necessary house located outdoors where one could  "go."
In a world before plumbing,  it was the water bucket that was used to wash up in,  though some of the more well-to-do may have had a wash basin as well.
Bathing was not done regularly in the modern sense.  "There was not the slightest sign of  erers  (pitchers),  lavers  (a basin,  bowl,  or cistern to wash in),  nor of pails and tubs"  in the furnishings of bedchambers before 1800,  wrote Alice Morse Earle.  "This conspicuous absence speaks with a persistent and exceedingly disagreeable voice of the unwashed condition of our ancestors."
Jack Larkin writes,  "Bathing came to America in the 1790s when rich city families began to follow the practice of the British aristocracy."

The heat of summer only added greatly to the discomfort to this 1700s generation,  who had no knowledge of the distant future with electric fans and air conditioning comforts.  The cooling down opportunities were slim,  aside from a jump in the pond or a nearby stream,  and one was compelled to keep their doors and windows shut tight to make the attempt to keep the winged pests so prominent on hot summer days out.  Those pesky flies,  attracted to the wonderful aromas of fruit and food wafting through the open screen-less kitchen window,  were seemingly given an invitation to come and eat.  Covering food with cloth was a common way to keep the flies off,  though once they found their way inside the home,  they multiplied and swarmed throughout.  Many times the youngest children made a game of waving feather-fans about the kitchen to keep the food protected.
The variety of insects only made the heat of a summer night even more unbearable,  therefore making sleep nearly non-existent.  With summertime bringing an invasion of the flying  (and crawling)  insects,  there was little defense.  On these sultry nights,  our ancestors suffered with flies and mosquitoes with far greater difficulty than we do in our modern day.  Garbage and human waste all highly contributed to the factor of an over-abundance of these pests,  as did the large number of horses and other livestock that were so prevalent in nearly all walks of life at the time.
The extinguishing of any light from the candles proved to be necessary as well  "for if you do not,  you will find yourself eaten up by mosquitoes."
But,  if you preferred to have some light,  be prepared;  Mary Almy wrote on a hot August night in 1778,  "frightful dreams and broken slumbers,  listening to the noise of a fly or mosquito as they hummed around a candle."
However,  there was some solace:  at times,  there were those who could afford to use twenty or more yards of mosquito netting or pavilion gauze to cover beds and cribs.  According to descriptions from the time,  these pavilions looked like  "a transparent bonnet box"  or a  "kind of box without a bottom"  and were made of coarse open canvas,  silk,  gauze,  or check muslin,  some with varying assortments of designs.
18th century pavilion gauze
"The curtains of our beds are now supplied by mosquito's nets,"  wrote Janet Shaw in the 1770's.  "Fanny has got a neat or rather elegant dressing room,  the settees of which are canopied over with green gauze,  and on these we lie panting for breath and air,  dressed in a single muslin petticoat and short gown."
Some women in the deep south went so far as to actually wear the pavilion gauze:  "Many ladies are accustomed,  during the summer months,  to get into a large sack of muslin tied around the throat,"  wrote Harriet Martineau,  "with smaller sacks for the arms,  and to sit thus at work or book,  fanning themselves to protect their faces.  Others sit all the morning on the bed,  within their moscheto-curtains."
Some folks would at times place this sort of covering on their windows as blinds or a sort of screen.  In this way they kept the the heat and glare of the sun out,  as well as protected their carpets and furnishings from fading.
But all of these precautions to prevent the pests from entering,  however, did not always work,  as James Stewart found out.  "I,  again and again,  found that the enemy had broken through the protecting curtain,  and had not left me altogether uninjured."
Alice Grey Emory Wilmer recalled,  "At night the mosquitoes whined around the netting which kept them and whatever vestige of air that might be moving from our beds."
Flies also added to the general filth of houses,  which in summertime had flyspecks everywhere:  on furniture,  walls,  and curtains.  Without screens,  keeping bugs out of the kitchen and dairyroom/buttery was next to impossible.
And with the constant work in the fields,  barnyard,  kitchen garden,  pigsties,  and barn,  keeping farmhouses tidy with a broom,  bucket,  and mop  was a losing battle because dirt and grime was constantly brought in,  continuously attracting the bugs.  Add to the battle against the filth all of the other household duties,  like cooking,  preserving,  food,  making butter and cheese,  sewing and mending,  and caring for the children,  modern folk may get a sense of how unmanageable housekeeping might have seemed to a woman of the time.  But she was an amazing person and could handle what was thrown her way.
Hopefully,  she had daughters.

The chores of the rural farm family,  of which nearly 90% of the 18th century population were,  changed with each coming season.
One must understand that farmers were respected as honest,  hard workers who provided for their families.  Many early American leaders firmly believed farming was the most virtuous and respectable way of life and should remain the most important sector of the nation's economy.  This sentiment was agreed upon by Founding Fathers and future presidents as George Washington,  John Adams,  and Thomas Jefferson.
This picture was taken on June 21st - the first day of summer,  
and that means summer's here and the time is right for caring 
for the farm crop and kitchen garden planted earlier in the spring. 
Weeding?  Yes,  everyday.
For the laborer,  in the heat of summer,  most of the work would be taken care of in the early part of the morning rather than in the middle of the day;  our ancestors were smart and knew that doing the most arduous labor would be best either before noon or after sunset,  and they thought nothing of working by the light of the moon,  especially the farmers.
Tomorrow may rain so I'll follow the sun...
June is the month when the sun is at its zenith,  the time of year with long daylight,  up to 15 hours long.  So,  with artificial light in the 18th century being a luxury,  people were used to working by daylight while indoors.  Lighting a candle when the sun was up was rare,  only occurring on those occasional dark days with thick clouds or even fog.  It was customary for folks to move from room to room to get the most out of the day's light from the windows.  Generally,  candles were lit only during the nighttime hours,  and sparingly so,  due to the lengthy candle-making process.  According to one of the chandlers I spoke to at Colonial Williamsburg,  a typical middle class home in the 1750's could go through nearly 500 to 700 candles a year.  And that may even be a conservative amount for some,  depending on their living situation.  However,  with much of May through most of August having the longest period of daylight -  in June,  especially,  the sun rises around 4:30 am and sets about 8:45 pm  (no daylight saving time)  -  candles might not have been used at all,  for,  according to historian Jack Larkin,  most people generally went to bed around 9 or 10,  which could make a home nearly candleless for those few months.   Of course,  they would obviously use more artificial light in the darker months of winter.

We think of strawberry season in June,  but the fruit didn't really take hold in America until the end of the 18th century.  Instead the colonials were anxious for their first greens to begin popping up through the ground,  such as lettuce and asparagus.  Radishes might be peaking up as well.
June saw meat poultry coming along nicely,  though they aren't quite big enough to eat yet.  But the laying hens are going gang-busters.
The milk and dairy operation,  including the dairy cows and their calves,  as well as the dairy house,  where the milk was processed into butter or cheese,  all came under the dominion of the housewife,  with help from the child old enough and strong enough.  Women would also help with calving,  tending the cows when they were sick or injured,  and were involved in their daily care.  Cows were milked twice a day,  and sometimes,  during periods of high production,  even a third time.  Milking the cows was physically demanding and time consuming.  The task required strong hands,  wrists,  and back,  and milking could take as little as ten minutes or as much as a half hour.
Sometimes the dairy was a room off the kitchen,  or a stand alone outbuilding.  Here the milk would be strained by pouring it into shallow pans to allow the cream to rise,  then the cream would be skimmed off to be churned into butter or to make cheese.  Though little of the milk was consumed as a liquid,  all was used.
And the work was relentless.   Elizabeth Phelps felt the strength of this obligation on a June Saturday in 1801:
About 3 in the morning I wak'd with the sick headache,  grew worse,  puk'd a number of times---but knew I must get up,  which I did towards 6---skim'd my milk,  being oblig'd to stop,  go to the door & puke a number of times---but at last got my cheese set,  could do no more,  took to my bed.
(Photo taken off Pinterest with no link of where it originated from - 
and no response from my queries~)
Because they provided milk and offspring which supplied meat,  tallow,  horn,  and labor,  cows were an important  "commodity"  for the farm family.  And it must be said that managing a dairy carried with it an abundance of work:
weaning calves,  selling veal,  making sure the cows were well-stripped of milk,  straining milk,  scrubbing and scalding milk pails,  washing the milk pans and straining cloths,  setting milk for butter or cheese,  skimming cream,  churning,  "working"  butter,  exchanging milk,  making cheese,  and cleaning out the buttery at the beginning and end of each season.
The yoke would have been used to carry milk to the house or water from the well to the garden and fields,  for piping was almost unknown.  Two buckets were as easy to carry as one,  because of the counterbalance of weight.  Every farming household would have one or more neck yokes,  similar to what is seen in the photograph below.
The cows or goats are giving lots of milk,  
so a yoke would be the best way to carry the two buckets full.
Idle hands are the devil's workshop,  as the old adage goes,  and there was little time for idleness on an 18th century farm!
Sarah Emery,  born in 1787,  acknowledged in her book,  Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian,  which contains descriptions of many aspects of life in the family homestead,  that what she had written was  "chiefly derived from the recollections of my mother;  but recitals by my father,  grandparents,  and other deceased relatives..."
Her remembrance of a typical day with her family in her 18th century youth are,  to me,  a vision of the past - an actual vision of the past - that puts flesh on the bones of the people from an era of nearly 250 years ago:
In those summer days,  when my recollection first opens,  mother and aunt Sarah rose in the early dawn,  and taking the well-scoured wooden pails from the bench by the back door,  repaired to the cow yard behind the barn.  We owned six cows;  my grandmother four.  Having milked the ten cows,  the milk was strained,  the fires built,  and breakfast prepared.  Many families had milk for this meal, but we always has coffee or chocolate,  with meat and pototoes.  
The milk being from the ten cows,  my mother made cheese four days,  Aunt Sarah having the milk the remainder of the week.  In this way,  good-sized cheeses were obtained.  The curd having been broken into the basket,  the dishes were washed,  and unless there was washing or other extra work,  the house was righted.  By the time this was done,  the curd was ready for the  (cheese)  press....After dinner the cheeses were turned and rubbed.
Next came the preparations for dinner,  which was on the table punctually at twelve o'clock.  In the hot weather we usually had boiled salted meat and vegetables,  and,  if it was baking day,  a custard or pudding.  If there was linen whitening on the grass,  as was usual at this season,  that must be sprinkled.  
Working in the coolest room of the house~
In the sultry August afternoons mother and aunt Sarah usually took their sewing to the cool back room,  whose shaded door and windows over-looked the freshly mown field,  dotted by apple trees.  My grandmother,  after her afternoon nap,  usually joined her daughters,  with a pretense at knitting,  but she was not an industrious old lady.  There was no necessity for work;  and if idle hours are a sin,  I fear the good woman had much to answer for...she beguiled the time  (by joining in)  the harmless gossip of some neighboring women...
At five o'clock the men came in from the field,  and tea was served.  The tea things washed,  the vegetables were gathered for the morrow,  the linen taken in,  and other chores done.  At sunset the cows came from the pasture.  Milking finished and the milk strained,  the day's labor was ended.  The last load pitched on the hay mow,  and the last hay cock turned up,  my father and the hired man joined us in the cool back room,  where bowls of bread and milk were ready for those who wished the refreshment.  At nine o'clock the house was still,  the tired hands gladly resting from the day's toil.  Except for the busiest of hay season,  my father went regularly once a week to the neighboring seaport town,  taking thither a load of farm produce.  For years he supplied several families and stores with butter,  cheese,  eggs,  fruit and vegetablesThese market days were joyful epochs for me,  as at his return I never failed to receive some little gift,  usually sent by some of our  "Port"  relatives and friends.
Summer plowing

Today we think little of our foodstuffs if there is a drought.  Oh,  we may pay more at the cash register,  but we know that we will not starve.  But for the farmer of the 18th century,  starvation could have been a reality if his crops did not come in.
From the diary of Mary Cooper:
June 29,  1769 Thursday - Extremely hot and dry.  Every thing is all most redy to perrish for want of rain.
Luckily it did rain the following day.
The kitchen garden is flourishing.
It also needs constant care.
What was planted in the fields and in the kitchen garden in springtime have really take hold in June.  From the Noah Blake diary,  June 24,  1805:
"Worked in the garden today and pruned in the orchard.  Found many of the apple and pear trees with insects."
Now,  just how did one rid their trees of such insects without modern repellent?
Well,  if we read on in the diary we can learn one way,  for inside the original diary there were folded papers,  including one with a recipe  "to destroy Insects on Fruit trees:"
Take a shovelsfull of soot,  one of Quick Lime,  mixed together;  take some of this and put it windward of the tree,  and sprinkle some water upon it,  when a great quantity of Gas will be evolved,  which ascending into the Tree will destroy Insects,  without injury to the Plant,  as it rather helps vegetable life.

The days are long and hot now.  This was about the time for haying.
On July 16th,  Noah Blake wrote,  "Good haying weather.  Father and I worked in the field and we began building a rick."
The alfalfa,  clover,  and timothy hay mixture reaches its knee-high height about now,  and just as the clover and alfalfa plants begin to flower,  it's time to cut the hay.  By hand with a scythe,  the farmer headed to the hay field.
Help was often needed for haying.  Many of the men from town would help in haying as necessary.  Through this work many debts could be paid off.  As noted in the book,  Tidings From the 18th Century by Beth Gilgun:  "Someone might pay the cordwainer for his new shoes or the tailor for a new great coat by the labor of mowing the fields.  And besides the mowing there is the raking and hauling---for surely the hay must be brought into the barns if it is to be used for winter feed.
Before starting to cut hay,  and often during the mowing,  the men must whet  (sharpen)   the scythe blades to keep them sharp.  Many of the men carried stones with them  (which are)  kept clean and rinsed in a horn containing water.  The horn is slung over their shoulder and rides at the waist.  The blade can then be sharpened whenever necessary."
Ms.  Gilgun has done a splendid job in her wonderful book in describing haying and mowing,  so I shall like to continue with her description,  for I feel it helps the reader to in an immersive sense:
"Sometimes,  even in the midst of the hard work of haying,  
someone will take it into their head to call for a contest.  If there 
is a friendly rivalry between men as to who is the better mower,  a 
contest is one way to resolve the question."
The old saying,  "Make hay while the sun shines,"  is very true,  for there was around a three week window from start to finish to  'make hay.'  So if the day was sunny and warm,  what was cut in the morning could be raked by mid-afternoon.
The tedious task of   "making hay,"  usually by using a pitch fork,  the hay would be piled into four-foot high and wide stacks,  and these bundles would be carefully constructed so they would shed rain and stand up to strong wind.
After a day or two of drying in the field,  these bunches would then be hauled to the barn by hay wagon to be unloaded and stored.
The hay would have been made into a rick although some of it 
would have gone into the loft of the stable for horses.
A hay rick,  by the way,  is a stack of hay used as a covering or 
thatching for protection from the weather.  In the fall,  many 
farmers would bank their homes with hay during the fall to help 
insulate it from the winter's cold.
(That is not  a rick of hay in this photo,  by the way)
As noted earlier,  it is interesting how farmers used to work in what we now call darkness.  Many present-day scientists insist that the early countrymen had extraordinary eyesight,  keener than the average eyesight of today.  Farmers frequently did their haying well into the night,  using the moon or stars for illuminations,  and taking advantage of the coolness of the summer night.

Another entry from Noah Blake's diary - from July 17th states:
"Rick is under way.  Mr.  Adams is going to thatch the roof for us.  Carried water to Mother's garden,  which is dry."
Summertime is also the time for growing.  But...how does one water the garden during a dry spell when little or no rain falls?
From the well,  for sure,  but how to get the water from the well is the question.
Colonial farmers were known to use well sweeps.
For those who have visited the home of Samuel and Anna Daggett at historic Greenfield Village in person,  have you noticed that long wooden pole coming up from the ground with rope and a bucket tied to the end that sits just outside the kitchen/buttery door?  That's a well sweep.  Largely used in colonial America and on the frontier,  well sweeps were vital simple machines used to gather water deep in the ground in a time before the more well-known  "wishing well"  style wells became popular.
Sarah Anna Emery writes,  "How vividly I recall the old homestead---the large brown house,  built in 1707,  with its wide sloping back roof,  and many sized and shaped windows;  the well,  with its graceful sweep in front..."
She almost could have been describing the Daggett House.
"The well-sweep creaked in the breeze..."
Notice the well sweep to the right.
According to Early American Life Magazine  (June 2018),  few 
survive today,  so we are very lucky to have one within our midst 
at Greenfield Village.
More from Noah Blake's diary:
"July 7,  1805,
Helped mother with her sallet  (salad)  garden.  Planted Rosemary and saffron and lettice and gilly-flowers."
"This would be good in mother's sallet!"

By mid-July,  planting for fall continued,  and the first of the summer harvests were ready,  and this was almost as joyous a time for the farming family as the fall harvest,  for the abundance of wheat to be stored for threshing and having fresh early-season vegetables was cause for celebration!
Besides wheat and fresh vegetables,  some fruits were becoming abundant,  including watermelon.  To Anne Warder,  who,  in 1786,  had tasted watermelon for her very first time,  wrote that it was like  "sweetened snow."  Within a few decades there was scarcely a summer where one didn't enjoy this  "sweetened snow"  taste.
Early-planted corn is large enough to receive its last weeding by late July or early August as well.
From Noah Blake:
"July 29,
Rick is ready for Mr.  Adams to thatch."
By the way...unless it's after 1776,  the 4th of July was just another day.

Drying some of the summer plants
 The importance of caring for your garden in the pre-electric era cannot be overstated.  It was their lifeblood,  and the farmers & their families would risk life and limb to save what they could,  for otherwise loss of property and starvation could become a reality.  Jean Fritz describes this situation very adequately in the young teen book about life in the 1780's,  The Cabin Faced West:
All at once the sky itself seemed to drop down on Hamilton Hill.  The rain came in one great sheet and lashed the hill first from one side,  then another.  In the cornfield,  people and cornstalks both bent low.
Mr. Hamilton tried to shout orders,  and when he couldn’t be heard he ran from one to another.   He sent Mrs. Hamilton and Ann home.  He and the boys stayed to finish the corn and take it to the barn.
Ann and her mother fought their way step by step against the rain.  When they reached the door of the cabin,  Ann turned to look at her vegetable garden.  There were her poor peas tossing back and forth,  crumpling with each new sweep of the rain!  The straight little rows were being dashed to the ground.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,”  Ann said to her mother,  and started off for the garden.
“It’s too late,”  her mother called.  “We’ll rescue what we can later.”
Ann dropped to her hands and knees in the mud beside the tattered pea vines.  She picked what she could find and filled her soaking apron.  Each time her apron was filled, Ann went to the cabin and emptied the peas inside.  Each time,  in spite of her mother’s urgings,  she went back to the vegetable garden.  The neat little garden lay tattered and broken,  but Ann worked on.
Then the wind started.  It blew the rain right off the hill and set to work on the trees.  Branches snapped and crackled,  and Ann picked up her last apron-load and went to the cabin.
As she opened the door,  her mother and Mr.  McPhale stood ready to bar it quickly behind her.  She dropped the last apronful of peas on top of the others she had brought in.
Finally the wind stopped.  The three Hamilton men burst into the cabin.
"Tell us,"  Mrs. Hamilton said,  "what is left on the hill?"
"We have much to be thankful for,"  Mr. Hamilton said.  "We were able to save a good part of the corn.  The late crop we have,  of course,  lost.  There will be much work to do over again in the south field.  I see Ann has saved many of the peas.  Some potatoes and pumpkins may yet be rescued..."
An apt description of the importance of saving your crop under the worst conditions.

Love Lies Bleeding
Besides the summer harvest,  the  "ornamental"  flowering plants,  most,  of which were brought over from Europe in years past,  were now giving off the beautiful colors they are known for as they grew side by side in the colonial garden.  Such varieties as love-lies-bleeding,  coreopsis,  hyacinth,  foxglove,  tawny daylily,  sweet William,  and hollyhock could be seen in many colonial gardens,  as well as those plants still known today: lily of the valley,  daffodil,  lilac,  and the black-eyed-susan.
(The song  "Love Lies Bleeding"  by Elton John from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album has a bit of a different meaning now,  doesn't it?).

Visitors were always welcome on the backroads of farm country,  and most tended to travel from late spring to early fall - the warmer months of the year.  They would bring with them news of the larger world,  the occurrences from the nearest town,  event information - perhaps election results - and even gossip about the not-so-nearby neighbors,  and for the farmer and his family,  these visits would offer a break from the typical routine of  their day.  And of all these strangers who moved about the dusty dirty country roads,  it was the peddler who would be most welcomed.
Welcome peddler!
To families whose time on the farm was too valuable to travel to town and back,  sometimes taking days for the trip,  a peddler was a Godsend.  They would travel from farm to farm,  which were,  in most cases,  not very close to each other,  so it was,  more or less,  a captive audience.  The necessities of making everyday 18th century life a bit easier could be purchased and/or traded with each visit;  depending on the peddler,  one could purchase or trade for tinware  (such as items for kitchen use),  shoemakers/cobblers selling or repairing shoes,  or even a tailor who could easily measure and sew clothing,  possibly for a special upcoming occasion such as a wedding.  Native Americans also travelled the countryside,  willing to sell or trade splitbark baskets,  blankets,  maple sugar,  freshly caught fish or rabbitt,  or even fruit such as blueberries for pie.

Every year,  on August 1,  many colonial farmers celebrated a holiday  (or holyday,  as these special days of celebration or worshiping were called)  known as Lammas Day,  which marked the first major harvest of the beginning fall season,  for even though it was still summer,  August was also considered one of the months of harvest time.  As such,  Lammas Day was a sort of Thanksgiving,  and so it remained for many colonial families until a national  Thanksgiving Day  came toward the end of the century.
Friends & family gather to prepare and celebrate Lammas day
On Lammas Day,  the farming family attended church,  and the head of the household brought with him the first loaf of bread to be blessed.  That loaf was used as the center of their Thanksgiving feast.
On August 3,  Noah Blake wrote:
"Very warm.  The harvest fly was two days late."
The  'harvest fly'  is what we call the cicada.  It's supposed to make its first appearance on Lammas Day,  but the year of Blake's diary,  1805,  it decided to come a bit later,  it seems.
I,  myself,  hear the loud evening buzzing of the harvest fly/cicada every August  (though many years  it actually arrives in late July around my Michigan area).
The continuation of work in the fields seemed non-stop,  from harvesting the early crops to watering those not yet ready.
Harvesting vegetables and medicinal plants from
the kitchen garden 
in August 

Good flax and good hemp to have of her own,
In May a good housewife will see it be sown.
And afterwards trim it to serve in a need,
The fimble to spin,  the card for her seed.

From the diary of Martha Ballard  (who lived in Maine):
August 1,  1787 - Clear & very hot.  I have been pulling flax.
August 4,  1787 - Clear morn,  I pulled flax till noon.

As living historians,  my wife and I try to do certain things as if we lived in another time.
Such as pulling flax.
Planted in mid-May,  by mid-August,  it was ready to be pulled. So it was off to the cabin where we did our summer chore:  pulling flax,  looking just as our ancestors did,  I would imagine.
The plants are pulled,  roots and all,  to give the maximum length of fiber. 
Plants of similar length can be bundled together,  keeping the sheaves even at the
root end as much as possible.

It did not take us nearly as long to pull the flax as I thought, 
which was okay by me...

...because the sun beat down on us pretty good - 
just like what was written in the diary of Martha Ballard:
August 4,  1786,  Friday
Clear & Hott.  we pulld flax.
Yes,  it was a Friday for us,  too!
Imagine driving by and seeing this~

Scutching the flax
Once the flax was pulled,  it then would be laid out carefully to dry for a day or two,  and turned several times in the sun.  This preparation of flax for spinning was usually done by the men and boys,  which also included rippling,  tying them into stalks  (called beats or bates),  watered to soften the fibers and rot the leaves,  followed by dew-retting,  cleaning,  drying,  and tying them into bundles.  And then,  according to historian Alice Morse Earle,  came work for  "strong men,"  to break it on the flax break,  scutching,  and finally,  pulling the flax through one,  or two,  or even three different sized hackels  (or hetchels).  The fibers would then be sorted according to fineness,  known as spreading and drawing.  It was only then that the flax was ready for the wife or daughter to spin.Now,  many farmers would sell their flax and purchase imported linen cloth,  for producing linen was highly skilled and time consuming work.  However,  if the did weave themselves,  families could take their woven cloth to a local  "fulling Mill,"  where it would be  "finished" - that is,  treated with a type of clay called  "fuller's earth"  to cleanse the fabric then soaked it with hot water to shrink and thicken it.
(for more on flax and other textile arts of the colonial period,  please click HERE)~

Late August and early September was ripe to begin for a few fall activities.  With the heat of summer simmering,  the earliest of preparations to dye wool the variety of colors would take place by searching out the various natural dyes available.
The women and young children of the house would take on this task.
Gathering black walnuts dropped by the trees or
thrown by the squirrels are gathered to be used
the following month for dyeing wool.

An early September morn...perfect for gathering black walnuts.
And at this point we begin our move into the season of autumn.
Summertime and the living is easy  may be true for so many in our modern time,  but living easy certainly wasn't the way of life for most of our ancestors.  But they persevered.  They moved about their daily lives just as we do today.  They had an inner and an outer strength that few here in the 21st century can compare to.
It's my admiration for these folks that draws me to the past.
To their time.
For they are the real heroes of our Nation - the every man and woman.
I personally enjoy writing about these seasonal excursions.  But more than that,  I love to watch as the chores change throughout the year while visiting places such as historic Greenfield Village,  where most of the activities you've read about here come to life.  In fact,  most of my pictures supplementing this posting were taken at the Daggett Farm House situated inside that place of history.

And with that,  until next time,  I'll see you in time.

To read more about a colonial Winter,  please click HERE
To read more about a colonial Spring,  please click HERE
To read more about a colonial Thanksgiving,  please click HERE
To read more about colonial travel,  please click HERE
To read more about colonial kitchens and foodstuffs, please click HERE
To read more about a colonial farm year,  please click HERE
To read more on colonial occupations,  click HERE
To read a general overview on colonial life,  please click HERE

The 18th Century Daggett House folders located at the Benson Ford Research Center - The Collections of The Henry Ford  (which includes Greenfield Village)
Discovering America's Past
History Magazine
Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake
Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian by Sarah Anna Emery
Where We Lived by Jack Larkin
Our Own Snug Fireside by  Jane C. Nylander
Home Life in Colonial Days Alice Morse Earle
Diary of Mary Cooper
A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
A Day in a Colonial Home by Della R.  Prescott
World of the American Revolution by Merril D.  Smith
Stephen Hawtrey clothing information came from THIS site

~   ~   ~

Monday, June 15, 2020

Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village: The Best of (Part Three 2015-2019)

So now we are on part 3 - the last of this series.  Since the fear of covid-19 successfully ended most summer events for people like me who love to reenact  (and other activities such as major sporting events),  many of my postings this year will be  "best ofs"  to at least celebrate our hobby in some sort or another.  And this includes the most popular Civil War Remembrance at historic Greenfield Village,  which normally takes place over the three-day Memorial Weekend.
And today's posting is the conclusion the three-part remembrance to the Remembrance.  There are just far too many photos and memories to do a one or two-part tribute.
Most of what is written beneath the pictures here come mostly from the original postings.  As Rod Stewart sang,  "Every picture tells a story."

The previous CWR best of ended with 2014,  so we'll begin with this last part with 2015,  the final year of the 150th commemoration of the Civil War:
Here is the annual group picture of members of the 21st Michigan.  Unfortunately,  it always seems a few of our membership do not get in the annual pictures.  It's awful hard to try to round up 80 or so members at an event like Greenfield Village,  but I do my best.  Maybe one year we will have an all-encompassing 21st Michigan family photo.

Our ladies love to sew,  and they sew so much they can do it in unison!

This is my wife,  Patty.  She also sews.  And crochets.  And knits.  But one of her most favorites of all crafts is spinning on her spinning wheel.  She believes she spun for a total of around 12 hours during this three-day event in 2015.  That's a dizzying amount of time spinning,  don't you think?

Two of our lovely ladies.
 Jackie, the one on the left,  does a wonderful first-person and oftentimes portrays one of my sisters during our immersions at Charlton Park and Christmas at the Fort.

Elaine has studied up on the occupation of operating a telegraph,  and now enjoys explaining the process to the many visitors she receives.

Next up is my lovely wife and I.  Yes,  we are a patriotic couple aren't we?  We're also grandparents. Want proof?  Well...
...here we are posing for a mock tintype with our grandson,  Benjamin,  at his very first reenactment! Oh!  In the future he will really enjoy spending time in the past with his nonna and papa!
By the way,  since this photo was taken in 2015,  two more grandchildren have joined our family.

Something occurred in 2015 that Greenfield Village had not done in previous years:  they opened up the Eagle Tavern to an after-hours period-dress reenactors-only evening of tavern life.  This was definitely a highlight for nearly everyone who attended.  Yes,  I had my camera there,  but kept it concealed and used no flash as to not ruin anyone's time-travel experience.

As this event is called Civil War Remembrance,  in 2015 Greenfield Village remembered the 150th anniversary of the death of our 16th President,  Abraham Lincoln,  by draping many of the buildings for mourning,  as was done throughout the United States back in the spring of 1865.  Here we have Meg showing her grief over Lincoln's death by dressing herself in mourning clothing and posing at the courthouse where he once practiced law.
Most women of the time would not have worn widows weeds for the death of the President,  but this was an opportunity for Meg to teach a bit about who wore what,  why,  and how.

The men returning from the War stand in front of the 1858 Smiths Creek Depot

“Let’s take a nice photo of you two,  okay?”  I asked innocently,  “no goofy faces or anything.”
Heh heh - - you would think they would know me by now.
“We’ve been bamboozled into taking a nice picture!”  exclaimed Larissa.
“Ha ha ha!!  I just can't help but giggle knowing this picture was taken under false pretenses!”  said Beckie.

I am very proud of our 21st Michigan ladies  (and gents,  though we have very few civilian gentlemen)  and of how seriously they take their living history.

Greenfield Village always holds a Grand Ball for Civil War Remembrance participants,  so I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one photo taken there!

It's hard to be a farmer - - -
“Poor little farm girl.  She'll never find a man in those rags!”
"I wouldn't be caught dead outside without a pair of gloves on!  She looks like a farm hand!"
"Can you believe her?!  That bonnet is so 1860!!"
“I knew I should've married that rich banker when I had the chance!  Well,  at least I have all the vegetables a girl could want.”

The soldiers prepare for the Memorial Day ceremony.

Let's move to 2016:
Here are a few of the memberss of the 21st Michigan as we were in 2016.  We had our image taken on the side porch of the birthplace of Henry Ford,  which was built in 1861 - the same year we were portraying.

Robert Beech is one of the top wet plate photographers around.  Not only does he do our local events,  but he also has done national events as well. 
We are proud to have him in the 21st Michigan.

These fine folks are with the 102nd Colored Troops.  They do such a great job in their presentations showing a part of history not as well known.

The Christian Commission,  run by Mrs. St. John,  is always a welcome sight for the wounded soldiers who find themselves in the care of the ladies who care for them.
History come to life.

We always bring period games for the younger ones to play,  including the ever-popular checkers,  cards,  and other such time-passers.  However,  on the farm,  young boys would have spent more time with a tool in their hands,  such as a shovel,  an ax,  a scythe,  or a sickle rather than a frivolous toy.
Although we could not go onto the field of Firestone Farm,  we did take a few photos of some of the boys posing with their tools in front of the farm.

We usually try to get at least one meal at the 1831 Eagle Tavern.

And the tavern looked even more spectacular by candle light in the evening:
One of the favorite times for us was spending an evening inside the Eagle Tavern.  Beginning in 2015,  the good folks at Greenfield Village opened up this 1831 building on Saturday night strictly for period-dress reenactors only.

Over the years,  my wife,  Patty,  has become not only a master at the art of spinning wool into yarn,  but a master presenter at reenactments as well.  No,  she does not care for the 1st person events I do,  but to speak to visitors about her passion for woolen arts is something she does very well,  and she holds the visitor's attention while doing it.

The McMann specialty is period cooking,  and there are few better at cooking a 19th century meal than Carol,  seen here making noodles.

Wearing our Sunday Best.

Letter writing.

Ah...the family that helped to get my family involved in reenacting.

Can you guess what these Victorian ladies are replicating?


Well, I'll give you a little hint:
Yes, my very good friends actually "reenacted" a Victorian version of the Beatles "Help!" album cover for me!
Thank you ladies!
(By the way, the Beatles 'flag semaphore' does not spell out "Help," because, according to cover photographer Robert Freeman, "the arrangement of the arms with those letters didn't look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with the best graphic positioning of the arms." 
Instead, what you see The Beatles - and our Victorian ladies - spelling out is NUJV)

The lovely ladies of the Christian Commission at the ball

The Memorial Day ceremony:  here are the ladies who will lay the flowers and wreaths in honor of those in the military who are no longer with us.

Here is part of the camp of the 21st Michigan.  My son and a few of the others always try to remain in camp unless they are marching & drilling or unless there is a battle.  In this way someone will always be available to speak to the visiting public.

Some of the southern boys play an old tune...
maybe it's Shady Grove perhaps?

Welcome 2017!
Here you see a few of the men  (and young lady)  from the 
21st Michigan shortly before the Memorial Day ceremony.

The cavalry also takes part in the ceremony.

Two women dressed in 1860s mourning clothing brought the memorial 
wreath up to the front.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

Here are a few of the women who took part in the wreath laying ceremony.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

21st Michigan men with their pards from other units.

My beautiful wife and I in front of Firestone Farm. 
She shows her patriotism well.

From senator to druggist:  When Dave Tennies decides on an impression,  he certainly gives it his all,  and he is doing just that as an 1860s druggist.

1860s fashionistas!

A personal highlight for me this weekend was seeing Jay Ungar and his wife Molly Mason perform at Greenfield Village Saturday evening.
You do realize that Jay Unger wrote and recorded  "Ashokan Farewell,"  right?

Here we go,  off to Firestone Farm to have the annual 21st Michigan group photograph taken.  We garnered a lot of attention as we strolled along,  and about a dozen modern visitors,  with cameras in hand,  followed us.

And here it is.
I gave it a more period look.

A few of us spent some time strolling the Village,  taking a few picturesque pictures,  such as what you see here on the porch of the Susquehanna house.  I suppose we do have a bit of  a southern flare to our  'look,'  but fear not - we are tried and true northerners!

Off to dye aprons.

My reenacting daughter,  Kristen,  and her quality period-correct jewelry sutlery,  The Victorian Needle. 
The best part is that she can document nearly every piece she makes to an original period piece.

Now let's visit 2018:
Through the Ackley  "time-travel"  bridge we go...

Since the Village was now swarming with mid-19th century folk,  what a great opportunity to recreate what it could have looked like having the townsfolk await court cases inside the Logan County Court House,  where President Lincoln once practiced law.  Now,  in the mid-1800s,  the men were able to sit in the front seats while the women would have to sit toward the back and sides,  and sometimes even peer through the open windows or doorway.
Just as you see here:
It wasn't too difficult for me to find willing participants to help out in my little 1860s courtroom photography session.
(Many thanks to the presenter who was working inside the courthouse for taking this picture!)

One of our 21st Michigan members,  Mrs. St. John,  got a few of the ladies together to make poke bags for our guys in the military. 

And then it was off to the camp of our boys in blue to deliver the little tokens of appreciation from the local ladies.

Some of the local youngsters decided to have picnic  'neath the shade of a weeping willow tree near the covered bridge.

A late spring day in the 1860s.

Male fashionistas!
There were a few of us with white linen jackets hanging about a-waiting for the memorial service to commence when I pulled us all together for the photograph.

David Walker with the Carlsons 

The Masciale's - wonderful period musicians
and genuinely fine people!

Here is a group shot of the ladies who participated in the 
Memorial Day/Decoration Day service for 2018

The military marching to the Village Green.
Many of the reenactors are also veterans themselves - and a few are still in the real  (modern)  forces.

Standing on the corner,  watching all the men go by...

The Michigan Cavalry Brigade Association

This was a real treat to witness.

The 2018 21st Michigan group shot. 
This is a little more than half of our total membership. 
Not a bad looking bunch,  eh?

This is a fine photograph of my son Robbie and I over at the military camp of the 21st Michigan.
He is his father's son in that he strives for authenticity and accuracy.
The civilian members of the 21st Michigan are truly an awesome group,  and early on Sunday morning a few of us left for a sort of photo shoot.  We didn't do anything too dramatic,  but we did get a few good shots,  including this one:
Peering into the past...

We always seem to wind up at the Susquehanna House,  which is perfect for the type of pictures we like to capture. 

And,  finally,  we now visit CWR 2019:
So we'll begin with a sort of yearning for a time past - - in a sort of nostalgic photograph taken by Gary Thomas, member of the Facebook page  "Friends of Greenfield Village"  with pertinent lyrics by 1970s musician Cat Stevens:
Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train
Switch on summer from a slot machine
Yes, get what you want to if you want
Cause you can get anything
I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?
Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas
And you make them long, and you make them tough
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off
Oh, I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?
Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air
But will you keep on building higher
'Til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?
I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?

The annual 21st Michigan group photo, this year taken at the 
Smiths Creek Depot.
Every year at Greenfield Village we take a "family picture," though it is unfortunate we can never seem to get everyone to make it. 
Yes, unfortunately, we are missing a number of our membership yet again!

And a few of us hung around after the group picture was taken to recreate our own depot scenario in photographs:
Waitin'  for the train to come in...

Yep---I love that the ladies here enjoy having a bit of fun as well and know how to bring this all alive.

Some of the ladies of the 21st Michigan were chosen to do a couple of scenarios in the spirit of the picnickers at Manassas
Now,  please understand,  they are not necessarily reenacting that first battle of the Civil War;  they are,  instead,  giving an impression of  "curiosity-seeking"  citizens,  perhaps looking for a bit of Victorian entertainment,  not fully understanding the danger of it all.

Some of the young ladies decided to write letters to the boys in blue,  something we really haven't done too much lately as a group, but the interest seems to be growing again. 

Yeah,  for the most part,  the weather during this weekend was fair to good,  especially on Memorial Day Monday,  but for about a half hour late Saturday afternoon we had a pretty intense storm come through,  with high winds whipping the rain around,  which,  at times,  was falling sideways.   It seemed that our entire camp membership was holding down the fort,  so to speak:
Our next door neighbors bore the brunt of the
whipping wind;  a side pole gave way,  allowing the
wind to knock over a shelf inside the tent,  precious 
pieces crashing to the ground.  It's unfortunate that they
lost a wash basin,  an oil lamp,  and some lamp oil
spilled onto a bonnet,  soaking the ribbons and straw.

This is a 7/8 size replication modeled after an 1863 original.  This one was built by the Chase and Sunburn Coffee Company in 1970.
The idea for a coffee wagon came in 1861 when delegates of the northern YMCA  (Young Men's Christian Association)  came up with the idea to help out with the soldier's spiritual and temporal needs of the Union Army as well as to help alleviate some of the suffering from wounds and illness.
And now we have one at Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village.  
History coming to life... 

Again we have Robert Beech, who studied the
art of period photography in Gettysburg.

Our boys in blue marching to battle...

And the Confederate Army was on the opposite side of the field,  ready for a fight.

And,  with a sort of 1st Manassas in mind...
A buggy with travelers rode past the boys in blue, enhancing their anticipation for the excitement of 1860s entertainment.

Then the firing of musketry began in earnest- - - 

"Those spectators who found themselves too near the combat eventually found themselves overtaken by the retreating men."

The horror of what was witnessed will remain.

Lorna prepares the ladies for the wreath and flower laying 
ceremony for all the military who had passed away.

Heather, who you met in one of the tintypes earlier in this posting, was asked to participate.  What an honor, especially with it being her first time out as a Civil War reenactor (she usually does Revolutionary War).

Is she saddened at what she saw during the battle?
Is she saddened because this was the third of the three
day reenactment and she's not ready to go home?
Is she saddened at the fact that there was no 
Civil War Remembrance in 2020?
Could be all three...
One of the hardest things for this year was that the weather over Memorial Weekend was picture perfect - sunny all three days with highs in the 80s.  It could have been a record-breaking year for visitors.
Thus ends the third and final  "Best of"  Greenfield Village's Civil War Remembrance.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures from all three.  If you haven't seen the other two,  the links are right  HERE for part one,  and HERE for part two.

Until next time,  see you in time.

 ~   ~