Thursday, April 22, 2021

Celebrating Patriot's Day at Greenfield Village 2021

To my mind,  'Historians'  dig up the bones,  'Buffs'  study the bones, 
'Living Historians'  put flesh and clothing on those bones,  and the  'public'  have the privilege of simply admiring and learning from the results.
Or a better analogy is the relationship between farmers,  cooks,  and diners,  all of whom,  ultimately,  need each other. 

Tell me,  doctor
Where are we goin'  this time?
Is this 1775 or 1779?
So take me away,  I don't mind,
but you better promise me
I'll be back in time…
I am frequently asked,  "Why are you so fanatical about history,  Ken?"  
How can one answer such a question?  I mean,  who knows why someone is interested in anything,  you know?
Why do some people like sports?  Music?  Cars? 
There's no real answer. 
I only know that my passion is for history - specifically,  American  history - and has since I can remember.
It's a personal thing,  isn't it?  And yet,  people still try to change my personal passion for the past into their way of thinking...much of which seems to have come from  "Facebook University,"   whose  'text books'  are those idiotic,  usually agenda-filled  "factual"  history memes people like to post.
And so many believe without researching for themselves.  "It sounded right."
The past is not always happy,  nor is it all bad either.  But,  when I am out for a day of enjoyment,  I keep the history on the light side;  unless I am presenting or perhaps at a reenactment,  I prefer to pluck out the best of  those days gone by and,  like fond memories,  sort of relive them,  yet still commemorate the more difficult times in our county's past,  and in this way I am honoring all aspects.  
So with that being said,  I would like to take notice of how much history occurred in the month of April.  I don't believe there is another month that has had as many major  American historical dates.  Now,  I'm not speaking of births or deaths,  but of the events  that most history books will,  at the very least,  mention.

Here...check it out  (in order by date then by year):
~April 3 - 1860 - The Pony Express began it's run,  going from St. Joseph,  Missouri to Sacramento,  California
~April 6 - 1917 - U.S. entered WWI
~April 9 - 1865 - The Civil War ended
~April 12 - 1861 - The Civil War began at Fort Sumter
~April 14 - 1865 - President Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater
~April 15 - 1865 - President Lincoln died 7:22 a.m.
~April 15 - 1912 - The Titanic sank after striking an iceburg in the Atlantic,  killing over 1500 passengers.  The survivors were brought to New York
~April 18 - 1775 - Late night ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes  (and,  after midnight,  Samuel Prescott)  occurred
~April 19 - 1775 - The Revolutionary War began in earnest with the Battle of Lexington & Concord
~April 27 - 1865 - Steamboat Sultana exploded,  killing nearly 2000 passengers,  most being recently freed Union prisoners of war
~April 30 - 1789 - George Washington became our 1st President
I realize there were a number of other historical occurrences in April,  but I only wanted to list the most well-known.
Quite a few,  eh?
There are two particular dates which I try to celebrate and commemorate annually:  April 18th and 19th - those dates that signify the beginning of the American Revolution,  which is,  to me,  every bit as important as Pearl Harbor Day,  President's Day,  or any of the other holidays of acknowledgement for our nation.         
And what I can't figure out is...why isn't this date a National Holiday?
Yes,  there are those who live in the states of Massachusetts,  Maine,  and Wisconsin who celebrate Patriots' Day,  giving,  at the very least,  some acknowledgement on this day to the brave patriots who were there at the beginning of  our fight for Independence.  And they are honored more than with burgers,  fries,  and furniture store sales:  in the area around Lexington and Concord,  re-enactments of the first battles of the Revolutionary War are held.  
I so wish my home state of Michigan and the rest of our country acknowledged Patriot's Day as well.  If reenacting taught me nothing else,  it has helped me to realize and understand the significance and importance of certain dates and events in our history.  Even the most popular holidays,  such as Independence Day and Memorial Day,  have deepened their meaning to me,  especially as I study them more intently.
Well,  for the past few years,  Patriot's Day  has become one of those days which,  for this Michigan guy,  is now celebrated and commemorated.  I make sure to acknowledge what happened,  and will continue to do so,  usually by visiting Greenfield Village,  Michigan's own open-air museum,  and I try to go as close to April 19th as I can.  This year happened to be on Sunday April 18th.
Do I even have to mention that I was in period clothing?
Colonial  clothing,  to be more precise.
And this year of 2021 marks the 8th year of my own Patriot's Day commemoration.
Greenfield Village,  if you are unaware,  is one of the finest open-air museums,  not only in the United States,  but,  from what I've been told,  in the world.
Now,  the idea of  an open-air museum dates to the 1790s,  coming from Charles de Bonstetten of Switzerland.  He believed that traditional peasant houses should be preserved against modernity,  but failed to attract support for the idea.
It was nearly a hundred years later when the first major steps towards the creation of an open-air museum was taken in Norway in 1881.
Not long after,  other countries and cities in Europe,  including Denmark and Stockholm,  created their own.  However,  closer to home,  North American open-air museums had a slightly later origin than the Europeans.  The first in North America was none other than Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn,  Michigan  (1929),  where Ford intended his collection to be  “a pocket edition of America.”
And it is at Greenfield Village was where I visited once again,  on April 18th,  wearing the same type of fashions of those who I emulate from 246 hears ago.  My wife totally surprised me this year and decided to join me in my time-travel adventure by dressing in her 18th century farming clothes as well.
Yeah…it kinda  made my day.  
Due to its direct connection to the late-night warning riders of April 18 in 1775 and the
Battle of Lexington & Concord,  my first visitation on this April 18 in 2021 was actually
at the little red Plympton House you see there on the right,  nestled in between
the Daggett House/Farris Windmill and the Susquehanna House  (in white).
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. 
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.

"An express came from Concord to Thomas Plympton Esq.,  who was then a member of the Provincial Congress,  in that the British were on their way to Concord - between 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning.  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."

The interior of the house once belonging to Thomas Plympton is historically
accurate to the mid-18th century.
As you can see,  this Plympton House sitting inside Greenfield Village is one that has direct connections to not only the Revolutionary War itself,  but to the very beginnings of it:  the Battle of Lexington & Concord,  and it seems that Thomas Plympton received his information very early in the morning of April 19th from one of the many riders who rode out the previous night  (along with Paul Revere),  and all signs point to him receiving this information while he was right here in this house!
I moved up to the house and knocked on the door - the house and door - that Abel Prescott himself may have pounded upon,  awakening the sleeping
Thomas Plympton and had him alarm the town of Sudbury that the Regulars
were on the march to Concord.
Of course,  I must tell the neighbors down the road...
To read more about the Plymptons and the house they lived in,  click HERE

Time to be on our way...
Our next stop was my personal favorite,  the home once belonging to Samuel Daggett and Anna,  his wife.  Patty and I both agreed that if we should ever fall into a goodly amount of money,  we would have a replication of this house built.

Elda working on the wool and flax in the great hall.

It's springtime - the kitchen garden must be prepared.

Working in the kitchen garden together.
Patty very much impresses me with her own knowledge of plants, 
whether heirloom or of the more modern variety. 
Gardening is one of her many passions---especially this year.

Anna,  we shall have this garden cleared and ready for planting afore noon. 
Many plants of which were grown last year have begun to grow again.

Loretta Tester took this picture of my wife and I - kind of a neat window shot.

When I wear my 1770s clothing at Greenfield Village,  it is my own rule that I stop at the Daggett house.  Even better is when I can stop there with Patty being dressed from the same era as me.  One thing I honestly did not know when I ordered her farm clothing from Samson Historical is that her fashions match up pretty much to a  " T "  with the women presenters here;  in other words,  without realizing it,  I  "Daggett-ized" my wife!
By the way,  I did two rather extensive postings about the Daggetts and the house the house in which they lived  (click HERE and HERE to read them).
Of all the questions I get asked as a living historian,  there is one question that I have only been asked once:  "Is it embarrassing to wear clothing like that in public?"
Excellent question!
Initially,  for me,  it was.  But the more I went out in public dressed in 1770s or 1860s styles,  the more comfortable I became and,  thus,  the easier it was.
It helps a whole lot that most folks think my period clothing is pretty cool.
It also helps a whole lot when I have others come out with me  (click HERE about me  "flying solo").
I will say this,  however:  it is a little tougher for me to go out in colonial clothing than my Civil War garb,  mainly because the style is so different in comparison.  Probably the hardest part,  besides wearing knee breeches,  is oftentimes having my hair tied back with a ribbon in a ponytail,  known at the time as a queue.  That was the fashion for men from about the mid-1700s through the early part of the 19th century.
If you know me at all,  however,  you know that I am pretty anal about being period correct and I place great importance upon it,  whether I am at an actual reenactment,  doing a presentation,  or  "just visiting."

In the eighteenth century,  log cabins began to rise throughout the American back-country,  and that's where my next stop inside Greenfield Village took place. 
In the children’s book,  “The Cabin Faced West”  by Jean Fritz,  the author dramatized an actual historic event that occurred at one of these frontier log cabins – when George Washington visited the Hamilton family at their cabin in western Pennsylvania  (no relation to Alexander Hamilton).  Throughout the story,  Anne Hamilton wanted nothing more than to be back in Gettysburg in eastern Pennsylvania,  not in a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere.  That is,  until General Washington showed up.  Ms.  Fritz wrote a dramatization of how the event may have played out on that September 1784 day when George Washington and his party were preparing to leave that he said what Ann would treasure forever afterward.  He stood at the doorway,  looking toward the west,  his eyes resting on Hamilton Hill,  yet somehow going beyond.
“The future is travelling west with people like you,”  he said to Miss Hamilton. “Here is the rising world – to be kept or lost in the same way a battlefield is kept or lost.”
George Washington turned to Ann and put his hand gently on her shoulder. “Through the courage of young girls as much as anyone’s.  Some day you will live to see this whole country a rolling farmland,  bright with houses and barns and churches.  I envy you,  Miss Hamilton.”
Ann felt her heart turning over within her.  She looked out on Hamilton Hill.  It seemed to her she had never seen it so beautiful - the trees more stately, the sky closer...
(To read more about Jean Fritz and this wonderful book - the book that plowed me head-first into my initial love of American history - click HERE)
Could this be what the Hamilton cabin looked like?
It most certainly could,  for it is the 1780 log cabin that was originally built in western Pennsylvania,  in the same general area as the Hamilton family in the story mentioned,  so I am pretty certain they were similar.
The cabin you see here in Greenfield Village is 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.

As you know,  I enjoy researching the many homes inside Greenfield Village,  and I have found numerous structures to have some connection to the Revolutionary War.  Though it is doubtful that this later 18th century cabin has any links to our  War for Independence,  just by being a frontier log cabin of that time period gives it the important link to America's past  (aside from it being the birth place of William Holmes McGuffey). 
Yes...lovin'  America's fine history...
My lovely wife and I in the doorway of the 1780 cabin.
During this past autumn and winter I had been able to take part in frontier cabin living.
More of that to come this spring.

The cabin received a much-needed new floor.  It looks great!

Patty is an expert spinner,  so she is always checking out the spinning wheels, 
including the one inside the cabin. 
Again,  check out the new floor.
Most rural families had a smokehouse on their land to help preserve their meat,  especially ham  (and sometimes fish).
After rubbing the ham or bacon with a salt mixture and letting them set for a few weeks,  the meat would then be hung from the rafters in the smokehouse. 
Behind the cabin was the smoke house,  where,  even without refrigeration, 
meat could be preserved.
The smoke was created directly below the hanging meat by a fire in the floor of the structure and was made from aromatic woods such as hickory or apple and sometimes even corncobs,  which flavored the meat and created a crust that prevented its ruin by flies or other pests.
Not much meat left hanging from the smokehouse rafters.
But there sure is a lot of gray hair on this old man!
If this were 1775 and I was my same age,  my birth year would have been 1715.
You do the math...

When we first built our cabin,  there was only forest.
Now we have a school and a church and other settlers.

Continuing on our journey in the past...
We found our way into the garden near the Edison Cottage.  Patty has been very much enjoying gardening this year more than she has in quite a while,  so she is interested in seeing the other gardens throughout Greenfield Village,  including this one near the home once belonging to Thomas Edison's grandparents.

Patty and I took a few minute respite from the walking and talking we were doing to sit on one of the benches to enjoy the sites and sounds of Greenfield Village.
Though covered bridges had been around in Europe since the Middle Ages,  they were not around in the colonies until at least 1805,  with most others being built closer to the mid-19th century.
Ah,  but what a site to see!

If you look close,  you can see the bench we are sitting on in the previous two pictures.

Now,  I have a little beef about this next structure,  the birthplace of famed horticulturalist Luther Burbank.  Built about 1800,  Burbank was born here in 1849.  Over his 55 year career in studying and experimenting on plants,  he developed more than 800 strains and varieties,  including the Burbank potato.
His home is such a beautiful picturesque building,  and for years the seven rooms inside were portrayed as they were during the time Burbank lived there,  and even included the original cradle that Luther's father made for him at his birth.  Unfortunately,  in recent years,  the Village management is not quite sure what to do with it;  for a while it was a souvenir shop,  but now it is mostly vacant,  except for special events such as Holiday Nights. 
My opinion:  how about returning it to its former glory as a historic home?
Well,  at least I found the exterior of the house and surroundings to be the
perfect backdrop for a couple of older colonials to utilize...

As I moved around the structure,  imagine to my surprise finding
a sundial!  I never knew it was there!  
Looks like I have more researching to do...

Aside from a church  (or meeting house),  a gristmill was one of the first buildings erected in a new community.  From colonial times and into the first half of the nineteenth century,  gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities:  grinding the farmers' grain into flour with large,  circular stones.
The Loranger Gristmill,  built in 1832.
Similar to the building style of  Taverns,  the main architectural look and workings of a gristmill changed very little from the 18th century through the first half of the 19th century.  This necessity in some of the more rural areas continued grinding wheat into flour even into the 20th century.

This building,  built in 1840 and originally from the Richmond Hill plantation in Bryan County,  Georgia,  once housed cotton gins used for separating the seeds from the cotton.  At that time,  most of the first floor was open,  allowing access for horses to the drive mechanism for the gin.  A hundred years after it was built it found itself in its new and permanent location north inside of Greenfield Village. 
When it was initially rebuilt inside of the Village, the first floor remained open,
but by 1944 the lower level had been enclosed and now houses a variety of
looms and spinning wheels.
This is another building that has a strong 18th century feel to it.

Normally when I am dressed in such a manner as I was on this day,  I try to remain with the 18th century structures...or with those that are not too conflicting in the time-space continuum.  
Patty checked out the upper level of the Firestone barn.
However,  we knew friends of ours would be showing up not too long before it was time for us to leave.
Cyndi and Gill Carlson are long-time Civil War reenactors who have ventured out into other areas in time,  mostly the period of the early 1950s,  though they delve into the 1940s quite often as well as into the Regency period.  On this beautiful spring day they came out in their later 18th century clothing to fit in with us,  of which I am honored.
The Carlsons inside the barn of Firestone Farm.

And here the four of us are - next time we will have to plan our visit a little better.

And then,  after a very fine day,  it was time to come back to the 21st century.
At least I have a pseudo-period room in my house to sit in until my next Greenfield Village visit!
Hey,  it's good to be back home again...
So...aside from a few small touches here and there  (perhaps another shelf,  for example),  and other replicated accessories I plan to acquire,  the Daggett-izing of my walls in my back room is completed.  Thanks to my friend Al O.  for all his help - we both worked together on this and I am so happy at how it turned out.
If I can't buy a historic home,  I suppose this is the next best thing.
It really is  good to be back home again!
Click HERE to learn how I turned a portion of my home into a colonial room.

As often as I go to Greenfield Village,  which is usually upwards of 30 times-plus a year,  I only dress period for maybe around a half dozen of those visits,  and usually only for certain dates.  Mind you,  at each of these  'special non-event visits'  it is my 18th century colonial clothing rather than my 19th century Civil War era clothing that I wear,  for the 1770s fashion of knee breeches,  buckle shoes,  and cocked hat are my favorite period garments.  And I try to make the most out of the historic surroundings by lingering around the  "colonial"  section of the Village,  where original houses from mainly 18th century New England have been transplanted and mostly situated together in one general area.  No,  I do not pester the presenters in these historic houses,  for they have a job to do and I do not want to interfere with them or the guests,  though if I am quick enough I can make it down to that section before the visitors do,  which allows for a bit of conversation with presenters as well as photo opportunities. 
Nor do I ever present myself as an employee to the paying visitors,  for,  well,  because I'm not,  and if I am asked if I do work there,  I always let them know that I don't,  that I am one of those crazy history nerds who tries to get the most out of my visits,  and this is the way I do it.  Yeah,  I do realize that what I do for a hobby is difficult for most to understand;  I suppose one would have to be a die-hard living historian  (like me)  to really understand,  for the wearing of period clothing outside a reenactment is not always explainable.
But it never fails to add to my visit.
And others,'  from what I've been told.
I hope you enjoyed my Patriot's Day adventure. 
And from this proud American Patriot to you,  until next time,  see you in time.

America...God shed His grace on thee...
To read about all of the 18th century homes inside Greenfield Village and their possible involvement with the Revolutionary War,  please click HERE

What was it like to be alive and involved with the excitement that occurred on April 18th and 19th in 1775?  Click HERE to find out.

HERE is a fairly comprehensive overview of Paul Revere's most famous ride

William Dawes road with Paul Revere on the night of April 18,  1775.  HERE is his story.

HERE is a posting on some of the lesser known riders out on the night of April 18,  1775

Thank you Loretta and Randy Tester for taking a few of the pretty awesome pictures at Daggett - - -  

I would like to thank Samson's Historical for their fine product - clothing especially  (I love how great my wife looks in her 18th century garments.  This was her first time wearing these particular articles out in public.  Then there's my pretty awesome coat and hat...thank you Abby & Casey and all the kind and helpful employees).
I also use Townsends for certain product as well - mainly my straight-lasted shoes - they carry the best out there - and many of the accurate and wide variety of accessories I need and use to add realism I purchased here.  Another fine company indeed with wonderful and helpful employees.

~   ~   ~

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