Every Independence Day since 2008 (sans one) has been spent at Greenfield Village. And every Independence Day since 2010, even including last year during covid, I have dressed in period clothing to celebrate this glorious American holiday; from 2010 through 2013, I dressed in my 1860s clothing, and since 2014 I've worn my 1770 clothes. Oftentimes friends will join me in these excursions, making it all the better. There is something to be said about reenacting the colonial past...especially on the 4th of July.
Mind! We are not technically reenacting there, nor do we work there; we just show up on our own accord and kinda become our own historical entity.
This year was no different.
So! On the morning of the 4th you know where we were; the bright sunshine was in its summer glory - the sun always seems to shine on the 4th of July - and we knew the day was going to be something special:
Whenever I am at the Village and dressed in the styles of our founding generation, I always make it a point to head first thing toward the far end where the original colonial houses sit. And this year was no different. As always, we had a wonderful time speaking with the presenters who were working inside the 1750s home of Samuel and Anna Daggett, and we also enjoyed the opportunity to take more than a few "quick sketches" while there.
Yes, even during the political turmoil of our modern day, I am patriotic and believe in our great nation, for I also believe in our people. And I love what this holiday stands for, with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it, including the fireworks, the red, white, and blue everywhere I look, the American flags flying in front of houses...yes, I love it all.
And the history...obviously, the history.
I just want to mention that it really was nice to have members of my reenacting group, Citizens of the American Colonies, join me once again for this year's patriotic excursion. Citizens, as you may recall, is a living history group I formed, and I am happy to say it continues to grow, so you can imagine how very glad I was to have a few members come out.
And it just so happened that one of the guests there was from Tokyo and wanted to get all she could of American history. She loves her new country and the expression on her face showed that. She asked if she could take a group photo, of which we happily complied. I then asked if she would be willing to take a shot with my camera:
|Members of Citizens of the American Colonies came out once again in this|
Independence Day excursion to Greenfield Village. And joining us for this
photograph we have three Greenfield Village historic presenters who happen to
work at the Daggett House.
As reenactors, we certainly live interesting lives, don't we? We can experience times past in ways most folks can't even imagine. And, it seems, we've helped others as well, for as we strolled about the Village, I was told by more than one guest that they felt we brought the 4th of July to life for them.
That, my friend, is what it is all about - - to strive to be as accurate as one can and to have that work noticed is as good a compliment living historians can receive. It's almost like we've jumped into - or maybe jumped out of - our history books.
Yeah, well, you have to admit, period clothing is pretty cool to wear.
|From April through most of June, visitors were not allowed to enter the homes|
due to covid. However, by the end of the month we could go in once again!
|I would be willing to bet quite a lot that the number one subject women reenactors speak on is fabric: what kind, who is having a sale, how much should they get.|
So...I do believe that is what these ladies were speaking of here as well.
Jennifer brought along her son, TJ, all dressed up and ready to go. Unfortunately, TJ had no hat with him so I brought along an extra that my grandson often wears. TJ was very happy and proudly wore it!
|It's not often we see a child in period clothing inside the Daggett House. |
In fact, I believe this is only the second time for me to see this.
(I have to notate that Jennifer did not touch a thing here.
This is a posed picture for aesthetic purposes~)
Samuel Daggett, a house wright, built this particular house in Coventry (now Andover), Connecticut around the year 1750, right about the time he married his wife, Anna Bushnell. Samuel and Anna had three children: daughters Asenath and Talitha Ann, and a son, Isaiah.
From the Daggett House we moved on to the former home of John and Mehetable Giddings:
|This house was built right around the same time as the Daggett House - the mid-18th century - so both are older than the United States as a country!|
|There were no visitors around so we set up our own little scenario of the Declaration of Independence being read, much in the same way it may have happened in towns across the newly formed states back in 1776.|
Quaker Deborah Norris Logan was fourteen in the summer of 1776. In a diary she started many years later, she described what she saw and heard on July 4 of that year:
The tavern (or 'ordinary,' or 'publick house,' as they were also known) have played an important part in social, political, and even military life, though we see them taking more of a back seat in their role in our Nation's history.
|It is assumed average middling (middle class) people traveled more than likely by foot to get from home to village, though to go any great distance taking a stage was almost necessary. For us to visit the Eagle Tavern, we traveled by foot.|
Colonial taverns were run by keepers of a middling class who had a steadier income than a farmer or other laborer might have had.
|The Eagle Tavern was built about 1831 in Clinton, Michigan. |
But the architectural style is not very distant from those built at the time of
our country's founding, so it was very suitable for the way we were dressed.
Food at a rural colonial tavern was generally fair, and travelers expected no more than mediocrity upon dining while on the road, with the choices limited and the prices fluctuating. Simply prepared over an open hearth, the types of food for dinner was what was commonly found in the cupboard of an 18th century community.
However, our meal here at the Eagle Tavern was very good indeed---beyond fair.
|At times the servings could be fairly well and include bread and cheese, pigeon fricassee, roast fowl, pasties, and pie, all washed down with a tankard or mug of cider.|
Our little group had soups, salads, cold cuts, and I had roasted chicken breast.
At this point the temperature was a-rising high into the 90s, and, since it was the 4th of July, with neighborhood fireworks soon to be a-booming, it was decided we would find our way back to the 21st century to enjoy the evening's activities and prepare for the next day's time-travel excursions.
By the way, we are very respectful to Greenfield Village, the presenters, and to the guests who visit. We do not "step on toes," so to speak, and we let the presenters do their job - always stepping out of the way when visitors show up wherever we may be. We also let any guests who come up to us know we are not workers or volunteers there, only living historians who try to get the most out of our holiday experience. However, many of the visitors really enjoy our being there and will take photos of and with us, of which we are happy to do so.
The following day, Monday July 5th, was considered to be the Federal Independence Day celebration - leave it to the government to shut down the day after the actual holiday.
So it was that some of us gathered at historic Mill Race Village in Northville, which is a sort of mini-Greenfield Village. We've been celebrating Independence Day there for the past few years, aside from last year, and, though there was nothing "official" happening inside Mill Race, I had heard that the Northville 4th of July parade was occurring and thought it could be fun to get all dressed up and visit a few of the locals who may come through the park where Mill Race lay.
|It was not only citizens of the American Colonies who showed up at Mill Race, |
but members of the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs also took part, so we actually
had a larger group participate.
Mill Race is a dirt pathway that runs the length of the park, circles around at one end and leads you back to where you started.
|Ken also took some time out to read this new |
"Declaration" everyone was speaking of.
My main reason for coming out to Mill Race was not to be atmosphere, necessarily, but to speak to the locals who were strolling through the historic Village about the history of our Independence Day celebration.
In the few years I have been coming to Mill Race Village, I have noticed there is a large immigration population in that area, and these folks - many who are new citizens of the United States - tend to be the most excited about this country and are very happy to now be a part of the citizenship here.
And they love the history!
|Jackie and I enjoyed very much speaking to the numerous families who came through. |
We were impressed by the knowledge of our Nation's history that came from the kids,
many who seemed to have more knowledge than their parents or older siblings.
Similar to the Eagle Tavern at Greenfield Village, there are a few buildings here at Mill Race Village that, though they were built in the 19th century, they still have that 18th century flavor to them, including the stone blacksmith shop which looks as if it could have come straight out of eastern Pennsylvania.
|I am very glad Katherine and Noelle decided to join Citizens of the American Colonies and hope to see them come out more often with us at upcoming reenactments.|
As always, we like to take a group shot.
A mix of Citizens and Voyageurs.
|Not a bad showing~|
I know those of us who spoke to passerby certainly made their holiday!
|The heat continued to rise and, unfortunately, none of the buildings were open for us to take a break, so we decided the time was good for us to pack up and leave. Hopefully the public that came through enjoyed our little history lesson.|
But this wasn't all I did for the wonderful Independence Day weekend!
A couple of days before heading out to Greenfield and Mill Race on the 4th and 5th of July, my wife and I did another open-air museum visit, though we wore our modern clothing rather than our period clothing.
It was on Friday, July 2, that we made a last minute decision to head north to historic Crossroads Village, located in Flint.
Now, we may not have visited Crossroads on the actual 4th of July, or the Federally mandated 5th of July holiday, but it was still on a historic day involving our independence: it was on the 2nd of July that the 2nd Continental Congress had actually voted for independence. Two days later, on July 4, this declaration, explaining the reasons for the separation from England, was finally adopted. Hence, the celebratory date of July 4 and not July 2.
But still, it was a historic day in every sense.
|Welcome to Crossroads Village - this is what greets you as you step through the ticket booth: 19th century America...and in particular, 19th century Michigan! For all historic buildings herein are from our Great Lakes State.|
The history of Crossroads goes back to the late 1960's when people living in the Genesee County area, situated around an hour north of Detroit, were concerned that so much of their local history was being torn down. There was also the realization that the rural crafts, skills, and equipment of a century earlier was also being lost to time, so a proposal to build a museum dedicated to farming life was proposed.
Eventually, the concept of merging farm life with rural 19th century village life came to the forefront and, by the summer of 1973, the County Board of Supervisors adopted the idea of creating a rural country town, common in the last half of the 1800's.
With the Bicentennial fast approaching, plans for this Crossroads Village evolved from the common characteristics of the rural villages that used to dot Genesee County as shown in the 1875 Atlas of Genesee County.
By the time it's grand opening dedication took place on July 4, 1976, just over a dozen buildings had been relocated onto land adjacent to the C.S. Mott's Children's Farm - land that had been given to the people of Genesee County by the C.F. Mott Foundation.
It now has over 30 structures.
What makes Crossroads so unique is the authenticity in its layout: it has dirt roads, wood-plank sidewalks, period train with historic train cars, and, well, it just has the look and feel of stepping into the past.
|The lay out and feel of Crossroads Village is very real to the 19th century, as you can see by this picture: dirt roads, wood plank sidewalks, plenty of open land and shade trees...|
|This cider mill, built in the 1880’s, was used to make cider and wine from the late 19th century through 1974 when it was donated to Crossroads. It is still used to demonstrate cider making from 140 years ago.|
|Once part of a barn as a horse stall, this 1860-built shack is now used to show the blacksmith trade of the 19th century. And Crossroads does have a working smithy throughout the summer season.|
The Atlas gristmill has been my favorite structure inside Crossroads Village. Well, when we went on July 2nd, this was what I wanted to see more than anything else there. Unfortunately, it no longer runs the way it did since it was built - by water. It was "slightly modified" and now is run by a motor, and with the flick of a switch, the motor starts the process. No water running through the sluice at all. It does not have the same feel and sound as an authentic 19th century mill.
I'm sorry, but this was such a disappointment.
A major let down.
|I have no other information on this saw mill, which has been here for quite a while, and drying shed, which seems to be a recent addition - I don't recall seeing it before, though I remember reading about such a building.|
|And, after roaming about this 19th century village, this is what greets you as you are about to leave. Just a small town that seemingly pops up seemingly out of nowhere.|
Just like in days gone by.
Crossroads Village is a wonderful place to visit to get lost in Michigan's 19th century past. Oh yes, it needs some improving - Genesee County needs to cough up some money here - but it is worth the trip.
By the way, in their handout that all visitors receive it states: "Americans who were born in the 1840s and 1850s had an average life expectancy of 43 years but experienced enormous change during that short amount of time."
In general, folks in the 18th and 19th centuries lived nearly as long as we do today. Yes, it's true. If one would read journals of the period, census records, or death records of long ago they would find a good majority of adults living to a ripe old age.
So why is this false average lifespan information being passed around as fact? Because, technically, it is true - the average life span in the mid-1800s actually was around 45 years of age.
The average lifespan.
It was mostly the infant and early childhood mortality rates that brought the average lifespan down so greatly. Death was extremely common, unfortunately, for infants before their first birthday. So common, in fact, that many parents would not even name the infant until it reached 1 or 2 years of age. My own ancestors practiced this custom. However, from one year old to five years the chances of death dropped for children. From ages five to 10 it continued to drop. And then it continued to drop further the older the child became. In fact, a life expectancy graph that I came across noted that "the greatest change in the overall life expectancy...resulted in an increasing likelihood that they would reach the age of 5."
So there you have it.
And, for my grand finale, I have a few photos that I took during the evening hours of July 4th from the front yard of my suburban Detroit home. There are so many in my city who have amazing fireworks
|I am very pleased at how my nothing fancy camera can capture some of the spectacular illuminations.|
From Abigail Adams, on July 21, 1776:
"The Bells rang the privateers fired the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged the platoons followed and every face appeared joyfull."
|I got this idea last year, so I repeated it again this year: |
the rockets red glare behind a flag.
From the London Chronicle, August 1776:
"...everywhere (the Declaration) was received with loud huzzas, and the utmost demonstrations of joy."
|The bombs bursting in air...and my flags were still there.|
One year coming up I am going to get someone - any number of reenactors...one, two, or whatever (just so I'm not by myself) - and get all dressed period and walk up and down my neighborhood streets, watching everyone light off fireworks, giving nods of approval.
How fun would that be?!?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Independence Day is second only to Christmas for me, and this year I took in the holiday almost as much as a person could. I say "almost as much as" because there was one thing I didn't do for no other reason than...stupidity on my part.
I didn't go to Greenfield Village for their festive re-invented version of the 4th of July evening celebration like I wanted to. I have heard nothing but great things about it. So, well, it'll give me something to look forward to for next year, right?
But I most certainly did have quite a celebration anyhow, eh? Three historic villages over three days.
A weekend filled with American history...I'm lovin' it!
By the way, I like what Mike Rowe (from "Dirty Jobs") said about this most wonderful American holiday (I am paraphrasing here):
We say Happy Thanksgiving - not Happy November 26 (or whatever day it falls on).
We say Merry Christmas - not Merry December 25.
So, let's say Happy Independence Day rather than Happy 4th of July.
I know I will.
And, as I wrote on my Facebook page:
I would like to say thank you to my neighbors for the spectacular fireworks show tonight!
I would like to say thank you to my neighbors for the spectacular fireworks show tonight!
"Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of the Continent to the other." - just as John Adams wanted.
Happy Independence Day!!
And Happy Birthday America!!
Until next time, see you in time.
* Thank you to Lynn Anderson for use of a few photos
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