Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Presenting Historic Farming at Port Oneida 2022

Contrary to what one may think,  historic farming is very popular these days.  Folks are interested in going back to their roots,  not only as a nation,  but as a people - as humankind - and the regard for where we came from is high and getting higher.  With current politics being an in-your-face  and often a hate-filled pasttime by too many extremists on all  sides of  the  "battle front,"  those of us in the middle - by far the greater majority - are wanting to get away from that stress and extremism and,  instead,  look at our world in a different way,  and see our daily lives,  past & present,  and finding ways to intertwine them.  People,  whether they lean conservative,  liberal,  or all points in between,  are looking for ways to bring the best of days gone by to the  now,  and it seems that organic non-gmo heirloom farming,  with absolutely no pesticides and the use of heirloom seeds,  tends to be,  above all,  the most popular.
I think it's pretty darn cool!


Imagine a fair based in and around historic farms and farming practices.
I mean an actual fair filled with rural tradition.
"Yeah,  Ken,"  you say,  "but people aren't into that like you are.  No one would come."
You would be wrong,  for,  as the Traverse City web site states:
Here we are,  Larissa and I back at the
historic Olsen Farm ready to do our
19th century farming presentations
after a two year covid hiatus.
It's good to be back!
Once again,  the Port Oneida Rural Historic District of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be full of activities both Friday and Saturday for the Port Oneida Fair.  Visitors are invited to step back in time to actively experience life as it was in this once active community of robust farms of the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The fair promotes the preservation of rural traditional skills,  crafts,  landscapes,  and communities of the Upper Great Lakes Region.
And Port Oneida's own web site says:
"Step back in time at the Port Oneida Fair and experience life as it was in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Imagine the life of the pioneers as you help bale hay or watch a broom-maker at work.  Learn about spinning,  basket weaving,  soap making,  butter making,  candle dipping,  and fur trapping.  Listen as park rangers and local history experts share the area's history.  Watch as teams of oxen and horses cut,  load,  and haul hay and artists and craftsmen demonstrate their skills."
And this is what my presentation partner,  Larissa,  and I both were a part of  in mid-August.  In fact,  we've been presenting historic farm life up here since 2016!
And it has been an amazing experience for us,  for the crowds are large - yes,  people are truly interested in historic farming practices and all that goes with the times.
We did four presentations on the Friday of the event,  as we usually do.  In fact,  as I wrote on my Facebook page:
Got up at 4 am,  left just after 5,  got to Port Oneida  (Sleeping Bear Dunes in the northern lower peninsula)  close to 10,  did four historic farming presentations at a historic farm fair,  left around 5:00 pm,  and made it home by 9:30 tonight.
A whirlwind of a day,  but a great time with awesome crowds - some of which came back from previous years just to see our presentation!
That just about sums it all up.
Just as it looked over a century ago...such a beautiful historic area...
If you look closely at the top photo you can see a horse pulling a wagon of visitors. 
And these visitors come because they have a genuine interest in history.
Below here we have a few of the visitors.
Our presentations are not just a show  'n'  tell and kill  'em with facts and information;  we tell a story of a complete year of our 1860s lives - all four seasons and the chores that come with them - and over the years we have honed our story into what could have been a very real situation that tends to draw our audience into our world of the past:
We are a farm family with around 80 acres of good land in which to grow our crops.  However,  we have been blessed with only two children - and they are both girls.  It seems that all historic stories and movies show farm families as having a dozen kids - six boys and six know,  the perfect farm family...and everything runs like clockwork.  Well,  we know that life wasn't always as what Hollywood  (or storybooks)  like to show,  hence the reason why we decided ours would have that bit of realism added to it by having two daughters only - no sons.  And the audience definitely took note of that situation.
This is the historic Charles Olsen Farm where we've done our 19th century farm life presentations since 2016.  It has been wonderfully restored,  along with a few other 
farm houses in the area that are also part of the annual historic farming fair.
Larissa and I present beneath that center tree in the back.
The good folks who put on this event do a super job,  and we enjoy the 
appreciation we receive from all involved.
As our story goes,  my sister,  who married a man that did very well for himself in the mercantile trade,  offered to send our eldest daughter,  Christine,  who is 16,  to a finishing school in the big city in hopes of her learning to be a fine lady instead of living the life of a farmer's daughter.
And that's where the conundrum occurs;  because we have no sons,  I've / we've raised Christine to do traditionally boy's chores,  and thus,  while our younger daughter,  Jill,  is helping mom in the kitchen with the preparation & cooking of meals,  along with house cleaning,  clothes washing & mending,  soap and candle making,  emptying chamber pots,  and other duties,  Christine is spending the four seasons of the year out in the fields with me doing farm chores normally reserved for the male sex,  including manuring,  plowing,  harrowing,  planting,  harvesting,  hauling,  fence mending,  tapping trees to make maple syrup,  banking the house against the cold weather,  and other necessities that need to be done.
And because of the help I need completing these chores,  Larissa and I then discuss with the audience how necessary it is to have Christine remain with us rather than send her off to some fancy school. 
You see,  at the end of our presentation,  we leave it to the audience to help us in our decision by asking them what should we do - send Christine away to finishing school or have her remain with us.
More often than not,  the audience votes to have her remain with us,  for they realize how much we depend on her help.
In addition to our little tale we also speak about our clothing,  show our period house and farm accessories,  and throw in a little bit of fun humor to keep it lite,  all the while visiting each of the four seasons of the year and the chores that come with each.
We do four 1860s farm life presentations during this fair in Port Oneida,  and we are happy to report that we always have large audiences for each.  We try to leave time for questions  &  answers at the end,  and there were some very good ones indeed.

We bring along a variety of period accessories to our programs - some actual
antiques and others being replications.  After presenting together for over a decade, 
we have found that having  "live and in color"  items works better than power-points
for us,  for where else can one see things such as these up close and personal? 
Not in the  "hands-off!"  museums,  that for certain!

Meanwhile,  inside the Olsen Farm:
Susan Odom
Together again.
They've had numerous women in the kitchen of the Olsen Farm.  This year they got Susan Odom to do the cooking demonstration,  and she made bread and an apricot pie...with a twist;  "I added a few Cherry Olives for  spice.  Cherry olives are a sweet spiced pickled made with dark sweet cherries whole,  not pitted."
Oh!  The wonderful odors that emanated when one entered!
And I  got to try some!  The benefits of being a historic presenter can be delicious!
It was so good to see Susan again.  She used to be a Firestone Farm presenter at Greenfield Village years ago.  In fact,  Larissa mentioned that it was Susan who was her mentor there and taught her many things on 1880s farm life.  I remember Susan working there all those years ago  (she left the Village in 2005),  and through Facebook we've reconnected and become friends again.
Susan now owns and operates Hillside Homestead,  where overnight lodging and historic dinner experiences in an authentic 1910 farmhouse is offered to guests. As Susan writes:  "You will feel transported back in time!"

There were other historic crafts taking place,  including...
...and broom makers,  washtub washing,  dulcimer musicians,  artists,  rug braiding,  ice cream making,  butter churning...
...just a heaping helping of  traditions...

Back to Larissa and I:
As part of our presentation,  we also speak of our clothing.  I will usually ask if I look like a farmer in my attire.  Every time I get a solid  "no."  When people think of old-time farmers,  their minds go to the old man wearing overalls,  not the clothing they see me in.  So,  as part of my clothing explanation,  I also get into a bit of  19th century etiquette as well,  including how I would act if a female neighbor happened by,  including a greeting with the complete removal of my hat - not the tipping as what was more acceptable later in the century - and making sure my sack coat was on.
Larissa gets,  shall we say,  a bit deeper into the whole fashion thing,  for there is much more for her to speak on.  It seems everyone,  men  &  women,  have an interest in what women wore back then,  and she shows them,  in a polite manner,  layer by layer.  And,  as you see in the photo below,  she'll usually have a young lady come up with her to help her keep count of the number of layers she has on. 
The young girl here  "dressed the part,"  and came out with two others  (and mom) 
to have a more immersed experience of the past.  And was she excited!  She loves 
"Little House on the Prairie"  and dressed like Laura Ingalls.
Could you just imagine if Laura Ingalls  (Wilder)  could see the affect her books 
 (and eventual TV show)  would have on little girls everywhere,  nearly a hundred
years after first being published and nearly 70 years after the author's death? 
That's got to tell you something.
And so a  "group shot"  was happily taken.
The young lady to Larissa's immediate right is  "Half-pint Hannah"~
By the way,  Laura Ingalls Wilder's book,  "Farmer Boy"  is a sort of historic
19th century farming bible.  I love it and have read it multiple times.
It's been over a decade since me and Larissa first connected as historical presenters,  back when we were reenacting at the wonderful Wolcott Mill event.  They were looking for reenactors to help out during their evening lantern tour,  and Larissa & I just came up with a quick sort of lesson on 1860s etiquette.  We realized then that as far as presenters,  we made a great pairing,  and it all grew from there.  Since that time all those years ago we've spoken at schools - elementary through high school - reenactments,  libraries,  historical societies,  for the DAR  (Daughters of the American Revolution)  and the SAR  (Sons of the American Revolution),  fairs,  and even to a group of old farmers in a historic barn  (who gave us a standing ovation,  by the way)!
We've also ventured into colonial farming as well as historical founders Sybil Ludington and Paul Revere.
With all of this,  it's always a pleasure to present in Port Oneida every year,  for the interest from the spectators continues to grow.  
So,  yeah,  historic farm life is our forte',  whether Victorian or colonial,  and we both enjoy doing this very much.  I am hoping to continue at Port Oneida for some time to come.  I suppose as long as we can keep the large audience,  we should be okay.

So,  until next time,  see you in time.

Here is an excellent collection on various historic British farming  (which is pretty much the same as historic farming in America) - click HERE
To read what it was like to spend a year on an 18th century farm,  click HERE
To read about Victorian farming at harvest time,  click HERE

~   ~   ~

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Sun Sets on Port Sanilac's Civil War Days - 2022

This is the end...beautiful friend...
A slight foggy dew hides the sky of  blue on the morning of what promises to be
a hot and muggy day.

Zouaves - I don't believe this group
has missed a single event here in ten years.
I thank you good folks.
Every year we try to come up with something new and different for our Port Sanilac Civil War reenactment.  I mean,  as the host of the event  (with my friend Jackie co-hosting it with me this year),  I can come up with pretty much anything,  as long as it's historical. 
So this year was our attempt to reenact the Battle of Antietam  (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg).
"Attempt"  being the key verb here.
It ended up being a sort of tactical with a few cannon firings and musketed soldiers hiding behind buildings and taking shots at each other.
The battle could have / should have been something greater,  but it seems too many reenactors had to stay home and cut their grass or plan for something else,  or maybe they're still living in the pandemic age,  for we had a very poor turnout.
Yeah,  I can't help but be a bit snarky.
Ah,  well,  at least those who did show made their best effort.
To be honest,  even the smallest of  battle representations usually please the public,  for it's not often one gets to see  (and hear!)  historic cannons and guns firing:
Cannon fire started the day.
There were two cannons firing - Boom!  Boom! - one right after the other!

Some of the men in blue skirmishing.
Yeah...the crowd still really enjoyed it.

The guys did a great job!
As a historic reenactor, could I be more proud of our dog when you see how he reacts to cannon fire?
Yup - doesn't bother him at all.
So 4th of July fireworks are like cap guns to him!
Yeah...much of his early years were spent at reenactments...
My wife?
She don't mind 'em much either!
My beautiful and patriotic  wife trying to keep our dog,  Paul Anka, 
calm during the musket and cannon firing.
Wait---he doesn't seem to mind---not at all.  Cannons and muskets are
more or less just a bit of an annoyance for him.

The cannons and musketry didn't bother me,  either.
Hot...muggy...and pretty tired.  So I took a quick nap.
My wife has a comfortable lap,  especially when she's wearing layers.
I dreamed of America  (lol)

Jackie,  who you see with us often during our colonial cabin excursions,  was the hostess for an 1860s mourning presentation.
She did an amazing job!
Jackie in 2nd stage mourning.
She has that wry sense of humor that gave the dour subject a bit of light.
She covered the fashion - telling of the different stages of mourning women went through and what they wore for each stage.  
Jackie went on to teach all about the mourning etiquette of the time and of the various ways others would respond to death - how a friend or relative of the mourner may respond to her plight. 
She also explained that death happened quite frequently for younger people during the 1860s, and it was much more commonplace at a younger age than today;  the infant mortality rate was extremely high.  Unfortunately,  death during childbirth was the number one cause of a woman's death  and how death in the 19th century was much more an accepted part of life.
(Here is something from  "Rachel Weeping:  Mourning in 19th Century America"  by Karen Rae Mehaffey):  'Americans responded to death as a constant companion, and even embraced it with resignation and ritual.  Americans...were intimately acquainted with death.  Victorians embraced mourning as a sub-culture.  It impacted how people dressed,  how they behaved in society,  and even how they decorated their homes.' 
'Women were responsible for mourning in the family,  and carried the responsibility of preparing mourning garments and making sure everyone was dressed properly.'
An excellent and informative presentation,  and she did a great job holding the audience's attention.

One of the things we do that I am most proud of is our fashion show.  Our fashion show is a bit different than most that we see - not better or worse, just different.  I came up with the idea years ago of having the participants - models,  if you like - speak on their own behalf of not only about their own clothing,  but of why they were wearing the fashion and style they had on. 
A few of the models for the fashion show.
However,  our fashion shows are not typical of most.  We try to keep ours' 
focused as much on history as we do fashions.
We've been doing it this way for at least a decade.
What was the reason behind the clothing is always our main theme.  But this year we took the fashion show down a different path:  each  "model"  became a citizen of Sharpsburg,  Maryland,  where Antietam took place in 1862.
However,  Jackie,  who had just come out of mourning  (lol),  put on her yellow dress and gave a basic outline of what women wore,  including  (men are to cover their eyes and refrain their thoughts here)  her underpinnings:
Jackie is not shy.
No,  not at all...
Jackie researched many different citizens and allowed us to choose who we wanted to be.  She had a paragraph for each citizen,  so learning  "our part"  was relatively simple.
So each each of us began by speaking about ourselves   (who we were portraying)  and our clothes,  of our lives,  our occupations,  and how the war affected and afflicted us.  This seemed to bring it all home for the audience watching;  it helps to get them into thinking about how war affects everyone.  
For instance,  I portrayed Martin Eakle,  a local miller who ran a gristmill.  So I began my speech talking about my clothing - my linen farming clothing - which lead to me speaking on gristmills and of their importance to the local community.  But during the Battle of Antietam - - -   
" I "  drove my horse and cart out to the Union men under
heavy fire to give out biscuits,  ham,  and  “good rye whisky.”  
I also took several wounded men to the nearby field hospital. 
I made numerous trips to the field hospital that day,  wagon
loaded with wounded soldiers.  I was very lucky that I did
not get wounded,  though one of my horses did.
118 years after the Battle of Antietam,  an article titled  “County Man Antietam’s Unknown Hero”  appeared in the May 10,  1980,  Daily Mail,  a newspaper published in Hagerstown,  Md.,  12 miles north of Sharpsburg.  A descendant of the Eakle family surfaced with substantial evidence that the hero was  (ahem)  Martin Eakle of Eakles Mill.  
Shortly after the battle,  a member of the Eakle family had had the brave exploits printed in a four-page pamphlet,  “Martin Eakle at Antietam.”  The small publication,  which mentioned an eyewitness account,  was given to family members.
Yeah...I didn't realize I was portraying such a hero!

Margaret Roulette,  with her husband,  William,  along with their five children, 
lived on a farm bordered by the Sunken Road,  now known as Bloody Lane
because of the fierce fighting that occurred there,  and they remained in their
dark cellar nearly the entire time the battle was going on.
The Roulette's had beehives,  which somehow got overturned during the fighting,  and the angry insects attacked the men of the 132nd Pennsylvania Infantry,  adding to their discomfort.
Their farm was also used as a field hospital by the Union Army.

Theresa Kretzer and her family chose to remain in Sharpsburg during the battle rather than flee like so many others.  In fact,  neighbors chose the Kretzer home as a place of refuge because of its large size and the thick stone walls.  Even a few Confederate soldiers sought refuge there.
"A number of babies were there,  and several dogs,  and every time the firing
began extra hard the babies would cry and the dogs would bark.  Often the reports
were so loud,  they shook the walls.  Occasionally a woman was quite unnerved
and hysterical,  and some of those old-aged men would break out in prayer." 
Theresa Kretzer

Dr.  Mary Walker was an American abolitionist,  prohibitionist,  prisoner of war,  and surgeon.  She is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor.  
She attempted to join the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War
and was denied.  She served as a surgeon at a temporary hospital in Washington,  D.C.  before being hired by Union Forces and assigned to Army of the Cumberland and
later the 52nd Ohio Infantry,  becoming the first female surgeon in the US Army.  
After the war,  she was approved for the Medal of Honor,  for her efforts to treat the wounded in battle and across enemy lines during the Civil War.

Sarah Emma Edmondson was born in New Brunswick,  Canada in December of 1841.  Her father was a farmer who had been hoping for a son to help him with the crops;  as a result,  he resented his daughter and treated her badly.  In 1857,  to escape the abuse and an arranged marriage,  Edmondson left home,  changing her name to Edmonds.
Edmonds lived and worked in the town of Moncton for about a year,  but always fearful that she would be discovered by her father,  she decided to immigrate to the United States.  In order to travel undetected and to secure a job,  she decided to disguise herself as a man and took the name Franklin Thompson.
By the start of the Civil War in 1861,  Edmonds was boarding in Flint, Michigan.  An ardent Unionist,  she decided that the best way to help would be to enlist under her alias,  and on May 25,  1861,  Edmonds was mustered into the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a 3 year recruit.
In 1897,  Edmonds was admitted into the Grand Army of the Republic, 
the only woman member.
In the spring of 1863,  Edmonds and the 2nd Michigan were assigned to the Army of the Cumberland and sent to Kentucky.  Edmonds contracted malaria and requested a furlough,  which was denied.  Not wanting to seek medical attention from the army for fear of discovery,  Edmonds left her comrades in mid-April,  never to return.  “Franklin Thompson”  was subsequently charged with desertion.
After her recovery,  Edmonds,  no longer in disguise,  worked with the United States Christian Commission as a female nurse,  from June 1863 until the end of the war.  She wrote and published her memoirs,  Nurse and Spy in the Union Army,  the first edition being released in 1864.  Edmonds donated the profits from her book to various soldiers’ aid groups.

On September 17,  1862,  seventy-eight girls and young women were killed in an explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh,  Pennsylvania – the worst civilian disaster of the Civil War.
The deaths of these young women were given little press coverage because the Battle of Antietam was fought the same day.
Employment at the arsenal as cartridge makers provided steady and reasonable income for young women and girls who were forced to find work to survive the war years.  Employment at the arsenal enticed the young girls,  widows,  mothers,  and wives who were struggling to support their families while their husbands,  brothers,  fathers,  and sons were fighting in the Union Army.
Mary Gardner - a survivor of the Alleghany Arsenal Explosion.
It was not considered proper for women to work outside the home, 
but this work was allowed because it supported the war effort.
Around 2pm,  Joseph Frick was delivering wooden barrels of DuPont black powder in a horse-drawn wagon up the new stone road.  Rachel Dunlap,  an employee in the lab watched as Frick maneuvered his wagon into position to offload the barrels.  Just then she saw a spark flash near the horse’s hooves  (with iron horseshoes)  and the iron-clad wagon wheels.  Then she saw a sheet of flame.  All it took was one tiny spark.
Many of the victims died in horrific ways.  Witnesses reported bodies bursting in midair.  A body does not survive 125,000 rounds of exploding ammunition,  not to mention a couple hundred parrot-gun projectiles.  Where the heat was most intense,  there was nothing left but white bones in a heap.
Just as Antietam would prove the costliest day in military dead,  the Arsenal explosion would produce the largest civilian death tally in the Civil War.  The 34-acre complex became a grim public morgue with bodies laid out on wooden planks.

Ada Mumma was also a young child,  living near Antietam Creek,  when the armies descended.  Her parents and grandparents initially planned to stay in their home during the battle,  and Ada thought the novelty of hauling mattresses to the basement was quite exciting.
"We had the orchard to cross first.  the bullets were whistling all around us. 
One went through my father’s hat and several went through the curtains on the
carriage. . . Then I heard a terrible whistling and an explosion which sent the
earth and stones in every direction,  which I was told was a shell exploding."
After the battle,  surgeons turned Ada Mummer’s home into a hospital.  Her grandmother returned first and found the farmhouse so crammed with wounded that she had to crawl in a window.  Ada returned to the terrifying scene the next day:
"I could not sleep.  I could hear those poor men calling for  " 'water. . . for God’s sake,  give me a drop of water.' ” 

The Dunker German Baptist church is situated one mile north of the town of Sharpsburg,  on the ground once occupied by the left wing of the Confederates at the battle of Antietam.  During the battle the church was used as a make-shift fort by the Confederates,  and was shelled by the Northern forces.  Union Troops battled to take the church for their use and by the end of the battle,  after the withdrawal of the Confederates,  it is estimated that 12,000 casualties would occur within a ½ mile of the church.   The people surrounding the church  (congregants)  were left with no crops,  livestock,  etc.  Their homes were destroyed,  barns looted and burned.  The church seemed to be the center of the battle and showed its scars.  
Farmer David Long became an elder at age 25 and then a minister at age 30, 
presiding over the Manor church for 25 years.

Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma lived on a 150 acre farm with their 10 children,  Samuel having inherited it from his father in 1850.  It was Samuel who had given some of his land on which to build the Dunker Church.
As the armies began to move into place around Sharpsburg the Mummas were told they should leave.  They gathered clothing and packed the family silver in a basket,  but left everything behind as artillery fire broke out overhead.  The parents and younger children travelled in a two horse cart while the older children walked,  escaping to Manor Church, about four miles to the north.
It was good that they did.  Their home became the site of some of the earliest
fighting in the battle,  and their buildings the only buildings on the
battlefield purposely destroyed in the fighting.  The house,  barn,  and
two outbuildings were burned by withdrawing North Carolina troops to keep
them from sheltering Union sharpshooters.
The Mummas returned to the loss of everything they owned,  which they estimated as worth around eight to ten thousand dollars.  Over the winter they lived on the Sherrick farm near the Burnside Bridge,  and rebuilt in 1863.  The current house was rebuilt on the original foundation.  After the war the Federal government refused compensation for the Mummas’  loss because the damage was caused by Confederates,  and compensation was only paid for damage caused by Federal troops.

My hat is off to Jackie for all she put into not only this fashion show,  but also in her mourning presentation.  And I know the audience,  which was decently large,  enjoyed it as well.  They also had good questions - it's always a good presentation when you can get your audience to think and wonder.
So,  now,  onto a few of our other reenactor visitors:
Carrie and her daughter Nadia were there as well, 
and so was Carrie's husband,  Ian.  In fact,  it was Ian who
put together Saturday's military skirmish.

Larissa and I under the fly of Jackie.
It was a very hot and muggy day and I felt no need to add to the heat
by wearing my coat - linen or not - just as men of that time would do.
We tend to forget that people of the 1860s were every bit as smart as 
people are today,  and would have taken care of  cooling themselves
down much in the same way as those without a/c do today.  If that meant to
wear less clothing,  especially while in the home,  then that's what would happen.

Cathy did an awesome portrayal of  Dr.  Mary Walker,  and included many
 replicated 19th century doctor and surgical implements in her presentation.

The Assenmacher parlor.
Yes,  I said  "parlor."  It is probably as close as one might see a parlor setting
as can be done while camping.  I commend them for the work they put into it.

Sue did a great job with her flax break and teaching the public about the old flax process.

The wee ones always seem to  "up the bar"  at reenactments - they add that 
"home-touch"  of authenticity,  in my opinion.

Roberto and Melody Aleman and their wee ones.
I love the fact that Roberto,  a recent immigrant from Nicaragua, 
portrays a Union soldier in the American Civil War.
I've known Melody since she was a tiny tot in elementary school. 

"Gee!!  I Wish I Were a Man!  I'd join the Union Army!"
says Larissa as she gazes at her soldier friends.

Since we had virtually no way of doing any sort of battle or skirmish scenario on Sunday,  new 21st Michigan member Patrick took it upon himself to do a weapons demonstration for the public that came out to see us.  And they very much appreciated what he did. 
Patrick during his weapons demo.
I commend Patrick,  for he gave an excellent explanation about his gun and
how it was fired.
My hat is off to you,  sir.
It was reminiscent of our very first Port Sanilac back in 2009 when we only
had three soldiers who did the same as Patrick.
The first and the last on nearly the same note. 
My two oldest sons flank Jim Cary in 2009.

When the sun goes down,  and the clouds all frown...
And with that,  the sun sets on Civil War Days at Port Sanilac.
Since 2009 we've been teaching the public about this part of American history. 
The event slowly grew until the mid-teens when we had our largest and best
participation from the reenacting community.  Since then it has been spiraling
downward to the less than two dozen total or so that came out this year, 
and it was mostly civilians. 
And now,  Civil War Days at Port Sanilac is officially over. 
No,  it wasn't the woke/cancel culture crowd that did this event in - it was the
lack of participation from reenactors more than anything else. 
So now there are just two - perhaps three - major Civil War events left within an
easy drive of Metro-Detroit.
How long until there's nothing left?
I certainly am glad I added Revolutionary War/Colonial to my living history, 
for that period seems to be on the upswing and thriving.
The same for WWII for those who do that time period  (of which I am not a part of).

For those who have come out almost every year since the beginning - you know who you are - I am very appreciative and thankful.  Honestly I am.  We had a good fact,  I plan to put together a sort of  "best of Port Sanilac"  post sometime in the future - there are some great pictures from past experiences.  Yeah... some truly amazing times:  the Battle of Gettysburg,  an authentic 1860s country fair,  visits from President Lincoln,  Battle of Bull Run,  mourning,  medical scenarios,  a shotgun wedding,  swimming in the lake while in 1860s swimwear and clothing,  Battle of Antietam,  amazing fashion show history lessons...even a period circus!  So many great times.
Farewell to what was once an amazing event.

Well,  my friends,  until next time,  see you in time.

Thanks to B&K Photography,  Larissa Fleishman,  Ian Kushnir,  and Sue Madonia for the use of  their photos - between alla yours and mine,  we got it covered.

 ~   ~

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

A Day In the Life: Spending Time in Summer 1772 at the Frontier Cabin - The Great Unknowns

For one day each season,  a few of us engage in commonplace 1700s daily activities,  and through it all we learn to understand lives once lived a little bit better - the lives of  the average 18th century man and woman in the American colonies.
Now,  what do I mean  "the great unknowns"  in the title?
You shall see...


There is a story to tell here:
Every-so-often,  when I wear my top hat at a Civil War reenactment,  I am called  "Abraham Lincoln."  As if he were the only man to wear a top hat during that time.  Now,  I don't look a thing like Mr.  Lincoln - not in height,  not in facial looks,  not in anything.  But I had a top hat on.
A couple weeks before our cabin excursion here,  when I entered a diner while in my colonial clothes after a reenactment,  I was called George Washington.  This has happened other times in similar situations as well.  Because,  like Lincoln,  anyone who dresses in 1770s  "small clothes"  (knee breeches,  buckle shoes,  tricorn hat)  must be representing George Washington.
As if he were the only one to dress in that fashion.
This is Preacher Gerring - 
not  Ben Franklin.
More recently,  my friend Norman Gerring was asked if he was Ben Franklin.  Now,  again,  the man looks nothing like Mr.  Franklin.  But he had on his  "small clothes,"  this time including a white wig and wire eyeglasses.  Never mind that Franklin didn't wear a wig,  though he did wear glasses.  In fact,  'twas the glasses that gave it away,  right?
Now...I do thank anyone that has confused me with Washington,  Lincoln,  and,  yes,  because of my very wide hair part,  even Ben Franklin,  for I can think of no greater compliment than to be confused with such men.
And I'm sure Mr.  Gerring feels the same.
It's funny,  however,  that I have never been asked if I was Quaker farmer Jonathan Heacock.
Who is Jonathan Heacock?
Why,  he was my 5th great grandfather who lived in Bucks County,  Pennsylvania,  and he and his wife Suzannah farmed the land during the last quarter of the 18th century.
Ah,  but most people wouldn't know either Jon or Suzannah.
And this is kind of my point:  my 5th great grandparents were but two of the nearly 3,000,000 people living in the colonies during the later 18th century.  And all but a few dozen,  for the most part,  are greatly unknown to most.
And that's who I sort of  represent as a living historian - a member of the  "great unknowns."
Oh!  I'm not necessarily portraying Jonathan Heacock himself,  but someone like him;  we,  as a living history group,  tend to depict the many unknowns that have been lost to time;  we show ourselves to be an average farming family of the 18th century who lived their lives as mostly unknowns outside of their little community,  wearing plain work clothes,  eking out their livelihoods from the soil to feed their family,  similar in manner as most of us do today in our own various occupations.  I mentioned this to a visitor on the day we were at the cabin,  and she was very happy to hear it,  for she told me she loved the idea of us portraying the  "unknowns"  and showing everyday life of  the every man or every woman of 250 years ago.
Much in the same vein as most of us  "unknowns"  living our lives here in 2022.
This past portrayal is exactly what we love doing.  We can read about George Washington,  Ben Franklin,  Thomas Jefferson,  John & Abigail Adams,  James Madison,  Paul Revere,  John Hancock...even Abraham Lincoln  (he from a later time period)  and a few dozen other  "names"  from the past in virtually every American history book.  But how often do we get to see and study...up close...the lives of the average Jonathan or Suzannah Heacock of that period?
You see,  this is our forte - - - this is what we study...what we research...and what we can show.
And it's because of this that we can make an honest attempt to live in our ancestor's shoes.
Welcome to summer 1772.
Welcome to  "our"  cabin - our home.  At least for a few days a year.
As I mentioned earlier,  my colonial ancestors were farmers - Quaker farmers.
In our modern day,  I,  their descendant,  am a classroom paraprofessional
 - a teacher's aid for special needs kids.
Our two generations are 250 years and worlds apart from each other, 
though their blood still runs through my veins.   
As a direct descendant of these 18th century Americans,  I am honored that
I can honor them in such a way,  even if for only one day at a time. 
Hot is hot,  and come June,  July,  and August the summer heat can be stifling at times.  Keeping cool in such heat was of utmost importance.  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 in such warm air,  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."
Women,  too,  wore light linen and found ways to keep on the cool side.  As Sarah Smith Emery wrote:
"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. 
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."
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 or even a shade tree.
However,  as hot as this current summer has been,  we were quite lucky on this day at the cabin,  for temperatures only reached into the lower 80s,  and the humidity remained lower as well.
It was quite the opposite from last year.
And that made for a better day.
A gathering of friends.
We do our best to refrain from modern  "hot topic"  talk, 
for we do come here to get away from such topics as best as we can. 
Mind,  I don't mean we speak in 1st person - that would take far more time to
do correctly and not sound  "Hollywood." 
Now,  we may throw in a period word or phrase here and there,  but to make
the attempt to carry on in such a manner is beyond what we actually care to do. 
18th century English is like learning a second language.
So,  we keep our speech history-&-learning  based,  and that works just fine.
By the way,  as you can see in this photo,  my etiquette isn't always the best: 
sometimes I forget to remove my hat while inside the cabin!
I completely understand how such modern political discussions can so easily occur,  for it seems like that is all anyone talks about anymore.  It can be difficult to stop cold turkey,  but we all conform to a more 18th century subject matter for our time here.
Leave the 21st century where it belongs - in the 21st century!
See?  It can  be done!
(By the way,  yes,  we've all made mistakes through the many reenactments we have participated in and have been politely called out - and that's helped us to keep our focus where it should be while  "in the past")~
I took this as a selfie.  I was holding the camera and trying to line it up with the mirror. 
It took a few tries but I finally got it.  I'm always trying to look for something different.
It's sort of  earie,  in a way,  don't you think?

I always enjoy being with my female friends,  but I must admit it was nice to
have another male to speak with - Norm Gerring.  Since he came as a minister, 
we had a good theological discussion...and no arguing.  Yes,  it can be done.

Charlotte fixing her cap.
Women kept their hair covered due to a variety of reasons, 
including modesty,  tradition,  religious beliefs,  personal
decoration,  and protection from the elements.
Oh...and then there's fashion...

Charlotte & Jackie~
This is one of those that when I saw them standing
there,  I told them not to move as I was able to get
a sort of silhouetted photograph.

We had extra visitors this time around:  members of the 1st Pennsylvania.
Tony,  who is the head of the 1st Pennsylvania here in Michigan,  asked me if I would mind if they came out to drill while we were in the cabin.  I had no problem with it,  and so a few came out,  including my son,  Robbie.  
Robbie a-waiting orders for drilling.

There were soldiers among us!

1st Pennsylvania members out our window.

Tony gave a bit of a history of the 1st Penn.

Tony's group is actually larger than this, 
but not every member could make it on this day.
I think I may ask them to come out again,  but to maybe drill as militia and wear their own small clothes,  so their  "time"  would fit in better with our pre-Revolutionary War portrayal. 
Then again,  perhaps they could come out as citizens,  work in the blacksmith shop,  in the garden,  the barn,  etcetera,  and be called out to drill as militia.  It could make for an interesting scenario if there were modern visitors about,  for the backstory we in the cabin use is we moved from Boston to the frontier and built a cabin to get away from the political upheaval occurring between military  (Redcoats)  and the citizens.  This story gives us the chance to speak to any possible visitors about the Bloody Massacre that happened on Kings Street in March of 1770,  and even,  looking into  "the future,"  the possibilities of speaking about what would eventually be known as the Boston Tea  Party  (stepping a bit into the future,  of course,  for this happened in December 1773 - it could make for an interesting history lesson for its sestercentennial - the 250th anniversary).

Though I portray a farmer - no,  I am not a farmer in real life,  nor do I claim to be - I have little means of doing any actual colonial farming.  I am a presenter,  and just as most of our reenacting soldiers have never been in a battle,  I have never actually farmed outside of gardening,  aside from a few opportunities here and there,  such as plowing.  We don't have access to large fields for plowing,  nor are we able to use oxen or horses for our work,  and we cannot come out very often even to weed due to the driving distance.  However,  here at the cabin we do have a kitchen garden.  
Me trying to save whatever flax I can,  though it is nearly a month early.
Due to outrageous gas prices,  it was a bit more difficult for me to venture
out this year as compared to last year.
And this kitchen garden gives us a chance to try different things and to learn from each.  For a variety of reasons,  it did not do very well this year - nothing like last year when I got a fine flax crop.  So I have plans for it for next year,  based in part on the kitchen gardens at the Daggett House and Firestone Farm and what those who worked there have taught me over the years,  as well as my own knowledge and research.  It is also my hope to be able to visit more often next year  (lower gas prices,  mayhaps?)  and do more weeding more often. 
Charlotte and Jackie doing the same~

We always have a dinner meal while at the cabin,  and it is a period-correct dish,  including fricandillas,  squash soup,  stew,  beets,  and other dishes of the time.  For our summer dinner meal we had pasties,  cooked at the hearth in the tin kitchen:
Known in modern times as a  "reflector oven,"  it was commonly referred to as a 
"tin kitchen"  during colonial days.  I suppose it's modern equivalent could be sort
of like a roasting spit to some extent 

The tin kitchen you see being used in our hearth is the one and the same as seen in the video below:

Tin kitchens were used from about the mid-17th century through the 19th century,  until cook stoves took over and their popularity waned greatly.  Due to their shape,  they cooked food more efficiently than a simple spit over an open fire,  for the oven surface reflected the heat back from the fire,  centering it onto the front and back of the food.
By the end of the 18th century,  more and more households were equipped 
with tin kitchens for roasting.  The cook put the fowl or meat inside and 
would turn it so the open side would face the fire,  using the small door in the 
back to baste or check on the progress of the food... seen in this picture - checking on the pasties.
Did you know these tin kitchens also went by the name of   "Roasting Kitchen"?  According to historian Alice Morse Earle in her Home Life In Colonial Days book,  this was another name listed for this hearth-cooking tool.  
The pasties look done to me!

Our pasties as served on the table.
They were so good!
Pasties were commonly eaten in colonial America.  While it's not definitively clear when these meat turnovers were invented,  meat pies have been referenced in a 13th century royal charter by England's King Henry III and 14th century French cookbooks,  which referred to the encompassing dough as paste.  In fact,  18th century cook books did the same:
Here you are - making the paste for pasties.
This comes from the book  "The Compleat Housewife;  or,  Accomplish'd
Gentlewoman's Companion"
   which is a cook book written by Eliza
Smith and first published in London in 1727.   It became extremely popular, 
running through 18 editions in fifty years.

This is an original copy:
It was the first cook book to be published in the Thirteen Colonies of America: 
it was printed in Williamsburg,  Virginia,  in 1742 and contained the first published
 recipe for  "katchup,"  and appears to be the earliest source for bread and butter pudding.

Using what they called  "paste"  for the encompassing dough is likely where the word  “pasty”/ "pastie"  came from.  And I found a few pasty recipes in  "The Compleat Housewife"  1744.
More pasty recipes from The Compleat Housewife.
Pasties are hand-held pies traditionally filled with beef or chicken,  potatoes,  onions,  and turnips.  The hearty pies provided a portable meal for farmers,  fishermen,  and – most famously – miners.  Housewives historically put almost anything in their pasties,  including fish,  eggs,  rabbit,  pork,  beef,  venison,  chicken,  vegetables,  and even fruit.  Many period recipes also suggest marinating and aging meat for several days,  as well as beating it to a pulp with a rolling pin.  This was done to further tenderize the meat,  for it is said that beef was likely much tougher then than it is today.
So which style of pasty is most historically accurate?  They all are.  It seems the common denominator between all pasties is simply two things:  a crust and a meat filling….oops,  then again,  there were fruit pasties. 
So there you go - all's fair in pasties!
From the cookbook  Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern"It is said that the Devil never crossed the Tamar into Cornwall on account of the well-known habit of Cornish women of putting everything into a pasty,  and that he was not sufficiently courageous to risk such a fate!"
Today you can find pasties all over the United States,  but they’re most closely associated with southwestern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Here is our summer  2022 cabin group,  which includes the 1st Pennsylvania.

Larissa could not attend due to extenuating circumstances. 
But,  just as last summer,  the three of us - Charlotte,  myself,  & Jackie - persevered.
The great unknowns indeed!

These special 18th century cabin days are,  perhaps,  the highlight of my reenacting year.  The experience received at each is beyond anything I could have imagined or wished for. 
And to think this whole idea of experiencing colonial cabin life here came to me in a dream...
Living the research.
Okay,  so we might not necessarily be portraying my Quaker ancestors,  but we are experimenting in an experience of their lives.  And,  to be honest,  don't you think I kind of look along the lines of a Quaker when I wear my 18th century wide-brimmed farm hat?
Maybe they should put my picture on a box of a pre-packaged breakfast meal...
Anyhow,  only our Patriot's Day and the 4th of July events can come close.


I cannot thank the good folks at the  Waterloo Farm Museum  enough,  especially Brian and Arlene,  for allowing us to live out long-time historical dreams  (figuratively and literally).  I appreciate the trust you have given us.
Also,  so many thanks to the wonderful living historians who joined me,  not only for this Summer excursion,  but consistently - Larissa,  Charlotte,  and Jackie - for it was because of  our similar passions for the past that we could,  together,  make another time---an era long ago---come to life in a very real manner.
I am proud to call you my friends.
And to a few extras who showed up this time:  1st Penn members,  Norman Gerring  (Tony's father),  and photographer Bob Jacobs.  Bob took the two photos of us out in the weedy flax field,  amongst a few others.

Now,  how would you like to see how our past time travel living history adventures have gone here at the cabin?
To read about our 2020 autumn excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 wintertime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 springtime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 summertime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 harvesting of the flax at the cabin,  please click HERE
To read about our 2021 autumn excursion making candles at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2022 winter excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE
To read about our 2022 spring excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE
To learn about historic farm tools,  please click HERE
To learn about a year on a colonial farm - living by the seasons - click HERE
To learn about colonial textiles,  click HERE
To learn about a colonial summer experience,  please click HERE
To learn how colonials lived with candle light,  click HERE
Adding everyday life to colonial living,  click HERE
How my ancestors fit in time:  Putting Our Ancestors in their Place and Time

To purchase a wonderful DVD about colonial daily life,  including farming,  click HERE

See you in the Autumn!

 ~   ~   ~