Thursday, July 27, 2023

Timeline: "An Interactive Journey Throughout American History" - Monroe County

Do you know what I find to be somewhat strange?
The fact that when I see other reenactors dressed in their period clothing,  they don't look  "different"  or  "weird"  or  "strange"  to me.  In fact,  when I see people dressed in clothing of the past,  it all looks quite natural and normal,  sort of giving an  "at home"  and  "welcoming"  feeling.  It doesn't matter what era they are dressed in.  
Even when I see a lone reenactor dressed in period garb amidst modern society,  I am immediately drawn to them;  they become my goombah  (Italian slang for close friend)  without even meeting them.
Want to know something else?
When I go through the photos taken at one of our reenactments,  it's almost like I'm not looking at a reenactment but,  rather,  just friends  (and family)  in their normal,  natural state.  Especially if they are dressed in the clothing of the periods I  "travel"  to most:  the 1770s and the 1860s.
And because I am so used to being with others who dress history,  I always have this hope that we don't take for granted what we represent;  we don't let our guard down - we keep as accurate as we can be.
One more thing to add:  
I see my reenacting friends in their period attire far more than I see them in modern clothing.  So when I see them as they  "normally are,"  now they look odd to me - not natural. 
You,  too?
Well,  here was an opportunity to see a goodly number of friends,  old and new,  dressed throughout time.  


The advertisement

It all began last April with a simple private note on Messenger to a few of us who enjoy time-traveling:
"Hi reenactor friends!  
Along with working Greenfield Village,  I am also a library clerk at my local library in Carleton.  I had an idea today and I wanted to share it with you all to see if there would be any interest.  I would like to host a history program here with reenactors from different eras/wars throughout American history.  My original thought would be around or after Memorial Day,  but considering that is a month away I understand how that would be difficult.  Instead I would be open to any time before August!  I don’t have any specific ideas or details yet since the idea just came to me this morning,  but would anyone be interested?"
Of course,  almost everyone that was on the list was willing to take part,  including yours truly.  And from there,  ideas and suggestions flowed and,  well,  what you see in today's posting is the end result.

Historical recreationists~
Here are the participants of the Carleton Library timeline event.
A journey through the past~

Though visitors could roam as they pleased,  technically this is where the
starting line began.  Shannon spoke of life in the mid-1700s with the Voyageurs.

I was next in line and I spoke on daily life on the farm.
I didn't get too deep into it - I could speak for an hour easily on the subject,  as Larissa & I do during our presentations - but I gave enough information to queue their interests and to get them a-thinking.
And to answer questions.
Jackie,  to my left,  portrayed herself as Mercy Otis Warren,  who was a published poet,  political playwright,  and satirist during the age of the American Revolution—a time when women were encouraged and expected to keep silent on political matters.  Warren not only engaged with the leading figures of the day—such as John Adams,  his wife Abigail,  and his cousin Samuel Adams—but she became an outspoken commentator and historian,  as well as the leading female intellectual of the Revolution and early republic.

And to Mercy's left we had a Revolutionary War-era doctor,  who explained
the medical technology and procedures of the time.

Staying in the Revolutionary War period,  we next have the Church family, 
 portraying soldiers and civilians of the time.
The Church's are a long-time reenacting family,  now spanning to the 4th generation!

Visitors moved from the Rev War up to what some call America's 2nd War of Independence - the War of 1812 - and the reenacting group,  the Lacroix Company,  to learn about this much over-looked war.
Photo courtesy of the Monroe County Library System

Two of the lady citizens of 1812 representing life in Regency.

Our friend JJ,  portraying the 1860s period,  enjoyed demonstrating an old-time wood-working skill utilizing a draw-knife as he sits upon a shave horse.

This shave horse is similar to the old  "Coopers"  bench,  or also known as the
German schnitzelbank workbench. 

And here we have Civil War period music by the wonderful 5th Michigan band.

In this photograph you see three different centuries:
~on the left we have our lone Civil War soldier representation from the 1860s,  Nick
~in the center is our hostess with the mostess,  Makenzie,  as a homefront
girl during WWII
~and on the right you see me portraying a farmer from about 1770

WWII was well-represented as Peter demonstrates
 the Thompson  (1928a1?)  submachine gun.

Patrick presented as a member of the 101st Airborne,  502nd PIR Company B, 
and Beckie spoke of being a part of the  Army Nurse Corps.
And on that tiny radio on the grass we heard some great old Big Band swing music.

Late WWII representation.

Makenzie stands with her 1940s home front Victory Garden.

As the event drew to a close...
Makenzie was asked if she wanted to fire the Lacroix Company cannon.
Of course,  she said  "yes!"
1940s girl meets 1812-period men!

There's a beaming smile  'neath all that smoke!

Another beaming smile from our family friend,  Emily,  here with her new husband,  Josh  (and the old guy on the right is me lol).
After walking to each stop on the timeline,  Emily came up to me and exclaimed,  "I learned so much today!"
Even a tried and true historian such as Emily can learn!
Emily,  by the way,  used to reenact Civil War with us many years ago.
It was also her wedding we attended at Greenfield Village this past April.
She is a gem...and her husband is a pretty cool guy,  too!
By the way,  I love the shirt Emily is wearing:  "I like my coffee black and my tea in the harbor!"

All events need to have a  "1st one",  and this timeline is a first for the Carleton Library and the first that Makenzie has put together.  I have confidence that,  should she continue with this,  her future endeavors will continue to improve with each passing year.
I commend Makenzie on what she accomplished here.  I know what it takes to put on - to host - such an event;  it seems like you eat and breathe it for months before and for weeks after with little or no sleep the nights leading up to it.  And so much is in play here:  the weather,  the reenactors showing up,  visitors/audience coming out to make it worthwhile.
Ya done really good,  my friend!
Especially for your first endeavor of this sort!

Until next time,  see you in time.

The photos here were taken not only be me,  but by a variety of sources,  including members of the Carleton Library itself and the Lacroix Company reenacting group.

To read a bit on other time lines I participated in:
Timelines are great!
No,  I don't want to see them replace actual reenactments,  but they give one an amazing opportunity to see time through fashion.  And firepower.  And historic accessories.
And stories.

~     ~     ~

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Living In The Past at Charlton Park 2023

Once a year I am part of  a different family,  where we spend an entire day living during the time of the American Civil War in the early 1860s.  This is in a bit of a different direction than reenacting:  I have an 1860s wife,  a sister,  and a servant girl,  and we use a house of the period as well.  Oftentimes scenarios creep into our lives - some planned,  some as a surprise,  and some as a combination of both - and we work out each situation as that 1860s family.  For the most part,  we've been working together in this manner for over a decade now,  which can allow it all to seem very real,  for we know our  "roles,"  so to speak.  
Oh,  not acting roles!  
Simply,  our places in time.
That's what it's like for those of us who participate in the Logan Family inside the Sixberry House at historic Charlton Park.
For our 2023 excursion,  there was a call for an all-day rain but,  lucky for us  (and thankfully),  Saturday was good and dry,  turning mostly sunny,  with highs hovering around 80.
Perfect,  I would say.
Sunday was just as good for those who were there.
So let's get on with the pictures and the stories that go with each:
I have been calling this house  "home"  for over a dozen years.
It was originally built in 1858,  and one day a year I call it mine.
Well..."ours"...for Larissa portrays my wife during our day here at the
Charlton Park Civil War reenactment.

One of the activities we enjoy while sitting in our parlor is telling
period jokes and conundrums.
This year we had Pete and Patrick,  military members of the 21st Michigan,  join us.
A nice,  quiet day...until - - - - 

There has been a running  "family"  scenario that began as a tale of our 19th century youths that actually came to life and has taken on a life of its own.  I'm going to type it out here sweet and simple,  for it could be nearly a novel in itself:
2015 - the year of family stories;  My 19th century sister,  Jacqueline,  spoke of how I got into great trouble as a child when I pulled away from her on the way to school and fell through the ice on a nearby pond.  She firmly pulled me out and dragged me kicking and screaming back home where I received a tanning from our father.
I then told a story I had of Jacqueline in our younger days of a young man who wanted to be her suitor.  Mr.  Bagley wanted to be with her in the worst way but father did not approve of  him.  When Mr. Bagley came by late one evening to ask her to run off with him,  he threw pebbles at her bedroom window to get her attention.  Only it was not her window,  but father and mother's!  Father came out with gun in hand and you never seen anyone run away as quickly as Mr.  Bagley did on that night.
We've never heard from him since.
2016 - now,  as you can probably figure out,  since we're not an actual 1860s family,  our stories are made up.
Or are they...?
Imagine the surprise on Jacqueline's face when our servant announced,  "There is a Mr.  Bagley here to see Miss Jacqueline."
She looked at me,  mouth wide open.  She said,  "You mean there really is  a Mr. Bagley?  I thought he was made up!"
Next thing you know,  a sharp-dressed fellow  (my reenactor friend,  Dan Conklin)  comes into our parlor and,  upon seeing  "my sister,"  exclaimed,  "Jacqueline!  It's been so long!"
Jackie literally became as flushed as a red rose,  exclaiming,  "I feel I have the vapors!"
She honestly didn't know what to say.
The rest of us could not stop laughing for crying at her expressions!
And neither could Jacqueline,  by the way.
Through all of this,  Mr.  Bagley recounted the pebble story as it happened from his point of view,  all in a serious tone.
Such an unexpected reunion!
2017 - Dan  (Mr.  Bagley),  along with his friend Mark Heath  ("The Buge",  for he is a bugler),  decided to take the next step,  of which I was unaware.
This was the year Mr.  Bagley returned to ask my sister for her hand in marriage.
She,  quite shocked at this unexpected situation,  said,  "Yes!"
But things spiraled downward from there;  another supposed suitor  (Mark),  who also had had his eye upon my dear sister,  entered our home,  with the devil in his eyes.  Mr.  Heath felt he had been spurned,  for he noted that Jacqueline had lead him to believe he  was in her interest,  and demanded that the betrothed recount their actions.  Of course,  after decades of waiting to finally marry Jacqueline,  Mr. Bagley was not about to give her up again.  An argument ensued with the outcome being...a duel!
Everyone watched in horror at what was about to take place.
Oh!  Such a sad state of affairs!
Our Mr.  Bagley - dear Mr. Bagley - took a bullet to the chest and died on the spot.
Things remained quiet for the next few years until...this year.
There was a knock upon our door,  and in came two men who  *said*  they were Pinkerton men.
But the two men looked surprisingly familiar...
I called him  "Sir Topham Hatt"~

You see,  these Pinkerton Men  had questions for my sister
about the dual death of Mr.  Bagley.  They wondered what role
she played in the mess.

They even had compromising CDV photos of Jacqueline and the man accused of Mr.  Bagley's murder - Mr.  Heath  (aka  "The Buge")
An interesting conversation ensued with my wife wondering what type of family she married into,  and even Jaqueline,  noting that Larissa wasn't necessarily on her side,  stated  "I liked his first wife better!"
Lots of discussion abounded....until there was nothing much left to say and the men,  with no course of action,  soon left.
If these walls could talk - - future generations may never know of these conversations  (lol)

Methinks we need to get out of the house for a while after that!
Getting ready for a stroll into town...

We always enjoy walking amongst the other reenactors,  many of which we have not seen in a while.
Jackie,  in the pink dress,  portrays my sister.
Larissa,  next to her,  is my wife for the day.

Now,  imagine how you would feel / what you would think if you looked up as you strolled along the walk way and saw this site:
We portray a southern-leaning family at Charlton Park,  so to see
Union soldiers in our little town was a shock.

This is our only event in which we portray a southern-leaning family.  We are civilians of the 21st Michigan,  but sometimes it's okay to portray the other side.  It gives one a bit of a different perspective.  And,  no,  just because we portray a southern family here does not mean we are slave holders.  
Notice the amount of younger men in the ranks.  That's always good to see.

The one thing that impresses me about Charlton Park is that they have dirt roads
and wood-plank sidewalks.  Little things mean a lot.

By the way,  this was one of the largest gatherings of Union men I've seen at one of our
Michigan reenactments in a number of years - since before covid.
It's good to see the hobby growing in strength.

And the men in blue marched directly passed our house!

Our own Mrs.  Vicki St.  John portrayed a school teacher and was able to utilize the old schoolhouse there on the museum property.  
According to the Charlton Park web page:
"Built in 1869,  children attended the Lee School until 1923 when it was closed and turned into a grainery until 1975,  when it was moved to Charlton Park.  1st -- 8th grades were taught in this one-room schoolhouse.  The teacher was the educator,  disciplinarian,  principal,  janitor,  and nurse.
Mrs.  St.  John lined the children up by age/grade and then height - girls in one line and boys in the other.

There were definitely more girls here than boys,  as you can see.  Perhaps the other boys were needed to help their father's on their farms.

Inside the schoolhouse,  the children sat separated as they were in line:  girls on one side and boys on the other.

Mrs.  St.  John is a top notch living historian,  and she certainly did a wonderful job here.

Have you ever flipped through your local town or city's historical photographs and come across those taken of the  'scholars'  (school kids)  standing in front of the schoolhouse with their teacher?
Well here you go - - adding that major touch of realism thanks to local tintype photographer  
"W.C.  Badgley"!  

And this is/was exactly how it was done back in the day.
The past comes alive!
Again,  it's things like this that make it all come alive - where one can see the past in a very real way.

It looks like two students played hooky from school!
Or perhaps it was recess?
Hey!  Wait a minute...Mr.  and Mrs.  Assenmacher!!

Alas,  we noticed there was something else set up on the outskirts of our little village:
The Pinkerton Agency~

Jacqueline noticed something right off the bat:
For Murder
Of the late Mr.  Thaddeus Bagley
Gunned down in cold blood whilst
Defending the honor of a Jezebel

Geee...who could that Jezebel be?
As we continued on - - - - 
Our village has a woodworker...

...and a tavern.

The Assenmacher parlor.

After our walk,  it was time to head back to the house.  Those soldiers marching through town made us nervous.
Back at our house...
One of the nice things about having your own house is that you get visitors.
Mrs.  St.  John and two of her borders came over.
We,  of course,  told her of the Pinkerton adventures.

There is no story behind this photo other than I asked the two ladies
to pose in this manner for me after they explored the 2nd floor. 
I suppose it's me just trying to get a little artsy---different.

A shot I snapped outside our parlor window.

It seems to be  "in"  these days to not have battles at reenactments anymore.  From what I've read,  there are great and grave concerns on whether or not battle reenactments will continue in a few states due to new gun laws,  including Pennsylvania and New York.  While some may think this is a great thing,  because,  you see,  there are a very few of those who do not like battle reenactments and,  therefore,  feel no one should be able to watch such a thing,  the greater majority of folks could not care less and pay no mind to the showing of history.
Well,  to those who believe that battle reenactments should be banned,  I have a mighty big behind they can kiss.
So far,  here in Michigan,  we still include battles,  thank God,  and still do our best to teach history. 
The cannons directly outside our home actually cracked the window in our front parlor!
I should have taken a picture of it - - - 

The cavalry put on quite a display!

The battle on this day was no particular battle.  Just a skirmish of sorts to give the public an idea of the sites,  sounds,  and even smell of a battle. 
But it was a good one - - and long,  too!
As Nick Miner wrote as an after action report:
"We marched off early Saturday afternoon into battle where we were portraying a battle similar to Hunterstown,  in Pennsylvania.  The Federal Cavalry,  under the experienced leadership of Capt.  Kevin Yaeger,  engaged the Confederate Cavalry under Capt.  Blake Sponsel drawing them into fire by a skirmish company led by Capt.  Mike Hammond.  After the two cavalry units fully engaged,  which involved both guns firing and swords clashing with numerous rally's and charges,  the Confederate Cavalry were driven from the field to be replaced by the Confederate Infantry.  As the Confederate's,  led by Col.  Ben Cwayna,  advanced onto the field,  our skirmish company was forced back and we had to bring up the remainder of the wing to support with companies led by Capt.  Scot Spiekerman,  Capt.  Denny Whiting,  and Capt.  Mark Dembski.  Unfortunately they were forced back into town with heavy casualties to be met by the other wing of Federals.  The other wing,  composed of Infantry Companies led by Lt.  John Vohlken,  Capt.  Andrew McComas,  and Capt.  Scott Lawalin,  suffered from some communication misunderstandings and were outmaneuvered,  forcing us to surrender the field." 
Sunday it was the Union army's turn to take the field.
But since I was not there on Sunday,  the pictures here are all from Saturday.
I very much enjoy the town battles at Charlton Park.
It could be Gettysburg or Vicksburg or any number of other  'burgs...

Okay,  so maybe it's not as large as a national event back east or down south,  but it still is a very well done scenario that gives all involved,  including the guests/modern visitors a good bang for their buck  (so to speak).

As the battle commenced,  Mrs.  Kushnir and Mrs.  Cook,  both sketch artists,  captured some of the action as it occurred.
Of course,  they stayed out of harm's way.

I enjoyed the fact that we had a decent-sized military presence,  but even more than that I liked that most in the military were younger men,  giving a more accurate idea of Civil War soldiers.  Maybe that sounds ageist to some,  but it's what I noticed above everything else.  
This helps to let us know that the hobby will continue on for future generations!

As is our tradition,  we ate our dinner meal together as a family.
This is always a highlight for me:  being able to eat in a period kitchen or dining area!
I've always envied the presenters at Greenfield Village who get to enjoy a period meal while in period clothing in the midst of period surroundings...and now I get to do it!

One of my favorite activities we do at Charlton Park is having our annual ice cream social.  We have an ice cream maker - hand-cranked and not motorized - and invite many of the reenactors over to enjoy a gathering of friends.
Larissa takes her turn.

In fact,  pert-near anyone who wanted ice cream took a turn to churn the crank.

It was unfortunate that the ice cream maker was giving us a bit of a problem this year,  plus I didn't get enough ice from the ice house,  so,  though we did have some good frozen portions,  much of it was more like a custard.
But all was good and well and everyone enjoyed the taste.

Including schoolmarm,  Mrs.  St.  John.

Friends socialize at the social.

I feel bad that we did not have our annual  "family"  portrait taken.  But at least we had this one done of family and friends - 21st Michigan members.
As I like to say:
here is how we see ourselves...

Here is how the future will see us.
We did not have our likeness taken by an authentic period camera this year,  so I tried the next best thing:  creating a replication.

Not long after it was time to take our leave...
unlike these ladies,  we had to head back to the future~
And that's how our day went at Charlton Park 2023.
But there is a feel-good story I'd like to end this post with:
Know what's not cool?
People dumping kittens in a park on a Friday night before a storm...
Know what is cool? 
A bunch of reenactor dudes camping in the park finding them Saturday morning and taking care of them all weekend, and they all find new homes after the event. 
Happy ending.
Kitty still went from the night before.

(not my pics - - - but so worth seeing)
(The photos and heroes are the Tiger Light Guard)

The reenactment at Charlton Park never ceases to amaze in the top-notch quality of the open-air museum and of the reenactors themselves.  Many,  many thanks must also go to Charlton Park staff for all they do!
Looking forward to next year!

Until next time,  see you in time.

To read about our history at the Sixberry House and how it all came to be,  please click HERE

~     ~     ~