Thursday, August 31, 2023

2022 Was No Fluke - Jackson 2023 Came Back As Strong As Ever!

39 years ago I was not yet married,  thus I had no children.  And obviously,  no grandkids.  In fact,  being still in my twenties,  I had just gotten engaged.  And I still worked at a record store.  Life what it would become for me today wasn't even yet a dream.
But that was life for me during those Reagan years,  when the first Jackson Civil War Muster took place.  How I would've loved to have attended that first one to see the changes over the last 39 years!
But,  alas,  I didn't attend/participate until 20 years later,  in 2004,  the year I dove headfirst into the world of reenacting and living history.  I remember how blown away I was seeing so many Civil War soldiers all in one area.  And cannons.  And the civilians.  I was like a two year old looking at the world in wonder.
In fact,  here are a few pictures from our very first year to be in attendance - 2004:
Jackson 2004
The 21st Michigan military.  My son Tommy's the one with the long hair.

Jackson 2004
My son,  Robbie,  too young to do military,  instead played the fife
with the other musicians.

Jackson 2004
This has always been one of my most favorite of pictures,  and it's one of my first reenacting shots.  I have no idea who these folks are,  for I was heading to watch the battle - my first real battle! - and this passed before my eyes,  so I snatched up my camera and,  well,  this is what I captured.   I see a story here...I see a family attempting to escape the death and destruction of the war,  perhaps being fought in one of their farming fields.
And I captured the scene...

That was then - each year for Jackson went amazingly well until,  unfortunately,  for some odd reason things began to change;  less and less reenactors showed,  and then it was moved to another location.
Then covid hit...and Civil War reenacting seemed to be in grave danger due to the older participants dropping out and a lot of woke issues with many others.
This is now
Jackson is back at its original location - Cascades Park - and reenactors are showing up in droves...excited again!  Not only that but many of the whippersnapper kids who used to play in the water and run around the trees are now old enough to be soldiers.  Yes---it is a younger more authentic-looking event!
The 2023 Jackson program booklet,  with a listing of all
of the events taking place.
There was enough going on to keep visitors there
all day and into the night!
And then come back the next day for more~
After a few years of taking place at a different location and then completely shutting down due to covid,  hence the reason why this is the 36th Jackson and not the 39th,  and then having many of us glumly anticipate hearing that this event,  like so many others,  would be no more,  the untiring hard work of a few folk,  including Maurice Imhoff  (President of the Jackson Civil War Muster Host Committee),  surprised everyone in this hobby by announcing its return in 2022.
The 2022 Jackson really took everyone off guard because,  well,  no one was sure how it would be,  and the fear of it being a shell of its former self was at the forefront of our minds.
Ahhh...on the contrary,  everyone was quite impressed.  Word spread about how great Jackson's return was.  In fact,  I witnessed it myself and was thoroughly impressed  (click HERE).
So...would 2023 be as triumphant as the previous year?
Well,  upon my arrival I was right off the bat very impressed with the larger amount of everything and everyone:  tents,  reenactors,  younger  reenactors,  sutlers,  activities,  and spectators.
This told me right away that Jackson was back!
And it's back to stay!
What I have here is my  "report"  on how the event went this year,  including loads of pictures,  as usual.

Upon looking inside the program booklet,  visitors and participants found that in the schedule of events,  Larissa,  my presentation partner,  and I were one of the scheduled  "events,"  and we gave a presentation on A Year on a Victorian Farm  (or,  as listed,  Farming in the 1860s):
There we are!
We are so very happy and proud to be able to play such a
role in helping in the Jackson Civil War Muster's return!

And here is our write up - - our biography  (so to speak)  from the souvenir program:
This was an honor - - ~~~

Just before our presentation:
All set up and ready to go!

We speak of not only our chores but of our farming/work clothing as well.
And also a bit of 1860s etiquette. 
Here I was explaining that I may remove my jacket/frock coat if I was working out in the field,  due to the hear,  but if a neighbor happened by,  I would have it near me to slip on quickly before greeting my friend.

Larissa's real-life son,  Zane,  took the following few shots of us~
In our presentation we have three daughters - no sons - and we have raised
one of our daughters doing male farm chores.  We built a story around this.
As you can see behind us,  we usually will bring a few artifacts to show,  
some,  such as the oil lamp,  are actually from the 19th century!

Describing the homemade handmade rakes.

The flail.
Afterward a gentleman came up to me and told me he had heard of a
flail but had never seen one or even knew what it was.  And now he did!
Another person came up to me later in the day and said she had never
knew what a harrow was until it was explained here at our presentation.
I absolutely love  when this sort of thing happens!  Sometimes I think
that everyone knows this stuff,  and I have to realize that most don't, 
just like I didn't until I began my research.
Then there was the couple who not only thought Larissa & I were really married to each other,  but that we were actually farmers!
Boy---were they shocked when I told them! 
When you can raise that believability factor,  that's what brings it all to life  in the living history world.

So after our presentation I had the idea of getting our tintypes taken.  Photographer,  Robert Beech,  thought it would be fun to do a sort of  American Gothic-type image.  We mostly went along with it:
Mr.  Beech the tintype photographer,  works his magic
in capturing our likeness.
And here is how it turned out:
The image here of us is somewhat replicating
the American Gothic painting...but in our own way.
I suppose we are smiling too much,  but I we really didn't want
the all too dower facial expressions of the original.

R. R. Beech - Photographer
"Your handcrafted,  authentic,  and completely archival Wet Plate Tintype or Ambrotype was produced the same way they were made 160 years ago,  and will last many generations...While I strive for perfection,  many factors affect the outcome of the plate,  but that is a good thing.  It makes every single plate a unique and irreplaceable work of art.  Most marks on the plate happen at the edges,  and are introduced in the creative process.  Traditionally,  these were covered up by inserting them in a case or cardboard sleeve.Process marks such as the drip edge are proof that your plate is the real thing and not a digital effect."
Robert Beech

Though we had Civil War at Charlton Park back in July,  which was a fine event indeed,  there were more reenactors at Jackson - including more 21st Michigan members -  so it was great to see so many I have not seen in seemingly ages.
And one person in particular I've known on Facebook,  met one time in person about five years ago,  but have never reenacted with:
Jenna is a long-time reenactor from Wisconsin.  She & I have been Facebook friends for,  well,  probably over a decade,  and we finally met in person at the Kalamazoo Living History Show back in 2018.  Here at Jackson 2023 was the first time we were at the same reenactment.
She is a wonderful person and a reenactor's reenactor. 
And here we both are!!!

North and South can still get along:
Here we have Jenna visiting with the Confederacy's 1st Lady,  Varina Davis.

Speaking of getting along...
Here we have the President of the Confederacy,  Jefferson Davis
with the President of the United States,  Abraham Lincoln. 

As was mentioned in the program,  our Jacksonburg name had been changed to Camp Harrison in honor of one of our long-time reenactors,  Keith Harrison,  who passed away earlier this year.
So here are a few citizens of Camp Harrison:
Jackie & Cyndi

Joyce & Sue

Bobby & Michael Schroeder stand with Jason Monarch.

The 1st couple of the Confederacy,  Jefferson and Varina Davis.

The Alto's

Vickie & Tom.
Their blood runs thick in the Jackson Civil War Muster, 
and has for decades.

Andy's the Eggman

It was good to see 1860s Charlotte again!

Susan and her new husband Dave were there with their sutlery.

A nice chunk of the Schroeder family was camping out.
Always good to see them - and I simply cannot believe how
fast their children are growing!

The Cary clan,  including their three granddaughters!

The finest blacksmith in the land,  no matter which century
you may find him in,  Richard Heinecke~

The Alexanders entertained with guitar-playing period music!

Even Jim was on hand,  advertising the wonderful Waterloo Farm Museum 
(& Dewey School Museum)

I did not take too many battle photos for I was pretty much in only one area,  which was near the artillery.  However,  that was very cool for I love the boomers and don't often get close-ups of them - "boomers shooting boomers"  (as Larissa said lol) - and I ended up with some pretty good shots.
Lorna and her grandson were there as well.

Miranda eyed the excitement with some trepidation.

Of course,  with the cavalry near,  the artillery needed to be extra careful
on their cannon fire,  which they always were.

The cannons were fired in,  I believe,  two-second intervals.
It was very cool to see and hear  (and feel).
But,  for my first time...
I actually caught the flame shooting out of the cannon!
How cool is this?
My first time ever getting such a shot!

The Union army soon marched off the field.
After the battle there was something I didn't know about - a very cool medical scenario.
Unfortunately,  I was not aware of it otherwise I may have been able to be more involved,  so I,  instead,  captured the excitement for posterity:
The ladies did a beautiful job caring for the wounded men in battle.

The  "wounded"  men also did a great job.

This was a first for Jackson in quite a long while,  and I was very pleased to see its return.

We did something similar in Port Sanilac about a decade ago,  and the effect
really plays out well to the visitors. 
It's this sort of thing  "they will take this home with them."

Perhaps she could not save this young man,  and it simply overwhelmed her...

Luckily for some it could've been a flesh wound - nothing too serious.

I played with this picture a bit and tried to give it a more ethereal effect.

Cousin Charley the Reb,  with the fancy strange-looking glasses, 
was there!
I am so sad I did not see him!
But my son,  Robbie,  captured him!
Probably wanted his glasses - - lol

It is to my understanding that President Lincoln only met
General Lee once,  but then others say they've never
met at all.  And I've not found any indication that Lincoln
and Stonewall Jackson ever met.
Yet,  here they are,  the three of them,  at Jackson!
I was only there on Saturday,  but,  as you can see,  it was filled with bringing the past to life.
I believe everyone who was there,  including visitors,  would agree when I say it was one of the best Jackson events ever.
It's been a long time---welcome back!

And now,  let's remove our hats and bow our heads to remember a wonderful man - a man who had the biggest heart of gold:
A wonderful tribute to a reenactor's one who gave his all to this hobby
and to historical preservation.
We were blessed to have known him.
This is my last reenactment for a while - - - but I won't let that stop me from time-traveling or spending time doing traditional things with past connections,  for fall is nigh and that means tradition will reign!.
Stay tuned.
Until next time,  see you in time.

Besides my own photos,  I also used a few pictures from: 
Larissa Fleishman  (and her son Zane)
Robbie Giorlando  (my son)
Ian Kushnir
Jenna Theissen



Thursday, August 24, 2023

Presenting at Mill Race Village

There was a time when,  upon entering a historic museum house,  
my eyes would wander and I would wonder:
what is that?
what was it used for?
And,  generally,  I found such items to be interesting due to the fact that they were items used  "in the old days."   Spinning wheels,  old candle sticks,  furniture styles,  tableware,  tools,  various odds & ends,  and even clothing.  All items I would gaze at in wonder.
Did they really wear those clothes?
What is  that  for?
What are the presenters doing?
Well,  I'm golly,  I'm learning~


Several years ago I wrote a posting about  Crafts and Trades in Early America as is done by reenactors.  Today's post is a sort of  "part 2"  of that.  I used to read about such historical daily life things when I was a young lad,  and then,  upon visiting places such as Greenfield Village and even Crossroads Village,  I would watch the presenters bring my history books to life.  Then I would visit reenactments and see even more historical crafts come to life.  
Then one day a couple decades ago,  I,  myself,  became a historic reenactor,  donning the old-time clothing and even learning some of the crafts & trades as well,  being a part of recreating colonial & Victorian life through historic presentation and living history.
And I watched and learned.
And I asked questions.
So now,  over time,  I,  myself,  have become what I used to dream about being - a historic presenter.  And it is every bit as fun and satisfying as I hoped it to be.
More,  in fact. 
It was mentioned that Mill Race Village was looking for volunteers for Sundays during the summer months to present a period craft or trade.  Since one of my favorite period things to do - and easiest to set up - is the flax process.  That's what I chose,  and so I found a day that was open and,  well,  here I am!
Mill Race Village is a small open-air museum not too far from where I live.  And,  as you can see,  I chose a wonderful sunny summer day to be there.
My interest in this textile art of turning flax to linen stems from my many visits to Greenfield Village.  Of course I've been visiting that open air museum for literally decades now,  and I rarely leave without learning something new.  So it was one day,  probably 2018 or  '19,  and I visited the Daggett House,  and there was interpreter Roy processing flax.  He explained each step,  from the break to scutching to hackling,  and then he explained how this was often the male's job in the colonial household.  Since my wife spins on a spinning wheel,  my interest was raised.  I mean,  here is something that we may do together,  or perhaps another spinner if my wife was unable to for whatever reason.  So,  I researched this craft on my own,  found it to my liking,  and then from there I began a search to pick up the items/tools needed to do such a chore:  flax break,  scutching board,  and a hackle or two.  Over time I acquired what I needed,  and ever since I have been processing flax as a presenter/interpreter myself!
Bev took a pretty good photo of me speaking with a group of visitors.
Mill Race is not a closed-in park - people can stroll along the dirt road amongst a Victorian setting pretty much anytime,  though it is discouraged late at night.
And that's what I did on Sunday August 20 at Mill Race Village.  I very much enjoy speaking about flax and of its importance in not only American history,  but in world history.  As I am constantly in a state of research,  I included additional information to my presentation;  something I learned earlier this year was that the Sumerians also used flax to make linen fabric.   With Sumer being considered the earliest known civilization,  it is said this process for making linen dates back at least to the 7th millennium BC.,   and that the Sumerians may have even invented the flax process,  for flax is one of the earliest plants known to be used for producing textiles.  But it was by the seventh millennium B.C.,  farmers in the fertile crescent cultivated flax,  not only for its linseed oil but for its fiber,  and producing cloth from vegetable matter was a tedious process,  especially in those early,  early days,  though with time the process improved.  
Yes,  even amongst the 19th century setting, 
I could still pull off a colonial feel.
So here I am explaining the pre-processing chore before I demonstrated.
They learned,  in those old BC days,  that the flax stems had to be soaked,  then vigorously pounded to release the fibers.  Next the fibers were  "spun" - either by rubbing them on the thigh,  or by twisting them on a free-hanging spindle  (drop spindle) - before being woven on a horizontal loom that was staked out on the ground.  We must remember that the earliest looms date from the 5th millennium B.C.,  so before that time people were doing the process by hand.  The finished product,  however,  was well worth the trouble.
And who wouldn't want a new linen shirt,  waistcoat,  or knee breeches?!
The Vikings certainly did,  for toward the end of the first millennium:
"Turning the soil with the end of a simple metal point dragged through the dirt or with the more efficient plow,  and harvesting with wood and iron sickles and scythes,  (Viking)  farmers grew barley,  oats and rye,  peas,  hops,  and cabbages for eating,  and flax for making linen."
But I am representing the 18th century - roughly 1773 - so I explained to the visitors how we...
...planted flax seeds by hand at Waterloo Cabin.

And then how we harvested the matured flax three months later.

After that I prepared the flax at my own home.  This includes rippling  (what I'm doing in this picture - pulling the seeds off),  then comes retting - soaking the sheaves of flax in water,  then allowing them to dry. 

Next up:
My flax break - a birthday gift from my children & grandchildren a few years ago  (2020).
How many people can say that?  lol
Here I am using the flax break...the next step in turning flax into linen~
This picture was taken inside the cabin at Waterloo Farm.

The scutching board - another gift I received,  though this time from my wife,
and I got it as a Christmas gift in 2020.
After using the flax break,  the remains are then scutched to remove more
broken shives from the tough line fiber.  Scutching is a scraping process where the broken flax is laid over the top edge of the upright board and a wooden knife is used
to scrape off the chaff from the line fiber.
Again,  photo taken at Waterloo Farm.

...and then finally the hackle  (aka as hatchel or heckle)  that was gifted to me by a friend in that summer of 2020.  Quite a historic year,  eh?
The fiber is drawn through a series of metal combs to remove the last
of the shorter fibers.

Once the hackling is completed,  now the very softened flax is ready to be spun into linen thread:
Rebecca was a Master Presenter at the Daggett House,  and she had learned the old ways from those presenters who came before.  
I think one of my proudest living history moments came from Larissa and Rebecca when they said that of all the years they'd worked at Daggett - and that's a lot of years! - this was their first time actually going from seed to spinning!

The wheel was acting up so Larissa and Rebecca got it working again.
Soon I had about a spool of linen thread,  so over at Mill Race I then explained to the visitors that if you have enough thread it can then be woven into fabric on a loom,  whether the family had a personal loom in their home or perhaps it was taken to the weaver's shop if one lived close enough.
Now,  there was a certain amount of linen thread that remained for other uses.  For instance,  to use as wicking for candles:
Three linen wicks made from spun flax,  just as would have been done
in the 18th century.
Yes,  they were straightened  (somewhat)  as they were dipped into the hot wax.

Candle dipping.

The three of us dipped a few dozen candles on this day.
It was a great experience.
If I was representing an actual 18th century chandler  (one who made candles to sell for profit),  I would have loads of candle molds.  Instead I am dipping for our own home - modern and reenacting - for I burn them throughout the fall and winter months. 
Imperfect,  hand-dipped,  pure beeswax candles.
I tried to keep the wicking as straight as I could,  but,  well, 
this is sometimes what you get when you dip the old-fashioned way.
Definitely better than store-bought!
And each one will last for about five or six hours!

According to sources,  the average family could go through 500 to 700 candles in one year.  Now,  that's the average - methinks if we were living in the Waterloo cabin,  our usage would be far less... 
The light at its 1773!
By the way,  the wooden candle shelf was made for me by Brian,  
President of Waterloo Farm Museum,  and the candle holder is from 1757
 - an authenticated 18th century antique!
Hanging inside the cabin~

Two of my own 18th century vignettes in my home.
It's all a part of  Daggett-izing my home!
Since I had a goodly amount of linen thread,  but nowhere near enough to have it sent to a friend of mine who has a loom  (that would be so  cool!),  I continued my research and learned that back in the day book binders could use it to bind books together. 
And I just happen to know a bookbinder!  
Of course I do - - I'm a living historian!
Fellow living historian,  Tom,  prints and puts together period
books,  so I asked him if he would be so kind as to use the
home-processed linen 
thread we made to bind
my pamphlets,  and so he did.

And here is how they look.
I must admit,  I am pretty proud of how this whole period project and experiment worked and the part that I played in it.  Well,  quite a few of us did our part!
We can all stand proud~
And we're still not done!
We have what's left over - the flax that didn't make the cut  (so to speak).
That's called tow,  and tow was used to stuff mattresses,  to stuff pillows,  also as fire-starting tinder,  and even to clean the inside of a barrel of a gun.    
So,  back at Mill Race Village,  I had a tableful of flax,  both raw and processed, 
as well as a candle and book to show the visitors flax uses.
And there's my rippling comb to remove seeds!

I think what I enjoy most when I present in this manner is the outcome;  the expressions of surprise and even astonishment on the faces of the people when I explain all of flax's uses never ceases to make me smile.  No,  these visitors are not dumb - I'm sure they paid attention in school - it's just that this is the sort of history not taught in most schools,  generally speaking.  Not back when I went to school and not today.
In case you didn't notice,  I've done the entire process - planting,  harvesting,  rippling,  retting,  breaking,  scutching,  hackling - while in my period 18th century clothing.  And those after me did the very same;  spinning and dipping and binding...every step of the flax process here was done by those who were dressed period!
You won't find that  at most other places!
I have to say I am so proud of all of us who played a part!

Until next time,  see you in time.

To visit the Mill Race Village website,  please click HERE
To visit the Waterloo Farm and cabin website,  please click HERE
To read about 18th century textiles,  please click HERE
To read about our planting flax,  please click HERE
To read about our harvesting and preparing flax for processing,  please click HERE
To read about ancient farming,  please click HERE
To read about living in the age of darkness,  candles,  and lanterns,  please click HERE

The ancient Flax history source comes from the book  "The Human Dawn"  from the Time-Life  'Timeframe'  collection.
The Viking flax information is from the book  "Fury of the Northmen"  also from the Time-Life  'Timeframe'  collection  (p. 14).

     ,       ~