Sunday, June 17, 2012

Small-Town USA: The Dexter, Michigan Civil War Event

We did a living history event recently in Dexter, Michigan. Dexter is a rural community in the Ann Arbor vicinity and still has many of its original buildings from 100+ years ago. But we were not in town; instead we were on the property of Historic Gordon Hall, a Greek antebellum structure built in the 1840's located on 50 acres of open farmland.  This set the stage for a fine day in the past.
The reenactors who attended were not your laid-back mainstream living historians but, rather, those who prefer to take it that extra step to raise the living history bar.
What was nice about this event was its rural atmosphere. All around was nothing but farmland and, of course, Gordon hall. It wasn't overwhelming by any means, and that gave us a chance to sit back and enjoy each others company. And when the public showed up, we were also able to present ourselves in a more authentic manner because we weren't swarmed over with 50 visitors at a time. Not that I mind the public visiting us - I actually love it - but every-so-often it's nice to have an event that gives us living historians a chance to sit back a bit and visit with one another 'out in the field,' and also the chance to take more time with the public.
I love it that Patty brought her spinning wheel which, of course, drew the wondering and curious public into her 'realm' while the rest of us took the opportunity to speak with the visitors about the different aspects of our 1860's lives, including clothing; there are always a ton of clothing questions.

My favorite part of this event was the greeting of President & Mrs. Lincoln upon their arrival in a white horse-drawn carriage. The two who portray our 16th President and 1st Lady, Fred and Bonnie Priebe, take their roles very seriously, and that makes it much easier for the rest of us to get into our roles as 1860's citizens. In fact, I've seen others do Lincoln and think of them as imposters next to the Priebe's. I even had one Lincoln call me a carpet-bagger! I walked up to him and said, "Now, Mr. Preseident, how would you know about that term?"
He looked at me questioningly.
"Sir, you wouldn't know about the evils of the carpet-baggers," I reminded him. "You were dead during reconstruction!"
Anyhow, here are some portals into the past for you to look at.
I hope you enjoy them.

As my wife spins, our domestic servant takes care of the growth tuck in my daughter's dress
My son takes a well-deserved break from the rigors of army life. They had to sound the bugle twice to wake him!
Another of my sons minds the cooking fire

The military prepares for President Lincoln's arrival

The Presidential carriage arrives

President & Mrs. Lincoln prepare to greet the public
But first they pay honor to the fighting Union army, hoping to keep the United States united
Mr. Matthew Brady should be so lucky to have been as close to the President as I
The President gave a rousing oration, giving those of us in the audience the faith that we will whip the rebels
Some of the enthralled audience. Yes, even though the women cannot vote, many do pay close attention to our government officials
The women do adore listening to a good orator as much as any man. And President Lincoln is certainly a fine orator!
Michigan's own Senator Jacob Howard meets with the President
And your local postmaster and photographer was also lucky enough to meet and greet our President
The President and 1st Lady were very happy to allow me to take an image of them during this historic occasion
Many of the townsfolk gathered around the Great Hall to enjoy a summer day. And it certainly was a fine day at that!


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