Monday, September 15, 2014

Living History at Historic Fort Wayne 2014

Why, good day to you! Won't you stop in? It's been a while since we last visited!
It's now September, don't ya know, and it certainly became autumn seemingly overnight, with the cooler-than-normal temperatures and a blustery wind blowing through this year's Civil War reenactment at Historic Fort Wayne in downtown Detroit. (Though it's not considered fall just yet as far as the calendar is concerned, it is my opinion that most of us here in the north central region of these great United States believe fall begins as soon as September hits. Even the angle of the sun tells us it's autumn).
For at least a decade, the Fort Wayne event was held in July. But with complaints of the heat of summer from reenactors, the date was moved in 2013 and, well, there are no complaints of heat anymore. Now they're complaining of it being too cold!
Ah well, such is life...
Anyhow, as in previous years, we were able to utilize a period 19th century home as our own for the entire weekend, and we had a fine and fun time enjoying the experience, as we always do. We so enjoy the opportunity of becoming ghosts of people past while inside, and this year was no different.
It's always special when we can become part of a sensurround history. Although I do reenact in period homes frequently, I never tire of it. And neither do my fellow living historians.
We did not do immersion this time, but, instead, did a sort of "2nd person" - a combination of 1st and 3rd - and spoke to patrons as if we were from the past but with a teaching knowledge of the future.
Does that make sense?

Well, with that being said (and hopefully understood), let's take a photographic journey into the past...150 years ago, to September 1864 - - - 

Welcome to our home. Yes, this is the place we called home during the weekend, and we treated it as such. No, they would not allow us to spend the night inside, though that would have been a great (albeit maybe a bit scary) experience.

Yes, feel free to use our hall tree to hang your hats, bonnets, and wraps.

We had our guests visiting throughout the weekend. No, we didn't do a 1st person scenario this time. But all of our topics of conversation centered in and around history. To do 1st person/immersion correctly, you must have the right living historians with you, and though everyone here are wonderful reenactors, not everyone cares to do immersion, so we kept it more in the "2nd" person mode. And that was just fine with me.

This is my daughter using carding paddles to card wool for spinning on a spinning wheel. Growing up the way she has in the world of reenacting and living history, she is accustomed to taking part in traditional crafts such as the process of spinning. So, where young ladies her age (early teens) from the 21st century might be fascinated with this ancient skill, my daughter doesn't think twice about it.

My wife absolutely loves spinning wool into yarn, and this year she has taken the process even beyond her own expectations; she acquired three 30 gallon garbage bags filled with raw wool right off the sheep. She spent nearly the entire summer picking straw, poop, sticks, grass, clumps of dirt, and anything else sheep might get into from the wool, and then skirting it before washing it. Of course, from there she had to card it (see pictures above and below) before dyeing it in the traditional manner with flower peddles, bark, and nuts (if she chooses to do so). Once all of this occurs, she can then spin it into yarn by way of her spinning wheel. It is then she can crochet whatever she would like to make, maybe a sweater, a sontag, or a scarf. And people wonder why homespun costs so much, well now you know! (By the way, we are quite aware that spinning wheels were not seen very much at all in such fancy city houses such as the one we were in, due to the availability of machine-made fabric for city folk. My wife brought her wheel as a teaching tool.)
"Idle hands are the devil's workshop" as the adage goes, so even friends who came to visit, such as Mrs. St. John here, found herself spending time with the paddles, allowing my daughter to run off for a bit to play with her friends.

Mrs. Schubert stayed with us at the house and was able to get quite a bit accomplished on her crochet sweater project.

Our young neighbor came calling on this day as well. It is always nice to see this young lady and her baby daughter.

Little baby Cynthia was born on the same day (but not the same year) as our current President, on February 12, 1864. It's always nice to have a baby around the house, especially since our youngest child is no longer a baby, but is now nearly of courting age!

Two Jones girls in one photograph, and yet they are not related. Mrs. Jones in the foreground is an accomplished musician and played her violin for us in the afternoon. The sounds reverberated off the old walls as they must have done all those years ago, including one of my favorites "Hard Times Come Again No More," as well as "Wayfaring Stranger" and "John Brown's Body." I don't know...there is always something special about hearing period tunes on accurate instruments in a 150 year old home while wearing clothing of the times. It's a feeling that's hard to just feels right. And young Miss Jones, sitting in the chair knitting, treated us to a fresh batch of cookies she baked that morning, made from numerous receipts to get that special taste. Yes, they were very good. Thank you both for the treats!

A new friend, Miss Lynch, stopped in and she and my wife became fast friends. Miss Lynch is new to this world of the 1860s and we are helping her become acquainted to the fashions and customs of her new life.

In the midst of all these women, it certainly was nice to have our politician friend, Senator Howard, stop over for a short visit. He couldn't stay as long as we'd have liked, for he was very busy hitting the trail speaking to the local voting men, but it was still a fine visit nonetheless.

Throughout the weekend, guests came and went. On Sunday afternoon, we were paid a surprise visit by a very well-known couple. Can you guess who stopped over?

Yes! President and Mrs. Lincoln came by to enjoy some relaxation (and my wife's zucchini bread) before continuing his re-election campaign tour. It's always nice to have guests, whether well-known in the public eye such as the Lincoln's or Senator Howard, or even just our wonderful nearby neighbors, visit us.

Here is a panoramic view of our front parlor. That's my wife to the left, my daughter's friend Anna, my daughter (crocheting a blanket), the Lincoln's, and our good friend, Mrs. Kushnir.

By late Sunday afternoon, our friends and neighbors went their own ways, back to their homes or to travel elsewhere. My wife and I took this quiet opportunity to relax on our porch and watch passersby stroll along the walkway, sometimes arm in arm, with the horses clip-clopping by, pulling carriages right past our home.

Neighbors like Mrs. Cook, who waved as she moved along the plank walk, on her way to celebrate her special birthday. was a fine weekend.

And this was the way our reenactment went while at Historic Fort Wayne, and it was great to see patrons get excited over a history lesson they were able to see, hear, & touch, but, most likely were not taught in school.
Until next time in time...

By the way, look who is on the cover of the latest issue of Chronicle - The Magazine of the Historical Society of Michigan:
This photograph was taken in 2010 at Crossroads Village during our "Welcome Home to Our Soldiers" event. The Chronicle printed my article on Summertime During the 19th Century. It's quite an honor for me to be on the cover (with two good friends of mine!) and to have them print my article. First Citizens Companion, now this! Pretty cool!

1 comment:

Gina @ VictorianWannaBe said...

Hey Ken,
As always, I enjoy reading your posts. What fun to stay in that wonderful house all weekend, too bad you couldn't spend the nights there too.
I'm loving the furnishings for sure! The blue loveseat and chair, the bookcase secretary, all the beautiful tables and the framed hair wreath! I didn't see any of that in my recent home tours! That's so neat that your whole family gets involved with your reenacting and immersions. Thanks for explaining the wool process with us, that is so interesting.
Congrats for being on the cover of your Historical Society's publication, looks great!
Take care,