Friday, March 16, 2018

Kids and History: Bringing the Past to Life in the Age of Electronics

Imagine you are a school-aged kid. It doesn't matter what age: it could be elementary school, middle school, or high school. But think back to that time...and your teacher was having someone come in to give a presentation on history. You were probably excited because you knew you were going to get out of class for a while. But after a few minutes with this natty-dressed person trying to explain the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or any other American historical event, you were ready to head back to class. The droning voice of the man or woman standing there in their suit and tie or librarian-style dress just seemed to go on forever!
Yeah...I remember what that was like - - - - do I ever!
Well, there are some schools trying to make boring old history fun and personal for the kids.
And I have happily played a part in our area.
My friend (and partner in time) Larissa and I have formed our own historical interpreter group we call "Our Own Snug Fireside," and we travel around to various schools, libraries, historical societies, and even reenactments, to speak about everyday life in the past. We have even presented as the historical Patriot figures of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington (we are sometimes joined by a third member of our group who portrays Benjamin Franklin). One of the things we have learned over the years was how to speak to the younger set in a way they can understand without dumbing it down; rather, we try to convey our 'lesson' in a manner that they can identify with.
And it works very well.
Not too long ago, Larissa and I spoke to the kids at a school in Detroit. We gave them our everyday life in the 1860s presentation, and in doing so we kind of spoke as if we were their parents. We described what their daily chores would have been 
as well as the type of entertainments they would have had rather than their modern electronics.
The thing about speaking to children is they really do get excited about us being there and appreciate all that we put into our presentation. We try to work their lives of today into what their lives may have been like in the past, and their response is usually pretty thought-provoking.
Holding up farm tools, such as a sickle used in farming...
...or objects from inside the home, such as this tin candle holder with a beeswax candle made from a tin mold, allowed them to see, first hand, a little bit of the 1860s come to life. In fact, if you look behind Larissa, you can see a few other period items sitting on the table, including a chamber pot, oil lamp, and butter paddle.

Teaching the students about everyday life through sight, sound, and touch in the era of the Revolutionary War is one of our specialties, and the interest of this time in America's history seems to be growing, much to my happiness.

I work as a high school classroom paraprofessional (i.e., a sort of teacher's aid), and one of the classes I help in is an American History class. Well, yeah...I have the connections, and as such, many of my living history friends have helped out by willingly coming to my school to speak to our kids.
How cool is that?
My friend (and fellow reenactor) Jillian portrays Civil War nurse Annie Ethridge, and she very willingly and happily came to our American History class to show the students a little of this young woman's opportunities in helping out the military in as many ways as a female in the 1860s was able to, including nursing duties.
Yes, she is carrying cloth bandages that she made.
But they were not nearly enough...

More material to be cut into strips for the wounded men of the north, and the students helped her, and some even wore the bandages as if they were wounded.
Jillian, who also works as a historic presenter at Greenfield Village, really engaged the kids, and they enjoyed having such a guest in their classroom.
Seeing that we had a female speak of her Civil War adventures, we thought to also have men of color give us a telling of their heroics during that bloody war as well.
I was pretty excited to have my friends in the 102nd US Colored Infantry come to the high school where I work to speak to the kids about the military lives of African Americans during the Civil War. They gave our students an eye-opening history lesson that only recently has been told. The kids were riveted.
The guys passed around a few items in their Civil War collection, including a 58 caliber bullet.

I am very pleased that, in this day of anti-gun, my school understands that the musketry the men from the 102nd brought in are historical and, because they played a large role in their presentation, were allowed to bring their guns in without concern.

The school where I work is pretty open to having presenters come in and teach the kids about life in the past. We have a leisure and enrichment class for who we call 'super seniors' - kids that have graduated but have stayed on for further instruction to help them in various aspects of their lives. These childr----I mean, adults have physical or otherwise health impairments, and therefore may need a little extra help and instruction to guide their futures. And every once in a while we like to have a little fun lesson, including from my favorite subject. These students just love the opportunity to learn new fun things, even if it's an old craft such as making a corn husk doll.
Now Candy, seen here, is a Civil War era reenactor, and she has made corn husk dolls for our Harvest presentation we put on every fall. So last autumn we had her come in and show the class this craft.
No, she didn't dress in her period clothing, but since this is not one of our history classes, we can forgive her (haha).
The girls especially were excited about this old-time doll-making and paid close attention in order to try to make their own, as you see below:
In fact, November of 2017 was deemed "old-time month" for the class, and I was happy to be able to get a couple of my friends to come in to entertain the kids, such as Candy (above) and Pearl the fiddle player (below).
If you look near the center of this picture, you will see my friend Pearl, also a Civil War era reenactor, posing with the kids, fiddle in hand. She played a few of the old-time songs that they were somewhat familiar with, including Goober Peas, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and Old Susannah.
Again, they loved hearing the music, even if their favorite tunes comes from 
the top 40 stations of today.

Do you know what else we did for old time month?
Yes! We made home made ice cream from a period recipe!
I brought in my own ice cream maker - the very same one we use during out historic reenactments - and let the kids turn the crank to churn the ingredients into a Victorian delight.

No, I did not wear my period clothing for this. But, like everyone else, the students thoroughly enjoyed this period experience.
(above picture courtesy of C&G Newspapers)

And just looked how it turned out:

To be honest, since these kids have not been at or experienced a historic reenactment, this sort of activity is very exciting for them, but their modern taste buds are not acclimated to those of the 1860s, therefore they were not too keen on the cream. However, a few of them liked it a lot!
Either way, at least they got to try it.

We have a captive audience in schools, but how about in other areas? Do you think young kids might have an interest in history outside of school?
Statue or the real deal?
The Plymouth (Michigan) Museum's "A Night at the Museum" is really a fun and exciting way to help kids celebrate and learn about America's past. The Museum, not too far from Detroit, will, for a fee, show one of the "Night at the Museum" movies to the young ones in the small hall on the bottom floor. When the film ends, the kids will then enter the main museum. As they walk around, they notice 'statues' of historical figures dotting the area, and when they hold up the "Tablet of Akmenrah," they discover that not all is as it seems. This tablet is a recreation of the one used in the movies that brings the statues to life, which the children soon realize seemingly works in this Museum as well. 
These statures, as you may have guessed, are reenactors, and they silently wait for the kids to bring them to life with the Egyptian tablet. Now, I've been doing this 'event' for a number of years, and, more than anything else, it is seeing the excitement emanating from the kid's faces as each character comes to life. To see lovers of history at such a young age (usually the ages range from seven to about 12 years old) makes me get just as excited as the kids. It tells me the future of the past will hopefully be in good hands.
Hopefully. Time will tell. 
So - - would you like to see the late winter edition of Plymouth Museum's version of "A Night at the Museum"? It was with the local Cub Scout troop, and these kids were very excited as well as respectful, and it was easy to see they were very interested in what the living historians had to say.
The tour began with the 1st Lutheran pastor in Michigan, ---------
Guy Purdue portrayed Friedrich Schmidt, the first Lutheran pastor in Michigan. 
In the mid-19th century, Schmid founded more than 20 churches in Michigan, from Ann Arbor to Saginaw.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)

Next up we have a real Pirate of the Caribbean, Mrs. Anne (McCormac / Cormac) Bonny, famous female pirate who was born in Ireland around 1700 and was brought over to Charles Town, South Carolina by her father. Anne married a man named James Bonny, much to the dismay of her father (who disowned her), and the two moved to the Bahamas where Annie fell in with a number of pirates living there.
Anne Bonny tried to entice the scouts to join her crew. Some were willing!
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)

As I've been doing since 2014, I come as Paul Revere.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)
I only have 5 to 7 minutes to speak, so I concentrate on my famous ride that took place on the night of April 18, 1775
This year I began my turn by reciting the first few lines of Longfellow's poem, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." I tell them how honored I am to have such a poem about me. Of course, I then go on to explain that many of the verses are not telling the true story, of which I then proceed to correct for the kids.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)
The Cub Scouts responded with such enthusiasm. And I let them know that just over a year after my ride that we, the colonists of the thirteen colonies, have claimed independence from England and we now consider ourselves a free nation known as The United States of America.
I am a firm believer in instilling patriotism, and I hope what I do here helps.

Let's jump about a hundred years (or so) into the future from Paul Revere's time to visit Thomas Edison.
Inventor Thomas Edison created, with help from his his workers, such great innovations as the telegraph, phonograph, the first commercially practical incandescent electric light bulb, alkaline storage batteries and the Kinetograph (a camera for motion pictures).
This reenactor really did a fine job in his attempt to 'become' the great inventor
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)

And now we go to the Civil War - -
Mike has portrayed a Civil War chaplain for something like 15+ years. He prays over the "wounded and dying" men after battles, reads letters from home to those who have a hard time reading, and has actually performed real period-style wedding ceremonies at reenactments and inside historic buildings, for he is truly an ordained minister. Thus, the kids hear of his adventures during the most tumultuous time in America's history.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)
The final stop on the "Night at the Museum" tour is none other than a visit with Abraham Lincoln. A foremost Lincoln scholar, Fred Priebe has been portraying our 16th president for 20 years. When Fred puts on his Lincoln clothing, he becomes the president, and stories flow of his early life as a young boy, or a bit older as a lawyer, and even his time as President. He has memorized the famous (and a few not-so-famous) speeches, so he is ready no matter what the history-loving public may want to hear. I've been to his cabin (yes, he lives in a log cabin home) to see his extreme Lincoln library - he has hundreds of books in his collection to draw information from.
Simply amazing!
Yes, we in the Michigan Civil War reenacting world believe him to be our Abraham Lincoln.
All of the reenactors involved did a fine job, but I believe this man was the favorite for these scouts. He told stories of his youth, taking the boys back to when he was right around their age, and they really enjoyed hearing them. It put flesh on the bones of this almost mythical figure in a way they could relate to.
And that, to me, is what it is all about.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)

And because of Mr. Priebe's uncanny look in comparison to the 16th President, I am sure each Cub Scout left the room feeling as if they met President Lincoln.
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)

Imagine if you were one of these Cub Scouts - how would you feel if you were surrounded by all of this history that came to life?
Me? Man! I would have thought I was in heaven and wouldn't want it to end!

(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Museum and Marty Kerstens)

And finally, let's head back to the high school where I work. My son, Tom, is a former reenactor. Now with wife and children, he holds down a pretty decent job as well as performs as a musician in various locations in Michigan (and other parts of the U.S. and even Europe!).
But he came in to give the students a lesson on the guitar. He also
performed a few songs for them, including a couple by the Beatles.
They loved it! And even though it wasn't necessarily history per se', it still was a wonderful lesson the students enjoyed and gave them a chance to hear a live musician, something that doesn't happen often for many of them.

Helping kids get into history, and showing them that it can be exciting and fun rather than bland and boring, is, to me, of utmost importance. In this age of gaming and electronics, it is our job to bring them into the world of the past and make sure their interest is held. me it's our duty.

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~  ~

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Bloody Massacre In King Street - Boston - On March 5th 1770 (aka The Boston Massacre)

~This is not an in-depth, encyclopedic look at what happened on the 5th of March in 1770. Rather, it is an overview from a variety of sources in hopes of maybe teaching those who are unaware or even unfamiliar of the story of the Boston Massacre and events leading up to it. I thought it my turn to tell this story, and even speak of what happened in the days leading up to it.
Numerous links are included for further study, if the reader so desires ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

On Friday the second Inst. A Quarrel arose between some of the Soldiers of the XXIXth, and the Ropemakers Journeymen and Apprentices, which was carried on to that Length as to become dangerous to the Lives of each Party: this contentious Disposition continued until the Monday Evening following, when a Party of seven or eight Soldiers, detached from the Main Guard under the Command of Capt. Preston, and by his Orders fired upon the Inhabitants promiscuously in King street without the least warning of their Intention, and killed three on the spot, another has since died of his wounds, and others are dangerously not to say mortally wounded; 
Capt. Preston and his Party are now in Goal.
The Essex Gazette
March 20, 1770
(taken from Todd Andrlik's magnificent book, Reporting the Revolutionary War)

"Fire if you and be damned, we know you dare not!"
My Lord, how did we come to this?

Stamp Act symbol from 1765
Beginning in 1765 and continuing through the rest of the 1760s, Britain's Parliament decided to levy taxes on its colonies to help pay for the recent French and Indian War. The resistance and protests of the colonists against such acts as the Stamp Act (1765) and Townsend Acts (1767) proved to be a fateful move for both countries. The Stamp Act required colonists to buy stamps from royal collectors and affix them to a wide variety of printed materials, including legal documents, playing cards, newspapers, and land titles. The stamps were to be purchased with sterling rather than local paper. 
The Stamp Act galvanized colonial society and engendered widespread resistance, serving as a unifying force among the individual colonies. 
John Dickenson's book from 1769
Due to this unexpected protest, the Stamp Act was nullified in March of 1766. The following year saw another series of 'Acts' placed upon the colonists: the Townshend Acts placed an indirect tax on glass, lead, paints, paper and tea imported into the colonies from Britain. This form of generating revenue was Chancellor Charles Townshend's response to the failure of the Stamp Act. However, the import duties proved to be similarly controversial. Colonial displeasure over the Townshend Acts was predominantly driven by John Dickinson’s anonymous publication of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, as well as the Massachusetts Circular Letter, which was a statement written by Samuel Adams and James Otis Jr., in response to and against the Townsend Acts and, in part, urging its sister colonies to resist as one. Because of the protests, the taxes were to be enforced by way of new customs officers, many of which were corrupt. 
When these hated men appeared in Boston, however, resistance grew, and more than one commissions officer was "much abused" by members of the Sons of Liberty.
The British government answered Boston's defiance with a massive show of force. On September 30, 1768, a British fleet sailed into Boston Harbor, their decks cleared for action and cannon trained on the town. 
The coming of the regulars increased the violence in Boston. The soldiers were sometimes aggressors, but often they were also the victims of assaults by angry townsmen. 

The murder of Christopher Seider
February 22, 1770 was a cold dreary winter day. Christopher Seider, along with a dozen other school “Liberty” boys, were among an angry mob throwing rocks at the shop of a Loyalist merchant, Theophilus Lillie. Anti-British sentiment was high. Another Loyalist, Ebenezer Richardson, who worked as a confidential informant to the Attorney General and Customs service, had tried to disperse the protest in front of Lillie's shop, but had rocks also thrown at him. He went back to his house for his musket, and then climbed up to the second floor of the two story building. The crowd continued to throw stones, which broke Richardson's windows and struck his wife. Richardson tried to scare them by firing a gun into the crowd, but instead, the ball had hit young Christopher Seider in the arm and the chest. The eleven year old died that evening, around nine o’clock.
After Christopher was shot, the angry mob dragged Ebenezer to jail while Seider's body was taken to Faneuil Hall. (Faneuil Hall was a large market building that served as a meeting place for Patriots on the eve of the American Revolution. Meetings to discuss the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, the “tea crisis,” and other grievances with Britain were all held at Faneuil Hall between 1764 and 1775.) 
With Seider's death, the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, most notably Samuel Adams, attempted to rally the people of Boston to their cause. A funeral procession of five thousand Bostonians took place for the young boy four days later, on February 26. His casket, inscribed with "innocence itself is not safe" and “the serpent is lurking in the grass,” was carried from Faneuil Hall, past the Town House where the governor and council met, down to the Liberty Tree, and to the Granary Burying Ground. His body was laid to rest there. People left flowers as a tribute. Sam Adams called Christopher "the first martyr to American liberty." As for Ebenezer Richardson, the loyalist judges found him guilty of murder but his sentence was delayed because they felt he would receive a pardon from London, which did occur a number of years later.
Christopher Seider's death united the citizens of Boston against the British. Governor Hutchinson wrote, “If it had been in their power to have brought (Christopher Seider) to life again, (they) would not have done it but would have chosen the grand funeral, which brought many thousands together, and the solemn procession from Liberty Tree.” One British officer said that “The insolence as well as utter hatred of the inhabitants to the troops increased daily.”

Here lies those who were slain...
including Christopher Seider
(Picture courtesy of Atlas Obscura)
Monday, the 5th of March, 1770, was snowy and cold at first, but gradually clearing and warmer. It's said that it was on this day that a wigmaker's apprentice, Edward Garrick, publicly accused British officer, John Goldfinch, of failing to pay a bill. The officer did not respond, but a lone sentry, Hugh White, who was a guard at the customhouse, did by stating that the Captain was a gentleman, and if he owed anything, that he would pay it.
The apprentice replied that there were no gentlemen left in the regiment, causing the sentry to stand up for the honor of his troops. Garrick was struck with the butt of White's musket, knocking him to the ground. As the apprentice cried in pain, one of his companions began to argue with the sentry, which quickly attracted a crowd. Some of them started hurling pieces of ice at the guard, who retreated to the safety of the courthouse.  As the evening progressed, the crowd grew larger and more boisterous. John Adams, during his defense of the soldiers, described the crowd as "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattoes, Irish teagues, and outlandish Jack tars (sailors)."
British captain Thomas Preston led twelve men and a non-commissioned officer to the courthouse "to protect both the sentry and the King's money." 
About a hundred colonists armed with clubs and other weapons had gathered in front of the building, and, as Preston stated during the trial, were threatening "to execute their vengeance" on White.
According to eyewitnesses, Preston lined his men by twos in a column and, with empty muskets but fixed bayonets, moved across King street to protect their sentry.
The evening of March 5th, 1770.
Not lined up by twos, but I believe you get the picture.
And now, close on nine o'clock the bell of the Old Meeting began to ring as though for fire. All over Boston doors flew open and windows went up.
"Where is the fire?"
"The regulars are cutting and slashing everyone."
"They are cutting down the Liberty Tree."
"The regulars are massacring the people."
And that other cry from the gates on the Neck to Copp's Hill, "Town-born, turn, turn out." (Esther Forbes)
Many thought the town was on fire and rushed into the streets carrying their fire-buckets.
When Preston and his men reached Private White on the custom house stairs, the soldiers loaded their muskets, and arrayed themselves in a semicircular formation. Preston shouted at the crowd, which, by now was estimated to be a number between three and four hundred, to disperse.
After White fell into the ranks, Preston attempted to march the men back to the barracks, but the mob blocked their way. The crowd screamed threats and bombarded the troops with snowballs, ice chunks, oyster shells, rocks, and sticks.
The Boston Gazette, a week later, printed this account:
"Capt. Preston with a party of men and charged bayonets, came from the main guard to the commissioner's house, the soldiers pushing their bayonets, crying 'make way!' They took place by the custom house and, continuing to push to drive the people off, pricked some in several places, on which they were clamorous and, it is said, threw snow balls.
According to Preston, "The mob still increased and were more outrageous...calling out, 'come on you rascals, you bloody if you dare G-damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not.'"
Now, according to the Boston Gazette, as the crowd pressed closer, "the Captain commanded (his men) to fire; and as more snow and ice balls were thrown he again said, Damn you fire, be the consequences what it will.' One soldier then fired, and a townsmen with a cudgel (club) struck him over the hands with such force that he dropped his firelock; and, rushing forward aimed a blow at the captain's head..."
A 1901 image by Francis Luis Mora, published in Harper’s Magazine, retains Revere’s menacing Redcoats (made more menacing by the perspective) and even the dog which he placed in the middle of the event.
Back to Preston: "One of the soldiers having received a severe blow with a stick, stepped a little on one side and instantly fired, and on turning to and asking him why he fired without orders, I was struck with a club on my arm...a general attack was made on the men by a great number of heavy which all our lives were in imminent danger, some persons at the same time from behind calling out, 'Damn your bloods---why don't you fire?' Instantly three or four of the soldiers fired, one after another, and directly after three more in the same confusion and hurry. On my asking the soldiers why they fired without orders, they said they heard the word fire and supposed it came from me. This might be the case as many of the mob called out fire, fire."
Three from the crowd were killed on the spot: sailor Crispus Attucks, ropemaker Samuel Gray, and a mariner named James Caldwell, and eight others were wounded, two of which died later (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).
Some accounts have said that Crispus Attucks, a forty-seven year old escaped slave and now sailor, grabbed the musket held by a soldier and knocked the man to the ground. The soldier scrambled to his feet and shouted, "Damn you, fire!" and triggered a blast into Attucks, and the other soldiers, following suit, fired into the crowd. Other reports claim the soldier was "jostled" and, in panic, fixed his musket aimlessly with the other troops, hearing that shot and thinking they heard a command to fire, began shooting.
Unbiased witnesses, close to Preston at the moment, agreed that he did not shout "fire."
An obituary for four of the five
A town meeting was called demanding the removal of the British and for the trial of Captain Preston and his troops for murder, and before sunrise, Prescott and eight men were under arrest. They were to be tried immediately and the feeling was so high that no jury could possibly be found in Boston who would not have them convicted.
It would not be until October of that year that the trial for Preston and his men would occur.
In an effort to demonstrate the impartiality of colonial courts, two Patriot leaders, John Adams and Josiah Quincy, volunteered to defend the accused. The prosecution produced little evidence, and Preston and six of the soldiers were acquitted; two others were found guilty of manslaughter, branded on the hand, and released. Although many Patriots criticized the verdicts and the anniversary of the Boston Massacre became a patriotic holiday, the removal of troops from Boston and the repeal of all but one of the contested import duties resulted in a lowering of tension in the years following the incident. Nevertheless, Governor Hutchinson’s reluctant removal of troops from Boston under threat of insurrection dramatized the weakening of imperial power as it was then constituted when faced with organized local resistance.
Ben Franklin had warned the British earlier that they were "putting young soldiers, who are by nature insolent, in the midst of a people who consider themselves threatened and oppressed. It's like setting up a blacksmith's forge in a magazine of gunpowder."
And now the gunpowder has exploded. Local engraver (and silversmith) Paul Revere copied a sensationalized depiction of what became known as the Bloody Massacre of Boston, unabashedly taking as his own, almost in complete detail, from an original print by Henry Pelham, who was understandably upset.
Not long after the incident, Henry Pelham, an established artist and engraver in Boston, showed his drawing to Paul Revere.
It didn't take long for Revere to make his own version of Pelham's engraving.
In fact, before Pelham's could be printed, Revere liberally borrowed (shall we say) from Pelham's work to create, print, and distribute his own remarkably similar version of the scene. As fate would dictate, it was Revere's print ― entitled "The Bloody Massacre" and bearing the mark "Engrav'd Printed & Sold by PAUL REVERE Boston" ― that would gain widespread circulation. The Revere print is today recognized as having been one of the most important pieces of political propaganda in America's early history, helping to instigate the anti-British feeling in the Colonies that a few years later would lead to all-out revolt. 
(This is a photograph of an original Paul Revere print located in the Henry Ford Museum exhibit)
Pelham's response?
Thursday Morng. Boston, March 29, 1770.
When I heard that you were cutting a plate of the late Murder, I thought it impossible, as I knew you was not capable of doing it unless you coppied it from mine and as I thought I had entrusted it in the hands of a person who had more regard to the dictates of Honour and Justice than to take the undue advantage you have done of the confidence and Trust I reposed in you.
But I find I was mistaken, and after being at the great Trouble and Expence of making a design paying for paper, printing &c, find myself in the most ungenerous Manner deprived, not only of any proposed Advantage, but even of the expence I have been at, as truly as if you had plundered me on the highway.
If you are insensible of the Dishonour you have brought on yourself by this Act, the World will not be so. However, I leave you to reflect upon and consider of one of the most dishonorable Actions you could well be guilty of.
H. Pelham.
P S. I send by the Bearer the prints I borrowed of you. My Mother desired you would send the hinges and part of the press, that you had from her.

I suppose by our time in the 21st century there is no matter which one was the most famous, for the point was to utilize propaganda as best as could be done in that time, and the outcome worked exactly as was hoped for, even though both prints showed an incorrect version of what actually happened. 

And though it was not quite clear at the time, the Boston Massacre was a signal event leading to the Revolutionary War. It led directly to the Royal Governor evacuating the occupying army from the town of Boston. It would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.
The Old State House - -
Do you see that circle right in front there? That's the spot
where the bloody massacre took place. And the State House
can be clearly seen in both Pelham and Revere's
engraving of the event. 

Old State House
And finally...
The things one can find on-line...
My favorite reason for wearing this shirt is because I am, nearly every time, asked why are there coffins on my shirt and what does the date signify.
It is a great American history teaching opportunity.
Yes, I do wear it every March 5th.
I so enjoy our great American history and reading about the beginnings of our nation. No, it's not all happy and Disney and all that, but it is our past, and to learn what made us such a great nation - and I believe we are a great nation, through our good and bad, through trials and tribulation of so many of the past citizens - helps me to appreciate even more so of my life today. My simple life in a tiny wood-frame bungalow in a small suburban city is all due to those from the past.
And I certainly appreciate it!
Until next time, see you in time.

To learn more about America's fight for liberty, please click With Liberty and Justice for All
To learn about the historical details of Paul Revere's famous ride, please click Listen My Children and You Shall Hear...
To learn about how the citizens of Salem stood up to the British army before the Revolutionary War actually begun, click Preventing Tyranny: Patriotism at Salem 1775
To understand why we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th please click Declaring Independence: The Spirits of '76
And to have a better understanding of everyday life during the time of the Revolutionary War for the average citizens of the colonies (including loads of pictures!), please click In the Good Old Colony Days: What Life Was Like in America in the Period That Produced the Declaration of Independence
To read my reviews of quality movies depicting early American history, please click Movies in Time: Early American History From the Movies - A Listing of Ken's Favorites

Information for today's posting came from numerous sources, including
Todd Andrlik's magnificent book, Reporting the Revolutionary War
as well as the following books:
Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes
Legend and Lies - The Patriots by Bill O'Reilly
Founding Fathers by K.M. Kostyal
Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer
And from HERE, HERE, and HERE (web sites)
Some of the Christopher Seider information came directly from THIS site
The modern picture of the State House came from HERE
The modern pictures of the shooting scenes came from the DVD of Legends & Lies, The Patriots

~   ~   ~

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bringing Historic Homes to Life: The Plympton House

Welcome to the Plympton House.
Have I some tales to tell you!
The Daggett Farm House and the Giddings House - - both are colonial homes once belonging to folks who lived during the time of the founding of our country, and each structure is now located inside historic Greenfield Village, the open-air museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
For Daggett and Giddings I've done pretty extensive research on not only the houses, but the people who lived in them as well; at the bottom of this posting are links to each.
Now it's time to dig deep into the past for another of the 18th century homes inside the walls of Greenfield Village: the Plympton House. 
And what treasured information I dug up!
All I can say is "Wow...the walls do talk!" - - - and I believe you will agree.

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Tales of a Wayside Inn is a collection of poems by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The book, published in 1863, depicts a group of people at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts as each tells a story in the form of a poem (this is the same book that carries the infamous verse "Paul Revere's Ride," by the way).
The prelude itself evokes an imagery of the past through the written word penned so eloquently:

One Autumn night, in Sudbury town,
Across the meadows bare and brown,
The windows of the wayside inn
Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves
Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves
Their crimson curtains rent and thin.

As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality...

Now, let's see how Tales of the Wayside Inn ties in with the Plympton House, which now sits inside Greenfield Village, off to the side, back from the road, almost unnoticeable as a historical home...and, though most people tend to pass it by without a thought, this little red house holds some amazing history - history that begins nearly a century before the United States declared Independence from King George III.
Let's listen to what the walls have to tell us - - - -
Here is the front of the Plympton House.
No, this is not the original structure that Thomas Plympton built in the mid-1600s, though the fireplace and chimney are. Rather, it is the second home of the Plymptons, built in the early 1700s.
As it stands currently, upon entering the visitor will hear a recording automatically begin to play...some singing initially, then a dinner conversation, the voices almost like ghosts as we listen in on a family planning their day...a day three hundred years ago.
Unfortunately, other than the very basic overview written on the placard out in front of the building, this is all we get for the historic Plympton House. Now, mind you, I do enjoy the recording very much, but there is so much more to the story here.
So, I decided to delve deeper into the ghosts of Plympton past and see what I could coheres out of the walls of this, the oldest American structure inside Greenfield Village.
What I found was a story that was waiting to be told, of people who deserve to be remembered.
To begin with, we must learn a little about the first of the Plymptons in this line to make it to these shores from England before we get into the roots of the structure now standing inside the walls of Greenfield Village. You see, Thomas Plympton was a founding father of the Puritan settlement of Sudbury, Massachusetts, but before he came to America, he lived in Penton, England, where he was apprenticed as a carpenter to Peter Noyes. In 1638, before Thomas had time to complete his apprenticeship term, Mr. Noyes set sail for America, bringing along his two children and three servants. After settling in Sudbury and establishing a plantation, Noyes went back to England, returning shortly after with more servants and more children, including daughter Abigail. 
So we can safely assume that Plympton was in Sudbury by 1639 where he continued his apprenticeship to Mr. Noyes until his time was completed. 
It was not long after that he married Abigail Noyes, the daughter of his former master, and the two eventually, over a thirteen year period, had seven children: Abigail (b. 1653), Jane (b. 1655), Mary (b. 1656), Elizabeth (b. 1658), Thomas (b. 1661), Dorothy (b. 1664), and Peter (b. 1666)It's been said that because of his carpentry skills, Thomas helped to erect many of the buildings in the growing town of Sudbury, including a new meeting house in 1652. Over this same time-frame Thomas acquired land, including five acres of meadow from his father-in-law in 1649. In fact, he eventually became quite the landowner, and so did his descendants. But it's land he was granted in 1658 that interested me the most, for, from what I can gather in my research, it's on this property that the Plympton Home, now situated in Greenfield Village, was eventually built. Lands to the north of the property was owned by a Thomas Goodnow while acreage to the south belonged to John Hains. I cannot find what was to the east, but the west was bounded by the wilderness.
The decimation during King Phillip's War
All was good and fine until the year 1676, during the time of King Phillip's War. King Philip's War was an armed conflict between American Indian inhabitants of New England versus the New England colonists and their Indian allies in 1675–78. The war was the single greatest calamity to occur in seventeenth-century Puritan New England and is considered by many to be the deadliest war in the history of European settlement in North America in proportion to the population. In the space of little more than a year, 12 of the region's towns were destroyed and many more damaged, the colony's economy was all but ruined, and its population was decimated, losing one-tenth of all men available for military service. More than half of New England's towns were attacked by Indians.
From information garnered from a broadsheet dated April 17, 1676:
Early in the morning of this day, Mr. Thomas Plympton started from the garrison near the river with a team to remove the affects of a Mr. Boon who with his son resided near Boons pond in Pampsiticut. Returning they were fired upon by the Indians at a place now called Boons plain near the western line of Sudbury. Boon and his son were killed on the spot. Their bodies were found some days after near the cart, stript nearly naked and scalped. Mr. Plympton was found in the bushes, some distance from them neither stript nor scalped. The oxen returned the same day about noon. Mr. Plympton was probably somewhat in advance of his companions and loosed the cattle from the cart, on the first alarm, and received mortal wound in his flight and was not found by the Indians.

After this horrendous murder, we hear very little from the surviving Plymptons, aside from the division of lands equally between the two sons, Thomas and Peter, after widow Abigail died around twenty years after. Both sons, like their father, also dealt in real estate, with town records showing multiple land transactions. Thomas (jr) and Peter also are prominent in the affairs of Sudbury, with Thomas appointed a surveyor and Peter a constable (similar to our modern day policeman).
Digging deeper in our research we find a deed from Thomas to brother Peter transferring, for 500 pounds, his dwelling house with barn, orchard, "broke-up land & unbroke-up land," meadow, and all his lands in Sudbury. Likewise all of his cattle, horses, and all manner of estate except his arms and one horse.
Peter was now the sole possessor of all the Plympton land and homestead until he died in 1743.
Now, we know that the original house of the 1st Thomas Plympton burned down in the early 1700's, but I am not sure when the newer structure was completed, though we can safely assume it was probably shortly after the first house burned, for, according to the placard in Greenfield Village, this also took place in the early 1700s. And we also know that it was built around the brick chimney and hearth from the first home. 
And this is the house, built probably by Peter over 300 years ago, that is now sitting inside the walls of Greenfield Village.
In 1748, five years after her father Peter's death, daughter Abigail Plympton Smith (wife of Elijah Smith), transferred to her brother, yet another Thomas (the 3rd), 130 acres of land.
This grandson Thomas, who was born in 1723 (his father Peter married late in life), was also prominent in town affairs, as well as a soldier during the American Revolutionary War. It was this Thomas that received the news of the beginning of that War for Independence:
Quickly! I must see Master Plympton!
I have news of great importance concerning
the Regulars heading to Concord!
"An express came from Concord to Thomas Plympton Esq., who was then a member of the Provincial Congress in that the British were on their way to Concord - between 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning. The sexton was immediately called on the bell ringing and the discharge of Musket which was to give the alarm. By sunrise the greatest part of the inhabitants were notified. The morning was remarkably fine and the inhabitants of Sudbury never can make such an important appearance probably again."
This third Thomas also had a Revolutionary War son, and his name was Ebenezer Plympton. Ebenezer, the great grandson of the 1st Thomas, grandson of Peter, and son of Peter's son Thomas, continued to serve his town as his ancestors had before him, for he was a Deacon as well as the town Magistrate (the judge of a police court) of Sudbury. And, like his own father, Ebenezer Plympton was also involved in the Revolutionary War. In fact, he is listed on the muster role as a private in Captain Aaron Haynes' Company of Militia (North Militia 1775) which was part of an Alarm Company 
that marched to Cambridge by Concord during the Lexington Alarm on the nineteenth of April, 1775. He was also part of Captain Asahel Wheeler's company in 1777.
In other words, this Plympton House sitting inside Greenfield Village has direct connections to not only the Revolutionary War itself, but to the very beginnings of it: the Battle of Lexington & Concord!
How cool is this?
(Giddings House, sitting across the street in Greenfield Village, also has Revolutionary War connections. Click the link at the bottom of this post to read about that).

The Plympton House as it stood upon 
the land where it was originally built.
From the Collections of the Henry Ford
As often as I have been inside the Plympton House, I never really gave much of a thought as to how or why Henry Ford connected with this particular building. But research is a marvelous thing. You see, there is a neat story behind this little red house that I never knew before: Ezekiel Howe was the third successive landlord of the infamous Wayside Inn mentioned at the beginning of this post. Thomas Plympton and Ezekiel Howe, it is said, were good friends, and it was Howe that received the news of the Lexington Alarm in 1775 from Plympton before anyone else in that town. But it was in 1785, when Thomas, for whatever reason, decided that it was time for the Plympton land - land that had been in the family for over a century - to be sold; the time of the ownership of the Plympton house and land had come to a close. And it was Howe who was interested and became the purchaser of the property. The Plympton/Howe land, including the house, was sold again a number of years later to Mr. Wheeler, and then eventually becoming the property of the Carr family. And it's this family that sold the house to Henry Ford.
Now, how does all this tie into the interest of Henry Ford?
Well, when Henry Ford purchased the Wayside Inn in 1923, he envisioned transforming the old Colonial Inn into a living museum of American history, an interest that predates the development of both Colonial Williamsburg and his own Greenfield VillagePursuing his vision to create a living museum of Americana that would be the first of its kind in the country, Ford purchased 3,000 acres of property surrounding the Inn, added eight new buildings to the site, and collected antiquities for display purposes. Included in the purchase was lost Howe family property. 
Did you see that? "included lost Howe family property" - - could it be...?
Digging deeper into my research, I looked under a file heading in the Benson Ford Research Center called "IN-HOUSE NAME FILE WITH SUBJECTS FILING SYSTEM SERIES, 1950-1952," and it's there we find a notation that states 'Plympton House on Wayside Inn estate.'
To add to that, in the wonderful book entitled 'A History of Longfellow's Wayside Inn,' there is a note that explains in good detail how Henry Ford not only restored the Wayside Inn itself, but numerous other buildings on the property surrounding the inn that he purchased, including "one house, the circa 1700 Plympton House on Dutton Road, (which was) disassembled and moved to Greenfield Village."
So there we have it!
Imagine that! A historical connection to the Revolutionary War/Battle of Lexington & Concord, but also to the infamous Wayside Inn! Now you can see why today's posting began with the Longfellow poem.

Now, when Henry Ford was creating his Greenfield Village in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was Edward Cutler, his draftsman and architect, who he closely worked with in not only the lay out of the Village, but the dismantling and rebuilding of the historic homes brought there. Each structure, before being dismantled, would have pictures taken, sketches made, and every piece numbered as it was taken down to help in the reassembly and restoration after being shipped to Dearborn.
However, Cutler stated that the Plympton home was torn down before he even got to the job, so he had to do what he could to ensure it would be rebuilt properly. "After it was torn down, I measured up the foundations and got the line up of the thing. Because it was torn down and shipped here in a bunch, there were no drawings. I think Taylor tried to make some, but they were a mess; you couldn't make anything out of them."
Methinks Ed Cutler did a fine job rebuilding and restoring the beautiful ancient American structure, don't you?
I collect the old original Greenfield Village guidebooks, and the earliest that I could find any sort of a listing for the Plympton House is from the one printed in 1941, and though the Cotswold Cottage, brought over from England, is the oldest structure in the Village (from 1620), the Plympton House is considered to be the oldest American home there.

This well-preserved primitive two-roomed structure (one room above the other), with its simple sheath covering of walls and a low, open ceiling with a central "summer" beam, reflects the typical colonial architecture of the earliest period of New England, and the furnishings show the simplicity of home life of these early times.
Now, what is a “summer Beam” you ask?
A Summer Beam has been defined as a major and usually massive horizontal timber. It is the epitome of ‘load-bearing’ and is derived from the word ‘sommier’, which is French for “beast of burden.”  
This makes sense, since it is carrying the burden of the structure above it. This term has been used since the fourteenth century, and even back then referred to the massive beams that one can see in the center of the ceiling of each room.
I believe we see a small portion of the summer beam in the upper right corner, though I could be wrong. When I make it back out there I will make a point to look for it.

A particular note of interest is the chimney. When the first Thomas Plympton house burned down and this one was erected to replace it, it was built around the only part of the original home that survived the fire: the brick fireplace and chimney. As Henry Ford's chief architect, Ed Cutler, mentioned upon tearing it down to be shipped to Greenfield Village: "They were all little old hand-made bricks. Of course, to an ordinary person, a brick is a brick, but these were little hand-made things and were crooked as the dickens, and we built the fireplace of them.
There were four of them that had markings on them. I think one was 1640, and the other was W.X.P. 
In erecting the fireplace, I put those things (the marked bricks) right in the front so they could be seen. That was not quite like the original, but we wanted those bricks to be the center of interest."

Sketch from the Collections of the Henry Ford
An unusual feature in this home is the convenient inside covered well, seen to the left of the ladder. Most wells, during this period in time, were outside the home. Mr. Cutler said, "Of course, we put the well on the inside of the building, like it was originally. We dug a well there. We brought all the stone we could get for it. Everything was brought here that we could get down there on the job."
I am certain the convenience of an indoor well in the 18th century would be akin to first installing indoor plumbing in the 20th century. Whereas wells would freeze up during the bitter cold Massachusetts winters, I am guessing this indoor well just may not have. Now, just imagine not having to go out doors in the cold winter, with a yoke over your shoulders, to bring in water from the well. 
The ladder for the second floor, and there, under the box, is the well.

In the wintertime, when all the leaves are gone and the wind blows...
As you can see, this the Plympton House is simply made, incorporating the kitchen and living quarters within four walls. The ladder is for the 2nd floor sleeping accommodations, usually for the kids. With the low ceiling and large hearth you can bet wintertime wasn't nearly as cold as perhaps the Daggett Farm where they most likely sealed off (as best they could) all but one room during the cold weather months.
One can imagine visiting the Plymptons in the mid-1700s, and Mistress Ruth Plympton, wife of Thomas (grandson of immigrant Thomas), invites her visitors to sit on the settle near the fireplace.
I apologize on the poor "settle" photos. With limited space to move inside the house, these were the best photos I could get.
This coming year I will make the attempt to get a better picture of it.
(The settle, which is little more than a bench, is very narrow and not very comfortable, but the high wooden back shelters the guests from the icy drafts that seep into the room).

Colonial cooking, which made a veritable feast from basic ingredients, was dominated by fireplace technology; it was the massive fireplace that was the center of it all. And, of course, all of the necessary cooking tools to go with it: "A nest of iron pots of different sizes, a long iron fork to take out articles from boiling water, an iron hook with a handle to lift pots from the crane, a large and small gridiron with grooved bars and a trench to catch the grease, a dutch oven (or bake pan), two skillets of different sizes, a skimmer, skewers, a toasting iron, two tea kettles - one small and one large, a spider (or flat skillet) for frying, a griddle, a waffle iron, tin and iron bake and bread pans, two ladles of different sizes, two brass kettles of different sizes for soap boiling, &c." (From Miss Catherine Beecher).
Before the everyone went off to their beds, Mistress Plympton might scoop hot ashes and embers from the fireplace into the brass bedwarmer hanging there at the hearth, and would have passed it between the sheets of the beds to make them less biting cold. This move must be done quickly otherwise it can scorch the sheets.
Then Master Plympton would bank the fire carefully so that it will burn slowly all night long. In the morning, he or Mistress would blow lightly to encourage a new flame. If the fire should go out, one of the children would have to go to one of their neighbor's to borrow hot embers. Since there were no matches at this time, it could sometimes take a half hour or longer to light a new fire with flint and tinder.
Just in case you are wondering about the original antiques situated inside this home, on the left we have a blanket chest from 1680 to 1700. Next, on the back wall, there is a hutch (with no year given). In front of the hutch is the settle (no year given), and the walking wheel. The table is known as a hutch table, and three of the chairs are called Carver and the one in back is called a slat-back.

Again, from left, this first item looks to be a chest of drawers, but I could be mistaken. The tall storage cupboard is next, neither of which I know the year built.

For this next picture I peeked through the opposite window to see the inside of the house from a different angle.
That plexi-glass!
Although this beautiful representation of an early colonial home is open for visitors to enter, it is plexi-glassed off which can make it difficult to photograph the inside of the structure.

Here is also the exterior of the house from an angle most visitors don't see.
Sometimes to see the back of a house can help to give another accurate perspective, especially from a house in an agrarian society with most of the farming taking place in the back fields.

It is my understanding that, because the Daggett Farm and the Giddings House are being used as representations of colonial living by way of costumed presenters, the plexi-glass and push-button recording will remain in the Plympton Home.
No matter, for just to be able to step into such a house that has so much history within its walls should be enough to please any historian. And, as always, it is my hope that the reader, upon their next visit to Greenfield Village, will remember the words and information herein, and will take a little more time to open the door of this little red house and engulf themselves in its past.
There's a whole lot of history here.
Well, I must return to my duties. Thank you for visiting.
I do hope to see you again.

Until next time, see you in time.

To learn more on how our colonial ancestors lived, please click the following links:
In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies  

Colonial Cooking: On the Hearth
A post dedicated solely to colonial-era kitchen and cooking - lots of pictures!

Travel and Taverns
To help you understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in colonial times.  

Lighting in colonial times
The candle light at it's brightest

April 19, 1775, As Seen Through the Eyes & Quills of Those Who Were There
A primary source primer of that fate-filled day that was the beginning of the United States becoming independent. This will give you a better idea of what it was like for Ebenezer Plympton when he went to fight the British Regular army.

And here are more links to Greenfield Village structures that I've written about: 
The Daggett House
The Giddings House
The Noah Webster House
The Ackley Covered Bridge
The Eagle Tavern
The Firestone Farm
The Richart Carriage Shop
Doc Howard's Office - Tales of a 19th century circuit-riding doctor

~Many thanks must go to the Benson Ford Research Center. There is such a wealth of information there!

For those of you that have never been to Greenfield Village, you should plan a trip there. If you are a lover of history, especially American history, this should be on your bucket list. Though the Henry Ford Museum is open year-round, Greenfield Village is open mainly from mid-April through November, with a special Christmas program throughout the month of December.
To do it right as a one-time out of town visitor, you will need a minimum of two days...possibly three.
Visit my Facebook page dedicated to Greenfield Village and my friends page dedicated to the Henry Ford Museum

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