It was a perfectly sunny morning - the first Sunday in October - which made a pleasant day at Fort Atkinson for a living history encounter. The Heritage Days in nearby Fort Calhoun are always a celebration and we had thought to visit in previous years but somehow never managed to mobilize ourselves the 8 miles south. This year was different - this year Milo was almost 2 and Alice is 4 and they are ready to gypsy with us and explore! I had fond memories of going to a living history museum in Des Moines, IA when I was a girl and wanted that for The Littles. There is something so enchanting about stepping back into time - time when things were at once simpler and harder. Fort Atkinson didn't disappoint!
We meandered through the prairie grass meadows and parked in the shade where we unloaded our modern carriage - I mean, stroller - and embarked for a tour. The first thing I thought was "this place is huge! How did I now know it was here?!" There was flag raising ceremony, artillery firing, a petting corral, rope making, butter churning, and a band that played a concert. We passed along the tents of food and goods and entered into the corridors of the fort. Each room was styled in the fashion of the time (early 1800s), equipped with all manner of paraphernalia depending on the purpose of the quarters. Spinning and weaving rooms, personal chambers, a jail, school, candle making, library, armorer, and the list goes on. Feather quills, antique ledgers, pots and crockery, wooden furnishings, authentic linens and even real live people outfitted in the garb of their profession who were experts and docents to regale us with tales of their trade and past. (The Quarter Master's ensemble was my favorite.)
In the schoolroom, a kind lady told Alice a story of Lewis and Clark and their dog Seaman who saved them from a bear. She then proceeded to make a small dog with odds and ends with Alice. So sweet! After scoping out every nook and cranny (and sampling some of the fresh bread with even fresher butter) we rambled along to the Sutler's Store where there were endless old-timey things for sale. Rock candy, wooden pistols, scoops, and any old item you could imagine. A quaint little place.
Then we walked over to the Armorer's Shop to watch them blow the bellows and bend metal. A stroll out to the ovens and tents led us to meet a fur-trapper and his lady, along with a few old gentlemen who were rather surly in demeanor, but who can blame them when they're sitting in the sun and 15 pounds of period-piece costumes?
I tried not to be jealous of all of the pretty moccasins I saw but failed. *Sigh* Someday.
Chatting with historical volunteers and taking in all of the details of days gone by was such a rich experience! What a local gem we have in Fort Atkinson!
A little peek at our time there...