Thursday, July 6, 2017
Missouri Town 1855, Living History
MISSOURI TOWN 1855
When touring Missouri Town 1855 near Blue Springs, I enjoyed learning what everyday life was like in western Missouri then.
The first stop was the kitchen at the large Squire's House where five ladies in dresses that reached their shoes were preparing a meal with emphasis on the bread. A fire in the fireplace was ablaze to provide the hot coals that would be placed under and on top of the Dutch Oven. Since heat varies they needed to become experts at judging when the bread was fully baked. One of the rewards of volunteering as re-enactors is that they get to eat what they prepare.
Down the hill I found the smallest lawyer's office I have ever seen, and a bit latter the smallest schoolhouse that might comfortably seat 12 children. Attendance would have been sporadic for some children because they were needed at home for work and in some cases did not have the eight dollars required for yearly tuition.
A really small school house, seats 12 max
What I was experiencing was authentic surviving buildings from the seven county area of western Missouri as they existed in 1855. The year 1855 was chosen because it was the last year before the Kansas border fighting began to disrupt the area with pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in open conflict.
Spread over 30 acres are 26 pre-Civil-War buildings, restored and furnished as they would have been at that time, providing an interesting step back into the past with re-enactors available to help you understand what you are seeing--the structures, furniture, equipment, crops in the fields and gardens and the livestock breeds .
The day I visited only two other places were staffed with re-enactors. At the blacksmith shop three men worked with the aid of a large bellows that provided the heat for two projects. On one side a master blacksmith was helping an apprentice make a pair of tongs. On the other another blacksmith was shaping a circular iron object that would go on sale in the gift shop.
An apprentice practices his skills under the eye of a master blacksmith
The other re-enactors were two women in the sheep section. The sheep had recently been sheared, an exciting occasion for the school children that day. Three of the ewes had four lambs, one of which was immature and needed to be regularly fed with a bottle since she couldn't nurse.
Cow and horse breeds of the 1800s were present and the barns and outbuildings looked in good shape, and in keeping with the times were in need of paint. The largest house was the Greek Revival Colonel's House that would have been owned by a affluent Southern planter.
Children can get up close to a variety of farm animals
At the end of my tour a seven-minute introductory movie gave me a sense of what it would have been like at the time since in the movie the town was filled with re-enactors showing us how the buildings were used. The church had mystified me the way it was split into two sections: when I saw that women were seated on one side and men on the other, I knew why.
In the movie the tavern filled with customers with drinks and food seemed much larger and the two rooms upstairs made more sense when I recognized the one with multiple small beds was for males and the one with the large bed for women.. Men were much more likely to be traveling and in need for a place to sleep.
The tavern was probably the busiest place in the village since it was the stop for travelers, those in need of gossip and a good drink. In addition the village mail was delivered here.
Started in 1963 with a few buildings it took 20 years for the major work on reconstruction to be done by a volunteers from a multitude of places coordinated by Jackson County Parks and Rec.
A living history museum such as this one holds a special charm, not only because the visitors find so much to enjoy but because the re-reactors so obviously enjoy playing their roles and sharing what they know with their audience.
This family had a better than average income; see the piano?