Friday, September 7, 2012

Fort Boonesborough And Living History Museums

Back in late April of this year, my children and I took my father on a trip to Kentucky in order to spend some time with him and in order to visit the place of his birth and early growing up years (more on that later).  While making our way home, we decided to stop by and visit Fort Boonesborough Living History and State Park.
Some of our fondest memories of trips taken while my husband was alive were of the friends we visited and of the occasional stop to visit any living history museum we could find in the area.  The Interpreters were always so knowledgeable and much was learned from them as to how people of that particular time period lived.  We always learned something which could be taken home and applied to what we were trying to do farm-wise. Also, besides visiting because of our love of history, we were all encouraged by evidence that skills, many of which we no longer know and use, were used daily in and about the homes and communities of  our forefathers; skills we'd very much like to learn ourselves!
You may remember that Daniel Boone was chosen to lead a group of thirty one axe men to clear a path through the Cumberland Gap and ending at Otter Creek of the Kentucky River.  There were incredible difficulties encountered by those men as the route was to narrow for a wagon and had to be cleared using axes and tomahawks.  The Wilderness Trail was considered the roughest on the continent, but was a major factor in opening the middle west to being settled.  Fort Boonesborough was built by Daniel and his men in 1775.  They reached the southern bank of the Kentucky River on April 1st, 1775.
You may also remember that it was while living at this fort, and while leaving with a group of twenty seven men to obtain a supply of salt, that Daniel and his men were captured and the twenty seven were surrendered for ransom.  Daniel was taken to the renowned Shawnee chief and adopted into his family.  He escaped after learning of a plan to attack Fort Boonesborough in order to warn his family and friends.
We visited one day during the week, but there are many opportunities for re-enactors, for those who enjoy music and arts festivals.  There are Tinsmiths and Coppersmiths, 18th Century trade fairs, information about the women on the frontier.  There are even Boone's Trace Tours - An overnight tour which includes leaving the fort and traveling The Boone Trace with a guide/historian.  Wow!
There are Fireside Chats, Frontier Christmas, and workshops/classes, such as, spinning, weaving, woodworking, blacksmithing, candle making, hearth cooking, painted floor cloths, and block printing.  Or you may attend an overnight, hand-on "Frontier Life" program. 
We really enjoyed all the shops, and the Interpreters were all so very friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to take the time to answer our questions.
I think my younger children were most amused by learning that the people there at the fort could seldom take a bath.  Apparently, many would get sick because animals and such were frequently in the same water, but they thought the actual bath caused their sickness. I also have to wonder whether it would have been safe to leave the fort, at least at times??  Also, we were told that they really couldn't make much soap while confined at the fort because every bit of fat was needed for human consumption rather than for making soap.  It was a bit difficult getting supplies and such to the area?!, and they could do more once they were able to leave and settle on their own homestead.
We watched a history video when we first arrived, and we also enjoyed visiting the 18th Century Transylvania Store.  Many historical re-print documents and beautiful 18th Century type items were available for purchase.  And ideas for drying peas, parched corn, and blocks of dried tea and dried maple sugar did not go unnoticed by our family members.:)  We're going to try some soon, and the various dried animal jerkeys were incredibly yummy.

The cabins were of various sizes.  Some were *starters* but all were pretty small and consisted of one room.
I especially enjoyed visiting with the weaver who explained much about how they made their clothes and how a newly arrived settler (weaver or spinner) might have to wait a while before being able to save money for equipment.  Also, the equipment took up quite a bit of space in their small cabin, AND it was very important that they get the wool and the cloth right, for if they did not, the sheep could not be sheered again until the next year, and that is a long time to wait for a piece of much needed clothing to be made.:)
When entering the store, I couldn't help thinking of Cinncinatis.  He was the storekeeper on the old television show about Daniel Boone (Fes Parker).  That show played every afternoon when I was growing up.:)
Someone spent a lot of time on that hide.:)
We very much enjoyed our time with my dad and our time spent visiting Fort Boonesborough.  The Fort is located near Lexington and they have a very informative website and schedule of events. If you simply enjoy history or want to take your children on a field trip, or perhaps wish to learn more about homesteading and skills used more in the past, there's probably a museum somewhere near you.  I have a book for history-minded travelers which lists many a fine destination.  It is A Traveler's Guide - America's Living History by Suzanne and Craig Sheumaker.  Much can also be found for free online.  Happy learning from the past and present!


  1. Wonderful! That is such a wonderful way to learn about history... surely the most inspiring way to learn!

    1. Homeschool on the Croft,

      It is certainly one of our favorite ways to learn history! Thank you for your comment.:)



  2. Such a great learning experiance for all. It's amazing how easy we have it now. Wish everyone could visit this and learn how our nation grew, not just from the RW but from the guts and courage of these people to expand.

  3. Suzan,

    I don't think I've *met* you before. Thank you so much for leaving a comment. "It's amazing how easy we have it now." So true! Although I'm thankful for the blessings we have, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't benefit from more of the character- building hard work these courageous people considered normal and everyday; at least more of a balance between work/academics/play??



  4. Sherry,

    What a wonderful historic site! We just visited KY,Union/Hebron, but would have loved to have visited Fort Boonesborough...maybe in the future. Our family loves "brown signs" as we travel and try to incorporate museums and historic sites along the way. Fun, educational and cherished memories as we breathe in living history...a great way to learn and enrich lives of our children. Thank you for such a thorough presentation of your day...sounds similar to some of our local historic sites.

    If you are ever in north eastern Florida, you'd be blessed to visit the nation's oldest city {St. Augustine} which has lots of living history experiences and Fort Matanzas {free, which has a wonderful nature trail, boat ride to the fort, is a short walk to the beach, and has lovely OLD trees in the picnic area which are GREAT for climbing.

    Blessings and God's grace to you and your family ~

    Jarnette @ Seasons of Life