Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Gathering Before the Storm

The dress saw action. June 1-2 I attended A Gathering Before the Storm at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania. This is such a beautiful site and a wonderful event. I'll concentrate on the living history event in this blog. A narrative of the non-living history part of the trip will be posted on my other blog The History Traveler and on my Mobily Trip journals.

I managed to get period and modern clothes all in one carry-on bag. I only took my corded petticoat and one over petticoat, so that helped. Those of you following the dress construction are probably curious about the finished product. Here is my impression:

This was taken on Sunday so not so fresh :). I need to fix one of the cuffs as it is too big and I'm going to put hooks and eyes on the outer bodice although the pattern states that the original dress did not have fastenings on the bodice itself.
Friday night we had a short meeting to meet everyone and to make sure all were on the same page. The drive to the site was lovely. I did not stay on site for this event as taking bedding was just not feasible. The majority of participants did stay in the smaller stone buildings down the hill from the furnace and I understand had a bat colony decide to visit in the night. This area would be the center of the village.

The event officially began on Saturday morning. First person was requested for the whole event and I think most of us did fairly well. I arrived on site about 8:30 am. My impression was that of a widow. My husband and I had left Texas after several years of residence and returned to live with his family in West Chester, not too far from the furnace. He promptly dies leaving me to live with his family that I hardly knew. I had come to Hopewell to find work. Mr. Kessler was the furnace manager and I had corresponded with him inquiring about employment prior to the event.
Mr. & Mrs. Kessler. Photo by Jessica Craig
When I arrived, breakfast was just being served. Our registration fee covered our meals for the weekend at the event. Upon my arrival I asked for Mr. Kessler and he introduced me to his wife. She was in need of a cook, so I hired on as cook. I think however, she was a bit cautious of trying my Texas cooking with the unfamiliar flavors and such.  
Our meals were prepared in a "summer kitchen". But we were allowed to use one of the buildings as a boarding house and that is where we ate. Breakfast the first morning was eggs, biscuits and gravy, all very good.
The summer kitchen and Evie Nelson. Photo by Jessica Craig
Since transporting a place setting would also be very difficult, Mrs. Immendorf provided me a setting complete with napkin.
While at breakfast I met Mr. Joseph Bauknight. I soon recognized him as a visitor to Henkel Square in 1861. This led to some great conversation throughout the weekend, working in comments about things that happened at Henkel Square and Texas in 1861. The other participants were wonderful asking about the sentiment in Texas and such. My friend Anne has an interest in Cynthia Ann Parker, so we managed to include a discussion of Cynthia and her return to white society. Breakfast conversation included the Battle of the Nueces and the Donner Party.
After breakfast I followed Mrs. Kessler up to the iron master's house. The house sits up the hill from the village, across from the furnace and near the company store.  

The rooms of the house are gated off from the public so we weren't able to be in the house; however, the porch was nice with a cool breeze most of the day.

Maggie, an Irish girl, applied to Mrs. Kessler as a maid. Bevin did a wonderful job with this impression, the accent, the dress, the service, all great. The dress maker also joined us on the porch as her shop had been taken over by bees.
Several other ladies came up to visit and we spent the morning sewing and visiting. Mrs. Kessler was expecting visitors who were coming to visit the furnace. Maggie and I were expected to present the cakes and serve the lemonade. These visitors were quite fancy.
Photo by Jessica Craig
Also during the day other ladies were at the bake oven behind the iron master's house, and men were white washing and working at the furnace.
Photo by Jessica Craig
Photo by Jessica Craig

Lunch was served in the village and consisted of bread, cheese, and chicken. By now the day is becoming quite warm and humid, despite the occasional breezes. So what better way to cool off than to sit on the bank of the creek with your feet in the water.
The kids took it a little further. This photo is great! Mr. James Pfeiffer was on site Saturday making tintypes. This one I think is amazing.
Photo by James Pfeiffer
He took several others throughout the weekend, all with the same period feel.
Photo by Jessica Craig

Photo by Jessica Craig
While at the creek one of our ladies slipped and cut her foot on a rock in the water. The poor lady had to leave for a time to be attended by a modern doctor. She required nine stitches on her toe. She also required a tetanus shot and returned with a funny story about how that was accomplished in all her period clothing. Apparently it had to be given in the hip and she had on all the petticoats and period drawers. She said that she and her friend didn't even cause an eyebrow arch in the emergency room.
Also at the village was a lone soldier. He was a rather vulgar, rude and I think a bit love sick. He was reading love poetry out loud to anyone who would listen and making very sad attempts at flirtation with all the ladies. One of our cooks had lost a couple of chickens and I teased her that the soldier had taken them with the intent of returning them to her as a love token.
Before dinner we all gathered for a group photo.
Photo by James Pfeiffer
Dinner was a choice of lamb and baked potato or a soup, that I cannot remember the name of...Arab something. It was a bit funny to be eating lamb with the sheep bleating in the background. For dessert we had ice cream with strawberries and chocolate puff cookies. Oh it was so good. It's amazing how well food can be prepared on a campfire. Our cooks were amazing!!
After dinner we lounged around talking. I called it an early night, however, and headed back to West Chester. I heard I missed quite an entertaining evening and am very sorry to have missed it.
I arrived at the site a little later on Sunday. Breakfast was well on it's way so I didn't partake on Sunday but it was pancakes and looked really good. Sunday was a bit more laid back. We stayed mostly in the village for the day rather than sitting on the porch up the hill.
Some of us went to the furnace when they were ready to pour to watch the presentation.

After the furnace the ladies gathered for a Ladies Aid Society meeting. Many things were collected for a soldiers box and it was decided that we would make a quilt to raffle off to raise money for the soldiers. Each of us will make a nine square patch and these will all be stitched together at the next event.
Photo by Jessica Craig
We had lunch after the meeting. Cheese, bread, meats, and potato salad. Things started to wind down after lunch. My friend Angie had come to see the site on Sunday and she found me shortly after lunch, so I said my goodbyes and changed back to the 21st Century.
This event was so much fun. Jessica did an amazing job putting it together. To help with the first person, she had given some of the participants tasks they were to complete to facilitate interaction. The park service was so grateful of our presence. It was a pleasure meeting people in person that I have only talked with through the various lists and forums. I'm so glad I was able to make the trip for this event, it was well worth it! 
More pictures can be found on my Pinterest board.