“We’re still family, and we’re still having fun”: A Reenactor Remembers

As the days grow shorter and the first frost blooms, our thoughts at Locust Grove turn towards Christmastide, our annual holiday open house that celebrates the joy of the season with the warmth of friends, family, and the warmth of historical fireplaces. Our merry band of intrepid interpreters are preparing busily for this year’s event on December 4 and 5, and I can’t wait for you all to see what is in store! Many of our interpreters have been in the Costumed Interpreters Corps for years, and several have graciously agreed to share their memories and stories with our blog readers. Today, Sharron Hilbrecht recalls the changes to our interpretation program and her favorite parts of bringing history to life. Take it away, Sharron!

 

Sharron Hilbrecht as Fanny Fitzhugh, Christmastide 2014.  (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography.)

Sharron Hilbrecht as Fanny Fitzhugh, Christmastide 2014.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography.)

I finally knew I had made it one afternoon about 5 years after I started re-enacting at Locust Grove. I had a room full of school children who had come to visit during the anniversary of the Voyage of Discovery. I was in the Grand Parlor sharing the story of Fanny Fitzhugh and how she and her family felt when William came home from the West.

“We cried!” I said. “We were so relieved! We didn’t know if he was dead or alive, and when we found out he was alive, well, you should have seen us whooping and hollering! We couldn’t wait to see him walk through the door.”

“How long was he gone?” one student asked.

“Three long years,” I replied.

“How did you know he was safe?” asked another.

“We got word from a messenger,” I said. “We weren’t sure when he would arrive back in Louisville, but we were just excited that he was alive!”

More questions followed. The whole time, a young boy watched me intently. He raised his hand for a question.

“Um…When did you say you were born?” he asked tentatively.

“I was born in 1773,” I replied.

I could see the math wheels turning in his head…2006 minus 1773…His eyes grew wide. “Wow,” he whispered in awe, “you look really good for your age!”

Sharron Hilbrecht with Cheryl Adkisson and Sue Rogers.

Sharron Hilbrecht with Cheryl Adkisson and Sue Rogers. (Photo courtesy of Sharron Hilbrecht.) 

I started reenacting in 2000, missing only two years during that time; one for the birth of my daughter and another year when my schedule prevented me from participating. I’ve played Diana Gwathmey Bulitt, Sarah Hite Pearce, and most recently Frances Clark O’Fallon Thruston Fitzhugh, who is by far the most interesting one of the three. I’ve devoted countless hours to research, learning about the Clark and Croghan families and all the extended relatives who belong to them, and just recently discovered a letter written by Fanny to her son, Benjamin, about her other son, John. I’ve refined my sewing skills, and over 16 years, I’ve gone from a borrowed green corduroy gown to a Regency-esque dress of muslin covered with polyester sheer curtain fabric to a period correct ball gown of silk complete with a matching turban and feathers. All in all, I’ve made 10 dresses over the years, some more successful than others, but all to the best of my knowledge at the time. I currently have enough fabric in my stash for 3 more dresses, but don’t tell my husband!

I’ve appeared as Fanny at local schools learning about Kentucky history. I’ve been on hand at weddings, both real and pretend, fundraisers, market fairs and antiques markets. I’ve been around for Fourths of July and welcomed home the Corps of Discovery. I’ve had all three of my children participate with me as members of the Clark and Croghan families, and I’ve watched them learn the love of history by living it. I’ve connected over the years with my fellow reenactors, and they have become an extended family to me and my children. I have developed a passion for Locust Grove and the people who lived there that far surpasses anything I ever thought I’d feel when Dan Klinck asked me in 1998 if I’d be interested in helping plan the 250th birthday celebration of George Rogers Clark. It was there that I met Martin Schmidt and Jennifer Jansen, who both encouraged me to join the reenacting family. I am so glad I did!

Sharron with her son, Kyle, as Edmund Croghan, and friend and mentor Martin Schmidt in 2004.

Sharron with her son, Kyle, as Edmund Croghan, and friend and mentor Martin Schmidt in 2004. (Photo courtesy of Sharron Hilbrecht.) 

Reenacting has changed a great deal over the last 16 years. People have moved on. Some of our family have died: Maggie the Cook, Peggy Chenoweth, our beloved William Croghan. Some have grown up and gone to college: the first Charles and Nicholas (actual twins!), Ann and Eliza, most recently Michael and Kaitlyn Adkisson and Julia Bache, as well as so many others who are too numerous to mention. Each departure leaves a hole in our family that is hard to fill, and I grieve their loss, for they are truly part of our family.

Kyle and Claire Hilbrecht 2005

Sharron’s real-life children have also served as interpreters! Here are Kyle and Claire in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Sharron Hilbrecht.) 

Claire and Emily Hilbrecht 2010

Sharron’s daughters, Claire and Emily, in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Sharron Hilbrecht.)

Our clothing standards have improved, as mentioned above. When my son first started, his tailcoat came from the costume stash upstairs, which had come from a Sam Meyers fire sale. Today, we use period correct fabrics and patterns, and I will say, we look pretty amazing! A far cry from Sam Meyers!

Sharron mends a torn ruffle as Fanny Fitzhugh. Currently, she and many members of the cast sew their own period clothing for their roles. (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography.)

Sharron mends a torn ruffle as Fanny Fitzhugh. Currently, she and many members of the cast sew their own period clothing for their roles. (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography.)

It’s been hard to change as we up the standards of interpretation. I liked how we did things and the way we made room for all the important family members, even if they were probably living in St. Louis at the time. We tend to think of history as cut and dry: This is what happened, and that’s the way it was. I was comfortable with what I knew and I was good at it and it was easy. I didn’t want to admit that what we know to be true may not actually be so. An uncovered letter here or a missed footnote in a research paper there can change the facts and put a new spin on reality.

But we are better now. We have learned that to teach history, we have to continually examine the past, to look for clues to prove what we think is right is actually right. History is messy. It’s inconvenient. It’s ever-changing, and that’s hard for people to reconcile with what they learned in school.

Yes, a lot has changed in 16 years, but we are still family. We are still having fun. And we still look good, even at 242.

The 2014 cast of Christmastide! Stay tuned for more from the 2015 cast! (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography.)

The 2014 cast of Christmastide! Stay tuned for more from the 2015 cast! (Photo courtesy of Heather Hiner, Fox and Rose Photography.)

We’re going to Kentucky, we’re going to the Fair: A Weekend at Locust Grove’s Market Fair

Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Locust Grove, so what better way to see the house and grounds than during the lively festivities of Market Fair! This year’s event was a tremendous success, full of wonderful performances, engaging demonstrations, dozens of vendors of all sorts of foods and goods, and of course, the faces of our friends who came out to the fair! Here are some of the highlights from the weekend.

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My favorite part of Market Fair is seeing the site come alive with the stories from the past and the people in the present who interpret those stories. It’s especially fun when Locust Grove plays host to animals! Spinner and Weaver Peggy from Loom Hall borrowed three sheep and brought them with her! I spent a lot of my weekend making friends with Juniper, Llama, and Cotton.

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Good morning sheep!

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An animated discussion about wool.

Wool at Loom Hall.

Wool at Loom Hall.

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Peggy was happy to talk wool, sheep, spinning, and looms to visitors.

Another new addition to Market Fair was an 18th century pony cart! Candy trotted Mattie the pony around the fair, cheering everyone up with the sound of the cart’s bells!

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Candy and Mattie pause during artillery demonstrations.

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Spot Candy and Mattie in this picture!

Crown Point Bread Company joined us again from New York, and brought along Carver, the resident bread dog. However, Carver was more interested in the wares of His Lordship’s Beef than bread and made every effort to befriend Steve and his team throughout the weekend.

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“Come on Steve, just one tiny taste?”

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Meat roasts at His Lordship’s Beef

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Carver’s human, Yannig, sold delicious rolls, loaves, and cookies, and always had long lines.

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The crew of His Lordship’s Beef!

For many people, Market Fair is a kind of family reunion, a time to spend time with friends and fellow reenactors from all over the country. Blacksmith Aubrey Williams came from Terre Haute, Indiana for the weekend, and shared a booth with Jim Carr, from the Hikes Point neighborhood of Louisville. Williams has been coming to Market Fair for about ten years, and enjoys demonstrating his forge to visitors, remarking that “people like you to make things.” Carr works in IT when not in the forge and got hooked on reliving history after visiting Market Fair a few years ago.

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Jim and Aubrey are truly talented smiths.

Silas Moore the Rat Catcher brought his apprentice (and grandson) Roscoe to Market Fair this year.

Silas Moore the Rat Catcher brought his apprentice (and grandson) Roscoe to Market Fair this year.

By day, Nathanael Logsdon is the director of Historic Tunnel Mill, and the proprietor of Taylor Rose Historical Outfitters. During Market Fair, he brewed my favorite beverage, coffee, along with tea and chocolate, as Hellringer and Kurtz. (The Kentucky Bourbon Pecan blend was delicious!)

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Nathanael was joined by his family and a giant copper coffee pot!

I also met a group of folks with another connection to George Rogers Clark–Barbara Lemmons and Gary, Liz, and Kyra Williams from Evansville, Indiana. Their home historic site is George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, and they enjoy coming down to Louisville to further celebrate the past and George Rogers Clark. As Gary, a graphic designer, said “George Rogers Clark was a very real person”, and learning more about him and other like him is one of the best part of reenacting. Kyra has been a reenactor her whole life–24 years, one month, and three weeks as of Market Fair!–and along with her mom, Liz, counts the shopping and the people as her favorite part of the event. My favorite part? Barbara’s ginger cookies.

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Gary, Kyra, Barbara, and Liz are Market Fair veterans!

Joining us once again all the way from Wisconsin were the Amazing Budabi Brother, Nick and Erik. According to Erik, they grew up as Amish gypsies, and were raised as ninjas. Put differently by Nick, they were born into reenacting and trained horses and oxen until they learned to juggle as teenagers to help them get girls. They quickly learned that jokes and fire make for a better show, and audiences seem to agree! What should we expect from the Budabis at next year’s Market Fair? “Elephants.”

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Erik often gets called Aladdin. Someone once told Nick he looked like the Hamburglar.

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We also had some wonderful musical performances by Jonathan Hagee the balladeer and Jack Salt and the Captain’s Daughter! You can go to our YouTube channel and check out some song snippets from these talented performers.

Market Fair wasn’t always pleasant, however. Some Patriot gentlemen began declaiming anti-British sentiments and reading aloud from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and brought out a dummy of the King. Two Loyalist gentlemen overheard, and the next thing anyone knew, the Regulars were on the move, and the Patriots were on the run.

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Mr. Paine has some interesting ideas.

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However, this Loyalist gentleman didn’t seem to appreciate them.

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Searching for those radical gentlemen.

Market Fair wouldn’t be complete without reenacting a few military drills and engagements.

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So, for one weekend, this old house rang with the sounds of forges and pony cart bells, cannon fire, sea chanteys, and good friends meeting old friends. What a lovely end to October–we can’t wait until next year! We love knowing what you thought of your historical experiences, so please share your stories and pictures with us, here on the blog in the comments section, or on Facebook. We certainly hope to see you again soon–for Christmastide! Thank you for spending time with us this autumn!

With sincere good wishes,

Hannah

 

 

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P.S. Check out even more photos from Market Fair below!

Additional photographs provided by Jeannie Vezeau, Gail Thompson, and Bob Boone. 

To Market, to Market: It’s Time for the 18th Century Market Fair!

Come one, come all, to Market Fair! This weekend, October 24-25, Locust Grove will come alive with the sounds of chatting and bargaining, the smells of woodsmoke and gunpowder, and all the sights you would expect from a Market Fair set in the 1780s. Visitors will be able to converse with men, women, and children about life during the final years of the War for Independence, tour the house, view mock battles and perhaps join in a militia drill or two, learn songs and games from the period, and of course, shop at all the booths and tents that will spring up on the grounds! Over 25 vendors will be selling their period wares, from pottery to spoons to bread to bonnets. And once again, our property is divided between the Americans and the British, so be sure to take a tour of both camps to see and hear both sides of the story.

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Market Fairs seem special to us, but they were commonplace in Colonial America. Markets held in town squares or other designated marketplaces allowed far-flung members of the community to come into nascent towns to buy, sell, and trade goods and gossip. In fact, in 1706, the General Assembly of Virginia passed “An act for establishing ports and towns”, and in this act, designated that these towns would have a market twice a week and a fair at least once a year. Later acts gave the governor the power to establish markets, and market days became a time for court sessions, auctions, militia drills, all sorts of entertainments, and much more. Markets helped communities to grow and towns to be more firmly established, with permanent stores and other trappings of civilization.

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Here at Locust Grove, we treat our Market Fair in much the same way. Our community has grown a great deal since the founding of Louisville in 1778, and we enjoy this time to catch up with our neighbors and friends. We also like the chance to check in on the 18th century, and immerse ourselves in the daily activities on the friends who have gone before us. Like Market Fairs of old, we have something for everyone, from the antics of the Amazing Budabi Brothers and the sea chanteys of Jack Salt and the Captain’s Daughter to the wares of Crown Pointe Bread Company, Bee Tree Pottery, and Flying Heart Millinery to simply spending time on the 55 beautiful acres that make up Locust Grove today. Market Fair is a rain or shine event, and there is plenty to do under cover even if we have some showers! We certainly hope you’ll be one of the friendly faces to join in the fun!

The full schedule for both days  is printed below, and you can check out the weekend’s proceedings by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  You can also use the hashtag #GRCMarketFair to share your pictures and stories of the day! Please look for me, your cheerful neighborhood blogger, during your visit–I’ll be the one trying to take pictures of everyone with our cardboard cutout of George Rogers Clark! I’d certainly love to see you!

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Schedule of Events for the
18th Century Market Fair

Schedule for Saturday, October 24th

10:30-10:50 Morning Parade of the Military

11:00-11:30   Artillery Demonstration

11:30-12:00 Military Fashion Show (Auditorium)

11:30-12:00 Flax demonstration

12:30-1:00   Jack Salt & the Captain’s Daughter musical performance

12:30-1:00   Tour of the Military Camps: meet at the log cabin by the stone wall for the American Camp; meet at wood shop for the British Camp

12:30- 1:00 Riot in the Market

1:00-2:00   Undressing the Historical Lady with Maggie Waterman (Auditorium)

1:00-2:00 Jon Hagee, 18th Century Balladeer (Porch of the Historic Home)

1:00-1:30     Tour of the Military Camp: meet at the log cabin by the stone wall for the American Camp; meet at wood shop for the British Camp

1:30-2:00     Tour of the Military Camp: meet at the log cabin by the stone wall for the American Camp; meet at wood shop for the British Camp

1:30-2:00    Jack Salt & the Captain’s Daughter musical performance

2:00-2:45     Military Recruitment

3:00-3:45     Battle between Colonial and British Forces in the field

4:15-4:30     Military Retreat

Victuals:

His Lordship’s Beef –Caterers of Fine Victuals

Crown Pointe Bread Co. – Artisanal cheese, bread and baked goods

Hellringer and Kurtz Kaffee Haus– Coffee, Hot Tea, Hot Chocolate, and Hot Mulled Cider

Locust Grove Food Shop – Familiar Food and Hot Beverages

Other Entertainment on the Grounds:

The Amazing Budabi Brothers – Jugglers Extraordinaire!

Lisette LeFoux– Learn your fortune from the tarot card reader

The Rat Catcher– Ensuring the grounds are free of rodents

Jack Salt – Traditional sea songs and chanteys
The Doctor Is In – Visit an 18th Century doctor in the Residence

Maggie Delaney– Indentured servant

Doug Roush– 18th Century Penman and Handwriting Expert

Colonial Balladeer – 18th Century Ballads & Pub Songs

18th Century Pony Cart

Schedule for Sunday, October 25th

11:00-11:20     Morning Parade of the Military

11:30-12:00   Jack Salt & the Captain’s Daughter musical performance

11:30-12:00 Military Fashion Show (Auditorium)

12:00-12:30  Artillery Demonstration

12:30-1:30 Jon Hagee, 18th Century Balladeer (Porch of the Historic Home)

12:30-1:00     Tour of the Military Camp: meet at the log cabin by the stone wall for the American Camp;  meet at wood shop for the British Camp

1:00-1:30     Undressing the Historical Lady with Maggie Waterman (Auditorium)

1:00-1:30     Tour of the Military Camp: meet at the log cabin by the stone wall for the American Camp;meet at wood shop for the British Camp

1:00-1:30 Riot in the Market

1:30-2:00     Tour of the Military Camp: meet at the log cabin by the stone wall for the American Camp;  meet at wood shop for the British Camp

1:30-2:00   Jack Salt & the Captain’s Daughter musical performance

1:30-2:30   Military Recruitment

2:00-3:00 Music by the Drewry Family, Don and Esther Drewry: 18th Century

Instrumental Music (Porch of the Historic Home)

3:00-3:45 Battle between Colonial and British Forces in the field

3:45-4:00   Military Retreat

Victuals:

His Lordship’s Beef – Caterers of Fine Victuals

Crown Pointe Bread Co. – Artisanal cheese, bread and baked goods
Hellringer and Kurtz Kaffee Haus- Coffee, Hot Tea, Hot Chocolate, and Hot Mulled Cider

Locust Grove Food Shop – Familiar Food and Hot Beverages

Other Entertainment on the Grounds:

The Amazing Budabi Brothers – Jugglers Extraordinaire!

Lisette LeFoux– Learn your fortune from the tarot card reader

The Rat Catcher– Ensuring the grounds are free of rodents

Jack Salt – Traditional sea songs and chanteys
The Doctor Is In – Visit an 18th Century doctor in the Residence

Maggie Delaney– Indentured servant

Doug Roush– 18th Century Penman and Handwriting Expert

Colonial Balladeer – 18th Century Ballads & Pub Songs

18th Century Pony Cart

Oh, what fun we’ll have!

Yours, with a Huzzah!

Hannah

P.S. To receive updates on all the goings-on at Locust Grove, why not join our e-mailing list? Sign-up HERE to receive monthly updates! Or if you foresee numerous visits to Locust Grove in your future, why not become a member? Friends of Locust Grove receive free admission, invitations to members-only events, a 10% discount in the Museum Store, a copy of our quarterly newsletter, The Grove Gazette and much, much more! More information can be found HERE.You can also follow Locust Grove on the web by subscribing to the blog on the right!

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