A Trip Back to Colonial Times

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Oh, what fun we have had these last two days exploring the eastern side of the state. We are proud to share that Molly is our newest inductee into 21st Century Cyber Charter School’s National Honor Society! Not only did we have a wonderful experience at her ceremony (more on that in the next blog) but we also packed in some extra fun while we were in the area!

When we realized that we would be headed east for Molly’s National Honor Society induction ceremony within a day of the school’s planned fieldtrip to the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation we decided to piggyback one experience on top of the other and turn our one day trip into two.

It is a rare treat to get one on one time with my three oldest, so when opportunities like this one present itself I jump at the chance to create some individual memories.

It just so happens this opportunity came on the cusp of last week’s trip to Roanoke, Virginia, making it seem that I am a lady of leisure, gadding about the country instead of being a responsible grown-up, but I promise this is a rare anomaly.

These last two weeks have been a special gift. It is a rare treat to have this fun time with just my three oldest.

Some of the fun we had happened at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation where we were transported back in time two hundred years to the early days of our nation’s history.

We arrived just as the fieldtrip was starting, surprising some teachers that thought we had traveled 5 hours from Pittsburgh just to attend the fieldtrip. We eventually  fessed up that as much as we love them (and their great fieldtrips) the only reason we were only attending this particular outing (five hours from our house) was because we were already coming to town for the NHS ceremony. 🙂

At the end of the fieldtrip we were asked whether it was worth driving across the state for and I had to answer, “Yes!” It really was a neat place. We love living history sites and this working plantation was exceptional.

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Here is a little bit of information taken from the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation’s website:

“The Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation is an authentic living history site with the purpose of enhancing understanding of 1760-90 farm life in Southeastern Pennsylvania by providing high quality, research based experiences to the public.

Astride Ridley Creek in Edgemont, PA., the 112 acres of the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation provide the context of early American history, the setting where the impact of King George’s taxes was felt, the American melting pot began to simmer, and American ingenuity took root.

While the decisions of military and political leaders may set the course of history, it is left to the average people, the foot soldiers of history, to carry themselves and their nation to the future.

As much as the conflict and debate of the Revolution, it was the daily conquest of the land that shaped the character and growth of America. Using their resourcefulness to survive and prosper, the colonists helped establish the foundation of the American way. Much of the familiarity with colonial times is based on history’s memorialized few. Accounts of the clothing, homes and style of living of the likes of Washington, Franklin and Jefferson have implied an elite standard beyond the reality of the typical southeastern Pennsylvanian, a rural farmer. The Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation’s modest role – as a working farm operating with the methods and implements of colonial America – belies its significance as a living example of that period.

The people and activities of the Plantation represent more than the one 18th century family who owned the property. The way of life that exists at the Plantation is a tribute not simply to the Pratt family, who lived on this farm from 1720-1820, but to the efforts and achievements of the typical colonial resident of this area. Consistent with the findings of local research into religious and tax records, wills and letters of the 1760-90 period, the Plantation represents a broader view of early American life, an authentic demonstration of how most people in this area lived during colonial times.”

We began our tour outside with our incredibly knowledgeable tour guide leading us through the outside work that would have beeen an everyday part of life for a colonial family.

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We were able to meet the animals that would have played a key role in a family’s ability to be self-sustaining during the 1700’s, because although commerce would have been abundant in the colonies at the time things would have been very expensive making it improbable that a farming family would purchase many goods. Most of what they needed for survival from food, to furniture, to cloth and candles would have been made at home with materials grown and raised on the plantation.

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We found the oxen especially endearing. There was a sweet, sad, basset-like personality that radiated from two-year-old Russ.

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It was neat to watch his handler put Russ through his paces, demonstrating the verbal commands used to get Russ to perform.

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He explained the essential role oxen would have served on a farm. He shared that while a farm might have both horses and oxen the jobs each would be used for differed based on the task. Horses were the better animal for plowing land quickly. For each horse you had harnessed to the plow you could plow an extra acre a day. A farmer with two horses would average two acres a day. A farmer with four horses would plow four acres a day. This was not the case for oxen who have three speeds: slow, slower, and slowest. He explained that a farmer plowing with one oxen would plow ½ acre a day…2 oxen: ½ acre a day…8 oxen: ½ acre a day, but oxen were the chosen farm animal for plowing rough and uneven land, a task a horse would have struggled with.

From there the students had the opportunity to participate in chores and tasks from that era. We began with candle making.

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The students were placed in two lines and each given a wick that had been folded in half. Two at a time the students stepped forward to the pot of melted wax, dipped their wicks, and then moved to the back of the line.

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This process was repeated 25 times with their candles growing with each dipping until everyone had a finger-sized set of candles.

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After a lunch break and a tour of the plantation home we began chore time on the plantation.

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During the next few hours the students got to try their hand at drawing water from the well:

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As well as helping fill the wood shed by taking turns on the two-man saw. My kids, who are no strangers to farm labor or cutting, splitting, and stacking wood, found the use of a two man saw far slower and more challenging than the modern process we use at home.

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After all those chores our little 21cccs colonial children earned some free time to try their hand at some colonial era games.

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A favorite game was the newly learned game of Graces, a tossing game involving the use of two wooden sticks used to “gracefully” toss a hoop to a playmate. The kids enjoyed this game so much they expressed a desire to try to recreate it at home.

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I enjoyed watching them play as much as they enjoyed playing it…especially when the wind began to blow!

Rusty tried “rolling the hoop” with a great deal of success…it was an amazing feat when one considers his height in comparison to the hoop.

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The outing ended with the distribution of our homemade candles.

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We all enjoyed this fieldtrip so much,

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and are glad the stars aligned, allowing us to catch this fieldtrip while out east for the National Honor Society induction ceremony.

It was a perfect day to step back in time!

 

2 responses »

  1. Looks like a great place! Russ, the oxen would have been my favorite part, I have been ready to buy a pair of oxen and take a sabbatical from people for a while. 😀

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