IN A WORLD WITHOUT ELECTRICITY:
Yesterday I spoke to two large groups of 6th graders here in my home town of Grand Rapids, Mn. The subject: The Great Lakes Fur Trade 1700-1800. I start by asking the class to imagine a world without electrical power. What would life be without electricity? Yet, that was the world of the early American frontier where practical survival was a full-time job. I love talking with people about the frontier. Kids (and adults) love things that they can actually see and touch, so I always bring as many visual aids as is practical. I also like to interact with the students. Yesterday went very well; we covered many important points germane to the Great Lakes fur trade era. I also brought along period snow shoes, a 10 foot toboggan, a birch bark canoe model, various furs, wool blankets, all sorts of clothing and tools, including a fur trade era flintlock era Indian trade gun. One highlight was demonstrating fire making with a bow drill. The bow drill was lent to me by my good friend Larry Spisak. I don’t know how many kids were in the classes, but I bet it tops two hundred. All of us have learning styles and for kids being able to have their book learning augmented with material objects and also to be able to actually use them helps bring the subject matter that they are studying into clearer focus. I commend the teacher who invited me to do this (Angela S.) for caring enough about here students to invite me it there, it was really a privilege. The pictures do a better job of telling the story.
I just received this very nice review from the teacher who invited me to speak to the whole 6th grade class. A lot of work goes into preparation for something like this. Many of my historical interpreter friends know this. It is nice to know that our efforts are appreciated. “The RJEMS 6th grade students and teachers enjoyed the Fur Trade/1800’s presentation. Mr. Sage had command of the group, brought the kids into the time period, and was a true teacher. It was a great culminating activity for some students, and a good anticipatory activity for others. We appreciated the all the materials brought in and wish we had time to explore more! Thanks for a blast!”
The temperature out side today reached the lower thirties and then a wet snow started to come down. It was a good time to test out gear, including this old hat of mine made out of fox. I like it because it has a brim to keep snow, rain and sunshine out of my face. A hat like this would not have been worn in the summer, but in the winter, possibly. I think wool was utilized more. but today, I only needed one shirt on underneath my French Canadian Capote. Note that there is a cover over the flintlock to keep snow our of the flash pan area. I was very comfortable with this set up–though I was not wearing period pants
Well, the weather has finally turned back into winter. The winds today brought the temperatures down to around -5 to -10—very cold to walk around in to hunt for grouse with my flintlock smoothbore. No luck today, even the birds were hanging tight. The coat I am wearing is made out of a wool Hudson’s Bay blanket that belonged to my grandfather and was made into the coat by my wife in the eighties. I have worn this on many excursions into the North woods over the years and on many hunts and it still serves me well. The blanket was purchased almost 60 years ago! Wool blankets and materials were often turned into coats and other articles of clothing on the American frontier.
Also, with the wind whipping around one has to make sure that very little skin is exposed to the air. Note that my Canadian Cap is tied down to my head with a scarf, which helps protect the ears and that my neck is protected by a wool scarf. Only my face is exposed and part of it is even protected by a beard
Mark Sage at Martin’s Station, VA
Getting ready to ride over the gap
With good friend John Hayes
In the Indian encampment at Martin’s Station
On Indian Creek near Martin’s Station
On this day, it felt like history really came alive
The Cane Ridge Meeting house pictured here is a modern building covering the original log building where one of the greatest Christian revivals occurred. Those revivals are referred to as America’s Second Great Awakening.
That Awakening had a long range affect on our young America. Recently, I spoke there, in that church–what a privilege! To find out more about the Second Great Awakening, go to the Articles section on this website and look for the article titled “Incident at Red River”. The picture in this post was taken off a thank you card signed by the Board of Trustees of the historic site.
Summer is a great time to make repairs on snowshoes. The other day, I took three of mine, all handmade and applied a couple of coats of marine spar varnish to the both the frames and the webbing. In the old days, Indians did not treat their snowshoes, but treating them does help prolong them. For instance, the pair leaning against the fence were made in the late sixties and I still use them. I will also make some repairs and modifications to the bindings. I do not use modern bindings. The ones I use I make, are simple, based on various Native designs, and work very well.
A pair of modern “bear paw” snowshoes.
A pair of Ojibway snowshoes. I built these in the mid-nineties and have put hundreds of miles on them over the years and of course some repairs.
Note the markings stamped on the lock face: A. Tvlle in front of the cock mechanism and L V at the tail end of the lock flat. These pictures were taken last February at the Lake Cumberland Gun Show. Note in the last image that at one time a rear sight had been added to this smoothbore.
In the early part of the nineteenth century there was a huge frontier revival at a place that was known as Cane Ridge. Multiple thousands of people camped out and listened to the Word of God being preached and many lives were changed. The revival lasted well over twenty years. I recently had the privilege to speak there recently on the faith of Daniel Boone. What a nice group of people and I think things went well. Boone was the one that originally suggested the place for the church that was built there.
I got a nice note later that read,
“Dear Mark, According to all reports Cane Ridge Day was a great success. Thanks for stepping up to the plate at the last minute to help make it so!”