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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fort Griffin Living History Days a Demonstrable Success

By Eric Abercrombie, Fort Griffin Program Specialist

Every year, we host an event called Living History Days at Fort Griffin State Historic Site on the second weekend of October. The purpose of the event is to reach out to people of all ages to provide them with the opportunity to not only learn about history, but experience it in fun and interactive ways. On October 12–13, living historians from across the state volunteered at this year’s event to provide interpretations and activities of all types, including military demonstrations, authentic stage coach rides, frontier living and skills, Native American culture, and frontier sutlery.

Stage coach ride

Many local area schools were invited to attend the first day, a Friday, and more than 1,000 students and teachers turned out. Students reported that their favorite activities at Living History Days included riding the stage coach, seeing the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd, watching the cannon-firing demonstrations, learning about flint knapping, and listening to a live period band. Of course, in addition to those activities, the students also really enjoyed homemade ice cream, a corn grinding demonstration, a leather shoe-making demonstration by Cody Mobley of Fort McKavett State Historic Site, and a frontier ranching demonstration. Saturday’s activities were similar to Friday, but catered more toward the general public than schools. There was a decent Saturday turnout, despite periodic rain.

Students watch artillery demonstration

There were several new volunteers this year who discovered a passion for living history. Vic Kimbrough of Leuders learned about the event through Fort Griffin State Historic Site’s official Facebook page and asked if he could participate. We invited him out and he participated on his own the first day, then returned with his son on Saturday, with both of them dressed as 1870s U.S. infantry soldiers.

Living historian

The volunteer who arguably found the greatest enjoyment that weekend was Jonathan Hopkins from Rising Star. Jonathan is a young man with a hearing impairment, who doesn’t let that keep him from doing what he loves. He is a bright young man who already had a love for history, but discovered that living history interpretation ignited in him an even greater passion for the subject. He arrived early on Friday morning and was issued an 1870s infantry uniform and an 1863 Springfield muzzleloader. For the rest of the weekend, he was involved in a host of activities, including crewing the cannons for firing demonstrations, marching with fellow soldiers, serving on the color detail to raise and lower our 1870s period-correct American flag, and patrolling the camps. He said the folks at Fort Griffin State Historic Site were the nicest people he had ever met, and he plans to continue volunteering with us at every event possible. We’re confident we now have ourselves a new, dependable member of our living history program!

Fort Griffin State Historic Site is located 15 miles north of Albany on U.S. Hwy. 283, in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

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