The North American Frontiersmen Association

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1st Quarter 2013





Bent's Old Fort's Educator Encampment

Cheyenne Speaks to Children

June 8 – 12, 2006 (1845)

The Educator's Encampment is a program produced by the NPS staff at Bent's Old Fort Historical Site in La Junta, Colorado. It is intended for educators, be they teachers or volunteers to immerse themselves at an historical site to learn and hone those skills appropriate for a person associated with Bent's Fort during its existence in the 1833-1848 time period. The first day is spent in the classroom. The remaining 2 and ½ days are spent learning and practicing those skills.

John Luzader of the Living Museums of the West, discussed Tilden's Principles for Interpretation. (1) Bill Gwaltney of the NPS, spoke about research and development of a historically accurate living history persona. Barbara Ingles, a retired grade school teacher, discussed integrating Bent's Fort history into all academic areas of study. Greg Holt, NPS at Bent's Old Fort, discussed the history and social impact of Bent's fort in its day. He also covered 21st century intrusions and how to handle them.

John Luzader and Bill Gwaltney then inspected our clothing. Some of the folks didn't have period clothing or had inappropriate clothing. For example, one trader was outfitted as a long hunter. By the time Greg Holt, John Luzader and Bill Gwaltney were done with him he was the epitome of a trader. The fort has 1500 pieces of clothing so all the folks ended up clothed correctly.

We then went to Animas for a buffet dinner consisting of chicken fried steak, or chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, fruit and cake for dessert.

Upon returning from dinner, the time shifted to 1845 and we assumed our roles splitting into two groups, either becoming a Topographical Engineer (a Topog) or an emigrant from the east arriving on a wagon train. The emigrants had a lesson on using flint and steel for fire starting. The camp had been set up but due to the wind some of the tents had to be set up again. I ended up sleeping under a wagon. One of the party was a banjo player so he played for a while and folks told stories around the fire. Mr Holt related his version of Lewis Garrard's colorful tale of Long Hatcher's dissent into Hell. (2)

I found out later the next day that during night Lt Richardson, a Topographical Engineer, had had a kidney stone attack and was taken to the hospital.

Friday up at sunrise

Tommy made breakfast demonstrating dutch oven cooking: biscuits, bacon and coffee. As all our oxen had been driven off during the night, three of us went to the fort to see if we could get a team to finish the drive to the fort. We ended up trading four Mexican domestics for two oxen. After breakfast Henry Crawford demonstrated daily horse care on Colonel, his 22 (going on 5) year old horse. We then broke camp, and loaded the wagon with personal effects and drove to fort. We were met by the head trader or Factor, Mr Luzader, and I was hired at $75.00 per year on recommendation of Mr. Holt, now the master carpenter, and Mr. Wood, the master blacksmith. Some folks were hired as traders, some as hunter/trappers, for the fort. The domestic were alreat at work. The Sargent of the Dragoons asked me to relay a message concerning Lt Richardson to the Captain of the Topographical Engineers, so I interrupted the first table's breakfast. Something one does not do lightly. Joe, the Blacksmith apprentice and I, the carpenter apprentice were given the task to build two Hudson Bay Ration Boxes which we could then used to store our personal effects. As there was only one blacksmith apprentice and one carpenter apprentice, we alternated roles and did the wood and iron work for our box. About 4:00 had dinner: beans, buffalo roast, cornbread, and apple pie – didn't wait for vinegar pie; it was still too hot to serve.

Mr Holt brought the news that that Mr Hunter, one of the young hunter/trappers was overcome by heat earlier in the day and had died. We needed to make or find a coffin for him. Since he was short, we decided to use a gun case. I cleaned the case while the domestics sewed a shroud for him. After putting the body in the coffin, the domestics got permission from the Factor to say the rosary over the body. ( “You can preform all those Papist rituals, as long as they're out of sight” was the way he put it.) One of the domestics was overcome with sorrow and swooned clean away. As we were taking a break under the portal, we were available to carry her on a blanket to the plaza were the Factor provided a bottle of champagne to arouse her, since no one had smelling salts. After her revival, the Factor relented and allowed them to continue in the plaza. After dark the factor conducted a memorial service for Mr Hunter. Joe, being a former Mexican laborer and having learn very good English, translated for the domestics as they could speak and understand only very rudimentary English.

Meanwhile, the Topogs had spent the day measuring and drawing the fort. The hunter/trappers spent the day setting traps and other camp duties.

I had the 2-4 a.m. watch. Discovered that one of the peacocks “guards” the sinks. He let everyone know when some one walked past him. The wind had come up and it was cool on the bastions, but still warm in the plaza. Had to put on my wool shirt and then spent most of the time on the bastions. One peahen was disturbed, don't know if it started to fall off the chimney on which it was roasting on or what but it started to cry, not sounding normal then sounded OK when another answered and it started to calm down. During my first rounds, I had forgotten that there was a goat and her kid tied behind the kitchen. (The domestics used her for milking.) She had a bell around her neck. From then on noticed that she was moving almost constantly. After a while the bell stopped; being not sure if someone had snuck in and “stolen” her, I investigated. As I eased around the corner she rang her bell, like “it's OK I'm still here”. The almost full moon set at end of watch, and one of roosters started to crow. I woke Malichi, my relief, and didn't let the rooster stop me from falling back to sleep.

Saturday. Up at sunrise, forge fired by 6:30 and working on our projects. Factor told us to load a wagon with supplies. After completing the loading, we went back to work. Mr. Holt and Joe hitched the team and took the wagon to the cottonwoods. Later a trader, Mr Robinson, came and informed me that I was to draw a rifle and shot pouch from the trade room and go with him as the wagon had been attacked. We arrived on the scene, no team on the wagon, and the load had been strewn about but none of the cases had been broken open, Not even the barrel of brandy. Stood guard till Mr Crawford, the assistant trader, came and scouted on horse back. Mr. Holt arrived with the team and hitched the wagon; we loaded the wagon and returned to the fort. As we were unloading the wagon, Mr Robinson inventoried the load and found that a case of rifles was missing.

Breakfast this morning, served at 10:00, consisted of eggs, hotcakes and bacon, and coffee.

Domestics butchered three chickens, cleaned the birds and roasted them over the fire on a spit. After the chickens were done they roasted buffalo ribs over the fire.

Dinner, served at 3:30 to 4:00: buffalo ribs, chicken, vermicelli, tortillas and cornbread, lemonade and water. Vinegar pie for dessert, a perfect substitute for lemon pie.

Continued working till early evening. Being Saturday night, we broke for the evening gathering in the plaza. Normal days at the fort are from sun up, 5:30 a.m. till 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., depending on the workload. This being early summer the wagon trains from the fort are all ready on the way to St. Louis, and the trains from St. Louis haven't arrived yet so the work load was light. The hunter/trappers had packed their supplies on the mule and moved into the fort for the night. The Fort William Thespian Society preformed William Shakesphere's 'The Life and Death of Julius Caesar”. Never realized it was a comedy. The banjo player played and then stories were told, “The Ghost Deer” and “The “Christmas Goose” were just two.

The Topogs had spent the day using a plane table to record sightings they had taken and practicing drawing with perspective, and water coloring. In the evening they took sighting of Jupiter and it's moons to check their chronographs.

Sunday, up with the sun again. Joe had the 2-4 watch but he hadn't gone back to bed. He had stayed up and made coffee for us. As it was Sunday it was slow day. Breakfast was leftover buffalo roast, eggs, scrambled eggs, chicken, tortillas, cornbread and coffee. There wasn't any leftover pie. Our iron work was done, so we continued to work on the boxes wooden parts. Joe managed to paint and finish assembly on his. We were informed that the teamsters hadn't water the oxen so I did. One of the oxen, either Rex or Ely, tried to walk past the hose but touched it with his front hoof. Since I was there, he waited until I moved the hose and then, as I walked away, tentatively stepped over the hose and continued walking around the corral. We drew our pay and said our goodbyes.

All in all a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience. The instructors were all topnotch. All the participants lived their roles to the fullest. The time spent could have been longer but I realize that would be harder to schedule. After hiring on, the groups separated and didn't have a lot of contact, which was probably realistic for the times, but that means that there are at least four other stories like this waiting to be written (traders, domestics, Topogs, and hunters).

Postscript: Mr Hunter didn't die, he was taken to a cool part of the fort and when he was cooled down, home where after a night's sleep in his own bed, it was reported that he's fine.

Lt Richardson is recovering from his kidney stone treatment at his parent's home. And at last report is doing fine also.

(1) Tilden, Freeman, “Interpreting Our Heritage”, page 9.

(2) Garrard, Lewis, “Wah-To-Yah and the Taos Trail”, chap. 21




Published Quarterly to keep our membership informed of association status and upcoming events.

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