Rowan Museum History Camp kicks off 2024 summer season

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

By Theresa Parker Pierce

“File left. File right. Swing like a door. Set the pace. Halt.”

History camp kids were marching with the Lincoln County Militia. Colonial Life & Revolution Camp was full, but a few openings remain for the summer.

Yes, the summer heat is on, but there was a nice breeze around the 1766 Old Stone House. Lots of activities were taking place and the children followed the shade while they wove bracelets and bookmarks called “cloth tape.” Colonials would have woven them to hold up their socks. The campers chatted about pet rabbits, soccer and swimming.

Sierra Barger taught, “local American hero, Elizabeth Maxwell Steele was a weaver who had two apprentices, a boy and a girl.”

Meanwhile, Museum Director Evin Burleson stoked the fire in the old brick oven. He used a pipe as a bellows to get the fire going. The smell of pork soup filled the air, and potato bread, typical of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, was served with peach jam and apple butter with a side of fresh strawberries. Campers came back for seconds. Michael Braun came down the Great Wagon Road to Rowan County bringing his skills with him on his search for land.

Campers learned about a variety of topics during the camp including Tussy Mussies.

“What is a Tussy Mussy?” the campers asked. They were the original bridal bouquets. Women carried flowers in order to mask the smells of limited baths. Men wore boutonnieres, it was shared.

The students gathered lavender, mint, rosemary and more in small hand-held arrangements to dry upside down at home. They were taught that if they wanted to make potpourri later, they could crush the dried flowers and herbs.

A student asked, “Do people still do this today?” and the answer given was yes, in the form of essential oils.

Janet Pyatt from The Backcountry Peddler, A Living History Mercantile, brought clothes children would have worn during the American Revolution. She chose a girl and boy to model a shift, skirt and apron and breeches, jacket and hat. The term breeches became britches over time.

Campers also learned about wool and one of the campers asked, “Wouldn’t it hurt the sheep to shear them?” and they learned that it would not, but that it’s like a person getting a haircut. 

Aprons, they discovered, were necessary for wiping dishes and wiping noses; they did not know about germs. And, of course, aprons made lovely “baskets” for gathering apples in the garden.

Ben, one of the militiamen, taught candle dipping, and the campers learned the importance of candles, which were necessary for lighting in the days before electricity. Campers hand dipped candles in wax and cool water to layer the wax on the candlewick string. They also learned about the candle wheel, which was used to mass produce candles.

There are only two of these historic artifacts in North Carolina, one at Old Salem, and the other in Rowan County at the Old Stone House.

Burleson taught the campers the history of the American Revolution and the role of Salisburians, and they learned about Lord Granville, Governor Tryon and Michael Braun. He also explained who Patriots and Loyalists were. General Greene had guns sent here but they were too rusty to use.:A later battle followed in what is now Greensboro.

Reenactors were there and taught about their period attire, as well as how wool blankets were used for sleeping bags and the fact that a soldier carried everything on his back including his flintlock musket, powder horn and a tool for making lead balls.

The campers were curious how a soldier started a fire without matches or a modern day lighter. The answer: flint and steel.

Campers made kitchen pepper, a colonial seasoning that was a staple for cooking. Spices were valuable and stored carefully because they were highly prized.

They were proud of their pepper tins, Tussy Mussies and woven bracelets and tucked their candles in their notebooks filled with activities for home.

A day at the Old Stone House would not have been complete without running, spinning and colonial playtime. The students had a blast rolling hoops, tossing the Game of Graces and spinning Buzz Saw toys and shouts of, “So fun! Watch this! and “Race me to the bottom of the hill” could be heard.

Tug of War was the highlight for them.

The camp closed out with a walk to the family cemetery where everyone learned about Michael, Margarita and their descendants. 

New friendships were made and older ones renewed and conversations among the friends included “will you be back next week?”

Tricia Denton Creel, education director, was so proud of the fun educational opportunities the team brought to Rowan County campers, as she said, “This was a good group of kids and a great day.”

And it was.

For summer camp opportunities and scholarship, contact the Rowan Museum.