(Dear reader, in case you hadn’t heard, Steven and I have left our home on Penobscot Bay for a camping trip of our own. If you’re not interested, page down a few posts and everything will be devoted to Life in Searsport; in the meantime, we’ll be traveling for a while and wanted to keep Bob and our friends updated on our travels.)
We’ve had magnificent days of weather and horrid days of weather…today was cold, windy and rainy…I could have sat in the hotel room all day with a good book…but Steve was fired up and ready to explore.
So we drove to Staunton VA from picturesque Fredrick MD and after a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and dried cranberries (and fresh ground coffee with cream) we found the Frontier Cultural Museum.
We use Trip Adviser for many of our leads when we’re new to an area and the folks that offered an opinion said this was an attraction that shouldn’t be missed…personally I was skeptical about a museum devoted to past farming cultures but Steve was pumped…so in we went…we were the only two people in the museum other than our interpreters for the entire time of our stay…we had a VIP tour 🙂
The walking trails encompass several miles and took us through six, authentically reproduced farms with their gardens and animals as part of the experience. The Virginia Valley was a starting point of many Europeans new life because of its relatively easy access from the port of New York and the fertile land nestled between the mountains.
As it turned out, the cold rain was the perfect backdrop for our visit because one of the missions of the museum is to help visitors understand what motivated Europeans to leave everything they knew and travel to the unknown in search of a better life. Our first stop was an English Farm in the 1600’s. This was a relatively wealthy family but the cold, damp, gloomy interior dissipated any fantasies I harbored about a romantic life. Those who left England came because there was land to be had and trees for the taking…an offense punishable by death in the King’s world of 1600.
The Irish Farmhouse made things even clearer. They burned peat to stay warm and for cooking…filling the dark, damp home with heavy smoke year ’round. Life was hard, cold and dreary during the gloomy days. The Irish weren’t allowed to farm sheep for wool…the king declared that they would grow flax for linen instead…well before the potato famine they were dependent on success of their crops.
But the Germans had things a bit better under control. Even on the day we visited the farm house was bright and warm. Their central heating system offered smokefree comfort and the relatively numerous windows provided ample light. All of the homes were waddle and daub construction but clearly life was better if you resided withing Deutcshland.
The museum showed us how life on the American frontier was brutally challenging but the rewards equaled the demands. As we left the old world to explore the new world, homes were larger, cooking hearths were generous and comfort was a priority for the generations that followed. If you have the opportunity, this is a museum not to be missed regardless of age or experience.