Thursday, October 21, 2010

The story of Jack...

Photo courtesy soozums on Flickr

Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

The legend of the jack o'lantern originated around a man nicknamed Stingy Jack. According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him. When the time came to pay for the drinks, Stingy Jack decided he didn’t want to, so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin. The devil obliged, but instead of paying for the drinks Stingy Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a crucifix preventing the devil from returning to his original form. Jack eventually freed the devil under two conditions; he would not bother Jack for one year and that in the event of Jack’s death he would not claim his soul. The next year Jack again tricked the devil into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While the devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross on the truck of the tree, trapping the devil until he promised not to bother him for ten years. Soon after, Jack died. God was unwilling to grant such a mischievous character access to Heaven. Keeping to his word the devil refused to claim Jack’s soul. So, the devil sent Jack wandering in the darkness with only a burning coal to light his way, which Jack placed inside a hollowed out turnip. The Irish referred to him as Jack of the lantern, then simply Jack o’lantern.

Sugar, sugar...

Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

An extensive amount of capital was needed to grow and harvest sugarcane. In 1850, the average acreage of the 35 sugar plantations in Texas was 12,198 ac. A plantation owner needed more workers to grow and harvest sugarcane than any other Texas crop. Despite this, low cotton prices and wet weather caused some farmers to turn to sugarcane in 1849. In 1852 Texas produced in largest pre-civil war crop of 11,000 hogsheads (63 gallons of cane juice).

Plantation workers began the harvesting season by cutting down the sugarcane plant with cane knives. They were cut off at the ground because the lower portions of the plant contained the richest sugar. Once the sugarcane was cut, it was sent to a sugar house. The sugar house would press the sugarcane to remove the juice, which can be refined to make sugar or the byproduct molasses.

Did you know? The Imperial Sugar Company is the oldest extant business in Texas. Since 1843 it has continuously operated on the same site and produced the same products, refined sugar and blackstrap molasses.

Separating the wheat from the chaff...

Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

Wheat was introduced in north Texas by settlers in 1833. However, before the 1850s, the remoteness of farmers from large markets limited the wheat produced in Texas. Texas is said to have only produced 42,000 bushels of wheat in 1850. In 1858 Texas produce 2 million bushels of wheat due to a rapid increase of immigrants. Due to the low maintenance of growing, high crop yields, and the ease of cultivation, wheat quickly became a popular crop in north Texas.

The first step in harvest was to reap the wheat using a scythe. After the wheat had been cut, the grain must be removed from the stem of the plant. This was done by beating the grain heads on the ground and or beating them with a flail. This was called threshing. The wheat was then separated from the remaining chaff (straw-like stems and debris) through a process called winnowing. Winnowing entailed tossing the wheat and chaff into the air, and catching the wheat seeds while letting the chaff blow away and drop to the ground.

Did you know? On average, one bushel of wheat contains approximately one million kernels and weighs 60 pounds.


Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

The pumpkin is a fruit belonging to the gourd and squash family. The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon, meaning large melon. The French adapted the word to pompon, which was then adapted to the English word pumpion. American colonists eventually changed the word to pumpkin. Although the origin of the “pumpkin” is not definitively known, it is believed to have originated in Central America between 7000-5500 BCE and brought to North America by indigenous tribes. Known as isqoutm squash to the Native Americas, strips of pumpkin were dried and used as sleeping mats or a source of food.

Did you know? In the 19th century, pumpkins were thought to cure snake bites, facial wrinkles and freckles.


When visitors tell me they haven't been to Log Cabin Village in ten or twenty years, my first response typically sounds something like, "well everything's the same but different." Sure, they'll recognize the iconic log structures and perhaps some of the crafts demonstrated, but the Village itself is a living, breathing, dynamic museum.

Exhibits change based on a number of factors. Sometimes we acquire "new" artifacts. Other times we learn new information that can change our interpretation of a structure. Sometimes we just get bored with how the furniture is arranged. We've made changes because of visitor interest (i.e. converting the Seela to a hands-on cabin) and because of massive rehabilitation (i.e. the Howard Cabin). We've also made changes to protect artifacts (i.e. moving the trunk away from a light source in the Parker bedroom).

Recently we changed a couple more areas within the museum.

The first example falls into the "new information" category. The Tompkins Cabin, as you may remember if you've visited, used to have a large ladder leading up to the loft. When we recently uncovered (through new research) that family members actually accessed the loft by jumping up from the foot of the bed to the nightstand and up. This made the loft truly hidden!

Old configuration of the Tompkins Cabin--ladder on left, bed turned

New configuration of Tompkins. Note hole for loft up above...

Farther away...view of full foot of the bed.

Not only does this new configuration conform to the new historical evidence we uncovered, it also, handily, gives our historical interpreters greater freedom of movement and better access to help keep the cabin safe and clean. Win-win! Plus, it helps freshen both the interpretation and the visitor experience.

Our second recent project was borne of necessity. Our hall light over our guest register in the Foster House burnt out for the 102nd time, this time destroying its electrical cord. Amidst discussions about what to do about replacing it, we decided that perhaps it was time to change things up a bit.
We switched the location of the pie safe and the guest register table. Voila! A new configuration that provided great lighting for our guest register and low light (for preservation) for the pie safe emerged. We love it! We even moved the donation box over to the guest area to facilitate free movement through this main hall/Village access point.

Pie safe in new location

New guest register location right outside museum store

Donation box with "visitor information center"

So as you can see, rather than being afraid of change, we openly embrace it. This capacity for change is what will enable us to connect visitors with the past for generations to come.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Corn is A-Maizing!

Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

Corn, sometimes referred to as maize, was second in importance only to cotton in Texas. The ear of corn is the flower or bloom portion of the corn stalk. The process of harvesting corn begins by picking the ears by hand. Once the ears have been removed from the stalk, the outer covering or husk must be removed. After the corn has been shucked, the kernels are removed by a process known as shelling. Unlike cotton, the majority of corn produced in Texas was consumed locally as food and fodder (animal feed). In 1849 Texas produced 5,978,000 bushels of corn, 25 times more than other grain crops; by 1859 the number had risen to 16 million bushels (48 ears per bushel). We’ll let you do the math.

Did you know? 19th century Texans used corn cobs for bottle stoppers, pipes, tool handles, torches, fishing floats, firewood, and meat smoking fuel.

Using a corn sheller at Log Cabin Village--Fort Worth, TX from logcabinvillage on Vimeo.

King Cotton...

Cotton press

Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

Anglo-American farmers first began cultivating cotton in the Texas region in 1821. Cotton quickly became the leading crop in Texas farming. From 1849 to 1859 cotton production in Texas rose from 58,073 bales to 431,645 bales. With a long growing season, and the constant need for weeding the crop, maintenance and upkeep of cotton was a year round ordeal, hence the reason many cotton growers resorted to slave labor. Once the cotton was harvested by hand, it was sent to the ginning house to have the lint separated from the seeds. Cotton lint was then pressed into bales weighing 500 lbs. by a screw press. By 1880, Texas became the top cotton producing state in the union. Most cotton produced in Texas was exported to other states like California, where in 1850 Levi Strauss created cotton Levi jeans selling for $13.50 a dozen.
--Handbook of Texas & Texas roots

Did you know? Originally cotton was grown in several different colors, including rust and light purple. Eventually white was adopted as the primary color to streamline the manufacturing process.


Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

Harvesting is the gathering of crops, which takes place when crops reach the height of their quality and maturity. In the mid-19th century Texas, this typically occurred in September and October. A successful harvest was essential in ensuring farmers had enough food to last through the winter. Although advancements had been made in farming equipment, rural 19th century Texas farmers were unable to acquire them due to the lack of railroads. Texas farmers had no other choice but to harvest crops by hand, meaning longer hours in the fields.

The completion of a successful harvest often meant an abundance of food and a temporary break from field work. Harvest festivals were celebrated by family, friends, and communities to give thanks for bountiful crops. Harvest festivals are celebrated throughout the world and in the United States. The most famous Harvest festival celebrated in the United States is Thanksgiving.

Did you know? The first official Thanksgiving Day holiday was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863. In 1941, FDR signed a bill which fixed Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November.

Jeepers...Early Reapers...

Early clay sickle from Mesopotamia

Information compiled and written by Miles Martin

After establishing permanent year round settlements, early Homo Sapiens developed agriculture as a means to sustain their new societies. From the Neolithic time period (8000-2000 BCE) until the present, agriculture has been one of the most important aspects in civilization. Some of the earliest known farming tools, called sickles, have been found in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) and date back to 5000 BCE. These rudimentary tools were used through the 19th century, only to be replaced by the scythe and eventually, steam powered farming equipment.


Although the form of the sickle has changed throughout time, the function has not. Sickles were hand held farming tools used to cut hay and harvest grains such as wheat. In 19th century Texas, sickles and scythes consisted of a wooden handle connected to a sharpened crescent shaped piece of metal. The farmer would secure a bundle of grain in one hand, while swinging the blade toward the base of the crop with the other.

"Modern" sickle

Did you know? Sickles made from animal horns, shoulder blades, and jaw bones have all been discovered in America...

Flurry of posts...

We would like to apologize in advance for the flurry of blog posts about to take place. Even though we are a historical institution focusing on the past, we still have our eye on the future. As such, we are consistently working to implement new ideas to enhance visitor experience without taking away from our charming 19th c. aesthetic.

Our latest foray into 21st c. technology involves the use of QR codes to disseminate information. By employing the use of these codes, we will be able to provide additional information about various topics to visitors without the use of large, distracting signs on site. Instead, participants will be able to scan the codes with a reader-enabled smartphone or other device and have the information right at his/her fingertips.

So how does this relate to the flurry of blog posts? QR codes need a "place" to be directed to. Each blog post will serve as that "place." When a visitor on-site scans the QR code on our signs, they will be directed to one of these blog posts on their mobile device. As a reader at home, you will receive these via e-mail or RSS feed.

This first series was researched and put together by one of our talented TCC volunteers, Miles Martin. He put this information together to tie in with Saturday's upcoming event, "Jeepers Reapers!" Thanks for your hard work, Miles!

Now that explanations are out of the way...ENJOY!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October and November events...

Mark your calendars!

October 17, 2010
1-4 p.m.
Come enjoy the delightful sounds of Buttermilk Junction , an Old-Time & Anglo-Celtic band, from right here in Fort Worth. They play and sing historical "Roots Music" - tunes and songs from frontier Texas of the mid to late 1800s. No reservations required. Cost is regular Village admission.

October 22, 2010
10-11 a.m.
Featured story: Anansi Does the Impossible: An Ashanti Tale retold by Verna Aardema. The adventures of Anansi the spider continue with this delightful tale from our West African ancestors about securing folktales for the people. $4 fee includes a story, fun activities, and a craft, all geared towards 3-5 year olds. Please call 817-392-5881 to make your reservation (required).

October 23, 2010
1-4 p.m.
We just celebrated Harvest Homecoming, but now it’s time to reap what we’ve sown! Experience grinding grain by hand, thresh wheat, mix masa, press tortillas and more. Then we’ll use corn husks to make dolls! No reservations required. Cost is regular Village admission plus a $3 craft fee to make a corn husk doll.

November 14 & 28, 2010
1-4 p.m.
Come enjoy the delightful sounds of Buttermilk Junction , an Old-Time & Anglo-Celtic band, from right here in Fort Worth. They play and sing historical "Roots Music" - tunes and songs from frontier Texas of the mid to late 1800s. No reservations required. Cost is regular Village admission.

November 13 & 14, 2010
1-4 p.m.
It’s candle-making time! Come dip your own candles to take home. No reservations required. Cost is regular Village admission plus a $3 fee to dip candles.

November 19, 2010
10-11 a.m.
Featured story: Kindle Me a Riddle: A Pioneer Story by Roberta Karim. Frontier days are brought to life through a series of riddles in this charming story about a 19th century family. $4 fee includes a story, fun activities, and a craft, all geared towards 3-5 year olds. Please call 817-392-5881 to make your reservation (required).

November 20 & 21, 2010
1-4 p.m.
It’s candle-making time! Come dip your own candles to take home. No reservations required. Cost is regular Village admission plus a $3 fee to dip candles.

November 27, 2010
1-4 p.m.
Come have your photos taken with our historic St. Nick! No reservations required. Cost is regular Village admission plus a $5 fee for photo and folder.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So much to say!

Wow! We truly have a TON of exciting things happening around here! Where to begin...

  • Buttermilk Junction continues to delight visitors with their amazing music. Come check them out!

In addition to all this excitement, we're planning a phenomenal January-June lineup that will include The Lone Star Dutch Oven Society, Woodworking, a Homeschool Day, the Lone Star Leather Crafters, The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society, Boy and Girl Scout activities, summer camps, Cooking, Coopering, Blacksmithing...the list goes on and on!

We're shaking things up around STAY TUNED!

Friday, October 1, 2010

We get by with a little help from our friends...

Do you ever have something really cool going on? Something you keep meaning to tell people about, but then the phone rings, or an e-mail comes in, or you have to take a cat to the vet (not kidding)? Well...I'm finally sitting down to tell you about that cool something we have going on!

Andre applies Renaissance Wax to a pump organ top

Y'all may remember that last spring we started a service-learning partnership with Tarrant County College--Trinity River Campus. We have been fortunate to continue the partnership this semester, and we're enjoying volunteer service from some truly incredible students!

Miles assembles our spinning wheel

Thus far we've had TCCers raking leaves and removing debris from around cabins, greeting visitors at Harvest Homecoming, inventorying and cleaning artifacts, "waxing" one of our new acquisitions (more on that in the future), census research, and even assembling our new traveling spinning wheel (also more on that in the future)! What's even more fun is that we've got a couple students who are considering museum careers. We LOVE spreading the museum geekdom!

We also will be hosting a TCC blog post series. Students are researching various topics and writing blog entries that will be featured here later. Stay tuned!