Celebrate Abe Camp Diary

Celebrate Abe Summer Camp took place at the Vincennes State Historic Site July 13 through 17.

Making butter.

Making butter.

Day One: The first day of camp is always an exciting day. The campers arrive full of wonder and, of course, energy. We have planned the week’s activities and they are anticipating them. Some of the campers know each other, some do not. This year we have two campers who are staying with grandparents in order to attend our camp. We are proud to see that a new generation is engaged in the quest for knowledge of our nation’s history. It is easy to pick out who will be the future historians, archaeologists, preservers of our story. It is also fun to watch as they gain a real understanding of what our forefathers endured and overcame. Today, the campers learned how to start a fire, grind corn and make cornbread. They also made butter. One of the campers commented that they would have starved if they had to go through all of this to get supper. I can’t wait to see what tommorrow brings!

Enjoying pioneer games.

Enjoying pioneer games.

Day Two: Today the kids learned how pioneers made clothes and rugs. It was fascinating to watch their faces as they compared their Indiana childhood experiences to those of Abraham Lincoln. The clothing that they purchase at a store ready-made was sewn by hand for Abe and his siblings after the fabric had been spun from wool that had been seared from sheep (which had to be fed and cared for as well). Entertainment, available at the push of a button today, was once as simple as walking on two sticks and jumping in a burlap bag. More fun filled days ahead!

Learning about herbs.

Learning about herbs.

Day Three: Heritage garden expert Terri King explained how Abraham Lincoln and his family relied on herbs and vegetables for cooking and medicine. Campers then planted seeds just like young Abe did in his Kentucky and Indiana youth. They sampled vegetables grown by Terri in “Father Rivet’s garden” and the Maurice Thompson homes. Terri volunteers her time caring for our beautiful French and early American gardens. She and her daughter developed an interpretative guide for each of the gardens so visitors can enjoy and perhaps recreate their own gardens as they return home from their journey to the “First Gateway to the West.” Tommorrow … the Civil War!

Rebel yell!

Rebel yell!

Day 4: Another busy day at camp. First Bruce Beesley, West Region Sites Manager and Richard Day Vincennes State Historic Sites Cultural Administrator, reenacted and explained the significance of the Lincoln Douglas debates. Richard Day explained how morse code was used during the Civil War and led the campers in a “decoding and transmitting” activity. Campers also practiced another “communication technique” as they raced accross the lawn with the regimental flags they had just made, doing the “Rebel Yell.” Finally, they made daguerreotype cases to complete their daguerrotype portraits.

At the Sonotac Indian Mound.

At the Sugar Loaf Mound.

Day 5 (final day):! It is the last day of camp and it seems as if we have just begun. For many of our campers, this will be their last year as they enter Middle School and age out of camp. They are looking forward to other site activites such as After School Specials. Younger campers look forward to next year’s camp and two of our campers who are visiting with grandparents to attend camp, say goodbye to their new friends for another year. LeAnn Luce, West Region Program Manager, was on hand today to Celebrate Abe with a Strawberry Social just like those Mrs. Lincoln hosted. Pamela Nolan’s first person dramatic interpretation of the Civil War Homefront gave campers a glimpse of hardships encountered by families during the War. Campers carried a pail of milk and used period farm tools. We visited the Sugar Loaf Mound which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The camp ended with skits explaining the definition of a Hoosier to celebrate Honest Abe’s incredible sense of humor. Great kids, great community support, great week at camp

Angela Lucas is the program developer at Vincennes State Historic Sites.

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