Bowens Mills presents Civil War weekend
By Sarah Harmon
EW Emma’s Writings
One hundred fifty years ago, life was much simpler. There was no television, no Internet, and the only kind of Apple you could buy in stores grew on a tree.
Visitors to Historic Bowens Mills on the last weekend of October are able to feel as if they’ve been transported back in time to experience what life was like during the Civil War era.
Children can sit in the antique desks in the oldest one room school in Barry County to be taught about American history by eighty-four year old Virginia Alles, dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Alles enjoys giving pennies to young visitors, telling them it’s a picture of her.
One of the highlights of the weekend for her this year was meeting a couple of descendants of actual Confederate soldiers. Next to the school-house, Dave Rowgo makes hairpins and honey dippers on a wood lathe fashioned from a 1920’s toy woodworking set and the treadle of an old Singer sewing machine.
Ladies spin wool into yarn and weave cloth outside the tiny Plank House where families lived as long ago as the 1840’s. Elizabeth Barker shows chemistry in action by making soaps in a variety of scents in the Bowens House, and music lovers can’t resist a stop to hear the live bluegrass in the Trading Post.
If you play an instrument, you can even join in! A couple of the best demonstrations in the village are the mills themselves. Fresh, sweet apple cider has been made on the press here since soldiers were going off to fight the real Johnny Reb instead of just reenactors. The delicious results of the press can be bought by the glass or by the gallon. A cup of their hot cider with a homemade doughnut is the perfect thing for a cool fall day.
As delightful as all the other diversions are, the highlight of the weekend is by far the battle. The Third Michigan Federal troops go up against Confederate forces from Virginia and North Carolina across the field, taking shelter behind trees and fences. They try to change the battle slightly each year for repeat visitors; the North may win one day while the South come out victors the next.
For true history buffs, the fact the Third Michigan uses a cannon whose barrel and fittings were made in 1861 and was actually used throughout the Civil War is especially exciting. From the homespun crafts to live combat, Bowens Mills’ Civil War Weekend can’t be beat for an old-fashioned good time.
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