Friday 30 October 2009

White Woodland Indians.

When white colonial men were captured they would often be tortured to death, but sometimes they were adopted by Indian families who had lost a family member. Once adopted into Indian society, these people were considered to be as much an Indian as if native born.

Woodland Indian Women.

Pamela Patrick White.

Pamela Patrick White.

Robert Griffing. The Capture of Mary Jemmison.

Robert Griffing.

John Buxton.

Captive white and black colonial women were often adopted into woodland Indian society and became woodland Indian. Some escaped, but many prefered to stay with the Indians and often married Indian men, just as some woodland Indian women married white men.
A white or black Indian persona is a good alternative to the woodswoman persona.

Early To Mid 18th Century Woodland Indian Sashes.

18th Century Woodland Indian Women's Shirts. Pics Curtesy of Sheryl Hartman.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Moccasin Patterns By George M. White.

Please click on the pictures & instructions for a larger view.
These are the patterns I started of with many years ago. I have reviewed this book before, and it really is a good book with many native New World patterns.

However, I wrote to George some years ago & in stead of a reply from George I recieved a note on a small piece of paper from his son telling me that the address had changed & from now on all correspondace should be sent to him.

Unfortunately the address was written free-hand & I could not understand what it said. So for those of you who have not been able to get hold of Mr White's book, here are a couple of woodland Indian centre seam patterns.
George M. White, PO Box 365, Ronan, Montana 59864, USA.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Tinder Fungus For Flint & Steel Fire Lighting.

Ryvardenia Cretaceu on a Stringybark tree

Large Ryvardenia Cretaceu

Fomes Fomentarius

Cut-away view of Fomes Fomentarius showing the Amadou inside.

Tinder Fungus.

Australia: Ryvardenia cretacea ( formerly known as Piptoporus Cretaceous). This bracket fungus grows on the trunks of trees anywhere from the ground up. The fungus itself requires charring before it can be used as tinder, but the resulting fungus dust caused by a fungus beetle will catch a spark as is.

Northern Hemisphere: Fomes Fomentarius.(also known as hoof fungus or horse hoof fungus). This fungus also grows on the trunks of trees and contains a tinder known as Amadou. To remove the Amadou the outer hard shell of this fungus must be removed. Some say that once dry this Amadou will catch a spark as is, others say it requires soaking in a mixture of water and saltpetre. In the 18th century this tinder was sold on the streets and at the apothecary.
Primitive Fire Lighting-Flint & Steel, By Keith H. Burgess (Author of this Blog).

Knowing the correct name of a plant or animal is not as important as knowing what it looks like!

Tow/Tow Cloth/Tow Rag/Tow Linen.

Colonial Loom.

Colonial Flax Wheel.
Combing or Hackling the flax linen line. To the left you can see the tow that has been combed out.

Two bundles of flax linen line. On the top pic you can just see the fuzzy strands of tow.

Tow/Tow cloth/Tow rag/Tow linen.You will often find mention of tow being used to clean gun barrels and for fire lighting. Tow does make a reasonable kindling and when I have finished using some for cleaning my gun several times, I put it in my fire-bag for fire lighting use.
Tow is the short fibres left over after combing or "Hackling" the longer flax fibres called "Line". It can be used as above, or it can be used to make tow cloth. Tow cloth was a cheaper material which was used for making work clothes, work frocks were often made from tow. A tow rag one would assume is the material from worn out old tow cloth clothing and is no longer any use for anything but to be used as a cleaning rag or perhaps for making tinder for flint and steel fire lighting. Hence I guess the term “tow rag” being used for a person who is not up to much! (1).
The top photos are curtesy of Gutenberg, and the lower photos of the linen flax are mine.

Friday 23 October 2009

To Be Or Not To Be, That Is The Question!

Woodswomen Or Women In Men’s Clothing.
This topic is important to me so forgive me if this turns into an epic blog post!
For a long time now I have been promoting the idea of a woodswoman for a living history persona. Arguements against my proposal include: we only have records of two women wearing men’s clothes and being woodsrunners, and, women did not wear men’s clothing in this period and these two women (Mrs Pentry & Ann Bailey) are the exception to the rule, and, women did women’s work not men’s work. Their job was to mind the house, cook, wash, clean, and raise children. Sometimes they had to help their husband with the farm work and to help fight Indians if the cabin was attacked but that is all.
Well firstly the record of Mrs Pentry is from the 17th century, and the record of Ann Bailey is from the 18th century. Mrs Pentry was a French Lady living in a fort until she met Mr Pentry. After marrying Mr Pentry she donned woodsmen clothing and joined her husband in a trading adventure deep in the wilderness (1).
Ann Bailey was also known as “Mad Ann” because after her husband was killed by Indians she started wearing men’s clothing and scouting the forests, sometimes alone and at other times accompanying militia (2).
Then there are all the primary records of women dressing as men and joining the army and navy, one became an officer and yet another was a doctor! (3).
I remember reading about a woman who’s husband was killed on the frontier whilst trying to prepare a home to receive his wife and nine children. On hearing of his death this woman travelled to their home site in the wilderness with her nine children and finished what her husband had started and settled there.
There are also records of women accompanying their husbands on hunts, but they do not state whether or not they were wearing men’s clothing.
All this makes me wonder why people are so against the idea of woodswomen, why don’t they think that this persona should be allowed. I can understand the red necks and macho types who hate to think that a woman may be his equal, but why should women be against the idea?
What is it we are trying to achieve in living history and historical re-enactment? I think perhaps we are losing sight of why we are involved in this activity. For some of us it is an academic exercise, but for most of us we do it for the experience and the fun.
We have no idea how many women were woodswomen, just as we have no idea how many men were woodsmen. We know about Mrs Pentry and Ann Bailey because someone wrote about them, kept a record of their existence. But how many other men and women lived and died on the New World frontier without any recognition of their existence.
Personally I do not think anyone has the right to say a woman, or women, can not take on the persona of a woodswoman and experience that lifestyle based on the fact that we only know of two women who did that. Even if you are re-enacting a battle in a specific place at a specific date in history, I can not see how you can say that there were no woodswomen present based on the fact that no one said there was.
Woodswomen existed, women did wear men’s clothing, and women did do men’s work. This to me proves that a determined woman in the 18th century was just as capable of being what ever she wanted to be just as much as a determined man.

1) , the other was propelled swiftly forward by a man and a woman. Both were dressed in hunters' costume; the woman in a close-fitting tunic of deerskin reaching to the knees, with leggins to match, and the man in hunting-shirt and trowsers of the same material.http://www.internetclassicbooks.com/Woman_on_the_American_Frontier9.htm

2) Her dress “differed little in appearance from the ordinary scout of the border”
Charles Mc Knight , Our western border 100 years ago. page 709.
“Attired herself like a man in hat, hunting-shirt, leggings and moccasins”
West Virginia History Quarterly, Vol XV11, October 1955.

3) There are accounts, verified by multiple official sources, of more than 20 women who dressed as men and served in the British Royal Navy or Marines from the late 17th to the early 19th centuries http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-13474.html

4) Phoebe Hessel's gravestone in Brighton churchyard Sussex, tells of her having, "served for many years as a private Soldier http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-13474.html

5) Kit Cavanagh, better known as "Mother Ross" was one of several women who served as dragoons in the British Army. She fought during the 1690's at first disguised as a manhttp://www.leatherneck.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-13474.html

6) 1643. Mrs. Peter Nash and her daughter were women of almost masculine courage and firmness. They all handled axe and gun as skillfully as the men of the household; they could row a boat, ride horseback, swim, and drag a seine for shad; and Mehitabel, the younger daughter, though only fourteen years old, was already a woman of more than ordinary size and strength. These three women accompanied the men on their hunting and fishing excursions and assisted them in hoeing corn, in felling trees, and dragging home fuel and timber. http://www.internetclassicbooks.com/Woman_on_the_American_Frontier8.htm

7) "while the household slumbers, the captives, each with a tomahawk, strike vigorously, and fleetly, and with division of labor,--and of the twelve sleepers, ten lie dead; of one squaw the wound was not mortal; one child was spared from design. The love of glory next asserted its power; and the gun and tomahawk of the murderer of her infant, and a bag heaped full of scalps were choicely kept as trophies of the heroine. The streams are the guides which God has set for the stranger in the wilderness: in a bark canoe the three descend the Merrimac to the English settlement, astonishing their friends by their escape and filling the land with wonder at their successful daring."http://www.internetclassicbooks.com/Woman_on_the_American_Frontier13.htm

8) Who were these lonely wanderers in that wild and wintry waste! The presence of the rifle and of the large high boots which she wore, together with other circumstances, were evidences which enabled the shrewd hunters to guess a part of their story. It appeared that the family must have consisted originally of three persons, a man and wife, with the child now the sole survivor of the party. Voyaging down the Red river during the preceding summer and autumn; lured onward by the fatal beauty of the region, and deluded by the ease with which their wants could be supplied, they had evidently neglected to provide against the winter, which at length burst upon them all unprepared to encounter its rigors.http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ga/county/fulton/library/women/woffinal.pdf

9) Eventually Anne tired of her husband’s recreant ways and ran off with Captain Jack Rackham – Calico Jack. Dressed as a man, she immersed herself in the pirate culture,……
Mary, now on her own, continued to play a male role and became first a footman and then a soldier in the English army.

10) Carin or Karin (Catharina) du Rietz (1766-1788), was a Swedish woman who became a soldier at the Royal guard dressed as a man;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carin_du_Rietz
Here are two more links kindly posted by an anonymous follower to whom I am very grateful. Thank you, much appreciated.
Women Warriors of the 18th Century http://www.lothene.org/others/women18.html
Women Warriors of the 17th Century http://www.lothene.org/others/women17.html

Wednesday 21 October 2009

La Bête du Gévaudan, or The Beast of Gévaudan (an area near present day Lozère) By Keith H. Burgess.

In the 18th century in France in Gevaudan near present day Lozere there was a beast killing and devouring people in the countryside that was described as being wolf like but the size of a cow!
Many people believed it to be a werewolf. There were almost 200 encounters with this huge preditor with at least 33 wounded and 88 people dead, though some put the death toll much higher.
There were many attempts at killing this beast by local hunters, but it seems that all they did was kill ordinary wolves, as the killings continued. Eventually a local hunter called Jean Chastel is credited with killing the beast. Jean Chastel firmly believed this beast was indeed a werewolf and so accordingly he had his gun blessed by a local priest and loaded the flintlock gun with a round ball cast of silver!
It is said that Jean Chastel was saying his prayers before entering the forest in pursuit of the beast when this terrifying creature emerged from the forest right in front of him. Jean Chastel is said to have taken the time to finish his prayer before taking aim at the creature and killing it.
But to this day no one knows what this beast was. Some say that there were offspring from this creature which accounts for other claims of having killed a beast which did not however stop the killings. After Jean Chastel had killed this beast the killings did in fact come to an end, but as I said, to this day no one was able to identify this huge preditor as a known animal other than a werewolf.
Today in the high country of France I am told there are still wild places where bears roam. Could the offspring of this beast still exist? We will probably never know.

Primitive Skills. (I have seen some clay ball moulds. This is a handy skill to have).