Living History at Fort Atkinson

Good morning! It's the weekend, I have a cup of coffee, and I'm ready for the day. I haven't been sleeping as well as I should have lately, so I made up for it last night by getting a good, long night of restful sleep. 

For those of you who are signed up for my newsletter, you were already aware that this post was coming. This means -- for all of you who haven't signed up for my newsletter yet -- that you get sneak peeks, stuff I don't post here on my website, and previews of what's to come. You can sign up anytime, right here on my website. On the main page here, you'll see a box in the upper right-hand corner, just below the menu bar. That's the sign up box, so sign up today!

Anyway, last Saturday, my folks were here for a quick visit, and I took them up to Fort Atkinson. Fort Atkinson was the largest fort in the west back in the early 1800s, and, while it's no longer standing, it was rebuilt to original standards back in 1980s-1990s. You can read more about the Fort on it's Wikipedia page

The Fort is located in Fort Calhoun, NE, and is a part of the Nebraska State Parks, and, as such, there is a small visitor's center in the lower, left-hand side of the park. The Fort itself is huge, and there are some outbuildings as well. The cost of entry is a state park pass, or a daily pass which is $6/car. 

Every year, for a handful of scattered weekends, the Fort has it's Living History days. During these weekends, the Fort comes to 1800s life, and you can see what life would have been like back then. I took my parents up last weekend, because it was one of the Living History weekends, and I knew we'd all enjoy it. I have been to the Fort numerous times, but had only made it to one of the Living History weekends once with the kids. That was a few years back, and the weather was so ungodly hot and humid, that we didn't enjoy ourselves much, hid out in the shade all we could, and took off before really getting to see much.

Here is the entrance path into the Fort (which is U-shaped) and you can see soldiers and other personnel going about their duties.

While it did get warm last Saturday, it didn't get as warm as the last time I tried to go. However, we knew it would be better to get there early so we could escape the heat. Here, we see the Fort Commander. He was a friendly chap who visited with us for a minute.

Here's a shot across the center field. As you can see, it really is a huge fort. Luckily, it has a covered porch that runs the entirety of it's U shape. You can see the shadow, on the ground, of the giant American flag.

This would have been the dining quarters of the Commander and his family plus officers (if I remember correctly).

This young soldier was carrying water, and was quite "intrigued" by my modern camera.

Here we see a lady of the Fort sewing a quilt. Nature Girl and the Teen were invited to sit down and make some stitches, which they both did eagerly. A lady was also sitting right to the left, and she was crocheting some socks.

Here's another shot of the Fort from the right wing of the U. You can see what I mean about that flag!

This young lady was turning wool into yarn.

Here we see the weavers. Weavers made rugs, runners, placemats, hot plates, and a variety of other goodies.

Right outside, between the woolsmith and the weaver, was the lace maker. She also invited the kids to help out for a bit, and they both joined in as well.

This stone building, set in the center of the Fort field, is the powder magazine. It's where all the ammunition was kept. For reference, the doorway on the left-hand side back in the distance (the one where the person in the red shirt is standing) is the Commander's office.

If you go to the left of the U, and behind it, you will find the outbuildings. One such building is the Sutler's Store, which was the Fort's General Store. They open and operate during Living History days, and you can buy old-time goods, get a drink and some treats. We all got water, lemonade, old-fashioned cookies, and some pickles from the barrel. 

Inside the store are tables, and each one had a game to play for entertainment. Ours had an old set of playing cards.

The blacksmith shop, which is in another outbuilding, along with the metalworkers.

The fire at the blacksmith's shop.

The inside of the powder magazine.

A picture of my folks. <3

Another cool thing about Living History is that they have drummers, trumpeters, and will fire canons & rifles. This drummer was signaling the mid-day canon fire.

The crew gets the canon ready.

After the canon fire. If you've never heard a canon's a treat. Loud and regal.

This was a general, I'm pretty sure.

The officers congregated for lunch.


A shot down the left-hand arm of the U.

The Cooper making a bucket.

A pioneer family was camping in the shade behind the Sutler's. Probably a family taking a much-needed break from the Wagon Trail.

One of the outbuildings is the Council Hall. At one end is the Indian Affairs office. The Agent for that office knows how to play the guitar, and it made for a pleasant time to sit in the breeze, chat, and listen to some songs.

This was where soldiers could pick up uniforms, shoes, blankets, and such.

A letter from home.

An Officer's quarters.

It is a neat experience to visit the Fort and learn about our past. You can find out more about the Fort from the Fort Atkinson Website. If you follow the menu links you can see the schedule for Living History days, and learn more about the Fort in general. If you live anywhere near here -- or any other place with a nearby location like this -- I urge you to come visit. The Fort is open all the time, and some of the rooms in the Fort are always open, but you get to see tons more during Living History.

Have a great weekend!


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