Country Carpenters hosts annual Colonial Day
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Sep. 24, 2013
Historian Barbara Austin held a branch out toward a group of visitors gathered around her table. "What does that smell like?” she asked.
“Mmmm, smells really good,” said one young woman, after taking a whiff of the slender twig.
“When I ask kids, often they’ll say that it smells like Fruit Loops,” said Austin, explaining that the sassafras tree was used by the woodland people native to the Hebron area to make a fruit-flavored tea.
“Native Americans used plants for medicines, for drinks, for all kinds of things,” said Austin. Austin pointed out the green color of the sassafras branch. “Sassafras means 'green stick' in native language,” she said. The sassafras tree is unique in that it has four different distinctly-shaped leaves, said Austin. “There’s the oval, the right mitten, the left mitten, and the trident,” she said, holding up a sample of each shape.
Austin was one of a number of presenters at this year’s Colonial Day, sponsored by Country Carpenters, Inc., on Sept. 21. Providing information regarding the natives’ use of local plants and animals, Austin shared space in the Woodland Native People section of the event with Eric Pomo, who demonstrated flint knapping, and Donna Dumaine, who demonstrated basket weaving.
Elsewhere on the grounds were other themed areas, where historians and crafters demonstrated techniques such as blacksmithing, wood-carving, candle-dipping and quilting. Colonial Day seeks to replicate life in the Hebron area from the time period of 1750-1800. The event was “created to educate and share the history of Hebron, Connecticut, and what life was like over 200 years ago,” according to this year’s event flier.
Among the residents of Hebron during the second half of the 18th century were farmers such as the one represented by Hebron resident Curt Munson. Munson, dressed in era-appropriate clothing, represented a Hebron farmer called to fight during the Revolutionary War. Spread out on a table next to him were all of the supplies such a soldier would have been required to carry with him. Included in the array were knives, a powder horn, ammunition, a musket and other supplies, which Munson estimated weighed in excess of 40 pounds - all of which a soldier would have been required to carry on his back for up to 12 hours at a time on a typical day.
“So the guys back then were in good shape,” said Munson. After lugging his load through the fields, a soldier still faced up to 45 minutes' worth of work to clean his musket. Every night, a musket needed to be cleaned with water and any available grease, said Munson. Otherwise, gunpowder would cause damage to the weapon. “Black powder is extremely corrosive,” said Munson. “If you didn’t clean it thoroughly, that gun would rust overnight.”