Bicentennial News

Bicentennial News features reports about the American Revolution Bicentennial in Pennsylvania, including programs, events and publications of PHMC, as well as projects and activities of the Bicentennial Commission of Pennsylvania, county historical societies and other institutions.

“Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation” Being Readied for Bicentennial

Slowly, but surely, in a corner of Delaware County’s Ridley Creek State Park, the “Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation” is taking shape as a major Bicentennial project, a living sample of eighteenth-century farm life.

Supported by the Bicentennial Commission of Pennsyl­vania and Delaware County, along with local groups and businesses, the project was conceived by the Bishop’s Mill Historical Institute and is designed to have visitors participate in colonial life.

A family will live on the plantation year-round, working the land and living as farmers in eighteenth-century Pennsyl­vania did.

Lt. Gov. Ernest P. Kline, chairman of the Bicentennial Commission of Pennsylvania, regards the “Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation” as an “excellent way to celebrate the Bicentennial of our nation. Of course, not everyone has access to an eighteenth-century farmstead, but people across Pennsylvania can take this idea and mold it to fit their communities. For instance, people in the western part of the Commonwealth might recreate a pioneer village of the Revolutionary era.

“The ‘Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation’ is a shining ex­ample of what can be done with a little imagination and a lot of work,” continued Lt. Gov. Kline. “The Bicentennial Commission will continue to encourage the development of other ‘Living History’ projects across Pennsylvania.”

Visitors can take a tour of the plantation – as farms were generally called then – but are welcome to stay much longer. Right now the process of becoming a working farm museum is still an on-going thing, so visitors to the plantation can watch the workers, mostly volunteers, as they restore the buildings, dig up broken pots and other artifacts, tend the animals and gardens, and experiment with eighteenth century recipes. Some even stay to help.

Visitors will be able to help the family with the daily chores, to feed the animals, to spin wool if they wish. They will also be able to join in their story-telling sessions, fiddle and bagpipe playing, and singing.

A brochure and map is now being prepared to give visitors historical information and to enable them to take a self-guided tour of the plantation.

According to Jay Anderson, director of the project, “What we want to do here is to tell the story of ordinary people in colonial America. Everyone commemorates the rich and famous, but what about the vast majority of the people, the ordinary farmers and workers? In fact, this land belonged to a succession of typical farmers, no one you would have read about anywhere – sort of the prototype of today’s average American.

“When I say, ‘typical farmers’ though, I really include everyone on the farm – husband, wife and children. Each played a very important role here. Colonial women had to be strong and worked just as hard as the men did, and children started working at an early age.”

The aim of the “Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation” is to be the most accurate colonial re-creation in America.

“When visitors come here, and ask us, ‘Is this really the way it was then?’ we want to be able to say to them, ‘Yes, it is as close as you’ll ever get to the real thing,'” said Ander­son. “That’s why we have to proceed slowly and carefully in our work.”

They have done, and are doing, extensive archeological digs. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Archeology Society has made the Plantation its Bicentennial project. Donald Callender is the Plantation’s “resident archeologist” or research director.

“Callender specializes in experimental archeology,” explained Anderson. “That means recreating a situation – such as this whole farm, or the spring house he is now involved in restoring – then using it as it would have been used, and seeing what happens. In fact, this whole plantation will be a research center.”

In an effort to have the physical aspects of the farm as accurate as possible, the workers are removing all the modern conveniences. Since the farm was lived in until 1966, the work and research involved is considerable.

Costumes are homemade too, all made from natural fibers, mostly linen and wool.

“We hope to eventually make the cloth here for our garments,” said Daphne Wilcox, director of interpretation. Along with her many tasks at the plantation, Ms. Wilcox spends hours poring over eighteenth century cookbooks for recipes to try.

Not only will the buildings be as close to the original as possible, so will the living things.

“We are trying to obtain animals and plants as close as possible to the eighteenth century strains and varieties,” said Anderson.

Anderson emphasized that the plantation will not be a “Do Not Touch” kind of museum. “We try not to use an­tiques here, because they are too valuable. If we need a tool, for instance, we make it ourselves, either copying an­tiques or from a book. This way nothing will be too valuable to break, and people won’t be afraid to touch things or to try things.”

Some of the tools that workers on the plantation have already made include bow saws, a shingle froe (used in splitting logs into shingles). shingle house (used to hold the shingle for finishing). harrow and plow. Special metalwork for these tools and other projects is done at a forge on the plantation by Peter Wilcox, farm manager and member of the Bishop’s Mill Historical Institute.


Lycoming County Observance

The first event in Lycoming County observing the Bicen­tennial Celebration occurred April 17 [1975] in the Academic Center of Lycoming College.

Patrick S. Brady, Robert H. Ewing, Robert H. Larson, and John F. Piper, Jr., with Loring B. Priest presiding, pre­sented a dramatization and interpretation of the events of the night and following day, 200 years ago, when Paul Revere rode and the colonial farmers faced the British troops at Lexington and Concord. The participants are former or current members of the Lycoming College History Department.

The program was offered by the Lycoming County His­torical Society and Lycoming College in conjunction with the Greater Williamsport Chamber of Commerce and with the approval of Williamsport Bicentennial Commission.


Simulation of Revolution Published

Independence: A simulation of the First American Revo­lution (1763-76) was published in April, 1975 by Interact of Lakeside, California. The simulation was developed and written by Charles L. Kennedy, formerly of Gannon Col­lege, Erie.

Kennedy has developed four other education simulations that are published by Interact; they include Amnesty, Bud­get, Constitution, and Votes. The simulations, intended for junior and senior levels, are based on the principle of learn­ing through experience and involvement.


Western Pennsylvania Research and Historical Society Makes Plans

The Western Pennsylvania Research and Historical So­ciety is planning a comprehensive Bicentennial Program Series that will begin with a musical that will feature the music of Colonial America. That program will be held in October of this year [1975].

In January of 1976 the society will give a program that will feature the poetry of Phyllis Wheatley, a Colonial poet­ess, and in February of 1976 the society will have a show­ing of Colonial processes used in timekeeping, baking, sur­veying, transportation, etc. Benjamin Banneker will be honored at this time.

The society is conducting another one of its educational tours this summer, an eight-day tour to Quebec and Maine. The society is also planning an art exhibit for late this summer.