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Getting Ducked

In 1634, Joan Butler of Accomack County was charged and convicted of calling Marie Drew a “common Carted hoare.” When given the choice in punishments she chose to be dragged behind a boat over repenting in front of the congregation. Punishments like this continued for women until the early 1800s.

Women that were considered disorderly or “scolds” (they complained or nagged husbands or other males too much) were commonly punished using the “ducking stool.” Similar to the cucking stool that was used for men and women, the ducking stool took a more extreme measure, primarily used for women only. The point was to humiliate them into submission and quietness by submerging them in water. Jenny Pipes, one of the last to be ducked in 1809, found herself in this situation after talking bad about her husband one too many times. In her case, it didn’t quiet her but caused her to unleash “oaths and curses on the magistrates.”

The term “ducking stool” was first used in England in 1597 but was commonly used in Scotland and the English colonies in America as well. The ducking stool typically consisted of a iron or wooden chair with a iron band that went around the woman’s waist to keep her in. Some ducking stools consisted of wheels so the offending woman could be paraded through town on her way to the closest pond or river. Others were permanently built at the water’s edge. Once at the body of water the chair was attached to a wooden beam and lowered into the water. The offending woman would be dunked under water a couple times until she was willing to quiet down. Unfortunately, for some the dunking could prove fatal.

Why was this form of punishment used when whipping posts and stocks were common for many other crimes? I think Richard Starke in The Office and Authority of a Justice of Peace explains it quiet well:

“The punishment of a common Scold generally affords much merriment and seems to well adapted to the Evil it is intended to prevent. A Woman convicted of this Offence [sic] is sentenced to be placed in a certain Engine of correction, vulgarly called a Ducking Stool, and sunk in the Water two or three TImes, until the Edge of her Fury is somewhat abated. Immersion seems best to suit this Offence, because it is thought by some that there is nothing which can stop the Mouth of a babbling Woman but the being put into that Medium, wherein her Tongue is totally deprived of the Power of Speech.”

In colonial Virginia in 1661, ducking stools were required by law in every county, as well as pillories, whipping posts, and stocks. While slander would send a woman to the ducking stool, sexual crimes would send them to the whipping posts. By 1691 Virginia law recognized these as crimes against God and could lead to a punishment of 30 lashes on the bare back. A woman who commited the crime of miscegenation (sexual or romantic relationship between races) would face whipping, fines, and additional years of service for indentured servants. Regardless of where, ducking, along with other punishments was a public spectacle and done in the hopes of deterring other people from doing the same thing. Why were punishments at this time so well-loved by crowds in society? Well that’s a question for another day.

But why such a punishment targeted only towards women? This question requires a quick look at gender norms during this time. In the 16th century, English common law and worldview did not see women as of the “fairer sex.” In some cases women were considered monsters because of their gossipy and dishonest nature (insert eye-roll here) and it wasn’t until the Enlightenment that women were seen as people. Sorry, let me correct that… financially well-off white women were seen as people. Poor and black women still fell under the monster category and as such received the biggest brunt of violent punishments and a lack of laws protecting them.

What’s left out of the record gives us insight into the view of women at this time as well. There are very few records in existence about the women who received punishment via the ducking stool. Who they were, their status in society, their crime. Instead we have plenty of records kept on the ducking stools and their upkeep and repair. Considering men ususally were the recordkeepers for society at this time it is hardly surprising they focused on the means of punishment instead of those they punished.

A note on witchcraft: It is believed that ducking stools originated as a way to expose a witch. This changed to another method: the accused witch’s right thumb was tied to her left big toe and she was tossed into the water. If she floated she was deemed a witch but if she sunk she was innocent… and dead. The ducking stool went on to be used for other various accusations instead of witchcraft. In the end throwing women in water seems to be the most common form of punishment, regardless of the crime.

You can still see these ducking stools on display in Leominster Priory, Herefordshire and in Christchurch, Dorset. For a deeper reading on punishments and the ducking stool, read this article from the Smithsonian Magazine.


Cinco de Mayo

Tacos, margaritas, and shots of tequila… I love a good holiday centered around good food and drinks. But I also love exploring the history of various holidays, Cinco de Mayo included. While we celebrate today, let’s take a moment to dig into the history of this holiday and why it’s celebrated.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, a common misconception. It is known as the Battle of Puebla where the Mexican army beat the French during the Franco-Mexican war. Franco-Mexican War?! I know, I never learned about it either. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday but here in the US it has evolved into a much larger celebration.

In 1861, Mexico was facing financial hardships after years of internal issues and a Civil War and their new president, Benito Juarez, had to make the decision to default on debts that were owed to multiple European governments.

Juarez was only going to suspend payments for two years but these European countries, France, Britian, and Spain, didn’t like Juarez’s decision and sent forces into Mexico to demand their debts paid. After some negotiation, Britian and Spain left but France, under Napoleon III’s rule, decided this was the perfect time to make a land grab. France attacked Veracruz and the Mexican government fled.

The French army decided to go after Peubla de Los Angeles next. The French General, Charles Latrille de Lorencez, attacked the city of Puebla but 2,000 poorly supplied Mexicans had fortified the town and were waiting for him.

The French retreated after losing almost 500 of their soldiers (compared to the Mexcans 100) with the battle lasting from sunrise to the early evening. This didn’t stop the war though, and Napoleon III sent 30,000 more troops to take over Puebla and Mexico City.

The war didn’t last long due to multiple events. Napoleon had to worry about Prussia in Europe and the United States was able to help aid the Mexicans with weapons and political pressure causing the French to withdraw their troops from Mexico in 1866.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday and is mostly celebrated in Puebla with recreations of the battle, military parades, and other events taking place throughout the country. In the US, awareness of the holiday began in the 1960s as many activitsts identified with the Indigenous Mexcans against the European invaders and wanted to honor their heritage and culture.

Salud to history!


Sunday Sips

Time to dive into this week’s interesting stories while we sip on some coffee.

The world’s oldest person died this past week. Imagine living through 2 World Wars and 2 epidemics.

History is being uncovered everyday and these discoveries lead to more knowledge… and questions. Check out what was recently found in the ice.

Native American art is protected by laws preventing non-natives from selling art as a native product. But who decides what is native art? Have we stereotyped it and, if so, is this another form of colonization?

Harvard is trying to make amends by redressing slavery and those that were enslaved at Harvard. Only problem is they are still refusing to give back articles that belong to descendants.

Asian Americans have played a huge role in our country’s history… a role that goes unknown to many or not spoken about (lots of racism and discrimination against them during the railroad construction era). Now the government is working on creating an Asian Pacific American Museum.

Chicago can’t seem to know whether it wants to honor Columbus or not. A recently removed statue is now coming back and people are not happy about it (and rightly so).

On a lighter note… Pompeii’s artwork is super NSFW. Seems like erotic art was common throughout the Roman empire and included many of the Gods and Goddess from both Greek and Roman mythology. But seriously… don’t click on that link at work.


Cast Iron & Some Tricks to Cleaning It

One thing I never thought I’d learn about would be cast iron. I’ve never cooked in it even though I’ve been wanting to get a cast iron dutch oven for some amazing recipes I’ve found online.

But then we decided to bring back cast iron cooking for our historic classes. Luckily for me I have some amazing experts in that field that can teach me how to cook with cast iron. But there was one road block….

Our cast iron was not in working condition.

One of my badly rusted Dutch Ovens

Some of our pots were badly rusted.

So I did my research, reached out to my expert, and got scrubbing. Turns out cleaning cast iron is dirty work. But it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

Here’s how we did it:

We used Foam Glass, cut into managable chunks. You can find this from businesses that make or repair glass. To cut it down, use a saw that isn’t your favorite. We added water to the cast iron and water on the foam glass. Using it dry can cause serious dust that can affect your lungs. Think of it like a pumice stone that breaks down with use. If you’re going to use it, make sure to use it when wet only.

Due to the condition of our cast iron, we stripped it down as much as possible until it was smooth. For smaller grooves and the lids, we also used a metal brush (like a grill brush) and a chainmail scrubber made by the Lodge that I found at Target.

Once it was scrubbed, rinsed, and dried, we added a thin layer of vegetable oil to all sides. There’s other oils you can use, like Flaxseed, that also work well. Some oils have higher burn temperatures, and that’s when deeper research comes into play.

We placed our cast iron onto a burner we had going outside to quickly add the first layer of seasoning to prevent rust from starting. We tried to heat each item to 500 degrees or unti it started smoking.

We heated up our indoor oven to 400 degrees, layered the bottom rack with tin foil, then added each item for an hour to seal in the oil. Since we need to season the cast iron well, I will be adding another layer of oil and baking for an hour, and repeating that four more times.

If you can’t get the foam glass, chainmail scrubbers and salt can work just as well. Target had a variety of cleaners made specifically for cast iron.

Do your research if you’re wanting to use cast iron. If treated right, it can last you past your life time.

What are your tips & tricks for cleaning your cast iron?


Sunday Sips

Grab your coffee or tea and join me for a look at what I’ve found interesting this week.

Petroglyphs in Santa Fe, New Mexico have been vandalized multiple times recently. Now the FBI is offering a reward for information related to the individuals or groups of people responsible. It’s beyond terrible when sacred sites like this are mistreated and destroyed.

Need a laugh while learning about art and microaggressions? This Tiktok influencer is one to check out.

The heat over Montpelier and the decision of the board to remove power from the descendants group has exploded (we’re talking 5-alarm fire). Now board members and staff who sided with the descendants have been fired and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (who owns the property) has spoken out against the decision. Keeping an eye on developments as this could have many different consequences in the historic site field.

New developments in history include finding a fragment of oldest-known Maya calendar. Could this change historical ideas about the invention of the calendar? Will they find older pieces?

The Cherokee Nation entered into an agreement with the National Parks Service to allow the collection of plants with cultural and medicinal significance along the Buffalo National River. This agreement will help the Cherokee Nation continue to use historically significant plants that can no longer be found on their reservation.

Making friends as a kid was easy, but now that we’re adults it’s, well, not so easy. Not for everyone, at least. If you’re looking to grow your friend circle, check out this tips from Quartz.

If it isn’t the Florida Man, its the Florida Government. A lot of bills were thrown around recently, including the repeal of Disney’s special district. If you’re as confused as the rest of us are, here is a look at what it means and how Disney got the privileges in the first place. Fun fact- there are 1,850 special districts in Florida similar to Disney (guess its not so special after all).


Mythologization of History

As my husband watched the movie trailer for The 355, I quickly reminded him of why we don’t watch historical-based movies in our house. He listened to my groans of annoyance and quips of “That’s not accurate,” and “That’s not how it went” before I dived into an unwanted history lesson. But this simple exchange made me think about history in Hollywood and how all too often we see romanticized versions of the truth.

History is not easy to understand. Sources are often biased or omit things the author doesn’t want remembered. Groups of people throughout history have been forbidden from writing, and some have been told their oral histories don’t count because they weren’t written down. Because of this historians have to read between the lines and piece together diffferent sources to find the truth… or as close to the truth as possible. Does Hollywood, and some authors, romanticize history because the truth isn’t as entertaining? Or is it easier to not to the necessary research before diving into a project?

Once in awhile we see people take one little tidbit and get carried away with it. This seems to be the case with Revolutionary War female spy 355. We all love badass females who fight against societial norms and help save a hero or their country. Which is what Agent 355 did.

Except she didn’t. She didn’t exist, not in the sense that some authors, and now Hollywood, have claimed.

The Culper Spy Ring during the Revolutionary Wars is one of the first instances in American history of spying. It’s believed a woman spy, known as Agent 355 was a leading participant in that ring. But there is only one small mention of her in historical record. In a letter from Woodhull to Washington, August 25, 1779, he says “I intend to visit 727 before long and think by the assistance of a 355 of my acquaintance, shall be able to outwit them all.” 727 was code for “New York,” and 355 was code for “lady.” Nothing in his letter implicates that this lady was actually a spy.

But as many people do, they ran away with the story of a female spy and her various activities, perpetuating the myth. Various books praise her strength and courage while admititng they have no real clue to who she is.

Other historians have debunked this myth as being such. There are clues to who the woman in the letter could be (and there’s no set agreement on that) but feel safe in saying that she was mostly definitely not a spy, just a woman loyal to the cause, like so many others at the time. Women across the country helped the revolutionary cause in various ways, some that could be considered a form of spying, but none were ever named as a spy in the historical record.

All too often simple stories in history are romanticiezed for profit, like with this one. As Beverly Tyler (historian at the Three Village Historical Society) says “We don’t really need to make up and embellish women’s stories. We need to research and find the real stories that are out there waiting to be discovered.”

To read more in-depth about the Culper Spy Ring and who 355 might have been, check out this article from the Smithsonian Magazine.


Sunday Sips

Grab your coffee or tea and check out my favorite articles, podcasts, and more from the week.

Turns out two sisters started the first museum in America. They came up with creative ways to put their items on view for other’s to study.

A man in Australia found a stolen mini portrait of Josephine Bonaparte on Ebay. You won’t believe how much it sold for.

350 years later, the Rappahannock get back 465 acres of their ancestral land in eastern Virginia. This is just one of many stories happening lately. Native Americans across the world are finally getting their ancestors, ancestral land, and rights they deserve back.

It is estimated that between the 16th and 18th centuries in Scotland, 2,500 people were accused of being witches and executed. Now Scotland is issuing an apology to those people and their ancestors.

A wave of repatriation is happening across the globe. While not everyone is on board (looking at you British Museum) some places have taken the steps to return stolen and looted artifacts to their native lands.

A great thing about history is that we’re constantly learning and adding new things. New Underground Railroad Sites were recently added to the National Park Service

If you’re looking for a mentor but aren’t sure where to start, check out this video and article from Quartz.

A lot of people see a museum as a place to learn historical information, see artifacts, or view works of art. But museums can be much more than that and can actually help with mental health and confidence.

This article on Medium brought back many feelings from when I left the teaching profession a couple months ago. Teachers are leaving in substantial numbers but is anything really being done about it?

I’m currently listening to Kalyn’s Coffee Talk podcast on Spotify. Half hour doses of motivation and valuable advice. Favorite episode this week was “We Create Our Narrative.”

Currently reading Mr. Jefferson’s Women by Jon Kukla. A somewhat in-depth look at Thomas Jefferson and how to thought about and interacted with different women in his life. Of course it touches on Sally Hemings for a chapter but brushes over the fact that she was only a child when their relationship started. As this book focuses on Jefferson’s intimate relationships, it fails to get into Jefferson’s relationship with his daughters. It is a good read if you’re wanting to learn a darker side of Jefferson that isn’t taught in schools or mainstream media.

I’ve started a Substack so you can also find me on there. Not sure what I’m going to write about on there yet.

Drop a comment and let me know what you think about my weekly links or let me know what you’ve read, listened to or seen this week that I should check out.


My First Historical Conference

This past weekend I attended the Seminole War Convocation, a biannual gathering of historians and individuals interested in learning and studying the Seminole Wars in Florida. It was a three day event held in Jupiter this year.

Friday we toured the DuBois House, located at DuBois Park on the coast, followed by a welcome reception.

Saturday we listened to a variety of speakers, including the archaeology of Jupiter, the revitalization of the Creek language, and the culture and thoughts of both the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Great Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. I felt like I was back in school again with all of the notes I took. Some important takeaways from some of the Seminole speakers:

  • It is important to preserve our land and our natural resources so that future generations may also enjoy it. Part of this means not taking more than we need.
  • To the Seminoles, the Seminole Wars was not 3 separate wars but one long fight. The Seminoles didn’t want to fight but only did so once their backs were to the wall. They simply wanted to live in peace on their land while living their way of life.
  • Many Seminoles consider it as hostilites against the Seminoles, not a war.
  • The Seminoles, as well as many Native American tribes across the nation, are still fighting, still rebuilding as they work to gain back land rights (and other issues). Much of the knowledge of their culture was captured, killed, or relocated.

On Sunday we traveled to the Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park. The morning was spent with the Seminole Nation performing a ceremony as they walked over the battlefield, following in the steps of their ancestors. This moment held significant value for many involved. It was the first time the Seminole Nation had come back to this site in 184 years. It was this site that many Seminoles were captured, chained, and marched to Oklahoma, torn from their family and friends. On Sunday, they finally came home. It was history in the making.

The ultimate piece de resistance (for me at least) came a couple days later when the Seminole Nation stopped on their way home, at our historic site (more on the importance of our site later). We gave them a tour, and while walking the trail, they stopped to do a ceremony for their ancestors. It was a remarkable and memorable day.

GIving a tour to member of the Seminole Nation: Jerry, Rodney, & Jake.
Brad, Rodney, Philip, Jake, Mark, Me, Rex, Jerry, Chief Lewis

The weekend was pretty amazing, to say the least. It’s always great to meet new people. SIggy Second-Jumper, a Chiricahua Apache (on the right) is an author of Apache history, including a book on how many Apache were shipped to Cuba as slaves. You can find his books on Amazon. Mark Williams, a Choctaw (in the middle), was documenting the entire journey. You can find his work on Facebook and Instagram at Digital Feather Media. Rex (on the left) is part of the Colorguard for the Seminole Nation. I hope I am able to count them among friends now.

As a historian it is always fun and exciting to learn new things and meet with like-minded people. In this field we must keep an open mind and be ready to have our opinions changed as there are new discoveries of historical significance all of time. Events like this, and other historical conferences around the world, allow us to grow in our profession, and I look forward to attending more.

I leave you with some last words: “Regardless of where we might be, we are Seminoles.” -Chief Lewis Johnson of the Great Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.


Disaster Planning

A couple days ago a tornado ripped through my town. While it wasn’t nearly as big as those seen in Kansas, it was unexpected and did significant damage. Ending result was a 25 mile long swath of damaged buildings, cars, and lots of downed trees. Thankfully, no one was reported injured or worse.

I was on my way to work and missed the tornado hitting my subdivision by minutes. It’s path followed closely the one I normally take to work but this morning I decided to stop at Target for a chainmail sponge (that’s for another post) and went a different way. One of our parks, less than 2 miles from my site was also hit in its wake after I got to my site. I spent a good chunk of my day listening for a sign that disaster was heading my way and making sure the huge oak trees surrounding my office didn’t come crashing down.

I’ve never experienced a tornado before and I hope I never have to again. But the suddenness of this storm, coupled with the stabbing of museum workers in NY, made me reflect on what I’m supposed to do in case of a disaster, whether its natural or man-made.

Our museum is small, but the overall site is large with many historical elements to consider, as well as the volunteers who are there weekly. I’ll be working with them to create a disaster plan that we can implement easily if necessary. Hopefully we never have to.

Do you have a disaster plan for your site or museum? What are some things I (and others like me) should consider when crafting a disaster plan?


Tennessee Family Spring Break

Living in central Florida usually means we spend our summers and spring breaks at one of the many beaches, springs, or theme parks. Sometimes we go to the local lake where my mother-in-law lives and spend the day on the boat and have a barbeque.

This year we opted for something different. We decided to spend our week with the family in the mountains of Tennessee, and to say I was excited was an understatement. It was so breathtakingly beautiful! I didn’t want to leave, but then again I’ve always been partial to the mountains over the city.

We stayed in an adorable wood cabin up in the mountains and went on many adventures in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. My in-laws and our kids drove up Sunday and we joined them early Wednesday morning. Before we got there our kids got to ride horses and ATVs in the mountains and ice skating in Ober Gatlinburg.

Planning a trip to Tennessee? Check out what we did, plus some tips and tricks for a fun family trip.

Day 1

We spent our morning hiking the Laurel Falls trail that led to a waterfall up in the mountains. The scenery was beautiful the entire way. I’m known for being kinda clumsy but I faced my fears and climbed the slippery rocks up the waterfall.

The view from the trail
The bottom of the waterfall
If you’re feeling adventurous you can climb halfway up the top part of the waterfall.

After our hike we drove into Pigeon Forge and went to the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. As someone who is deathly afraid of heights I said I wasn’t going at first. But then I got up my nerve and rode the coaster and it was great! It naturally goes fast as you go down and I found myself pulling on the brakes more than I thought I would.

Finally for dinner we stopped at a small local Spanish restaurant. Back at the cabin we relaxed, reading, playing games, and some caught up on the latest Grey’s Anatomy. Halfway into the night the power went out due to a storm that was roaring all night. But lucky for us the fireplace was gas and we sat and enjoyed the fire while my husband ran out to find a store that had power for drinks. Reading in front of the fireplace was one of the highlights of my week. It was so peaceful and relaxing.

Day 2

We started our morning off in Gatlinburg eating some of the best pancakes I have ever had at the Pancake Pantry. If you ever go to Gatlinburg you must stop and try out their food. Trust me you won’t be disappointed.

Apple-Walnut Crepes

After filling our stomachs with plenty of warm coffee and pancakes we walked it off by exploring downtown Gatlinburg. There is so much to see and do! We stopped in a couple shops to look around, try some wine, and got family pictures done at one of the “Old time” locations.

We continued on our trek to the Old Smoky Gem Mine. The gem mining had different sized buckets ranging from $35 to over $100. We picked the $50 bucket to share between 7 kids and it was totally worth it. Check out how much we found below! When they were done one of the guys organized their gems and gave them a quick lesson on what each one was.

Panning for gems
The final haul

At night my husband and I went out with his sister and mother to celebrate our six year wedding anniversary. We hopped around to two different moonshine distilleries doing taste-testing- Ole Smoky and Sugarlands. We had to pay $5 for each tasting and got anywhere between 7-10 different whiskeys at each location, plus a $5 coupon. We were then able to use those coupons stacked on each other to purchase jars of whiskey. After the tasting at Sugarlands, we were able to go to the back to an outdoor bar where they had specialty cocktails made from their different whiskeys. My favorite was the Bloody Mary made with their Maple Bacon whiskey.

While in Gatlinburg you can also take a chair lift up to the famous Sky Bridge. At night both are lit up and it is a beautiful site.

Day 3

Our last day was the best of the whole trip! We started the day off with a trip to The Island at Pigeon Forge with just my husband and kids. We stopped into the different shops along the one side where there were many photo ops. My oldest daughter was excited to see the planets #1 hot sauce shop but was disappointed she couldn’t sample any. My favorite shop was the Savannah Bee Co. filled with a variety of honey items from flavored honey to candles and skincare products. We had pizza at Mello Mushroom and an iced latte at the Margaritaville Coffee Shop. The Margaritaville Hotel is also located inside of The Island where part of the rooms traverse the top of the shops. Also inside The Island was a Ferris Wheel and obstacle course.

Never a serious face with this bunch

In the afternoon we drove up to Ober Gatlinburg for snow tubing. The drive up was very windy but I have >>never<< seen snow before so I was excited. So was our toddler who associates snow with Elsa and Frozen. Ober Gatlingburg offers a variety of activities. You can snow tube, ice skate, do ice bumper cars, a mountain coaster, and of course, shop.

Ice skating & Bumper cars
Making fudge which smelt heavenly

After tubing was done, we warmed up back inside with ice cream (I can’t explain it either) and some shopping. I found a Christmas ornament for our yearly tradition (more on that later) and nearly died from all of the amazing smells coming from the fudge shop.

Some tips for snow tubing:

  1. Bring a poncho or similar type object to place inside the tube. By our time frame many of the tubes had water in them and were dirty. The poncho or similar item helps keep your butt from getting completely soaked.
  2. Snow tubing is done by appointment which happens rain or shine. Make sure to check the forecast before you book.
  3. Take an extra set of clothes for after, in case you get soaked (or wear snow clothes like my sister-in-law did). Many of us were wet and cold at the restaurant for dinner, which doesn’t make for a pleasant evening.

Tennessee was amazing, to say the least! It was so fun to have a chance to get out of Florida and into the mountains. We didn’t even get to do a quarter of what Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge had to offer. I can’t wait to plan another trip and find more fun activities to do!

What are your favorite things to do in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge? What should I plan for next time? Drop a comment and let me know!

From Slave to US Marshal: The Legendary Bass Reeves

It sounds like something from a movie: an enslaved black man runs away during the Civil War and becomes one of the best US Marshals in Wild West history. But that is exactly what happened with the legendary Bass Reeves.

Bass Reeves

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in 1838 in Arkansas to state legislator, William Steele Reeves. Around 1846, Reeves moved to Texas and, at some point, Bass was given to Colonel George R. Reeves, William’s son. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Colonel Reeves took Bass along with him, fighting on the Confederate side. It was during this time that Bass escaped to his freedom in Indian Territory. Family story has it that Bass and George got into a physical fight during a card game, causing Bass to flee.

After the end of the Civil War and the passing of the 13th Amendment, Bass Reeves settled down as a farmer and began a family. For awhile Bass also worked as a guide, helping US government officials through Indian Territory since he was familiar with the land and knew several Native languages.

But Bass was not meant for the simple life.

In 1875, Issac Parker became the federal judge for the Indian Territory and appointed James Fagan as the new US Marshal. Fagan’s first job was to hire 200 new deputys and he chose Bass Reeves, the first black deputy west of the Mississippi River. Reeves first served the Western District of Arkansas until 1893, then the East District of Texas until 1897. He rounded off his career working for the Muskogee Federal Court.

Bass Reeves became a legendary cowboy of his time. He was known as being polite and courteous who wore a large hat but brought in over 3,000 felons, some of which were considered the most dangerous criminals of their time. Looking to circumvent jurisdictional loopholes, fugitives routinely escaped to Indian Territory. Unfortunately for them, Reeves knew the land well. He utilized disguises and aliases, developed strong detective skills, and became well-known for his marksmenship, while never once being wounded. So well-known was he that he was constantly barred from competitive turkey shoots. Rumor has it he could kill a man from a quarter-mile away.

Reeves’ accomplishments were widely known. In 1891 the Daily Arkansas Gazette commented that “Bass Reeves is the most successful marshal that rides in the Indian country… a holy terror to the lawless characters in the west….” Unfortunately for Reeves, his son Benjamin became one of these lawless characters and Reeves set out to bring him in after Benjamin killed his wife in a fit of jealousy.

Bass’ life wasn’t all that legends are made of though. He operated at a time where racism and Reconstruction polices were at the fore front of American society. As a black man he was responsible for hunting down and arresting white men, many of whom were charged with lynchings and other racial hate crimes.. The creation of Jim Crow laws would eventually push him out of his career. He also had his own run in with the law. In 1887 Reeves was charged with murdering a posse cook but was acquitted.

Bass Reeves died of Bright’s disease on January 12, 1910. He had two wives and eleven children during his life. While it is a disputed theory, some believe that the Lone Ranger was based on Reeves and his career as a marshal.

To learn more about Bass Reeves check out Black Gun, Silver Star by Art T. Burton.

Archaeology Dig Box

My historic site wouldn’t be a historic site without archaeology. We know a lot about what happened at our site because of the artifacts that were uncovered.

When I started working I didn’t think much about archaeology. I knew there were people interested in it, but I didn’t think it went beyond adults.

Until I talked to my 10 year old daughter. She always loved dinosaurs and fossils and wanted to be a palentologist. Within the past year she changed to archaeology.

Which made me start to think about kids and archaeology. We have an amazing opportunity to get kids interested and involved in archaeology at our site. But how to start?

I wanted kids to get a hands-on experience with archaeology so I opted to make dig boxes. I created a booklet to go along with the activity that teaches them proper procedures for finding items. They get to record their discovered artifacts and put the pieces together to make a hypothesis about life at the site.

Creating the boxes was the easy and fun part. I got two large plastic containers with lids and filled each with a mixture of sand, dirt, and pebbles. I went to the thrift store and bought beads, plates, and cups that had a vintage feel. I broke them and grinded down the edges as much as possible. I drilled holes into the boxes and tied trowels and paint brushes to the box (make sure there is enough string).

Completed Archaeology box

A note on the paint brushes: I suggest plastic ones. I used the wooden ones because that’s what I found. They molded being in the sand. I had extras so I covered them with Outdoor Mod Podge and I will see how those work out.

So far the boxes have been a hit. Kids enjoy looking for different items and figuring out what each piece is. I ask guiding questions to get them to think about the “artifacts” and what they mean in relation to the site.

The favorite “artifact” so far?


How do you get kids interested in history or archaeology at your site? Have you made your own archaeology box? What did you put into it?