Where Gumbo Was (#492)
Our mystery site for last week's puzzle had a dazzling variety of clues, and for a good reason: the site was the Frontier Culture Museum, which tells the stories of people from many different places whose migration to America, willing or unwilling, shaped American folk culture.
The Frontier Culture Museum's 200-acre site includes buildings moved from various sites in Europe and America as well as reproductions of traditional Shenandoah Valley buildings. The mission of the Frontier Culture Museum is "to increase public knowledge of the formation of a distinctive American folk culture from a blending of European, African, and indigenous peoples."
Costumed interpreters add life to the dwellings and answer questions while going about period-appropriate daily chores. Domestic animals inhabit some of the farms. Interpretive signage and living history demonstrations help visitors understand the elements that created the frontier culture and evolved over time.
The first phase of development, the Old World section, began in 1984 with reassembly of an Ulster farmhouse (early nineteenth century) from County Tyrone, Ireland, seen above. That was followed by a house (1688) from the village of Hordt, Germany, and the Barger/Riddlebarger House from Botetourt County southwest of Staunton.
The first stop on my journey of the museum was the West Africa village exhibit. Thousands of West African slaves were forcibly brought to the American Colonies to work in the plantations, farms, mines and mills. This exhibit shows the life they left back in Africa in the 1700's. A Nigerian Igbo farmer's compound with several houses and a yam barn encircled by a wall of packed earth with thatched covering was added in 2008.
The second exhibit was a 1600's English farmhouse which originally stood on a Worcestershire West Midlands farm. It depicts the life of yeoman family with a very functional kitchen with brick hearth and built-in oven. A neatly arranged kitchen garden grows culinary and medicinal herbs. Many English indentured servants and laborers without land property made their way to the Colonies to get out of poverty and strike out on a new farming life.
Next was the 1700's Irish Forge Exhibit. Early Colonies were very short on skilled craftsmen. This forge was built in the 1750's in Keenaghan Townland, County Fermanagh and the immigrants came for a better life since they were not able to advance socially and economically.
The Ulster Tenant Farm with long barn was built in the 1750's in the town of Drumquin, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The land was confiscated from Catholic landowners and given to the Scottish and Anglo-Irish ruling class. Displaced farmers were encouraged to leave and departed for the American Colonies.
The 1700's German farm was the next stop. This timber-framed house and barn once stood in the village of Hördt located in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The barn was originally from the village of Hayna. The peasants didn't own land and had to pay the landlords in the way of labor and partial crops but left for the Colonies to strike out on their own farms.
The Spanish, Dutch, English and French Colonial powers arrived in the Americas and began trade alliance with the Native Americans which was disastrous to the Native American people and their land. The 1700's dome shaped wigwams were common in the central Appalachians.
A 1740's Virginia Farm showed typical life of settlers on the Appalachian frontier. The farm cabin can be seen at the top as the title photo.
In the 1820's, American farms expanded into the Ohio Valley and westward. This log farmhouse was built Rockingham County Virginia in 1773 by German immigrants. A tinsmith shop is nearby.
Last, a typical American rural schoolhouse in the 1820 to 1850 timeframe. Schoolhouses like this were mostly constructed and operated by local families and communities.
A handout at the Welcome Center gave an active timetable of some of the museum activities.
I visited on a very hot, sunny day in July. Since over 2.5 miles of walking were warned, I took advantage of a $25 golf cart rental without a second thought. It turned out a very good idea since I picked up many senior bus trip visitors along the way who had experienced heat exhaustion.
The Museum is located in Staunton, Virginia at the intersection of Interstates 64 and 81. It's open 9 am to 5 pm every day, with reduced hours in winter. There is a very large free parking lot adjacent to the entry center where you purchase tickets and can watch an informative short video.
Adult tickets are $12, $9 for seniors and $7 for children.