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Monday, October 20, 2008

History Is Fun!

How many of you out there like history? My wife and I find it fascinating, especially the small details of how life was lived. As you may have read last time, we had our 10th anniversary in Charleston, SC. The city was founded in the late 17th century, and played important roles in the American Revolution, pirate lore, and American Civil War. Needless to say, there is history aplenty in this Southern city!

We toured a few historical homes, went to a plantation to walk the grounds, went out to Fort Sumter (where the first battle of the Civil War was held), and simply walked around the historic section. It was amazing to think that some of those homes were over 200 years old! They have survived wars, hurricanes, an earthquake (in 1886), and time. But as I said, some of the most interesting parts of history to us is how people lived their daily lives. Here's a smattering of things that we learned.

* Plantation owners and their families would leave their lands completely for the summer months to get away from conditions they believed would cause disease. During this time, only the slaves lived on the grounds and continued to work the plantation.

*Slaves had to weave their own clothes in their spare time after all other work was done. Their masters were supposed to give them a set of clothes every six months, but most of the time their clothes would last at the most only three months.

*The Middleton family imported water buffaloes to act as draft animals because horses couldn't handle the conditions in the rice fields (a main staple of the plantation).

*Abraham Lincoln was invited to attend a surrender ceremony at Fort Sumter, but declined because he had tickets at Ford's Theater that night. How different would history have been if he had accepted the invitation!?!?

*City ordinances required kitchens to be separate from the main building due to fire hazards. This way, if the kitchen caught on fire, the whole house wouldn't burn down.

*Large mirrors were used in wealthier houses to reflect candle light, not for vanity. The mirrors helped light the place at night, as well as make it look bigger.

If you ever get a chance to visit Charleston, I would highly recommend it. Stay in a downtown hotel or inn, because almost all of the interesting historical sites are within walking distance. And forget what you know about memorizing dates as the end-all and be-all of history! The details are the fascinating part, and remind you that part of "history" is a "story".