Interpreting Our Past


Assessing whether it was time to add lye to the lard boiling over an open fire, I was careful not to get too close while wearing my long petticoat. Determining that it was not time for lye, I trudged up the hill for probably the hundredth time, fatigued from lugging iron pots, firewood, buckets of water and all the other materials needed for the day. (Perhaps life a couple hundred years ago wouldn’t seem so hard if that’s the only way of life you knew?) But I had to pause and take in the scene before me: reenactors from the Society of Northwest Longhunters and Great Parks staff and volunteers in full early-1800s garb, who were carrying out the chores of a simpler time against the contrasting backdrop of the Miami Fort Power Plant.

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I watched as guests wandered the grounds and enjoyed the setting around the Dunn Cabin and Springhouse School at Weekend in 1800s – an annual event held at Shawnee Lookout. Children dipped candles and played with wooden toys as the smell of wood smoke and sounds of a dulcimer and fiddle subtly added to the ambience. The schoolmarm emphasized the role that ink, made from oak tree galls, played in the signing of the Declaration of Independence, while others shared the many additional ways our ancestors had ties to this resource-rich land. In the 1800s, gigantic trees were cleared and used for building homes, cooking meals, making lye and keeping warm. The rich soil was crucial for growing food, medicine and fibers for textiles. Deer, elk and squirrels were hunted for food, while mountain lions and wolves were eradicated out of fear.

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As a naturalist, I’m passionate about interpreting Ohio’s natural history for our guests and hope to foster an appreciation for its abundant, diverse resources. Where would we be without them? I equally enjoy interpreting our cultural history, for the two are so tightly bound together that they become one story. And on days like this one at Weekend in 1800, I feel very lucky to be able to present this rich story of our region’s past.

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Suzanne Roth, Naturalist, Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve