Just past the fields of pumpkins and playhouses at Dollinger Family Farm in Channahon, rested a settlement which took spectators back to the 1700s, when the 13 colonies fought against the mother country of Great Britain for its freedom in their new land.
Split only by a dusty gravel road, soldiers, wives and children set up camp nestled in the trees at the bottom of a hill to depict how life was back in Revolutionary War era of 1775 to 1783. Each reenactment group portrayed a different company either on the British or colonial side and lived out the weekend of Oct. 7 and 8 as if they lived in that time period.
Clothing, accommodations and lifestyle was authentic as wives cooked in Dutch ovens over wood-burning fires, children played games from that period, and women wove rugs, mended clothes and made candles, while the men cleaned their weapons, talked strategy and met for drills and battle.
For the third year, Dollinger Family Farm has offered a weekend where 1700s and 2000s meet and the general public could ask questions of and watch what war life was like from reenactors from Illinois and surrounding states.
“We want people to understand history, how things have changed and be grateful where we are in this day and age,” farm owner Noreen Dollinger said. “We love history and education and enjoy teaching people like this, its fun for us.”
Reenactors ranged from a few months old to seasoned veterans who had 40-plus years under his or her belt. Many of those who were involved had become so because their parents had introduced it to them as a child, or out of a desire to find something interesting to do as a hobby.
Bob Samson said his family began the store, Samson Historical, in 1982, which made drinking vessels lined with bees wax. The store now has all sorts of items a person from the Revolutionary War era might need, such as furs, shoes, games, clothing, dishes, or anything to get through the day.
“These events give us a chance to step back to a time that doesn’t exist anymore. It allows us to get out for a weekend with no cell service and escape for a few days to re-enjoy life,” Samson said.
Alyssa Durbin said when her son was 9 years old, he was not into sports, but she wanted him to do something manly and outside, so she found people who did things they were interested in and learned what they needed to do to get involved. That was in 1990.
“If you notice, the children do a lot of the labor which is good for kids. Today, my son had to get water, and the buckets were small so he probably made 19 trips to get water,” Durbin said. “When he was smaller, he would go camp to camp at night and listen to the dads talk and learn.”
Marilyn Hess and David Schmid have 80 years combined experience on the reenactment circuit. Hess’ persona sews with the Ladies Association of Philadelphia who sewed over 2,000 shirts for General Washington’s men and Schmid reenacted a fisherman and displayed all of his equipment to teach spectators about the biochemistry, biology and financial aspects of his trade.
The public could ask any questions of the reenactors and students either home schooled or in school also used the weekend to learn for their classes.
“I’m here to get extra credit for school. It’s cool to see how it was back in this time and how they lived their lives. I learned a lot about commercial fishing and it was hard to fish with the tools they used,” Seth Bosco said.
Dollinger agreed that living history and seeing something tangible was a useful tool to educate.
“So many times we read things in books, but it’s different when you can talk to someone who is passionate about history and learn,” Dollinger said.
Besides the campgrounds where the public could interact with the reenactors, there were battles daily just up the hill from the camp, spies were on specific hay rides, there was a mystery scavenger hunt and Thomas Jefferson presented at noon on Sunday in the machine shed.
“I love living history and seeing re-enactments. This gives our kids a lesson on history and see different things they are not used to seeing everyday,” Cale Weil of Channahon said.
Upcoming events at Dollinger Family Farm:
• Oct. 15 - Big Run Wolf Ranch
• Oct. 21 to 22 - Civil War Reenactment
• Oct. 29 - Trick or Treat
Visit dollingerfarms.com for more information.