Provided by Prince William County
Visitors to one of the county’s oldest homes, Rippon Lodge, recently had the chance to pick up tidbits of historical information about the customs of British soldiers, learn how the Dogue Native American tribe survived and play some bygone children’s games. The “Early Days of Prince William County” event highlighted the cultures of the area through living history demonstrations and reenactments.
Tony Vanderbeek, a living history interpreter, explained that by the 1780s, British soldiers had abandoned the traditional tricorn hat for one with the left side of the brim pinned up. According to Vanderbeek, British soldiers carried their muskets resting against their left shoulders when they marched and a pinned up hat didn’t interfere with the musket.
When British soldiers left England to fight the Colonials, they were outfitted with short swords, Vanderbeek said. When they arrived in the colonies, veterans of the French and Indian Wars told them that the short swords were all but useless compared to tomahawks. The British Army got the message. By 1780, they had switched out the swords for the tomahawks.
Doug Wood and Diane Anestis set up a fishing and hunting camp that showed how the Dogue people lived when the first Europeans arrived in the area.
Wood showed how the tribe made venison jerky, bags made from beaver skins, and tools of stones and bones. Wood, wearing the traditional Dogue garb of bear fur and deer skin leggings, and Anestis, wearing a deerskin dress, leggings and moccasins, tended a fire where they smoked and dried pumpkins, venison and fish.
Anestis told children gathered around the fire how fishing was a team effort with the Dogue and that Dogue children would drive fish in the creeks toward waiting adults with spears tipped with sharpened deer bones.
Seven-year-old Christophe Fries said he was particularly taken with how the Dogue made satchels out of beaver skins, deer jerky and stone and wood tools. “I just love learning stuff about the wild. It’s really fun!”
When the Europeans first arrived they traded metal tools and cloth for beaver pelts to make hats. Wood said traders and Native Americans generally had good relationships. However, strife arose later as Europeans began to farm, planting corn and tobacco. Once the land was depleted, the farmers moved on to new land and displaced the Native Americans, Wood said. “There was a great deal of tension between plantation owners and the American Indians.”
Young visitors were able to enjoy some hands-on fun, playing traditional colonial games with hoops and sticks. Graces, a game where the players toss small wooden hoops to each other using a pair of wooden sticks, was tailored to make colonial girls more graceful. Whereas, boys in early Prince William County would use the sticks to roll larger hoops.
Visit the Historic Preservation website for variety of events highlighting Prince William County’s rich historic and cultural past.