This is the time of year when Historic Fort Steuben is populated by young people - modern young people - who are skillful with keyboards and cybergames and watch numerous movies, dvds and websites. You might think they wouldn't be interested in the old-fashioned ways of the past as presented at the Fort. But happily, that is not true: they love learning about the tough times their forebears experienced and the unique tools and skills that are not well-known today.
Whether it is feeling the pelts of animals used for trade or smelling the herbs used for insect repellent, they are excited and engaged, asking lots of questions. These happy faces prove that we are doing our job of "Keeping History Alive!" and that the next generation will have the wisdom of the past to guide their future.
Spring is here! With the mild weather, the Fort will be open sooner than usual. The massive wooden gates will welcome visitors beginning April 17th. Each of the buildings within the picket walls has an extensive exhibit detailing life on the Ohio frontier in the late 1800's. Self-guided tours are available, but to make the experience memorable we recommend you tour with one of our Interpreters who can explain the stories behind the things you will see. Call ahead and we will be sure to have someone available who will make history come alive!
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Quilts of all colors, patterns and ages will be on display at the annual Spring Quilt Show in the Historic Fort Steuben Visitor Center from April 3 to 14.
The exhibit includes several 60 year old completely hand-sewn quilts to more modern, machine-stitched pieces. “Quilts are an excellent reflection of their times,” noted Judy Bratten, director of Historic Fort Steuben. “Most were created by women using what they had available. But as families became more prosperous, the women purchased fabrics specific to the designs they were incorporating in their quilts. And as technology improved sewing and quilting machines, those tools became popular.”
“Part of our history in the Valley was the preponderance of woolen and textile mills. This history could have been forgotten if not for collectors and museums who appreciate the historic value of quilts and garments made locally,” Bratten added.
As a way of highlighting the importance of the subject, on Saturday, April 8th, Angela Feenerty, president of the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant, will speak on early textile manufacturing in the area and the impact of abolition on textiles. In the early 1800s Mount Pleasant had three times the population it currently has and was a center of commerce. Much of what is now Union Street housed numerous businesses. Mount Pleasant could boast silk, woolen and flax mills along with cabinetmakers, carpenters, dressmakers, milliners, shoemakers, saddlers, blacksmiths, five churches and its own bank. It was well known for its high quality and award winning livestock and silk fabric. Feenerty will have samples of Mount Pleasant silk that was produced at the time. The program will begin at 1:00 pm.
Bratten added that quilting is a theme in literature as well as history. “There are a series of mystery stories where the heroine has to ‘pick up the pieces of her life’ to solve a murder while learning more about herself as well as the art of quilting. Several of those books are on sale during the exhibit.”
The exhibit will be open from 10am to 4pm, Monday-Friday as well as on Saturday, April 8. Admission is free but donations are welcome. The Visitor Center is located at 120 S. 3rd Street in Steubenville.