Saturday, May 20, 2017

Civil War Day at the Orson Starr House

There is a restored 19th century farmhouse maintained by the city's historical commission down the road from where we live that I've driven by more time than I can count but have never visited.  So when I heard the Orson Starr House Museum was hosting a Civil War Day event, it seemed like a nice opportunity to swing by and check the place out.  What a great decision that was because our family had a great time during our visit.

Orson Starr along with his wife and son arrived in Michigan from New York in 1831 and settled in a rural area 13 miles west of the Detroit River.  Upon arriving Starr built a successful business manufacturing cow bells to serve the area's dairy farmers that eventually became a nationally recognized brand with farmers.  In 1845, the family moved from a log cabin they had been residing in to the farm house that still stands today...the oldest existing home in the city of Royal Oak, Michigan.

We were greeted when arriving by a contingent of Civil War reenactors who warmly welcomed us and promptly had my son and daughter complete some paperwork enlisting them in the Michigan Militia for the Union Army.  The kids participated in some marching drills and witnessed a musket firing demonstration.  They really enjoyed examining the soldiers uniforms, looking over their authentic campsite, and watching a drummer muster the troops for inspection.

Next we took a tour of the house which has been decorated and furnished to replicate its look from the mid-1800s.  Our tour guide pointed out some exquisite hand carved bedroom furniture that the Starr family brought with them on their boat ride across the Great Lakes from New York.  Also the craftsmanship in constructing the home really was something to behold.  Our tour guide was also sure to point out that the Starr House is recognized as one of the most haunted places in Metro Detroit and pointed out the locations of various ghost sightings as we explored the place.

Contributing to the spooky fun of the ghost stories was the Civil War reenactor's field doctor who had setup shop inside the house.  We learned about medicine and surgical practices from that era while surrounded by the severed limbs of soldiers who had been injured on the battle field.  My daughter was even brave enough to take us a scalpel (well a plastic imitation of one) and get some one-on-one lessons on how to do an amputation.  I think we now know who the doctor in the family is going to be!

In the parlor next to where the field surgeon was setup, a trio of musicians was performing Civil War era folk songs.  They were really good and had our family tapping our toes to their tunes.  Two of my favorite instruments are the harmonica and fiddle so I was delighted that this musical group highlighted playing them.

Our visit to the Orson Starr House demonstrates that you never know what treasured gems there are in your very own neighborhood to get out and discover.  We had a wonderful time that was both an entertaining and educational time for the kids.  Plus the event was FREE though we did leave some money in their donation jar on the way out.

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