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Step Back in Time on Fort Croghan Day and Enjoy Pioneer Fun and Games

Fort Croghan Museum volunteer Carole Goble works a foot-operated sewing machine during last year’s Fort Croghan Day. The free event returns Saturday, Oct. 14, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m at the fort, 703 Buchanan Drive (Texas 29) in Burnet. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

BURNET — One thing Milli Williams of Fort Croghan Museum wants people to understand about the men, women, and children who cut settlements and farms out of the area around Hamilton Creek is just how challenging and audacious such endeavors were in the mid-1800s.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “Even with the fort, it was dangerous.”

The fort Williams is referring to is Fort Croghan, established in what is now Burnet. In 1849, the area was still wild and undeveloped. It wasn’t just raiding Comanches but simple things such as a cold spell or broken bones that could mean death for settlers.

To give people a glimpse at those early days (without the dangers), the museum is hosting Fort Croghan Day on Saturday, Oct 14, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission and parking are free. The fort is located at 703 Buchanan Drive (Texas 29) in Burnet. Parking is just west of the fort (look for the signs).

Fort Croghan Day lets people step back into the past as volunteers in period costumes give a taste of early settler life. The U.S. government established a line of forts from Fort Worth in the north to near the Mexican border in the south during the 1840s. These forts offered protection for nearby settlements.

Fort Croghan wasn’t a typical fort with everything contained within towering walls. It was more open and spread out. Early Texas pioneer Logan Vandeveer was able to land the meat contract with Fort Croghan and began raising cattle on his nearby property for that purpose. Because of this contract, he’s considered the first merchant in Burnet (the town was originally named Hamilton).

In 1852, feeling there were enough settlers in the area to protect themselves, the federal government decommissioned the fort and pushed the line farther west.

The museum has several historic buildings, including Vandeveer’s cabin and a one-room schoolhouse — on the grounds. During the event, volunteers will staff many of the buildings, recreating what life was like in early Burnet County.

“There will be games and activities like they had in those days for people to try,” Williams said. “And we’ll have three spinners (making yarn and threads) set up in different places including the Fry cabin. One spinner is even bringing a goat to show children where fiber comes from.”

That’s one of the key missions of Fort Croghan Museum: sharing history and showing people how settlers often had to rely on themselves by growing and hunting their food and making their own clothes.

“Our focus is teaching history and teaching how pioneers lived before electricity, before the Industrial Age,” Williams said. “Fort Croghan Day shows how people lived when they had to do everything with manpower and animal power.”

The event includes live traditional music, a Buffalo Soldiers display (these were African-American soldiers), the Sons of the Republic of Texas, biscuit and tortilla making, the First Cavalry out of Fort Hood (they’re bringing a Gatlin gun), the Burnet Gunfighters (their show is at 11 a.m.), and several other displays and activities. Kids can try their hand at making a corn husk doll and rope.

Williams said they try to include as many interactive activities as possible.

Other displays include flint knapping and the blacksmith shop. There will even be a teacher in the one-room schoolhouse holding class. Just be sure not to get in trouble; otherwise, you might end up sitting in the corner with the “dunce” hat.

“It’s a chance to come out and experience history,” Williams said.

And be sure to mark Dec. 9 on your calendar. That’s when Christmas at Ol’ Fort Croghan takes place.

Go to www.fortcroghan.org or check out the Fort Croghan Grounds and Museum Facebook page for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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