On Sunday, Dec. 8, the Friends of Daniel Boone Homestead put on their annual Homestead Christmas display to honor the region’s founding father and to celebrate the holidays, 18th century style.
Accompanied by the first snowfall of the season, the event gave visitors a glimpse of what life was like for Daniel Boone and how settlers lived in a less technologically advanced environment. The homestead covers more than 600 acres; the day’s events included demonstrations of spinning yarn, rug making, weaving, baking, and blacksmithing. A guided tour of the Boone house was also available as well as a horse drawn carriage ride around the grounds. Between the excellent costumes of the volunteers, their brilliant knowledge, and the beautiful scenery, Christmas at the Daniel Boone Homestead was a celebration for the whole family to enjoy.
Other than the serene landscape that encompasses the homestead, the volunteers running the events gave an honest description of what 18th century life was like for settlers like Boone. Food, clothing, and shelter were more difficult to obtain than they are for people today. Stores were further away, so many items found in the home had to be made by hand. Everything was valued, even scrapes of old clothes could be recycled and used again.
One of the first examples of this lifestyle on display at the homestead could be found at the visitor’s center. A volunteer dressed in traditional colonial garments sat in a chair hand carting material like cotton and wool to later be turned into clothing. By all accounts, this process would take a year and a half to two years to produce a shirt or a dress. Daniel Boone’s father was a weaver by trade, so this process would most likely have been familiar to him and his siblings.
Also on display at the homestead was a single treadle spinning wheel. A wheel like this was used to wind wool onto a bobbin which could be used for a number of items. When the spinning wheel first came out, it made the production of wool ten times easier. Although there are different types of sheep, ones used for wool production and ones used for food, during Boone’s day there could be no distinguishing between the two. Settlers had to use any part of the animal they could in order to survive. Today, however, people can afford the luxury of using only the finest breeds of sheep, such as the Gotland breed, for their wool.
In fact, during the 18th century, children as young as five-years-old would learn how to spin or make rugs in order to help out their parents. Since Daniel Boone had 11 brothers and sisters, it would have been enormously beneficial for his siblings to help their parents with work such as that.
In addition to being a weaver, Boone’s father was also a blacksmith. As such, one of the demonstrations put on at the homestead was how a traditional black smith made his living. Ty Zimmerman put on an excellent show for spectators about how to create nails, horseshoes, and other such items.
The Daniel Boone Homestead is a hidden gem of historical information. It covers a large portion of the history of Berks County’s most notable residents and presents it in a family friendly environment for people of all ages to enjoy.