by Abigail Austin Sun Journal
LIVERMORE — Staying warm today means dressing in the latest technology — you know those battery-powered long Johns for which you control the temperature with your smartphone?
If the Washburn family, who lived in the 1800s, could see us now, they’d mock us — or be jealous.
But for all this technology, when Western Maine saw single digits overnight and teens as a high Saturday, it was the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center interpreters who were the warmest during the Christmas at Norlands event.
Petticoats warmed Norlands re-enactor Samantha Lieber, who recently moved to Maine and has been re-enacting most of her life. Knitted and wool petticoats were used by the original Norlands settlers in the 1800s. She also wore a balmoral petticoat, which looked like a dress but was worn underneath so that if she had to walk through snow, she could pull up her dress and only the petticoat would get dirty.
“I (would have had) plenty of petticoats, but I (wouldn’t) want to get my dress dirty,” she said. “Dresses didn’t get washed that often.”
Lieber could have also worn pantalets, “historic underwear.” Pantalets included two pant legs on a waistband lined with cotton or linen and were crotchless. She opted for something more modest and modern, penguin-print leggings.
Re-enactor Meghan Logsdon of Rumford, who was handling the two Norlands sheep, Martha and Mary, wore a silk bonnet. Silk, she said, is the warmest natural fiber, even warmer than wool.
Logsdon, originally from Rhode Island, has been re-enacting much of her life, and most of the clothes she wears while re-enacting she has either made or purchased from sutlers, merchants who sell period clothing during re-enactments.
Logsdon has played many roles at Norlands, volunteering first in the one-room schoolhouse. The center offers six journey programs that can be specific for an audience. Often school-age children visiting the center can have class in the one-room schoolhouse, and then boys and girls will separate and work in traditional roles. Inside the farmhouse, girls will perform tasks including making beds, doing laundry, cooking and baking or collecting eggs. Outside, farm work the boys will perform usually includes a task that is needed, most recently building a fence.
Recently Logsdon has been caretaking on the weekends, which gave her the opportunity to work with the sheep and other animals, including pigs and oxen. In the spring, Logsdon will adopt Mary and Martha, and she hopes to learn how to spin their wool.
Her son, Emmet Logsdon, was born into re-enacting. One of his first roles at Norlands allowed him to harvest turnips, a memorable experience because he was then “still a city boy,” he said.
“I’m actually getting my friends into (re-enacting),” he said.
Lieber and the Logsdons are members of the 35th Virginia Company B Dismounted Cavalry, a troupe that portrays Confederate soldiers in Civil War re-enactments.
The annual event, Christmas at Norlands, gave people a chance to celebrate the holiday as those would in the 19th century. Activities included horse-drawn sleigh rides, tours, crafts, lessons in the schoolhouse and caroling.