Yesterday, we visited historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul. Built in 1819 to protect the fur trade, the fort’s creation marked the end of the Native American way of life and introduced the influx of settlers from the East who would rapidly change the face of Minnesota. Fort Snelling is also significant as the home of Dred and Harriet Scott, slaves to the fort doctor, who made history by fighting for their freedom in the Supreme Court, which resulted in a decision that helped push the country toward the Civil War.
One of the highlights of our day was watching soldiers practice their drills on the parade ground. The soldiers fired off three rounds with their flintlock muskets (loud!), then let us march in formation with them. Some of us had a hard time keeping a straight face, but luckily we weren’t put in the fort jail.
The commanding officer’s quarters is the oldest standing home in Minnesota. Costumed guides demonstrated hearth-cooking and showed us what table manners were like in the early 19th century. We took a stroll out to the backyard to admire the kitchen garden and the beautiful stone wall.
Fort Snelling contains the first of many things in Minnesota: the first schoolhouse, library, and hospital. We had a fascinating conversation with the fort “doctor” about what surgery was like before anesthesia. Lexie played an interactive game that allowed her to choose different options for cures for various ailments and injuries in the early 1800s. Let’s just say that some of the options weren’t very pleasant.
The blacksmith’s shop was a favorite stop. The kids especially enjoyed watching the blacksmith use the enormous bellows to fan the fire.
Our visit to Fort Snelling was an afternoon well spent. The dozens of costumed guides provided a great interactive experience and encouraged the kids to participate and ask lots of questions. This was a good start to the weekly educational field trips I’m hoping to do this summer.