I love history. I love field trips. I really love when I can combine the two. That’s why I was extra excited to find out that Patrick Henry’s final home was within an hour of our home.
Due to a busy and stressful week and the forecast of thunderstorms, I wasn’t in the greatest frame of mind the night before the trip, though. I even considered skipping it altogether.
I share that so you can understand just how amazing this field trip was – because it took a lot to get me out of my initial funk, but it wasn’t long before I was fully on board with this Patrick Henry’s mission.
I love taking the kids to living-history kinds of places because they can see and smell and hear things we can’t recreate at home.
The people at Red Hill went all out, though, because they let the kids participate in every. single. activity.
They got to TOUCH stuff, too.
Not many living history places do that. The artifacts are too delicate to allow mass quantities of people to touch them, but Red Hill made it happen.
Split into groups, we rotated through stations throughout the plantation, and our group began in a shelter at the edge of the forest, with the house and the mountains in sight, with Patrick Henry Jolly, great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the famous Patrick Henry.
Mr. Jolly spoke to us about his ancestor’s early life; about his education, work ethic, and family. We learned about his most famous speeches and why he made them. Even this presentation was interactive, however, because in the end we all stood and Mr. Jolly gave us an acting lesson so that we could get into the character of Patrick Henry. We acted and recited a few lines from the famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech before getting autographs and moving on to our next station.
This one was even better (sorry, Mr. Jolly) because My Big Helper has wanted to learn to weave for years but has not been allowed to touch a loom at any of the events we’ve been to – and it’s not a purchase that’s in our foreseeable future. The teacher at this station taught another adult how to use the loom, and while some of the kids began to weave …
she worked with others at a spinning wheel. It looked like quite a lot of fun – and after each student had made some yarn, she cut a piece off and tied it around their wrist to take home. How cool is that?
The Colonial medicine station was particularly interesting to me, even though the weather worsened at this point. We learned how to make tinctures, teas, salves, infusions, and decoctions. I was seriously disappointed that the steady rain prevented us from going to the fire to make whatever they had prepared, because it sounded great to me.
We were particularly amazed at the blacksmith’s shop, where, after learning about the importance of this trade for the survival of a plantation, each student was invited to don safety gear and attempt to make a nail. To pound hot steel. Flying sparks. Hot tools. For real. This was exciting.
None of the students succeeded in making their own nail completely, but the blacksmith helped them all out, and each student left with a finished nail.
At the pottery shop, we learned about the history of pottery. The students got to work with air-dry clay to make simple medallions that they could place on a necklace.
Then the real fun began, because each one got a turn at the kick-wheel to help shape this lump of clay. Nobody knew what was being made, but by the time each student had followed the teacher’s directions, they had worked together to make a creamer, handle, spout, and all.
We also toured the house, visited the gift shop and museum, and had lunch, and at that point the organized homeschool day event was over – but we weren’t finished.
Having seen the family cemetery on the map, we headed over to check it out. It is always interesting to me to see old gravestones, and we all enjoy studying the carving and thinking about the special people remembered by these stones. My Big Helper made a bouquet of wildflowers and added them to the stone.
She found the flowers here, in the fields behind the house leading down to the Staunton River. The buttercups were blooming and the fields were beautiful, and we all had fun running around and taking in the view.
Having met up with Patrick Henry again, he clued us in to a part of the plantation that wasn’t on our map – the Quarter Place Trail and the African-American cemetery. This clearing in the forest was the slave cemetery prior to the Civil War, although some people continued to be buried there until 1923. Marked only by forest rocks, there is little evidence that any number of graves exist here. The location and difference in site from the other grave sites made for an interesting discussion on the way home.
Our trip to Red Hill taught us a great deal about a man who should be remembered for more than just a few famous words. Patrick Henry didn’t just talk about his beliefs as many others did, but he took action at a time when that required great courage. His bravery, intelligence, and ingenuity is what helped to shape both the American Revolution and this nation, and these are traits I hope to teach our children.
All in all, this was one of the best living history field trips we’ve taken in a very long time. I can’t wait to go back.
Want to know more about Patrick Henry? Check out this resource: