One of my favorite places to visit is The Claude Moore Colonial Farm, nestled across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. The road on which the farm is located is just past the headquarters of the CIA, so don’t turn down the wrong driveway; instead, follow the signage and pull into the parking lot and walk down the dirt path. Now, time travel back to 1771 and visit the no frills cabin and homestead of the Thorton Family. They are fortunate to have a one-room cabin with a fireplace and hearth, table and chairs and sleeping loft. There are fields, gardens and orchards, perhaps a few chickens and a head or two of cattle, as well as a tobacco patch.
Quite often when one visits an historic site, it is tarted up and swept clean with all traces of daily life vanished. Not so here, and this is the best part, for one can see how a family really lived. The family dresses, eats, works and talks as if they were in 1771. They don’t break character when someone will ask them about modern conveniences, for they know not what they are asked about. However, they will be able to tell you when and how to harvest the tobacco, for it is a crop worth money to a colonist.
Most likely, the family will be hard at work doing the daily chores, as well as ones that are unique to a particular season. On one of my autumn visits, the women were hard at work making flax for their clothing. This is an incredible process, for not only do you have to grow the plants, but you then undertake the many laborious steps: retting (rotting the plant in water); scutching (beating stems to loosen the long fibers); heckling (pulling the crushed stems through a large comb to separate the fibers); and then spinning into thread and finally weaving it into cloth.
We always tried to attend The Market Fair, a real treat now and even more so for the colonists, for it was a time to share wares and “catch up on the latest news from the frontier, and trade stories.” The summer fair is this weekend, so mark your calendars.
July 20 & 21, 11:00am-4:30pm
630 Georgetown Pike, McLean VA, 22101