The other night I got to hop off a bus and walk right into the year 1857. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d have the opportunity to write. And yet, there I was, in a world of candlelight and campfires, square dancing and samplers, blacksmiths and bartering.
Even more fascinating, I got to be a mere specter in this place. The people of 1857 did not see me. They didn’t even sense me. In fact, I had to move out of the way a few times to avoid being trampled by them. And I had been warned that they were going to live their lives as they always did. If they had to throw a bucket of slop out the door and I happened to be in the way, well… too bad for me.
And so, there I was, an invisible fly on the wall at Fort Nisqually. Eavesdropping and observing. What a fascinating night that was.
I happened to walk in during the preparations for the wedding of Letitia Work and fort clerk Edward Huggins. People came from miles around. Gentlemen and their wives, settlers, trappers, laborers, and cooks. All had a role in this event, whether it be a supporting one or a participating one. For many of them, their work continued on, but they were at least treated to a nice plate of food from the reception. Others came especially for the ceremony, wearing all their finery, and took the opportunity to discuss the news of the day with people they rarely had the opportunity to see. I was fascinated to note that politics were divisive and stressful even back then.
I got to wander through the forge, the factor’s house, the sale shop and the kitchen, and in and around the fort grounds, listening to over a hundred people who were going about their 1857 business in a world where there are no cell phones or electricity or social media. What an amazing experience.
The good news is, this time travel opportunity is available to you, too, as Fort Nisqually hosts these candlelight tours in early October each year. If you are in the Tacoma area, I highly recommend that you mark your calendars for next year, as the destination is 1859. You might even see me there, in ghost form.