Friday, April 24, 2015

Just Another Day at the Fort

First, congratulations to Emily W.  She was the only one brave enough to hazard a guess as to the physical models for my hero James and heroine Rina in the upcoming Frontier Engagement.  Yes, indeed, I had Ryan Gosling in mind for James.  I had to look long and hard to find the face of the woman in my head for Rina.  Britain’s Harrie Hayes fit the bill.  Emily W. e-mail me at, and I’ll let you choose from my author stash. 

This past weekend I had the privilege of visiting Fort Nisqually, a living history museum located in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington.  While some of the buildings actually date from the mid-1800s, the fort is a recreation of one that was built near the Nisqually delta by the Hudson’s Bay Company before Washington was a territory.  Last weekend the Fort hosted a special event that focused on sowing (planting, harvesting, cooking) and sewing (needlework, clothing, textiles).  There were dozens of reenactors going about their day-to-day duties in period clothing dating from the 1850s.  Many had specialties, in cooking, in clothing, in bonnets, in gardening.  And they were all willing to answer endless questions from an absolutely fascinated romance writer.

So, what did I learn from my visit?

Pioneers in Washington Territory had no need for horse shoes.  This is one of those palm-to-forehead moments.  Of course the horses didn’t need shoes!  As the blacksmith so eloquently put it, the closest paved road was in San Francisco (and I’m not too sure there were many there!).

Camas plants with blue flowers are edible; camas plants with white flowers are poisonous.  I had read about camas, a plant prized by Native Americans for its pulpy potato-like bulb.  It has more protein per ounce than a steelhead.  I had never seen one until this trip, and then I discovered them growing in the nature preserve near my home!

Wild sweet William (soapwort or saponaria) can be used to create a much nicer soap than boiling fat and adding lye. It smells good, and it’s a lot easier on the skin.

The British settlers still imported much of what they needed from England, including panes of glass for windows.  The glass would come in barrels packed in molasses. A favored clerk was appointed to unpack the glass; he got to keep the molasses!

As you can probably tell, I highly recommend a visit to the Fort if you are in the area.  On May 16 the members will be celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday.  August 8 and 9, there will be a live camp-in to recreate the historic visit of fur traders to the fort in 1855. You can learn more here


Victoria said...

Hi Regina, so nice to meet you at Ft. Nisqually. Here's laundry trick for you if your heroines ever need to dry their only dress quickly.

But first, a woman of our era (1850's) wore so many layers under their dresses, that body oils would have a hard time getting to the dress. Table napkins were huge, so hopefully food spills were kept to a minimum. Hems were kept slightly off the ground via hem braid. Underneath the dress would be a chemise (next to skin and changed daily), a corset made of coutil or twill, a corded petticoat, an over petticoat with perhaps an additional short flounce from waist to hips, and an over petti. Then comes the dress.

So now, the quick drying tip? Something we in modern times often overlook--the IRON! A hot iron dries clothing (and kills lice) in a trice. Be sure to use starch, as starch not only gives body to the dress, but repels dirt.

Thanks for visiting the fort, and hope to see you again sometime.
Victoria Pann

Regina Scott said...

Great tip and info, Victoria! I'm glad you stopped by. I didn't want to use anyone's names, as I hadn't asked permission. It was wonderful talking with you at the Fort! I learned so much from you and the others. Many thanks!