Enroute to Miss Grace's dance competition in Dallas, this past weekend, we were able to stop at the Historic Fort Parker in Grosbeck, TX. It is a great example of what a frontier fort looked like, and how families lives on the plains, during westward expansion, and fit perfectly into her current history lessons! One of the fun things about homeschooling is being able to include these type of field trips into the curriculum, to make it more meaningful. And like most kids, hands on usually means long term memories! Here's some of the pictures we took;
The reason that Fort Parker is SO important, not only in Texas history, but in the history of Westward expansion in the US!
The original fort was started in 1833 and finished in 1834 and the families settled into their new home. Then in 1836 the attack occurred and the fort was actually abandoned due to the bad memories, with families moving north and south, to other settlements. The original fort was 'recycled', with its wood being used for other homes and forts in the area, Then in 1936 when the state park was established, a replica of the original fort was built, for historical education.
So even though it's on the original site, the fort is technically only 81 years old! But thanks to weathering, it looks like it would have in 1833, making it an unique hands on learning place!
You enter the fort and realize just how BIG it is! It had to house multiple families and their animals, as well as to allow for expansion room, so it seems much bigger than what you would think!In the picture above you see one of the cabins, the pig corral and one of the stockade/lookouts.
The cabins were one VERY small room! You had dining, kitchen, sleeping and reading/relaxing, ALL in one room! This cabin had bunk beds for the kids, besides the one bed for parents.
Not much room for relaxing after a hard days work!
ALL the furniture was made on scene as well, as the pioneers couldn't bring furniture on their wagons. It was easier, and quicker, to make log benches, than fancy chairs.
The chimney, made of wood and stone.
Example fo the wood logs chinked together, like a puzzle for a secure fit, as there were NO metal nails!
The inside corral. Miss Grace was socked to learn that the cattle and horses were grazed OUTSIDE the fort during the day, with a lookout from the stockade watching, then brought in at night to the corral.
Large cooking was done on outside pits. Once the blacksmith was in place, they were able to make metal grates to keep the food off of the wood.
The blacksmith had a pretty important job for the fort- keeping wagons mobile, making barrells for food storage, and metal tools for farming and cutting of logs.
Speaking of the wagons! Miss Grace was thrilled to be able to see a sample and to see how SMALL they really were. Hollywood tends to make them large, roomy things, but the reality is much different!
Sitting 2, maybe 3 small people across, getting 200 pounds only in these wagons was no easy feat. It makes modern moving look easy!
Th 2 story stockades were built on the 4 corners for security. Extra ammo and supplies could also be kept inside.
An additional layer of protection was the jagged top peaks.
You'll note that when the fort was rebuilt they used authentic wooden pegs as nails- no mern nails were used, giving you an authentic look!
Along the perimeter are cutout for rifles and to check the plains.
The original memorial stone.
It sits almost as a side note off to the side of the fort, along with John Parker's grave.
All in all a VERY educational day!
You enter the Fort through the museum shop, which also has great exhibits about the Parkers and the attack. They also have authentic toys and replica items for kids to touch and see.
And there is a new bonus addition to the shop:
Yup- a MAMMOTH pelvis bone!
Luckily for us, one of the local historians was in talking with the museum guide, and we got to learn ALL about it! It was discovered about 15 miles away from the site, At the time, there was no where to house it, as it was deemed 'just another mammoth' find, so the Fort Parker museum offered to take it. Cue music. Later after much scientific work on the rest of the bones from the mammoth, they discovered it was MUCH older than thought and that it had been killed by some sort of stone made weapon. Only problem was it was dated to before they new that humans had been in the area, ie before the Clovis period. Huh. Suddenly the Mammoth was uber special! BUT, the museum has been able to hold onto their piece of history (one of only 3 known to exist in the US!).
So not only was this a great stop for westward expansion, it was a step BACK in time to what the plains were like in prehistoric days! Who knew? Now YOU do too!
It took us about an hour to go through everything, without sitting to watch the 15 minute video about the capture. It is definitely off the beaten track, but well worth the visit, as it teaches kids about more than one part of their US history, and helps them to see how pioneers really lived, when trying to settle the West.