Friday, May 14, 2010

Sutter's Fort Field Trip

To continue our study of California history, we took a trip to Sutter's Fort State Historic Park and Old Town Sacramento today. I have not been to Sutter's Fort since my 4th grade field trip and I'm pretty sure I appreciated it a lot more today than I did 28 years ago!

As a quick intro for those who are not familiar with Sutter's Fort, Johann Augustus Sutter was a German immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1834. In 1840 he began building what would become a large adobe fort. It became a temporary refuge for pioneers between 1841 and 1849, including a group of 47 survivors from the Donner Party expedition. In 1847, Mr. Sutter contracted to build a sawmill about 50 miles from the fort, when one of the workers discovered gold. Not able to keep it a secret, the gold rush proved to be the downfall of the fort, as would-be miners overtook much of the land.

For starters, I tried to get a group photo of the kids under the sign. It didn't work very well. The sun was so bright that Conman insisted on standing in the shade, so that's why he looks like he's hiding in the back. And Lulu was busy trying to see what he was doing back there, so all I shot of her was the side of her head. The little cutie in the stroller is my niece Heidye, who came along with Grandma for the ride.

When you enter the fort, you pay admission ($6 for adults, $4 for kids, 5 & under free) and are given a map of the grounds and an informative printout of the history of the fort. As soon as we walked in, the fort bell rang indicating that a musket firing demonstration was underway. This gentleman showed the crowd how a musket was loaded and fired.

Next, we walked through an orientation room that, through photos, documents, artifacts and exhibits, took us through a history of Johann Augustus Sutter's life. There was also some other interesting facts about the gold rush, Donner Party and early California history. One of Blakester's favorites was Patty Reed's little doll, which survived the trek of the Donner Party. He read the book Patty Reed's Doll earlier this year and it was very neat to see it in person. One would imagine it was a large item, but in reality, is only a couple of inches tall.

Here is a fuzzy photo of the kids in what was the jail area. It's fuzzy due to all the dust floating around in there. No windows and underground. Yuk.

About a half hour after we arrived, the fort bell rang again. This time we were treated to a cannon demonstration. The volunteers loaded and shot this 1804 cannon.

There are rooms of exhibits located all along the fort. We were able to view the candlemaking shop, blacksmith shop, bastions for the cannons, kitchen, bakery, dining room, Mr. Sutter's office, doctor's office, clerk's office, vaquero's room, gunsmith, the guards room, immigrant's room, Mr. Sutter's bedroom, and the mill area. If we chose to stay long enough at any one area, an audio recording would play giving details of the area being viewed.

After a quick trip through the fort's store, and a purchase of a basket-weaving kit for Lulu by Grandma, we headed out to the park area for a picnic lunch. The time we spent at the fort was right about 2 hours.

We wound our way down to old town Sacramento, poured a couple dollars worth of quarters into a parking meter, and headed out to explore the shops.

At a hat store, Conman tried on this fancy Indiana Jones hat. A movie career might be in his future.

We wandered in and out of several shops, enjoyed the beautiful weather, perused the unusual items for sale and stocked up on salt-water taffy at the candy store.

One of the main attractions we wanted to check out was the Pony Express statue.

And here's a picture of Heidye just because she's adorable!

At the end of our day we visited the Old Schoolhouse museum. Conman had fun trying out the roll of teacher.

The school was set up as a one-room schoolhouse would have been in the late 1800's. Each desk had a McGuffey's Reader, a slate, chalk and a rag upon it. Chalkboards lining the walls were covered with information on the history of the school. One thing I found particularly interesting was the flag salute. I was unaware that this was the salute that was said in school up until 1897. (I think that was the date on it-I forgot to write it down.)

The Sacramento history museum and the California Railroad museum are also both located in old town Sacramento; however, we weren't able to make it through those today. The capital building is also a few blocks from the same area. Maybe next time.
You can see what fun field trips others have been on over at Live the Adventure's Field Trip Friday's.

What a wonderful day~


An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

What a fun, busy day. The fort reminds me of visiting Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark wintered near Astoria, before their return trip - it's set up in a very similar fashion, with similar demonstrations.

Tonya @ Live the Adventure said...

What a cool field trip! How neat that you were able to take your children to the same place you'd visited when you were young. I always love doing that but like you wrote, we often do appreciate it more when we're older!:) Thanks for linking up!

BTW, my son would love the Indiana Jones hat! How fun is that? LOL

Diane said...

Looks like a great field trip. We will be reading about the California Gold Rush in a couple of months. Too bad we don't live in California to visit the Fort.

Shannon said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies. It is so much fun to be able to visit the places we're reading about. It just reinforces it for the kids.

Tonya-I would have bought the Indiana Jones hat, but it was $40! So had to pass!

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