Learn about 'healthy' living in the 1840s

Friday, August 23, 2013

Area residents who plan to get outdoors during Labor Day weekend may want to include among their plans a stop at the Fort Scott National Historic Site, which is hosting a series of programs and activities that weekend.

In support of the National Park Service's Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative - which encourages parks to include activities that contribute to physical, mental, spiritual health and social well-being - the focus of programs Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the historic site will be the health, wellness and safety of soldiers at Fort Scott during the mid-1800s.

FSNHS Park Ranger Barak Geertsen said the historic site decided to get involved with the recent NPS initiative.

"It's also in conjunction with the White House health care legislation," Geertsen said. "The First Lady (Michelle Obama) has really been into promoting healthy food choices and things like that ... We decided to gear our Labor Day program toward health and safety of soldiers of the 1840s."

The weekend event will include talks, demonstrations and stations set up to build upon the idea of the fort as a community which supported the well-being of soldiers.

The laundress will be talking about her role in keeping clothes clean; a cooking demonstration will discuss the role of nutrition, or lack thereof, in the soldier's diet; and a surgeon will show how medicines and surgical tools helped or hindered the recovery of sick and wounded soldiers.

Black powder demonstrations will emphasize safety and a guided tour will discuss various aspects of frontier healthcare, a FSNHS news release said.

A majority of the programs will take place outdoors, where visitors can walk around the site and prairie and "enjoy the outdoors," Geertsen said.

Some programs offered during the weekend will encourage people to interact with the outdoors while others will promote healthy lifestyle choices. A program titled "A Glorious Country for Sportsmen" will focus on how the 1840s military hunted and used the natural resources of the area in other ways to make life bearable.

"They can take advantage of a prairie walk and learn how the military used the natural resource area" for activities such as hunting and other outdoor sport, Geertsen said.

"It's to encourage people to get outdoors," he said.

A program called "Bug Juice Use and Abuse" will address the challenges that soldiers faced with alcoholism.

In addition to these types of programs offered throughout the weekend, there will also be a special Labor Day tour called "From the Crack Post of the Frontier." This program will focus on the labor force, building materials, architectural styles and construction techniques used in the building of Fort Scott.

Throughout the weekend, volunteers and staff will be dressed in period costume portraying various people who lived and worked at Fort Scott.

On Saturday, Aug. 31, visitors will be able to smell the fresh aroma of bread baking, scrub clothes on a 19th century washboard and discover the remedies of the post surgeon. On Monday, Sept. 2, visitors can haggle with the sutler over his prices and on Sunday, Sept. 1, and Monday, Sept. 2, they can visit with a reenactor portraying a soldier in the First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment, the release said.

Geertsen said on holiday weekends during the summer, the site generally averages about 200 visitors per day. He said Saturdays are usually busy with Sundays being "a little slower." The site averages about 600 visitors on a holiday weekend and attendance on those weekends is usually higher than a typical weekend.

"We anticipate an increase in visitation on holiday weekends," Geertsen said.

FSNHS, a unit of the NPS, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance to the site is free of charge.

For more information, call the site at (620) 223-0310 or visit www.nps.gov/fosc. The site can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FortScottNHS.