by Victoria McClendon-Leggett
The LEAP Ambassadors stopped by the Sam Houston Memorial Museum’s on Thursday, April 11 for a celebration of what would have been Margaret Lea Houston’s 200th birthday. Primarily conceived and implemented by the College of Health Sciences, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum had many booths set up with activities to participate in, living history demonstrations scattered throughout the grounds , and even samples of different foods that would have been common during the 19th century–all of which added up to a lot of fun.
First, we took a quiz over fashion throughout the different ages and learned that ancient Romans personalized their ensembles by using different pleating and draping techniques on their togas. Next, we strolled over to the kitchen in order to sample some fare that would have been customary for the time period and occasion.
The women working in the kitchen had baked a dense and delicious white cake using cast iron pans over the hearth in the simple kitchen that sits alongside the Houston Home.
Because of their propensity to burn down and the heat that was generated during the cooking process, kitchens during this time were often built as structures separate from the rest of the house, and that was true of Sam Houston’s home.
We sampled a variety of dried fruits, veggies, and beef, and were able to wash it all down with some lemonade. Makayla loved the cake so much that she picked up one of the recipe cards that they had available as we left.
After stopping in the kitchen, we strolled the grounds a bit more and took a peek at both of the homes that the Houston family lived in. The homes are closed but have glass windows on all of the entryways for visitors to peer inside and see some of the furniture and other objects that belonged to the first governor of Texas and his family. There are two homes on the museum’s grounds. One of them is The Woodland Home, a dogtrot-style house. This style of home was incredibly common in hot southern climates during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The breezeway that runs through the center of the home helps to offer reprieve from the stifling heat during the summer months. The Houston family lived in this home during Houston’s time serving as the very first senator of Texas for the United States.
The other home situated on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum is the Steamboat House. This home was built in 1858 by a local doctor, Rufus Bailey, as a wedding gift for his son and his new bride. However, because of the unusual architecture the locals dubbed it “the Steamboat House,” and the couple refused to live in it. As it sat empty, the Houston family was easily able to rent the home from Bailey. This house was larger than their previous home, and this extra space was needed as the couple had a total of 8 children.
We also had a chance to visit with Leanne Woodward, one of the favorite people we’ve met in Huntsville. She was with quilters, who were doing demonstrations on the porch of the Woodland Home.
After we had explored the homes and the grounds, we had the chance to play a few games that children during the mid-to-late 1800s would have played.
We played “Graces,” a more graceful form of catch that young girls played. The objective of the game was to use two long wooden sticks to release a small wooden hoop and have your partner catch it with their sticks.
This was deemed appropriate for young ladies at the time, who weren’t supposed to run and jump around like the boys.
Before we left, we stopped and sat in a chair on the porch of the Woodland Home and had our silhouettes cut by a very talented artist, Shanlie Wolter!
Having your silhouette cut was a very common thing to have done at parties and for special occasions before the rise in popularity of photography.
We were both amazed at the fact that she was able to simply look at our profiles and use her scissors to create a true replica of them within minutes. We were very pleased with the results and thanked her profusely and said our goodbyes and headed back to the car.
Thank you to the SHSU College of Health Sciences and the Sam Houston Memorial Museum for a fantastic event that was the perfect blend of learning and fun!
The College of Health Sciences consists of the following departments, which all contributed students and expertise to this event: Family and Consumer Sciences, Population Health, Kinesiology, and Nursing.