Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas with Daniel Boone

One of the major Christmas events in our county (St. Charles County) is the annual Candlelight Tour at the Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village.

The Historic Daniel Boone Home in Defiance, Missouri is a registered National Historic Site.

Though the home is named after Boone, it was actually the home of Boone’s youngest son, Nathan Boone. Boone enjoyed spending most of his life at his son's home rather than his own property which was on about 850 acres of land about 4 miles from his son's home. Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca moved to Missouri in 1799 when he was 65 years old. The house is four stories tall and has 2 1/2 feet thick limestone walls.

The first time that we visited the Boone home was probably over 30 years ago and only the Boone Home was on the site. Since that time Boonesfield Village has been added. Boonesfield Village consists of over a dozen buildings dating back to the 19th century. These buildings were moved to Boonesfield Village from other sites or villages in the area. The buildings include the Old Peace Chapel, grist mill, schoolhouse, and carpenter’s shop. Touring this village gives visitors an idea of what frontier life was like in the 1800's and observe how hard life was during that era.

Lindenwood University purchased the Boone Home in 1998. The Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village is open for daily tours except for New Years Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

The Candlelight Tour at the Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village is an annual event that is on Friday and Saturday evenings for two weekends in December. The only light in the village is either candle light or lanterns. Over a thousand luminaries light both sides of the over half mile circle of the village. We have been told that several scout groups volunteer to light the luminaries along the path (in canning jars) before opening time. All of the buildings are illuminated by candles or lanterns. Each building is decorated as they might have been done in the 19 century era. Volunteer re-enactors are dressed in 19 century costume and portray activities as one would have encountered during that period. Several areas along the route had activities around huge bonfires. One such activity portrays life of an army encampment with discussions as may have been heard around the campfire during the Christmas Season. It included the sounds of the fife and drum corps that would have been prevalent in a military camp of that time period.

For this Candlelight Tour event, choirs from local churches are asked to volunteer to sing Christmas carols in the Old Peace Chapel.

The Old Peace Chapel was built in New Melle in the 1800’s and was originally a general store and dance hall. At the turn of the century, the building was bought by a German Evangelical congregation and remodeled into a church (I think it was 1804). The church was moved to the Daniel Boone Site in 1983. An interesting story that I heard is that during the remodeling of the church in the late 1900's they removed a dropped ceiling and found a beautiful blue ceiling above. A large beautiful chandelier was found laying above this lowered ceiling. It was of the type that could be lowered by cable and pulley in order to light its candles. That chandelier plus several 3 candle sconces on both sides of the chapel provided light for the visit of the chapel during the Candlelight Tour event. The church, which can seat up to 100 guests comfortably, is now a popular place for Weddings, Vow Renewals, and Baptisms. Go to this link for more about the chapel and some good photos. (Sorry, this is a departure from my normal blog routine with lots of photos. We were there at night, plus serving as actors. No opportunity for any photos. What I have posted are a couple from another source.)

The volunteer choirs for the Candlelight Tour are acting as if it is regular choir practice at the church. On Saturday evening, December 5 our church choir (Grace Presbyterian Church of St. Charles County) volunteered for the first shift that night from 6:30-8:00 PM. We were dressed in black (pants or dress) and white (shirts or blouse, no jackets) and the men were provided black string type bow ties as would have been popular for the era. As a group of tour visitors (about 25) were directed into the chapel pews by the tour director for the chapel, we would sing two verses of either "Joy to the World" or "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" followed by the first verse of "Silent Night". Then our choir director, Jason Polk, would direct us to hum "Silent Night" as he turned to the crowd and thanked them for attending choir practice and put out a plea for volunteers to join the choir, "be you soprano, alto, tenor, or bass". He added that it is cold this time of the year and someone needed to come the church around 5:00 AM to light a fire in the stove in the basement, so the church would be warm for the Sunday Service. He could use a volunteer to do this, but of course if no one was interested, he would be doing it himself. Then he would turn back us and we would close singing the last two measures of the verse "Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace." At this time the chapel director read a letter written in September 1819 by Daniel Boone to his sister-in-law (last know letter by Daniel Boone, he died September 26, 1820). Daniel Boone was raised as a Quaker. This letter, which mentions some of his views on religion, is quoted in the book "Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness" by John Mason Brown on page 152. I think this link will take you to that page in an Online Overview of the book . The chapel director closed the tour by inviting the group to get up from their pews and come stand at the front of the chapel and look up to the Organ loft over the back of the chapel and observe as a guest organist played a Christmas carol on the organ (original to the church). Such a grand close to the tour by the loud rendition from this organ in such a small chapel. As that group left at the end of the organist's performance, another would be directed in and we would repeat the process (about 6-7 minutes of time for each group) for our 1 1/2 hours. An enjoyable evening but tiring after 1 1/2 hours on my feet after putting in about 5 hours of a workday at our church getting the ground floor of the barn by our worship center ready for an occupancy permit for use as classroom space. The pictorial history of our church and more about the barn will be covered in a future blog that I am working on.

After our tour shift we all went to the nearby home (beautifully located in the hills of St. Charles County) of one our choir members for hot "wassail"( a spicy apple cider), snacks and fellowship. On of our members (new to the church) said he thought it must be a Missouri law that any road outside of the cities was not allowed to be straight. I can concur with that. The drive, at night, on the twisting roads to the Daniel Boone Home then from the Boone Home (as the crow flies about 3 miles, by road through valley and dale about 8.5 miles) to our friends home , was not my kind of fun. Maybe I am getting to old for this kind of driving.

Last year after our tour shift, Pat & I joined in with one of the tour groups as they left the chapel and completed the tour from that point on. Notable stops that I remember were: the army encampment campfire; a candle shop making candles in preparation for Christmas; the school house as a teacher was working with her students on a Christmas Pageant; an African American women decorating a Christmas Tree with cranberries and popcorn in the basement of one of the buildings portraying the life of a slave during the holiday times of that era; young girls in a neighboring house to the Daniel Boone house practicing a dance routine that they would be doing for a Christmas party they had been invited to by the Boone’s; finishing the tour with a visit to the parlor of the Boone Home to listen in on a fireside chat as Daniel Boone was being interviewed by his historian.

To read an interesting story about the controversy over the location of Daniel Boone's grave, see the Wikipedia article about Daniel Bonne. The discussion of the grave site controversy is under the Missouri section of the article. Both the Frankfort Cemetery in Kentucky and the Old Bryan Farm graveyard in Missouri claim to have Boone's remains

An interesting observation by one of the women in our choir was that she thought she recognized a local talk radio station host in one of the groups coming through the chapel. So today we listened to hear if he would mention the Candlelight Tour of the Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village. And yes, he did talk about it during his air time today.

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