Stately Oaks celebrates National Preservation Week

By Joel Hall


Anyone who has ever wanted to know how to cook using a Dutch oven, make 19th-Century style clothing, weave a sturdy basket, make a belt, or make yarn using a drop spindle, will have an opportunity to do so this week at Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro.

Every day this week, from 11 a.m., to 3:30 p.m., the Living History Guild of Historical Jonesboro will demonstrate 19th-Century skills to the general public, in celebration of National Preservation Week.

During that time, members of the guild will show visitors skills necessary to survive in 19th-Century America, including wood carving, basket making, bonnet making, yarn spinning, hearth cooking, and even butter churning.

Barbara Emert, president of Historical Jonesboro and director of the plantation, said National Preservation Week is a time when the plantation "comes alive." She said the organization always uses this time to host an exhibition of "old-time skills."

"We always hope that when people come, they'll be interested and want to join us," said Emert. "At least, they will go away with an appreciation of what people had to do."

On Monday, Martha Wilson, chairman of the Living History Guild, demonstrated how to make period clothing using various stitching methods.

Debra McDaniel, co-chair of the guild, took clumps of wool, cotton, goat hair, and Llama hair, and spun them into different threads using a drop spindle. Guild member, Jim Dowd, crafted baskets out of rattan wood and stood on top of one to demonstrate its sturdiness.

Wilson said many of the skills taught during the week use earlier versions of the same basic technology we use today.

"The main idea of a history guild is to do things the old way, and to teach other people how to do it," said Wilson. "We find out a lot of things we have aren't really new. The way we make it may be new, but the concept is not."

Wilson said visitors to Stately Oaks Plantation this week will learn about the evolution of technology and challenges that were commonplace in the 19th-Century.

"There is a very deep satisfaction in being able to do things the old way," said Wilson. "You really don't know where you are, or where you are going, when you don't know about the past. You never know when you might need to be able to do these things."