Harvest Home event celebrates Fort Nisqually’s grain harvest
August 10, 2017
Learn what it takes to turn grain into flour – the old-fashioned way.
Bringing in a crop of grain was a hands-on process in the mid-19th century when the original Fort Nisqually was an agricultural outpost and its outlying farms produced bushels of wheat, oats and rye.
All summer long, the museum’s living historians have nurtured wheat and oats in the meadow outside the museum’s palisade. This year, two varieties were grown: primarily Scotch White Oats and also Red Fife Wheat. Both are seed types grown in Washington in the 1850s, the period replicated at the museum, when the original fort was a center of the Pacific Northwest’s then fledgling agricultural economy. All of this year’s crop has been harvested, which means visitors will be able to get a taste of the threshing and winnowing that took place next in the process.
“At this point in history, the fur trade was in decline and the Fort’s new business was to promote agricultural production at a dozen or so outstations or satellite farms in the outlying Nisqually River valley,” said Jim Lauderdale, museum supervisor. “This event is one of the ways the museum demonstrates that transition.”
Harvest Home visitors will see what it meant to reap what was sown in the mid-19th century. Combines hadn’t been invented. At the museum, living historians cut the crop with period hand tools such as sickles and scythes.
During the event, visitors may try their hands at flailing, the process used to take the grain from the stalk. The museum employs a winnowing machine to separate kernels of grain from the chaff.
At that point, most of the original Fort’s wheat harvest was sent to a mill for grinding into flour.
But householders of the time may have used a hand grinder. Harvest Home visitors will get to take a crack at the laborious process with an antique of the same type.
But you don’t have to work at enjoying Harvest Home. It’s really an old-fashioned celebration of bounty, similar to what went on in late summer or early fall at the original Fort.
Back then, Fort Nisqually, the first non-native settlement on the Puget Sound, was the headquarters of the Puget Sound Agricultural Co., a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Co., which had established the Fort as a fur-trading post.
Besides the grain crop, the Harvest Home event will feature Victorian-era music and dance, plus period games and cider pressing. Living historians also will help adults and children create corn shuck dolls, handmade toys typical of the time and place.
- What: Harvest Home
- When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 9
- Where: Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, Point Defiance Park
- Cost: $8-$10 and children 3 and younger are free
- Information: (253) 591-5339