Fort Christmas Pioneer Field Trip

By Holly Giles | Field Trips

pioneer homeschool

Fort Christmas

Fort Christmas Florida pioneer village is a hidden gem in Central Florida that everyone should experience. This property has transformed into a great field trip destination over the past 40 years. On December 25, 1837, 2,000 army soldiers arrived to construct a fort during the Second Seminole Indian War.  Thus the name of the town, Christmas.

 As a little girl, my grandparents used to take me to Fort Christmas to enjoy the Fort, pioneer artifacts and all the beautiful trees while they visited their friends who lived on the property at that time.  Now, the City of Orlando has made this a destination of Florida’s pioneer past for all to enjoy. Our Co-op visited here for one of the eight field trips they offer.  We chose the”Chores of pioneer children past”.

Shirley

Miss Shirley was our tour guide. She took us through all the restored cracker buildings that have been brought to the property as a pioneer village.  Miss Shirley actually grew up in the town of Christmas. In addition, these chores were her own as a girl.  She is a gem in her own right, with all the knowledge and experience of the hard Florida pioneer lifestyle of days gone by.

fort christmas florida pioneer talk

Washing

The kids were shown how the washing was done. It was an all-day-long chore. In addition, everyone had to be involved in to get it done before dark. I sure am thankful today for my Kenmore. Next, tasting sorghum and churning butter was on the schedule.  Back in Miss Shirley’s time, she said it took 2 hours of churning by hand.  That might help build my arm muscles, but then I would just eat the butter! Also, sorghum is an acquired taste.
washing clothes on a homeschool field trip
churning butter on a homeschool field trip
tasting sorghum on a homeschool field trip
Grinding corn was an important job for pioneer children.  For instance, not only did you need to grind it for your cornmeal and grits, but the chickens had to be fed scratch.  All of that was done with different settings on the hand grinder. Which was another muscle builder. However, butter sure is good in grits!
grinding corn on a homeschool field trip
pumping water on a homeschool field trip

Pumping water

Pumping your own water was an all-day job. Even into the evening for your foot washing.  Miss Shirley’s grandmother ran a boarding house, and if your feet weren’t washed, they weren’t allowed to touch a bed!
Gardening was a staple for every pioneer farm in that area in the early 1900’s.  Miss Shirley said that each family grew a garden for themselves. Then they were assigned a crop to grow for the community.  At harvest time, they would all gather at each other’s homes to pick, prepare, and can each of the foods the families grew.  They would do this for about a week until all the crops were harvested and distributed to the families, according to how many were in each family.
original buildings at fort christmas in florida

Community

The families would camp at each other’s homes during that week because it was too far to go each day.  Fort Christmas was a true community that took care of its own.  Miss Shirley said that Fort Christmas was like an island in those days.  Too far from Orlando or anywhere to just get in the buggy and go,  so they had to take care of each other.
That kind of community sounds so good to me!  How about you? Working together to help each other.  Everyone pitches in, even the kids to get the harvest ready for the next planting season. Each one is a vital part of keeping food on the table.
I think a lot of us are trying to get back to those kinds of basics.  Now I like my modern conveniences, don’t get me wrong!   Yet growing something of my own reaches my soul.  Sharing homemade bread or the jam we have made with family and friends is a gift of love.
Miss shirley the tour guide at fort christmas florida

Must see

If you live within driving distance of Fort Christmas Pioneer Park, it is a must-see day trip. I am sure there is a pioneer village not far from where ever you live in our country. Each with a different story to be told. Stepping back in time and giving your children just a glimpse of the heritage, and way of life gone by is priceless.
Gems like Miss Shirley won’t be around forever to give their first-hand account of their childhood. For instance, what better way to teach history than to see it, touch it, and hear if from those who were there.
Even if you aren’t a homeschooler, take advantage of the offerings in your area to get hands-on with the past.
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About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.

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