Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's a Start

The internet is a great thing for hobbyists.  If you're into woodworking, sports, or even toddler beauty pageants, there are like-minded people with the same enthusiasm for a subject as yourself.

My passion is history.  Passion is a strong word.  Perhaps obsession is stronger, with a negative connotation, but either word will describe my interest in history.  The internet has helped me discover that there are people with a similar passion/obsession in my main area of interest: 18th Century American History.   That's right.... the colonial period.

Now we tend to think of the American Revolution, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin when it comes to colonial history.  For non-history buffs, the influence of the French in the heart of the present-day United States is a long-forgotten topic.  This is my main area of interest, although I do find eastern frontier history intriguing as well.  

I've been involved in 18th century "living history" for about 9 years.  Most people call us "reenactors", but I prefer "living historian".  My reason for this is that reenactors are often thought of by the general public as strictly a soldier recreating a battle scenario.  My interest is in the mundane daily life of the common person.  This is where ALL of our ancestors came from.... and they lived it every day.  Accurately recreating these daily life scenarios is what I believe "living history" is all about.

Generic.  That is a word that best describes my current status in living history.  I have the gear needed to camp, hunt and cook in the 1700's, but it is a hodge-podge of things loosely based on historical artifacts, with little regard for time, location and the type of person using it.   My goal here is to create a more correct living history "persona" and get away from the dreaded "generic" colonist that I have been for far too long.

The plan isn't to "be" a person from the 1700's.  That is, I do not wish to act in a "first-person" role like an actor in costume.   I am not an actor and really don't enjoy being a center of attention.  However, if I am camping or demonstrating a skill that a person finds interesting and they wish to talk about it, try it, or ask questions, then my teacher mode kicks in and I get a rush out of being able to share what I have learned.

My Goal: To portray a habitant (farmer/citizen) from Pays des Illinois or the "Illinois Country" of New France from around the 1750 time period.   

The Pays des Illinois or Illinois Country
My area of focus is found within the red oval.

This area includes the historical settlements of Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, St. Philippe, Cahokia and DeChartres in the southwestern parts of modern-day Illinois along the Mississippi River.  


  1. It's funny. I grew up in the circled area! The french line on my mother's side have lived in the area since early 1700's.

  2. Excellent to hear that, Mike! I live just east of the enclosed area. If you don't mind me asking, what was the French name on your mother's side? I am almost certain that I may have run across it at some point in my research. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Alexis Courville or Alexis Courville dit Billy I believe was the full name. Decedent of Jean Francois DeBilly. I was wrong on dates though, 1775ish was when his name cropped up.

  4. Also, it was on the Missouri side of the river. Platten Creek area to be precise.