BURNET — Fort Croghan will bring the old West and early days of Burnet to life Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
“We call it Fort Croghan Day, but it’s really a living history day,” said Millie Williams of the Fort Croghan Museum. “There will be a whole bunch of things going on that people did when this area was first being settled.”
The museum and fort are located at 703 Buchanan Drive.
Volunteers dressed in period costumes will be making butter, corn syrup and bread. Visitors can mix and mingle with the “settlers” and “soldiers.”
Fort Croghan in many ways was the cornerstone for the community that eventually became Burnet. In 1847, a few companies of Texas Rangers took up stations along the frontier which included the Hill Country.
One of those stations was established by Henry E. McCulloch in December 1847 along the northern stretch of what is now Hamilton Creek. The camp was simply called McCulloch Station.
The Army decided to upgrade the station to a fort in the spring of 1849. On March 13 of that year, Company A of the Second Dragoons were assigned to the camp, which then became a fort. It was named Fort Croghan in honor of Col. George Croghan.
The Kentucky-born soldier fought during the War of 1812.
Though he served in several battles and commands during his military career, Croghan distinguished himself when he defended Fort Stephenson in 1813 against British Gen. Henry A. Proctor.
Eventually, Croghan left the military and became a postmaster. He re-entered the military in 1846 when he joined Gen. Zachary Taylor’s forces during the Mexican-American War.
Croghan died Jan. 8, 1849, in New Orleans. A few months later, the fort was named after him.
With Fort Croghan and its soldiers offering an umbrella of protection, early settlers began establishing residences in the area including Noah Smithwick and Logan Vandeveer. By 1851, Burnet County was established.
The federal government left Fort Croghan in December 1853, but the local community has always remembered its importance and celebrated its legacy.
Williams said one of the purposes of Saturday’s event is to show people — especially children — what life was like in those early days.
“It’s a fun day, but it also teaches children about our history here,” she said.
In fact, Fort Croghan Museum actually has a little country school on the grounds. Williams said museum volunteers will “hold class” so children — and adults — can attend school Saturday.
“It will be short sessions so they can get an idea about what it was like back then,” she said.
One of the “hot” demonstrations will probably be the blacksmith shop. Featuring era tools and supplies, the shop will also have a working blacksmith.
“We have a gentleman coming who is a real blacksmith and he’ll be giving a demonstration,” Williams said.
While most of the early settlers’ and soldiers’ lives revolved around working, they also knew how to have a good time.
For early soldiers, one of the favorite forms of recreation was “America’s Pastime.”
“The soldiers enjoyed playing baseball in their free time,” Williams said.
To help capture the early settlement’s baseball feel, Fort Croghan Museum staff turned to a fellow history enthusiast from the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark in San Angelo.
“He will show us what baseball was like in that era,” Williams said. “He’ll have uniforms and equipment that the soldier would have played with.”
Along with baseball, adults and children can get a taste of life prior to TV, radio, video games and even electricity.
“Children’s games were a lot different then,” Williams said. “We’ll have several people demonstrating many of the games kids would have played.”
Some of the period games included marbles, tops, button spinning and stilts.
“We want to give people the opportunity to participate as much as possible,” Williams said.
Of course, what would a Western history lesson be without a good old gunfight? Though street shootouts are probably more common in movies and folklore than they were in reality, gunfights still are part of the Western myth and folklore.
In the Highland Lakes, the Burnet Gunfighters Inc. have become synonymous with shootouts.
“The Gunfighters will perform at 11 a.m.,” Williams said. “They put on a very exciting show.”
Along with the Gunfighters, visitors will find themselves milling about with many other historical figures such as soldiers, settlers and even mountain men.
“There will be some people with black-powder weapons,” Williams said. “And I think we’re going to have somebody demonstrating how to make black-powder bullets.”
And there will also be some Civil War “veterans” walking the grounds.
“It’s a fun event, but it also — I believe — educates children in an interesting way,” Williams said.
The good news is there is no book or test with this history lesson.
But those willing to step back in time — will enjoy an historical experience.
Parking and admission is free. For more, call (512) 756-8281.