The Peter Burr House

The Peter Burr House The Peter Burr House is the oldest standing wood frame home in West Virginia. Reliving History, Inc helps maintain the house with Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission and uses it to educate the public on life in the 18th Century.
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The Peter Burr House reflects the spirit of the early settlers. The old wood-frame, post and beam house (built under difficult circumstances at a time and place where ready-made building materials were not options) has had the tenacity to continue to stand when other wood-frame structures in the area fell years ago. This house quietly saw history passing by as it somehow survived in spite of all other odds. The Peter Burr House is one of very few surviving structures built slightly before or after 1750 in what is now Jefferson County, West Virginia. With the Peter Burr House, Reliving History, Inc. helps tell the story of typical settlers in a land amid fears of Indian invasions and absence of what we know today as modern convenience.

In real life, making historic garments and dance costumes has been temporarily displaced by sewing face masks as a civic...
04/07/2020

In real life, making historic garments and dance costumes has been temporarily displaced by sewing face masks as a civic duty... but sometimes I need a little break. And here is the result of my whimsical break this past weekend, a modern little doll (11" 'Creatable World' doll - kind of a pre-teen or teen Barbie style doll whom you can imagine as either a boy or a girl) dressed not at all in modern style, but in 1770s style -- cap, neckerchief, bedgown/jacket, petticoat -- spinning happily in the cool of the evening. She's spinning --I'm not -- but hopefully soon I will have time to enjoy spinning once again.

So I am finally getting my act together and planning the garden (both home and Peter Burr's), heading over to my favorit...
03/27/2020
Pin on Peter Burr Garden

So I am finally getting my act together and planning the garden (both home and Peter Burr's), heading over to my favorite seed company, Baker Creek, and what do I find? "Early Scarlet Horn" carrot! My eyes bugged out of my head and I squealed indelicately. But there was a reason for my keen excitement.

Why am I so excited? Early Scarlet Horn is the oldest known 'modern' carrot - developed by the Dutch in the 16th C. It definitely deserves pride of place in the Peter Burr Garden, but it has been impossible to source in the USA. A lovely Canadian seed seller of historic and heirloom seeds sells it, but they do not ship to the US. There are British seed sellers, but... well, let me recount the story told to me by the Head Gardener at Colonial Williamsburg. We were discussing 18th C. vegetable seeds, and he recounted trying to purchase Early Scarlet Horn for the historic garden from a British supplier. However, they declined to sell to "those colonials" as they snootily termed us Americans. (They did get seed, but not through, er, official channels as it were). A friend of mine visited her family in England a few years back, and brought me back seed. I happily planted it the Burr Kitchen Garden, where it grew... and then was eaten to the ground by the resident groundhogs.

Any carrots I plant at the Burr House may once again be eaten by the reprehensible local wildlife. But I will try - and this time, plant some at home too!

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Just for a moment, imagine yourself on a shopping trip to this Milliner's shop in England. My, what should I purchase? A...
03/18/2020
Pin on 18th Century

Just for a moment, imagine yourself on a shopping trip to this Milliner's shop in England. My, what should I purchase? A dimity bed-gown (informal loose jacket-type garment) in anticipation of hot summer days to come? Obtain a new fashionable black silk bonnet? Browse through the selection of laces to adorn my sleeve ruffles? Of course, the days are still chilly - perhaps I should make sure the children stay warm with a new wool flannel 'coat' (which can describe a waistcoat or a gown...). And of course, the little ones keep growing so I am probably in need of 'small shoes and stockings'...

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Today at the Peter Burr House, we had an 18th C. apple tasting for some of our local homeschoolers and their families. T...
10/19/2019
A Pin for you

Today at the Peter Burr House, we had an 18th C. apple tasting for some of our local homeschoolers and their families. These wonderful apples are grown by Distillery Lane in Jefferson MD (right next to Burkettsville). These apples from left to right: Roxbury Russet (origin: before 1635), Newtown Pippin (origin: late 17th C. - early 18th C.? Very popular by the late 18th C.), Ashmead's Kernel (c. 1720), Esopus Spitzenburg (18th C.), Blue Pearmain (origin unknown, but popular by early 19th C.), and Bramley's Seedling (early 19th C.).

The little puddings were made from Roxbury Russet, Newtown Pippin, and Blue Pearmain. Those little puddings were well liked by all, but edging out the taste test for the puddings was Roxbury Russet. And then there was the Pupton of Apples, made with Bramley's Seedling - and some Newtown Pippin & Roxbury Russet. It wasn't practical to serve it with the butter sauce recommended by 18th C. cooks recommended, but no one minded! The pupton was very popular indeed.

But the winner of the taste test for the raw apples? Among the youngsters, Bramley's Seeding was a surprising favorite (despite being quite sharp! But it was a favorite of my daughter Genevieve, who liked to eat lemons as kid too). However, the apple with the greatest acclaim was... Esopus Spitzenburg! This is an apple that has been described as 'Superb' and it most definitely merits it. I've always had a fondness for the splendid Ashmead's Kernel for eating out of hand, but Esopus Spitzenburg... wow.

Mind you, that is the result of this season. Apples do vary year by year. But I am going to try to get my hands on more Spitzenburgs if I can.

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10/17/2019

Tomorrow there will be a homeschool program at the Peter Burr House, featuring the tasting of 18th C. apples. Since some of these lovely apples are best featured cooked, for the first time I am also going to include 18th C. dishes for tasting featuring the apples. Right now, in the oven are three little apple puddings, and I plan to make a 'pupton of apples' later. But for the satisfaction of the curiosity of all, here is the apple pudding recipe from Harriet Horry's (c.1770) receipt book. It's kind of an odd pudding since there is no milk or cream, but surely a useful recipe in winter when milk is scarce but stored apples are plentiful. As, however, my tasting sample of the raw batter was well approved by my tongue, I expect the puddings will be well approved too.

"Take eight apples, pare them, core and quarter them, boil them till they are so tender you may mash them with a spoon. Sweeten them to your taste, and add a good large Spoonfull of fresh Butter, Eight eggs with half the whites will beat up and a little beaten Cinnamon. grate in the rind of a Lemon and the juice of one and mix it all together and bake it. It is much the better for some Citron cut in pieces and put in." Harriett Horry 1770

10/11/2019

Just to let everyone know that the last Peter Burr bread baking of the season will be taking place this Saturday - the bakers will be pulling the loaves out of the oven about 12:30 to 2:30 pm or so.

I was hoping to have a butter-making demonstration to go with the last bread day, but could not get any natural heavy cream at my favorite supplier, Burkholders. Since Tricking Spring Creamery very recently went out of business (sadly), the usual supply is uncertain. I'm sure, in time, it will work out, as they are now ordering milk etc. from South Mountain Creamery. In the meantime, butter will have to be made some other day.

However, in a month where I was trying to figure out how to shoe-horn in all the things I need to do, I happily now have a Saturday afternoon where I can go to Distillery Lane Ciderworks in Jefferson MD and buy some realio-trulio apples of the 18th C. so I can do an antique apple tasting for a homeschool group at the Burr House next week. And of course, get some of these splendid apples -and excellent cider- for my own use.

Bread baking this month will be Saturday Sept 21 - the third Saturday rather than the usual second Saturday. Just a head...
09/09/2019

Bread baking this month will be Saturday Sept 21 - the third Saturday rather than the usual second Saturday. Just a heads up for all lovers of that yummy bread baked in an 18th C.-style outdoor bake oven. Wayne advises me that this *might* be the last baking of the season, as he is traveling in October and baking is uncertain.

On Saturday September 21, I would like to host a program: "Warm as Wool", This program is built around the charming picture book _Warm as Wool_, depicting the struggles of a late 18th C. family living on the frontier, and how very important sheep were to them. Sheep were certainly very important to the Burr family, as 18 sheep were listed in the 1795 appraisal of Peter Burr's estate, along with equipment to process the wool into cloth.

This program is particularly designed for young children, with a story, exploring wool carding, and then a craft, but it is enjoyable by all ages (little ones too young to do the craft tend to just be happy with the soapy water). So, yes, your smaller kids will likely get wet - dress appropriately.

The craft - making felt balls (or beads)- is not strictly an 18th C. one, I must admit. European colonists in America regularly fulled wool cloth, but I have not seen any documentation for felting wool, even for toys. However, it is a pleasant skill to learn -- and you end up with a toy (or beads, for those who would rather make those).

Since the balls will be finished with some very beautiful (and expensive) spaced-dyed merino, there is a $5 for participants making the balls to cover costs. Anything that goes over expenses for the program will go to help fund clothing of volunteers, especially our children volunteers. Children that just want to splash in soapy water can do so free of charge, of course.

Please let me know if you are interested in the comments below, and whether a late morning or mid-afternoon session would be better for you and your family.

08/16/2019

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow is bread baking day at the Peter Burr House, and thus the house will be open. I, however, will not be doing a program tomorrow - I am feeling rather under the weather from a vaccine reaction -- a much welcomed vaccine, I must add. I will take the temporary upset over potential serious disease down the line. I think the September Baking day will have a wool program especially for little ones but also enjoyable for all ages (depending on weather of course) - so look for updates soon.

07/12/2019

I was hoping to take a picture of the lovely silver-colored Navajo-Churro wool I am going to wash tomorrow, but technical difficulties prevent me at this time (that is to say, I put the cell phone out of reach of sweet little toddler fingers, and now I am not sure where it is...). But anyway, what is Navajo-Churro and why am excited about this wool?

While women on this side of the American continent were not spinning this wool in the 18th C., the people of the American Southwest had already been doing so for several hundred years. Churra sheep had been brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and Native Americans soon acquired the sheep by trading, raiding, and simply finding lost animals. While these sheep became an important aspect of life for the various Native and Hispanic peoples of the southwest, they became especially important to the Navajo, and the fleece of the Churra (Churro) became the basis of the Navajo weaving economy.

This well-recognized fact was the reason why in the late 19th C., US soldiers (in yet another black mark in American history) killed tens of thousands of Churro sheep in order to control the Navajo people. This situation was not helped by well-intended federal agencies in the 20th C. who wanted to replace existing 'primitive' animals with 'improved' Churro sheep (presumably to have more uniform wool, bigger bodies, etc.). It should be no surprise to anyone who has studied a bit of Ecology and Evolution in school that these 'improved' sheep put a substantial burden on the desert vegetation and were not able to survive under the periodic droughts the tough 'primitive' sheep had for generations. (I always told my students that studying Biology was part of their social responsibility. There's a good reason for that philosophy)

Fortunately, in the 1970s, conservationists began taking an interest in the original breed of sheep, which still existed in isolated regions of the Navajo nation, and working with Navajo shepherds and weavers, Navajo-Churro sheep have now increased in number. They are still uncommon, listed as a 'threatened' breed by the Livestock Conservancy, but they have come back from the brink of extinction. And that is good news indeed!

07/05/2019

Next Saturday, July 13, is bread-baking day at the Peter Burr House, and thus the house will also be open for visitors. I had wanted to do a program for children 'Warm as Wool', but I need a bit more lead time, so I expect to offer that in August (a good month for playing with bits of wool and splashing in water).

However, having just gleefully inspected the fleece of Navajo Churro that arrived for me today, I know exactly what I will demonstrate next Saturday: Washing Wool. This Navajo Churro doesn't have too much lanolin on it, so I will not need extremely hot water to wash it, and the very good hot water at the Burr 'modern kitchen' will do the job. So I will be there with wool and washtub in hand! More on this wool in my next post.

Now, since I won't have to do a great deal of preparation for this, anyone one up for playing games later in the afternoon when the bread-bakers have finished? We can finally have the several-times-postponed Game Day -- I would venture to say about 3pm for this activity (if there is interest)

Let me know in the comments!

Here are some new plantings in the 'heavenly' [perennial herbs] ring of the Peter Burr House kitchen garden. Thanks to j...
06/27/2019

Here are some new plantings in the 'heavenly' [perennial herbs] ring of the Peter Burr House kitchen garden. Thanks to joining a Friendship rock group to paint rocks, I realized this could be a very useful way to identify plants for visitors.

You might look at this and say, 'oh how nice it looks!' (Or, rather, that's what I am hoping for...) But alas, my photograph is quite deceptive. The garden is terrifyingly overgrown and I've managed just a little bit of clearing out and new planting thus far. But I am going to continue struggling on, of course.

However, my friends, if you have just a little bit of time to come over to the Peter Burr House (and it is not unbearably hot), any weeding would be greatly appreciated. Sadly, you will have to bring your own shovels and tools and shlep them across the yard - just to let you know. Alternatively, if your family enjoys pizza night, and you live not too far away, those used pizza boxes would make fine mulch. Just drop them in the paths over the garden fence. Yes, mulching does not appear to be done as a period practice, but since I can't weed every day (or even every week), some nice cardboard mulch will really help things out.

Aprons: work garments... or status symbols? Yes - to both. I encourage you to read the article - it is a scholarly artic...
06/23/2019
‘None but Abigails appeared in white aprons’: The Apron as an Elite Garment in Eighteenth-Century England

Aprons: work garments... or status symbols? Yes - to both. I encourage you to read the article - it is a scholarly article, so there is quite a bit of wading through text to do, but it certainly enriches the mind about the humble or not-so-humble apron in the 18th C.

And while the fashion for aprons as a decorative garment died with the new Neoclassical high-waisted fashions at the turn of the 19th C., if you look at European folk costumes of many countries, that tradition of a beautiful apron for 'best' shows not only the importance of the garment, but how it became codified into the nature of Sunday/Festival/Best wear.

(2018). ‘None but Abigails appeared in white aprons’: The Apron as an Elite Garment in Eighteenth-Century England. Textile History: Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 164-190.

We aren't going to make the pockets in patchwork though - that would take too much time - but here are some 18th C. prin...
06/17/2019

We aren't going to make the pockets in patchwork though - that would take too much time - but here are some 18th C. prints that you might want to select as the top fabric for your pocket (the bottom fabric will be a sturdy white linen). Most of these are reproduction 18th C. block prints produced by Colonial Williamsburg. I also have solid linen colors in brown, red, blue, and green which would make nice contrasting bindings -- or alternatively, you could certainly make a plain pocket this way.

When you request your kit, let me know which print or linen color you want for your pocket, and whether you want to make a woman's pocket, a child's pocket, or a doll pocket (suitable for Felicity Merriman or any 18" American Girl-sized doll)

Members of Kate Evan's Homeschool group have requested a special project session(s) - making 18th C. pockets (Six have s...
06/17/2019

Members of Kate Evan's Homeschool group have requested a special project session(s) - making 18th C. pockets (Six have signed up, which I think is as much as can be reasonably handled). Here is a picture of a child's pocket and a woman's pocket - the pocket you will make will have binding on the outside and on the inside slit, just like the woman's pocket here...

As for the living history demonstration... that would be me - today, spinning & weaving on a tape loom (not all at the s...
06/15/2019

As for the living history demonstration... that would be me - today, spinning & weaving on a tape loom (not all at the same time). The Jefferson County Museum has an impressive collection of antique dolls and toys that are a delight to behold, so do check them out. Looks like a lovely day for a festival, and there will be a lot to see and do!

Be sure to stop by the museum's booth at WV Fest tomorrow from 10 am to 3 pm! There will be vintage children's toys, typewriters, and a living history demonstrator! And the Jefferson County Museum Shop will be selling some of its unique wares at the booth next to us!

06/06/2019

Just to let everyone know - the bread bakers will be baking at the Peter Burr House on Saturday. It would be a good time to have one of our usual programs, though with just getting back from an extended trip to the West Coast (it was great) and finishing up work for the Inwood Dance Co. production of the ballet 'Snow White', my brain is just a bit... toasty (as one might say in modern parlance.)

Hmm... how about I revisit the abortive attempt at board games? We can play the period Game of the Goose, with the reproduction paper board that I got at Colonial Williamsburg - which is a lot of fun (the more players the merrier) and/or we can play the modern Catchpenny (which is highly entertaining and actually educational). We won't have the table to sit at, since the bread bakers need that, but I can bring an old quilt to sit on in the middle room (which I had better sweep...)

So any interest? I know there is much to prepare for Saturday night for some, but what about 1-3pm? Or noon to two? Please let me know in the comments below - these board games do require more than one or two people

Address

176 E Burr Blvd
Kearneysville, WV
25430

General information

The Peter Burr House is open every second Saturday May- October for house tours and an 18th Century related event. We are also available by appointment for special events and tours. Please feel free to contact us and ask about our Traveling Show, a traveling trunk of 18th Century living, that can be used for Pre-K - High School.

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I have a long-term interest in The Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission (JCHLC) especially with the The Peter Burr House. It is the oldest wooden house in West Virginia, built c.1751. Abigail Burr was born there 16 September, 1758, the second daughter of Peter Burr II and Mary . About 20 years later she married a ggg grand uncle of mine named: "John Cowan." I'm interested in helping develop some fundraising efforts to do the same for the Peter Burr Living History Farm Fund, which has been established within the 501(c)(3) Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation (EWVCF). This is an endowment fund which will be used by JCHLC to continue restoration, maintenance, program development and Interpretive activities in perpetuity.
Lil Burr's seeing our family history
The farm that my great, great ancestors built
Good Morning! I sent a message 🙂
instagram.com/relivinghistory.peterburrhouse