Lee's Summit Journal

At Missouri Town 1855, Lost Arts Day connects past to present

Blue Springs residents Grady Johnson, 2, and Levi Johnson, 6, watch Ross Shipman do blacksmithing work at Missouri Town 1855’s Lost Arts Day.
Blue Springs residents Grady Johnson, 2, and Levi Johnson, 6, watch Ross Shipman do blacksmithing work at Missouri Town 1855’s Lost Arts Day. Special to the Democrat

This morning, you probably didn’t have to roast green coffee beans to make your morning brew or shape a piece of tin to hold it once it was ready. If it was the mid-19th century, those tasks had a very good possibility of being somewhere on your to-do list.

That’s what Lost Arts Day at Missouri Town 1855 is all about — connecting with the skills and craftsmanship that are no longer part of our daily lives. The event, held June 8, showcased blacksmithing, tinsmithing, wood carving, quilting, hand sewing and more.

“A lot of people have romantic idea about the old days, but when you explain to them the workload, they start to reconsider that view,” historical interpreter and tinsmith Tim Lunceford said.

Although quilting, knitting and some of the other skills aren’t entirely lost today, most people do them for enjoyment and aren’t relying on them as settlers did in the 1800s.

“We have people that also spin the wool. Most people (today) are buying that ready made, and they’re not manufacturing their own fiber. And in turn, they’re not keeping flocks of sheep,” Lunceford said. “They’re not growing the cotton or the flax in order to produce the things they used to manufacture in their home.”

And with no coffee shops on the prairies of the 1850s, people roasted their own beans.

“You would purchase whatever bean the vendor had, and you just drank what you got. If you had a dark roast, it was probably because you weren’t paying attention to the beans,” Lunceford said.

At Missouri Town, the interpreters do their best to match the equipment and processes of the period. Lunceford uses one tinsmithing tool that is 200 years old.

Interpreter Ross Shipman has been a blacksmith for 44 years.

“I took it up when I was 14, and we needed parts for a go cart. And we knew a blacksmith worked out here (at Missouri Town), so we brought it to him, but he wouldn’t do it. He had us do it,” Shipman said.

He’s spent 33 of those years doing his blacksmithing at Missouri Town.

“One of my favorite things is the small of the coal burning,” Shipman said. “I wish they’d make an air freshener like that. I’d hang it in my truck. Of course, my wife wouldn’t like that, but she doesn’t like my truck anyway.”

Lost Arts Day drew people of all ages to check out the different crafts.

“I grew up loving the history stuff, so I was like, ‘Yes, we are coming to this,’” said Erin Johnson of Blue Springs.

Her two young sons especially liked the mercantile, while she preferred to check out the quilting.

For Darin Thomson of Greenwood, a trip to Missouri Town is a family affair. While his two younger sons squatted by a water barrel, trying to catch mosquitoes, his two older sons and two daughters danced in period costume as part of a demonstration.

“It’s educational for them,” Thomson said. “Not only is it fun for them, but they get to be part of living history.”

That element of putting yourself right in the middle of all the historical pieces and practices is what makes the event and Missouri Town itself special for Lunceford.

“I think people don’t realize that what is out here is the real thing,” Lunceford said. “We go to museums and we see things in glass cabinets; here, we have them out in the lawn. You can walk in and see what it feels like to be in this place.”