Iowans can learn some of the handiwork of their ancestors at this weekend’s Hitchcock Pioneer Skills Festival at the historic Hitchcock House, near Lewis.
Sharon Guffey-Lewis, chair of the Hitchcock House Board of Directors, says they’ll be demonstrating crafts from what would have been daily life in the 1800s. “There’ll be tin punching, there’ll be butter making,” Guffey-Lewis says. “You can make your own candles. You can learn how they pressed apples into cider and taste that. There’s rope making. There’s just all kinds of fun activities going on in the barn.”
The house was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad for people escaping from slavery. While the festival is underway on Saturday, the house is also now open for tours. “COVID had sort of crippled our attendance and also the times that we can be open,” she says, “so we are really happy to say that we are open again.”
The tours run Thursday through Sunday, from 1 to 5. The two-story house, built in 1856, is on the Register of National Historic Landmarks. It features thick sandstone walls, window seats, native hard wood trim and a secret room that hid runaway slaves. That secret room is located in the basement where there is also a stone fireplace where the slaves could cook food and keep warm. It’s believed the famous John Brown preached around the fireplace.
(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)