Look­ing at wa­ter us­age through lens of his­tory

Ac­co­keek Foun­da­tion pro­gram ex­plores avail­abil­ity, use of H2O

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

For many Mary­lan­ders, wa­ter is as close and con­ve­nient as the kitchen sink, but for Euro­pean colonists in Mary­land 250 years ago, wa­ter was a pre­cious re­source. Ob­tain­ing it was a daily pri­or­ity, ac­cord­ing to An­drea Jones, di­rec­tor of pro­grams and vis­i­tor en­gage­ment for the Ac­co­keek Foun­da­tion at Pis­cat­away Park.

“Nowa­days, we use ap­prox­i­mately 80 to 100 gal­lons per per­son per day, but colo­nial peo­ple would have used about four gal­lons,” Jones said. “It begs the ques­tion: how did this hap­pen and why? There are ways hav­ing wa­ter so con­ve­nient makes us not value its use.”

From now un­til Aug. 7, the Ac­co­keek Foun­da­tion is hold­ing

“H2oooh! Amer­i­can Wa­ter Use Re­vealed” on week­ends, part of its Green His­tory pro­gram, which seeks to con­nect cur­rent-day en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues with life as rep­re­sented in its Na­tional Colo­nial Farm, an his­tor­i­cal re­cre­ation set in 1770 Mary­land.

“It’s ‘H2oooh!’ as in ‘Oh, look at how much wa­ter we’re wast­ing,’” Jones said. “We are us­ing a past-to-present lens to look at en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues from colo­nial times to the present.”

On the walk to the Na­tional Colo­nial Farm, there are sev­eral dis­plays dis­cussing modern wa­ter us­age.

Ash­ley Thomp­son, man­ager of ed­u­ca­tion, por­trays farm owner Mrs. Bolton. She said the idea is to get peo­ple in the frame of mind of think­ing about wa­ter us­age be­fore they reach the farm.

Thomp­son said that fam­i­lies would of­ten have to walk a quar­ter mile or more to ob­tain fresh wa­ter.

“A lot of fam­i­lies will choose to make their homes where there is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble wa­ter,” Thomp­son said. “Get­ting wa­ter was a very time-con­sum­ing process.”

“We have a spring house, which is where wa­ter would be gath­ered,” said Cory Bragg, an in­ter­preter at the Na­tional Colo­nial Farm. He por­trays Bernard Pim­lott, an in­den­tured ser­vant. “We would col­lect wa­ter from the spring in wa­ter buck­ets.”

Thomp­son said peo­ple looked at clean­li­ness dif­fer­ently in colo­nial times.

“Hy­giene stan­dards were a lot dif­fer­ent back then. It’s not that they were dirty, it was just that they didn’t think about wash­ing as fre­quently as we wash. You might wash your hands ev­ery day, but you’re not go­ing to take a full bath. When you do take a full bath, it’s a sponge bath, where you’re wash­ing your­self off with a cloth,” Thomp­son said. “You’d never re­ally be fill­ing up a tub and sub­mers­ing your­self or tak­ing a run­ning wa­ter shower like we do.”

Clothes, Thomp­son said, would be washed ev­ery other week in a large, heated pot of soapy wa­ter over a fire, then rinsed in cold wa­ter. Do­ing laun­dry was an all-day process, Thomp­son said.

“You’re only go­ing to be do­ing laun­dry once a month, maybe twice a month, and things like bed­ding, blan­kets and that sort of thing, you’re only go­ing to be do­ing that a cou­ple times a year,” Thomp­son said.

Even the soapy wa­ter would be reused, for wa­ter­ing the crops.

“You don’t want to waste any wa­ter if you can help it. So we’ll use it to wa­ter the plants,” Thomp­son said. “Plants ac­tu­ally like the phos­pho­rus that comes from the soap.”

Jones said the pro­gram is de­signed to pro­vide an ad­di­tional, ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent to the his­toric re-en­act­ment, and also to get peo­ple think­ing about modern-day en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, such as the drought in Cal­i­for­nia and lead in the drink­ing wa­ter of Flint, Mich.

The pro­gram is de­signed for all age ranges, Jones said.

“For the par­ents, it’s about how we can make our home more en­ergy ef­fi­cient. For the kids, it’s about re­con­nect­ing with the source of where our wa­ter comes from,” Jones said. “The ob­ject is not to guilt peo­ple into not us­ing wa­ter, but to put for­ward the ques­tion of how much value do we place in a gal­lon of wa­ter. It’s about an ap­pre­ci­a­tion and love of wa­ter.”

The pro­gram is free, and open to the pub­lic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Satur­days and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays un­til Aug. 7.


Above, Cory Bragg, an in­ter­preter at the Ac­co­keek Foun­da­tion’s Na­tional Colo­nial Farm, shows the spring house where a colo­nial-era fam­ily would have ob­tained their wa­ter for drink­ing, bathing and wa­ter­ing crops. Be­low, Ash­ley Thomp­son, man­ager of ed­u­ca­tion at the Ac­co­keek Foun­da­tion’s Na­tional Colo­nial Farm, demon­strates the way a colo­nial-era woman would have done laun­dry, as part of the foun­da­tion’s “H2oooh! Amer­i­can Wa­ter Use Re­vealed” ex­hibit.


Cory Bragg, an in­ter­preter at the Ac­co­keek Foun­da­tion’s Na­tional Colo­nial Farm, uses wa­ter from a spring col­lected in a cloth bucket and a gourd cup to wa­ter plants in the farm’s slave gar­den, as part of the foun­da­tion’s “H2oooh! Amer­i­can Wa­ter Use Re­vealed” ex­hibit.

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