By EMILY GUEVARA, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the women displayed different toys that 19th century Texas children might have played with, the comments came quickly.
One boy asked if the porcelain dolls looked creepy to anyone else because they did to him.
Another student said they wanted to make stilts out of cans like kids did back then. And all the students wanted to try out the button yo-yo toy.
“The toys back then are funnier than toys now,” Grace Community School fourth-grader Gideon Hardin, 10, said.
Hardin and about 50 other students from Grace learned about Texas life in 1845, when it was a republic.
Visitors from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the Sons of the Republic of Texas provided the lessons to the Grace Community School fourth-graders on March 25.
Students heard from a Sam Houston impersonator and learned about cooking, songs and toys from the 19th century.
“We just think it’s right for the children to have the appreciation of our early times,” fourth-grade teacher Judy Miller said.
She said this is the second year the school has had the visitors speak to their fourth-graders. The students recently finished a Texas history unit.
David Hanover, president general of the Sons of The Republic of Texas, portrayed Sam Houston, who served as the first and third president of Texas, in addition to other governmental positions.
Wearing faux sideburns, a wide brimmed straw hat, a faux leopard-print vest and carrying a walking stick, Hanover shared about Houston’s life.
He described the Texas hero as a man who loved the outdoors, was an avid reader, and spent several years living with the Cherokee Indians.
Born in Virginia, Houston lived in Tennessee and served a short time as governor there before coming to Texas in 1832.
Here, he helped the rebellious Texans lead the charge against Santa Anna, the Mexican president at the time. Houston was appointed general of the Texas Army.
He suffered a severe ankle wound at the Battle of San Jacinto and from then on walked with a cane.
After serving two terms as president of the Republic of Texas, he served as a U.S. senator and the seventh governor of Texas.
Hanover said the purpose of the Sons of the Republic of Texas is to perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who settled Texas.
“Our goal is to get the word out about Texas history and its importance to us today,” he said.
After Hanover’s presentation, students attended three breakout sessions during which members of the Charles G. Davenport Chapter of the Daughters of The Republic of Texas talked about 19th century Texas life.
Mollie Jacobs and Carolyn Billé, members of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, shared with the students about cooking.
They demonstrated the tools and process for making butter and talked about some of the foods people might eat such as vegetable stew, deer, rabbit, fried chicken, fish and more.
During a different session, the students sang Texas songs, such as “Texas, Our Texas” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
The students talked about the instruments played at that time, such as the fiddle, banjo, harmonica, washboard and more.
The students then learned how to waltz and danced to the song “Tennessee Waltz.”
Shirley Crawford, Johnnie McWilliams, who is president of the Charles G. Davenport Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and Kathi Snow led this portion.
Finally, Marilyn Allen and Sherry Skorkowsky with the same chapter of the organization shared about the toys 19th century Texas children might have played with such as dolls made out of porcelain, corn husk, or fabric; stilts made out of cans and rope; and a wooden top, yo-yo or whistle.
They said girls at the time learned how to sew by making clothing for their dolls and boys learned woodworking by making toys for themselves or their sisters. Children at the time and their parents had to be creative, Ms. Allen said.
A long pipe could be used as a bat for baseball, a sword or more. And a mother could make a doll out a handkerchief.
She said there’s a reason kids today are still engaged by these kinds of simple toys.
“It’s because they get to use their imagination to use it,” Ms. Allen said. “This is what we’re trying to do, to spark their imagination and get a little history in the meantime.”