Young and old participate in living history at Tallman House

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Stacy Vogel
July 19, 2009
— Jacob Boeke wasn’t sure what was happening.

One minute, he was a happy 3-year-old enjoying an outing at the Tallman House.

The next, he was conscripted into the Union Army.

He struggled not to tip over as he held a rifle bigger than himself over his shoulder. He looked back at his mom in confusion as the company, including older brother John, 10, marched around the grounds.

That must be what they mean by “living history.”

The military demonstration was just part of “Haversacks and Hoopskirts: A Civil War Living History” at the Lincoln-Tallman Restorations on Saturday.

The sixth annual event took on extra significance this year as the Rock County Historical Society celebrates the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his trip to Janesville.

The society held a dinner at the Janesville Country Club on Friday with well-known impersonators Max and Donna Daniels presenting scenes from Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s lives. In September, it will host a parade and concert to commemorate the weekend of Lincoln’s visit.

The Daniels were back Saturday to mingle with the crowd. Other impersonators played Ulysses S. Grant, Stephen Douglas and other people in Civil War society.

Visitors took rides in horse-drawn carriages, watched a fashion show, learned about Civil War medicine and attended a ladies lemonade party. They filled a room in the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center for a discussion of Lincoln in Rock County and Wisconsin.

Of course, every Janesville school child knows Lincoln visited the Tallman family in 1859, before he became president.

But Richard “Duke” Ellingson, president of the historical society, wishes more children would participate in events such as "Haversacks and Hoopskirts." The society hopes to build the event up so more people attend, especially kids, he said.

“I think people tend to lack on history of this time period,” he said.

The children at the event seemed to be having a good time. Sky Harnack, 11, asked her grandparents to drive her all the way from Rice Lake to attend the event. Her grandparents, Richard and Mary Harnack, are from Janesville, and her great-grandfather helped found the Rock River Thresheree.

“She has a lot of family history here,” Mary said.

Sky enjoyed the Tallman House tour, she said.

“It’s a mansion!” she exclaimed as she snapped pictures of the exterior with a disposable camera.

Children participated in the event, too. Abby Love, 10, was playing a young belle for the second or third time. (She couldn’t remember which.) She was careful not to walk on the front of her wide red dress with tiny flowers.

She likes dressing up, “but I don’t like it when I trip,” she said.

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