Demonstrators kick off Fort’s season opener

Wooden toys from an earlier era could be found at the Fort Museum’s historic cabinet shop Saturday.

“I’m a big kid at heart,” said woodworker Jason Gordon. “I love making toys.”

Gordon was one of the demonstrators on hand for the opening day of the season for Fort Dodge’s Fort Museum. Demonstrations of blacksmithing, quilt making and woodworking went on all day long.

Gordon was feeling a bit like a kid in a candy store himself, when he saw the collection of antique tools in the cabinet shop.

“I’m pretty impressed,” he said. “Everything is in here. It’s a very comprehensive shop.”

In the days before steam-powered or water-powered sawmills, many woodworkers would have began with a log, he said, and the cabinet shop had all the tools he would need to go from log to finished product.

They even had a froe, a fairly uncommon type of axe used to split wood.

“There are only a few pieces in here that stump me,” he said, “but I’ll find out what they are.”

He showed how he would use a plane make the edge square with the faces of a plank of cedar wood, which he recycled from an old church.

“The first step is to true the lumber, even today,” he said.

Gordon, of Iowa Falls, has been involved at the Fort Museum before with the Ghost Garrison. He has been a carpenter and is now studying to be a history teacher.

“I have a passion for this kind of thing,” he said. “I have a passion for teaching people about history. A part of this is a part of them.”

Over at the Donahoe General Store, Tammy Calvert, of Dayton, had a historic quilting display. She had some hand-pieced quilt blocks to show, and was making a coaster.

“They didn’t have sewing machines in the 1860s, or they did but were few and far between,” she said. “When children were very young, 4 or 5 years old, they would start doing their sticheries. Mother would watch every perfect stitch. By the time they were 13 or 14 years old they were pretty good seamstresses.”

Calvert is fairly active in historical re-enactment, and makes all her own clothes. She said the Fort Museum is not used enough.

“People don’t know it’s here,” she said. “When they find out, they say this is better than Living History Farms.”

Fort Marketing Manager Jacque Johanson said there are plenty of new things going on at the Fort this year.

A new building was recently donated by Gary and Pam Bigness, she said. It’s currently being refurbished, and will soon house a collection of 1870-1970 Fort Dodge memorabilia.

“Pam has been collecting them for years,” Johanson said. “We even have a potato chip bag. Potato chips were made in Fort Dodge.”

Other new buildings could be in the near future, such as one devoted to railways in Fort Dodge, and a display of steam engines and a steam tractor.

There’s also a new audio tour system in the historical buildings. A button in four of the buildings will activate a recording to explain more about the building. Johanson said more buildings will be getting recordings soon.

The Fort Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays until Oct. 11.