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The History of History Hill

A look at how the Dearborn Historical Museum's popular Homecoming attraction–History Hill–came to be, and what to expect this year.

The north side of in Dearborn is transformed every year during Homecoming, where reenactors and historical interpreters in authentic garb and with real weapons camp out for the three-day festival. 

Have you seen those guys in uniforms at the top of the hill at Dearborn's Homecoming? They are out there, faithfully, every August, in woolen uniforms, jackets, toting around those heavy muskets, giving demonstrations of drilling and interpreting the life and times of a soldier from times gone by.

Who are these guys, sweating it out, cooking over their campfires and sleeping under the stars?

Back in 1986, a French and Indian War reenacting group teamed up with the Museum Guild of Dearborn to create Rendezvous on the Rouge at Ford Field. The reenacting group was called The Forces of Montcalm and Wolfe, Inc. and this grand presentation of life and times during the 1700's was well-received by the public.

Soon, a Volunteer Corps was formed by an enthusiastic group of reenactors who supplied the Museum Guild and the with players in uniforms and period clothing for important events like the grand re-opening of the 1833 Commandant's Quarters in 1993, and many other local commemorations and dedications of historical significance.

In 1998, the reenactor group and some friends organized as the Sgt. John S. Cosbey Camp #427, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Their group belongs to the Museum Guild and since that time has coordinated the History Hill part of the Dearborn Homecoming in conjunction with the museum. This group has answered the call every year since then, "camping out" from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, no matter the weather or any other adverse conditions.

And the History Hill event doesn't always come off without a hitch.

One year, the festival organizer placed the reenactor camps right in the middle of the area where the audience normally sat on the hill for the Saturday night concert. Musicians were setting up on stage. The audience grew and crowded out the men in the campsite because that summer the Charlie Daniels band was performing!

Then there was the year that some of the cannon crew got impatient waiting to do their demonstration. Unexpectedly and ahead of schedule, they decided to blow off a few rounds. The police were scrambling to find out what happened, while the mayor–along with the festival goers–ran for cover.

That cannon crew was never invited back. 

There was the summer of "100 days of rain," and the campers had to stick it out in the constant pouring rain, watching the Rouge River rising and watching their campfires get snuffed out.

The strangest year was the year that several imaginative neighborhood boys, dressed as ninjas, tried their best to sneak into camp undetected.

There have been different themes over the years as well. This year's theme will feature an historically correct military timeline of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. There will be a working sutler and frontier cooking. The reenactors will also have gun-firing demonstrations several times a day–always a crowd pleaser.

There's a lot to do and see at Homecoming, but History Hill is a great stop to make with the whole family. What do you know about all of those wars? What do you know about the soldiers who served, and what their day-to-day military lives may have been like?

Come to History Hill, stop at the Museum Guild's gift shop and try some old-time frontier cooking.

Living History Hill will feature different demonstrations and displays all weekend. Check our Homecoming Schedule daily for information.

Karen Wisniewski
Dearborn Historical Commission

Ian Kushnir August 05, 2011 at 01:46 PM
They didn't need to say the part about the Cannon. Two stories to that one.

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