How a Visit to an 1800s-Style Village Can Help You Prepare for SHTF

If you are not absolutely new to prepping, you have heard it stated many times that a SHTF event could suddenly jettison us back to an 1800s era existence. It will not take a cyber attack on the power grid or an EMP attack to cause modern society to step back in history a few hundred years.

Preppers almost always factor living off grid into their long-term survival plan – for good reason. The domino effect of any apocalyptic event can ultimately cause the lights to go out. While you may be hunkering down during the first wave of the disaster, eventually – no matter what type of SHTF event occurred, some type of society will begin to reemerge.

1800s era village

Each stop at a cabin or outdoor space in the 1800s village demonstrates how a person that played an integral part in the “olden times” plied their trade and learned how essential the service or supplies provided were to community.

Many historic villages and farms like the one near me, Robbins Crossing, have a hands-on component so visitors can attempt to spin wool into yarn, make candles, operate a pottery wheel, and so much more. This free or low-cost immersion experience can easily double as prime prepper training.

Maybe you will discover an aspect of off the grid living that is both important and missing for your tribe’s skill set.

If you have stockpiled supplies to be able to tan hides or make clay pots but have not tried your hand at the process yet, you can not only have a front row set to seeing how it was done in an off the grid situation, but ask questions, find out how you can take a course locally to learn or hone the skill, and maybe even get a hands-on lesson.

Why All Preppers Should Visit an 1800s Era Village

Acquiring and honing your survival skills should always be a top item on your prepping agenda. But, learning how to live everyday life like our pioneering ancestors and developing skills that can lead to a lucrative trade in an off grid post-apocalyptic can vastly improve your odds of survival.

various manual tools

Manual tools were a mainstay of 1800s era life – just as they will be both during and after a long-term disaster. During a trip back in time you can learn more about what hand tools were most frequently used, which were the most durable, versatile, and sometimes even how to make them yourself.

more tools

Visiting a working 1800s era village or farm can introduce you to a marvelous world of skilled off grid wonder. Even if you have a rough idea of what it would be like – and take, to live like early Americans, actually immersing yourself in such an experience should lead to a vast new world of discovery… and inspiration.

Standing next to a powerful forge and watching the entire process unfold – sometimes problems and all, will offer a firsthand glimpse that simply cannot be provided by even the most exquisite YouTube video.

Running a forge is a hot, dirty, loud, and physically draining process – you need to know if you can handle that now, before spending a copious amount of money or time getting a forge of your own.

No matter how much research time has been spent learning about blacksmithing, you might be surprised at how versatile a forge is at making both large and small tools and support components for structures.

Top 20 Survival Skills You Can Learn About

While the offerings at various 1800s era village and farms will vary, below are common working exhibits at such attractions that you could expect to interact with during a prepper educational field trip.

  1. Carpentry
  2. Blacksmithing
  3. Weapons Making
  4. Primitive Cooking
  5. Primitive Hunting, Trapping, And Fishing
  6. Candle Making
  7. Basket Weaving
  8. Barrel Making
  9. Food Preservation
  10. Meat and Fish Smoking
  11. Ice House Construction
  12. Primitive Building
  13. Rope Making
  14. Shoe Making and Repair
  15. Seed Saving
  16. Gardening
  17. Primitive Hauling
  18. Horsemanship
  19. Sewing
  20. Livestock Husbandry

Blacksmith Shop

Blacksmithing was essential to life in the 1800s; tools had to be forged, horses needed to shod, among a host of other essential equipment and later, building components. Some preppers have purchased or built a homemade forge – others are still watching YouTube videos on the subject and dreaming about the day they will figure out or find time, to build their own.

Taking an in-depth tour of a working blacksmith shop will offer invaluable insight on how the process works, allow you the opportunity to learn more about the construction process of a large forge, and take photos of the one right in front of you to use as a building guide.

blacksmith shop

Learning how an 1800s era cabin or barn was constructed to harden it against both the elements and attack is but one of many beneficial aspects preppers will receive from visiting this type of interactive historic attraction.

1800 era cabin

You can fuse old and new methods together when creating a blacksmith forge by powering the furnace with a manual crank blower that can be purchased now before the SHTF instead of trying to manufacture one yourself during a doomsday disaster.

Potter’s Wheel

Finding a manually operated kick wheel pottery wheel is not an easy thing to do anymore – or a cheap one. Typically, when a prepper wants a manual pottery wheel and does not wish to spend the $800 to $1,200 it takes to buy one, he or she makes the wheel themselves.

The one place you are most likely to find a full-size manual kick wheel in action is at an 1800s era village. Seeing such a wheel in operation and inspecting it up close will help you better learn how to build one yourself – for a fraction of the cost of a commercially manufactured model.

This potter’s wheel used concrete to make the kickwheel, but a heavy slab of hardwood was traditionally used and can easily be cut to fit in a DIY pottery wheel is you are handy with tools:

potter's wheel

This view of the potter’s wheel shows how simply one can be firmly constructed out of 2 by 4 or old barn wood:

potter's wheel side view

Fabric Arts

loom
loom

Learning how to spin the wool from your sheep into yarn, how to operate a loom, and how to make thread are also common hands-on demonstrations at working 1800s era villages.

spinning wheel
spinning wheel

Spinning wheels are rather expensive (small manual ones are far cheaper and work on the same premise) but can prove not only useful when clothing, outerwear, or bedding needs created, but as a service for barter during the societal rebuilding stage after a SHTF event.

Learning how to dye your wool or yarn from both plants and herbs grown on your prepper retreat will allow you to barter a higher price for specialized goods in the new off grid society that forms post-SHTF.

vegetable dyes on hand spurn yarn
vegetable dyes on hand spurn yarn

The paddle brushes shown screen left in the basket are used to manually card wool to prepare it for use when making scarves, hats, gloves and other items – all of which are mighty useful during a long-term disaster.

Apothecary

Even before the lovable country doctors we have seen on various television shows existed, there were village apothecaries. An herbalist would grow, preserve, and mix medicinal flowers, roots, herbs, and berries to heal members of the community as a bartered service or in some cases, or individual women mastered these skills to tend to the health needs of their own families.

apothecary shelves

Trapping

Hunting and fishing are skills preppers tend to learn first – if they did not grow up country and start mastering these concepts years before they could do long division.

During a visit to a working 1800s era farm or village you could learn more about the animals both historically trapped in your area, how it was done, the gear necessary to accomplish the task, and how they were made:

Fuel

A home without firewood in the 1800s would not keep the occupants alive very long. Preppers know far better than to rely upon upon modern technology when the SHTF.

wood burning stove

But, unless you live off grid or have practiced how your home and wood stockpiles will stand upon when they must be solely relied upon for household warmth, cooking, and boiling water, you might be surprised at how much wood you will go through, and at how many long tiring hours it will take to stockpile it.

Cooking

Preparing food over an open flame while primitive camping is fun – but using a woodstove or an Amish style wood cook stove to prepare every single meal is yet another time consuming and labor intensive task before modern conveniences.

There will be no microwaves, electric ovens, and grocery stores to garner select ingredients from during and after an apocalyptic disaster. Not only watching, but actively participating in preparing a single part of a meal on an old fashioned wood cook stove will be quite a learning experience – to say the least.

During either an 1800s interactive cooking demonstration or food preparation and preservation class, you will be introduced to ingredients that you may not have heard about since the last time you ran across one of your great grandmother’s recipes.

Often, you will be using food that you have not only grown or raised and butchered yourself – but foraged in the woods surrounding your home.

interactive cooking demonstration
Interactive cooking demonstration. The kids are really digging it!

Livestock

Raising livestock, even if you are prepping in a small town or suburban area, should be a part of your survival plan.

During a visit to an 1800s era farm or village you will not only be able to delve deeper into the proper husbandry of traditionally kept animals, but in many instances, how to butcher them, as well.

chicken coop

Breeding livestock and building predator proof enclosure was vital to the survival of your family. During a visit to a working historic attraction you can learn some tips about not only setting up stealthy fencing, but how to make your own fence post out of hardwood, and to make sturdy gates to prevent escapes.

hog

Housing

The structural landscape could change quickly and even permanently after a SHTF event. Fires will spread quickly when calling 911 to ring up a local hero to come stop a raging blaze is not possible.

Folks who did not prepare but have managed to escape becoming a statistic during the disaster will not likely have an off grid adaptable home. Communities will spring up like they once did, around water sources.

If you possess the skills and have stockpiled materials to build cabins to house survivors, that too might become an invaluable post-SHTF bartering option. Most structures are a historic village are authentic, and have been simply disassembled and moved and reassembled, or preserved in their original location.

Study the floor plans to learn how the builders maximized heat retention, air flow, weather protection, and storage space.

Here’s What Small Kids Can Learn

Not only should the adult members of your prepping tribe visit one of these 1800s era villages and farms that exist in every state in the republic, but the kiddos should be a part of the immersion experience, as well.

children gathered around the demonstration
Children gathered around the demonstration.

Both children and adults are gathered inside of a trapper’s shed (that also doubled as an 1800s era apothecary) to learn more about securing meat and fur from the wild animals living in the region.

Children were a vital part of the working life of their parents during the 1880s – just as they are on rural family farms and Amish homesteads all across America today.

Even youngsters as little as three years old have important chores to do on the farm. If the family was going to have food to eat and wood to cook on and keep the home warm, children were expected to pull their own weight.

If you live only a short distance from a working 1800s era village or farm, your children or grandchildren may have visited the pioneering attraction on a school field trip.

I recently revisited the Robbins Crossing village operated by Hocking College as part of a homeschool group excursion.

Such a visit will infuse a bit of enlightenment about how children played two or three hundred years ago, as well. Children may learn how to make their own toys, and definitely learn how to make their own fun.

Most preppers do not let their children spend hours sitting on their bottoms twiddling their thumbs on some type of electronic gadget now, but the option of even sitting and watching cartoons will be gone – or limited due to your generator fuel conservation efforts.

Not only can the kiddos learn how much fun it is to play with homemade dolls, wooden marble runs, stilts, and other simple toys, you can learn how to make them yourself as post-SHTF Christmas presents and bartering material during the societal rebuilding phase.

Final Words

Life during the 1800s was definitely simpler, but it was not easier. Not everyone will have what it takes to successfully live this type of lifestyle day in and day out – or to survive their first winter.

To garner an authentic and realistic idea of how well both your skills and your prepping plans will stand up to the rigors of this type of off the grid lifestyle, plan a family or prepper tribe field trip to an 1800s era village – then review and adapt your preparedness training to improve survival odds.

1800s style village Pinterest image

About Tara Dodrill

Tara Dodrill
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, 'Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out', Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.

12 comments

  1. Avatar

    Wonderful article. Thank you. I bet you have fun with your subjects. If you ever get out west in Utah, check out the American West Heritage Center (https://www.awhc.org/ ) near Wellsville, Utah. It is south of Logan on Hwy 89. Several demonstration pioneer activities. I think it may be affiliated with the LDS Church, which we are not and we associate with them very well. We spent 8 years in Utah and now we are in North Idaho. We love it here also.

    • Avatar

      Craig, thank you and yes I sure do. That sounds like a wonderful place to visit and learn. I haven’t been in Utah in years, but it sure was beautiful country.

  2. Avatar

    there is a lewis and clark fort reproduction here in Illinois by granit city and it is free the events they have like the ones mentioned above are a absolute wonderful event to go to . too bad they only have them on important dates like the departure date and return date of the lewis and clark expedition. but the buildings they made and used are wonderful on how they did things and the purpose of all they did . and when reenactors are there they bring the homesteaders cabin to life cooking in the fire place and the tools they used. it is truly tragic that we as a whole have lost so much.

    • Avatar

      Wayne, that also sounds like a great place to visit and learn. Yes, I consider it a tragedy that we have lost so many skills too – along with appreciation and knowledge of our heritage.

  3. Avatar

    Nice article, and consistent with my own experiences at similar venues in New England. Perhaps more intriguing than the learning and knowledge available is the sense of community, cooperation and peace you can experience, even if they are not actual towns. Of course real life back then was a daily struggle, but you would be hard pressed to convince me it was worse than what we are experiencing now.

  4. Avatar

    Excellent

  5. Avatar

    I inherited a 9 generation farm. They items on it go way..way back. As i was growing up my parents and grand parents taught me how every thing on it works. Right down to hot slopping pigs. I have shared that with my children and tgeir children. I too shall be passing the farm on. So will the next generations. I am happy and proud to own such a wounderful farm. I do feel it is imporrant to learn as much as you can.. From drying apples for treats to playing a xylophone. Music is a great source of entertain! Every one in my family has played a instrument of some kind. I own games people have never heard of or played this day and age. If all else fails learn to play cards ot checkers. Fantan is my favorite card game. It is a tradition to camp at Easter ! Snow, rain or even to cold dont stop every one from coming camping at the farm. Ever hunt easter eggs in the woods. And have to find what the Easter bunny left. Its a blast!. Good luck to all. I enjoyed this article. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Avatar

    WHAT A GREAT IDEA! I volunteered at a living history village museum for three years, and then worked there for five. It was Old Bethpage Village Restoration on New York State’s Long Island. I learned so much about the old ways there, and had hands-on experience with some too, like washing, carding and spinning wool. It’s true, EVERY prepper should have some experience with “the old ways”, because if the SHTF, then it’s very likely we’ll be transported back to the 19th century. That’s also why I’m trying to interest people in a book that you probably know about, which is about learning the old, ‘lost’ ways of our ancestors. Click here to check it out! https://russellk313.wixsite.com/survive

  7. Avatar

    What do you think is the first skill we should learn ?

  8. Avatar

    I’m interested in taking my grandchildren to one of the working villages or farms. Could you please tell me where some are. Im in Tx in Dallas

  9. Avatar

    good article but the time scale is wrong, not 1800s but 18th CENTURY, we would go back to a pre industrialised lifestyle and the industrial revolution started around the 1750s, so pre this date.

  10. Avatar

    Good points, but some present a few problems. 1) Making tools is a great idea. Do you know how and where to dig for iron ore to do this? 2) Making pottery is also a good idea. Finishing pottery takes a very hot fire. Can you create this? 3) Learning to spin? Splendid. Now you must keep sheep, tend them, deliver the babies, shear them–do you have carding boards? Wool doesn’t grow on trees. Do you have a spinning wheel? Most people don’t even have sheep shears. 4) Much of our ancestors’ knowledge of medicine was primitive. Are you sure which herbs work and which don’t? 5) Trapping is great, provided there are animals around. Many preppers live in environments without animals. 6) About the wood: before you can cut it, you must have an ax, saw, etc. Can you make a handsaw? Where will you get the iron? Do you know how to forge the iron into a saw? 7) Livestock will be critical. Is it permitted in your county? The most useful animal would probably be an ox. It’s strong enough to pull a plow (if you have the equipment needed to hitch the ox to the plow, know how to make a plow, and know how to train an ox) and will provide meat. In summary, if there’s a major disaster, we’re not going back to the eighteenth century. We’re going to the twelfth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *