On our way to Galena, Illinois to scope out spots for viewing fall colors we stopped in the town of Elizabeth to visit Apple River Fort, an historic site in the Black Hawk War. After a few minutes in the small gift shop (ooh, lead bullets!) we headed to the basement of the small visitor center to watch a film about the fort’s history.

My boys are so used to modern child-friendly museums with their bells, whistles and interactive everything, that I wasn’t sure if they’d last through the short film in the modest basement theater. But between the Native American battle cries and the firing guns of the frontier folks, my boys were hooked.Apple River Fort

However, the most exciting part of our visit was finding live re-enactors dressed in period clothing when we arrived at the rebuilt fort, a short walk from the visitor center.  As they demonstrated various aspects of frontier life, we sampled a meal, tried our hand at packing (fake) gunpowder, and watched a man make the round lead bullets my boys had admired in the gift shop.

They watched in fascination as the old man melted solid lead in a small pot next to a fire. Once liquefied, he spooned a small amount out of the pot and poured into a small mold. Within seconds, the man produced a shiny silver like ball. A few minutes after that, when the metal cooled and the surface lost its shine, he dropped it into my son’s hand.Apple river bullet

I wish it didn’t take weapons and wars to pique my boys’ interest in the past, but I’ll take whatever I can get to keep them interested in days gone by.

See more photos of our visit to this fort on Whrrl.