Frontier House

frontierhouse.jpgFrontier House is a historical reality television mini series that originally aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States from April 29 to May 3, 2002. 

How about surviving in the Montana wilderness in 1883?  The concept was conceived about having three American families homesteading in Montana in 1883.  Five thousand families nationwide applied to make the leap in time.  The producers of the show contacted the Montana Heritage Commission in January 2001 to help train the three families picked for their trip to the past. 

Nevada City is an ideal place to learn the skills necessary on the frontier:  cooking on a wood stove, building a log cabin, how to use horses and milk cows, cut fire wood, and all the other skills necessary to survive in the wilderness of a hundred and thirty-eight years ago.  No gaslights, no maids, no milk, ice, or meat delivered to the door here! 

The Frontier Families arrived at Nevada City on May 5, 2001.  Here they had a concentrated course on pioneer living, learning frontier skills like log construction, working with horses, milking cows, and cooking without refrigeration – skills real pioneers would have grown up using since childhood – into two short weeks.  Then they departed the 21st century for their quick trip back in time. 

The locations of their homesteads, in one of Montana’s most beautiful but isolated valleys, was kept secret so modern-day onlookers would not disturb them.  The time travelers traversed the last left of their journey by team and wagon, which, through far easier than the grueling miles experienced real homesteaders, gave them a bit of appreciation for the difficulties of travel before the automobile. 

Once at the homesteads, they had to build or complete their cabins and begin to plant gardens and produce their own food, much of which depended on their cow and chickens.  Each family had a varying amount of limited “1883” funds that could be spent at a store located many miles away, reached by horseback or wagon.  The kids rode horseback to attend school. 

Even though the homesteads were located within about a mile of each other, each family took their somewhat separate course.  With a minimum of interference from the crew, who were a necessary intrusion to film, they went about frontier living, not only surviving, but making an experience which will no doubt change their lives forever.  

The cabins they lived in during the training are located in the Nevada City Old Town Museum.