TOWNSEND -- Firing muskets, baking bread and hand-dipping candles were all in day's work for the men and women of the Revolutionary War era. That past came to life May 31 and June 1 when the Townsend Historical Society, Townsend Minutemen and Stow Minutemen joined forces to erect a "Patriots Encampment," offering a glimpse into what life was like during the early days of America.

Re-enactors explained the differences between types of muskets, detailed the medical procedures of the colonial era, played fife and drum music, set up an encampment and cooked a traditional midday meal on a kitchen hearth.

Jeannie Bartovics, site administrator for the Townsend Historical Society, said the event was planned in order to teach people about the history of the Revolutionary War era in Townsend and beyond.

"Our todays are built on our yesterdays, and we learn from the past. Many things are actually happening today that we've seen happen in the past, too. So I think it's an essential part of who we are, what's made us who we are and helping us plan where we want to go," Bartovics said.

The Townsend Historical Society also offered tours of the Reed Homestead, a home on Route 119 that dates to 1809. It was purchased by the Historical Society in 1970 and features wall murals painted by artist Rufus Porter.

There were also hands-on activities, including a tutorial in how to make candles. Ten-year-old Olivia Latino said that was her favorite part of the event.

"It's been really cool so far. I got to see how they made candles and do it myself," Latino said.

For members of the Townsend and Stow Minutemen, their reasons for getting involved were varied, but usually came back to a love of history.

"I find this time period fascinating. There were a lot of new developments happening in the country, a lot of changes," said Kevin Chartier, an Ashby resident and member of the Townsend Minutemen.

Nathan French, a senior at North Middlesex Regional High School and drummer with the Townsend Minutemen, said his involvement with the group stems from a childhood fascination with the Revolutionary War.

"The preservation of history, people's legacies and the founding of our nation, it's important to pass that along. You can take part in the preservation of history, see something that would normally be forgotten. It's like having a window into the past," French said.

Stow Minutemen member Bob Stokes said that events like this have been a family tradition for the last 20 years.

"We wouldn't be here without those guys. Our country wouldn't exist if they hadn't done what they did, so it's important we remember them," Stokes said.

Both the Townsend Minutemen and the Stow Minutemen are looking for new members. See townsendmm.org and stowminutemen.org.