Thursday, August 18, 2016

Waiting & Rejection

From my Calla Book Collection
Brevity is one of the writing blogs I occasionally follow, and a post titled "Turning the Tables:  The Art of Waiting" caught my attention. Sandra A. Miller and Marc Zegans shared their feelings about waiting to hear from a publisher after submitting a proposal, beginning with the basic truth:  "Waiting sucks!"  It was Marc who offered the best solution:  "The key is to not wait."

I probably think he offered the best advice because that is my approach as well.  Of course, what makes waiting so difficult is the fear of rejection, and Marc has a suggestion to confront that fear:  "...we can simply admit it, tell a friend, decide what we'll do if things don't turn out as hoped, and then plunge back into life."  So, here I am telling my blog friends that I am awaiting a reply from a publisher to whom I have submitted a proposal for Bachelor Homesteader.  

From my Children's Books Collection
I am way ahead of his advice about plunging back into life.  One way I do that is by reading.  I even found a study reported by Nicholas Bakalar in which researchers using data from 3,635 people over the age of 50 (who were participating in a larger health study) divided the sample into three groups:  non-book readers, readers up to 3 1/2 hours a week, and readers more than 3 1/2 hours a week.  They found that book readers lived, on average, almost 2 1/2 years longer than non-book readers, with the 3 1/2 hours or less 17% less likely to die over the 12 years of follow-up and those reading more 23% less likely to die over that period.  Even reading half an hour each day had a significant survival advantage.  For newspaper and periodical readers there were significant but weaker survival advantages.  Wow!  Just another reason to read books!!

With all the focus on construction projects recently, there are things besides reading books that I enjoy but have neglected.  One of those things is spending time at my drawing board, and the pencil drawing of Father Time for my New Year's post was my last time in my studio.  But, at last I sat down to draw a portrait I have wanted to do since my subjects were about 2-year-olds, and now they are young scholars.  I also did a drawing of our cat.  Children and pets are my favorite subjects.

Quilt in progress with old machine
Another thing I enjoy is quilting, and my husband bought me a wonderful new sewing machine over two and a half years ago that hasn't sewn a stitch since we brought it home.  I have completed the task of straightening up my sewing room so I can get to my machine, which is at least a start.  I started once before, trying to discipline myself by beginning step-by-step, reading the instructions page-by-page before actually plugging in the machine.  I didn't get beyond the pages identifying all the parts!  My current approach is just to plug in the machine and go for it!  Even if I break my promise to finally do some sewing, at least the sewing room is neat as a pin...an apt cliche'.  

Marc's advice recommended doing a mini-project, suggesting "Pick[ing] something small that will take your mind off things then reward yourself for doing it."  Maybe confronting all the challenges of my fancy sewing machine is too much.  But, then again, I am typing this on my new computer with Windows 10, so how much harder can the sewing machine be?

Cross your fingers for me that this publisher will like my proposal.  And invite all your friends to my blog and my author's face book page so I can show a publisher a devoted following.  I spent much of the late spring and early summer editing and tightening the manuscript, and I confess that having laid it aside for such a long time made me  more brutally objective in my editing.  I believe the manuscript is stronger, and I hope the editor reading the sample chapters that accompanied my proposal agrees.  In the meantime, I may just start a quilt!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Remember the Maine!

Political cartoon from the County Capital
On August 12, 1898 representatives of the United States signed a peace protocol with Spanish representatives in Washington, D.C. ending the short-lived Spanish-American War.  Although Isaac B. Werner died in 1895, his estate remained open until 1898, and my manuscript continues his story and the story of the Populist Movement until the closing of his estate.

The arc of Isaac's life on the Kansas prairie and the arc of the Populist Movement during the 1880s and 1890s ran a similar path, and I use that parallel arc in structuring the manuscript.

The Spanish-American War may be little known by most Americans; yet, it played an important part in the international role America has played and continues to play today. 

Political cartoon from the County Capital
Isaac's community certainly knew about events leading up to the War, for both cartoons in this blog came from their populist newspaper, the County Capital.  In addition, articles from the newspapers published by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were re-published locally.  These reports emphasized Spanish atrocities committed against the Cubans, reports that drove the call for war.

The explosion sinking the U.S. battleship Maine was what ultimately led to the War, first having been identified as resulting from a mine and only later explained as an explosion of a boiler on the ship.  The atrocities and the explosion stirred the sympathies and anger of Americans to support a declaration of war, but the philosophy of America's "Manifest Destiny" to expand also played a role.  By 1898 expansion had reached the west coast of the continental United States, and many believed it was time to look beyond our continental boundaries.  That was not, however, what stirred the common people.

Charge of the Rough Riders
There was also a split over how to pay for the war.  The populists generally favored a pay-as-you-go approach through taxes, but the wealthier class favored bonds.  The cartoon above-left expresses that disagreement.  Its caption reads:  "Hanna:  I don't see anything down there that money won't pay for."  This is a reference to a speech given by Nebraska Senator Allen opposing the issuance of bonds:  "There is not one of that power, sir, who would not see this government sunk to the bottom of the ocean if he could make a fortune by it.  There is not an impulse of patriotism, not a feeling of affection for the government among them.  The government is to them simply a carcass upon which they can feed and fatten."  President McKinley's advisor, Hanna, is depicted as the diver whispering into Uncle Sam's ear to go to war.

The Spanish-American War lasted only about 3 months, and many of its soldiers were drawn from the unemployed.  The cartoon above-right illustrates the post-war reality for these men.  In the years leading up to the war, many jobless men were living on hand-outs, traveling in search of work.  These "tramps" may have found temporary employment as soldiers, but when the war ended there remained no jobs for them.

Cuba obtained their freedom from Spain, although the U.S. army occupied Cuba until 1902 and it remained under U.S. supervision until 1934.  Puerto Rico and Guam became U.S. territories, and the Philippines did not gain independence from the U.S. until 1946. 

John Hay signs Treaty of Paris ending Spanish-American War
For many Americans today, their primary acquaintance with the Spanish-American War is of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders; however, battles fought on water were probably more important to the defeat of the Spanish.  The Battle of San Juan Hill fought by Roosevelt and the Rough Riders was the main land battle, but the sea battles and the siege at Santiago de Cuba, which led the Spanish Commander for that city to surrender on July 17, 1898 are regarded as the pivotal battles.

About 350 Americans died in fighting for the Cubans, but far more died of disease contracted during the war.  For the Spanish, the war signaled the collapse of the mighty Spanish Empire.  For America, it introduced the U.S. as a major world player.


 


Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Community's Country School

District 70 School, Stafford County, KS
Because early settlers valued the importance of education, providing schools for their children was a high priority.  I have written several blogs about early schools which can be found in the blog archives.  "Early Kansas Schools," 12-17-2015; "Isaac Builds a School House," 10-11-2012; "One Room Schoolhouse Surprise," 7-12-2012; "Once There was a Community," 3-5-2015; and "Back to School," 9-24-2015.

However, I had the opportunity to examine the records of one Stafford County country school--records that dated from 1885 to 1940--and they provided an interesting glimpse of a specific community.  Naturally, I was particularly interested in the early records which covered the time period during which Isaac Werner helped build District 33, Emerson School in Stafford Co., KS and attended various community meetings in the school.

The records I examined were of School District 57, in Stafford County, Kansas, Township 24, Range 15, sections 19, 20, 30, 29, half of 28, 31, 32, half of 33, 6, 5, and half of 4.  School District 57 was located just a few miles southwest of Macksville.
Today's students travel miles to reach school, but before there were buses and cars that could cover long distances quickly, schools were located nearby the families they served.  District 57 served 8 full sections and 3 half sections, drawing its students from 9 1/2 square miles.  
The Clerk's Record for District 57 states that the school district was formed May 9, 1885, notices having been posted April 28, 1885.  At the first district meeting on May 9, 1885 the following officers were elected:  R. T. Anderson, Director; J. L. Carter, Treasurer; and C. E. Seibert, Clerk.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs describing early country schools, children were needed to help with the farm during busy planting, hoeing, watering, and harvesting seasons, so school was conducted during a Fall Term after harvest and a Spring Term prior to planting.  Unfortunately, the school terms occurred during months of more severe weather, which may account for some of the absences I observed in the attendance records.

Eight family surnames were represented among the 1887 Fall Term and 1888 Spring Term at District 57.  Among the 16 students, ages ranged from 5 to 15.  The teacher's method of keeping attendance was confusing, with classes in September, October, and November, but possibly December as well, as there appeared to have been a total of 95 days of instruction.  The same students are listed for the Spring Term, although one 14-year-old boy who did not attend in the fall attended spring classes and entries were made for an unnamed student.  Classes ended May 11, 1888, with a total of 60 days of instruction.  Twelve children had perfect attendance, but 4 boys missed more than 20 days, perhaps at the end of the term when they were needed to work in the fields.

Emerson School House Isaac Werner helped build
Through 1888 the teachers' salaries were $30 a month, except for the last teacher, who received $32.50.  In 1889 the salary reverted to $30, but 1891-1894 the salary was $35 a month.  The Annual Statistical Report posted in another part of the Record indicates that there was no difference between salaries of female and male teachers over those years reported. 

Lumber for the school house was $198 + 30; freight on the school furniture was $27.88; digging the well was $12.50 and the pump was $8.50; the stove and fixtures were $19.10; and plastering the school walls was $49.50.  Charges for coal were $5.50 a half ton.  One expense that stood out as a significant measure of the community's respect for the children's education was $12.50 for a Dictionary!  While these amounts may seem small today, this was a huge expenditure for so few families to share in such hard times.

It was fun browsing through the records of one community's commitment to the future of their children.  I hope you enjoyed looking back about a century and a quarter with me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pot Luck Suppers

When we first came back to the farm as part-time residents, we celebrated with a pot luck dinner on the lawn.  I didn't think it was anything unusual, for when I was a child such occasions were frequent.  Of course, air conditioning was not common in every household, so summer evenings on the lawn were more pleasant than being indoors after a hot afternoon had baked the interior, which wasn't likely to cool off until bedtime or later.  Watermelons cooled in the tank or homemade ice cream the women made inside and brought out for the men to crank were frequent deserts.

For our return-to-the-farm dinner on the lawn, we had guests from distant cities and guest from farms not far away.  We provided the meat and something else that I no longer remember, and our guests brought vegetable dishes and deserts, as I recall.  It was not until the guests from the neighborhood began talking about what fun it was to dine on the lawn--something they hadn't done in years--that I realized that the scene I had recreated from my childhood was no longer common practice.

Isaac mentioned pot luck suppers several places in his journal.  He was the chairman for a Christmas supper at the school house for neighbors that belonged to the Farmer's Alliance.  The People's Party held a pot luck lunch in St. John for a political rally, although they would have called the noon meal dinner.

Pot luck meals have not disappeared--they are just held indoors in air conditioned comfort today.   Sometimes they are family events, like the Memorial Day noon meal where the photographs in the blog were taken.  Sometimes they are school events, like the annual pot luck supper on awards night at the local high school.  When Mother was living in the nursing home, families were occasionally invited to a pot luck supper so that residents could introduce that families.



The food is as good as the cooks who bring it, and that is often very good!  With so many women working, many things on the long tables may come from the grocery store rather than their kitchens, which would not have been the case a generation or two ago.

My favorite pot luck supper story involved the monthly Sunday evening pot luck suppers at our church.  One lady brought a baked ham that was so outstandingly good that all the other ladies asked for her recipe.  She stalled with one excuse after another, until the other ladies finally assumed she was unwilling to share her special recipe and allow every other cook in the community to bake a ham as delicious as hers.

As it turned out, she wasn't being selfish about sharing her recipe.  It was just that her ham had a special ingredient that she knew most of the women asking for her recipe would not approve.  That wonderful flavor they all admired came from her having baked the ham in beer!


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Isaac Kills a Skunk!

When we first returned to the farm, we were told that since skunks are nocturnal animals, seeing a skunk in the daytime is an indication that it could be sick, and further, that rabid skunks are commonly found in the area.  Since then, a skunk in our yard in the daytime is about to be a dead skunk.

In general, I enjoy sharing our farm with wildlife, with the exception of moles and gophers! I'm not happy when deer eat our young trees or when mice seem to prefer houses and barns for their winter lodging, and coming upon a snake unexpectedly makes me jump.  Barn swallows are messy, but they eat a lot of mosquitoes, and it breaks my heart to see a coyote chasing a fawn.  Yet, in most cases we tolerate the other residents of our farm in exchange for the delight they give us.

Perhaps I saw Bambi  too many times and fell in love with Blossom, or maybe it was the charming Pepe' Le Pew in Looney Tunes that gave me such a soft spot in my heart for skunks.  I actually think they are beautiful.  Unfortunately, their odor isn't, nor is the risk of rabies.

Isaac Werner had no soft spot for skunks.  They were a danger to his chickens, and in one instance when a skunk managed to get inside his hen house he killed it with a hammer.  (Isaac never mentioned owning a gun in his 480 page journal, nor was a gun mentioned in the extensive inventory of his estate, although the details did include his toothbrushes!  Apparently he did not own a gun.)

One evening, when he had worked late helping a neighbor put the roof on his dugout, he returned home to find a "family" of skunks in his house.  He wrote that he disposed of them quickly, but he didn't mention what he used to do that, and I can only imagine how his house smelled when he finished!

Whatever Isaac used, he must have been close enough to have risked a bite by the skunks.  I don't know if rabies were a problem for the settlers, but I do know that a skunk that showed up at Isaac's farm was about to be a dead skunk too!   

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lost!

It is a dark, damp, windy morning at the farm, but I had a fabulous post ready to send.  I clicked "publish" as I always do, and then clicked "View Blog" to see the post.  It is gone!  So this morning I am afraid to send another completed blog out into the stormy weather where Mother Nature seems to have intercepted my earlier post.

Maybe she will read it and send it along to you later this morning when she is in a better mood...I'm still hopeful I can retrieve it...somehow.

If not, I'll see you later...with a new post...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Please help me search!

Neelands and Spensers on front porch
I know that I have procrastinated so long that many of you may have thought I would never really get back to my manuscript to make revisions.  Well, I have!  While I was going through the manuscript, page by page, editing and tightening, I collected references to photographs taken at Isaac's farm.  This week's blog shares those references in hopes that someone might identify a photograph in their collection of old family pictures as fitting the description.  (The photo at right is one a blog follower shared with me of the Neelands, who are mentioned in Isaac's journal.)
 
Isaac met amateur photographer Seth Blake at a political rally in Pratt, KS in July of 1890 and was delighted to learn that Seth lived only 7 miles south of Isaac's homestead.  A quick friendship formed, and the following day the two men worked together at Isaac's farm building a dark tent.  Later that day they exposed 2 dry plate experimental views of Isaac's well curb and stable.  
 
Occasionally Seth would leave a camera with Isaac to use, but most of the time he came on Sundays to take the photographs himself.  Isaac took photographs of the Co-operative Potato Patch and of his horses.  When Seth came the following Sunday, he photographed the Millers, the Campbells, the Fracks, and the Fergusons at Isaac's farm, as well as a group of 9 women who posed under the trees and by Isaac's well curb.
 
Arthur, Hazel, Verna & Helen
One Sunday was particularly busy, beginning with appointments with Bonsals and Mayes at their homes, and continuing back at Isaac's farm of Graff and Penrose in their buggy, the Carr team and wagon, boys on horses, girls posed sweetly, Sadie and her children, and Mrs. Henn and her family.
 
The neighborhood made coming to Isaac's place a regular Sunday destination, whether to pose or merely to enjoy watching others being photographed.  One Sunday Seth Blake photographed one group of youngsters in the lovers' promenade and the McHenry team and his boys on horseback.  However, the center of attention that day had been Miss Anna Carr and Miss Balser.
 
Seth Blake failed to get photographs back to people promptly, and the enthusiasm for posing waned, but Isaac was still picking up photographs at Miss Shira's gallery for Blake the day before the 1890 November election.  That same trip, Isaac mailed views of his farm to Harry Bentley in Salt Lake City, and to his siblings.
 
On a later trip he complained about the quality of Miss Shira's work in processing the glass plate negatives, believing too much having been done by an apprentice rather than by Miss Shira herself.
 
As you can see, a great many of Isaac's neighbors had their photographs taken by Seth Blake, and most of those pictures were processed by Miss Shira's studio.  If you recognize any of the family names I hope you will take a moment to remember whether there are any old pictures in your collections that might match the underlined descriptions.  Most of these pictures were taken at Isaac's homestead, so it would be wonderful if an image of Isaac's farm could be found, and equally wonderful if images of people he mentioned in his journal could be located!
 
(Neither of the two photographs above was taken by Seth Blake, but they are intended to be representative of the types of pictures described.  The children on the horse are my aunts and uncle. ) 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Isaac's Neighbors and Acquaintances

George Tousley
Last week's blog identified the early settlers in Isaac Werner's township.  This week I will share more acquaintances mentioned in Isaac's journal.  As those of you who regularly follow the blog know, Isaac wrote in his journal every day from 1884-1891, and the journal was 480 pages in an oversized legal ledger. If you do the math to compute how many days of entries his journal contains, you have some idea of the number of people he mentioned.

I indexed all of the surnames mentioned in the journal, and my index has a column of eight pages, single spaced, listing each surname.  I have not indexed each page on which the surname is mentioned; however, I have noted each year that surname is mentioned.  The indexing does not include 1870-1871 when Isaac was in Illinois.

Dr. Isaac Dix
Several readers of the blog have expressed interest in knowing some of the names.  This blog will not include every name, but what I will do is include names mentioned in the journal during four years or more.  The surnames are alphabetized, so you can search quickly for names in which you are interested.  If you do not find the surname you had hoped to find, you can send me an e-mail at txfen@msn.com with the name(s) in which you are interested and I will reply to you.

Neelands & Spencers on porch of their house
There are a great many names mentioned during periods of 3 years or less, which are not included in this blog listing.  The number of years that a particular surname is mentioned does not necessarily indicate how often the name appeared in a given year.  Some names that appear in fewer years may have been mentioned more frequently during a specific time than names that are included in this blog.  Because early settlers moved on, while others arrived later, some acquaintances did not know Isaac for longer periods.  

The following names are given alphabetically, with the number of years in which that surname appears in the journal given in parenthesis:

Baker (4), Beck (7), Bentley (7), Blake (7), Blanch (6), Briggs (4), Brown (4), Capbell (8), Carnahan (6), Church (5), Clouse (6), Curtis (8), Davidson/Davison (4), Dix (8), Eggleston (8), Farwell (6), Ferguson (5), Frack (8), Garvin (6), Gereke (8), Gillmore (4), Gloyd (5), Goodman (4), Goodwin (7), Green (7), Gullet (5), Hacker (5), Hall (4), Harrison (4), Hart (4), Henn (8), Hicks (4), Hilmes (4), Holbrook (4), John (5), Jones (4), Lewis (6), Marten/Martin (4), Mayes/Maize (5), Moore (4), Naron (4), Neeland (6), Pelton (4), Ross, Mrs. (7), Rowe (4), Searls (4), Seeley (6), Shaler (6), Shattuc/Shattuck (8), Shoop (5), Smith (7), Stimatze (7), Stringfield (6), Swartz (4), Tanner (4), Thompson (4), Toland (6), Tousley (6), Vosburg (7), Webber (8), Wilson (4) 

As I explained, the above-listed names are only a small portion of the surnames mentioned in the journal.  I researched every name mentioned, using records at the courthouse, ancestry.com, gravestones, newspapers, and interviews.  If your ancestor lived in St. John, or claimed a homestead south of St. John or on the northern boundary of Pratt County, or was a merchant in St. John or Pratt, or was active in Farmers' organizations or the Stafford County People's Party, there is a strong chance that Isaac mentioned them in his journal.

Let me hear from you!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Surnames of early settlers

Last week's blog shared the importance of preserving information descendants have about their ancestors so that future generations will not forget their past ancestry.  Often in writing my manuscript about Isaac B. Werner and his community, I have asked readers to look for old photographs.  This week I am urging readers of the blog to review the surnames I am sharing to see if family names appear.

Homesteads and Timber Claims, Albano, Stafford Co., KS


This map was copied by me from  Stafford County History, 1870-1990 and I do not know who to credit with making the original map.  It identifies those settlers who originally claimed homesteads and timber claims in Albano Township.  I copied it while doing research in order to enlarge it, and this copy is of my enlargement, which is still difficult to read because of labeling each of the 36 square mile sections in the township, all of which are subdivided.  The sections are numbered 1-36, beginning in the upper right and continuing in horizontal rows until concluding with #36 in the lower right corner.  Some of the divisions differ, with a larger or smaller claim.  The identification "TC" indicates a timber claim.

You will recognize some of the names from earlier blogs, for example Isaac H. "Doc" Dix has both a homestead and a timber claim in the north half of Section 31.  Isaac's two claims are in Section 33, his homestead in the lower-left corner and the timber claim that was assigned to his brother Henry in the upper-left corner.

Claims were limited to 160 acres, but you will notice that not all claims were in the corners of the sections.  For example, California Smith claimed 160 acres in the center of Section 21 and Mattie M. Beck and Peter A.N. Beck (no known relation) claimed rectangular properties in Section 18.  In addition, not all the claims were a full 160 acres.

To help you read the surnames, I will list them by section number:  #1 Pelton, Hunt, Frack, Wenzel; #2 Eddingfield, Long, Toland; #3 Smith, Williams, Webber; #4 Wasson, Neelands, Dunlap; #5 Neil, Bowling, Weeks, Clark; #6 McKibben, Mainline, Lynch; #7 Curtis, Smith, Goodwin, Markham, Martin; #8 Stambaugh, Shilt, Osgood, Curtis, Rex; #9 Neelands; #10 Cubbage, Neelands, Loftiss; #11 Frack, Pixley, Bowker, Bair; #12 Wenzel, Moody, Moore; #13 Cubbage, Davidson; #14 Tanner, Kackelman, Newton; #15 Toland, Loomis, Bedenhamer, Dilley, Stimatze; #16 Neelands, #17 Grunder, Hart, Frazee, Toland; #18 Beck, Rea, Hainline, James; #19 Smith, Skinner, Fox, Tousley; #20 Hall, Furman, Fitch, Rice; #21 Blanch, Rice, Smith, Stimatze; #22 Tobias, Frack, Carnahan; #23 Tanner, Davison, McHenry; #24 Davison, Hazelton, Goodman, Tompkins, Gibbs; #25 Bushell, Goodman; #26 Davison, Tobias, Cullison; #27 Stimatze, Campbell, Graff; #28 Shattuck, Frack, Henn; #29 Holbrook, Wasson, Vosburgh; #30 Webber, Rearick, Smith; #31 Dix, Fountain, Rogers; #32 Barker, Vosburgh, Rowe; #33 Werner, Ross, Bentley; #34 Mayes, Bonsall, Gareke, Shoop; #35 Young, Cullison, Smith, Tompkins, Dumen; #36 Reynolds, Jacobs.

You will notice as you read the surnames that I did not repeat the surname if the property extended into another section nor if more than one person with that surname made a claim.  You will also notice that many of the claimants were women.   For example, in Sections 24 and 25 you will see the surname of Gibbs, which indicates a claim by two unmarried sisters who occasionally visited Isaac to admire his trees or buy seed potatoes. Sometimes when families arrived they would each build separate residences, whether dugouts, soddies, or shanties, so that each member of the family could claim 160 acres.  This was especially true of siblings.  For example, Jerome M. Vosburgh and his wife claimed the southeast quarter of Section 29 and his unmarried sister Persis Vosburgh claimed the adjacent northeast quarter of Section 32.  Single women were entitled to claim their own homestead; however, when Jerome's wife died and Aunt Persis assisted her brother in caring for his children, some neighbors attempted to claim Persis' quarter, saying that she no longer maintained her own home on the land.  Isaac Werner and other neighbors supported the right of Persis to claim the property as a single woman and supported her contention that she did maintain her own home there.

I hope some of you with ancestors in this region will take time to study this drawing of Albano, Stafford Co., KS and consider whether you have stories or images to share with me.




Thursday, June 16, 2016

Interviewing Relatives of Isaac's Neighbors

Isaac's "Dream Home" glued in his journal
I found Isaac Werner's journal in 2010 because I stayed in Kansas after my Mother's death to handle her estate.  To fill the days while waiting for estate matters needing my attention, I did some research about my family, and in that way I stumbled upon the journal.

Immediately I recognized the historic value of Isaac's journal, and I laid my family research aside to begin what has consumed--off and on--six years of research.  I realized that a few "old timers" remained in Stafford County who might help me collect information about early settlers, and I also realized that many with family connections going back that far were already gone or had memories less clear than they once were.

Now, six years later, I wish I had been more successful in reaching out to some of those people.  However, one gentleman that I did interview was Milton Mason John, Jr.  I was particularly delighted to talk with him because of his connection to Isaac's neighbor, G.G. John.  According to the probate records of Isaac's estate, G. G. John checked on Isaac daily for five months until it became necessary for Isaac to leave his home to obtain round-the-clock nursing care.  G.G. made Isaac an invalid chair and ran occasional errands in town for Isaac.  The request he made against Isaac's estate for his services was minimal, unlike another neighbor who bled Isaac's estate for an outrageous amount, given the wages being paid in the community at that time.

Southern home from 1800s
I came to admire G.G. John for his barely compensated attention to his declining neighbor, and I was eager to learn whatever Milton could share.

G.G. John was a brother to Milton's grandfather, and all of the boys in that family were given double initial first and middle names--Eleazer E., Milton Mason, Olin Olo, George G., and even John J. John.  G.G. John lived just to the west of Isaac Werner's timber claim, and Milton remembered G.G.'s home as quite large, with porches nearly all the way around.  Perhaps because the Johns had come from Virginia, G.G.'s house was built in the Southern style.  It no longer exists.  The information Milton gave me allowed my research on ancestry.com to provide more details that I might not otherwise have learned.

The image at the top of this blog was a clipping Isaac had glued in his journal--perhaps Isaac's dream home he hoped to build one day.  Milton described G.G.'s home as having been built in the "Southern style," so perhaps the photograph above might be similar, or perhaps the clipping Isaac saved with its porches might have resembled what G.G. built.

Milton Mason John, Jr. died this past March 27, 2016.  As a past St. John Postmaster (1955-1959), followed by his service as a rural mail carrier until his retirement in 1989, Milton was known and loved by many people.  I am sorry that he did not get to see my book about Isaac Werner published, but I am so grateful that I had a lovely interview with him that has become part of my research for the manuscript.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2016 Cather Conference


W.W. I inspired painting








Detail of the above painting
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Since my blog post of March 17, 2016 titled "Occupying My Time" (which you can find in the blog archives) shared that my  proposal for a paper had been accepted, I thought you might enjoy a follow up blog about the conference.  This year's Cather Conference in Red Cloud, NE focused on Cather's Pulitzer Prize winning novel One of Ours, in which the main character struggles with finding a purposeful life until he becomes a soldier in W.W. I.  My paper, titled "The Road Not Taken:  Comparing Cather's One of Ours with W.W. I Poetry," began with the Robert Frost poem by that name, a well-known poem which is rarely recognized as being related to W.W. I.  Twenty-one different poets were referenced in my paper, many of whom were soldier poets.  Did you notice that the cloud behind the farmer in the above painting was created from images of soldiers?  Farmers were considered very important to the war effort, as were the frugal cooking efforts of women and the plot gardens growing food for families so commodities needed for the soldiers were not consumed. 



American poet Alan Seeger
Perhaps the poem that best describes struggles most similar to what Cather's hero Claude Wheeler faced is "Sonnet 10" by Alan Seeger.  Seeger lived a bohemian life in Greenwich Village and the Latin Quarter of Paris before enlisting in the French Foreign Legion in 1914, well before his own country entered the war.  The sonnet begins, "I have sought Happiness, but it has been a lovely rainbow, baffling all pursuit..." and concludes "...Amid the clash of arms I was at peace."  Seeger is best known for his poem I Have a Rendezvous with Death, but it is Sonnet 10 that expresses the purposefulness of fighting for a cause in which you believe, which Seeger shared with the fictional Claude.  Seeger was killed in action on July 4, 1916, before the American troops arrived.
 

Der Tag from the exhibition
My paper was well received and I was pleased when several of the friends we have made at earlier conferences came to hear me read.  I had great fun preparing the paper, and I actually enjoyed presenting it.  I'm not sure whether I will ever have the opportunity to read it anywhere again nor whether I will publish it, but the days I spent exploring the wealth of W.W. I poetry, writing the paper, and preparing the slide presentation that accompanied my reading (with the power-point training from my nephew Darin Beck and my 'presentation assistant' Larry Fenwick), was time well spent for all of the things I learned.
 
On display in the Opera House was a wonderful exhibit curated by Tracy Tucker.  The painting at the top of this blog is from the collection of the Herbert Hoover Museum, one of six paintings loaned to the Cather Foundation for the conference.  It was the first time the Hoover Museum had allowed the paintings to travel--quite a privilege for the Cather Foundation.  Also on display was a W.W. I uniform, as well as many other interesting objects, including a copy of Der Tag from the collection of Cather's youngest brother. 
 
The cast of Der Tag
Der Tag is a 1-act play written by Sir J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan) as part of an effort by England to utilize the talents of its famous writers to create propaganda.  Barrie's concept was to show the political and military pressure imposed on the Kaiser to declare war through the characters of Chancellor and Officer, who exit the scene to allow the Kaiser time to reflect on what he is about to do.  He dreams, and The Spirit of Culture enters to urge against war, and the Kaiser (called Emperor in the play) tears up the declaration of war in front of Chancellor and Officer.  Again, he falls asleep and Culture reappears, wearing a bloody wound.  The Kaiser awakens believing his earlier dream had been real and war had been avoided, only to be told by Culture that he had brought the war upon his now devastated people.  The play was performed with high expectations in England and America but was not successfully received, perhaps because the Kaiser was depicted too sympathetically. 
 
Culture offers the Kaiser a dagger to end his regret 

Because of the illness of the woman intended to portray Culture, I was asked to assume the role.  To my surprise, I had a great time!  The play was performed twice in the lovely Red Cloud Episcopal Chapel to a nearly full house both times, and apparently we received more cheers than the actors did in the W.W. I productions of 1915!  (Notice my bleeding wound, a red scarf.)
 


 
 
Learning W.W. I dance steps
As always, we had a great time in Red Cloud enjoying speakers, the papers that were read, author Karen Gettert Shoemaker reading from her book The Meaning of Names, the singing and playing of popular W.W. I music by Kansans Dr. Sarah Young and Judy Chadwick, and learning a few dance steps from the era.  That's my partner stand-in-male-dancer Nancy and me just to the right of the support beam.  We were short of men eager to dance but certainly not short of eager dancers!
 
It is no surprise to any of you who follow my blog that I am a great fan of Willa Cather.  She is not only a great American author but also is among the few great authors to depict the central region of America, and many would say that she is the greatest among them.  You may want to revisit "What If Isaac had met Alexandra Bergson?," 5-2-2013, and "My Steadfast Tin Soldier," 9-25-2014, and the sequel 10-2-2014 for more W.W. I history.  I hope my love of Cather makes at least some of you curious to read her novels and short stories, and perhaps even to visit Red Cloud, NE!
 
 
 


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More "old photograph" Stories

Ancestors on the Wall
The series of blogs regarding old photographs that I have posted in recent weeks has been extremely popular, and people who follow my blog have left comments (don't forget to read the comments at the bottom of the blogs), have posted comments on face book, have sent e-mails, and have spoken directly with me.  I love the comment that encouraged me not to stop "nagging" about the importance of labeling photographs!  We had out-of-town visitors this weekend that even brought a few old photographs to share, but I could offer no help in identifying them.

I want to share two delightful e-mails that I received, because I am sure you will enjoy them.

C.W. wrote:  "I have thoroughly enjoyed these last few blogs.  We too have a box of photos not labeled...  I am trying to go through ours and label as best I can.  We did receive some pieces of furniture when Mom passed away.  I want to put a picture and the name of who it belonged to on the back so our children will know that it is a family treasure.  ...Fortunately we have a granddaughter with a lot of interest [in family history].  She did a really wonderful school project...  I think she will carry on [the family history] for us.  Take care and keep blogging."

Her idea of a photo attached to family antiques is a great one!  Although my blogs have related to photographs, this is a wonderful suggestion for labeling furniture and other family objects.  My mother-in-law was good to tape little stories on objects or put the story inside vases or boxes.

M.H. wrote:  "Lyn, this was a very interesting and informative blog regarding old photographs...  About 10 years ago, I was given a box of old photographs that were mostly not labeled.  They had belonged to my Great grandmother's 2nd husband, and were all of his family.  We had no idea of who his descendants might be.  My grandmother saved them for years and then my aunt inherited them...  She didn't want to keep them, but it was completely against our nature to discard any old photographs.
          I finally suggested that since the Martins were from Larned that we donate them to the Santa Fe Trail Center if they would want them.  They took them and advised me that they would be labeled as Martin family photos, but that they might also be used in exhibits and presentations about other aspects of the photos, such as fashion, hair styles, furniture and other props, etc.  I thought that was a great idea.  We were very glad to have found a good home for the photos.  The moral of the story, as is one of the morals of your story, is:  never throw away old photos."

His thoughtful decision to donate the old photographs to a museum in the community where the family lived is a wonderful suggestion, increasing the possibility that a descendant might happen upon the family images.  Even if that does not happen, the family photographs will help preserve the history of that community.

Thanks to all of you who have shared your stories.  I have certainly learned how many of you have old photographs you are trying to preserve and identify, and several of you have used family gatherings as opportunities to work together in that effort! The kind and encouraging words you send let me know what blogs you enjoy and keep me motivated to eventually get back to revisions of the manuscript telling Isaac's story and the story of the Populist movement in the late 1800s.

Because I have posted these interim blogs during the week, I will not be posting on Thursday this week as I usually do.  The following week I will get back to my usual weekly Thursday posting, but it has been fun to hear from so many of you and to share your own stories about old photographs on this blog!

("Ancestors on the Wall" posted at the start of this blog is the display of framed photographs of those couples who have made my ancestral home their full-time residence.  We now display those images on the wall of the renovated family home (as well as another display of other descendants who have lived at the farm).  My great grandparents may not have occupied the house as a couple, but my great grandmother was certainly the first generation to live in the house.  The grandparents and parents are shown in wedding photographs, including my husband and myself at the bottom of the display.  We are the fourth generation to call it home, but descendants of these couples have been raised in the house and their descendants have visited and/or lived in the house as well.  If a wedding photograph of my great grandparents exists, I am not aware of it.)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Coincidence

Unidentified photographs at the Lucille Hall Museum
This week's post on clues for identifying unlabeled old photographs is proving to be quite popular.  By coincidence, we visited the Lucille Hall Museum in St. John, KS yesterday and saw a perfect example of why labeling old photographs is so important.
 
Apparently, at the time of her death several years ago, Lucille Hall had a box of old photographs labeled 'unknown photographs,' and the museum was hoping someone in the community might be able to identify the subjects of the photographs.  I did my best, but failed to be of any help.
 
Just some of the unknown subjects
I thought I would enter this mid-week post to share this example of why we need to attend to the task of labeling photographs while those with memories of the subjects are still able to provide the information!  Have a special Memorial Weekend remembering veterans and ancestors, and enjoying family and friends!
 
Consider bringing out that box of your own old photographs (or new ones) and making labeling them part of your holiday together!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Identifying Old Photographs

Clarissa Stone
I continue to wish for an old photograph of Isaac Werner.  I know he had his picture taken at least twice by  professional photographers-- in Pratt, KS on Nov. 1, 1890 at Logan's Gallery and once in St. John, probably at Miss Shira's studio.  In addition, his neighbor named Blake took many photographs at his farm; however, Blake did not develop his own glass plates, so those photographs would probably have the cardboard backings of the studios where they were developed, both in Pratt and St. John at Miss Shira's studio.  I mention this repeatedly because I know that families living near Isaac came to his farm to pose for photographs, often posing in the 'promenade' he created in his tree grove or near the 'big tree.'  I still hope that someone who follows this blog will recognize one of those photographs among their ancestor's pictures.

However, I promised to suggest clues for identifying old photographs in your own family collection in this week's blog, and I will use my own experience to offer some ideas.  The photographs are children of Horatio Gates Stone, the subject of "Clue to Stone Family Mystery," 5-5-2016 in the Blog Archives.

Reverse of image above
When my mother-in-law passed away we found a box of photographs from the late 1800s that she had found among her own mother's belongings.  Fortunately, most of the photographs were mounted on the photographer's studio card backings, so the first clue was the location of the studio.  We knew that the Stone family had settled in Iowa, and none of our other ancestral lines were connected with that state, so that was an important clue.

On the back of one of the images was written "Aunt Clarissa died Jan 1906," and we recognized the handwriting as belonging to my husband's maternal grandmother.  Her mother's maiden name was Stone, so one of her mother's siblings would have been her aunt.  We could be confident now that the woman pictured was probably a member of the Stone family in Iowa and was of the same generation as my husband's great grandmother.  (If you look closely under the handwritten notation, you can see that this studio card also indicated the year the photo was taken, 1874.)

Clarissa Stone at different ages
The two photo cards at right are both images of Clarissa when she was younger.  They provide a good example of paying attention to hair styles, clothing, and jewelry as a way to recognize the same individual at different ages or pictures taken at different times.  Notice particularly that while Clarissa has a different charm or locket on her necklace, the band or collar is the same.  The dress is very similar, and may have been the same dress, modified with new trim, a collar, and a different bow for the picture that appears to have been taken slightly later.  Dresses were expensive and were often modified to continue wearing without obviously appearing to be the same dress.

 Looking at a photo card from the same studio, we identified Clarissa as one of the four people in a group photograph.  On the back of the photo card was written "Aunt Clarissa, Aunt Effie, Uncle Fred, Uncle Perry," but no effort had been made to arrange the names in such a way as to identify the individuals.  However, with the clear identification of Clarissa, we could be confident that the other woman was Effie.

Stone siblings
Notice particularly Clarissa's clothing, jewelry, and hair style.  It was easy to identify which woman was Clarissa, even if her facial likeness had not been so obvious, because the clothing, jewelry and hair style were the same as in her individual picture.  This single portrait and the group picture were probably taken the same day, but often women wore the same jewelry or continued the same hair style which may help identify them in other photographs.

Perry Stone
You might assume that this group of four siblings would identify all the grown children in that family, but given that there were a total of eleven children, there were still other pictures that we could not relate to this group.  In searching among the other photographs we found a small image labeled Uncle Perry which allowed us to distinguish that Perry was the seated man in the group photo.  In addition, from those two likenesses we identified the seated man in a photograph of a young couple.  The photo card was from a different studio but was also a Davenport, IA location.

Perry parted his hair on the same side and combed it flat to his head, as well as continuing to style his moustache in the same way, which helped make him recognizable from one photograph to another. 

Perry & Kate Stone
I have used the plural pronoun "we" in reference to the search to identify the people in these photographs.  In fact, I was alone in the search, for my husband had decided that there was no longer anyone living who could identify the images and he was ready to burn the box of photographs.  Now, of course, he is delighted to know who these distant ancestors are, and we have traveled to Iowa to visit the graves of many of the people pictured in the photographs contained in that box.

The best part of the story is that when I posted the photographs on my ancestry.com pages for the Stone family, a descendant of Perry Stone saw them and contacted me.  A house fire had destroyed all of their Stone family photographs, and because I had not agreed to discard the box of photographs, generations of Perry Stone's descendants now have pictures of their ancestors.  

Remember:  You can enlarge the images by clicking on them.

 In summary, here are some clues for identifying photographs:  1.  Begin by looking at the back for names, and remember when you mark your own photographs to include both given and surnames, as well as nicknames that might be important; 2.  Look for clues to identify the location where the picture was taken, as I noted the bridge in the Macksville City Park in last week's blog; 3.  Pay particular attention to hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing that might help you identify a person you recognize from another marked photograph; 4.  If vehicles appear in the photograph, notice not only the make and model of the vehicle but also the license plate to identify the year and location; 5.  Sometimes a pet can help you identify a child; 6.  Look for school uniforms and mascots;   7.  Observe furniture, wallpaper, framed pictures on the wall, things that can be seen through the windows to identify the location and the era, which may help identify the person or family in the picture; 8.  In a group picture, notice the ages of people, especially a family group, in order to identify those you don't recognize by comparing their ages with others that you do recognize; 9.  While studios today do not mount photographs on cardboard backing with the information I used to identify these old photographs, they do often stamp the back of the photograph with their studio name; 10. Local libraries and museums often have old yearbooks that you might consult to identify a class picture.  11.  Occasionally you know that a relative visited a specific destination and a picture posed there can identify the person, as I can identify my great grandparents posed on donkeys in front of the Balanced Rock at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, and sometimes souvenir photographs state the date and location in the photographer's background setting.

To the woman who commented on an earlier blog, "More please," I hope this helps you and others who have old photographs they cannot identify.  Don't give up!  Perhaps it will also inspire some of you to sit down with those photographs you have been meaning to label and begin.  If you dig out that box of old photographs you inherited, you might even discover one of those photographs from Isaac Werner's neighborhood that I have been hoping to find!

(During Sept. and Oct. of 1890 neighbors came to Isaac's farm nearly every Sunday to pose for photographs. Specifically, on Sept. 28 Isaac and Blake went to Bonsels and photographed a group of "some twenty relatives" before returning to Isaac's farm to photograph Graff, Penrose, Carr's team and wagon, and Henns.  On October 5 they photographed the McHenry team and several "young people" including Miss Anna Carr and Miss Balser.)


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Documenting What You Save

     Last week's blog urged saving old photographs, even if the identities of the people in the picture are unknown.  This week I will focus on documenting pictures that you save.  Just because you know the people in the photographs, do not assume that future generations will.  When I found the photograph at left of two children clowning with their fingers in their mouths (for unknown reasons), I only had to flip the picture to the reverse side to discover the names of my father and his younger sister.
     Without my grandmother having taken the time to write their names on the back of the photograph, I might not have been able to identify the children.  With Merle dressed in overalls with her cropped hair style, I might have been confused about whether she was a girl or a boy.
     When the subjects of the photograph are lined up in a tidy row, like the sisters in this picture, it is easy to write their names in the same order as the subjects are standing, as someone who identified these four young women did.
     In both of these cases, it would have been better to have included the last name as well.  As old family photographs are handed down from one generation to the next, first names may be inadequate to identify the subjects of the photographs.
     With a photograph of a group of people, it may be necessary to do more than simply put the names on the back of the photograph.  Since many people now have home copy machines, a simple way to document those in the picture is to lay the photograph on a blank sheet to make a copy, and then you can use arrows to link each person to the names.  In this example both the maiden names and the married names are given, since future generations may not know both.  It would have also been helpful to have provided the location of the photograph, which in this case was the Macksville, KS city park.  The copy with the names can be stored with the original photograph for future identifications.  Some people write names directly on the photograph, which is a clear identification, but it also spoils the photograph.
     Today, many photographs are saved on cell phones, computers, and zip drives.  If some effort is not taken to document those pictures, they will be lost to future generations.  You may think that a graduation photograph or wedding pictures will always be recognized by your descendants, but that is simply not true.  Try showing your own high school graduation picture to a grandchild and you may be surprised that they will not realize that it is you!
     That is even more true of candid shots.  I have inherited boxes and albums of photographs that I cannot identify--and I have done more family research than most anyone else in the family.  If it is important to you that family pictures you treasure be passed to your descendants to be treasured by them, take the time to identify them!
     I continue to hope for a photograph of Isaac B. Werner, as well as photographs of others taken at his farm.  If names and locations were not identified on these old images, it might be impossible to recognize who and where they are more than a century later.  However, there are clues that can help identify unlabeled photographs, and next week's blog will share some of those clues.










Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What to Save?

You are down-sizing, moving from your family home of decades into a small apartment.  You can't take everything with you, and you come upon a box of old photographs of high school classmates who are also down-sizing and don't need anymore things to store.
Of, you have lost a parent and you are going through old magazines, postcards, photographs, and other things you cannot even associate with your parent.  What do you do with these things that your parents saved but that mean nothing to you?
Don't discard them!
Older friends in our home town mentioned to my husband that they had some old funeral cards, and among them was the card of my grandfather.  Would I like to see what they had? they asked him.  Of course the answer was yes, and I went through the small stack of cards and scanned them onto my computer.  The card pictured above was from the funeral of the father of a dear friend of mine.  He died in service when she was very young, and the framed picture of her handsome father hung in my friend's bedroom.  I remember seeing it there and asking her who it was.  She too has passed, but she has children who are descendants of Gaylord Thompson.  How sad it would be if this funeral card were to be destroyed when my older friends are no longer able to preserve it.
Those of you who follow my blog may remember seeing the photograph to the left.  When I mentioned the Tousley family in the blog, a family member shared this image with me, a treasured part of my research about Isaac Werner.  I was delighted with the photograph, and she was pleased with the research I had done about her family, and it was this old photograph that brought us together.
When my mother-in-law passed away, there was a box of photographs that she had inherited at the time of her own mother's death, who in turn had inherited them from among her mother's things.  We recognized none of them, and my husband was ready to give up and discard them.  I insisted that they be saved, and painstakingly I began using my genealogy research to unravel the mystery of their identities.  Eventually I identified all but three of the people pictured in this box of photographs.  In a future blog I will offer suggestions for identifying unmarked photographs.
I have the post cards pictured at right because a thoughtful family going through their elderly aunt's things donated them to a museum.  Sadly, it was not a museum primarily utilized by researchers.  The museum used the antique post cards as party favors at a fund raiser--a clever table decoration at the Victorian tea which was a favorite annual event for many years because of the lovely table decorations, clever and tasty refreshments, and special entertainment.  However, gifting the post cards to a museum that serves researchers could have provided a wealth of information about the family and the historic period through the correspondence on the reverse side of the post cards.  When you donate things to a museum, consider the ways in which that museum will be able to preserve and utilize what you donate.
A museum that does save photographs and documents is the perfect place to donate correspondence, old photographs and albums.  My mother-in-law had a full box of obituaries she had clipped from newspapers over the years, and when I offered them to Michael Hathaway at the Stafford County Historical and Genealogical Museum he was delighted.  Pause before you discard things that researchers might appreciate.
I was doing research for Isaac at the Pratt County Historical Museum when Marcia Brown was the director, and I mentioned some of Isaac's neighbors when I was going through old photographs in the museum's collection in hopes of finding a photograph of Isaac.  Marcia has a memory like a Pratt County walking archive, and months later someone brought in a box of old photographs to donate to the museum.  In going through the box she spotted a picture of Dr. Dix, and she remembered my having mentioned him.  I was thrilled!  She e-mailed the image to me, and now I have a picture of one of Isaac Werner's best friends--thanks to the person who brought the box of unidentified photographs to the museum rather than discarding them, and thanks to Marcia Brown's amazing memory and her thoughtfulness in contacting me.  I also have one of Issac's own books because Marcia spotted it at the library deacquisition sale and bought it for me.
I am still hopeful that someone will discover a picture of a group of men standing in a potato patch and remember my story about the photograph of the cooperative potato growing experiment in Stafford County.  Or some one whose ancestors were early Stafford County settlers shown in a photograph in which the background is a house or a well or a big tree or a promenade in a tree grove that they can't recognize from other family pictures, and they may remember my blog about neighbors who came to Isaac's farm to pose for pictures in a more prosperous setting at a time when their own homesteads were rather primitive.
A wealth of irreplaceable information is destroyed each time a box of old letters or old photographs goes into the trash, and when the people whose memories are preserved in those documents are gone, that information cannot be replicated.  Consider before you discard such things whether they should be preserved and where you might deliver them to insure their preservation.  History is more than just  books about famous people and events!