Thursday, February 4, 2016

First Capital of Kansas?

Most people know that Topeka is the state capitol of Kansas.  (See "A Kansas Treasure," 10-15-2015 in the blog archives.)  However, they may not know that other places made their own claims to that title.  The first territorial capitol was designated in 1855 by  Governor Andrew Reeder, who selected a site away from the pro-slavery influence of Missouri.  The legislature, having been elected with the help of Missourians who crossed the border to vote, expelled the antislavery members and passed their own bill to move the government to Shawnee Mission,  near the Missouri border.  The maneuvering between the anti-slavery governor and the pro-slavery legislators resulted in a confusing history, but the site near Fort Riley military reservation that was selected by the Governor is now regarded as the First Territorial Capitol Historic Site. 

Lecompton Constitution Hall
Also in 1857, a free-state constitution was drafted, but it was never given serious consideration by Congress.  Next came a second constitution written at Lecompton, which sought admission of Kansas as a slave state with Lecompton as the capitol.  Free-state legislators refused to vote on that constitution, which was followed by a second election in which pro-slavery legislators refused to participate.  While that confusion was being considered, a third constitution was drafted in Leavenworth in 1858, which also failed to get congressional approval.  By 1859 the free-state faction was in control, and they drafted a document that barred slavery and fixed the present boundaries of the state.

Lecompton Jail
This fourth constitution ultimately was accepted, but not without difficulty.  The House of Representatives voted to admit Kansas as a state, but pro-slavery power in the Senate caused refusal of the constitution that had been sent by the people of Kansas to Congress.  The Republican platform of 1860, under which Lincoln was elected, had a plank for immediate statehood for Kansas.  The secession of Southern states from congress removed the opposition to admission of Kansas as a free state, and Kansas became the 34th state admitted to the union on January 29, 1861.

For a brief time, during all of that turmoil, the town of Lecompton claimed the title of the Kansas Territorial Capitol.  Their moment in history is evidenced by Constitution Hall and the Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton. The history of this period is contained in the Territorial Museum known as Lane University & Territorial Capital Museum, dedicated to Kansas history before the Civil War.

Lane University & Territorial Capital Museum
The University was founded in 1865 by Rev. Solomon Weaver and named after U.S. Senator James H. Lane, a free-state leader.  Having been first located in the former Rowena Hotel, the university was given 13 acres that included the foundation of what was initially intended to be the Territorial Capital building when the pro-slavery faction had controlled Lecompton.  The university built on the south half of that foundation in 1882 after the property was donated to them by the state.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower's parents met at Lane University when they were both students there.  The university merged with Campbell College in 1902.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Revisiting History in Lawrence, KS

Stone Plaque in the Eldridge Hotel, Lawrence, KS
The stone plaque pictured at left reads:  "Site of Free State Hotel burned by Sheriff Jones, May 21, 1856 / Eldridge House burned by Quantrell, August 21, 1863."  Isaac B. Werner did not homestead in Kansas until 1878, but he too lived as a boy in a community that suffered the divisions related to the Civil War.  (Read "How Far is Gettysburg," at 6-20-2013 in the blog archives for a discussion of the strong divisions in Wernersville.)

Isaac's family also had a close connection with the city of Lawrence, for his youngest sister Ettie moved with her family from Pennsylvania to Abilene, KS, and from there to Lawrence, KS, where she and her husband are buried.  (See "Kindness of a Stranger," 10-12-2015 in the blog archives.)

Little Red Riding Hood greets fans 
This past weekend we had the pleasure of spending time in Lawrence, and we stayed at the Eldridge Hotel where the pictured plaque is posted in the hall of the main entrance. 

Just across the street from the hotel was a Starbucks that sold the New York Times on Sunday morning. When we lived in New England we loved going out to buy the Times and bringing it home to read for the rest of the day.  It was great fun to be in a city where we could indulge that pleasant memory from our youth by just walking across the street.  We have to go a lot further to buy the Times since living at the farm!

We were revisiting another bit of our own history as guests of long-time friends from college who had invited us to join them for a performance of 'Sleeping Beauty' by the Moscow Festival Ballet.  It was our first visit to the beautiful Lied Center on the Kansas University campus, and we enjoyed the ballet there, as well as seeing the excitement of young fans who lined up in the lobby to have their pictures taken with some of the ballerinas after the performance.

Our friends, Nelson and Judy, treated us to brunch at the Eldridge and then gave us a wonderful tour of campus sites, including a visit to the Dole Institute.  We will want to return to spend more time there.
Inside the Dole Institute on KU campus
The huge stained glass window that greets visitors as they enter pays homage to the home state of  senator and presidential candidate Robert "Bob" Dole.  A second equally massive window honors Dole's service to his country, as soldier, senator, and Republican leader, with a depiction in stained glass of the American flag, shown in the picture as my husband and his friend Nelson discuss the Dole Institute.

Inside the Dole Institute

As Senator Dole has freely discussed during the 2014-2015 campaign season, political discourse  has certainly changed since he ran for election.  My parents were proud to support Robert Dole when he campaigned in Kansas, and when Senator Dole was making his 'Thank You Tour' across the counties of Kansas in 2015, my husband and I attended his visit to Pratt County, where both he and his wife Elizabeth spoke at the Filley Art Museum.  I was pleased to have my picture taken with this Kansas native son.

The author with Sen. & Mrs. Dole
I am confident that my father would be proud of the picture of his daughter with Sen. & Mrs. Dole.  I am not so sure what my father would think of the Republican campaigning this election season, but I am fairly sure his opinion would be about like what Sen. Dole has expressed regarding the tone and opinions stated by some of the candidates.  As Sen. Dole has said, compromise and working together is how political parties get things done for the good of all Americans.

I'm sure I know what Isaac B. Werner would think of the picture.  He would want to know what I was doing holding the hand of a Republican politician!  As those of you who follow my blog regularly know, the People's Party saw Republicans as the servants of the wealthy, and defeating the Republicans, even if they had to work with Democrats sometimes to do it, was their goal.

I hope you enjoyed sharing a bit of our weekend in Lawrence, KS.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Potato Farming with his Neighbors

Somewhere out there I know there must be  photographs of Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors arriving to plant, and later tend and harvest what Isaac believed to be the first cooperative potato patch in Stafford County.

Perhaps he and his neighbors might have resembled this historic photograph of men gathered to harvest onions during that same period of time.

Isaac provided the land, and in his journal he described the morning the group of men arrived--Blanch, Smith, Logan and his boys, Ferguson, Pen Frack and young Carpenter on horseback posed behind the men, with Isaac's peach trees in the background, waiting for the photographer to document the first "Co-operative Tator Patch and Force at diging in Stafford County."

Next, the "Potato Patch Force" went out into the patch to begin work, and another photograph of the men at work was taken, shot looking back toward Isaac's house.

In some old photo album or in an unsorted box on the shelf of a museum, those two photographs must still exist.  How excited I would be if only someone discovered them!  Until that happens I must be satisfied with the similarity of the photograph of men gathering onions to fuel my imagination with how Isaac and his neighbors in their "Co-operative Tator Patch" might have looked!  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Turmoil in the Gilded Age

Herbert Spencer
I am always intrigued by comparing what is happening during the same historical period in various parts of the country, as well as considering how those events have lessons for today.  When I came upon Banquet at Delmonico's by Barry Werth, I had to read it! 
The dust jacket tease describes the book this way:  "The United States in the 1870s and '80s was deep in turmoil--a brash young nation torn by a great depression, mired in scandal and corruption, rocked by crises in government, violently conflicted over science and race, and fired up by spiritual and sexual upheavals.  Secularism was rising, most notably in academia.  Evolution--and its catchphrase, 'survival of the fittest'--animated and guided this Gilded Age."  While this description may have suited the East Coast region, it sounded very little like what was happening in Isaac B. Werner's community.
Isaac arrived in Kansas in 1878, and like many others, he made his first home in a dugout.  Crop prices were good in the early years, when there were fewer farmers growing crops and less of the prairie had been broken for fields.  Those prices led Isaac and many others to go into debt for livestock and equipment, and when prices for their crops dropped, they were buried in debts on which they could pay no more than the interest.
Henry Ward Beecher
The Banquet at Delmonico's in 1882 had little resemblance to Isaac's world of a subsistence living on food stored for the winter from what they could raise during the growing season.  At the banquet in New York City, "Dinner began at half past six with raw oysters on the half shell...With a new course arriving every ten minutes, the feast lasted two and a half hours, a band playing selected pieces throughout...   The menu, printed on an engraved seven-by-five card tatted with a silk bow to a red cloth backing, was written in French...  Course after course cascaded from the kitchen, ferried by haughty French waiters..."
The banquet was in honor of Herbert Spencer, the British philosopher who had expanded Charles Darwin's theory of evolution beyond animals to encompass human society, history, psychology and ethics.  Many of the wealthy men gathered to honor him had adopted his philosophy to justify their own success and the personal wealth they had acquired, often at the human expense of low wages and unsafe working conditions for their employees.  By accepting the notion that their success was based on their superiority--survival of the fittest--they justified the huge differences between their lifestyles and the extreme poverty and harsh working conditions of their employees.
Charles Darwin
Among those in attendance were Henry Ward Beecher (See "Advice from Henry Ward Beecher," 12-7-2012, and "Keeping a Journal," 6-6-2013 in the blog archives); Union General / Senator from MO / Interior Secretary / and adviser to President Rutherford Hayes, Carl Schurz; and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.  Among the other followers of Spencer were lawyers, ministers, academics, and paleontologists.
While these men seem to have had little in common with Isaac Werner, their abusive mistreatment of workers had much to do with the People's Party, in which miners, factory workers, and farmers came together politically to confront with their numbers at the ballot box the wealth and power of men like these.  As the reviewer in Publishers Weekly wrote, " Werth elegantly reveals a firm philosophical foundation for all the antilabor excesses of the Industrial Age."  Those excesses impacted struggling workers like Isaac and led to the political movement in which he participated.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Readers' Resolutions

Time in a Bottle Collection
After our years of living in the South, we learned the importance of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day if we expect good luck in the coming year.  So, dutifully, we fixed our black-eyed peas with jalapeno and ham and baked some corn bread to go with it.

Several of you shared your own New Year's Resolutions via face book, e-mail, and a comment to the blog.  One of my favorites was the suggestion by CH to read more books in 2016!  

On the practical side, JBB challenged her friends to a 91 day de-clutter program to get their houses in shape, and HJG suggested practical steps for a more healthful diet in 2016--dieting being a popular New Year's resolution.

GLW-T's very personal resolution was  "To continue 'releasing myself to the peace of knowing' and do my best to 'handle all the imperfections perfectly.'  And, yes, create a healthier environment so my mind, body and spirit will be a happier me."

RB, a talented photographer, decided his idea of starting a photography blog might make a good resolution for 2016.

Time in a Bottle Collection
It was RM who offered a great continuing resolution idea for those who, like me, are feeling saddened by all the bad reports we hear on the nightly news.  He suggested starting the New Year with an empty jar and adding a weekly note with a good thing that happened that week.  Then, fifty-two weeks later on New Year's Eve, empty the jar to read all the amazing things that happened during the year.  It isn't too late to take his advice and start your "Good Things Jar" for 2016!

For many of us, the pledge to exercise has already lagged, the diet has failed, and other resolutions are getting tiresome.  Don't berate yourself too harshly.  Mark Twain knows just how you feel:

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  *   *   *   Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."

All three of the antique New Year's cards pictured in this blog were found at, and the merchants offering them for sale are shown under each image.  

The illustrator of all three cards was Frances Brundage, (1854-1937), who was known for depictions of children.  In addition to cards, she also illustrated books by Louisa May Alcott, Johanna Spyri, and Robert Louis Stevenson, among others, and her work remains highly collectible even today.

Victorian Dreams Collection
She was taught by her father, Rembrandt Lockwood, and it was fortunate he had taught her well, for when she was only seventeen he abandoned his family and Frances became a professional artist.  Her first illustration was of a poem by Louisa May Alcott, which the author herself purchased.  Frances was in her early 30s when she married artist, William Tyson Brundage.  A tragic twist to her life was that although she is known for her lovely depictions of children, her only child, daughter Mary Frances, died at the age of 17 months.  She remained active professionally into her late 60s and died at the age of 82.

Because she illustrated books such as The Arabian Nights and Robin Hood, as well as calenders and prints, and she was working professionally in the 1880s and 1890s, it is quite possible that Isaac B. Werner might have seen her work.

A great way to conclude is with the resolutions of EPD.  "... be positive and ignore negativity... [and] do just one thing every day, no matter how small, that I have been putting off."

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Last Hours of New Year's Eve

(c) Lyn Fenwick
As the last hours of New Year's Eve 1870 drew to a close, Isaac B. Werner opened his journal.  In a reflective mood, Isaac wrote:  "Who may see the last of 1871, only 365 days but what changes may take place [in] that very short time to come?  How many warm beating pulse may rest motionless 'til then, and what Shakespeare may take his life in the meantime to shine some future day, an ornament to the period?"  

"Very nearly can I say that I enter the New Year--at least--without pressing debts, about $40.00 near at hand to liquidate, while I have also cash in pocket to meet same and maintain square, while that would leave me about square and strapped.  But how many would feel rich at that?"  

Although Isaac was satisfied with his financial situation, his usual longing remained, for he continued his New Year's Eve reflections by listing all the books "...I would like to buy now."  After completing the list, which included the prices (indicating he had been studying the sales catologues from which he typically ordered his books), he continued writing:

"There is nothing like patience to conquer [a] great many things & undertakings.  Whether I really increased the value of my real estate & chattles during this last year or not,  I confidently feel that I enriched my mind, satisfactory to my desire--beyond my any expectations--and in my eye that looks a fortune worth possessing.  'O learn thou young man.  God hath provided wisdom the reward of study.'"  

As 2015 draws to a close, like Isaac, I find myself reflecting on this past year.  I am saddened by the havoc of nature, of war, of hateful discourse, and of the natural sadness time brings as family and friends are lost.  I am heartened by all of the good things in my life, however.  My reflection did not cause me to open a journal but rather to sit down to my drawing board and take up my colored pencils to sketch how Father Time must feel about the burden he has carried in 2015 and how intimidated Baby New Year must be by his task for 2016.

Isaac did not include any New Year's Resolutions in his journal, but here is my challenge to all of you.  If you have made any resolutions, share them with me--in the comment section of this blog, at my e-mail address, or on my Lynda Beck Fenwick Author's page on face book in the comment section below the announcement of this week's blog.  If you meet my challenge, I will share some of your resolutions next week!

Here are my Resolutions for 2016:  1.  Eat and exercise sensibly to get over my holiday indulgences!  2.  Read more of the unread books I have acquired before buying too many more.  (Notice I left myself a little wiggle room about adding really special books to our library.)  3.  Find solitary, uninterrupted time to begin the planned revisions to my manuscript.  4.  Accept the sad and unpleasant things that will surely happen in 2016 with grace and try harder not to be so impatient with the unnecessarily unpleasant and stupid things I see, hear, and do during 2016.  

Here's wishing all of you a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa Fe Scrapbook

The images at right are taken from "A History of Kansas" with the caption "In Early Santa Fe."  The accompanying text reads: "The 'Great American Desert' lay between Santa Fe and the settlements of the western border of the United States. But Captain Pike's interesting descriptions of the wealth and resources of the Spanish country stirred up enthusiasm...and traders, on their journeys to the Spanish city wore a pathway that crossed the length of Kansas.  This pathway came to be called the 'Santa Fe Trail.'  (See "Early Kansas Expedition," 10-1-2015 in the blog archives.)

Santa Fe Street scene
The settlement of the Great Plains disproved the original assumption of the region being the Great American Desert, but travelers continue to 'wear a pathway' to Santa Fe.  The winter holiday season is an extremely popular time for visitors, and we recently joined those travelers.  We did not see any burros in the streets, but we certainly enjoyed the interesting architecture and continued the tradition of trading!

Our favorite adventures were walking the streets to enjoy shops and galleries (and stopping in a few), dining in some of the wonderful restaurants, and pausing to take photographs.  In this blog, I will share some of our photographs.  Remember, you can click on the photographs to enlarge them.

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
On the north side of the New Mexico Museum of Art the shadows preserved the snow-capped walls.  On the south side the sun had begun to melt the snow, but the icicle cast its shadow, as did the tracery of the tree branches.  The photographer was caught in the act of preserving the lovely shadows!

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
Photo Credit:  Larry Fenwick

Wandering through the many galleries in Santa Fe occupied much of our time.  Our first stop was the Joe Wade Gallery, to thank them for their generous cooperation with the recent Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt, KS for an exhibition by two of their artists, Roger Williams and Robin Laws.    

Like the early travelers of the Santa Fe Trail, we saw wild life...but our sightings were of bronzes and paintings!  This sleeping bear on a bench in front of the Manitou Gallery caught our eye, and inside we met Andrea Vigil and Bob Nelson. Nelson may be familiar to some of you from PBS's Arizona Collectibles, but much of our conversation with him was devoted to Lindsborg College, which he attended, and Burger Sandzen, whom he came to admire while a student there.  (See "The Natural Bridge," 8-28-2014 and Part II, 9-4-14, in the blog archives.)

In truth, most of our collecting can only be viewed on the scales!  Dining well is an honored tradition in Santa Fe.  We sampled the local Mexican fare, the pastries and delicious bar small plates in the La Fonda hotel bar, and other delicious meals.  Among our favorites were dinner at the always wonderful Geronimo's Restaurant on Canyon Road and the sophisticated and intimate Inn of the Anasazi on Washington just off the Square.  Both offer lovely surroundings, excellent service, and most importantly, food so beautifully presented and amazingly delicious that either one of those meals would have been worth the trip!

Lunch at the Inn of the Anasazi
Our lunch at the Inn of the Anasazi is pictured at left.  I had salmon, prepared to perfection.  Larry's meal was shrimp and scallops, equally perfect, according to him.  Having been raised in the farming region known as the bread basket of America, (formerly known as the Great American Desert), I appreciate delicious breads, and the Inn did not neglect the importance of that portion of our meal!

Dessert at Geronimo's

Our party at Geronimo's consisted of 4 adults and 2 teenagers, and our server, Arianna, made the occasion a delight for all of us.  The young man with us was curious about a rather complicated appetizer of small pancakes with scallions,  caviar, and other things new to his palate.  Ari's explanation as he ordered and as it was served made that dining experience a special one he will remember, and when his sister coveted (and received) one of his pancakes, Arianna brought her a small tray of them for herself.  By the way, the young man was also brave enough to select Geronimo's special dish, elk, which he enjoyed.  Only because I was so full did I remember to pause for a photograph of my citron  dessert with meringue kisses before spoiling the presentation in my eagerness to begin eating. 

Angels & Ancestors Tree
 One of the highlights of our Santa Fe visit was the performance by the Aspen / Santa Fe Ballet of The Nutcracker at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.  We have seen The Nutcracker in various cities over the years, but this was our favorite.  First, The Lensic Theater is a lovely old movie theater from the era when interiors were ornate and magical.  The theater setting framed the ballet beautifully.  Second, the stage settings and costumes were wonderful and in character with the ballet.  And, third, the dancers brought the story to life perfectly.  As is often true of attending the Nutcracker, watching the fascination of young children in the audience is part of the joy.

It is no secret that I am a child myself about Christmas trees, and when I joined the 'other children' crowded around the table in the lobby selecting the perfect souvenir Christmas ornament, I spotted the exact Clara already on my tree.  I gave my spot at the table to a child awaiting the chance to select her own favorite, content that I already had my favorite souvenir waiting on the tree at home!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, however you celebrate the season!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Early Kansas Schools

An early sod school house
In 1914 the textbook titled A History of Kansas was first published.  Written by Anna E. Arnold and revised and republished in 1919 and 1931, it was used to teach Kansas school children the history of their state.  The book began with these words:  No state has a history better calculated to inspire patriotism in its people than has Kansas.  In this fact lies the greatest reason for teaching Kansas History in the schools.  A knowledge of the difficulties that have been met and conquered in building the State will create in the minds of the boys and girls a greater respect for the sturdy qualities of the pioneers; it will give them a wholesome sense of the great cost at which the ease and comfort of to-day have been purchased; it will stimulate in them a desire to live up to the past.  Obviously I agree with that author and attempt to share the the importance of the role Kansas has played in the past through this blog.  (See "I Love History," 1/3/2012 in the Blog Archives.) 

The Emerson School Isaac helped build
As I have previously shared, the first school house in Isaac B. Werner's community was built of sod.  It was replaced by a wooden structure, with David Carnahan hired as the contractor, assisted by Isaac and William Goodwin in building that school.  (See other blogs in the archives about early schools:  "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.)  While I have no image of the sod school in Isaac's community, it may have resembled the image above taken from A History of Kansas.  The wooden building shown at left in this blog is the structure Isaac helped build, taken several years after its original construction.

If you think school children in your own families might enjoy seeing pictures of the type of schools their ancestors attended, you could consider sharing this blog with them.  During spare moments of the holiday school vacation, perhaps you could scroll through the blog archives to explore other history they might enjoy.  Anna E. Arnold intended with her history book " show forth what manner of men and women were the builders of our State, what motives actuated them, what conditions surrounded them, how they lived, and what they accomplished."  I hope with my blog to do the same.    

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Trees

Our tree at the Filley 2015
Everyone is so busy during the holiday season that I will try to keep my blog postings shorter.  Writing about how Isaac B. Werner celebrated Christmas day is reason enough to need few words.  Nearly always he celebrated alone, sometimes writing letters.  Occasionally he attended a holiday party near Christmas, and one year he was the chairman of a Christmas celebration of Farmers' Alliance members.  If he was lonely, he didn't express that loneliness in his journal, but it must have been hard to be far from family, without a wife and children of his own, on Christmas day.
One current holiday celebration in Isaac's old community  is the Festival of Trees at the Filley Art Museum in Pratt, Kansas.  During December the museum is charging no admission fee, so everyone can enjoy their gallery of trees.  My husband and I decorated our tree for the show with the theme of a "Red, White & Blue Country Christmas."  It has ornaments collected over the years and gifted to us by family and friends.  Eighteen beautiful and unique trees are displayed, and five of those will be given away in a drawing at the open house reception.  The rest are private family trees on loan for the festival.  Read more about the Festival of Trees at  

Close-up of our tree
 Last year we loaned our "Angels & Ancestors" tree for the Filley holiday show, and this year we are enjoying that tree back in our own home.  (See "Collections & Creations," 12/4/2014 in the Blog Archives.)  Part of our annual holiday season is inviting our ancestors to our home as we remember them by placing their photograph ornaments on our tree and seeing them there throughout the season.  (See "Christmas Guests," 12/13/2012 in the Blog Archives.)
Our tree at the Filley 2014
America is a land of many cultures, and we celebrate the holiday season in different ways, some of which we loan to each other!  Cultures around the world celebrate the winter season in a wide variety of ways as well, and some of those customs were brought to America by immigrants.  However those of you who follow my blog celebrate the season, Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Isaac's Love for Cats

Emerson helping with my blog
Mark Twain, Isaac B. Werner, and I have in common our appreciation for the character of cats.  In our marriage, my husband and I have been owned by five cats, all of whom found us.  Prince found my husband at the college farm where he worked when we were in college.  Remington decided that our dog Abbey needed a playmate, and mewed to be found.  Black Kitty and Jacob found us when I put out milk for their wild mother cat in an unsuccessful attempt to tame her. (I didn't know she had kittens--they stayed, she didn't.)  Emerson flagged us down from the side of the road by pretending to be a tiny kitten lost on a freezing night (instead of the 4 or 5 year old Tom cat our veterinarian says he is).  Obviously Emerson is a literary cat, and after seeing last week's blog, he suggested that I do a follow-up this week about Mark Twain and Isaac Werner's particular affection for cats.
New York Herald

Isaac was known throughout his community for his love of cats.  One of his journal entries involved his disgust with a neglectful mother cat who left the box behind the stove that he had provided for her and her kittens.  When Isaac found the cold, apparently dead kittens the next morning, he fired up the stove and wrapped the kittens in a towel and placed them on the door of the warming oven in an attempt to revive them.  He was successful with only one of the kittens.  Unfortunately, even bringing the mother and her kittens into the house and providing them with a box behind the stove was not enough to keep them from freezing when strong winds pushed the cold air inside his house at night after the fire died down.  Many early settlers suffered from frost bite inside their crude homes.  

One of Isaac's journal entries documents a visit by my great grandparents, Aaron & Susan Beck, who came looking for a kitten to adopt.  The cartoon at above-left was published in the New York Herald on December 13, 1925 to accompany the memoirs of Clement's secretary Mary Howden.  The caption reads "That cat will write her autograph all over your leg if you let her."

Mark Twain's love for cats of legendary.  He wrote, I simply can't resist a cat, particularly a purring one.  They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.  

The portrait at right is by Connecticut portrait artist Susan Drake.  To see more of her work you may visit her website at and see some of the famous people she has painted.  Her studio is called The Lobster Pot, the name given by Twain to the property when he owned it at the turn of the last century.  If you are lucky enough to consider having her do your portrait, you may find out how to reach her at that same site.

Twain admitted "Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these."  Certainly he and Isaac would have hit it off well, for Twain also declared "When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction."  

Two of Twain's passions!
In a letter dated October 2, 1908, Twain wrote to Mable Larkin Patterson about two of his passions--cats and billiards.  "One of them likes to be crammed into a corner-pocket of the billiard table...and then he watches the game (and obstructs it) by the hour, and spoils many a shot by putting out his paw and changing the direction of a passing ball."

Well known for his own yarns, Twain admitted his awareness that a falsehood will travel forever with countless re-tellings when he said, "One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives."  

Some people resent the occasional indifference shown them by their cat, but Twain regarded that as one of the breeds most admirable qualities.  "Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash.  That one is the cat.  If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."  --from Twain's Notebook, 1894

Who says cats aren't loving?
Legend has it that there are 'cat people' and 'dog people,' but if that is so, some of us are exceptions to that rule and love both.  Since I have shared with you the names of all our cats, it seems only fair that I mention our two dogs as well.  First came Lady, a beautiful black and tan mixed-breed, small spaniel, who took care of us through college, the Air Force, and my husband's career start and my law school.  Then came Abbey, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel who became Remington the cat's best buddy (but only when no one was looking!) 

Frankly, we have found both our cats and our dogs to be loving companions--although I confess that training a full-grown Tom cat is proving next to impossible.  We have, however, taught him that he shouldn't be doing what he is going to do anyway! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Shared Love for Books

Photo credit:  Larry Fenwick
On a recent trip to Fort Worth my husband encountered this sculpture of Mark Twain, and knowing how much I would enjoy seeing it, he paused for some photographs.

Among the many books in Isaac Werner's library was Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad.  On February 24, 1871 he recorded in his journal:  "Wrote and ordered again a copy of Innocents Abroad...,"  but it was clearly not the first copy of Twain that he owned, for on March 2, 1871 he wrote in his journal, "During eve boys standing round store reading Mark Twain and general fun."  The copy that he had ordered arrived March 10, 1871:  "I received for express a copy of Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad."  Isaac's last entry about the book was made on March 18, 1871:  "During day I read Mark Twain's description of Cathedral at Milan, just feeling interested to read up about that building."

Early edition
Innocents Abroad was published in 1869 and is an account of Twain's traveling with a group of Americans in 1867 aboard a chartered vessel called the Quaker City.  The book was the best selling of all of Twain's books during his lifetime, and it remains one of the all-time most popular travel books.

Stone plaque
Near the statue of Twain was this plaque, which reads:  Given to the Families of Fort Worth for the Joys of Reading Together.  The donor was identified as "Red Oak Books."  Of course, my curiosity lead me to research the donor, and I learned that in 1991 Jon and Rebecca Brumley established the Red Oak Foundation intended to encourage reading to young children.  As part of their mission Red Oaks Books gives over 37,000 new, hardcover books to disadvantaged families each year.

Photo credit:  Larry Fenwick
One of the first things that attracted me to Isaac Werner was our shared love for books.  Not only do we both love books, but we both value the importance of building a personal library.

Clearly Jon and Rebecca Brumley share that love for books and realize not only the importance of reading to children but also the importance of each child having books of his or her own.

Someday I just may join Mark Twain on his bench, and if no one is nearby to laugh at the silly lady talking to a statue, I might even tell Twain about the homesteader on the Kansas prairie who loved books and who read Innocents Abroad with his friends. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Consequences of Hard Times

Las Animas Courthouse
Isaac's closest neighbors in 1888 were the Bentleys, whose claim was directly east of his own homestead. Harry Bentley and his son-in-law, Fred Weeks, often exchanged work with Isaac. His close relationship with the family is apparent from his journal entries of February 6-11 of 1888 when Isaac developed a serious health problem with the swelling and festering of one finger which spread to his hand.  When poulticing and wearing the hand in a sling did not resolve the problem, he began staying with the Bentley's, the only time mentioned in his journal that he sought the care of a neighbor prior to his final illness.  With such a close relationship with the Bentleys, Isaac was particularly distressed when a financial crisis in their family occurred.

Times were getting harder and most settlers had mortgages they were struggling to pay, most of the time only able to pay the interest and renew the original notes.  Their debts worsened as interest rates rose, and for many of them the interest they had paid significantly exceeded the original principal of their loans.

Las Animas Railway Station 
On March 26, 1888, the month following Isaac's stay with the family, son-in-law Fred Weeks was arrested for having disposed of mortgaged property.  After being released from custody for what was supposed to be the opportunity to secure bail, Fred "skipped," according to Isaac journal entry.

In those hard times it was not unusual for lenders to require someone to co-sign notes, in case the borrower was unable to pay.  Unfortunately for the Bentleys, they apparently had co-signed or they assumed their son-in-law's obligation.  Isaac's journal entry of April 4, 1888 read, "Fred Weeks came sneaking home to Bentley's from his skeedadle trip and arrested."  The journal entry of the following day explained the impact on his friends:  "The Weeks financial difficulties somewhat compromised with his creditors over at Carnahan's, with the Bentley family mostly divested of their property--save what trusted in their hands by creditors."  Whether they had co-signed or agreed to assume their son-in-law's debts after his arrest, the financial impact on the Bentleys was devastating.  (Carnahan was the community's Justice of the Peace, and apparently this legal matter was handled locally rather than in St. John.)

Las Animas Jail on Courthouse Square
On April 27, 1888, Isaac's journal records Mrs. Bentley's decision to rent their place to "old Hacker." Isaac talked with the Bentleys about renting their land, and he stored their share of the crop, as well as keeping an eye on Hacker for them.  The Bentleys had not been able to take all of their belongings, and Isaac was watchful of the furniture and other possessions stored in the upstairs of their home.

The Bentleys settled in the town of Las Animas, Colorado, the county seat of Bent County.  This is not the same place as the County of Las Animas, whose county seat is Trinidad.  (See "Isaac's Neighbors Leave Their Homestead" at 4-4-2013 in the Blog Archives.)

Las Animas Courthouse, Bent County, Colorado
On August 21, 1888 Isaac recorded in his journal that "Mrs. Ross and old Hacker packing the Bentley goods to ship to Las Animas" and on August 24, 1888 Isaac recorded having taken those goods to the St. John depot for shipment.  As a post script to the Bentley's story, they hoped to return to their claim, and Harry returned for several days the following year, with the intention to re-establish their home there.  Instead, the land was sold and the family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Because the Bentley story was such a part of Isaac's life in 1888, I was eager to see Las Animas, Colorado when we passed through recently.  All of the photographs included in this blog were taken there.  I attempted to research the Bentley family further, but I could not learn what their livelihood became after selling their homestead nor whether Salt Lake City became their permanent home.  All I know is that Mrs. Bentley came one more time to get the last of their things, and although Isaac enjoyed friendships with subsequent occupants of the Bentley homestead, he regretted having lost the Bentley's as his neighbors.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

School Days & English Texts

Studying English
I have saved my husband's and my own high school and college English texts, believing they might have a use to me as a writer.  I'm sure I have looked at them a few times over the years, but not that many times, and as our bookcases fill and more boxes of books remain, I decided to reconsider the usefulness of the old textbooks.

I picked up my husband's high school senior year English text first, and on the flyleaf, neatly written in his school boy penmanship, was the following quote:  "Do half of everything you don't want to do and you'll gain twice as much knowledge as if you would have done something you liked."  I was impressed by my 16-year-old husband-to-be choosing to write that advice in his book.  I continued to flip through the pages and was surprised to find much more than grammar exercises.  The text book is titled English in Action, and its contents live up to the title. 

For example, Chapter 9, "Thinking for Yourself" begins by saying, "much depends upon people who have learned to think for themselves, to make decisions, and to act upon them.  The very basis of our democracy is thinking citizens."  It continues by warning "don't accept too quickly what you see, hear, and read," and continues by pointing out the distinction between objective writing, which "tends to rely principally upon reporting observable facts [and] subjective writing [which] tends to describe or convey opinions, emotions, and judgments."  Wow!  I had no recollection that my senior year English text book went so far in explaining the power of words--both the power to inform and the power to mislead and subtly influence readers' and listeners' thinking.

Name Calling
Beyond the power of words we use and words we read and hear, the text book continued with a lesson teaching students the danger of misleading themselves.  "Because we like to think of ourselves as reasonable beings, we sometimes invent reasons for doing what we want to do."  What followed was a simple but very informative summarization of logic and reasoning, beginning with ways in which emotional responses can mislead--Pride that blinds us to seeing our own failings; Fear of things new or different; Prejudice or prejudging; and allowing Daydreaming to persuade us something is reasonable or likely.

Band Wagon
Next came an explanation of Fallacies--Hasty Generalization; Mistaking the Cause; False Analogy; Ignoring the Question; Begging the Question; Attacking the Person, not the Argument; and Misusing Statistics.  A single paragraph explaining each of these was given, and in simple terms the fallacy was described so clearly that each could be understood.

Self editing
The next section dealt with Propaganda, introducing first three propaganda tricks:  Twisting and Distortion, Selective Omission, and Incomplete Quotation.  That was followed with what the text book described as "devices often harmless in themselves...that encourage unthinking acceptance."  Eight examples followed:  Testimonial, in which a well-known person promotes someone or something about which they have no special qualification to testify; Band Wagon, in which it is implied that "everybody" believes or does something; Plain Folks, in which the appeal is based on being a friendly, humble, salt-of-the-earth person just like you; Snob Appeal, which uses the opposite approach to make others feel more discriminating or exclusive; Glittering Generalities, in which words with generally positive appeal are used, like patriotic, forward looking, or other terms popular at any given time; Name Calling, which pins negative labels on those with whom the speaker disagrees, like "radical, reactionary, dictator, isolationist, or appeaser," and Transfer, in which symbols most people admire are used in order to transfer that appeal to the person using them, such as the political use of the flag.

A final example that was given in the text book was Scientific Slant, which the authors explained: "In most people science inspires awe and faith, which can easily be transferred to the product [or concept]."  I'm not sure the use of Scientific Slant necessarily has the same influence on people today, at a time in which scientific evidence is often distrusted or ignored.

Diagramming Sentences
I was surprised and impressed to find training in logic and reasoning included in an English text book published in 1960.  As a teacher, lawyer, and author, I am well aware of the importance and power of language.  I knew that grammar was emphasized when I was in school, more so in my region than in the region of the country in which I taught high school English, where the reading of great books received more emphasis. 

Isaac Werner was respected in his community because of his superior language skills.  Neighbors came to him to put their agreements into the proper words and write their contracts.  He was asked to be a speaker at the meetings where farmers gathered to find ways to educate themselves about farming, marketing, and increasing their political power.  People of Isaac's time respected the importance of education, and the building of schools was one of the earliest things settlers did.

Understanding the impression we make
My high school English text book included many pages diagramming sentences, a skill which I understand is no longer taught, and which I believe should be!  In fact, as a lawyer, I am certain many contract disputes would never happen if the lawyer drafting the contract were schooled in diagramming sentences.  My husband's old English book contains all the topics I would expect to find in a traditional English text, such as parts of speech, punctuation, grammar, and style, and that information is essential.  However, the unexpected discovery of the chapters meant to help students implement language effectively in their daily lives convinced me that as crowded as my book cases are, this book deserves a place!

(All of the images are taken from the 1960 English text book.)