Thursday, June 13, 2019

Isaac Werner Visits Cullison, Part 3

Wagon displayed in Stafford County (KS) Museum
Having been successful marketing his potatoes further south of his community, Isaac Werner planned his last trip before winter.  The cold weather required special preparations for his trip, which began October 24, 1887.  "By 9 a.m. I got done choring & off with my load of potatoes for Stringfield's [the local blacksmith].  Got mares shod in front & off for Cullison.  There by 2 p.m. & cold raw NE air & cloudy, about bordering on snow.  Disagreeable cold to be out unless extra warm dressed to sit on wagon."

Eager to resume his trip in daylight, before temperatures dropped with the setting sun, " 3 left Cullison & by dusk turned in at J.P. Chinn's ranch 7 miles N. of Sun City.  Chilling night air sure, covered my potatoes some extra."

Isaac "found Chinns a clever family."  In the 1890 Federal Census, it appears that John P. and Joanna Chinn had both been born in Kentucky.  They had four sons--Isaac L. (born about 1853), Garrett C. (born about 1855), John T. (born about 1857), and Eddie D. (born about 1863), all of whom were born in Iowa, indicating that the couple had not come directly from the land of their births to Kansas.  By the 1900 Federal Census, J.P. Chinn is a widower living by himself in Pratt, Kansas.

Bachelor Isaac, living alone as he did, enjoyed the opportunity to visit with people he found interesting, and after his night's rest, the following morning had "cleared off and moderating into pleasant day," so he lingered for "a lengthy morning talk with Mr. & Mrs. Chinn," delaying his start until "by 10 I got started & by noon down to Sun City, good roads and agreeable weather."  Although Isaac had taken the precaution of covering his potatoes "some extra" the night before, a "few got frost bitten on top layer under 3 thicknesses of wagon cover." 

Slicker Ad from St. John County Capital newspaper
Isaac was disappointed when, unlike the market for his previous marketing trips to Sun City, "potato market somewhat dull--money so scarce.  Finally I sold 5 bushels at Hotel and 16 1/2 to dry goods store (Dougles), all at a dollar a bushel."  He did a "a little trading & by 4 ready to start back, & after dusk & moonlight by 8 to Spring Vale.  Staied [sic] there over night in feed stable.  Thirty-five cents to hay and stable."  As part of my research for the manuscript, my husband and I traced Isaac's route for this trip, but our search for Spring Vale found no remaining trace.  

The next morning dawned "fair & pleasant," and Isaac went to Wellsford to get "some needed harness trimmings & collar."  Unfortunately, Isaac had forgotten his new slicker and had to backtrack to Spring Vale to retrieve it.  That done, Isaac headed to Cullison to feed his team.  After giving his team a short rest, he headed to Pratt, making that day's journey about 40 miles.

Next week's blog will conclude Isaac's potato marketing trip as he does some shopping in Pratt and pauses for a visit with a neighbor before returning home.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Isaac Werner Visits Cullison, Part 2

James B. Cullison moved on to Oklahoma with his family, but the town named for him began to grow.  (You may visit last week's blog to learn about the young family's arrival on the prairie and the roots of Cullison.)  By 1887, the new town was thriving, and Isaac B. Werner  decided to travel south of his claims in search of markets for his potatoes.  On July 21, 1887 he loaded 4 bushels of a neighbor's corn and 9 bushels of his own potatoes "...and by 2 p.m. got started off & by sun down in Cullison, staied [sic] at feed stable."

When Isaac arose the next morning he left Cullison for "...Spring Valley with my potatoes and sold same to Bridge camp at 87 1/2 cents a bushel."  The camp he mentions was an encampment of rail road workers building a bridge for the rails headed west.  He passed through Cullison on his way home, but the next morning he took a load of potatoes north to St. John.

On July 12, 1887, he decided to travel further south in search of potato markets, and although he passed through Cullison, he continued in the dark to stay with Judge Purdy overnight.  He was headed for Sun City, and " 11 got in there, among winding hollows & green trees."  Isaac commented on the corn, only fit for fodder, and the dry crops.  

Isaac's library contained books of all sorts, and his guesses about the terrain he was passing through  suggests his knowledge of geology.  "[C]urious country around there, once a flat country but gullies started and washed by ages & frosts crumpling projecting rock flatten bluff sides down to gentle sloping & now green grass covered."  In Sun City he got a dollar and more for his potatoes and fifty cents for his corn, and with storm clouds coming from the west, he returned to Cullison for the night.

Near the end of August, Isaac made another trip to Cullison, again spending the night in the feed stable.  Given the recent history of severe storms in the Greensburg area, I read this passage written in Isaac's journal on August 30, 1887, with particular interest:  "Trifling shower working from NW against light-sprinkling clouds coming up from S tending to sprinkle from both directions, but the NW movement conquered finally, some lightning & thunder & towards 4 p.m. some of steadiest showering for a good hour's duration seldom witnessed; seemed like 6" of water fell, ground flowing & covered, the upper part of shower going S and lower part blown by on strong wind from S at wind of almost cyclonic for short spell tearing down some buildings and several at Greensburg.  I staied [sic] over night in Metropolitan feed stable, its floor flooded 6".

Despite the conditions and the hard pull for the horses, he went to Greensburg the next morning and "by 4 p.m. soon disposed of my 18 bushel corn at 45 cents and ten and a half bushel potatoes at $1.25," calling Greensburg "a live town, business booming on all sides."  He headed east for 12 miles, spending the night in Haviland to let the roads dry over night for easier travel.

Of particular interest to history is that when he reach Cullison the next morning, the "...Rock Island R.R. track entered town by noon"

Next week I will continue with Isaac's return to Cullison in October. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Isaac Werner Visits Cullison, Part I

James B. Cullison (1857-1936)
First, before linking the information taken from Isaac B Werner's journal about his visits to Cullison, I must give credit to Jeffrey R. Cullison for his "A Brief History of Cullison, Kansas" posted online and dated 1997.  The last activity I found on the web page is more than ten years old, but I am grateful his information remains available, and it makes the journal entries by Isaac in 1887 even more interesting.

Growing up, I was very familiar with Cullison, for its school was in the Skyline League, along with the Byers School that I attended.  There was an active 4-H Club in Cullison, so I knew kids my own age through 4-H activities.  

My husband and I left Kansas after college, and although I had passed Cullison by on the highway, I had not visited the town for many years.  In the "Brief History" written in 1997, author Jeffrey R. Cullison writes:  "Not much remains of the old Cullison of prosperity and boom times.  A few old buildings are all that is left of those years.  I visited Cullison in 1987 and could not help but think of part of it almost as a ghost town."  At the 1986 reunion, several thousand people had come to celebrate its Centenial Year, and an unpublished "History of a Prairie Town" was written by Clara B. Farnsworth, which author Jeffrey R. Cullison consulted.  Pratt author J. Rufus Gray added information in his 1977 "Pioneer Saints and Sinners."  Now, I can supplement their records with entries from the journal of Isaac B. Werner.  Like author Jeffrey R. Cullison, when my husband and I finally exited the highway to tour Cullison, little that I remembered remained.

Founder James B. Cullison, pictured above, was a young lawyer with a wife and baby when he staked a preemptive claim and built a little shack on the land that would become Cullison.  The town was platted on his homestead on March 17, 1885.

Like many communities on the prairie, success depended on the railroad, and those towns through which the railroad passed were more likely to prosper.  J.B. Cullison realized this, and attempted to profit from acquiring land through which a proposed railroad would pass.  A good idea--but when the railroad changed its mind, his investment dreams disappeared.  He participated in another site, but as for his family, his dreams had moved south.  He staked a claim in the Oklahoma Cherokee Strip, and made his dreams come true as a lawyer practicing in Enid.

Cullison did plat a town and get a railroad, and by 1887 was incorporated as a 3rd class town with about 2,000 residents.  It was during that very year that Isaac B. Werner paused in Cullison several times, which are recorded in his journal.  More about that in next week's blog post.    

Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Memorial Day Tribute

Detail of a Painting Honoring W.W. I Soldiers
It has become a tradition with this blog to recognize Memorial Day with a specific post that week.  Many have included photographs taken at our local cemetery, showing the veterans carrying the flag to honor those buried there.  You can open the May blogs and scroll to past postings to read those older blogs from past years.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States, established to remember and honor those who died while serving in the military.  In most local communities, remembrances are not limited to soldiers buried there but rather, flowers are placed on the graves of family and friends as well.

Traditionally, Memorial Day was observed on May 30th during the years from 1868 to 1970.  Since 1970, the date has been the last Monday in May.  Many traditions have changed over the decades, but it seems that by changing Memorial to a holiday weekend, the recognition of fallen soldiers on the day set aside for that purpose has diminished, with people now using the weekend for pleasure trips.

Reminders of the service to the nation by our men and women in uniform deserve to be observed, and this years Memorial Day blog is going to reflect back half-a-century to another form of recognition.  A few months ago I was going through keepsakes and discovered a simple silver bracelet baring the name of Commander Raymond Vohden.  Beneath his name is the date 4-3-65.

Bracelet 'lest we forget' POW Raymond Vohden
Some of you may remember bracelets like the one I wore during the years of the Vietnam war, a symbol to remember American prisoners of war.  It had been a long time since I had worn the bracelet remembering Commander Vohden, and I decided to do some research.  Did he eventually return home?  How long was he imprisoned?  Is he still living?

This is what I found:  Raymond Arthur Vohden,  an Air Force Pilot, was one of those 'lucky' prisoners who survived to be released.  Upon his release, he is quoted as having said, "After the ordeal I've been through for the past seven and one-half years, I can handle any situation that comes up when I get back."  However, returning soldiers did not always find it easy to slip back into their old lives.  Vohden had written to his wife after six years as a prisoner of war, expressing his permission that she file for divorce and "make a new life."  She did file, but when the cease-fire was negotiated not long after, he asked her to dismiss the divorce proceedings.  She did.

He was not alone in finding it difficult to acclimate to the changes that had occurred.  In some cases wives had entered new relationships, lonely and uncertain whether their husbands would ever return.  In other cases, wives had changed, becoming more independent and less willing to hand back the responsibilities in the marriage that they had assumed, which these women now preferred to continue doing.  In still other cases, the 60s had brought social changes to those at home that were unacceptable to the returning POWs and caused friction in their marriages.  Not only their wives, but also the children they left behind had changed, adding to the difficulties of rejoining the family.

Arlington National Cemetery
A newspaper article shared the story of difficulties experienced by Vohden and his wife when he returned.  She described the initial exhilaration of his return, but said he became depressed by how things had changed during the almost eight years of his absence.  He acknowledged that he struggled with cultural changes, particularly the 'sexual revolution.'  The newspaper article ended with his decision to get away by himself for a while and "just to kind of enjoy life."  His wife agreed that he needed to be alone to work out some of the issues he was facing.

I did not find a follow-up to their story.  I do know that Raymond Vohden died November 21, 2016, leaving behind a wife, four children, eleven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.  Interment was to be in Arlington National Cemetery.  Because the given name of his wife was not included in the 1973 New York Times article, I do not know whether they resolved the issues caused by their long separation during the war or if the wife mentioned in his obituary was a second marriage.  I am certain, however, that he paid a high price not only during his imprisonment but also in re-entering a changed society following his release.  I hope he found the happiness he longed for, and I am glad that the POW whose bracelet I wore was able to return.

On Memorial Day, not only the men and women who died in service to their country, but also those whose lives were inevitably changed by their service, deserve the nation's recognition and thanks.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Meet Rebecca's Children

Since last week's post was about Isaac Werner's mother and some important events in her life, this week I will share four other important events--the births of her five children!

On May 23, 1844 Rebecca Werner gave birth to twin boys, Henry Beckley Werner and Isaac Beckley Werner.  To both boys she gave her maiden name of Beckley as their middle name.  Henry did travel some before his marriage, but he chose to settle down with his wife Eva {Hain} and son Charles near the Pennsylvania area in which he was born.

Next came daughter Emma Rebecca Werner, born October 3, 1846, to whom she gave her own given name as a middle name.  Emma married William E. Good, an executive with the railroad, and they had four children:  Miriam, Florence, Paul Eckert, and Marriott Augustus.  Emma spent her life in Pennsylvania, living in Philadelphia at the time of her death, and buried in Redding.

A fourth child, daughter Elmira Rebecca Werner, lived only briefly, from 1849-1850.

Rebecca's last child was Henrietta Catherine Werner, born August 5, 1851.  She married Samuel Palmer, a pastor, called not long after their marriage to a church in Abilene, Kansas.  Four daughters were born of their marriage:  Miriam Agusta, Emma May, Mary M. and Gertrude Octavia.  Rebecca lived with the Palmer family until her death and is buried in Abilene.  A few years after, the Palmer's moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where Ettie and Samuel are buried.

Composition book for 1866-1867, Ettie C. Werner, Harrisburg, Pa.
Rebecca's surviving children lived successful lives, and their mother must have been a contributing factor.  I like to think that her influence on education made a difference.  My research found that her twin sons were still students at the age of 17, a significant education for that era.  The younger daughters were still in school at that time as well.  Unfortunately, I could find no further records of their educations, although there may have been more.  (See Ettie's book, which seems to indicate she may have attended a boarding school in Kentucky.)  What I did find was that Ettie's daughters attended college.  Education was clearly important to the Werner family.  I have journals kept by Isaac, Henry, and Ettie, and Emma may have kept one as well, although I did not locate it.

I was very fortunate that a descendant of Ettie shared a faded copy of Ettie's journal kept in 1866-1867 when she would have been about fifteen.  The image above is from that journal, and I transcribed the faded ink of a passage I found very telling of the importance the Werner family placed on reading.  Obviously, Isaac's amazing library has been mentioned many times in this blog, and his youngest sister clearly shared the same love of reading, as I suspect all of the siblings did.

From the words of the teen-aged Ettie, taken from her "Composition Book," it is obvious that her love for books was strong.  "We should also be careful to read at right times, for if we create a passion for reading it [the book], and then do not control this passion we often get to be very careless and negligent about a great many other things when we have commenced some book in which we are interested, it is very hard to resist the temptation to sit down and read and not attend to any thing else till it is finished."

As someone who rarely lacks having a book near at hand, I can certainly appreciate Ettie's words.  I only wish that passion were stronger among the larger population today.  Surely credit is due Rebecca for having nurtured such a love of reading and of learning in her children.    

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mothers' Day Reflections

With Mother's Day this week, it seems relevant that I reflect on Isaac Beckley Werner's mother, Margaretha "Rebecca" Beckley Werner.  Shortly before his mother's death, Isaac recorded in the upper-left corner of the fly-leaf of his journal that his mother was still living.  She died on April 22, 1893, two years before Isaac's death.

Death of Tecumseh in 1813

Rebecca, as she was commonly known, lived during exciting times in America.  She was born September 11, 1812, during the years of the War of 1812, in which Britain had imposed a naval blockade to hinder neutral trade with France during the Napoleonic Wars.  The United States challenged this as illegal under international law.  Furthermore, Britain supplied Native Americans with weapons used to raid American settlers on the frontier, intending to hinder further settlement.  Particularly well known is the Battle of New Orleans in January of 1815, when British forces, unaware of the Treaty of Ghent having been signed on December 24, 1814, invaded Louisiana.

Rebecca married William Werner on November 15, 1842, when she was 30 and he was 40, his 41st birthday one month later.  Gold had been first discovered in California the previous March, but that initial gold rush was primarily Mexicans from Sonora on a small scale.  Universities were expanding across America, including Willamette University in Oregon, Wesleyan University in Ohio, the University of Notre Dame in Ohio, and The Citadel in South Carolina.
Assault on New Orleans in 1815

Rebecca was widowed June 13, 1865, and she and her daughters continued to live in the family home on their farm until the spring of 1868, when they moved into Reading, Pa.  On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Ulysses S.  Grant at Appomattox Court House, and on April 14 (Good Friday) President Lincoln had been assassinated--tragic and tumultuous times.  By the time she and her daughters moved into Reading, the War had ended, but in February of 1868 Andrew Johnson, who had assumed the office after Lincoln's death, was impeached, his acquittal by one vote in the Senate not occurring until May.  Ulysses S. Grant had been elected President on November 3, 1868, but on December 25, before leaving office, Johnson granted unconditional pardons to all Civil War rebels.

Union Officers
After her younger daughter married, Rebecca made her home with Ettie's family until Rebecca's death in 1893 at the age of 80.  The 1880s were exciting years, with electric lights and telephones coming into use and "sky-scrapers" being built.  Rebecca had moved to Kansas when Ettie's husband was called to pastor a church in Abilene, and while Eastern Kansas and living in town may have allowed Rebecca more conveniences than Isaac experienced in his rural community, it was surely less sophisticated that Eastern American cities.  Perhaps Rebecca enjoyed the new 1887 'liquor-free' drink of Coca-Cola in Prohibitionist Kansas!

Sadly, although Isaac and his mother both lived in Kansas in the 1880s and early 1890s, I found no evidence that he was able to share a Mother's Day with Rebecca.  The responsibilities of his farm, the early risks of claim jumpers, the expense of travel, and his poor health in later years seem to have made a reunion impossible.

As you gather with family to celebrate Mother's Day this year, perhaps it would be fun for the mothers among you to share with children the changes over the decades of your own lives.

Remember, you can enlarge images by clicking on them.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Lady Justice in Populist Cartoon

Last week's blog featuring the Populist political cartoon picturing the power of wealthy was so popular that I am sharing another political cartoon from 1892.  If you missed last week's post, you may want to scroll down to read it as well.

The caption reads "I simply demand 'Justice'!  Where is she?"  The man wears a cap titled "Labor."  Of course, he is asking where Lady Justice has gone.

The structures behind the laborer represent institutions in which Justice would be expected to be found.  Because the print may be difficult to read, I will supply the names of the institutions with the corresponding excuses for Lady Justice not being found in those places.

The Press:  "Don't know her--What's her last name?"  The College:  "She lives only in ancient history."  The Church:  "She is not a member of our congregation."  The Court:  "She has moved."  Wall Street:  "Eish Dodt So?"

Unfortunately, the entry on Wall Street is an ethnic slur, intended to represent a foreign accent of the question "Is that so?".  Many in the Populist Movement believed the American economic system was controlled by wealthy bankers in England, and Jewish bankers.  The sign on Wall Street was a reference to that belief.

While Populist Movement members included people from many different countries, and the Farmers' Alliance and he People's Party welcomed all workers, the sad fact was that they did not always act as their principles directed them to act.  There was a particular animosity toward Chinese laborers brought to America to do dangerous and onerous labor building the rail lines, who were willing to work for cheap wages in unsafe conditions.  Workers from other countries who took jobs away from immigrants who had arrived decades earlier also caused resentment.  Blacks, freed by the Civil War,  could join populist groups, but often they were relegated to separate clubs.  The discrimination shown other ethnicities is not a proud chapter in the history of populisms.

As for Lady Justice, she is not a symbol unique to America.  In fact, her roots run back to Ancient Rome.  The objects she carries--a balance (scales), a sword, and the blindfold she wears--symbolize  her ability to weigh the balance of the evidence and make her decision without bias; her willingness to fight for what is right; and her impartiality, without regard to wealth, power, or status.  Her image can be found in many different countries.

The laborer in the 1892 political cartoon, who lacks wealth, power, and status, calls out for Justice in his despair, but each institution in which he had hoped to find justice denies his appeal.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

History and the Power of the Wealthy

Many of the People's Party members were immigrants, and English was their second language.  Political cartoons were then, as they remain today, effective ways to communicate political issues.  These immigrants could often understand political cartoons even with their limited ability to read English.  However, all populists could grasp the messages of political cartoons without reading lengthy editorials, just as we do today. 

This political cartoon from the early 1890s appeared in the County Capital, the populist newspaper in St. John, Kansas, Isaac B. Werner's county seat.  Isaac subscribed to and submitted articles to the County Capital.  

The cartoon speaks for itself, with the sub-title "I know no law, except that which I buy," but because the labels on the barrels are rather small and difficult to read, I will type them, starting from the barrel on the left and continuing to the right.  Remember, you can click on the image to enlarge it.

From left, labels on the barrels into which the wealthy man is pouring coins:  To corner the necessities of life; To buy the votes of starving workmen; To buy Legislation in my own interest; To buy gold-bearing bonds; To Quash Legislation Beneficial to the People; To perpetuate the way I bank; To buy the people's papers; To elect a president to suit myself; To control transportation and transmission of news; To buy Supreme Court decisions; To kill little ranchers in Wyoming; To secure cut-throat mortgages; To hog government lands; To keep the saloon in politics; and To buy the souls of stranded girls.

Notice that the wealthy man suffers from gout, a disease caused by dining on rich foods.  The wealthy of that era indulged in lengthy dinners of many courses, fine wines served with each different course, and rich desserts and cigars to complete the 2 or 3 hour dinners.

The reference to killing ranchers in Wyoming refers to the Johnson County War, in which wealthy ranchers hired out-of-state gunmen to hunt down and eliminate small ranchers that the wealthy men regarded as cattle thieves.  The primary issue arose because of the free range grazing, followed by the spring roundups.  Calves born on the open range during winter and early spring were not yet branded, and the dispute was over claims to those calves.  Movies and books have portrayed this range war.

The European Anarchist pictured in the framed portrait on the wall is depicted as a bomb-throwing armed villain, but the American Anarchist is depicted as a powerful wealthy man who controls or influences everything, as the message on his vault says:  THE PEOPLE'S LAWS BE D....D!!!

This political cartoon shows many of the issues that the Populist Movement sought to confront through the formation of their own political party, The Peoples' Party.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Poem of My Own

Isaac's Niece Gertrude
Although I do not have a photograph of Isaac Beckley Werner, I do have pictures of his younger sister's family, and the image at left is his niece as a young girl.

This week I will close the series of poems for National Poetry Month with a poem of my own, written a few years ago as I began saying farewell to family members including, as Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's taught the nation, the long farewell of saying good-by to someone with Alzheimer's.

My poem is very personal, but I believe many of you will recognize your own experiences and emotions in my words.  Home movies may have disappeared, but people still use their phones to record special events with the same slap-dash scans that reduce the images to a blur, so perhaps some of you have your own blurred history, recorded by someone who moved the camera too fast.   

Thank you to the descendent of Isaac's sister Ettie for the two photographs of Isaac's niece as a young girl and a mature woman.


A little girl,
Her image fading
like the brittle celluloid
of home movies
taken by an uncle
whose camera moved too fast.
Aunts, uncles, parents--
no longer keepers
of the memories of her childhood,
their eyes forever closed.
Her brother's eyes are open,
but the camera
of his memory has no film,
an empty whirring of the reels
from which all images are lost.
Abandoned by preservers
of the child she used to be,
the woman can no longer see
the little girl reflected in their eyes.
Her only image now
reflected in the mirror,
an older stranger
who resembles more
the mother of the child
Isaac's Niece Gertrude as a mature woman
that lingers in her heart.
Abandoned by the ones
who loved her once.
       Lyn Fenwick (c)

Thank you for your support of Poetry Month.  I have been so pleased by the number of readers each week as I posted poetry.  Thank you also for the comments many of you shared.  Next week's blog will return to history.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April 2019 Poetry Month--Number 3

Years ago I heard Maxine Kumin at a poetry reading at Baylor University.  When the program ended, I hurried out to the foyer where the poets had books for sale.  Although I quickly made my choice, Kuman was already gone when I returned to the auditorium.  I did not get her autograph, but I did get her book of poetry to remind me of the afternoon.

Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) is not a poet of pretty things.  She wrote about life as her keen eyes observed it, as the wife of an engineering consultant, the mother of 3 children, and a breeder of Arabian and quarter horses on their New Hampshire farm the last 39 years of her life.  Nature is both beautiful and brutal, and she saw both sides. This week I share both a poem written for children and a poem for adults that I think many of you will appreciate, so keep scrolling after you read the children's poem.

I chose this particular Kumin poem for children because Isaac Werner loved birds.  He kept track of the seasons by their arrivals and departures, and he fed prairie chickens and quail with no intention of ever hunting them.  In the hard times of the late 1800s he was very angry when a neighbor drove around his claims shooting his half-tame birds, and he posted "No Hunting" signs around the two claims.  In the years just prior to Isaac's death, the Kansas legislature passed laws against hunting certain birds, but some had already been hunted to near extinction.

In her poem, notice how Kumin delivers her lesson without lecturing!

Photo credit:  Pookie Fugglestein

The Quarrel
by Maxine Kumin

Said a lightening bug to a firefly,
"Look at the lightening bugs fly by!"
"Silly dunce!" said the fly. "What bug ever flew?"
Those are fireflies.  And so are you."

"Bug!" cried the bug.  "Fly!" cried the fly.
"Wait!" said a glowworm happening by.
"I'm a worm," squirmed the worm.  "I glimmer all night."
You are worms, both of you.  I know I'm right."

"Fly!" cried the fly. "Worm!" cried the worm.
"Bug!" cried the bug.  "I'm standing firm."
Back and forth through the dark each shouted his word
Till their quarrel awakened the early bird.

"You three noisy things, you are all related,"
She said to the worm, and promptly ate it.
With a snap of her bill she finished the fly,
And the lightening bug was the last to die.

All glowers and glimmerers, there's a MORAL:
Shine if you must, but do not quarrel.

On face book, many people post remembrances of the anniversary of the passing of those they love, and because I have noticed this tradition, I have chosen Maxim's poem The Envelope to share.  Isaac, too, posted notices of the death of his sister and his uncle in his journal, sharing with no one his personal loss but documenting it in his own private way.

Original Matryoshka set of Stacking Dolls, 1892
 The Envelope
by Maxine Kumin

...I fear to cease, even knowing that at the hour
of my death my daughters will absorb me, even
knowing they will carry me about forever
inside them, an arrested fetus, even as I carry
the ghost of my mother under my navel, a nervy
little androgynous person, a miracle
folded in lotus position.  

Like those old pear-shaped Russian dolls that open
at the middle to reveal another and another, down 
to the pea-sized irreducible minimum,
may we carry our mothers forth in our bellies.
May we, borne onward by our daughters, ride
in the Envelope of Almost-Infinity,
that chain letter good for the next twenty-five
thousand days of their lives.

When we travelled to Russia decades ago, we brought home our own set of stacking dolls, as most visitors to Russia did at that time.  Perhaps because I am a daughter who so much resembles her mother, I was struck by the imagery chosen by Kumin to describe how not only the genetic appearance but also the habits, beliefs, and traditions of mothers pass through generations--some good and some not so good.  Their memories, from their own mothers and generations before, pass to us, and while the more common imagery refers to our hearts and minds, Kumin's imagery of the stacking dolls, each retaining what came before her, seems apt, more beautiful than the genetic charts we moderns use to trace ancestry.

To those of you who replied to my call from an earlier blog to share your own inherited habits of a leftover-jar in the refrigerator for later stews and soups, and of saving plastic containers because they are too good to throw away (although you already have too many to ever use all of them), I loved hearing from each of you.  Maybe it's that "little androgynous person" we carry inside us like a stacking doll that makes it impossible to break those habits learned from our mothers!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

More Poetry for Children, Number 2

Tumbling Tumble Weeds on the Prairie
Time for the second week recognizing poetry, so here is another poem for April's Poetry Month.  It is a more traditional poem, and many of you may already be familiar with it.  Even if you do not know the poem, you probably know the poet, A. A. Milne, of Winnie the Pooh fame.

While Kansas may not have had many trees on the prairie when Isaac arrived, one thing it had in abundance was WIND.  Most of the settlers with homes made of wood did not insulate them well.  The strong winds drove dirt in summer and snow in winter right into the houses, and even if there was no snow in winter, the wind drove the severe cold into the houses.

Isaac wrote in his journal about newcomers to the prairie failing to prepare well for winter and complaining of frost bitten toes and feet even before the worst of winter arrived.  Although the dugouts had other problems--like snakes and bugs--they were snugger shelters during winter and cooler in the hot months.

Kansas children should enjoy this poem by A. A. Milne, called Wind On The Hill,   
and they can certainly relate to the subject.

Wind On The Hill
by A. A. Milne

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It's flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn't keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes...
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.*

*(In case you read this to a child who argues the conclusion of the poem--and children today accustomed to evening weather reports and ongoing coverage during hurricanes may very well--here is a more technical explanation. Wind is caused by differences in the atmospheric pressure.  Air moves from the higher to the lower pressure area, creating movement and wind.)

Friday, March 29, 2019

April is Poetry Month Again - Number 1

By now, those of you who follow the blog know that Isaac Werner loved Shakespeare.  I think he would have approved of my using his blog to share some poetry this month.

What makes me sad is that children sometimes learn that poetry must be read (or recited) in a sing-song way, pausing at the end of every line.  That isn't true.

David McCord had three rules:  Good poems for children are never trivial.  As for the poet, poems should never be written "without the characteristic chills and fever of a dedicated man at work."  In addition, poems written by adults for children "must never bear the stigma of I am adult, you are a child."

When McCord was 12 years old his family lived on his uncle's farm on the edge of a wilderness.  He said that it was there where he learned:  "Poetry is rhythm, just as the planet Earth is rhythm; the best writing, or poetry or prose--no matter what the message it conveys--depends on a very sure and subtle rhythm."

However, he did not mean the reader had to read dah-da, dah-da, dah-dum.  I will share his poem, Every Time I Climb a Tree.  Here are my suggestions:  The first stanza has no punctuation until the end.  Interpret that as permission to feel your own rhythm and use pauses and full stops where they seem natural.  The first three lines are identical.  Read them with a different word emphasized in each line.

The next stanza gives you the opportunity to mimic a typical adult in the second line, to break up the other lines in which the child is speaking.

The third stanza seems to want the first three lines run together, with a break before the fourth line.

That gives you some idea about how I think this poem flows, but the last stanza try where it feels right for you to pause, emphasize words, stretch words out, and make the words sound spoken, without any artificial rules or stopping at the end of each line.

I know that most of you are readers and may be passionate about poetry too, but for those a lttle intimidated about poetry, give this a try!

Make poetry fun for kids to hear and to recite, and they may come to love their favorite poems almost as much as Isaac Werner loved Shakespeare!

Every Time I Climb a Tree

David McCord

Every time I climb a tree
Every time I climb a tree
Every time I climb a tree
I scrape a leg
Or skin a knee
And every time I climb a tree
I find some ants
Or dodge a bee
And get the ants
All over me.

And every time I climb a tree
Where have you been?
They say to me
But don't they know that I am free
Every time I climb a tree?

I like it best
To spot a nest
That has an egg
Or maybe three.

And then I skin
The other leg
But every time I climb a tree
I see a lot of things to see
Swallows rooftops and TV
And all the fields and farms there be
Every time I climb a tree
Though climbing may be good for ants
It isn't awfully good for pants
But still it's pretty good for me
Every time I climb a tree.

Of course, many of you remember that Isaac claimed a timber claim, as well as a homestead.  Before he got his horse, tending trees was his primary task.  At least one of his trees was big and strong enough for him to climb with a borrowed camera to try to take an "aerial" shot of his farm.  It was too windy to keep the old glass-plate camera steady long enough!

Share your stories and the stories of your tree-climbing children and grandchildren, and let me know if they like the poem.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Send a Message

One of the things that is such fun about this photograph is that the picture was taken to be put on a postcard--a postcard showing three young women reading a postcard!

Of course Isaac Werner received mail in the late 1800s.  The post offices were in some neighbor's home.  The earliest reference to a postal address in Isaac's journal is to the Vosburgh Post Office, but the post offices during most years of his journal were in the homes of "Doc" Dix and Aaron Beck.  Nearby Antrum delivery was in the home of the Gibbs sisters.

But how was a message sent if immediacy was important, as in the case of serious illness or death?  That information is not contained in Isaac's journal, although I know that he was quickly made aware of the deaths of his sister and of his mother.

I have done some research on the telegraph of that era.  One of the issues the populists included in their Peoples' Party Platform was government ownership of telephone and telegraph, just as the government has the U.S. Mail.

According to the website from which the image at right was taken, it is likely that the messages Isaac would have received about family deaths would have been sent by Morse code, transcribed, and hand delivered in some way.  By 1900, 63.2 million messages were sent each year.  The distance from town of his homestead does raise the question of hand delivery.

Western Union was the first nationwide industrial monopoly, and in almost every session of Congress, bills urged either regulation or government takeover.  However, the greatest threat to Western Union was technology in the form of the telephone.

It is always technology that is nipping at the heels of the existing status quo.  Remember when you actually had long conversations with your friends over the phone?  And, do you remember letters!--not just a signed greeting card but actual newsy letters?!  And for sweethearts, love letters!

Then came e-mail, whose primitive beginnings happened in 1965 at MIT.  Within 2 or three decades most of us were enjoying chatty e-mails from our friends.  Today, if you are like me, most of my past e-mail friends are posting travel photographs and kids' pictures on face book!

Portrait of the End of a Romance
And, now there is Twitter, which did not exist until March of 2006.  By the 10 year anniversary of its creation there were 319 million monthly active users.  Evan Williams, one of its founders, said "Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning, which we described as status updates and a social utility.  It is that in part, but the insight we eventually came to was Twitter was really more of an information network than it is a social network."  I would add that it is also a 'misinformation network.'  

Like all the communication methods just described, something new will surely come along to replace Twitter.  One of my earlier blogs pointed out that young people prefer texts over phone calls because it spares them from being trapped in a conversation.  I do understand that.  When you are busy or immersed in a project or even in the middle of a great book, being interrupted by the phone can be an annoyance.  However, it seems less likely that Twitter, or even texts, can develop relationships in the same way that conversation can.

Although it is difficult to predict what new technology may replace Twitter, history would predict that something will.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Prairie Recycling

Canning when produce is in season
Does anyone else get upset watching Fixer Upper on "Demolition Day" when Chip takes a sledge hammer to the kitchen cabinets?  Most of those cabinets are perfectly functional, if not for a modern kitchen then at least for a garage or workshop.  Sometimes they are almost like new and the only fault to be found is style.  It really bothers me to see them torn apart and thrown into the dumpster.  Surely someone would like to have them!

I confess, my shelves contain too many recycled plastic containers, and almost every scrap of fabric, unless it is too small for the tiniest quilt piece, is saved for a quilt I will probably never make.  I was raised to be thrifty by parents who went through the Depression when they were young, and being wasteful in my home was practically a crime.  Mother's best soups and stews always had not only left-over meat and vegetables but the left-over juice when all the vegetables had been eaten.  There was always a jar in the refrigerator for scraps awaiting the next soup.

Finding entertainment at home instead of going out
Consequently, I appreciate the entries in Isaac's journal about utilizing scraps and recycling and repurposing items when their original usefulness changed.

One of my favorite entries describes Isaac getting the wooden boxes in which coffee was shipped to Doc Dix's store and using them to make an incubator.  Unfortunately, he didn't describe the details--did he set the incubator on a shelf over his stove to keep the eggs warm or did he use a candle?  Did he plaster the boxes to keep them from burning or scorching?  Did he make wire shelves for the eggs?  I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I do know that neighbors brought him eggs, which he marked somehow to know to whom the chicks would belong when they hatched.  I learned not to mark hard-boiled eggs with a lead pencil because that might cause lead poisoning to leach through the shell, but would Isaac have used a pencil to identify the chicks?  I also know he took the incubator to a neighbor to turn the eggs regularly when he was busy in the field and couldn't do that.

Using Mother Nature's Bounty
Getting wood was a long trip to town and expensive for homesteaders, so anything that could be salvaged was saved.  As a bachelor, he didn't have a wife to preserve things from his garden.  When the sandhill plums and the peaches from his garden were ripe, he sometimes ate so much he gave himself a belly ache.  Watermelon was another annual treat.

Our ancestors definitely believed in "Waste Not, Want Not," and that was certainly passed to me.  I remember telling my niece when she stayed with us for a few days as a little girl that it was better to wait and save for items of quality than to impatiently buy something cheaper that would not last.  I wonder if she remembers my telling her that.  The American economy would probably suffer if all Americans followed that advice, but there might be more repair shops along our Main Streets like there once were if we followed that advice today.

One of the pleasures of reading Isaac Werner's journal is learning about his ingenuity as he builds things and repairs what he has.  I fear that is becoming a lost art.  I hope some of you share your own family's "Waste Not, Want Not" inventiveness.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Ghosts Among Us

Part of my delight in history is learning about our past, and part of my emotion about what I learn is understanding how quickly that past disappears.  The subjects of my manuscript, the Populist Movement and the Peoples' Party it created, were for a brief time a powerful challenge to the two old political parties. Yet, most people today have never heard about them.

Barn on old Saratoga site
In doing the research, I learned about people, famous and influential in that time, which few remember today.  And, I read about places that vied for a long existence but disappeared completely.  One of those places was Saratoga, Kansas.  I have posted blogs about the old cemetery, "Cemetery on the Hill" 2-7-2013, which is nearly impossible to find even when you know where it is, and the beautiful barn built on the site that once was Saratoga, "Disappearing Old Barnes" 1-15-2015, which has since been torn down.  Times move on, people with memories of those places pass away, and eventually those historical roots are forgotten.  Yet, they remain, as the ghosts of our past history.

Two Pratt historians preserved the history of Saratoga, and I am indebted to Lucile Asher and J. Rufus Gray for much of the information I will share in this blog.  I believe that both of their books are available at the Pratt History Museum.

A stone at the Saratoga Cemetery
Three towns battled, literally sometimes, to be chosen as the Pratt County Seat.  When Pratt Center, now simplified to "Pratt," prevailed, Iuka shrank, but Saratoga disappeared completely.  I knew where Saratoga once was, but I had no ideas what a bustling town it had been until I began working on my manuscript.  It could be argued that Saratoga should have prevailed over Pratt.  It existed earlier, a railroad reached it first, and the temporary naming of Iuka as the county seat was more of a governor's whim than an indication that it was a superior choice over Saratoga at that time.

When Pratt Center finally prevailed, many Iuka merchants and residents simply moved there--quite literally moving structures to the new county seat.  Saratoga was determined to continue to exist, but gradually its people began to move to Pratt as well.  Now it is just a forgotten location north of the Forestry, Fish & Game complex.

Images in old photo albums
But, today, as you read this blog, picture the ghosts wandering around the busy town square of Saratoga, unaware that in a few years their homes would be moved or burned down, and the seemingly permanent brick structures would disappear.  Picture the Wichita, Kingman & Western  train (replacing the previous service of the Cannonball Express Stage line).  Add to your imagination the mills on the Ninnescah where Isaac Werner came to sell his corn, and the brick kiln producing the brick for the fine brick buildings in town.

Picture the impressive brick city hall-opera house, the school, livery stable, and hotel, and imagine the bustle of shoppers visiting grocery and general stores, butcher shops, drug stores, restaurants, a dressmaker, a milliner, a jeweler, and most impressive, two book stores.  Churches countered the pool halls, and barber shops kept the men neat.

Now the people who frequented these businesses are the ghosts of past generations, memories passed from generation to generation until they are forgotten, faded images in old photo albums. While some may remember stories about Saratoga, no longer are there first-hand memories of the actual town.  It is the responsibility of historians to preserve these stories, and the responsibility of all of us to care.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Different Kind of Taxes

In the late 1800s when roads and bridges were needed just as they are today, it was up to the homesteaders living on the prairie to manage for themselves.  There was a "road tax" owed by every adult male 45 and younger, paid not in cash but rather in labor.  A set number of days would be determined by the township for all of the men to work, maintaining the township roads and bridges.

An old country road
Isaac Werner records in his journal the various days each year that he worked to fulfill his road tax obligation.  He did not have a horse for several years, so the labor he provided was strictly his own 'sweat and tears.'  One year, a neighbor had left the community for a visit and he loaned Isaac his horse to use in his absence.  Isaac took advantage of having the horse, and he and three other neighbors satisfied their obligation by filling holes.

Originally Clear Creek Township was six miles from north to south and twelve miles from east to west.  Isaac writes about going to a part of the township that he rarely traveled to satisfy his road tax, filling in around a bridge.  (From his description, it was probably the bridge seven and a half
miles south of Macksville.)  Generally, men worked on road projects nearer their homes, but if labor was needed further away, they put in their time wherever it was needed.

When Clear Creek Township was divided to create Albano Township to the east, making both townships six miles square, Isaac began satisfying his road tax nearer his claims in the new Albano Township.  He commented in his journal about the day he fulfilled his last road tax obligation.  It was memorable, because they were working on the approach to a bridge and he was slow getting out of the way of the scraper.  It hit his ankle and caused a bad sprain, but he felt lucky that he had not broken his leg on the very last day he was obligated to pay his road tax!   

A fancy Reaper
Isaac also wrote about mowing the prairie grass between his homestead and the school house, which was used as a community gathering place, so that when he walked there he did not get his legs wet in the tall grass.  A neighbor has told me about his ancestors doing the same thing, although they mowed from their claim all the way to Iuka.

Farmers also mowed around their claims, not only to use them as roads but also to minimize fires reaching their claims in a prairie fire.  Plowing was more effective, and before Isaac had a horse, he worried that his neighbors didn't plow their shared fire guards frequently enough.  When he finally got a horse of his own, he was diligent about keeping the fire guards plowed.

How dependent we are today about having government equipment and workers to take care of the things homesteaders had to do for themselves. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Principles of our Ancestors

Iuka, Kansas stores
In these times which seem so unsettled, with so many traditions and customs abandoned, I thought it might be interesting to see what our ancestors believed to be important.  The Farmers' Alliance was an organization formed by farmers who came together in hard times to work toward a better life.  They shared ideas about farming methods and crops, and they were troubled by the growing disparity between working people like themselves and the wealthy and powerful few who exerted so much influence in our state and national capitals.  Initially, the Farmers' Alliance was not political, and they welcomed members from all political parties.  What was especially unusual was their inclusion of women, at a time when women did not have the vote.  Yet, women were active in the Farmers' Alliance.  Eventually, the Farmers' Alliance joined with other populist organizations to form a political party, in which women continued to play a part, although they still lacked he vote.

Dugouts and Sod Houses still existed in the late 1800s
What I thought you might enjoy is the Declaration of Principles those farm women and men of the Farmers' Alliance considered important in the late 1800s.

1.  To labor for the education of agricultural classes in the science of economical government, in a strictly nonpartisan spirit.

2.  To develop a better state mentally, morally, socially, and financially.

3.  To create a better understanding for sustaining civil officers maintaining law and order.

4.  Constantly to strive to secure entire harmony and good-will among all mankind and brotherly love among ourselves.

5.  To suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry, and all selfish ambition.

Horse Power meant real horses or mules
Later, they added the following:

To exercise charity toward offenders, to construe words and deeds in their most favorable light, granting honesty of purpose and good intensions to others; and to protect the principles of the Alliance unto death.  Its laws are reason and equity, its cardinal doctrines inspire purity of thought and life, and its intensions are "peace on earth and good will toward men."

In 1890, when the Alliance had attained its largest proportions, its voting membership was estimated at 2,500,000.

Although the Farmers' Alliance has disappeared, the wisdom of our ancestors, as expressed in this Declaration of Principles, seems deserving of reflection.  Even if, or maybe because, these Principles won't fit in a tweet, they seemed worth sharing.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day Joke

Not your typical "love birds" you say?  Why not?  The bride is dressed in white, and the groom is wearing tails--well, tail feathers--in the ever popular gray.

Once again Valentine's Day has arrived, and for those of you who follow this blog regularly, you know that I write a blog yearly to recognize this special day for lovers.  If you have missed reading them, you can go to the inventory at right,  click on the year, and then scroll down to February to read those past blogs.

In doing my research for the manuscript, I found an article in the local populist newspaper of Isaac's time, the County Capital, in which the local reporter in his community praised Isaac's farm for its neat, prosperous appearance.  The reporter could not resist teasing Isaac a bit by concluding the article with this comment:  With such a nice farm, "we think the rooster of the prairie should take a young lady under his wing."

Isaac Werner's journal mentions his admiration for several young ladies, and a cryptic note refers to "a second refusal," which I assume was an unsuccessful marriage proposal to a lady with whom he was corresponding back in Illinois, after he had lived in Kansas for several years.  His journal also mentions a young lady who came to St. John as a Prohibition lecturer, on whom he made a social call one afternoon, but soon after, she left St. John and the romance never had the chance to begin.  Although I believe Isaac would have enjoyed a wife by his side during his years on the Kansas prairie, being a farmer's wife was a hard life in the late 1800s, and the well-educated city women he admired may not have been willing to assume the responsibilities expected of a farmer's wife.

So, on this Valentine's Day I have chosen the handsome couple pictured above to remember Isaac Beckley Werner, the Rooster of the Prairie, whose journal inspired my efforts to tell the story of those early settlers who came to Kansas in the late 1800s.