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.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mowing on the Prairie

Recently I purchased a reproduction of the Asher & Adams Pictorial Album of American Industry, published originally in 1876 and reproduced in 1976.  Since Isaac B. Werner came to Kansas to stake his claims in 1878, the illustrations of "American Industry" in this book represent the state of equipment near the time of his arrival.

Two differences seem apparent to me.  First, the images in this book show state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line equipment.  Second, the publisher in 1876 was a New York state business, and the images depict buildings, equipment, and decorations more common in the settled eastern parts of America.

Isaac B. Werner was in no financial position to buy state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line equipment.  In fact, the images of mowers shown in this blog were far different from what Isaac used in 1878 when he began mowing the tough prairie hay.  He did not own a horse for eight years, and a 2-horse mower would have been quite a luxury.  He did his mowing by hand with a sythe.

Mowing was very important in those early years of settlement, not only for harvesting crops but also for defending against prairie fires.  Plowing fire breaks was very difficult because of the deep, stubborn roots, so instead, settlers mowed the prairie grass to reduce the risk of fire racing across the land, fueled by the tall, dry grass.

Until Isaac acquired his horse, Dolly Varden, he was dependent on neighbors keeping the grass mowed along the boundary of his claims.  The importance of having his own horse to mow for greater safety was as significant to Isaac as having a horse to use in his fields.  Raising crops was dependent on protecting them from fire just as it was on the weather, and while Isaac could do little about the weather, he could mow to minimize the risk of fires.

He wrote in his journal about mowing a path from his homestead to the Emerson school to avoid wet feet and legs when walking to the school through the grass to attend meetings.  He was not the only settler to do this, as a friend, Bob Moore, told me that his family oral history includes the story of his ancestor, who was a contemporary of Isaac, mowing from his claim all the way to Iuka to clear a path for more pleasant walking.

Let me know if you enjoy these images, and I will share more in the future.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kansas Capitol Mural

John Brown mural at Kansas Capitol
Although the Kansas Capitol was begun in 1866 before Isaac B. Werner arrived to stake his claim and the structure required 37 years to complete, interior details remained to be done even then.  (See "A Kansas Treasure," at 10/15/2015 in the blog archives.)

When my husband and I recently visited the capitol, one of the things I could recall from a much earlier visit was the  mural of John Brown.  This well-known image of the Kansas abolitionist shaped my perception of Brown as a wild-eyed radical, although many in the abolitionist movement regarded him as a hero.

John Steuart Curry, the artist who painted the mural, was born in Dunavant, Kansas in 1897.  He studied in Kansas City, Chicago, and Paris, and the event which brought him attention was when Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney purchased his painting, Baptism in Kansas, in 1928 for her new museum in NYC.

In 1931-32, through the influence of Kansas newspaperman William Allen White (See "What is the Matter?," 9/9/2013 in the blog archives to read more about White.) and Maynard Walker, a Kansas-born art dealer in NYC, an exhibition of Curry's work traveled to Kansas City, Topeka, and Manhattan.  The exhibition introduced Kansans to the work of their native son, and in 1937, with the support of White and artist Grant Wood, Curry was retained to paint the murals in the capitol.  He worked on that commission from 1937-1941 but found himself confronted with criticism.  Some Kansans did not agree with his depiction of John Brown as a hero.  Other criticism related to his depiction of the tornado and his failure to represent the state in a more idealized way.

Source Credit: Don Anderson papers, Smithsonian
His depictions should not have come as a surprise, for he made his reputation painting rural Kansas scenes showing drought, tornadoes, and harsh living conditions.  He was known as a member of the trio of  early 20th century American Regionalists, the other two being Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.  

The criticism was disheartening to Curry, and in the years prior to his death in 1946 he never recovered from the personal sadness caused by that critical reception by his home state.  It was his intention to depict the courage of self-reliant people surviving through their own hard labor to overcome harsh conditions.  Many of his paintings show his disapproval of racial discrimination and hatred, which may explain why he chose to paint the mural of John Brown.

The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art
After seeing the exhibition in 1931-32, Kansas State Agricultural College began raising funds to purchase a painting for their collection.  They achieved their goal and purchased Sun Dogs in 1935, becoming the first public institution in Kansas to acquire a work by Curry.  Because his mother had attended the college, Curry reduced the painting's price from $1,200 to $500, and he also donated a water color and four lithographs.  His generosity in reducing the price was very important to the college's ability to raise the funds during those hard depression years.

At the time of the 1996 opening of Kansas State University's Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Mrs. Ruth Ann Wefald and Mr. Don Lambert developed a friendship with Curry's widow, Kathleen Curry, and as the friendship grew, Mrs. Curry decided to donate a large and important collection of her husband's work to the museum.  It would surely have pleased him, after his disappointment over the criticism given his work in the capitol, to know that Kansas State University now proudly houses his collection.

Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Kindness of a Stranger

Henrietta C. Werner Palmer
Isaac B. Werner's youngest sister, Henrietta Catherine, was a young girl in her mid-teens when Isaac left for the West.  His father had died, and although his twin brother chose to remain in the area, Isaac was eager to seek his fortune beyond the Pennsylvania community where he was raised.

His widowed mother, Margaret, and his two teenaged sisters moved from the family home in Wernersville to the larger town of Reading, not far away.  Emma married first, and when Henrietta married the Rev. Samuel Palmer, Margaret made her home with the Palmer family and traveled West with them to Abilene, Kansas.  You may read more about Margaret at "Finding Margaret," Aug. 20, 2015 in the blog archives.

Not long after Margaret's death the Palmer family moved to Lawrence, Kansas.  Rev. Palmer died there in 1921, followed in death by his wife Henrietta ten years later.

I was eager to locate the grave of Isaac's youngest sister, so when other events took us to Lawrence, I arranged to visit Oak Hill Cemetery to search for Henrietta's grave stone.

Grave marker of Henrietta C. Palmer
Oak Hill Cemetery was created to honor those killed in Quantrill's Raid in 1863, land having been purchased in 1865 to create a rural, garden style cemetery modeled after Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery.  It is a lovely old cemetery on rolling terrain with many shade trees, but the irregular, naturalized design makes locating graves a challenge.  My husband and I wandered the area in which we believed Henrietta and her husband to be buried without success, and we were giving the effort one last try when we noticed a man tending a grave.

Grave marker of Rev. Samuel Palmer
My husband approached him to inquire whether he was familiar with the cemetery, in hopes that the man's knowledge might help us locate Henrietta's grave.  He confirmed that we were probably looking in the right area but couldn't offer any specific help.  However, in the course of the conversation we discovered a connection.  His deceased wife, whose grave he was tending, was the daughter of our high school superintendent.  A pleasant chat ensued, much of it about the football careers of his former father-in-law and his brother-in-law, with whom my husband had played high school football.  When we prepared to leave without having located Henrietta's grave he offered to find it for us and send photographs.

Rev. Samuel Palmer
Within a few days, the kindness of this stranger, Earl Van Meter, provided not only photographs of the grave stones of Henrietta and her husband Rev. Samuel Palmer but also a map with the locations of the graves clearly marked.  When we visit Lawrence again in a few months we should be able to find their graves and pay our respects to Isaac's sister and her husband.

Isaac was very fond of his sisters, and during the early years of his journal he mentioned them often.  Later, he regretted that correspondence with the two of them had become rare, and although he understood that they were busy with their own families, he missed hearing from them.

In doing the research on Isaac and his family, I have connected with a descendant of Henrietta, or Ettie as Isaac called her.  This descendant was not aware that Isaac's homestead had gone to his siblings and their descendants when he died.  More than a century after Isaac's death my research has closed the circle to reconnect with his siblings--thanks in no small part to the kindness of strangers. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Kansas Treasure

Newel post at Kansas State Capitol

In 1866, twelve years before Isaac B. Werner arrived in Kansas to stake his claims, construction of the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka began.  Imagine the magnificent building under construction at the same time new settlers were living in dugouts and sod houses!

The original construction took 37 years to complete at a cost of $3.2 million!  Not only were the settlers' homes primitive but also the city of Topeka was fairly undeveloped by today's standards, the sounds of stone masons chipping the stone blocks for the new capitol echoing across dirt streets.  
Tools used in the Capitol construction

The architect planned not only an impressive structure as seen from the outside but also a magnificently ornamented interior.  The architectural elements included copper, as shown on one of the beautiful copper newel posts installed on the stairs.  Marble, crystal, granite, and gold-leaf encrusted ornamentation were also generously employed to decorate the elaborate details.

Balusters and handrails
Even the balusters and handrails of the elegant stairs show the richness of the interior.

The gleam of polished marble & copper
Thirty-seven years after the Capitol building was begun in 1866, the completed structure gave reason for pride to the citizens of the state.  However, by the close of the 20th century time had dulled the beauty of the building, inside and out.  A renovation was undertaken.

I took the photographs shown on this page during a recent visit, and my husband and I were stunned by the incredible achievements of the restoration, as well as the foresight of the state's earliest citizens to plan and construct such an architectural wonder.

In keeping with my practice of sharing the history and current wonders of Kansas, watch for my blogs in coming weeks, in which I will write about more of the history and beauty of the Kansas State Capitol, and share more of the photographs that we took during our visit.

A visit to the Capitol should definitely be something on your bucket list, and I will include information in future blogs to facilitate plans for your own visit! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Revisiting the Little Squeegy Bug

So many people enjoyed recalling the books that they loved in childhood when I posted the blogs about favorite childhood books, (See "Your Favorite Children's Books, Parts 2-4,"  April 2, 9, & 16, 2015 in the blog archives,) that I thought you might like revisiting  Little Squeegy Bug, Story of the Firefly.  You may recall that the children's book blogs began with one about Sgt. William I. Martin, Jr., the St. John teacher that became a famous children's book author after writing Little Squeegy.  (See "Your Favorite Children's Books," 3/26/2015 in the blog archives.) 

At the time I wrote the blog about Martin, our library was in storage.  I wondered whether our copy was autographed and was eager to get the book out of storage and take a look.  At last we have begun to retrieve our books, and look what I found!  I too have an autographed copy signed with best wishes from Sgt Bill Martin, Jr.  Printed neatly below by my great aunt, Anna Marie Beck, is the following:  "Mr. Martin was one of Aunt Doris' teachers in High School."  Written in faded ink on the first page inside the front cover is "To Clark and Linda [sic] From Auntie."  Anna Marie Beck was the Stafford County Superintendent of Schools for many years in the early 1900s, and she often chose books as gifts.

The picture at right shows the main characters from Martin's book helping the little firefly get some wings--Creepy Caterpillar, who introduced Little Squeegy to some of his friends; Haunchy the Spider, who spun silver threads for the wings; and Yardy the Inchworm and Sissy the Cutworm, who measured and cut the silver thread for Haunchy to weave into wings.  The final gift from Squeegy's friends was a lantern that Haunchy took from the Milky Way and fastened to Squeegy's tail, making him the "Lamplighter of the Skies. 
Albert Einstein said, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales; if you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."  Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:  "I think a child is particularly fortunate if he grows up in a family where his imagination can be fed, where there are a variety of intellectual interests, where someone loves music, or does amateur painting, or is engrossed in literature, reading aloud perhaps, or just exchanging comments about what is being read."  Mrs. Roosevelt had read the Little Squeegy Bug book and recommended it, and I was one of those children fortunate enough to have read it.

Judging from the responses to the blogs about children's books, many of you who follow this blog began reading early in childhood.  Much of this blog relates to reading, books, and libraries, including Isaac B. Werner's amazing book collection.  I am among those who appreciate the advantages access to the internet brings, but I remain convinced that there is still nothing like a book.  The overflowing book shelves in my home make that obvious. 

The experience of a young child cuddling up next to a parent or other special person to hear them read from a book cannot be equaled by pressing a read-aloud button on a toy.  Einstein was right!  Reading to your children is not only pleasurable time together and stimulation for their imaginations, it also reinforces the idea that adults respect books and reading.

As I re-shelve beloved childhood books retrieved from storage, I smile at the memories.  I open the covers to recall receiving a prize for reading the most books in my class certain years or see the signature of Sunday School teachers who gave the class little books and think of friends who gave me books for my birthdays or remember sitting up in bed reading my brother's copy of Gentleman Don.  I doubt that picking up an antique e-reader years from now will give today's children the same feelings.  Enjoy the benefits of the internet and the electronic readers, but please don't stop buying books for children and never stop reading to them.  Mrs. Roosevelt was right about the importance of the examples we set for the next generation, and with a recent survey statistic that 25% of American adults did not read a single book during the past year, it should not be a surprise that children are not developing the habit of reading.
I hope you have enjoyed sharing a bit more of the Little Squeegy Bug, and maybe being reminded of some of your favorite books and their characters.  I hope at least some of you take a moment to leave a comment.  The comments shared in response to the "Favorite Children's Books" blogs were wonderful!