Thursday, August 27, 2015

Castle Rock

Old photograph of Castle Rock
Returning from a niece's recent wedding in Colorado, we spotted a sign directing travelers to Castle Rock.  How many times do all of us take for granted interesting places and events in our general area, thinking we will visit them another time or just taking them for granted because they are nearby?  We had heard about Castle Rock, and we must have passed that sign other times when we were traveling the interstate, but we had hurried by without noticing.  Perhaps like those other times when we kept driving, we were tired and eager to get home, but when my husband asked, "Shall we go see it?" I replied, "Let's do it!"  We left the paved road behind and were on our way

Near Castle Rock, credit Lyn Fenwick
The region in which Castle Rock is located is known as the Smoky Hills of Kansas, and the outcroppings of limestone rocks in what is primarily pasture land present a very different terrain from the sandy loam fields around Isaac Werner's old homestead.  After driving 14 miles we saw a small sign directing us to turn left toward Castle Rock, and when we spotted the outcropping of limestone rock pictured at right, we assumed we were getting close.

Castle Rock is located on private land, and there are no large billboards to direct visitors.  Eventually we saw another small sign indicating we needed to turn left again, and we pulled onto a smaller road which was barely more than what a cattleman might use to get back to his pasture to tend his livestock.  At last we saw two parked cars, and we pulled alongside and walked up a bluff.  Looking off to the north, we got our first glimpse of Castle Rock.
Our first glimpse of Castle Rock, credit Larry Fenwick

We could see roads around Castle Rock, so while I paused to take photographs, my husband went exploring to find the access to those roads.  Castle Rock is a limestone formation weathered by wind and water to create what reminded people of a castle and resulted in its name.  Obviously that weathering continues, and the effects can be exacerbated by people climbing on the rocks.  If you study my photographs closely and compare them with the older photograph at the top of the blog, you may see that one of the castle-like shapes at the top of a pillar is gone, having fallen after a thunderstorm in 2001, perhaps having been weakened by climbers.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
Castle Rock is located north and west of Isaac Werner's claim, too far for it to be likely that he ever saw it.  However, many early settlers did, for it was a landmark on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch route (also known as the Overland Trail). 

Imagine travelers crossing the prairie without the paved roads and signage that we have.  Well-traveled routes surely had wheel ruts to help guide them, but those may have been hidden by the prairie grass or faint in rocky soil.  Natural landmarks were their guides, and the towering Castle Rock must have been a welcome sight to many travelers.

Pond Creek Station near Wallace, KS
Even more welcoming may have been the  stations built along the stagecoach route.  Today one of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch stage company buildings has been preserved, not far from its original location.  Located on US Highway 40 in Wallace County, KS, the station was built in 1865.  It survived being moved in 1871 and 1898, finally being returned to near its original location.  The restoration still retains bullet holes from Indian attacks.

We were glad we took the time to deviate from our route in order to see Castle Rock.  Standing on the bluff, we could see for miles, and it was easy to imagine what a courageous undertaking it must have been for the early settlers to leave family and familiar settings behind and strike out for a new life in faraway places they knew only from often exaggerated descriptions in newspapers and promotional flyers.  For many, perhaps most of them, it meant saying good-bye for the last time to family members and friends.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
We were glad we added a few hours to our journey in order to see Castle Rock and to reflect on the early pioneers like Isaac B. Werner and some of our own family members who made the journey West.  But, we were also glad to get back to the interstate and make the journey to our home in air-conditioned comfort and in time to sleep comfortably in our own bed!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finding Margaret

Isaac's notation regarding his mother
On June 7, 1890, Isaac B. Werner wrote on the flyleaf of his journal "Mother was born Dec. 12th 1812 and yet living June 7th 1890.  I. B. Werner."  The love of a son for his mother, whom he had not seen in many years, seems apparent.

Margaretha Beckley was born in Lebanon County, PA on the 11th of September, 1812.  At the age of thirty she married William Werner, who was slightly more than ten years older.  They made their home in Heidelberg, Berks County, PA, and fifteen months later twin sons, Isaac and Henry were born.  Both boys were given their mother's maiden name as their middle names.

Two years later daughter Emma Rebecca was born, and two years after that daughter Elmira, who lived only briefly.  Their last child was Henrietta, born three years later.

Approaching grave
Margaretha, also known as Rebecca, was widowed in 1865, and for a time she and her two surviving daughters remained in the family home before moving into nearby Reading.  Emma married first, wedding Wm E. Good, and in 1877 Henrietta married Rev. Samuel Palmer.  When Rev. Palmer was called to pastor a Lutheran church in Abilene, KS, Margaretha went with them.  She died on the 22nd of February, 1893 and was buried in Abilene.  The Palmer family moved to Lawrence, KS after her death and are buried there.

It seemed sad to me that Margaretha, spelled Margaret later in her life, had been buried far from any other family member, especially far from her husband William, who was buried in the old Hain's Church burial grounds in Wernersville, surrounded by the graves of many generations of Werners.  (See Isaac's Birth & Childhood," 11-4-2011 in the Blog Archives.)

Margaret Werner's Grave
With the assistance of Twila Jackson at the Heritage Center in Abilene, I learned that Margaret Werner was buried on Lot 12, Block 29 in the Abilene Cemetery, District One.  Four years after my correspondence with Ms. Jackson, my husband and I finally visited Margaret's grave.

The Abilene Cemetery is a lovely shaded cemetery, and Margaret's grave is in the first Block as you enter, to the far left side under an ancient tree.  The cemetery entrance is off of a busy street, and opposite the entrance is a school; however, within the cemetery grounds the trees and gently rolling terrain provide a peaceful setting.

A small visitors' building with a touch screen computer and printer made locating Margaret's grave simple and provided us with a print out map.  We quickly found the stone, and although it was quite weathered, we could make out the inscription:  "MARGARET R./ wife of/ Wm WERNER/ DIED/ Feb 22, 1893/ AGED/ 80 yrs  5 mos  11da/ Resting till the resurrection morning"
Read inscription in above text

By the time of Isaac's death in 1895 he was no longer writing in his journal, so I do not know his reaction to the death of his mother.  As described in the blog, "Finding Isaac's Grave," 1-13-2012 in the Blog Archives, he is buried in Neeland's Cemetery in Stafford County, KS.  By 1900 the Palmer family had left Abilene and were living in Lawrence, where Margaret's daughter was buried in 1931.  Margaret's husband and the infant Elmira were buried in Wernersville, as was Isaac's twin brother Henry, who died in 1913.  Her oldest daughter, Emma, predeceased her mother and was buried in Reading following her death on Dec.  21, 1890. 

Ironically, although Margaret was buried far from her husband, she was buried in the same state as two of her children, Isaac and Henrietta, and William was buried in PA where their other three children are buried.

Margaret's grave looking east
As America was settled and generations moved westward across the continent, it was not uncommon for family graves to be separated by great distances.  Nor was it uncommon for a single family member to be buried with no other family graves nearby, as the family moved away from that location.  (See "Cemetery on the Hill," 2-7-2013 in the Blog Archives.)

Having spent so much time in Isaac's company, reading his journal and his published writings, I almost felt like a friend, visiting his mother's grave on his behalf.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gopher vs. Mole

Photo credit:  Leonardo Weiss, Gopher
On June 3, 1888 Isaac B. Werner wrote in his journal:  "[John] Garvin and I at hand replanting Golden Beauty [corn] listed ground so much taken by the gophers or moles following the subsoiler."  I can certainly identify with Isaac's annoyance, for we regularly find mounds of dirt on our lawn, as well as sinking into shallow tunnels dug too near the surface.  Like Isaac, I tend to use the terms "gophers or moles" interchangeably or spoken together as if they were a single hyphenated word.

2014 row of transplanted maple seedlings

Last summer I was so proud of my row of transplanted maple seedlings.  We caged them to protect them from deer, and every day I carried water to them.  By autumn they had grown to the top of their cages, and the two at the far end of this photograph had done particularly well because they received more sunlight.

Mounds of dirt from tunnels under our lawn
Early this spring I walked out to admire the end two, which I could not so easily see from the house, and as I approached the first one, I couldn't see it.  I walked all the way there and even walked around it in disbelief.  It had disappeared!  I looked up and down the row and all the others were bare from losing their leaves in winter, but they were still in their cages.  The tree at the far end, which had grown quite tall, was leaning a little.  I walked over to make sure it wasn't growing through its cage, and as I reached to pull it straight, it came loose in my hand, cut off at the soil.
Missing cottonwood seedling pulled underground

Gophers or moles had pulled one tree straight down nibbling at its roots and young trunk until it was gone, and was in the process of doing the same to the second tree.  Naturally they chose the finest trees!

Recently our nurseryman Roy was here with his crew to plant some blue spruce trees we added to our landscape,  (See "My New Landscape," 7-31-2014 in the blog archives) and  I told him the story of my disappearing maple.  He listened to my accounting of the destruction by either a gopher or a mole, and when I finished he quietly gave me an education.  "It was probably a gopher," he said, explaining to me that gophers eat earthworms, grubs, vegetables such as carrots, radishes, and lettuce, and the roots of shrubs!  Apparently they also like tender young maple trees, which must have offered a fine feast during winter when other delicacies were scarce.

Photo credit:  Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University, Mole
The greedy gopher(s) were not finished with their underground thefts.  This summer as I walked the row of cottonwood seedlings that I had been tending, I saw a pencil-sized hole in the center of the mounded earth watering saucer where a healthy seedling had been just hours before.  The soil was not disturbed as it would have been if the little tree had been yanked up.  Instead, the supple young leaves had slipped easily through the hole as the seedling was pulled downward by the hungry gopher!

Moles, on the other hand, prefer earthworms and other small invertebrates they find in the soil.  As a gardener, I was annoyed to learn their preference for earthworms, but their dining habits are even more gruesome.  The mole's saliva contains a toxin which can paralyze earthworms without killing them, and moles store the still-living, paralyzed worms in underground larders to consume later.

The photograph at the beginning of this blog, taken in Ano-Nuevo State Park in California, is of a pocket gopher.  There are about 35 species of gophers found in Central and North America.  The photograph just above is of an Eastern Mole, 'ScalopusAquaticus,' a true mole of  the Talpidae family.  They and their close relatives, particularly shrews, are found all over the world.

1921 Debenham & Freebody ad
An interesting story I learned while doing the research for this blog involves Queen Alexandra, wife of the UK King Edward VII.  When the queen purchased a mole-fur coat she started a fashion trend.  Moles had become a serious agricultural problem in Scotland, but the queen's trend turned Scotland's pest problem into a lucrative industry.

Not only is mole leather extremely soft and supple, the pelts have a uniquely velvety texture.  Animals that live on the surface tend to have longer fur with a nap that lies in a specific direction.  Because moles need to move backward and forward in their underground tunnels, their fur tends to be short, dense, and lacking any directional nap.

The likely culprit stealing Isaac Werner's corn and nibbling off my young maple and cottonwood trees was a gopher, but the culprit gobbling up the beneficial earthworms that gardeners love is more likely to be a mole.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Isaac Werner's "Currency"

Potatoes of many varieties, by Scott Bauer
In the late 1800s, as cash became increasingly scarce, neighbors bartered with each other, often swapping labor.  Before Isaac got a horse, he swapped his labor in exchange for neighbors' horses and plows.  Isaac was a talented carpenter, and he built houses and furniture to earn cash or exchange for plowing.  (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden," 12-28-2012 in the Blog Archives.)

Isaac also used his potatoes as a form of exchange.  In the spring he could barter or sell his seed potatoes, saved in his cellar from the previous season's crop.  In the summer as he dug potatoes, he often took them to town to exchange with merchants as credit for the merchandise he purchased, as well as receiving cash to pay other bills.  (See "Isaac's Potatoes," 2-17-2014 in the Blog Archives.) 

Earliest postage stamps
When he repaired and painted a buggy for a neighbor, the man set up a credit account at Doc Dix's post office store so Isaac could get the supplies he needed for the job.  When he ordered a sign painter's handbook for instructions for painting the buggy, he paid for the booklet by enclosing stamps. 

During the Civil War the use of postal money orders evolved to allow Union soldiers to send money home.  Sending cash through the mail was risky, and even stamps enclosed in lieu of money presented the danger of theft.  Registered letters, which had to be signed for at every point where the letter changed hands, offered some degree of security for sending cash through the mail.  However, the money order system initiated in 1864 offered the greatest safety.  The bill to establish the system passed through Congress without any serious debate.

Postal Money Orders from 1897
The image at left shows two US postal money orders from 1897 offered on e-bay for $490 and sold for "Best Offer."  The fee for the first money orders was 10 cents up to $10, 15 cents up to $20, and 20 cents up to $30.  Not every post office was authorized to offer postal money orders, the authority being based on the amount of business done by each post office.  Isaac recorded in his journal receiving money orders twice and also recorded using a money order to send payments.  Sometimes traveling salesmen, workers, and showmen used postal money orders payable to themselves almost as a form of travelers' checks.

In addition to the post office, express companies also got into the business of transporting money, primarily for banks but also smaller amounts for private citizens.  Following the example of the post office, American Express began selling money orders in 1881.  Isaac makes no mention in his journal of an American Express office.

This concludes the series on early forms of paper currency and substitutions of other means of exchange and barter.  You may read the prior blogs on the topic in the July 2015 archives.