Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Larabee Story, Part 3

Exterior View of Nora's Window on Library
Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick

Having decided to honor their daughter Nora E. Larabee with the construction of a beautiful public library to be gifted to the town, they chose perhaps the leading architect in Kansas at that time to design it.  His name was Charles E. Shepard.  Based in Kansas City, he was an impressive choice.

Shepard chose dark red brick and wood trim fashioned in a Corinthian style for the library.  According to Paul Hawkin and Dixie Osborn, writing in the "Stafford County History, 1870 to 1990," when the library was subsequently expanded, each extension included one of the original windows incorporated into the new additions, decisions that made the renovations nearly unnoticeable.

Stafford Library with addition

The most beautiful detail of the library, however, was the stained-glass window with the portrait of the lovely, young Nora.

Despite their generous motives, the gift of the library to the town of Safford was not immediately accepted.  Although the family businesses had created jobs for Stafford citizens, the mother and daughter had been active in the arts for the town, and the men held city offices, a rift had developed between Joseph Larabee and the editor of the Stafford Carrier, who served on the city council.  He led the council members in a rejection of the gift.

The townspeople responded with a recall election that displaced those council members, and the new members accepted the gift.  Animosities are not unheard of in communities, and the details of the tragic rift between the two men is not known to many today, but for those of us viewing the beautiful library, the rejection of the gift is difficult to understand.  Regardless, the town received a beautiful library, and the family's memorial for their daughter remains in her honor, in her hometown of Stafford, Kansas.  The Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Charles E. Shepard also designed the bank building at 100 S. Main in Stafford, and the structure currently houses the Stafford County Museum.

Nora is buried in the family Mausoleum in the cemetery on a hill just outside Stafford. 

Larabee Masoleum, Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Larabee Story, Part 2

Tuberculosis had no regard for wealth.  It struck the rich and famous, as well as the poor and working classes.  For a time, it was the leading cause of death in America.  From 1880 to 1940, New Mexico attracted "health seekers" with its high elevation and abundant sunshine.  By 1920, people seeking the cure were estimated to represent 10% of the state's population.  Instead of fearing the tubercular sufferers, they were sought with advertising such as Albuquerque's slogan "Heart of the Well Country," Silver City's title "City with the Golden Climate," and Santa Fe calling itself the "Land of Sunshine."  Pamphlets advertised "hotels well-furnished, bright sunny very reasonable rates," and for those invalids with less money, a pamphlet suggested an invalid could "pitch his tent or build his cabin where he pleases without fearing a land owner's interference.  Even ranches were suggested, with the caveat that while the outdoors and sunshine were desirable, the rancher might not be welcoming.

The treatment of that time consisted of rest, fresh air, ample good food, and a positive attitude.  If the patient did not improve, the next types of treatments might be far less pleasant.

In the early years, those with tuberculosis were welcomed, but by the early 1900s the attitude had begun to change.  The back page of the Albuquerque Commercial Club pamphlet read:  "Albuquerque does not invite indigent or hopeless cases."

Another group of health seekers had poured into the state.  Discharged soldiers with tuberculosis arrived hoping to find treatment, overwhelming the already stressed population.

The discovery of streptomycin, and eventually other drugs, at last proved effective for treating tuberculosis, but it was too late for Nora E. Larabee, who died in 1904.  Unable to have saved their beloved daughter, the family decided to honor her with a beautiful library donated to their home town, Stafford, Kansas.

(Thank you to Santa Fe Trail Magazine, "The Lungers and Their Legacy," Nancy Owen Lewis.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Larabee Story, Part 1

The Nora E. Larabee Window

It is always dangerous to make assumptions, and I had mistakenly assumed for years that the beautiful library in Stafford, Kansas was a Carnegie Library.  In fact, it was given to Stafford by a local family in honor of their daughter, who fell victim to tuberculosis.  There is much more to this family's story than can be told in a single blog, but all of it is worth sharing.

Joseph D. Larabee was born in N.Y. in 1832 or 1833, and he was not the typical man seeking a fortune by heading West.  When he brought his family to Stafford in 1886, he had already established a modestly successful career in New York as a cheese buyer.  However, it was in Kansas where his financial success expanded.

In her article published March 26, 2012, Beccy Tanner described Larabee's enterprises, including not only the Larabee Flour Milling Company in Stafford but also land in Western Kansas amounting to thousands of acres, lead mining in southeast Kansas, a charcoal plant in the Ozarks, oil and gas refineries in Kansas and Oklahoma, a cement factory in Mexico, and financing for such operations as a car dealership and a carburetor company. 

At the age of 32, Joseph had married 18-year-old Angeline.  Their first child was Frank, followed by their second son, Frederick.  A third son, Kestor, died before his first birthday.  Their last child was Nora.  It was after her birth that the family came to Stafford, Kansas.

With their financial success and their family complete, it seemed they were fortunate indeed.  However, sickness has no regard for wealth.  The beautiful young Nora contracted tuberculosis.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Timeless Storyteller

(c) Jerry Pinkney 

 Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I love illustrated children's books, and this blog shares a story teller who has retained his popularity for centuries.  "Aesop the fable writer" was mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus, describing Aesop as a slave living in ancient Greece during the 5th century BC.  Plato wrote that Socrates knew the oral stories of Aesop and that during his time in prison, Socrates converted some of Aesop's fables to verse.

The tradition of using the ancient fables of Aesop as guides for ethical behavior continues even today, and just as Socrates did, modern writers use the themes of Aesop in their own versions of his stories.  The simple lessons are easy for children to grasp; yet, the lessons are equally true for adults.  In fact, the fables were originally told to adults as ethical guides.

Among the illustrated children's books in my collection I have several books of Aesop's fables, and two of my favorites are illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and John Rocco.  Pinkney has used the fables in several books, including one titled "Aesop's Fables" containing 61 of the stories, with many illustrations, including the one pictured in this blog.

(c) John Rocco, Wolf! Wolf!

One of my favorite fables is commonly titled "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," a simple story about a young man sent to watch the sheep and call out a warning if the wolf appeared, to alert the villagers to come drive the wolf away.  His simple responsibility bored him, and he sounded the warning falsely, just to break the monotony, not just once but a second time.  The villagers were disgusted by his false warnings, and when the wolf actually appeared and the boy cried "Wolf!" no one came.  The simple moral to the fable as stated in Pinkney's book:  "No one believes a liar."

John Rocco chose the same fable, but as creative people often do, he added his own twist.  The little boy in his version also falsely cried wolf and lost the trust of the villagers, but in Rocco's tale, the wolf is old and knows that he is not really able to chase down a goat, so he bargains with the boy.  He tells him to select one of the goats and take it to the wolf's garden on the other side of the mountain, and tie it to the fence post.  That way, the boy will regain credibility with the villagers since a goat will be missing, and the wolf will get a goat.  The boy agrees, and he does deliver the unlucky goat, but when the wolf goes out to the garden and sees the goat, he discovers that the goat has eaten all the weeds and the garden looks beautiful.  The goat apologizes, admitting that he is a picky eater and he prefers weeds to vegetables.  He begs the wolf not to eat him, and the Wolf agrees, concluding, "What's one breakfast compared to delicious vegetables for the rest of my days."

I love both books, and both themes are important.  No one should be a liar, but compromise can sometimes work to the advantage of both sides.  The lesson Aesop teaches is that a liar will be found out and disbelieved if he continues to lie, and the assumption is that once discovered, the liar will admit his obvious guilt and stop lying.  Aesop understood that lying is not  insignificant, and most wolfs are not vegetarians.  Much as I love John Rocco's positive outcome, Aesop's simple moral is the better lesson for us to learn.  Beware of a liar, for when you can no longer trust the truth of what the liar says, the result may be your own loss. 

I recommend both Jerry Pinkney's "Aesop's Fables," published 2000, and John Rocco's "Wolf! Wolf!," published 2007.  There are many collections of Aesop's Fables that are wonderful choices for children's libraries.