Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Common Mennonite Surnames

Family names of Wenger Mennonites

Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd cite the following surnames as the most common among Wenger Mennonites:

19% --Martin
18% -- Zimmerman
 8% --Hoover
 7% -- Nolt
 6% -- Burkholder
 5% -- Shirk
 4% -- Weaver
 3% -- Newswanger
29% -- Other names (37)

The complete table appears on page 158 of Horse-and-buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humiility in a Postmodern World.

Every one of these family names is found within the Mennonite community in which we live. In fact, the above list of the top Wenger names reads like a list of our Mennonite neighbors.

Dr, Donald Kraybill has written dozens of excellent books about Mennonite and Amish culture. The surname Kraybill probably appears within the group of "other names". Dr. Kraybill grew up in a Mennonite family in Pennsylvania. I am familiar with the Kraybill name from the Hutchinson, Kansas area, and it is associated with Mennonite lineage there, also.

On the web:
Interview with Donald Kraybill on the always-interesting Amish America blog

Hinkletown, Pennsylvania (vicinity).
Mennonite church yard on Sunday morning
Image from Library of Congress FSA/OWI Collection
John Collier (1913-1992), photographer

Old Green River Whiskey Advertisement

A curious advertising image from 1899

I once bought a grimy box of junk at a farm sale to get an old scales I had seen in it. This picture was in the box. I think it might be a calendar illustration.  It is mounted on cardboard, and it's very brown with age.

Today, I've been looking through some closets, and there was the whiskey picture. I decided to make a digital copy of it. It's just a little too big for my scanner, so I had to merge four different scans to make this image.The image above shows the actual color of the paper, and the image below has been doctored to show more detail. (I'm an amateur, so no miracles were achieved during the doctoring.)

 I couldn't decide what I should do with this picture, so I packed it up again. I don't know whether it has any significant monetary value to a collector of whiskey memorabilia. With the two big cracks, it's not in very good condition. My indecisiveness about things like this are why I have too many boxes in my closet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Downtown Hopkinsville

Main Street in the old part of town

After work yesterday, I zoomed to the courthouse, hoping to get in the County Clerk's office before it closed at 4:00 p.m. I arrived just as they were closing the door, so I have to go back today. As I walked out of the courthouse, I took this photo of some of Hopkinsville's old buildings just down the street from the courthouse.

This is the east side of Main Street between 6th and 7th streets. The beige, three-story building at the left of the photo (the Cooper building) needs its windows replaced. I wish some preservation-minded individual would do that.  Maybe that ugly brick facade on the first floor could be removed, also.

Since I didn't get in the County Clerk's office yesterday, that chore is still on my agenda for today. I guess I'll go now and be done with it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time Travelers

Into the future

I was driving on the four-lane one summer afternoon when they passed me. They were traveling in the left lane. They appeared in the rear view mirror, overtook me, and vanished from sight in a short minute. I was surprised their old truck could go so fast.

I caught a glimpse of them as they came alongside. They were watching the road ahead intently. They had the truck windows open, and their long white hair was streaming in the wind. She was driving, and he was riding in the passenger's seat with his arm in the window.

I saw them several years ago, and I've been thinking about them ever since. Now I see that they've been on the road since they and their truck were young. And somewhere, they are still traveling fast in the left lane. The wind is lifting long strands of their white hair and blowing it back from their faces, and their eyes are fixed on the future.

Ray Bradbury could tell their story, but I can only tell you that I saw them.

Indelible Image

Rainy Days

Extended equinox storm

We haven't had floods in the Hopkinsville area, but it has rained every day for the last week or more. When it isn't raining, the sky stays gray. Temperatures have been in the 80s, and the humidity has been very high.

Next Monday, according to the weather forecast, the skies will clear. Our daytime temps will drop to the 70s and night temps will drop into the 40s. It will begin to feel like fall.

I suppose this spate of rain is an equinox storm or as it was called in older times, a "line storm". According to Bulfinch's Mythology, the cooler weather that's coming after the line storm is a signal of a cool winter that will last until the next equinox.

1063. If the fall “line storm” clears off warm, it signifies that storms through that fall and winter will clear away with mild weather, i. e., the way in which the storm closes at the autumnal equinox will rule the weather following storms until the vernal equinox storm. Then the same saying applies to the “line-storm” of March, and the spring and summer after storms is foretold.

The contrary would happen if cool weather followed the line storm.

(Source: Bulfinch's Mythology)

However, an 1887 study of Weather Charts and Storm Warnings by UCLA scientists found little indication of an unusual concentration of storms at the autumnal equinox. They observed an increase of storms shortly after the equinox, followed by a period of mostly clear weather that lasted through "Martinmas summer" (the first couple weeks of November.)

Rain over "The Boulevard"
9/22/09, Hopkinsville, KY

Raisin-colored sunset, 9/22/09
East of Hopkinsville, KY

Rain approaching, 9/23/09
Murray State University, Murray KY

These sunflower-like flowers south
of Murray, KY, are 6 feet tall or more.
Ample moisture has agreed with them.

More Prairie Bluestem articles about equinox storms:
Rainy Trip to Guthrie
Equinox Storm on the Great Plains

Monday, September 21, 2009

In God We Trust

Poll at MSNBC

If you would like to vote in a poll about the words, "In God We Trust", inscribed on U.S. coins and bills, here is a link:

MSNBC "In God We Trust" poll

Related, on the web:
History of the slogan, "In God We Trust", from the U.S. Treasury.

Music in the Parlor

Home entertainment in the Victorian age

Recently, I re-read Life with Father, by Clarence Day (1874-1935). What a funny book, even several generations after it was written! It is a collection of stories, mostly about Day's childhood in Victorian New York City. Life with Mother is a companion volume, collected and published after Day's death.

Clarence Day grew up before radio or television. He was a young man before his father allowed a telephone in their home, and they did not have electricity either. It is interesting to read how the Days entertained themselves and their guests in those simpler and quieter days. Clarence's mother enjoyed being "at home" to visitors on Thursday afternoons and welcomed an opportunity to provide music for her guests.

About this time, Mother's favourite niece, Cousin Julie, was duly "finished" at boarding school and came to live with us, bringing her trunks and hat-boxes and a great gilded harp. Mother at once made room for this beautiful object in our crowded parlour, and the first thing Julie knew she had to play it for the Thursday-afternoon visitors. Julie loved her harp dearly but she didn't like performing at all--performances frightened her, and if she fumbled a bit, she felt badly. But Mother said she must get over all that.

For a grander afternoon musicale, Mrs. Day put together a trio -- Cousin Julie and her instructor, Miss Kregman, with their harps and Julie's nervous, young friend, Sally, at the piano. It was a bleak, cold day with  snow changing to rain.

At the hour appointed for this human sacrifice, ladies began arriving in long, swishy dresses which swept bits of mud over the carpet. Soon the parlour was packed. I thought of Sally, so anxious and numb she could hardly feel the piano keys, and of Julie's icy fingers plucking valiantly away at the strings. Then Mother clapped her hands as a signal for the chatter to halt, the first hesitating strains of music began, and someone slid the doors shut.

When we boys went down to dinner that evening, we heard the news, good and bad. In a way it had been a success. Julie and Sally had played beautifully the whole afternoon, and the ladies had admired the harps, and applauded, and eaten up all the cakes. But there had been two catastrophes. One was that although Miss Kregman herself had been invisible [behind a potted rubber tree], everybody had kept looking fascinatedly at her feet, which had stuck out from the rubber tree, working away by themselves, as it were, at the pedals, and the awful part was she had forgotten to take off her galoshes. The other was that Father had come home during a sweet little lullaby and the ladies had distinctly heard him say "Damn" as he went up to his room.

The ability to play a musical instrument was considered a symbol of gentility and culture. Clarence was given violin lessons. Many homes had a piano and many ladies and girls could play the piano. Men were sometimes pianists, too. George Day, Clarence's younger brother, took piano lesons, and Clarence's father taught himself to play.

He got no encouragement from anyone and his progress was lonely. But Father was not the kind of man who depends on encouragement. He had long muscular fingers, he practised faithfully, and he learned to the best of his ability to play Beethoven and Bach.

His feeling for music was limited, but it was deeply rooted, and he cared enough for it to keep on practising even after he married and in the busy years when he was providing for a house full of boys...

[W]hen he got a chord wrong, he stopped. He took that chord apart and went over the notes one by one, and he kept on going over them methodically. This sometimes drove Mother mad. She would desperately cry "Oh-oh-oh!" and run out of the room.

At the time that Clarence Day was growing up, a wide variety of songs were available as sheet music -- old favorites, classical music, and popular songs of the day. The Library of Congress has a large online exhibit of sheet music that was published from 1850 to 1920. With a stack of sheet music and a willing pianist, a group of friends could spend an evening around the piano, the home entertainment center of that day.

Musical Talent Appreciated

A willing audience

It seems to me that, when I was young, older people genuinely enjoyed a live musical performance of the amateur sort. I grew up in the country, so I'm talking about older country folks. I would include people the age of my parents (born in the 1920s) in this group of music appreciators as well as the elders of the community who were born as far back as the 1880s and 1890s.

Those older people valued homegrown musical talent. They loved to hear someone play a toe-tapping tune on the piano, or the guitar, or the accordion, or the fiddle. They admired someone who could stand in front of a group and sing a song. They were thrilled to hear a trio or a quartet sing in harmony. Music was a treat for them!

For us today, music of a thousand genres is available 24/7. We are sated with music. If we don't hear the music we like on the radio, it's available on the television, internet, CDs or ITunes. We pipe it into our brains with our headsets. We don't need to make our own music in our parlors-- and that surely means that a lot of modest musical talent is never noticed, developed, or appreciated.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Grandparents, Harry Sees and Winnie Violet Eaton Sees

A 1920s wedding, some memories of my grandfather

My maternal grandparents, Harry Sees and Winnie Violet Eaton, were married in Gordon. Nebraska, in the spring of 1921. Here is a newspaper account of their wedding.

On Sunday, April 17th, at the home of the bride's parents occurred the marriage of Miss Winnie Violet Eaton and Mr. Harry Sees.

At five o'clock in the evening, this happy pair took their places opposite a west window in the living room, and there in the glow of the setting sun and in the presence of about twenty-seven friends, they joyfully took the vows that bound them into a life partnership. The beautiful double ring ceremony was impressively exercised by the Revernd J. M. Wingett of the M. E. Church.

The bride was charming in an exquisite gown of sky-blue silk taffeta and silk georgette, while the groom was appropriately dressed in a suit of blue serge. A delicious two course supper was served buffet style immediately following the ceremony.

The young couple departed for their new home in the country that night.

These young folks are well and favorably known in and around Gordon and need no introduction to the public. Mrs. Sees is the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Eaton and has for the past three years been a successful and efficient teacher of the rural schools of the community. Mr. Sees is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Sees and is a prosperous young farmer.

Mr. and Mrs. Harry Sees will be at home to their many friends on a farm northwest of Gordon where they will begin housekeeping at once.

Source: A photocopy my mother gave me of an undated newspaper clipping

Harry and Violet Sees, about 1921
Grandma Violet died when she was only 32. She fell ill with influenza, and when pneumonia set in, she died within a few days. In those days, there were no antibiotics or sulfur drugs to treat pneumonia -- just quinine. The date of Violet's death was May 6, 1931. My mother was only eight years old at the time. Later, Harry married Barbara Weber -- my Grandma Barb.

I have several clear memories of "Gramp Sees", as we called him. One time, he brought my brother and I each a little cap pistol when he came to visit. It could be loaded with a roll of cap paper so that when the trigger was pulled, it made a bang and a smoky smell. For some reason, I buried my little pistol beside a tree stump. That night, Gramp asked me where it was. When I told him, he got a flashlight, and we went outside and found it. It never did work well after that.

One time, I got in trouble with Gramp for playing in his granary.  I remember opening the door of the bin and climbing inside. The grain was cool and slippery, so I piled it on my legs. About that time, Gramp showed up. He got me right out of that bin. I suppose that he was afraid the pile of grain might slide and bury me. I think the grain was oats.

I remember Gramp loading a big gunny sack (burlap bag) of potatoes into the trunk of our car when we were heading home from a visit. He raised seed potatoes on his farm, and his potato cellar was big enough that a truck or tractor and wagon could back down into it.

Gramp passed away on May 1, 1956.  He lived only a few months after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was 63 at the time of his death, and I was just five. At that time, hospitals were very strict about letting children visit. At the Gordon hospital, my brother and I were not allowed to go to his room. We went to his window and waved to him from the outside.

I visited Gordon, Nebraska and drove out to the Harry Sees farm, about ten years ago. Two doctors had bought the property, and one of them was living in the house. The house was still strong and solid, the doctor told me. The carpenters who remodeled it had said that my grandpa built it very well. The doctor said he wanted me to know that about my grandfather.

Harry Sees was born on November 22, 1893 at Wolbach, Nebraska. Winnie Violet Eaton was born  at Marshalltown, Iowa on April 17, 1899.

If you are my relative and you would like a copy of my grandparent's wedding photo, please let me know. I am planning to make some prints, and I would be glad to make a copy for you, too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Norman E. Borlaug

A man who fed the hungry

Norman E. Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution and winner of the Nobel Prize for his creation of high-yielding hybrids of grains, has died at the age of 95.

Because of Borlaug's work in the decades after World War II, grain production was dramatically increased in Asia and Latin America, averting famine and literally saving the lives of millions of people. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, Borlaug said that food is the most basic of all human rights.

Borlaug, a son of Norwegian immigrants, grew up on a farm in Iowa. He knew from his own experience and observation that farmers needed the help of scientists. As a young man in the early years of the Great Depression, he served in the CCC. He saw hunger, and he saw the difference that adequate food made in people's lives. He never forgot.

Read more about Borlaug's life and work:
Norman Borlaug
Norman Borlaug, Plant Scientist Who Fought Famine, Dies at 95 
Norman Borlaug: Agronomist and "grandfather of the Green Revolution"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Big Thunderhead

Cumulonimbus over the prairie

We saw this big thunderhead about five years ago in northern Nebraska. We were camping at Smith Falls State Park on the Niobrara River. I stopped to take this photo on a very hot afternoon, as we drove back to camp from sightseeing in Valentine. We were glad this cloud was east of us, and not likely to turn around.

As I stopped along the sandy road and got out with my camera, I explained to the kids that this photo would be pure Nebraska -- a hayfield, a barbed wire fence, sunflowers, and a huge thunderhead. "Hurry up, Mom!" they earnestly replied.

I was using a film camera; I hadn't crossed over to digital photography yet. I scanned the snapshot tonight to post it here.

Later that night, it rained very hard, and some in our group got wet inside their tents. We heard them slamming car doors as they scrambled for dryer quarters. Our trusty Coleman Forester wasn't leaking, so we just went back to sleep.

I'm sure the rancher who owned the hay was glad he finished baling it before the rain. The bales shed a lot of the water, whereas all the hay would have been wet, had it still been lying on the ground. When he heard it raining, he probably just rolled over and went back to sleep, too.

As for us, we got up the next morning and broke camp. The plastic dropcloth from beneath the tent had a lot of wet sand and grass sprigs sticking to it, and the rainfly that covered the tent was a little damp. We dried them in the parking lot as we did our laundry in Valentine. Then we packed up everything properly and drove on to visit friends who live near Amelia (NE).

These are pleasant memories. I've been smiling as I type.

Related posts:
My Coleman Forester Tent

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Six Snapshots of Strangers

Photos that have lost their families

At an antique store recently, I saw a big box of old snapshots, priced three for a dollar. I invested $2 and chose six photos that interested me.

"Time Out" has the most information of any of the photos, In addition to the caption on the front side, someone wrote, "July 12, 1936. Richfield County Park," on the back side.

I thought "Time Out" was a great title, so I took the challenge and gave the other photos two-word names, too. The captions are strictly from my imagination, based on what I saw in the pictures. I would love to hear your titles, too -- two-word, or otherwise.

It's a shame that these photos are orphans -- and worse than that, unidentified. I'm going to assume the people in the photos had families or friends that cared about them. After all, someone took their pictures.

"Time Out"
July 12, 1936. Richfield County Park

Day's end

Sunday shoes
(stamped July 16, 1937, on the back)

Parlor games

Windy wait

Uncle Eddie

Monday, September 07, 2009

"The Crow" by Steve Martin

This would be a nice Christmas present, children.

My favorite radio station was broadcasting sports tonight as I drove home from work, so I listened to the bluegrass station instead. There, I heard an excellent ballad -- "Daddy Played the Banjo".

When the title was announced, I thought, "This is going to be corny," but the storyline was not what I expected, and the instrumentation was masterful. I'm still intrigued by the song's last lines:

Now the banjo takes me back, through the foggy haze,
With mem'ries of what never was, become the good old days.

When I got home, I looked up "Daddy Played The Banjo" on the internet and learned that it is a song from the Steve Martin album, "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo." The singer is Tim O'Brien. The banjo accompaniment is by Steve Martin and Earl Scruggs. The wistful lyrics were written by Steve Martin.

Various luminaries of the bluegrass, folk, and country worlds perform on the album.

On “The Crow,” support is provided by the likes of Vince Gill and Dolly Parton, who duet on “Pretty Flowers,” and Tim O’Brien, who sings “Daddy Played the Banjo,” which also features Mr. Scruggs and his son Gary, who co-wrote the tune. Other guests include Mr.[Tony] Trischka, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Mr. Martin’s high-school pal Mr. McEuen, formerly of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, on several instruments. The stately Irish folk singer Mary Black joins Mr. Martin on “Calico Train.”

Source: "Steve Martin Takes the Banjo Seriously" by Jim Fusilli, in the May 30, 2009, Wall Street Journal

In another article, I read about Steve Martin's playing style. He is not a banjo "picker".

Among country and bluegrass musicians, Mr. Martin is regarded as a master of a difficult five-fingered playing style known as clawhammer or frailing, in which the instrument’s strings are pushed down by fingernails, rather than pulled up with picks.

Source: "Jokes and Film Are Fun, But He Loves His Banjo" by Dave Itzkoff, in the February 1, 2009, New York Times

I am not knowledgable about banjo picking styles, so I offer this link based on its title, not on my expertise: "Steve Martin banjo, frailing, clawhammer medly - Loch Lomond Sally Anne". All I can say with certainty is that he is playing an awful lot of notes per second.

I'm glad that Steve Martin has made an album, and I'd like to hear more of his serious banjo playing. Do you think I make the hint big enough at the top of this post? Just in case I didn't, here's a picture too.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Old Church Demolished in Henderson, KY

Henderson landmark lost to wrecking ball

When we visited Henderson, KY, about a year ago, I photographed this vacant church building. I thought that the front part of the church had interesting elements of Modernism in its architecture.

I was quite surprised when I read recently on the Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog that the church has been torn down. In "Another Landmark Gone",  Brenda writes that the original church building (photo at right) dates back to the 1850s. It was the oldest church building in Henderson.

She notes that the new part of the church was built about 1930. That date matches my guess of the structure's age, based on the boxy style and the geometric accents in the masonry.

An article in the Henderson Gleaner says that the buildings were also home to the Haven Pentecostal Church.

It's a shame that no use could be found for these historic buildings. I suppose that the corner will now be occupied by a drug store, a gas station, or an auto parts store.

Isaac got tired of waiting for me the day that I took these photos. It was hot, and he was sitting in the car. I'm glad I have the pictures, though. Sometimes I fail to photograph a building I like, and then I regret it after the building suddenly disappears.

I'm also glad that the congregation of the First Christian Church is still intact. I read on the church website that they moved to a new building in 1962.  The Haven Pentecostal Church also continues to meet. It looks like they have a new building too.

Related posts:
Buildings Are Not Forever
Historic Log House Is No More
Nine Historic Homes in Henderson, Kentucky
Folk Masonry Seen in Henderson, Kentucky

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Troubles with Horses

Life in a cow town

Valentine, Nebraska in 1911

The following news items are from the Sept. 3, 1903, "Talk of the Town" section of the Valentine Democrat (published in Valentine, Nebraska). It was a bad week for horses and their owners and riders.

  • Miss Anna Ashburn was bucked off a horse at the ranch last week and hurt her head and shoulders. She was brought to town and is getting along all right.

  • Frank Frush has had a streak of luck lately. Frank thinks it was bad. He was roping a heifer Tuesday of last week when his horse's feet slipped out from under him and fell across Frank's leg smashing his ankle and while yet using a crutch was out Saturday helping cut out some cattle to ship when his horse fell again and dislocated his right shoulder. Dr. Dwyer set it a half hour later and he's doing first rate now.

  • Obe Church had his team hitched to a spring wagon and standing in front of his store last Friday when it became scared at the sunshade flopping in the wind and started to run. The horses ran across the street in front of the meat market of Henry Stetter and came near running into the building but whirled down the side walk and out in front of the postoffice taking out a couple of porch posts, then across to the corner of the Palace saloon where they were caught. Obe went around with his hammer and fixed things up.

And in the public notices on page 5:

  • Lost, strayed, or stolen. One bay pony mare, white face, five years old, weighs about 750 pounds, broke to ride, has saddle marks, small sore right cheek from blind tooth, branded 2 2 on left hip. Raised on Rosebud agency by an Indian named Ben Hungry. Liberal reward will be paid for recovery. M. Webber, Ft. Niobrara, Nebr.

Valentine is located in the northeast corner of Cherry County, Nebraska. On the northern edge of the Sandhills, Valentine was an important shipping center for livestock -- in other words, it was a "cow town". There were probably as many horses in town as there were people -- maybe more.

The Rosebud Agency was (is) an Indian reservation, just across the state line in South Dakota. The soldiers at Ft. Niobrara, a few miles east of Valentine, were there to discourage any uprisings.

- - - - - - - - - -

We sometimes shopped in Valentine when I was little. We lived south of Johnstown, Nebraska then, roughly 35 miles southeast of Valentine. I've written about my memories of going to the Valentine post office with my mother.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Shopping Season

Early signs of fall

The retailers are ready for a change in the weather.  Sweaters and blankets are on display in the malls; any remaining summer merchandise has been moved to the clearance aisle.

Pots of yellow and burgundy mums line the sidewalks at Kroger.  Mums are an obligatory autumn porch-and-yard decor in Kentucky.

Real pumpkins aren't ready yet, but you can buy a cute fake pumpkin at Lowes. And at the cash registers, a display of spray foam insulation for windows and doors reminds shoppers that it's time to get ready for cold weather.

Of course, this is just the prelude to the busiest retail season of the year. First it's Halloween, then Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, and finally, the after-Christmas clearance sales.

Look for some very good buys this fall. The stores will be fiercely competing for the consumer's dollar. It is a good idea to buy early, if you see something you like at a reasonable price. Because of the economy, retailers aren't sure how much to order. In their effort not to overstock their warehouses, they may run out of items that sell better than expected.

That's my shopping advice for the season, and it's offered completely free of charge.

Phone Conversation Overheard

Life in 2009

"I wonder if I have a text message. Where's my cell phone?! I just had it. Now what did I do with it?"


"Oh, I forgot. I'm talking on it."
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.