Thursday, January 27, 2011

More of the Same

Snow, again.

At least once a week since Christmas, we've had snow. Each time, the schools have closed for a day or two, but it hasn't snowed enough yet to keep me home from work. I took this photo through my car window yesterday morning, going down our hill to the highway. A layer of frozen slush lay under the snow, so the drive to work was a long, slow crawl.

One of these cold, white mornings, I'll open the front door and look outside. As I'm standing there, wondering if I should try to go to work, the phone will ring. I'll answer, and my boss will say, "Hi, Genevieve. The roads aren't safe this morning, so don't try to come in. Stay home today! And we want to pay you for your full shift, anyway, just because you're a great employee!"

I don't really expect that to happen, folks, but we all have our little dreams.

Two Ideas for Lace and Ribbon Scraps

Using leftover sewing and craft supplies

(Warning: Guys, this post is "girly". Better luck next time!)

Lace and ribbon scraps, with buttons. Photo by rsharts)

If you sew or do crafts, you probably have some bits and pieces of lace, ribbon, etc. that are too big to throw away but too small for most projects. Here are a couple of easy ideas for using them.

Handmade ribbon and lace tassel

Keely and I saw a cute, Christmas-colored, ribbon and lace tassel in the "Homemade Christmas" ornaments at a store last December . It would be easy to make your own Christmas tassels with leftover ribbon, lace, rick-rack, other trims, yarns or yarn braids, etc.

A handmade tassel, attached to a cord or a wide ribbon or a band of fabric, would make a good curtain tie-back in a room with country or folk-art accents.

I found this blog tutorial that shows how to make a beautiful, fancy tassel. But you don't have to go to those extremes. Martha Stewart thinks tassels are a good thing, and she has a short tutorial on making ribbon tassels. Here's another tutorial with, I think, better instructions on making a simple tassel. Just substitute any of the narrower scraps of lace, ribbon, rickrack, and trim that you happen to have for the yarn that is shown in the illustrations..

Homemade "Creativity Kit"

When I was in the craft section of another store recently, I saw some quart-sized plastic jars of ribbon, lace, and rick-rack scraps being sold as creativity kits for kids. They were made by Simplicity, the company that makes sewing patterns, tools and supplies. The labels said the jars also contain buttons, pom-poms, sequins, ribbon flowers and a few other similar items.

Oh my goodness, I could probably make a few dozen little craft kits like those from my stash of leftover craft supplies!

Craft kits in little plastic containers would make nice prizes at school or Sunday School. Some people might have lots of donations if they received word that the kits were being assembled.

Maybe craft kits like these would sell at a flea market, church bazaar, or garage sale.  You could print and attach a cute, colorful label that said "Creativity Kit" in big letters. I suppose the labels should also carry some kind of warning, such as, "Not suitable for children under age 6."

What might go into the kits? "Googly eyes", glitter, buttons, pom-poms, sequins, beads, lace, ribbon, rick-rack, other trims, scraps of elastic, scraps of soft leather or velvet, felt scraps, fake-fur scraps, miniature balls of yarn, greeting card pictures, acorn caps, pretty pebbles or small rocks, small silk or ribbon flowers, florist's leaves, marbles, game pieces, Scrabble letters, face cards (King, Queen, etc.), shoelaces, pipe cleaners, and other fun, kid-friendly, crafty items.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Growing My Family Tree

Obsessed with genealogy

Český Šternberk Castle, Czech Republic. Portraits of
six generations of Sterberg family in Jiří Sternberg's study.

I recently signed up for a trial membership with Maybe you've heard about it on television. They have an ad about typing your ancestor's name and seeing a little leaf sprout. When you click the leaf, it takes you to documents about your ancestor. It's an accurate advertisement -- except that it lacks a warning about developing an obsession with your family tree!

I started with a trial membership -- free for ten days. Within just a few days, had my payment for a one-year subscription. I was having so much success in looking up my ancestors that I didn't want to stop. (I do realize that there are free genealogy sites, but it seems to me that has a lot more sources in their databases, at present.)

Fascinating family trivia

For example, I discovered that my family is related to the Kackmeisters (through Stella Hill, a cousin of my grandfather) and to the Clappers (through a half-sister of my great-grandmother Lana Mapes). These are families who lived south of Johnstown, Nebraska, as my own family did at one time. I knew we shared bloodlines with the Clappers and Kackmeisters from listening to my grandma talk about them when I was a kid. Now, I understand the details.

I knew that my grandmother Violet Eaton taught the Lavaca School (in northwestern Cherry County, Nebraska) at one time and that my mother taught in the same school around twenty-five years later. But I had not known that my great-grandfather Marcus Eaton homesteaded in that community and lived there with his wife and four daughters for ten years or more. When Violet taught at Lavaca, she was back in the neighborhood where she grew up and probably in the very school she herself had attended. And when my mother taught there, the older folks in the community must have remembered her mother, her aunts, and her grandparents.

Finding family history facts

I've never known much about my family history farther back than my great-grandparents, but I'm learning what I can and trying to find documentation for every fact that I add. You have to be careful on It would be very easy to accept information from other member's family trees that is undocumented and even completely wrong.

So, as I "leaf out" my family tree in the older generations that I don't know at all, I'm testing every bit of information that I find. Do the names match? Do the children match? Do the birth dates and death dates match? Is there any documentation for the last name of the spouse, or is it just family tradition? Etc., etc.

Mapes Family Mysteries

Lately, I've been obsessed with the Mapes line, the family of my dad's paternal grandmother. Surprisingly, it may be possible to track those ancestors back into the 1700s and possibly even earlier than that. The line includes a William Mapes who fought in the War of 1812. His father (Smith Mapes) and grandfather (Samuel Mapes) fought in the Revolutionary War.

I have tried and tried to prove that they are not really my relatives. Part of my doubt stemmed from something I read about the Revolutionary War father and grandfather. It said that they had both signed the "Revolutionary Pledge" in Orange County, New York. That bothered me, because I had read on the census records that the next generation of the Mapes family (Ashibel) could not read or write. How could Ashibel's grandfather and great-grandfather have been Pledge-signers in the 1770s, when Ashibel was illiterate in the mid-1800s? And yet the names and dates and places all match as they should, and I have found layers of documentation.

Interpreting the documents

As I've been looking at my family tree, I've developed some new-to-me insights. For example, it is no great shame that various Mapes ancestors and others in my family tree were illiterate. When you look at the old census records, it's amazing how many people were illiterate. In fact, in some of the neighborhoods where my mid-1800s Mapes ancestors lived (Kansas, Illinois), census records show that very few people could read or write.

I suspect that when the Mapes father and grandfather signed the Revolutionary Pledge, someone wrote their names for them, and they "made their sign" or marked an X beside it. I think it's likely that a lot of people signed the Revolutionary Pledge that way. I doubt if literacy rates in the 1770s were any better than they were in the 1850s.

Illiteracy also explains how spelling variations in names occurred from one document to the next. For example, Ashbel Mapes is recorded in census records and other papers as Ashibel, Ashibald, Ashbel, and Ashabel. Ashbel couldn't write or read, so he didn't know how his name was supposed to be spelled. He told his name and someone else recorded it with spelling that was invented on the spot.

The Revolutionary Pledge

And what was the Revolutionary Pledge that Smith and Samuel Mapes signed? Well, I found a bit of information about the Pledge in some old histories of Orange County, New York. During the Revolutionary War, two lists were kept in Orange County. One list had the names of the Orange County residents who had signed the Revolutionary Pledge, indicating that they supported the Revolution and freedom from English rule. The other list had the names of the Orange County Loyalists who wanted New York to remain an English Colony. The people on the list of Loyalists complained that they were harassed by the Orange County militia.

Today, I found an old book that claims that the Samuel Mapes family came from Wales. It gives some names and dates back into the 1600s -- and so it goes. The twigs are always branching.


Enough already! This surely interests me far more than it does you. I just wanted to explain a bit of what has been keeping me away from my blogs, causing me to stay up late, and even popping up in my dreams. I've become obsessed, and I blame it all on

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thrills and Chills

Windshield photos

By the time I came home from work late yesterday afternoon, the ground was white with new snow. When I turned off the highway onto our little road, I stopped to get our mail.

Our Mennonite neighbor lady and her two youngest daughters were coming down the hill. I waited for them so they wouldn't have to walk on the slippery edges of the road as I passed. It occurred to me that I should steal a photo as I was sitting there, so I took this through the windshield of my car.

Whenever we have a cold, windy, snowy day, it's a sure bet that our neighbor lady will be out for a stroll. She loves braving the weather in her big boots and her wooly scarf and mittens. True to form, when she got to the bottom of the hill, she told me that she was really enjoying the weather!

The roads were slick last night and slicker this morning. WHOP in Hopkinsville reported numerous accidents. School was cancelled.

I left for work half an hour early. The road was a bright ribbon of ice. I stopped for a moment and took a photo through the windshield.

Just a few minutes later, I hit a little pothole or patch in the road, and it sent my car into a skid. In a second, I did a 180-degree turn and found myself facing the opposite direction. I didn't go into the ditch. I came safely to a stop.  After a moment of reflection, I turned around in a nearby driveway and went down the road again, more cautiously than ever.

It's a good thing that I was only going 25 mph, and no one else was on the road.  And if it had been time for me to go, I certainly wouldn't have had time to repent  and say my prayers!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Snowball Dodged

Light snowfall in Christian County, KY

Christian County, KY, 1/12/11

The first snowstorm went south of us, and the second snowstorm went north. After several days of weather advisories in Christian County, KY, we don't even have enough snow to cover the grass.

Nonetheless, our schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday. In the early hours of those days, snow was falling and the rural roads were slick. Road conditions were judged unsafe for school buses.

Christian County and our neighbor to the west, Trigg County, along with Montgomery County, TN, just across the state line, were back in school today.

My supervisor at work said her children were disgusted when they looked at the school closings map on television this morning. Nearly every school district in western Tennessee and Kentucky cancelled classes again -- except Christian, Trigg, and Montgomery.

I don't think the Mennonite children in our neighborhood have missed a day yet at their little school. They didn't even take a vacation between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Christmas Festivities Reported, 1875

Holiday happenings in Garrettsburg, Pleasant Grove, Bennettstown, and Montgomery

On January 15, 1875, the Kentucky New Era of Hopkinsville, KY, published a "Garrettsburg Letter" on its front page. The letter was written by a correspondent from Garrettsburg who signed himself simply as "P." It was dated 136 years ago, today -- January 9, 1875. The following is an excerpt:

The Christmas Holidays in our city passed off tolerably pleasant and without any serious accidents which is to be wondered at considering the amount of spirits floating around loose and the number of pugnacious young gentlemen upon their muscle.

The quality and not the quantity of our whisky is to blame, for you take a drink of it upon the first dawning of Christmas day, and the effects thereof depart not, until the close of the day upon which the dying year tells its last tale. This must be so, for I saw a young man on Thursday evening who told me he had not tasted a drop of the "Creetar" since Friday morning, and lo! he was then three sheets in the wind. One more drink of the same sort, taken straight, will carry him to harvest time.

But Christmas is gone and "Our Boys" have quit their frolicsome ways, washed the dirt from their faces, bathed their swollen eyes, and with healing plaster sticking all over their battered noses, have gone to work in earnest swearing they "will never get drunk any more." Until next Christmas.

Source: January 15, 1875, Kentucky New Era, page 1.

Garrettsburg was a hamlet in southern Christian County, about halfway between present-day Oak Grove and Lafayette.

I wonder if the whiskey at Garrettsburg was bought by the bottle or made by the jug. In plainer words, was it legal whiskey or was it locally-produced moonshine? The Federal government imposed a national excise tax on whiskey in 1862, but small-scale Kentucky distillers widely ignored it.

Short bar

The Kentucky New Era's front page also includes a "Pleasant Grove Letter" from correspondent "Hiram". He described a wild Christmas celebration in that community.

Christmas came along about the 25th of December, bringing with it the usual supply of fire crackers, egg-nog &c, and went -- well, we were not in a condition much of the time to tell exactly how it did go. We know this much, that the night air was made hideous by the neighing of studs, peals of laughter, and the endless pop, pop of guns. All Pondriverans know how to shoot a gun accurately. In fact, the man who lives 'mid these hills and does not own a yellow dog and a gun is hardly respectable.

Source: January 15, 1875, Kentucky New Era, page 1.

Based on Hiram's comment about "Pondriverans", I looked for Pleasant Grove along the various forks of the Pond River of northern Christian and adjacent counties, but I wasn't able to locate it. I did find a Pleasant Grove Road in Christian County southwest of Crofton, but it's a significant distance from there to any fork of the Pond River. I may be seeking a clue where none exists -- perhaps when Hiram wrote about the "endless pop, pop of guns", it reminded him that Pond River folk were good shots, so he wrote that too.

Short bar

Bennettstown was a small village, just a few miles northeast of present-day Lafayette in Christian County, KY. If holiday festivities in that community were rowdy, it was not reported by correspondent "Tacitus" who wrote the "Bennettstown Letter".

Christmas has come and gone with about its usual festivities. We had a great many parties, which were attended by the many beaux and belles of our city and vicinity, and if you have any doubts Mr. Editor, of the asserition in my last letter, "that we could beat the world for pretty girls," just by way of variety drop in some time when you are in our section at Capt. Cooper's or Squire McKenzie's or any where else around (we mean upon business) and see if we are not correct.

Source: January 15, 1875, Kentucky New Era, page 2.

Short bar

Montgomery was located in Trigg County, just west of the present-day intersection of Highway 68/80 and Interstate 24. Correspondent "Jim Jay" described an orderly Christmas celebration in his "Montgomery Items".

We of this little town ushered in the Christmas holidays on Christmas eve by a nice Christmas tree... [unreadable]... with all kinds of fruit in the dry goods and notion line; on which occasion your humble correspondent was remembered by a liberal supply of gifts. In connection therewith we had a concert which is something new in this village. All were pleased, feeling that Montgomery can do what she undertakes and that well. We propose to get up a "Thespian society" and "Minstrel performance" to give monthly entertainments.

Source: January 15, 1875, Kentucky New Era, page 2.

A regularly-performing theater group sounds like a great way to keep the guys busy, out of trouble, and away from the whisky and guns!

Moonshine still at the McCreary County Museum
in Stearns, Kentucky.
I have taken the liberty of breaking a long single paragraph in the "Garrettsburg Letter" into three shorter paragraphs.

Photo credits: Moonshine still by Brian Stansberry (Own work). CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
19th-century whisky bottle by National Park Service.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Hog-Killing Time

Tools and supplies for a cold-weather chore

An advertisement in the December 5, 1905, Hopkinsville Kentuckian:

Hog-Killing Supplies
Lard Kettles
Lard Stands
Sausage Stuffers
Lard Strainers
Scalding Tubs
Butcher Knives
Best Ohio River Salt
Best Michigan Salt
Best Table Salt
Meat Choppers
Lard Presses

Forbes M'f'g. Co.
Hopkinsville, Kentucky

I think that "Ohio River Salt" was the brand name of a salt produced at Pomeroy, Ohio.

And a little farther down the page:

Hog Killing Time!
Now is the season for
this and the making of
good country sausage.

Remember, we carry a full
line of seasonings, in Salt,
Peter, Liquid Smoke, Whole and
Ground Sage, Cayenne pepper, and
Black Pepper. Give us a call

Cook & Higgins,
Both     }Home 1215          Main
phones,  }Cumberland, 58     Street.

A grocer's ad on the same page confirmed that hog-killing season had indeed begun.

Direct From the

W. T. Cooper
& Co.,
Wholesale and Retail Grocers!

Temperatures had dropped to 17 degrees above zero on the previous Sunday night.  "Freezing weather followed the rain of Saturday, and those who killed hogs slept easier," reported the newspaper.

Just a week earlier (late November), the pastors of  "the Main and Virginia Street colored Baptist churches" had baptized 60 people in the old mill pond, west of the North Main bridge. Oh, my goodness, that must have been chilly, even if they were blessed with 50-degree weather that day!

All of these reports and advertisements appear on page 8 of the December 5, 1905, Hopkinsville Kentuckian. The sketch of the butchering tools is from an F. A. Yost Co. advertisement  on page 1 of the November 27, 1909 Hopkinsville Kentuckian.
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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.