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Linda Roorda

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  1. Besides... I Love You!

    Easter... a very special time of year. It reminds us that warmer weather is arriving after the long winter’s cold, and spring is beginning to show its colors! It’s a time of renewal as plant life exemplifies rebirth by poking through the covering of a late snow, leaf buds begin to swell and emerge from their long winter’s sleep, and early flowers showcase their gorgeous colorful blooms. It’s a special time for children as they have fun decorating eggs, enjoy the search for hidden eggs to fill their baskets, and savor scrumptious chocolate treats and marshmallow peeps. I also remember a time, way too many years ago, when it was fashionable to buy a new spring dress and white bonnet for Easter service at church. But, there’s so much more to the meaning of Easter. Each year I am reminded again of all that took place about 2000 years ago. That precious little baby whose birth we celebrated just a few short months ago grew up with a purpose. As my husband’s niece, Rebecca, once said, “That God would become a man and understand our struggles on earth just blows my mind. [That’s] true humble love.” To be loved, and to know you are the object of that love, is an exhilarating and overwhelming feeling, while also giving you a sense of security. You know beyond a doubt to whom you belong. Yet, in contemplating God’s love, I sometimes find it hard to think of such unconditional love for me... After all, what about that little thing I did? Was it really wrong? Maybe I can just excuse it away. What about the unkind words I said? Will my family, my friends, or even God, forgive me for certain mistakes I’ve made? I know He has, as have friends to whom I’ve apologized over the years. But, what about the bigger mistakes? How could God still love me when my temper flares… again…? What does He see in me? I can never measure up… Well, actually, none of us can. So, why would God care so much for me… for each of us…? That One man who was perfect would willingly take my unworthiness, my shame, my heavy load of sin, and endure the penalty of the cross, just for my soul, is overwhelming. I cannot repay such a debt! But, wait… I don’t have to? My debt is paid in full? Because He freely gave His life that I might live, all I have to do is believe and accept His gift? Because Jesus loves us that much? Now that’s true love! I am reminded of Johnny Hart’s “B.C.” cartoon column. He was a good friend of my husband’s Uncle Mart and Aunt Tilly and family in Ninevah, New York, members of the same Presbyterian Church where Hart also taught Sunday School. How succinctly Hart put the thoughts of this holy week into perspective in his comic strip: “I hate the term, Good Friday.” “Why?” “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” “If you were going to be hanged on that day and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” “Good.” “Have a nice day!” [Johnny Hart in B.C., 04/09/03] Which brings to mind a similar thought-provoking cartoon I had also saved years ago from “The Wizard of ID”, a joint venture written by Johnny Hart and Brant Parker, illustrated by Parker: Friar: “Happy Good Friday Sire!” To which the king grumbles: “What’s so good about it?” The friar replies: “It took an act of God, but they finally found somebody willing to die for you.” ...leaving the king speechless. [Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc.] After the brutality and agony of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, His friends are devastated. Yet, envision with me the beauty of an early morning sunrise. Birds are beginning to sing as the sun’s first rays appear. The dew has settled gently on the flowers in the garden as they open their buds to the sun’s warmth. According to His disciple Mark (ch.16:1), Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James), and Salome quietly arrive at the tomb with spices for their beloved friend and teacher who died a horrible death on a cross… only to see in astonishment that the great stone has been rolled away. Upon entering, they see the tomb is empty except for the burial cloths folded neatly. They are already sad, but now are very afraid. Suddenly, two men stand before them in brilliant light. Knowing their fear, an angel speaks gently to reassure them. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples…” (Matthew 28:5-6) Trembling and bewildered, but joyful, the women run from the tomb. Despite their confusion, what unspeakable joy they must feel as they run to tell the disciples! And to think that with a simple child-like faith in Jesus who gave His life for me… for each of us… we can be forever in His presence. What pain there is to realize that I fall short of His tender love every day. But what joy in humbling myself to recognize and confess my sins, and to ask for forgiveness for the errors of my ways from those around me and from my Lord, and then to feel their forgiveness… as the Lord’s love and peace with mercy and grace surround my soul. That’s what Easter is all about… God’s great love! Hallelujah!! What a Savior!! Besides… I love you! Linda A. Roorda Who am I? My soul doth ask. What am I worth? And to whom? I see only failure as I take the reins And do not give my Lord the lead. ~ How can you love the me who I am When all I see are my struggles? Yet, Lord, You do love even me In ways that I cannot comprehend. ~ To sight unseen You guide my path Ever at my side, gently calling. And as you wrap loving arms around You cover my soul with tender mercies. ~ For You opened wide Your arms on a cross Giving Your life that I might live, And in return You ask for my love With all my heart, my soul and my mind. ~ But you didn’t stay within that tomb For on day three You rose from the dead. Seen by many, in the hearts of more, Eternity waits Your Gift of Love. ~ Where once I felt the crashing waves That overwhelm and burden my soul, Now peace and joy have filled my heart With love to share for those on my path. ~ Your presence surrounds me with Your peace As You offer grace to light my way, And then I hear You whisper soft Besides… I love you! ~ A Happy and Blessed Easter to all! ~~ 2013 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  2. Life's Tapestry Gems

    The tapestry of life… a montage of all that once was to all we’ve become and soon will be, all which occupies our life and dreams, and all which defines who we are in the depth of our heart. Wouldn’t it be neat to see a tapestry of scenes from your life… like the movie we see in our mind’s eye as we reflect back over the years? And from all those experiences in which we learned and grew emotionally and spiritually, what a journey it would tell! I’d like to think my tapestry would show a woman who has grown wiser over the years… for I am well aware of my youthful immaturity and inherent failings. But, woven throughout would also be the golden threads of friends, mentors and teachers who came alongside and taught me with loving encouragement. Having made small embroideries, larger crewel embroidered scenes, counted cross-stitch projects, and many quilts over the years, the fronts display their beauty. The back, however, is a different story. Hidden from view are threads that meander in a wayward fashion to the next section, or even hide mistakes – rather like my life! But, I also believe that the ups and downs and errors of life which those threads represent have all happened for a reason. As one of my favorite authors, Corrie ten Boom, once wrote, “Although the threads of my life have often seemed knotted, I know, by faith, that on the other side of the embroidery… there is a Crown." (Corrie ten Boom, 1974. “Tramp for the Lord: The Story that Begins Where The Hiding Place Ends”, p.12, CLC Publications) It’s so reassuring to know that our life experiences have an intended meaning and purpose… that we might gain a wisdom we could not have learned otherwise. Nothing can beat the exciting happy times we all enjoy! But, it’s especially in understanding the depths of pain and sadness through losses suffered or mistakes made that we grow wiser as God guides us through our difficulties. How often we find that from those life experiences the Lord positions us to come alongside someone else who might be struggling and in need of an emotional lift. For we, too, have tucked away memories of treasured friends who traveled beside us when we were in need. Though we may not think of it that way, they are, indeed, the gems of our life… just as we are for others. With these thoughts, I was reminded that “...in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV) Through our patchwork experiences, we bring our worship of “praise…to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV) What a cherished thought to know that whatever we go through, God will work it out for our good, our benefit, when our trust is placed in Him. From the blessings He gives to the difficulties He allows to come our way, may we grow in wisdom and, in turn, be used by our Lord to bless others. Life’s tapestry… that which God has woven as His masterpiece of our life… a testimony to those around us… a visual reminder of how great His love is for each one of us, tarnished and faded though we may be. For we do have a purpose in this world… in living and serving our Lord and others with joy in our heart! Life’s Tapestry Gems Linda A. Roorda Woven within the tapestry of life Are threads of gold among the diverse. These colorful scenes, a journey of years Depict a life in memories treasured. ~ Memories like dreams elusive and wary Some haunting echoes, some images clear Some melancholy, some bursting with joy Of all which dwells within my soul. ~ This soul You knew from before my birth For You’ve called me Yours since time began. You wove the threads in skillful pattern Of who I was to who I am now. ~ For I am unique, a special design The only version which You created. And all of my life with its joys and tears Helped weave the me who I've become. ~ These memories dear like gentle footprints Bring quiet joy within my heart To recall a world of growing wiser With scenes that flood the gates of my soul. ~ As memories transport through all that once was And draw me in to contemplate Emotions run strong and images lie deep From another time and another place. ~ Memories thus treasured and savored anew Serve their purpose in visions tempered By value and worth from sadness and joy To understand life as it now presents. ~~ Refining the love within my heart Of those who walk among the threads In vivid hues of brightly lit scenes To bring a warmth and smile in my heart. ~ For the King of Light has woven my life In mosaic rich and design unique Of a life well lived through blessing and trial In treasured scenes on tapestry rare. ~ Thus memories and dreams, threads of a lifetime Have woven the fabric of this my life While you, my friends and dearest loved ones Are interwoven as tapestry gems. ~~ 2014 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  3. Esther Hobart (McQuigg) (Slack) Morris was born August 8, 1812 in or near Spencer, Tioga County, New York. The “Mother of Woman Suffrage” as her oldest son, Edward, dubbed her, Esther holds the distinction of being the first American woman Justice of the Peace in 1870’s Wyoming Territory. As an early suffragist, she had an important role in gaining rights for women in Wyoming, playing a bit part in the early days of the national movement. This is her story… but first, a little background which led me to Esther. While walking our former farm fields alongside the Catatonk Creek, the remaining dam structure and the back hill, I often pondered the fact that Esther and her extended families cleared and worked this land, hunted these hills, and sawed its timber. They watched countless sunrises and sunsets from the same perspective we have. They saw many a storm come down this valley from the north and west, smelled the same earthy aroma as spring arrived, stood in awe as beautiful rainbows appeared over that back hill, and admired the brilliant colorful hues of the valley’s various trees and sugar maples in the fall. But, of interest to me personally, is Esther’s tie to the old “tenant house” as we called it when my husband’s Roorda family owned the farm on the corner of Ithaca Road and Fisher Settlement Road. This Greek Revival farmhouse had character! Built in the 1830s, it stood where our house was built in 1982. Esther grew up on the farmland here, but her brother, Daniel McQuigg, Jr. built this “little house” in the 1830s for his wife Eleanor’s mother, Mrs. (Rev. Asa) Cummings. I loved its design and floorplan; but, alas, upkeep of the house had not been maintained during the nearly 150 years of its existence. By the time we contemplated renovating it, dry rot had consumed the support beams, the main floor had separated 3 inches from a main load-bearing inner wall, and the foundation was buckling. Original imperfect glass panes were still in the windows. And, while the main floor’s ceiling was 10-12 feet high, it was too low upstairs for my 6’7” husband to stand upright. Though wood clapboard siding had been covered by ugly faux red brick asphalt sheet siding, I loved the Greek Revival design. Opening the front door, flanked by faux pillars and little windows, we entered the main hallway. To the left was the front parlor, formerly separated by sliding pocket doors (removed by a former tenant) which opened to the dining room. The second doorway on the left in the hall led into that dining room with its original but dysfunctional fireplace. To the left of the fireplace was a smaller room that had been converted into a bathroom. The door to the right of the fireplace led into the kitchen which had a door to the west porch entrance, and a rear door to a back shed. And, to the left at the rear of the kitchen was a door which opened onto a steep staircase and upper rooms. This back staircase intrigued me as we climbed up to what was clearly servants’ quarters separated from the other rooms upstairs by a different door and latch than found in the rest of the house. At the top of the stairs which curved left was a small room. This room had what I perceived to be original early-mid 19th century wallpaper of young belles in hoop-skirt gowns. Back in the small open hall, there was a simple wooden railing protecting one from falling over and down the stairs. This open area had a small “sitting” area that overlooked the staircase, large enough for a small table and chair(s), with another small room to the side, directly above the kitchen. A door to the right in this hall led into a larger room. This room had a very antique simple latch/lock. In here, we found a large curtain stretcher frame which had likely seen decades of use in the distant past. Unfortunately, I never thought about donating it to the town’s historical society. But, back on the first floor at the front entrance, we return to the main hall to take the stairs up. Ed and I recall that these stairs were so well built they did not squeak like those in our new house which squeaked fairly soon after being built! However, former occupants had also destroyed this staircase’s fancy posts and banisters for firewood. There were several rooms, two along the front, two on the side, and that larger room with the door which entered the servants’ quarters. But, again, the ceiling was so low that my husband could not stand upright at any point. And, as I said, the house was in such poor condition that it was not financially feasible for us to make renovations. Apparently not long after this “little house” was built, a sugar maple was set centered halfway between the house and the road. Still thriving in 1982 when the house came down in the fire department’s practice burn, it was damaged by the fire. We used it for firewood, never thinking to count its rings. Whether Esther Hobart McQuigg ever set foot in this house, I cannot say. Her middle name of Hobart was in honor of her mother’s family, early Massachusetts settlers who emigrated from England. Esther’s mother was Charlotte (Hobart) McQuigg, b. 1779 in Canaan, Litchfield County, CT, d. 1826 at Spencer, Tioga County, NY. Charlotte’s father, Edmund Hobart, was b.1745 in Groton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. On 01/01/1776, he married Mehetable/Mahitabel Peck at Canaan, Litchfield, CT, having nine children (Ancestry.com) – Prescott, Charlotte (Esther’s mother), Betsey (died young), Rodney, Mille, Isaac, William, Esther, and John. Edmund d.1808 aged 63 years, buried Spencer, while Mehetable d.1832 aged 77 years, making her birth about 1755, is also buried in Spencer’s Old Cemetery. In 1795, Charlotte’s father, Edmund Hobart, traveled with wife and family likely by traditional wagon and oxen from Canaan, Litchfield County, CT, taking the popular road past Oneonta’s Otsego Lake. Passing through Owego, Tioga Co., NY, Edmund took his family on to Spencer, NY, purchasing land which then included our property. Hobart’s oldest son, Prescott, was b.1777 in Canaan, CT. Sadly, he holds the distinction of being the first death recorded within present-day Spencer soon after the town was settled. Injured while using the indispensable axe, 17-year-old Prescott died of lockjaw in 1795. He was buried on his father’s farm until land was set aside for a cemetery about 1800 from the estate of Joseph Barker in town. This became the Old Spencer Cemetery at the corner of Liberty and Main Streets. (Spencer History) Edmund Hobart built a successful saw mill on the embankment above the Catatunk/Catatonk Creek, roughly 500 feet east of our house. A dam was built back to the steep hill which held back a 10-15 acre millpond to efficiently run the millwheel. The ubiquitous apple orchard was established below the mill on this side of the dam, trees still producing when my husband farmed with his father from 1968 to 1985. They provided shade for the cows, and bedding protection for deer as my son and I discovered on a hike one wintry day – along with tasty apples for the animals to enjoy! Edmund Hobart’s second son, Rodney, operated a grist mill with Daniel McQuigg on the same mill site. Daniel McQuigg married Edmund Hobart’s daughter, Charlotte, purchasing the full property in 1815 after Edmund died. (Spencer History) Later, the Cook Mill on the same ground was known to saw “50,000 to 100,000 feet of lumber per annum” even though not running at full capacity (per the late Jean Alve, Spencer Town Historian in “Sounds of Spencer”, Random Harvest Weekly, 01/11/95). The dam was eventually breached and drained, creating a large field which my husband said contained very fertile “river-bottom” loam. All that remains of the mill(s) is a large pile of rocks among which we found a few small antique bottles. The dam was removed entirely to make way for Hollybrook Country Club’s golf course in the early 2000s. There is quite a rich family history for Esther Hobart McQuigg and her paternal Hobart ancestors placed by a descendant at Find-A-Grave(FAGM) Edmund Hobart’s father was Shebuel Hobart, Jr., b.1715, Groton, Middlesex Co., MA, d.1805 at 90, Westfield, Chittenden Co., VT. He married Esther Parker in Groton in 1739, having 10 children. Esther was b.1721, Groton, Middlesex Co., MA, d.1789, aged 68, Hollis, Hillsborough Co., NH. Shebuel Hobart, Sr. was b.1682 in Groton, Mass, d.1764 at Pepperell, Middlesex Co., MA; he mar. Martha Prescott b.1690, Groton, MA, d.1774 aged 84 yrs, Townsend, Middlesex Co., MA. Shebuel’s parents were Rev. Gershom Hobart, b.1645 of Plymouth County, MA, a graduate of Harvard seminary in 1667; he m. Sarah Aldis in 1675, b.1652, 14 children. Gershom survived the Groton, Massachusetts Indian massacre of 1676; one of his children was killed, while one taken captive was released a year later. Gershom’s father was Rev. Peter Hobart, b.1604 of Hingham, Norfolk, England; he is said to have arrived at Charlestown, Massachusetts on June 8, 1635. (FAGM) ~~ ~~ ~~ Esther’s father, Daniel McQuigg, Sr. was b.1776 in either New Hampshire or Massachusetts, and d.1833 in Spencer, Tioga Co., NY. Meeting in Spencer, Daniel Sr. married Charlotte Hobart, b.1779 in Connecticut; she died 1826 in Spencer, NY. They had 11 children, including (per the late Jean Alve, Spencer Town Historian): Daniel, Jr., b.1801, Charles b.1803, John b.1805, Edmund H. b.1807 in Spencer, Jane b.1808, brother Jesse/Jessie b.1810, Esther Hobart b.1812 (J.A.) or 1814 (online), brother Mindwell b.1814, Eliza b.1816, Charlotte Susan b.1819, and George b.1821. John McQuigg, Jr., Esther’s grandfather, a Revolutionary soldier, arrived in Owego, NY from Massachusetts between 1785-1788. He was b. 1750 in Hillsborough Co., NH, d.1804 Owego, Tioga Co., NY. (FAGM) He m. 1) Mollie Gilmore – ch.: John M. McQuigg, III, b. Oct 13, 1771; and 2) Sarah Coburn – ch.: Mary b.1774, Daniel Sr. b.1776, Elizabeth b.1778, Robert b.1780, Jesse b.1783, Sarah b.1783, Patience b.1787, David b.1791, Rachel b/1793, Jane b.1795, Diadana b.1796. (J.A.) John McQuigg, Jr.’s will was probated in December 1804, presumably the year he died (FAGM), though Alve noted he died in Owego in 1813. He was buried in the cemetery of Owego’s first church. After the church burned, the graveyard on Court Street was abandoned with John McQuigg’s gravesite now unknown. (FAGM) Spencer Town Historian, Jean Alve (JA), wrote in her 08/03/85 newspaper article, “A Pioneer Family and a Family of Pioneers”, that “John McQuigg of Scots-Irish descent came from Massachusetts to the village of Owego by way of Otsego Lake and the trail along the Susquehanna river in the period from 1785-1788. He died in Owego in 1813.” But, if his will was probated in December 1804 (FAGM), then he obviously died prior to 1813 (JA). John McQuigg, Sr., was b. 1706 and d. 1794 in Bedford, Hillsborough Co., NH, recorded as a petitioner for the incorporation of Bedford May 10, 1750, a selectman from 1752-1759. He m. Mildred Lawson b. 1710, d. 1788. (FAGM) ~~ ~~ ~~ Into this hardy family was born Esther Hobart McQuigg, clearly descended from a long line of survivors unafraid of life on the western frontier. As a daughter of Daniel, Sr. and Charlotte (Hobart) McQuigg, Esther was the eighth of eleven children, the second of four daughters. By the time she was 11, Esther and her siblings had become orphans, their mother dying in 1826, their father in 1833. Her youngest siblings were sent to live with older siblings or various relatives in New York and Ohio, possibly Michigan, while Esther was apprenticed to a seamstress. She “ran a successful millinery business from her grandparents’ home [perhaps her Hobart grandmother], ‘making hats, and buying and selling goods for women.’” Esther was also not afraid to take a stand as an abolitionist in opposing pro-slavery rivals threatening to destroy a church. Two days after her birthday at age 29 in 1841, Esther married Artemas Slack of Owego on August 10, 1841 in Owego, Tioga Co., NY. A civil engineer with the Erie Railroad, Artemas was b. March 5, 1811, son of Jesse and Betsy (Burnham) Slack of Windsor, Vermont. Artemas and Esther’s son, Edward Archibald Slack, was born October 1842 at Owego, NY. Sadly, just seven short months later, Artemas Slack died in May 1843 at 32 years. “As a highly respected civil engineer, Artemas traveled throughout the Upper Midwest until he was accidentally killed in Illinois.” (p.11. Wyoming Woman Suffrage, WWS.) Artemas was buried in the Presbyterian Church Burying Ground at Owego, NY, leaving Esther a young widow and single mother. (Find-A-Grave, FAGM) Since Artemas left property in Illinois to his wife, Esther removed to Peru with her young son, Edward Archibald. There, “Ester Slack” met John Morris, “a prosperous merchant and shopkeeper,” whom she married in Peru, Illinois on February 17, 1846 as recorded in the registry at LaSalle County, Illinois. (Biographical Encyclopedia, BE) John Morris was born 1812 per gravestone, or between 1813-1817 in Poland per Federal census records (age 33, merchant, in 1850; 44 in 1860; and 57, miner, in 1870). The U.S. Army Enlistment Record (Ancestry.com) notes his enlistment on January 2, 1836 as John Moryoski, age 22, born 1814, Brestezo, Poland, a farmer. He was noted to be a saloon keeper, miner, and then a coroner in 1872. John and Esther’s first son, John, died as an infant, with twin sons born November 8, 1851 in Peru, Illinois – Edward J. and Robert C. Edward J. Morris (1851-1902) was elected assessor of Laramie County, County Clerk of Sweetwater County, and was a partner in the W.A. Johnson store in Green River, later known as the Morris Mercantile Company, and also established the Morris State Bank. (FAGM) Robert C. Morris (1851-1921) was noted to be “the most expert reporter the state ever had” for the Wyoming State Supreme Court, later partnered with his twin brother in the Morris Mercantile Company in Green River, taking over the business after his brother died. (FAGM) As above, Esther was born in or near Spencer, Tioga County, NY on August 8, 1812 (year on tombstone photo at FAGM; date per JA) or 1814 as per numerous articles about her. Even Federal census records note her age discrepancies (Ancestry.com): 1850 age 32, husband John Morris, age 33, Archibald Slack 7 (her son), John Morris 1, Salisbury, LaSalle County, Illinois; 1860 age 43, listed as “Sarah”, husband John Merris/Morris age 44, twin sons Edwin and Robert, both age 8, Peru, LaSalle Co., IL; 1870, June 1st, age 57 as was husband John, South Pass City, Sweetwater, Wyoming Territory. 1880 age 77, census taken on the 4th and 5th days of June 1880, Sangamon, Springfield Co., IL. (Note 20 year age discrepancy between 1870 to 1880 by my review Ancestry.com.) 1900 age 85, 86 or 87, with 7 written above a 5 which also appears to have a 6 within it, residing in the home of her son, “R.C. Morris” (Robert C.). Perhaps she had previously claimed a younger age than she actually was so as not to be listed older than her second husband, John Morris. Published August 3, 1950 in the “Waterloo Daily Courier” of Waterloo, Iowa under Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – “Mrs. Esther Morris of Cheyenne Wyoming was a justice of the peace 48 years before the U.S. gave women the right to vote! The first Woman Judge – Mrs. Esther McQuigg Morris (1813-1902), who died at Cheyanne, Wyo. on April 2, 1902, at the age of eighty-nine, was known as the ‘Mother of Woman Suffrage in Wyoming.’ She was the first woman judge in America, being chosen justice of the peace of South Pass City, Wyo. in 1870, shortly after women received the vote in the Territory, but 48 years before the U.S. gave women the right to vote.” (Ancestry.com) With her 90th birthday upcoming in August 1902, this notice would make her birth year the more accurate 1812. In July 1869, John and Esther Morris joined the gold rush and moved their young family west, not to California but to South Pass City in Sweetwater County, Wyoming Territory. Gold was discovered here in the late 1860s. Though the working Carissa Mine closed in 1956, it remains open for public tours. With their children, John and Esther settled into a 24×26 foot log cabin on Lot 38, South Pass Avenue. (pg.11, Wyoming Woman Suffrage, WWS) The 1870 Federal Census for South Pass City records John, age 57, a miner, with his wife Ester, age 57, Justice of the Peace, Edward, age 19, occupation of clerk in store, Robert, 19, Deputy District Clerk, and Edward Slack, age 27, District Clerk. Esther Hobart (McQuigg) (Slack) Morris was a woman of stature, a hardy pioneer. “Nearly six feet tall, weighing a hefty 180 pounds…a born reformer,” Esther was a woman who radiated strength. Speaking in a “blunt and fiery” manner and adept at articulate passionate speeches, she was a fervent crusader for her cause. (BE) With her ancestral background of pioneers on new western fronts, she supported and promoted women’s rights at a time when it was more often a volatile subject. After America’s Civil War granted rights to former slaves, she was now among the increasing voices promoting woman suffrage, or right to vote. In Wyoming Territory, William H. Bright, introduced CB70, the suffrage bill to give women their right to vote and hold office. “Passing CB70 was not a joke gone awry. Instead, a genuine belief in woman suffrage, a way to promote the territory, and the notion of temporary experiment with this reform influenced the Wyoming legislators.” (pg.8, WWS) It was believed that “Being the first government to pass a woman suffrage bill would invite national publicity and create a positive, progressive image which would induce more settlement.” (pg.9-10, WWS) On December 10, 1869, women were, indeed, granted the right to vote in Wyoming. “This same group of lawmakers also gave married women control of their own property and provided for equal pay for women teachers, many years before most other states would even begin contemplating such legislation.” It was of note that within a short time, the nation’s first female jurors were also seated, as was the nation’s first woman justice of the peace. (BE) Not long after, on February 14, 1870, Esther Morris began her appointment as Justice of the Peace for South Pass City, Sweetwater County in Wyoming Territory. She paved the way as the first American woman ever to hold such a position. Newspapers around the nation informed interested readers of her auspicious appointment. Morris presided over a rowdy western town of about 2000 souls for eight-and-a-half months. Alcohol was readily available from two breweries for miners who frequented “a dozen saloons and several brothels.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/23/obituaries/overlooked-esther-morris.html Morris tried about 30 cases (New York Times Obituaries, NYT) or 27 cases (pg.14, WWS), or over 70 minor cases (BE), meting out justice as her strong common sense deemed appropriate. Most cases brought before her involved debt disagreements, but she adjudicated “ten assault cases, including three with the intent to kill.” (pg.14, WWS) Indicative of Morris’s ability is that not one of her decisions was reversed by a higher court, even after one case was taken to appellate court. As expected, the era’s news media “found the idea of a female judge somewhat amusing, or so their reports on Morris’s tenure would suggest. In April 1870, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper recounted her first day in court, focusing primarily on what she wore – ‘a calico gown, worsted breakfast-shawl, green ribbons in her hair, and a green neck-tie’. A few months later, the same publication called Morris ‘the terror of all rogues’ and said she offered ‘infinite delight to all lovers of peace and virtue.’” (NYT) A year later in June 1871, Morris supposedly issued a warrant against her husband for assault. Quite possibly a rumor, “one story asserted Esther had tried her husband, John, for drunkenness and had him tossed in jail. Denying it, she replied, ‘A man is not alowd to be judge of his wife much less a woman of her husband. It would not be a legal proseding.’ Common sense, more than the knowledge of the law, explains the success of Morris’ tenure as justice.” [pg. 14, WWS] At the conclusion of her term, Esther decided not to seek reelection. Her son, Robert, “explained his mother’s decision by noting she had received ‘much glory’ from holding the job and demonstrated that women could perform well in elected office. In other words, she had accomplished her goals.” She also knew her husband opposed woman suffrage and probably her job as justice of the peace. [pg.14, WWS] Unfortunately, with their marriage already failing, the couple separated. Leaving John Morris behind, Esther Morris removed to Laramie, Wyoming to be near her eldest son, Edward Slack, a newspaper editor. (BE) Morris recognized her own role in the national emergence of women’s suffrage. After completing her term as justice of the peace in 1871, she wrote a prominent suffragist, Isabella Beecher Hooker. Her letter was read at the national suffrage convention in Washington, D.C., and printed in Wyoming’s “The Laramie Daily Sentinel”: (NYT) “Circumstances have transpired to make my position as a justice of the peace a test of woman’s ability to hold public office… I feel that my work has been satisfactory.” In describing some of her responsibilities such as assisting in picking juries, depositing a ballot, canvassing votes after an election, Morris noted that “in performing all these duties I do not know as I have neglected my family any more than in ordinary shopping.” (NYT) In 1873, John Morris bought his first liquor license for his saloon, continued to work in the local mines and speculated in properties. (WWS) He died in South Pass City on September 29, 1877. [In 2011, Clint Black noted for Find-A-Grave that “John’s gravestone in Cheyenne may be a memorial. City records record burial in 1876.”] John’s obituary in the Cheyenne Sun noted he was the step-father of the paper’s editor, Edward Slack. Age 63 at death, he had emigrated from Poland, arrived in South Pass City in 1868, established himself as a saloon keeper, a miner, and elected coroner in 1872. (FAGM) In the same year of 1873, Esther Morris was nominated for Wyoming state representative from Albany County on a woman’s ticket. Withdrawing not long afterward from the election bid, she made it clear, however, that she was still very much a part of the “woman’s cause.” Moving back east to Albany, New York in 1874, she continued her suffragist efforts, taking part in ceremonies for the 1876 “Declaration of Rights for Women” at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition. Traveling west yet again, Morris eventually settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1890 where her son, Col. Edward Archibald Slack (1842-1907), had become owner/editor of the Cheyenne News and later the Daily Leader. Slack gave his mother the honorary title of “Mother of Woman Suffrage.” Previously, Col. Slack had begun the publication of the Laramie Independent newspaper, followed by the Laramie Sun. This was also the year of Wyoming’s statehood, being the 44th to join the Union on July 10, 1890. During celebrations, Morris, “honored and respected for her great ability and heroic womanhood,” was given a prominent celebratory role. Morris presented Gov. Francis E. Warren the new state flag of Wyoming “on behalf of the women of Wyoming, and in grateful recognition of the high privilege of citizenship that has been conferred upon us.” (NYT) Morris was part of a tour by Susan B. Anthony in 1893 when Colorado women received the vote, attending a dinner given for Anthony in 1895. That same year, Morris was also elected a delegate from Wyoming to the national suffrage convention in Cleveland, Ohio. (BE) Esther Hobart (McQuigg) (Slack) Morris died at age 87 or 89 (depending on source) on April 2, 1902 at home in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the town where she is buried. A pamphlet published in 1920 on Wyoming suffrage by local historian Grace Raymond Hebard contributed in great part to establishing Morris’s reputation for the many women’s rights she helped achieve. In 1960, statues to honor Morris were placed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol and in the state house at Cheyenne, Wyoming. (BE) Though Esther Morris will always be remembered for her brief time as the first woman Justice of the Peace, she is only rarely mentioned for her important advocacy for women’s suffrage. Yet, she worked fervently among the more recognizable suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree), Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucretia Mott, and so many others. Being the first woman justice of the peace, Morris is typically named alongside Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress in 1917, and Sandra Day O’Connor who, in 1981, became the first woman Supreme Court justice. (NYT) Not until 1920 were all American women given the right to vote, women who have benefited from Morris’s “satisfactory” execution of the trust placed in her as the first American woman justice of the peace. As noted, the three sons of Esther Hobart (McQuigg) (Slack) Morris carried on their mother’s legacy and that of her siblings and extended family as leaders within their communities… rather fitting for a woman of hardy pioneer stock.
  4. On a hill looking south over Owego stands a white marble obelisk, visible from across the river when the leaves are down. Its prominence denotes the Evergreen Cemetery, and specifically marks the grave of a young Mohawk Indian maiden. The site chosen for her memorial displays a stunningly beautiful panorama of the town below as the Susquehanna River wends its way through the midst of what was once thick virgin forest. And it’s not too difficult to imagine the Native Americans who once lived and traveled this waterway through our beautiful and fertile land. The elegant 17-foot tall monument was erected by private donations from the good people of Owego and other cities after the young woman’s death. Her epitaph reads: “In memory of Sa-Sa-Na Loft, an Indian Maiden of Mohawk-Woods, Canada West, who lost her life in the Railroad Disaster at Deposit, N.Y., February 18, 1852, Aged 21 years.” [Searles, p.29] A carved wild rose with a broken stem and missing leaf adorns the back of the monument. Facing west are the words, “By birth a daughter of the forest, By adoption a child of God.” Sa-Sa-Na is buried at the foot of this elegant monument, facing the sunrise to the east. [Searles, p.29] Several websites about Sa-Sa-Na include the words from a poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” with claims it is a Native American prayer. This poem, with its origins in dispute, was confirmed in 1998 by Abigail Van Buren to have been written by Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932: "Do not stand by my grave and cry... I am not there, I did not die." Many are the visitors who have reported hearing a voice softly singing while they sit upon a bench in front of the wrought-iron fence which surrounds and protects her gravesite. If the singing be nothing more than leaves gently swaying in the breeze, the ambience denotes a quiet and peaceful setting. Sa-Sa-Na (Indian equivalent of the English Susannah) Loft was a direct descendant of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), the Mohawk chief who had caused much fear and destruction during the Revolutionary War. With the colonists’ revolt against the British Crown, most of the Iroquois nation felt their alliance with Britain was key to stemming the tide of colonists who were taking more and more of their ancestral lands. Maintaining his ties to the Crown, Brant (commissioned a Colonel) led numerous attacks on various communities within New York. When the war for independence began, many of the Iroquois nation in the Mohawk Valley region of New York removed to what was called “The Mohawk Woods” in the township of Thayendanegea/Tyendinaga on Canada’s Salmon River. The Loft family, living near Canajoharie, was among those fleeing the Mohawk Valley for the safety of Canada. [Searles, p.8-9] After Britain’s loss to the upstart American nation, more Iroquois resettled on Canadian soil given to them by the British Crown (as did white Loyalists from within New York State). On May 22, 1784, twenty canoes holding fifteen Indian families under Capt. John Deserontyon landed on the shore of the Bay of Quinte for their land reserve of 92,000 acres. The township of Tyendinaga (i.e. Thayandanegea, Joseph Brant’s Mohawk name) is west of Kingston in Hastings County; specifically, it is west of Deseronto and east of Belleville along the Salmon River on the northeastern end of Lake Ontario. Others followed Joseph Brant to what became known as Brant’s Ford on the Grand River, now Brantford, Ontario, Canada. This community is about 25-30 miles west of Hamilton and Burlington, both of which are situated on the far western shores of Lake Ontario. A venerable warrior and revered chief of his people, Joseph Brant was born somewhere along the Ohio River in 1742. His father died when he was still an infant, while his widowed mother, Owandah, raised her family with, presumably, assistance from their tribe in colonial New York. Mary/Molly Brant, Joseph's older sister, became the common-law wife of Sir William Johnson. As the British Superintendant of Indian Affairs, Johnson played a major role in supporting the Crown during the late 18th century in the province of New York. He was also an instrumental force in helping educate the illiterate young Brant. At age 14, Brant left home to become a student at Moor’s Indian Charity School in Connecticut (the forerunner of Dartmouth College) under Dr. Eleazer Wheelock. Returning home with an education, Brant attained new roles in leadership of the Iroquois and as the head of his own family. After the deaths of his first two wives, Peggy/Margaret and Susannah, he married Catherine Croghan in 1780 with whom he raised a family of seven children. With his natural abilities well suited to the role of chief and leader of the Iroquois nation, Brant was instrumental in securing peace treaties after the Revolutionary War between the United States government and other Native American tribes. Having already proven himself a worthy warrior not only by his bravery in battle but as a leader of his people, he now proved his prowess as politician and diplomat. But, more importantly, Brant also encouraged his people to settle their disputes and end the warfare against the ever-expanding white frontier settlements. He then devoted the balance of his life to missionary work, including the raising of funds to build the first Episcopal church in Canada. Appreciating his own education, Brant believed there was much to learn from the whites and their patriarchal society, which differed from the traditional Indian matriarchal society. He felt strongly that, for the Indians to survive, they would need to incorporate more of the methods used by whites not only in their agricultural future, but in virtually every other aspect of life. Having become a Christian (Anglican/Episcopalian) and a Freemason, Brant also believed in educating their own youth so that they, too, could succeed like the white man as the world around them continued its progressive change. His last words to his adopted nephew show how committed he had become to the intellectual and spiritual advancement of his own people: “Have pity on the poor Indians. If you have any influence with the great, endeavor to use it for their good.” Brant died on Nov 24, 1807 at his home in what is now Burlington, Ontario. He is buried at Her Majesty’s Chapel of the Mohawks (originally St. Paul’s, built in 1785), the oldest Protestant church in Brantford, Ontario, with a memorial statue erected in 1886 to his memory. And into this heritage was born Sa-Sa-Na Loft. From a Canadian biography of her brother, George Rok-Wa-Ho Loft, four children were born to Henry Loft and his wife Jemima (or Ya-Go-We-A, also their youngest daughter’s name). Direct descendants of Brant, the Loft children’s maternal ties were of the unmixed Mohawks living in the township of Thayandanegea/Tyendinaga near the Bay of Quinte. Henry’s father, David Loft, was a St. Francis Indian (Abenaki tribe) while Jemima was a Mohawk. Sa-Sa-Na’s older brother, Rok-Wa-Ho (George Rokwaho Loft), married Ellen Smith, also a Mohawk. They were parents of Frederick Ogilvie Loft and William Loft, both of whom have continued Brant’s legacy in promoting the betterment of the Mohawk Indians as a whole. Growing up on the reservation known as The Mohawk Woods in the township of Tyendinaga on the Salmon River in Ontario, Canada, the Loft children received a good education through the work of the local mission school. Understanding the importance of meeting the spiritual needs of his people, Brant had had several books of the Bible translated into their native language, including Genesis and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, along with the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and other Christian writings. Through the local mission’s efforts, the Loft family and children also converted to Christianity. With the two older Loft children having been educated at the mission school several miles away from home, they then taught Sa-Sa-Na at home. The wife of the Episcopal minister in Kingston also gave music lessons to train Sa-Sa-Na’s beautiful voice, who in turn taught her younger sister, Ya-Go-Weia, all she knew. In their longing to help provide a quality education and to Christianize more of their people, Rok-Wa-Ho and his two younger sisters, Sa-Sa-Na and Ya-Go-Weia, commenced a singing tour throughout New York state. Since their oldest sister was married at the time, she remained home with their widowed mother. Traveling to raise funds to help educate their people, their efforts were rewarded in helping to eventually build a church within their own community. On February 15 and 16, 1852, the Loft siblings arrived at Owego, New York where the sisters gave two concerts, and received a warm welcome from the townspeople. Sponsored by Judge Charles P. Avery, they stayed as guests at his home on Front Street in Owego, along the Susquehanna River. Avery was a man with considerable interest in preserving local Indian history within colonial Tioga County, and thus his eager support of the Lofts. The siblings next traveled east to Deposit. At the Oquaga Theater, they gave another sacred concert on February 17th. They were well received at both towns just as they had been at other stops throughout New York, and were greatly admired for their efforts to assist their indigent nation back home. In Deposit the next day, February 18th, while their brother purchased tickets at the station, the sisters boarded the passenger train and took their seats. Unbeknownst to everyone, just eight miles away on the same track, an engineer lost control of his freight train at “The Summit” [also called Gulf Summit], the peak of a steep downgrade [from my knowledge of the area, I presume this to be part of the summit of Belden Hill on Rt. 7.] Knowing what the end result would be, the engineer jumped the train as it gained unrelenting speed on its headlong run down the track covered in snow and ice. Hearing an alarm sounding for the fast-approaching runaway train racing toward their standing train, both sisters managed to jump from their car onto the station platform. Unfortunately, as she jumped, Sa-Sa-Na lost her balance and fell backward onto the car they’d just left, being crushed and scalded to death as the freight train crashed at that very instant with a horrendous slam and explosion of steam. The Owego Gazette for Thursday, February 19, 1852 included this brief notice: “Frightful Rail Road Accidents. Deposit 18, 1852. Freight Train East ran in to mail train going east at this station today, and one person, the elder Indian girl killed. One lady from Great Bend badly scalded. One man badly injured. Freight train coming down the summit became unmanageable. No others injured.” [Both Miss Susan Wisner, 18, of Goshen, Orange County, NY and Patrick Moony from Susquehanna, PA died soon afterward from their injuries. [Searles, p. 105-107, The Deposit Courier, Feb. 21, 1852.] Sa-Sa-Na’s funeral was held in Owego on February 20, 1852 “with impressive services at the Episcopal Church, and at the grave [with] Rev. Mr. Watson officiating.” [Searles, p.108, The Owego Gazette, February 21, 1852] A lengthy obituary of Sa-Sa-Na by the Hon. Charles P. Avery was included in the small handbook, “Memorial of Sa-Sa-Na.” [Searles, p.83] A poem written by W. H. C. Hosmer titled simply, “Lament of Sa-Sa-Na” was read at her funeral. [Too lengthy to include here, it can be located online.] The obituary, sermon and poem were included in an 1852 memorial pamphlet which was entitled, “To the memory of SA-SA-NA- LOFT, noble, lovely, self-devoted – early mourned; and to those who love and cherish her memory, these brief pages are dedicated.” [Published at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.] Great crowds gathered to show their grief in support of the surviving siblings. They had become very fond of the three Indian youths and their endeavors to raise funds for the education of their tribe. The deeply saddened Rok-Wa-Ho is quoted as saying, “One half the burden of the load is lifted from our hearts” following the great kindness shown to them by Owego’s citizens. [Searles, p.33, excerpt from Star-Gazette Sunday Telegram, May 19, 1985] A memorial service subsequent to that in Owego was held at St. Thomas’ Church in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on February 29, 1852, with a sermon given by the rector S. H. Norton. He referenced Ecclesiastes 3:4: “A time to weep and…a time to mourn.” [Searles, p.89, from the booklet “A Memorial of Sa-Sa-Na, the Mohawk Maiden…”] “The Deposit Courier” of Wednesday, February 25, 1852 included a poem “In memory of Miss Sasaneah Loft, the Indian Singing Girl, a victim of one of the late fatal accidents on the N.Y. and Erie Railroad: ‘To her Father, the ‘Great Spirit,’ The forest child has fled; - Sharp was the arrow, brief the pang That laid her with the dead! But yesterday, and she was here Gay as the fawns that bound In sportive grace and joyousness Her woodland home around… Long, long, in sylvan solitudes Will sound the tale, I ween, How the Great Spirit called to heaven Their bright, accomplished queen.’ From the Oxford Times, Feb. 21, 1852.” [Searles, p. 118, The Deposit Courier] Intending to return his sister’s body to Canada for burial, Rok-Wa-Ho was persuaded by Judge Avery to allow her remains to be placed in the Avery vault at the Presbyterian Church on Temple Street. A committal service for her was held the following spring at Evergreen Cemetery on the hill above Owego. With letters of administration from Surrogate Court, Judge Avery sued the railroad company on behalf of Sa-Sa-Na’s family. Receiving a payment of $2000.00 in September 1852, he turned the money over to the Loft family. Upon receipt of these funds, they were then able to provide for “publication of religious books, in the Mohawk language, for the education and Christianization of the Mohawk people at the reservation in Canada.” [Searles, p.25-26, from Deposit Courier Magazine, March/April 1957.] To provide a monument at Sa-Sa-Na Loft’s burial site, the Owego women raised funds locally and from communities as far away as Albany, Auburn, Binghamton and Oxford where the Loft siblings had given concerts. When sufficient funds were received, a beautiful white marble obelisk was purchased at cost, $201.58 (for a monument valued at the substantial sum of $400), from the Owego Marble Factory of G. W. Phillips who obtained the shaft and bases from Vermont’s Rutland Quarry. This monument was erected in May 1855 as a lasting memorial to the young woman with whom the community had fallen in love. Little known to the rest of the world, Mohawk Indians apparently arrive each spring at Evergreen Cemetery to pay their respects to the memory of Sa-Sa-Na. At times, the chief attends in full Indian dress. “As is the custom of the Indians they arrive and leave quietly and, unless someone happens to be in the vicinity of the monument at the time, no one is the wiser for their tribute.” [Searles, p.8-9, “Still visited by Her People, the Saga of Sa-Sa-Na Loft” in “An Owego paper, date unknown, from the scrapbook of Ruth S. Tilly.”] How fitting that, at least in the past, a quiet and unassuming tribute has been paid each year by the Mohawks to the memory of Sa-Sa-Na, one of their own… a moving tribute to a kind and compassionate young woman who ventured forth with the simple and noble ambition of raising funds to further educate more of her beloved people… her enduring legacy. And so, closing my eyes, I visualize the solemn occasion as the chief arrives bearing a visage of serenity. Slowly and quietly he walks to the edge of Sa-Sa-Na’s grave. Head bowed, he pauses to contemplate… and to remember all he’s heard about this young woman in stories passed from generation to generation. As he lifts his eyes toward the sun, his own face shines with a joy for one so young whose tender heart touched so many… one whose life ended far too soon… but one who left a lasting legacy of love and concern for her people. And with hands raised to the sky, he thanks the Great Creator for blessing their nation with the beauty of Sa-Sa-Na’s life. MAIN SOURCE (other websites on request): “Sa-Sa-Na Loft, Owego’s Indian Maiden, A Historical Anthology,” compiled by Marilyn T. Searles, 2001 (held at Coburn Library, Owego, New York).
  5. Ode To A King

    Analogies give us a glimpse of similarities and truths of a story tucked within a story. Thinking about this concept after my poem was written brought to mind Mark Twain’s British book, “The Prince and The Pauper,” published subsequently in the U.S. in 1882. In Twain’s beloved story, a young prince and a pauper (who happen to look a lot alike and were born on the same day) trade places in life. The prince experiences the roughness of a lowly life just as his counterpart once did, while the pauper tries to bravely find his way at the top of an unfamiliar kingdom. Common sense, so crucial to his survival in the real world, comes in quite handy as he makes his way through the upper echelon. Ultimately, the real prince returns to claim his rightful place as heir and is crowned king. Ever grateful for his real-life experiences as a pauper, the prince now understands life for the poor and hard-working folks beneath him, and is better able to comprehend their needs. And, then he makes his friend, the pauper, his aide. Having never read Twain’s book, my poem was written without knowledge of the story line. After research, it’s clear my poem takes a similar albeit slightly different tack in relating a king who was used to observing the realm from his castle high above the fray of every-day life. Wanting to experience firsthand what life for his subjects was like, he walks among them dressed as a beggar. In this guise, he observes that most people continue on their way with their heads held high, seldom stooping to assist someone poorer than they. They live and breathe a self-serving arrogance. But, on the other hand, a young woman notices the poor man in his tattered clothing. She kindly offers to feed him – and not only did she provide nourishing meals, but she repairs his coat to provide warmth against the cold. He returns often to talk with her, to learn the depths of her heart, and to simply show appreciation and gratefulness for what she has done for him, a beggar. He was afraid to share that he had fallen in love with her, but was now in a dilemma for he needs to return from whence he came. Indeed, he knows that truth must always be told in any situation… and so he set out one day to let her know how much he loved her. He was willing to give up all he owned just to serve her for the rest of his life. And it was then that he could see his love was returned in her eyes as he knelt down to propose. With her “yes,” his heart leapt for joy to know their hearts would soon be united forever, as he shared who he really was. Tucked within the depth of this poem’s story is the analogy of our Lord’s love for us. Leaving his throne in His beautiful and perfect heavenly home, He came down to dwell among us… into this world of sin and pain. Once here, He experienced life just as we do with all of its temptations and sadness, but also the joy. And thus He is able to be our advocate and comforter, knowing from personal experience what our life on earth is all about. Yet, our Lord came that He might serve us, not to be served. “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28) In His sacrifice, He gave His all for us… His life… that we might accept an awesome priceless gift; and, in so doing, share eternity with Him above. What joy there will be when we are united with Him, and remain in the presence of His love forever! What a King! Ode to a King Linda A. Roorda I gazed from afar while observing my realm And found with int’rest motives in action, But often their lives showed merest concern While I could see depths of their anguished souls. Oh how I loved these people of mine! And longed to walk the path to their soul A chance to converse, a sharing of hearts To bring them peace with comforting words. So stepping down, I entered their world Yearning to serve the rich and the poor But they did not know this beggar in rags Most never saw needs, just held their head high. And then I noticed a young woman fair Who spoke gentle words to a stranger coarse She offered me food and to mend my coat While love in my heart had only begun. A love which grew on the winds of time A chance to bond and learn of her heart To know the depths of comfort and peace Humility’s grace wrapped up in mercy. Now deeply in love I’d sacrifice all Yet she did not know the truth of my garb How would I explain that she’d found favor That her heart was true, like gold refined. So I intended my dilemma to share To let her know from afar I’d come, That all I’d longed for I treasured in her, Companionship sweet, a blending of souls. Expressing my love for her tender heart Overwhelmed was she as on knees I bent Asking for her hand, with tears she said yes, My heart leapt for joy that we’d become one. And then I shared my journey in rags From a kingdom rich in glory and fame To this lowly world of sorrow and pain To which I had come, others to serve. For it was then my eyes did behold Analogy of One with far greater love Who left His throne to walk on this earth To share our burdens and speak to our hearts. His love ran red as He gave His all To purchase with blood and redeem our souls That He might draw near, from sin set us free To offer His gift of life eternal. ~~ 12/21/15 – 12/24/15 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author.
  6. I'll Be There...

    Thanks so much, Mahatma
  7. I'll Be There...

    Some of us know the depths of depression and despondency. Some of us know the lack of physical healing or the pain of incurable disease. Some of us know the sorrow and grief of losing a precious loved one. Some of us know family dysfunction. Some of us know abuse that no one else can see or fathom. And we question how this could be… How could a loving God leave us in pain by not healing us, even after much prayer? How could a loving God allow so much evil to go on all around us? How could a loving God allow the senseless shooting sprees that kill our innocent children? How could you do that to us God? But, it’s not God who does this to us… with Adam and Eve came “the fall.” The perfect first couple failed to heed God’s words, listening instead to the guile of sweet flattery from the serpent. Ever since, we and this world around us have been living with sin and its imperfections. We tend to put ourselves… our wants and desires… first. I remember many years ago leaders in church saying that if anyone was discouraged or depressed, they must not be a true believer in God. How wrong and presumptuous to think that the difficulties of life can’t and won’t weary anyone, including a hearty Saint! We’re human, as were the best examples in Scripture who dealt with their own failings and weaknesses which brought them to their knees. Like King David’s psalms of poetic devotions which vividly show his laments and pleadings, they also show his rejoicing in God’s guidance, protection and provision. He was no different than us. We all express our sorrows and laments as well as joy and thankfulness. Yet, it could also be asked, where are we in bringing aid and comfort to the one who has been wearied by the blows of life? As David begins Psalm 55, he sends up a prayerful plea: “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.” Yet, as verse 22 attests, David confidently reminds us to whom he could turn despite his troubles by saying, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you…” A sentiment confirmed by the bold and outspoken Apostle Peter who said to “Cast all your anxiety/cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) And this from the man who three times denied he ever knew Jesus, his Lord and closest friend! The difficulties we face do not mean God doesn’t hear our cries, our pleas, our prayers. Though His answers may not be what we want or expect, He will answer in His time and in His way… for He alone knows the best way to meet our needs. His answer to our prayers may not come immediately. Sometimes, it’s not until much later that we look back and say, “Oh! So that’s why things happened that way!” In allowing difficulties to come into our lives, God quietly gives us an opportunity to grow. By seeking our Lord’s will through it all, we mature in faith. Even the Apostle Paul dealt with a “thorn in the flesh.” Some have thought it might be poor vision after the brilliant light that temporarily blinded him on the road to his conversion. We don’t know his exact problem, and it really doesn’t matter. Paul felt it was given to him to prevent his becoming conceited. Three times he asked the Lord to remove it from him, to heal him; but, it was not removed and he was not healed. Instead, what Paul heard in his heart was the Lord saying, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV) In the days that seem so dark, so dreary, so difficult and painful… know that you can find comfort from those around you… a spouse, a child, a dear friend, your church family, or friends within your community. They will be there to comfort you and see you through, and point you in the right direction for help. Assistance may even come through professionals who can provide counseling, medical care and medication. But, also know that there is another who will be there, one who will come alongside, hold you up, and carry you on those days when you can barely manage to move forward – our Lord. I know, because He’s been there for me, for us, through dark and difficult days, with a peace I can only describe as an overwhelming warm blanket of comfort… for “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV) There’s an old song I like by Rich Mullins, “That Where I Am, There You May Also Be.” I especially appreciate the chorus, “In this world you will have trouble but I leave you my peace…” It’s based on John 16:33 where Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As proofreader, my husband, Ed, commented, “It’s a feeling of complete and unexplainable tranquility knowing that nothing can shake you anymore, that God has your back whatever comes at you. It’s knowing that you have Jesus and that He died for you; and, when the end comes, that you’re going where He is and there will be peace forever with Him.” It is this overwhelming peace that I have felt as our Lord wrapped His loving arms around me while in prayer, thanking Him for blessings through difficult days... in our daughter’s passing, in my husband’s blindness and extensive health issues, and so much more. Do I always remember to pray right away, to thank Him, and ask for His help and guidance? No, unfortunately, I don’t. Sometimes it’s later that I think, once again, why didn’t I go to God first? I know I need to ask Him to help change my heart just as much as I know He is there waiting for me to draw near to Him, telling me “I’ll be there…” Just like the words we say to a friend in need - I’ll be there… as we become Christ’s hands and feet for others. I’ll Be There… Linda A. Roorda When you feel As though the world Has closed in tightly all around… I’ll be there. ~ When it seems As though your prayers Just never get answered… I’ll be there. ~ When the road You’re traveling on Seems just too steep to climb… I’ll be there. ~ When it’s hard To face life’s challenges That hide your peace and squelch your joy… I’ll be there. ~ When you peer Into nothing but darkness That envelopes your entire world… I’ll be there. ~ When the Lord Does not give healing But simply says, “Trust me…” I’ll be there. ~ When you step Into a bright new day But only feel never-ending pain… I’ll be there. ~ When you need A hand to grasp And an ear to hear the depths of your soul… I’ll be there. ~ When a tear Begins to slide And sadness covers your entire world… I’ll be there. ~ When your face Looks up in prayer While holding tight your Maker’s hand… I’ll be there. ~ When you feel God’s loving arms Gently enfold as He carries you… I’ll be there. ~ When you sense God’s peace fill your soul He gently whispers within your heart… I’ll be there. ~~ 07/10/13 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  8. Journey of Life

    Life is a journey… a different path for each of us, and never what we might envision the future to be when we’re young, standing at the edge of tomorrow. We may sail along on a seemingly smooth course, expecting all our plans will come to fruition, but what we cannot see is the unexpected bend. What lies ahead is hidden from view. With each new day comes change… hardships and prosperity, struggles and triumphs, losses, fears and tears, joy and laughter, and blessings we too often take for granted. This photo of Ganargua Creek was taken by my friend Kathy’s husband, Hugh Van Staalduinen. Ganargua, or “where the village sprang up”, was named centuries ago by the Iroquois Indians. Nicknamed “Mud Creek” for its murky water, the creek flows near Palmyra and Newark, continuing east to Lyons, a tributary of the Erie Canal. The creek is a favorite for canoeing and kayaking with a trail alongside that encourages hiking, an overall great natural wildlife environment. And it was this beautiful image of a creek with its distant banks obscured by a foggy haze that brought this poem and these thoughts to mind. As we once again stand at the door to welcome a new year, we have no clue what lies ahead… just around the bend. We can only be in the moment, enjoying it for what it holds, leaving the unknown future in God’s very capable hands. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) We can live in fear of the unknown, or live out our faith in hope and trust in someone greater than us. We can trust that no matter what might lie ahead, God will always be with us, guiding our steps as He weaves our life’s journey. We can hope for good to come out of the hardships, and appreciate the positive impact within our heart as we deal with challenges. We can be a blessing to others by simply being there for them in a tough time. We can pray for healing, as we look forward in faith, waiting for answers to our prayerful pleas. And, we can trust that even when the answers aren’t what we want, the Lord will ultimately bring about what He deems best… for we grow by facing and accepting whatever difficulty comes our way with a strong and quiet faith. And we are deeply grateful and thankful for the many blessings received. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12 ESV) God knows what lies ahead on our journey of life… He goes with us, just as he told Joshua before the Jews entered the Promised Land, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV) But, it’s up to us to trust Him, and to live by faith with hope in Him as He shows us the way… around the bend. A very Happy New Year to you, dear Reader! Journey of Life Linda A. Roorda Beauty unadorned in peaceful reflection As gentle dawn pierces the haze, While we gaze into the tunnel of time And contemplate our journey of life. ~ This life’s adventure, a passage blest Carried on streams of hopes and dreams, With faith kept alive by promises sure That all has meaning no matter the course. ~ An image from life captured forever Of time standing still in unchanging scene, While visions of yore blend future obscure Harboring secrets of a path unknown. ~ As we sail into the hidden morrow Seeking the ideal of heaven’s realm, We fathom with trust the pathway ahead And patiently wend this journey of life. ~ For there lies our faith, hope in the unseen That One far greater protects and guides, Trusting the day when glory shines through And all is revealed in the Light of His Word. ~~ 09/23/17 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~
  9. There are special memories we treasure and renew each Christmas season, no matter what! It seems that to honor this most treasured holiday is in our soul, for the birth of Baby Jesus brought treasured Joy and Love into our world. As we celebrate this joyous holiday, we enjoy making or buying special gifts for our loved ones, baking delicious treats, and beautifully decorating our homes. But don’t forget the seasonal aromas of fresh-cut evergreens! Therein lies a favorite memory for many in going out to get a Christmas tree from a tree farm, meandering between the rows to find the right one as fresh snowflakes flutter down, or perhaps simply picking out a favorite from among pre-cut trees on a seasonal lot, the latter option often being pretty much all that’s available to our city friends. Decorating the family Christmas tree brings such excitement to a child! Their eyes sparkle, reflecting the lights and tinsel that shine and shimmer, while the fancy decorations bring special memories to mind from year to year. The first Christmas after Ed and I were married, we cut down a small tree in the woods to decorate in our trailer; otherwise, faux trees were usually the norm as our kids grew up to save the disposable expense every year. Now, I simply set up the 2-foot ceramic tree made for my mother-in-law decades ago, which she graciously gifted to me before her passing. Until this research, I never knew that the evergreen tree is said to represent strength, perhaps strength to resist temptations or to remain strong in the harshest of times. We often consider it a symbol of our Christian faith, a reminder of Christ’s birth and everlasting life, but it has also been an ancient symbol of wisdom and longevity. President John F. Kennedy even referred to the durable evergreen as a symbol of character by saying, “Only in winter can you tell which trees are truly green. Only when the winds of adversity blow can you tell whether an individual or a country has courage and steadfastness.” (The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, pg.276) It seems Christmas trees became popular thanks to England’s Queen Victoria in the mid-19th century. Yet, it was in 16th century Germany where many believe the tradition began of setting up an evergreen in the house for Christmas. Martin Luther, credited with starting the Protestant Reformation in 1517, is thought to have begun putting lit candles onto his family’s tree which were held in place by wires. This bright tradition was based on his seeing stars twinkling amongst the evergreens as he walked outdoors mulling over a sermon. The Germans also added edible decorations to the branches, like aromatic gingerbread. German glassmakers began creating unique glass tree ornaments, a tradition carried forward through the centuries. In 1605, an unknown German left a written record of their decorations: "At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc." As time went on, figurines of Baby Jesus were put at the top of the tree. Later, an angel was often displayed as a topper to remind us of the one who had first informed the shepherds about Baby Jesus’ birth, or a star was gently set on the top branch in honor of the bright star which led the Wise Men to the young child. In England, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Germany, apparently set up and decorated their first family Christmas tree in 1841 inside Windsor Castle. Young and beloved by everyone, whatever Queen Victoria wore or did often became the latest fad, like wearing the first white wedding gown for her marriage in February 1840. Thus, she and her husband are credited with starting the very popular Christmas tree tradition. An 1848 drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” in the Illustrated London News eventually found its way to America, republished in “ Godey's Lady's Book ” at Philadelphia in December 1850. However, historical curators have established it was actually Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, who began the British tradition of setting up Christmas trees with “the first known English tree at the Queen’s Lodge, Windsor in December 1800.” Simply put, Queen Charlotte didn’t have the effervescent media giving profuse public praise to her every move that we would remember her effort. Lit candles on Christmas trees created a beautiful illuminating star effect. Unfortunately, they were also the cause of many fires. What a promising change when inventor Thomas Edison hung up his safer electric lights in his office in 1880. Two years later his colleague, Edward Johnson, strung up red, white and blue bulbs for use on his tree at home. By 1890, an Edison Company brochure offered Christmas tree lighting services. Only a few years later, President Grover Cleveland became the first president to decorate the White House Christmas tree with lights in 1895. But, not until 1923, did President Calvin Coolidge set up the first National Christmas Tree on the White House front lawn. The popularity of Christmas trees make them highly desirable wherever you live. Along with the beauty of candles or lightbulbs, various types of homemade decorations have been strung on the tree, including popcorn, cranberries, and fancy ornaments from paper to glass. To serve their many customers, trees were brought to the cities by traditional means of delivery via teamsters with horse-drawn wagons and the popular steam locomotive. Of especial interest among certain waiting city clientele, though, were the roughly 60 Christmas tree schooners which plied Lake Michigan between 1868 and 1914. They were among the nearly 2000 or so beautiful three-masted schooners carrying cargo like tractor trailers on today’s highways. Sailing south from northern Lake Michigan with loads of evergreens in late November, these hardy mariners risked their lives despite stormy weather to bring great joy to their customers. Far from summer’s calm, late season sailing often became a ride on roiling and dangerous waters described as “hellish death traps [in] violent hurricane-force storms.” Many of us readily recall Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, a haunting tale of loss on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975 – “…The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'. The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of November come early…” This last phrase was oft quoted by long-forgotten mariners on the Great Lakes who knew stormy tragedy; and, I’m sure, are among the fears of those who ply the late-season waters even now. Yet, not many of us today know about the tragic loss of the three-masted schooner, “Rouse Simmons”, the famed and fabled Christmas Tree Ship. Born after the American Civil War’s conclusion in 1865, Capt. Herman Schuenemann, the son of German immigrants, knew Lake Michigan like the back of his hand. He’d been sailing since his youth. He knew how storms could blow up in an instant, causing havoc with sailing vessels, just as he knew about storms which took ships down to their dark and bitter-cold watery graves. After all, he lost his brother, August, in the severe gale of November 9-10, 1898. His ship, “the two-masted S. Thal”, also held Christmas trees bound for Chicago when she sank in a violent storm. Loyal to the good people of Chicago, Capt. Herman Schuenemann faithfully brought in his schooner loaded with Christmas trees every year. While not the only Christmas tree ship on the Great Lakes, the good captain with his evergreen cargo was extremely popular at the Clark Street Dock of Chicago. The annual arrival of Capt. Santa was made more popular by the reciprocal love of his many friends and neighbors. He couldn’t think of disappointing the faithful who hoped to buy his trees for their homes, nor the poor families, orphanages, and churches which welcomed his free gift of a tree. It simply gave him great pleasure to sail into the Chicago harbor with his cargo of evergreen joy. Yet, some would later claim Schuenemann had overloaded his schooner that year, making her top heavy. At least one sailor, possibly several, refused to get on board when it was claimed rats were seen deserting while she was docked. Sailors can be a superstitious lot… still, it’s long been known by old sea hands that if rats desert a ship, they know something’s amiss in what the inexperienced or unconcerned observer may overlook. Even so, Capt. Schuenemann set sail on a nearly 300-mile journey from Thompson’s Pier at Manistique, Michigan the week before Thanksgiving… November 22, 1912, a Friday, another bad omen. To the old mariners, you never set sail on a Friday… just past midnight into Saturday, but never on Friday. Knowing a storm was brewin’, Schuenemann wanted to get ahead of it, ignoring advice from friends in the Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “The people of Chicago have to have their trees for Christmas.” (See film clip of Classicsailboats.org, “Herman Schuenemann, Captain Santa”) In the captain’s defense, though, even the official weather forecast on the day he sailed was not one that would have given rise to grave concern. “Washington, D.C., November 22, 1912 – For Wisconsin: Local rains or snow Saturday; colder at night; variable winds becoming northwest and brisk; Sunday fair. For Upper Michigan: Local snow or rains Saturday; variable winds, becoming northwest and west and brisk; Sunday fair. This would not be the kind of weather which a recreational yachtsman would relish, but it was hardly cause to stop the merchantmen.” (“Anchor News”, publication of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, January/February 1990, by Fred Neuschel; p. 87, Pennington.) And so, undeterred, Schuenemann sailed out into the lake with his cargo of roughly 5000 trees… until the 50-60+ mph winds caught up with him. The gale-force winds laden with snow and ice took their toll on the hardy old ship built 44 years earlier. She was seen by a steamer about 2 p.m. on November 23, 1912, the car ferry “Ann Arbor No.5.” Noted to be riding low and listing badly, the captain of “Ann Arbor No.5” later claimed the “Simmons” was not running distress signals. He didn’t attempt to get closer to offer aid thinking she could yet make it safely to shore, later taking much blame for his decision. Less than two hours after that siting, however, the U.S. Lifesaving Station had received notice and sent a rescue motorboat out from Two-Rivers, Wisconsin during the fierce storm to find the “Simmons”. The rescuers briefly saw her riding low and listing with distress flags flying, reporting that “…she was completely iced over, with most of her rigging and sails tattered or gone.” As they drew within an eighth of a mile of the schooner, a sudden snow squall overwhelmed and “blinded them. By the time the squall blew itself out, the ‘Rouse Simmons’ was gone… There was no Christmas Tree Ship, no Captain Santa, and no trees for many needy families’”. (p.135, Pennington, quoting U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, Dec 2000) The late-season cold and stormy Great Lakes does not bring a pleasure sail. High winds angrily whip the lake into a mountainous frenzy, sending waves crashing over ship decks. The captain and his crew would fight the elements as their ship was tossed to and fro. Though all hands knew what to do in riding out such storms, surely they must have also realized they could go down at any moment. Realistically, there was only so much they could do. “Freezing temperatures would sheet rigging, sails and spars with heavy coats of ice. The accumulating weight of ice on the ship could ominously drag her deeper into the water, changing the center of gravity and making her prone to a sudden roll, from which she would never recover. Running any cargo on the old schooners was especially dangerous in the late season.” (“Went Missing II”, Frederick Stonehouse, Copyright 1984; pg.87, Pennington) Actually, four ships with all hands sank in that horrendous storm of 1912 – “South Shore,” “Three Sisters,” “Two Brothers,” and the “Rouse Simmons.” Having lost sight of the “Simmons” despite an extensive search which risked their own lives, the unsuccessful Two Rivers Point men returned to the rescue house. When the “Rouse Simmons” failed to appear at any dock after ten days had passed, let alone her destination of Chicago’s Clark Street dock, it was determined that she must have gone to the bottom of Lake Michigan. She was believed to have sunk on November 23, 1912, possibly somewhere between the Two Rivers Point light and Kewaunee along the Wisconsin shore. Yet, there were numerous conflicting reports of sightings and stories of her final hours, including supposed sightings that she had braved the storm just fine, confusion on the number of crew aboard, and even confusion as to why she had gone down. For years afterwards, evergreen trees and their remnants, including a few ship artifacts and skulls, were caught up in numerous fishing nets. Not until October 30, 1971, however, did a diver, Kent Bellrichard, accidentally discover the “Rouse Simmons.” While searching for another ship with his sonar, he dove down into the depths to investigate his target at the bottom. Quite sure he had found the “Rouse Simmons”, Bellrichard returned a week later for another dive. This time, with better lighting, he found the schooner’s name and hundreds of Christmas trees in her hold, some tucked deep inside with needles still intact. (pg. 232-237, Pennington) Many more years passed before a fishing trawler netted a captain’s wheel in 1999. Determined to be from the “Rouse Simmons” by the year 1868 etched into the wheel’s metal, it was found in an area dubbed the ship graveyard for the many ships which have sunk there in storms over the numerous past decades. It is now believed the “Simmons” did not break apart from age as had been initially surmised. With her wheel found a mile and a half north of where the schooner rested on the bottom, and noting the specific type of damage to the wheel, there seemed to be sufficient evidence as to why the good Capt. Schuenemann was unable to bring her safely in to shore. Judging from the damage to the wheel, it most likely broke off and sank when the massive mizzenmast driver boom, which supported the ship’s main sails, broke loose. Without the vital wheel to guide the ship’s direction, and with her larger-than-usual load of evergreens, being heavily coated with ice, her sails in tatters from gale-force winds, riding low and listing badly, she all too quickly sank below the surface with a total loss of life in the worst storm folks of that day could remember ever hitting their great lake. (pg. 214-215, Pennington) Despite the family’s loss, the captain’s wife, Barbara, was determined to continue her husband’s tradition. She and her daughters, Elsie, and twins Pearl and Hazel, began their annual trek in 1913 to the Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They cut down and loaded a schooner full of Christmas trees for the good folks of Chicago, sending more by train. Over time, fewer schooners brought Christmas trees into ports as the safer railroads took over. But, for now, Elsie, age 20, the Captain’s oldest daughter, a very capable trained mariner under her father’s tutelage, sailed the lake on a new Christmas Tree Ship to bring home the greens. Bringing shiploads of trees and green boughs to Chicago’s Clark Street dock at least until 1925 before sending all evergreens by rail, Barbara and her three daughters continued to bring the joy of the season to town just as the good Captain Santa had done. The family was beloved for their kindness and generosity in many ways, but especially during their own time of deepest grief when they thought of others. Yet, one little girl clearly remembered waiting for Capt. Scheunemann’s Christmas Tree Ship to sail into the Chicago harbor back in 1912. At age 5, Ruthie Erickson held her father’s hand as they waited at the dock for hours only to have her father finally say, “Ruthie, everybody is gone. It’s cold. The wind is blowing. We should go home now.” “But Daddy,” she replied, “it isn’t Christmas without a Christmas tree!” (p.316, Pennington) Many years later, 83-year-old Ruth (Erickson) Flesvig attended a play in 1990 about the beloved Captain Santa and his Christmas Tree Ship. As the play concluded, her presence unknown to anyone, the real “little Ruthie” walked up onto the stage to say that she had been there at the docks waiting and waiting for the good captain and his trees. Portraying Capt. Scheunemann was Capt. Dave Truitt, former Chairman of the Christmas Ship Committee who, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, helped restore the annual Christmas Tree Ship event in 2000. (p.304-305, Pennington). With tears in his eyes and everyone else’s, Capt. Truitt took one of the Christmas trees on stage and handed it to Ruth. With these words, he spoke for Capt. Scheunemann by saying, “I couldn’t give you a Christmas tree in 1912 when you were five because of reasons you now know, but I give this tree to you today. Merry Christmas, Ruthie!” (p.316-137, Pennington) Donating free trees to Chicago’s needy, the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual Christmas Tree Ship continues Capt. Schuenemann’s beloved tradition. Since 2000, the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, an imposing icebreaker, arrives at Grand Avenue’s Navy Pier bearing a banner proclaiming her “Chicago’s Christmas Ship”. As large crowds gather, a memorial ceremony pays tribute to the “Rouse Simmons,” the lives lost when she sank, and others in the merchant marine trade who have lost their lives over the decades on Lake Michigan. Then, a large number of volunteers help deliver free Christmas trees to needy families throughout the city of Chicago in honor of Capt. Santa, their dear Capt. Herman Schuenemann. As author Rochelle Pennington concluded, “Captain Herman Schuenemann touched the lives of people he would never know, and the volunteers of Chicago’s Christmas Ship are doing the same… dispelling some of the darkness in this ‘weary world’ that there may be rejoicing in The Season of Miracles… [For] the strength of humanity lies herein: in the willingness for each of us to leave the walls of our own hearts, and our own lives, and connect with the hearts and lives of others. A Babe born in Bethlehem told us so. The Life born in the hay had come to say, ‘Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, serve one another in love, and share. And do unto others, for it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” (p.317, Pennington) Merry Christmas and blessings to all! Many thanks to a friend, Will Van Dorp, aka Tugster, for the research tip about Captain Santa and his ship of evergreens, the “Rouse Simmons.” Van Dorp traverses the Erie Canal and Great Lakes as an onboard lecturer for Blount Small Ship Cruises. RESOURCES Online: Rochelle Pennington books Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship (Northern Wilds Magazine, Dec-Jan 2011) Winter Christmas Tree 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Christmas tree ship Brief film clip from “Herman Schuenemann, Captain Santa”, ClassicSailboats.org Through interstate library loan: “The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love,” by Rochelle Pennington, 2004, published by Pathways Press. “Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships” by Fred Neuschel.
  10. Christmas Joy!

    I had a big disappointment as a kid one Christmas, but kept it a secret all these years. I’ve never forgotten the Christmas when I was 5-1/2 years old. We’d left a favorite Marion, NY farm to live in Clifton, NJ again, the city where I was born. I was a big girl, walking all by myself the several blocks to kindergarten - PS#15 overlooking scenic Weasel Brook Park. My sister and I with our toddler brother loved to visit Grammy and PopPop (our Dad’s parents), and that Christmas was especially exciting ‘cause we were going to meet Santa!! And I knew all about him… You see, I had a book, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and knew that little story by heart… like another favorite book, “The Three Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens”. Just ask my kids… they’ll tell you not to get me started – ‘cause I still know that favorite story by heart! But there we were at the Christmas party with a house full of relatives. And who arrives amidst a big fuss? Santa Claus!!! No, not down the chimney, silly! After all, my grandparents didn’t have a fireplace, only radiators in their city house. No, Santa simply came in the back door, all dressed in red with white trim. He had a white beard, and a wide black belt around his big tummy – just like in my book! So, it really was him!! Then, while PopPop took movies, we girls took turns sitting on Santa’s lap, telling him what we wanted for Christmas - me, my sister, Carol, and our cousin, Susan. I honestly don’t remember who went first. But, I do know that I was scared despite being the oldest cousin and in kindergarten. I didn’t know what to say! But cousin Susan? She wasn’t afraid of Santa! She talked to him just like she knew who he was… and I was jealous. Why couldn’t I have talked with Santa like that? But, we were very happy with the big stocking full of candy that he gave each of us! As Santa left, Grammy took us three girls to a window upstairs that overlooked the snow-covered street out front, the sides banked high with plowed snow. “See those lights? There goes Santa!” But, you know what? I knew that was just a car’s red tail lights. Under city streetlights, I didn’t see Santa’s sleigh! Where were all the reindeer? And Rudolph with his nose so bright? He was supposed to lead the way! I knew every word of that story, remember?! Right then and there, I was so disillusioned that I never believed in Santa again! And dear Grammy never knew about my big disappointment… Writing this story, I had to find out who played Santa. From my Aunt Hilda, I learned that Richard Andela was our Santa. Richie actually worked with her husband, Roy Oostdyk, at his Gulf gas station on Main Street in Clifton… where my father also worked on Saturdays over the years when we lived in Clifton. No wonder Susan was so comfortable talking with him! Oh, the precious memories of childhood that we hold onto! Yet, there is someone I can believe in without disappointment… for eternity. For me, it’s the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas… Jesus, the Light of the world, our Lord and Savior. “For God [our heavenly Father] so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 KJV) With the busy holiday shopping extravaganza, commercialization and our hectic schedules, I think we sometimes lose a little of the joy and wonder that must have been felt on that very first Christmas… and perhaps we, too, forget to make room amidst the hustle and bustle for this precious little baby. Like us at times, another youngster was once trying to find the right things to help him celebrate, but nothing seemed to go right for him either. “It was finally Christmastime, the best time of the year. The houses were strung with tiny colored lights, their windows shining with a warm yellow glow only Christmas could bring. The scents of pine needles and hot cocoa mingled together, wafting through the air, and the sweet sounds of Christmas carols could be heard in the distance. Fluffy white snowflakes tumbled from the sky onto a group of joyful children as they sang and laughed, skating on the frozen pond in town. Everyone was happy and full of holiday cheer. That is, everyone except for Charlie Brown…” “Charlie (to Linus): ‘I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…’” “Later, after a day of frustrations, Charlie said: ‘I guess you were right Linus; I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster! I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?’” “Linus quietly said: ‘Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.’ [Walking to the center of the stage, Linus speaks.] ‘And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’” [Luke 2:8-14, KJV] * Did you notice that Linus dropped his security blanket while saying “Fear not” in the film? He knew Who to trust and believe! And that’s what Christmas is all about. Wishing A Blessed and Merry Christmas to all! No Room Linda A. Roorda Is there no room, no room in my heart? Midst all the trinkets this world can offer, What do I value and treasure the most… Things that decay or things of the heart? ~ It seems I’ve filled my heart with worry Frets and concerns of every-day life. My wants and wishes each clamor for time Leaving scant room for what matters more. ~ Like the innkeeper from long ago He with no room sent seekers away Little did he know, the love they carried Was in the babe about to be born. ~ This babe grew strong and embraced the weak An emissary of love sent to our world. How else could He know what this life was like Except to become like one of us? ~ Tempted and tried amidst the world’s cares Unrecognized, despised and rejected. No room in their hearts to welcome salvation No room for love and gifts eternal. ~ Still, we are drawn to this man unique… One who went seeking the hopeless and lost, Forgiving our pasts, making new from worn He who has room in His heart for us. ~ Is there no room, no room in my heart, Midst all the trinkets this world can offer? Yes, there is room for the One I treasure… The precious babe, my Savior and Lord! ~~ 12/21/16 – 12/29/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. *1965 TV special: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Charles M. Schulz.
  11. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Fall is when I tend to reflect on a year of many blessings as we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and remembering the first celebration of thanks just a few centuries ago. On Thanksgiving Day, we realize once again that we have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed us all in so many ways, yet we often (me included) tend to take much in life for granted. And I cringe every time I hear this special day called Turkey Day, instead preferring to think that deep within each of us is a heart of thanksgiving for all the blessings showered upon us each and every day. As a nation, we treasure the story of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving celebration at Plimouth Colony in 1621. (The Pilgrims of Plimouth are not to be confused with the Puritans who settled the Boston area; they are each of different religious backgrounds.) The original Mayflower passengers numbered 102, with about 50 crew members, when they set sail for the intended destination of the Virginia Colony. Blown northward off course, they arrived in 1620 to a barren landscape amidst cold and bitter November winds and snows. These hardy souls struggled to survive as the ravages of disease took a toll on board ship where they wintered. Only 53 passengers and half the crew remained alive in the spring. This left a straggling group of humanity to emerge from winter’s stark bleakness to face the early days of spring. But, the days were bright with hope and promise as the warming sun nudged green buds alive on plants and trees. They had survived! And, with God’s help, they were determined to succeed in their endeavor to settle this new land. Building huts within the protection of a fort and its cannon, they moved from the hold of the ship to life on shore. They learned to grow vegetables and hunt wild game and fish. Native Americans who had befriended them were of great assistance in teaching the best methods for growing their gardens, and hunting and fishing. At the end of harvest in October 1621, a feast was held for three days, traditionally considered the first Thanksgiving. From records kept, 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans attended this great feast. By 1623, their failed communal farming effort had been given over to the more productive privatized individual family farming. With an abundant harvest following a drought and subsequent beneficial rains, Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving that same year: “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.” The Pilgrims’ annual tradition was followed in 1630 by the Puritans’ first celebration, in 1639 by settlers of Connecticut, and in 1644 among the Dutch of New Netherlands. Each group also set aside an annual day of thanksgiving in future years. By the 18th century, various colonies designated a day of thanksgiving for military victories or bountiful crops. In December 1777, a national day of thanksgiving within all thirteen colonies was declared and set aside by General George Washington after British General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga. On October 3, 1789, President Washington set aside the first Thanksgiving Day, and proclaimed such a day again in 1795. Since then, a national day of thanksgiving was proclaimed by future presidents, but not necessarily annually. It was President Abraham Lincoln who established a national Thanksgiving Day to be held on the last Thursday of November 1863. Since then, Thanksgiving has been observed annually. However, change again took place in 1941 when President Franklin Roosevelt set the fourth Thursday of each November as the official date, and there it has remained. What foods were on the menu for the first Thanksgiving Day feast in 1621? From writings kept, the Wampanoag Native Americans killed five deer. The colonists shot wild fowl – likely geese, ducks and turkey. Indian corn was used since what we know as field and sweet corn were not yet available. Jennifer Monac, spokesperson for the living-history museum at Plimouth Plantation, has said they “likely supplemented their venison and birds with fish, lobster, clams, nuts, and wheat flour, as well as vegetables such as pumpkin (not in pie), squash, carrots and peas.” However, what we consider traditional foods for our Thanksgiving dinner (mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie) were not found on their table – these foods had not even been introduced into their diet yet! What sets this day apart for you and your family? What makes your heart thankful? What special memories or traditions of Thanksgiving Day do you share with family and friends? I’d love to hear your memories! Thanksgiving has always been a family day for us, whether during my childhood or with my husband and our children. When I was a small child, my dad had farm chores; but, we always attended a morning worship service. In my late teens, and no longer on the farm, and no worship service at our church, he often took us hunting. For my husband, Ed, every holiday was wrapped in never-ending milking and barn chores, continuing after we married. I especially enjoyed the big dinners after church at my dad’s parents’ home in Clifton, New Jersey in my early teens. With her Dutch accent, my grandmother always welcomed us at the door with her cheery “Hello, Dear!” My grandfather, a general contractor, had fully shed his accent, though they both spoke Dutch when we grandkids were not to know the content of their conversation! And I well remember their food-laden table, surrounded by their three children and spouses, and all of us grandchildren. Thanksgiving Day also brings to mind the quintessential painting by Norman Rockwell of the family gathered around the table - Grandma setting down the large platter of turkey, eagerly awaiting Grandpa’s carving. I began a fun tradition of naming our birds either Sir Thomas or Henrietta, depending on size. Growing up, our children always enjoyed watching the Thanksgiving Day parades. I often had to work this holiday years ago, and looked forward to coming home to the delicious aroma of turkey dinner begun by my husband and children. Now, with our two remaining children grown and married, and each with children of their own, they celebrate with their respective spouse’s family. Ed and I celebrate with a small quiet dinner. And then, we eagerly anticipate Christmas and the return of our family for a few days. Thanksgiving Day also never fails to remind us of those who have left behind an empty chair and a hole in our hearts – our oldest daughter, both my husband’s parents, and my dad and step-mother. Yet, sweet memories of their love cast a warm glow over all. With thankful hearts for the many blessings God has so generously bestowed on each of us, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!
  12. Dancing Embers

    Watching a fire burning in the fireplace is mesmerizing. The dancing flames seem to take on a life all their own, swaying as if in a gentle breeze. And it appears to be that time of year again. Admittedly, fall is not my favorite season, though I do enjoy the brilliant colors as leaves turn various shades and hues before cascading down to replenish the earth. I also tend to find the cold rain on dark and dreary days a bit depressing… yet, I do like the time to slow down, gather in, and observe nature’s changing moods. We shiver as the cold air closes in around us, put on a warm sweater, or wrap ourselves in a cozy quilt or blanket, and grab a good book to read. The flowers faded long ago as their greenery wilted, and the gardens have been put to rest for another season. Soon pristine white flakes will flutter down to cover the drab browns and grays as winter’s blanket settles upon the earth… in a relentless cycle of time. This poem was among my earliest, written in 2013. And, once again, I find myself sitting in front of the pellet stove, missing our trusty old woodstove, gazing at the small fire that slowly begins to burn. As the fire is fed and builds momentum, its heat slowly radiates outward, and I take time to pursue thoughts that ramble… time to think about life… time to ponder where all the years have gone… time to worry… time to realize I need to give those frets to God… time to plan next year’s gardens… time to consider chores on my endless to-do list… and time to contemplate the innumerable blessings God has given us all. Blessings in an every-day hectic life that we so often take for granted. Dancing Embers Linda A. Roorda ~ On a cold wintry night Sitting quiet by the fire A welcomed rest and retreat Watching embers glow bright Dancing as in a breeze Pausing to think and reflect… ~ On blessings clearly seen In ways beyond counting, On those hid from view Only the heart can perceive… ~ On a life oft’ encumbered With worries, frets and woes, On dreams gone up in flames Leaving memories behind… ~ But then I remember One who softly entreats Draw near to Me And release your burdens For I’ll care for you Each step of the way. ~~ Jan/Feb 2013 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author.
  13. This is Love...

    What is love? We say “I love you!” … but we also say we love a book, a movie, a car, a new outfit, our pets. Is love found in endless glowing words of romantic emotion or selfless acts to please another? So, what makes our love tick? It’s the minutes between the anniversaries that make the memories special. I can’t say that my husband is the most romantic guy in the world. Yet, he has written me the most beautiful letters to express his deepest feelings. Not able to buy cards for me unless someone takes him to the store, many are the times he has listened repeatedly to a specific song on record, tape or CD and painstakingly written it out, phrase by phrase... just to express what’s in his heart. That effort on his part means more to me than the world’s most beautiful manufactured card. He shows his love in a myriad of ways… like willingly helping with our babies after he came in from 14-16 hour days of farm chores just because he wanted to. He learned to diaper them, lovingly rocked and burped our little ones, and even read bedtime stories to them before his own dinner. Seeing my big 6’7” guy hold our tiny babies in his calloused farm-worn hands clearly evoked an image of tender love. He’s been committed to his family, always there for me and our children, helping guide them as they grew, or enveloping us in his arms when all we needed was a warm snuggle. He still helps with household chores despite vision and physical limitations – just because it’s his way of showing love... trying to ease the load I carry after working a full shift, taking him to medical appointments, and handling more and more of what he can no longer do. I used to attend an annual women’s faith retreat years ago. In one of the classes, we were asked to share how we express love to our spouse in a unique way as the leader wrote 10 ways on the board. A few said they’d write “I love you” with shaving cream on the bathroom mirror or add a special note when packing lunch for their husband, etc. My simply saying “I love you” to my husband was laughed at when shared with the woman next to me, a pastor’s wife. I felt so humiliated. What I wanted to explain (and should have said, but was afraid to) was that my husband was blind and my saying those three simple words has always been special to him, and that everyone’s examples were only good for those with vision. But, baking scrumptious meals and desserts, and not treating him as incapable of doing things just because he’s blind, seeking his advice when I’ve a problem, or even waiting for him to ask for help before offering or giving my assistance… these also show my love in tangible ways that he appreciates. My husband means what he says. His words are not empty, hollow flattery. When he says something, listen close because there’s a depth of truth and wisdom from his innate ability to understand life and how people operate. Actually, he’s a man of few words. I used to wish he’d talk more, like me! But, I’ve come to appreciate the meaning behind his few words chosen well, his sense of humor, his devotion to me and his family, his strong faith in the midst of blindness and multiple health issues, and his ability to share Godly wisdom. Giving flowers has never been his thing, though I tend to long for beautiful bouquets. On the other hand, he knows the value of our hard-earned dollars. He won’t frivolously throw it away on something that will be tossed aside in just a few days, like flowers. He’d rather spend it on something to be enjoyed long term. And I admire him for that. I have a husband who respects me and appreciates all that I do. Maybe he doesn’t tell me that every day; but, when he does, it’s worth the wait to hear those words because he means it. It’s been a hard life for him, yet he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. Being legally blind since he was a premature infant, and though he could drive a tractor on the farm or along the roadside, he could not hop in the car or pickup and go whenever and wherever he wanted. He was stuck at home, unless someone drove him to his destination. How frustrating that has been for him at times! I so appreciate his attitude of acceptance as, even now, being totally blind and with health issues that limit his mobility, he accepts the path God has allowed his life to take. He’s able to express a wisdom and insight we both would not have understood had we not gone through these various difficulties. My husband loved me despite the immaturity I came into our marriage with at age 19. He loved me enough to help me grow, to become the best wife and mother I could be, and to use the hidden talents God blessed me with in ways I could never have imagined. In turn, I love him for being there for me, listening and talking through issues we’ve faced. He’s also been gifted with a sense of humor that crops up when needed most. I loved working by his side in the past in the barn, doing yard work, or in the house. He used to tease me, saying I followed him around like a shadow in the barn, and when he’d stop short to take care of something, I’d “crash” into him and we’d burst into laughter! I miss those times working closely together… a lot. No marriage is perfect. We’ve had our share of problems and arguments when our wants got the upper hand. But, we made it work and kept our vows to each other rather than running away when times got tough. Love comes in admitting our wrongs, asking forgiveness, and understanding the unique and different strengths we each bring as gifts to be shared for personal growth. In contemplating love, the depth of a heart is revealed in the willing ability to stand by a loved one no matter the cost, except in the case of abuse. Yet, even then, if the abuser is willing to admit their wrongs and truly change from within, the path of regeneration, or reconciliation, is well worth the effort. But, if the abuser refuses to see or admit their wrongs, and perpetuates such behavior, even if others may not see it, then it’s time to walk away for one’s physical and/or emotional preservation, whether in a marriage or a friendship. Love is not about what someone else can give you; it’s all about what you can give the other, in building them up, without looking for praise. And in that, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words, words rephrased in our marriage vows, that “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) Though I may not be married to the most romantic guy in the world, God has truly blessed me with Ed’s love and practicality. Perhaps the complement to my emotional heart and creativity, he brings a balance to keep me grounded and contented, sharing laughter with his great sense of humor that has helped bring many a smile to our faces. He has an innate ability to understand people… like the depths of my heart and our children’s needs as they grew up, or taking seriously his former role as a church Elder/Deacon… and knows how to balance his role as leader of our family with the Lord as guide. We’re far from perfect, but it’s knowing how to pick our battles, and how to pick ourselves up again in the storm, with “promises to keep and miles to go” to quote another poet.* Therein lies the secret of true love as we seek the wisdom of God above… letting His love permeate our hearts and souls to become a better person. Because I firmly believe God put us together, allowing us to face various difficult trials to draw us closer to Him as we grow in faith and love. And, if Christ loved each of us so much that He willingly lay down His life for us, for our sins, then we can surely share that love with others around us. For as Colossians 3:12-14 reminds us, we are to “…clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” This is the love I see in my husband. Happy 44th Anniversary, Edward! This is Love Linda A. Roorda This is love beyond a feeling in the depths of the heart a commitment to keep. ~ This is love exhilarating joy that flows through the soul with a gentle tenderness. ~ This is love in the place of self a sacrificial gift bringing joy to another. ~ This is love a blending of hearts to become as one in sharing life’s journey. ~ This is love a tear that is shared the hand tenderly held the comfort in silence felt. ~ This is love a listening ear with honest confession as mercy and grace pour out. ~ This is love to take life’s pain and wash it away in selfless gifts with joy. ~ This is love that One above would give His life to show us the path of love. ~~ February 2013 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. *Robert Frost, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” ~~
  14. The Harvests of Fall

    As summer’s warmth gives way to the cooler days of fall, our thoughts turn to cold-weather projects, and that of storing food for the coming winter. Without that process, our ancestors would be hard pressed to get through the bitter cold months, unless, of course, you could afford to purchase all your food supplies at the local general store. Once upon a time, most families cultivated large vegetable gardens and raised a barnyard menagerie to put food by for the coming winter – a vital necessity. How they accomplished it without our modern water-bath and pressure canners, and freezers, that we and our mother’s generation have used amazes me. In 2003, I was concluding my empty-nest project of researching and writing an extensive manuscript which documented every family line of my mother’s parents back to the early 17th century settlers of New Netherlands. And that was using only the pathetically slow dial-up internet for online research! In asking for input from relatives on their memories of our grandparents, my aunt, Shirley (Tillapaugh) Van Duesen, shared how much she enjoyed working alongside her dad. Her ties to her father don’t surprise me. While growing up, I enjoyed time spent working with my dad, too, and that naturally evolved into enjoying time spent working with my husband on the farm and around our property. But, I found it especially interesting that, of all things my aunt chose to write about, she told me about fall butchering time on the farm. I’m so glad she did, though, because in many ways what she wrote about is a lost skill. Oh sure, we still have butcher shops in some rural communities, but gone are the days of farm and backyard butchering where neighbors helped each other with these chores. With permission granted by my cousin, Doug, to share his mother’s words, Aunt Shirley wrote, “What I remember the most was hog butchering time which was sometime in November, I believe. It was a community project, usually two or three days. Everyone who had pigs to butcher helped in the process, and they were hung in my father’s garage to cool overnight or until they were ready to be cut up. Each one took their own [pig] home to process from that point on. I always enjoyed helping cut ours up – to cut and skin the rind (or hide) off the fat, cut fat off the meat, grind and render it down into lard for cooking, cut meat into roasts, pork chops, tenderloin, and grind other remaining meat and scraps for sausage. My father always cut and shaped the hams, then put them in large tubs with a salt brine to cure for several weeks. Then he would take them out and smoke them in the smokehouse. He would do the same with the sausage after grinding and stuffing it into the casings, and then shape that into links. The hams were then put into large brown bags and hung in the cellar, and used as needed – and the same for the sausage.” Her description gives us a great overall picture of the process. Further details on the butchering process can be found in the online Backwoods Home Magazine, Issue No. 23 from September/October 1993, with an appropriate article, “Slaughtering and Butchering,” by Dynah Geissal. I enjoyed this very informative article in which Geissal gives excellent directions for the homesteader in butchering a variety of home-grown animals raised specifically for the freezer. She describes how to cut the meat into appropriate sections, with photos to provide guiding details. She even includes recipes for sausage, scrapple and other delicious fare. Raised on a dairy farm, my husband was present twice when his father and uncles butchered cows on the farm. Like my aunt wrote, Ed agreed that the best time to butcher is in the fall, typically November, because it’s cold enough to hang the carcass to avoid spoilage. When cows were shipped to the butcher shop, he also said it was important to keep the animal as calm as possible before slaughter. This helped keep the meat from becoming tough and unsavory. On a smaller scale in backyard processing, my sister and I were the official assistants when it was time to dispatch designated unproductive chickens or specific meat birds to the freezer. My father was in charge of swinging the axe on the chopping block. And for those who have only heard the expression about someone running around like a chicken with their head cut off – let me assure you, it’s accurate! After filling a 5-gallon bucket with boiling water, we sisters were given the honor of dunking and plucking. With twine around their feet, we hung the scalded chickens from a nail in a barn beam and plucked those feathers clean off as best we could. My mother was in charge of dressing the hens back in the kitchen. Dressing is the more delicate term to describe the process of gutting and cleaning the bird. I still vividly recall my mother showing us shell-less eggs from inside one of the hens – in descending sizes from the current large to tiny! I was utterly fascinated! I should perhaps mention at this point that once upon a time I had thoughts of becoming a veterinarian. As science and math were not among my strong points, that dream soon fell by the wayside. We also raised pigs, three at a time. And now I must confess that I had a tremendous fear of our cute little piglets simply from their noise and stench! So, I refused to care for them, thus putting my younger brothers in charge of the feeding and cleaning of little piglets that grew into large hogs – really a good responsibility for my energetic brothers! My dad knew when they’d reached sufficient poundage and sent them off to the butcher shop to become delicious pork in the freezer for us and our city relatives. Our horse, chickens, ducks and one goose (appropriately named “Honk” by my toddler brother) were my charges with the Muscovy ducks providing entertainment. Digging a hole in the fenced-in chicken run, we sank a square galvanized tub for their bathing delight, and they regularly enjoyed “swim” time. Only one duck decided to set on about a dozen eggs. Four hatched properly and soon waddled behind their Mama to explore the great outdoors. Feeling sorry for the fifth duckling who was late emerging from its shell, this writer took it upon herself to assist the poor little thing. Unbeknownst to her at the time (she forgot to study), fowl do not need, nor do they desire, our assistance to hatch from their shell. They have a “tooth” on their beak which assists them quite well; but, they also must do their own hatching in order to survive. So, you guessed it – this little duckling did not live long once it had been helped out of its shell. Then, a few days later, this caretaker came home from school and eagerly went out to care for her critters only to sadly discover one little duckling had drowned in the 2-inch deep water dish in their pen. That left three cute and fuzzy ducklings to follow the adults as they grew like weeds. And, though a bit more greasy than chicken, they were absolutely delicious when my mother roasted them! (Yes, that was their intended purpose.) During the years that I stayed home to raise our children while my husband farmed with his dad, I grew a large garden every summer, canning and freezing a year’s worth of vegetables and fruit. It sure helped save on grocery bills, wishing I had the time and energy to do it now, but cannot with working full time elsewhere. It was only natural I delved into this venture since my parents raised a large garden every year for as long as I can remember, as did both sets of grandparents. But, as children, when we were sent out to weed our garden, my sister and I opted instead to run and play between the rows! Truth be told, we even tossed some of the green beans under the lilac bushes when we decided we were tired of the chore of snapping them. However, when they were my own gardens with food to be put up for the coming winter, I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the process. But, as mentioned above, I’ve often wondered how our ancestors put their veggies up. They didn’t have the benefit of a freezer, nor could they efficiently use water-bath jar canning let alone the fine tunings of a high-pressure cooker/canner like I had available. In looking for books to study this subject, I recalled my bookshelf held my mother’s, “Putting Food By – The No.1 book about all the safe ways to preserve food.” It’s a very useful book for beginners as it discusses all the prerequisites to canning and freezing vegetables and meats, including explanations of the old-fashioned methods our ancestors used to put up their food. Another excellent resource obtained through Spencer’s interlibrary loan system was “The Little House Cookbook, Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories” by Barbara M. Walker. What a genuine treasure this book is as Ms. Walker expands on Wilder’s descriptions of the foods they ate by explaining how their food was prepared with innumerable appropriate recipes. I thought you might enjoy a scrumptious old-fashioned recipe from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s day. A special dessert which Almanzo enjoyed as a child was Birds’-Nest Pudding in Wilder’s book, “Farmer Boy.” Barbara M. Walker includes a recipe in her book for this standard dessert of long ago with the apples “baked…in a custard, biscuit dough, or pie pastry.” This is just one of many old-fashioned recipes found in Walker’s “The Little House Cookbook.” “For six servings you will need: Butter, ½ teaspoon Tart apples, 6 (about 2 pounds) Brown sugar, 1 cup Ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon Eggs, 3 Homogenized milk, 1 cup Maple flavoring, 1 teaspoon Flour, 1 cup Cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon Baking powder, ½ teaspoon Salt, ½ teaspoon Powdered sugar, ½ cup Heavy cream, 1 pint Baking dish: 2 quart Butter the baking dish. Peel and core the apples and place them in the dish. Fill the holes with brown sugar, pressing slightly, and sprinkle half the nutmeg on top. Place in preheated 350-degree oven to start baking while you prepare the batter. Separate the eggs, putting yolks in a 2-quart bowl and whites on a 12-inch platter. Beat whites with a fork or whisk until they don’t slip from the tilted platter. Beat the yolks until they change color; stir in milk and maple flavoring. In a 1-quart bowl, mix flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, salt and remaining brown sugar. Stir this mixture quickly into the liquid. Fold the egg whites into this thin batter. Pour the batter evenly over and around the partially cooked upright apples, returning the dish to the oven, baking until the crust has browned, another 45 minutes to an hour. While the pudding bakes, stir the powdered sugar and remaining nutmeg into a pitcher of heavy cream. Take the baked pudding out of the oven and directly to the table before it ‘falls.’ Turn each serving onto a plate so the apple is ‘nested in the fluffy crust.’ Pass the pitcher of sweetened cream.” (Walker, pp.126-127) A classic from the 19th century, Housekeeper and Healthkeeper (available only online, not through interlibrary loan) by Catherine E. Beecher (sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe) discusses virtually every conceivable household dilemma for the housewife of the late 19th century. Beecher’s own foreword is written to “My Dear Friends, - This volume embraces…many valuable portions of my other works on Domestic Economy… It is designed to be a complete encyclopedia of all that relates to a woman’s duties as housekeeper, wife, mother, and nurse.” Beecher includes five hundred recipes of which I perused a few. She is completely thorough in all of her explanations to assist the housewife who often entered her new profession without foundational training. I was impressed by Beecher’s ability to address every possible home situation from cooking and putting food by, to cleaning and caring for the sick family. In our ancestors’ time a few hundred years ago, even through the turn of the 19th century, most rural families had a milch (milk) cow or two. Not only was the family’s delicious milk and cream supplied by their very own favorite pet cow, but Bossy’s milk also provided them the ability to make butter, cheese and ice cream. Things just didn’t get any better than that! And, extras could always be sold or bartered for other necessities not readily available or too expensive at the general mercantile. Without electricity, one either had an ice house to keep foods cold, a storage area in the cellar, or a springhouse. Root cellars were a popular place to store vegetables below the frost line. Attics were often used to store food during the winter including hams, pumpkins, squashes, onions, and dried vegetables. Perhaps the home had a storage shed just outside the back door. Here, the family could conveniently store meat in a “natural freezer” during the winter months (though I’ve wondered about wild critters enjoying the free cache), along with stacked firewood, other supplies, and kettleware. Then again, many homes had a large pantry just off the kitchen. I remember well my Grandma Laura Tillapaugh’s huge pantry with shelves on all sides and a door to the cellar, which I never did get to explore. It was in this pantry that she kept her big tin of large scrumptious molasses cookies that we could help ourselves to when she gave approval. Try as I might, I was never able to duplicate her delicious cookies though! My mother shared with me that their cellar held crates of apples and potatoes and other root vegetables. Not a root cellar per se`, my mom said that what was stored in crates kept quite well through the winter. She also recalls her mother did use both pressure and waterbath canners for fruits and vegetables, along with canning pickled tongue and other meats at butchering time. As my Aunt Shirley wrote about butchering time, their meat was put into a salt brine and stored in large wooden barrels or the old pottery crocks. This process meant keeping the meat well covered by brine, held below the surface by a heavy weight. Smoking was another great way to cure and preserve the meat to prevent spoilage and bacteria growth during storage over the long winter. Brine, made of sugar, salt, saltpeter or sodium nitrate, and mixed with water, covered and cured meats placed in large crocks. After the curing time of up to two months, the meat was typically smoked and then hung in the attic or cellar. Or, you could fry the meat, place it in a crock, covering it with a layer of lard, then a layer of meat covered by lard until the crock was full. The homemaker had only to dig out the amount of meat needed for a meal and reheat it. These ever-handy crocks preserved other foods such as butter, pickles, sauerkraut, and even vegetables. Apple cider was fermented to make hard cider, often a staple on the old farms. Lard or paraffin was used to seal a crock’s contents, keeping out contaminants causing spoilage. Before modern conveniences came along, root vegetables were typically stored in the cellar, or root cellar – especially potatoes, turnips, onions, beets, cabbages, carrots and even apples. Areas that are cool, dark and dry help keep vegetables from sprouting, and slow any spoilage that might begin. It was also a wise idea to store apples, potatoes and cabbages apart from each other and other produce so their odors/flavors did not spoil each other. It was also a must to keep an eye on everything for early signs of spoilage. Vegetables and certain fruits being stored could be wrapped individually in paper, or kept in baskets covered in sand, soil or dry leaves. Reading the requirements in “Putting Food By,” we need to know a lot about the root cellar process that, on the surface, seems like such a simple idea – but it’s really not. There are specific temperature and dryness or moisture requirements for the various vegetables and fruits to prevent mold and spoilage. I recall that in the early 1980s, I had an abundance of good-sized green tomatoes. After picking them, my dad and step-mother helped as we lay them out on the basement floor on newspaper to ripen, storing the greenest in a bushel basket with each one wrapped in newspaper. They kept for a good while out in the garage where it was cold but not freezing. Another popular method was to dry fruits and vegetables, often simply by drying them in the sun. Meat dried in this manner is called jerky. If the home had a cookstove, drying could be accomplished on trays in the oven, or the vegetables and fruit could simply be put on strings and hung to dry in a warm area of the room. The warm attic space near the chimney was another good place to dry food, using protection from dust and bugs. Reconstitution by adding sufficient water for stewing was all it took to use these otherwise scarce foods during the cold and barren winter months. Though they often lost some of the original flavor, dried veggies and fruits must have been a welcome addition to their diet during the cold winter months. In the latter half of the 19th century, special driers with built-in furnaces became available on the market for home use in drying various fruits and vegetables. When thinking about the types of food eaten by our ancestors on the frontier, we need to remember that their salty and fatty dishes were necessary for their diet considering their involvement in extensive physical labor. And to this any modern farmer can attest as their own hard work all day in the barn or fields contributes to a rather hearty appetite – I do remember how much Ed ate without gaining weight! Farmers and homesteaders had not only the typical farm chores to attend to in the hot summer and bitter cold winter, but they would hunt to supplement their meat supply, and put in a garden to reap the harvest of both vegetables and fruits. If the homesteader did not have a ready supply of fruit on their own bushes and trees, searching the nearby forest often gave them a bounty of seasonal fruits and berries. Yet, even in that venture, there was the ever-present danger of wild animals, especially bear. The homesteaders’ hearty appetites and wide variety of unprocessed food allowed for a healthy diet which did not require today’s supplemental vitamins. My mother shared her memory years ago of pouring maple syrup (or cooked molasses and brown sugar) over snow which Laura Ingalls and her siblings did to make a delicious candy. (Not recommended nowadays with the pollutants in our snow.) As a teen, I remember making ice cream the old-fashioned way with a hand-turned crank – nothing tasted better when it was ready! And my sister and I attempted to make divinity, once – it wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious! Now, a favorite of mine is to make brittle with cashews – with the key being a candy thermometer which neither my sister and I nor Laura Ingalls’ family had available years ago. It required a lot of work on the part of every family member to hunt, raise and grow the family’s food, and then to put it up for the coming winter, year after year. If they didn’t carefully follow the steps to properly preserve their food, a good deal of spoilage could and would occur due to various elements or critters. And, at the time of which we write, the early 19th century, canning was not yet an available option for our homesteader. Actually, the glass Mason canning jar with rubber ring and wire clasp was not available until 1858. But then, of course, if you could afford it, you could simplify life and buy quality foods at the grocery or butcher shop in town to maintain a well-balanced diet throughout the unproductive winter months. All things considered, we really do have an easier way of life. But, what satisfaction our ancestors must have felt in putting by their own food! I sure did when canning and freezing the produce of our gardens years ago. SOURCES: *The Little House Cookbook, Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1979. *Putting Food By – The No.1 book about all the safe ways to preserve food, by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene, The Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro, VT, 1973. *The Way We Ate, Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900, by Jacqueline B. Williams, Washington State University Press, Pullman, WA, 1996. *Housekeeper and Healthkeeper, Containing five hundred recipes for economical and healthful cooking; also, many directions for securing health and happiness, approved by physicians of all classes; by Catherine E. Beecher, New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1873.
  15. Tolerance

    I sure do understand what you're saying Hal! Our sentiments exactly! Too many of our youth feel entitled and don't have a clue how to work from the bottom up to earn their way. They can't take loss and disappointment because they've never been taught. And if we disagree with them, it's called hate speech. I agree with you, ask our Good Lord for forgiveness and move forward. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Hal! Much appreciated
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