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Linda Roorda

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  1. Ode to Job

    There once lived a man who faced a litany of untold suffering, whose riches could not buy relief. It is said by some he never lived, that he was simply a character in an allegorical story. Personally, I prefer to acknowledge Job as a man who truly lived and walked upon this earth, likely in the time of Abraham, according to our pastor. So, what can this old man teach us today? Job was a man who faced extreme adversity amidst his own physical and emotional frailties. While his friends questioned what sin he might have done to cause the devastating calamities that struck him… and though Job was a man who questioned God’s faithfulness, and even rued the day he was born… yet he was a man who clung to a sliver of faith in Yahweh, Jehovah God. Studying the book of Job currently in Sunday School, though having written this poem and blog several years ago, I find in Job’s struggles and ultimate praise of God a wisdom I can look to in dealing with life’s difficulties. When faced with our various problems in life, often our first question is why, perhaps followed by what did we do to cause this? I’ve been there with both questions. Sometimes, we may become angry at God for allowing distressing trials. Sometimes, we may turn our back on God… because He does not seem to embody love to our way of thinking. Perhaps He did not prevent a catastrophic event in our life and we lost everything. After all, we reason, haven’t we lived a good life? We haven’t committed any horrible sins. So why should we suffer? My husband’s ongoing multiple health issues and blindness, my diagnosis of cancer a few years ago, the untimely death of our daughter at 25, and numerous other difficult situations have tried our faith and patience, never mind the bonds of marriage. But, we are not alone in these various trials as the depths of tragedy and pain are evident in so many families around us. In all honesty, though I have questioned why and wondered what we had done to cause the various problems we’ve faced, I have not been angry at God. To me, He is my creator. He is omniscient. He knows best why He allows the storms to happen. He knows how all things will work out for good even though I don’t like the bumps in the road. (see Romans 8:28) And, like Job said, shall we not accept and endure the trials just as we gladly accept our many blessings? (see Job 2:10) Often, these difficulties can only be viewed through the perspective of a rear-view mirror with amazement at how the Lord has walked with us, even carried us, through all of life. And, I have found that even in the most difficult situations, including the loss of our daughter, Jenn, there was always something to be learned from living through the pain. For they were trials by which I gained a greater wisdom and understanding, even empathy for others, that I would not have earned had I not gone through adversity. And so it was with Job. He lost everything… except his wife… a woman who has managed to go down in history as the biblical woman who told her husband to curse God and die after all that had happened to them. Actually, I rather appreciate Tim Gustafson’s comment in “Our Daily Bread” devotional for Sunday, 06/24/18: “[Job] merely noted that she spoke ‘like a foolish woman.’” We tend to gloss over Job’s reply to his wife, thinking poorly of her. (Job 2:10) But, like Gustafson, I suspect Job’s operative word “like” intimates that he knew his wife far better than the rash statement she had just uttered. For if Job were so highly respected and honored, it would only seem logical that his wife was also more of an upright and honorable woman than her words implied. Spoken from the depths of her own pain and anguish, she shows evidence of her frail humanity just as we do all too often. We need to remember that she lost everything too, the most painful being the loss of their children. Their many servants were gone. Great herds of cattle and camels – gone. Huge flocks of sheep – gone. All the crops to feed everyone, including the great herds – gone. Ten beloved children, likely their spouses and children, and their homes – gone. And to top it off, Job’s health failed and her dear husband lived a miserable, painful and pitiful existence… on a garbage heap… mocked by his friends. Yet through it all, Job did not sin. Soon after their losses, he said to his wife, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b) He did not blame or curse God for what had happened. But, in questioning God and hearing the Almighty’s questions of him, Job was able to acknowledge an understanding of where he fit into the overall scheme of life… that God was far greater than he. God was in control. And, ultimately, God blessed him even more than before. I am impressed with Job’s humility as he learned to put his trust and faith more fully into the hands of our God who is all knowing, all powerful, and so loving He wants the best for us, even when that comes by living through severe trials. And may I, too, be found worthy at the end of the journey. Ode to Job Linda A. Roorda (Based on the book of Job) ~ One day Satan had a talk with God… I’ve been out walking on this earth of Yours And have my eyes upon those who claim They love Your word and follow Your way. ~ But now I want to ask of You this… Who will they follow in depths of despair? Will they lose all and cling to their God Or will they curse You even to Your face? ~ And God answered thus, Have you considered My faithful servant, a man of honor? For he is blameless, a man who loves me, Who heeds my words, and shuns evil ways. ~ Then Satan mocked the great I Am. Why should he not? You’ve blessed him richly! Take it away! Strip him of it all! Leave him destitute! Then learn of his heart! ~ In your hands gently I will place my man, But one thing only you dare not commit. Take away all, whatever you wish, But take not his life while evil you bring. ~ And so began the worst day of all When everything owned was taken by storm, From crops to cattle, servants to children All was destroyed, in mere moments of time. ~ In deep humility this man bowed to God, Naked I came from my mother’s womb And naked I leave; for as the Lord gives So shall He take, praised be my Lord’s name. ~ Friends soon came to share his great pain Tenderly bearing overwhelming grief. But then they pointed with fingers of blame, What evil within your soul is the cause? ~ Why me, Lord God? What have I done? What did I do to bring on such shame? Even my wife says to curse You and die, But shall we accept the good without bad? ~ Yet now I rue the day I was born. May its light darken, and no good recall. Why did I live and not die right then? For I have no peace, only turmoil within. ~ Even my friends betray me with words Recalling my faith which flees from my soul. But where is my hope, my confidence true? Fleeting as wind when evil disrupts? ~ These friends say appeal, to God bare my soul. Is it not He whose wonders we see? As God corrects the man He calls blessed Do not despise His wounding to heal. ~ So will I seek and call on His name For what is man that He blesses much. I know all my sin, for mercy I’ll plead; Remember me God, forgive my offense. ~ Another dear friend now lays on my heart, Does God pervert that which is done right? No, for your sin does penalty come. Plead now with God that He may restore. ~ How can I dispute and come out unscathed? Can I be righteous before a just God? With wisdom profound, His power is vast. Were I but guiltless… but I can’t ask of Him. ~ If only I had died on the day I was born I loathe my life and bitterly speak. Does it please You, God, to oppress my soul, To smile on evil and favor its schemes? ~ Yet You formed me. Your hands shaped my life. Will you now destroy and turn me to dust? You blessed me with much and watched over me. Why did you hide your wrath until now? ~ And still my friend is asking of God, Will this talker be vindicated? Will God speak words against His own heart Or will He utter His secrets of wisdom? ~ Though I can’t fathom the mysteries of God, Can we set tests of Almighty’s power? Higher than heaven, deeper than the depths Can we yet measure how vast is His world? ~ You tell me to end the evil of sin, Stretch out my hands with heart devoted, That in this hope my life is valued While the wicked fail like a dying gasp. ~ And yet I say, do not men at ease Show their contempt when misfortune knocks, And see him merely as laughingstock The one who slips though still he loves God. ~ How I now long for the days gone by When God as friend watched over my soul… He knew my paths, that evil I shunned, I feared my Lord with righteous wisdom. ~ I hear them mocking, men younger than I Detested am I, they spit in my face. In my affliction their snares set a trap As I cry to God and plead for answers. ~ Unending pain and suffering confront. Have I thus sinned or denied some their gain? Have I rejoiced at my enemy’s fall? No, I have not hid my sin from my God. ~ So let Him hear! Let Almighty speak! If I have sinned to cause my deep shame. Let the earth cry out against me with tears, As the Lord my God will question me… ~ Where were You when I set the foundation? Did you measure, its dimensions gauge? Did you determine where cornerstone lay? Did you cause stars and angels to sing? ~ Did you speak orders to bring forth the dawn? Do you know the home where light and dark live? Have you set time for birthing of young? And provide food that all are nourished? ~ Will he who struggles to understand Me Correct My ways and tell Me to change? No, Lord, I will not; no answer have I. Unworthy am I to even reply. ~ For who am I to question motives And ponder means which you employ You draw me near, Your wisdom to seek As Humbly I bow before your glory. ~ In my humanity I can’t comprehend Your higher ways from which I should gain, Learning by faith to grasp adversity Knowing Your will has my good at heart. ~ Lord, now I know you won’t abandon, Your loving heart will gently embrace. Your words will guide my soul through dark days That through the trials I’ll praise your name still. ~ You’re in control, all things You do well, Great wisdom is found within Your counsel. I cannot measure Your wonderful ways I spoke my turn without true knowledge. ~ While I like Job of long ago days Cannot fathom wisdom from above Not mine to know, but His to decree The reasons and plans which He has set forth. ~ So, guide my feet Lord, let sin not take hold May You yet impart wisdom to my heart That I may praise and worship You, Lord For my life exists to glorify You. ~ November 2014 ~~ All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  2. Indepedence Day Celebrations

    We Americans love our 4th of July celebrations! We especially enjoy big parades with lots of floats and marching bands. We look forward to fireworks with their beautiful colors and designs exploding in the night sky. We decorate our homes with flags and bunting. And, we salute, or respectfully place our hand over our heart, as our nation’s flag is carried past us by military veterans in parades. “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” What precious meaning these words have held as we take time to gaze backward to their origins, something I never tire learning about. As I contemplated our nation’s celebrations, I thought about the effort and sacrifice it took from many to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. I am so thankful for all we have in America which many around the world do not enjoy. But, I also wondered if perhaps we have forgotten all that took place a long time ago, and if this day has simply become a traditional fun holiday. Though no nation or government has been perfect as far back as the beginning of time, the early days of a young nation’s beginnings provide perspective for today’s America, this bastion of freedom. So, it’s fitting that we ponder what part our ancestors played in the making of our great America some 240 years ago. And, I might add, one of the best parts of researching my ancestors was the great lasting friendships I’ve made with other descendants. Several of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War in various capacities, some of whom I researched more extensively than others. Originally, I did not plan to bring them into this article. But, then it occurred to me that would be fitting. Knowledge of personal service and sacrifice often provides us with a greater understanding of the historical era and what our collective ancestors experienced. Numerous events, political acts, and taxes over many years led to the First Continental Congress meeting from September 5 through October 2, 1774 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was held to counteract the British Parliament’s Coercive Acts (commonly called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists) which were intended to punish the colonists for their Tea Party held in Boston’s harbor. (see timeline at end of article) But, among the early precipitators of the American Revolution was the import ban in 1774 against firearms and gunpowder enacted by the British government. Next came the order to confiscate all guns and gunpowder. The aptly named “Powder Alarm” took place on September 1, 1774 when Redcoats sailed up the Mystic River to capture hundreds of powder barrels stored in Charlestown. Taking the event seriously, 20,000 militiamen turned out and marched to Boston. Battle was avoided at that time, but ultimately took place the following spring at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Within these events lie the foundation of our Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as written by Thomas Jefferson in 1791: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The Second Continental Congress began meeting in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. That very same day, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys seized New York’s Fort Ticonderoga from the British after traveling west from Vermont. On June 14, 1775, delegates from the Second Continental Congress created the Continental Army from colonial militia near Boston. The next day, they appointed an esteemed and experienced military and civic leader as commanding general of their new army, a humble man by the name of George Washington, congressman of Virginia. Nearly a month later, Washington arrived in Boston to take command on July 3rd. The Continental Congress then approved a Declaration of Causes on July 6th. This proclamation outlined why the thirteen colonies should stand united against Great Britain’s political clout and military force. Through these early years, and with pressing urgency, the great minds of the day began formulating a bold statement of the burdens the colonists bore from an overbearing government an ocean away. Initially, the colonists were not looking to start a war; they simply wanted their concerns heard and addressed. But, revolt would be a relevant term regarding that which was festering. They felt the heavy hand of tyranny over them like a smothering umbrella with their king and his government’s over-reaching philosophy of “taxation without representation.” It did not take much for congressional delegates to think back and recall the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770. Several colonials had taunted the ever-present British soldiers. Reinforcement soldiers shot into the crowd killing five civilians, injuring six others. Three years later, the Tea Act in May 1773 was followed by the Boston Tea Party on December 16th. The year 1775 began with several new tax acts put in place; labeled collectively as the Intolerable Acts, they were Britain’s answer to their colonists’ unrest. And then an auspicious delegation met in Virginia on March 23, 1775. Those present were never to forget Patrick Henry’s speech and resounding words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Paul Revere,with his midnight ride the night of April 18/19, 1775, warned of British ships arriving at Boston’s shores. [From the interstate, I have seen Boston’s diminutive North Church tucked beneath the shadows of modern “skyscrapers,” and walked the upper and lower decks of the U.S.S. Constitution from the subsequent War of 1812 – with a sailor in period dress uniform talking on a telephone!] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride” (“Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”) has been said to contain many inaccuracies; in reality, it was written 80 years after Revere rode out with several others on horseback, quietly alerting other Patriots, but it may also be that Longfellow simply wrote a flowing ode to Revere with embellishments as any poet is wont to do. The British government was again intent on confiscating all weapons held by the colonists. Bands of British troops were sent to confiscate ammunition stores in Salem, Massachusetts and part of New Hampshire. Both times, Paul Revere, a silversmith, was among members of the Sons of Liberty who alerted townsfolk in advance of enemy troops, giving them sufficient time to hide weapons and frustrate the British military. Desiring to alert citizens, Revere garnered assistance from Robert Newman, sexton at Boston’s North Church. To warn that the Redcoats were coming from the shorter water route across Boston’s inner harbor, Newman hung two lanterns from the steeple window. These lanterns were clearly seen by those in Charlestown, including the British, unfortunately. Newman must have felt tremendous fear as the Brits attempted to break into the church while he was still there. Reportedly, he managed to escape capture by quietly sneaking out a window near the altar moments before enemy soldiers entered the church to begin their search. And the very next day, April 19, 1775, the Minutemen and British redcoats clashed at Lexington and Concord with “the shot heard ‘round the world.’” Two months later, June 17, 1775 saw the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) on the Charlestown Peninsula overlooking Boston. Per military records, my ancestor John Caldwell McNeill was present as part of the Hampshire Line. As British columns advanced toward American redoubts, the colonists were reportedly told by their commander, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” The British were shot virtually pointblank and hastily retreated – twice. It was not until the third advance by the British that the inexperienced colonists lost to a superior military force. As the colonists’ limited ammunition ran out, hand-to-hand combat took place on that third advance. The redcoats took control with greater troop numbers despite their loss of over 1000 men, while the colonists counted over 200 killed and more than 800 wounded. Yet, the inexperienced Americans realized their dedication and determination could overcome the superior British military which, in turn, realized this little uprising was going to bring a long and costly war to the Crown. With pressure mounting, the congressional delegation met the next year in the City of Brotherly Love. Here, they commenced to hammering out wording for what would henceforth be termed a declaration of independence. “Monday, July 1, 1776, [was] a hot and steamy [day] in Philadelphia.” In a letter to the new president of Georgia, Archibald Bulloch, John Adams wrote, “This morning is assigned the greatest debate of all. A declaration, that these colonies are free and independent states… and this day or tomorrow is to determine its fate. May heaven prosper the newborn republic.” (John Adams, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, NY, 2001, p.125.) The delegates felt the tension amongst themselves in the debates and wording of their declaration, and the voting at the end of the day was not unanimous. Their tension was heightened that evening as news reached the city that one hundred British ships had been sighted off New York, with eventually more than 300 joining the initial fleet. The seriousness of what they were undertaking was felt by every man in the delegation for they knew their very lives were on the line. July 2nd saw an overcast day with cloudbursts letting loose as the delegates met. The New York delegates abstained from voting while others joined the majority to make a unanimous decision. Thus, on July 2, 1776, twelve colonies voted to declare independence from Britain. More than anyone else, John Adams made it happen. His elation showed in writing home about the proceedings to his wife, Abigail. “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” (McCullough, pp. 129-130) News spread like wildfire throughout Philadelphia. A young artist, Charles Willson Peale, journaled that “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.” (McCullough, p.130) But, Congress still had to review what the delegation had written before an official statement could be made. July 3rd blessed the city with a drop of 10 degrees following cloudbursts the day before. Tensions had even begun to ease among the men, but still there was much work to be done. More discussion and deliberation ensued as they reviewed the language of their declaration. (McCullough, pp. 130-135) Much had to be cut and reworded to make it a more concise document which then boldly declared, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America. When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Benjamin Franklin offered encouraging and comforting words to the now-silent Thomas Jefferson whose many words were debated and cut. When their work was finished, it was still Thomas Jefferson’s words, however, which have held a firm and tender spot in the hearts of Americans ever since. To Jefferson goes the credit for writing “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (McCullough, p.130-136) Thursday, July 4, 1776, dawned cool and comfortable. The tension was gone from the weather just as it was now from among the men of the delegation. Discussions were again held through late morning when a final vote was taken. New York still abstained, but the other twelve colonies voted unanimously to support the hard work they had wrought in this Declaration of Independence. Ultimately, the delegates from all thirteen colonies, including New York, signed the document in solidarity. (McCullough, p. 136) Celebrations began on the 8th when the published Declaration was read to the public. Thirteen cannon blasts reverberated throughout Philadelphia, bells rang day and night, bonfires were lit everywhere, and candles shone bright in windows. The news reached Washington and his troops in New York City the next day where the Declaration was read. More celebrations sprang up as the crowds pulled down the equestrian statue of King George III. (McCullough, p.136-137) But, their elation was not long in lasting. In reality, it would be several more years before celebrations of this magnitude would again be held. In reality, though the hard work of writing such a declaration was finally completed, even harder efforts and sacrifices of thousands of men and boys on battlefields were about to begin. In reality, the conflict about to begin would affect every man, woman and child living within the thirteen colonies in ways they could never have imagined. And, ultimately, their great sacrifices gave rise to the freedoms which we enjoy and tend to take for granted today. The lives of the men who signed this declaration were also forever affected. If the new America lost its war for independence, every signer of said document faced charges of treason and death by hanging for actions against their king. In signing, they gave “support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, [as] we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” There were 56 representatives from all thirteen colonies who signed, ranging in age from 26 to 70 (the oldest being the esteemed Benjamin Franklin). Over half were lawyers, but the men included planters, merchants and shippers. Most of them were wealthy men who had much to lose should Britain win. Though none of them died at the hand of the enemy, four men were taken captive during the war by the British, with one-third of the signers being military officers during the war. And, nearly all of them were poorer when the war ended than when it began. There was much at stake in the days and years ahead after the Declaration of Independence was signed and the war began in earnest. Some men abandoned the battle lines, their friends, and what once seemed like worthy ideals, and simply walked home. Many suffered untold pain and suffering as prisoners of war. Many suffered deprivations of food and clothing along with disease and death within their own military camps. Many fought family and friends in the same community as Patriot was pitted against Tory, i.e. Loyalist. Schoharie County, New York, considered by historians to be “The Breadbasket of the Revolution,” provided an abundance of food for Washington’s northern troops. To frustrate the colonists’ efforts, the British and their Loyalist supporters, including many Native Americans, destroyed and burned crops and buildings as they captured, killed and scalped settlers throughout the Mohawk and Schoharie Valley and along the western frontier during the war. In reality, however, we likely would not have won our independence if it were not for Washington’s spies. Barely two months after the Declaration was signed, a 21-year-old Yale graduate by the name of Nathan Hale from Massachusetts eagerly volunteered to spy for Washington. He intended to go behind enemy lines on Long Island and in New York City to infiltrate the British strongholds. Instead, not being sufficiently familiar with the area and its people, and likely having a New England accent, he was caught and found to have sketches of fortifications and memos about troop placements on him. Without benefit of legal trial, he was sentenced to death. His requests for a clergyman and a Bible were refused. Just before being hung on September 22, 1776 in the area of 66th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, Hale was heard to say with dignity, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” (George Washington’s Secret Six, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2013, p.1.) George Washington knew that he desperately needed spies, but he needed them to work in such a way that they would not be discovered. His tender heart for his fellow countrymen deplored that even one should die for the cause of freedom. Yet, he also knew that such loss was inevitable. And, thus was born Washington’s spies so aptly named, “The Secret Six.” INDEPENDENCE DAY, PART II: Out of the realization that Gen. George Washington desperately needed spies, and hating to lose even one more life after the hanging of Nathan Hale, a ring of trustworthy spies was gradually pulled together. Washington’s “Secret Six” included five men and one woman embedded within and around New York City and Long Island, each familiar with the land and its people. They reported to Washington on British movements and military plans in a timely fashion. Because they knew the area, and were known by the people, they were readily accepted as they maneuvered amongst the enemy. That is not to say, however, that they didn’t come close to being found out. They lived in constant fear of such, not to mention the fear of losing their own lives and destroying their families in the process. At times they were emotionally frail, depressed and despondent. But, because of their passion for the freedom movement afoot, they came together for the greater benefit of all. At one point, Washington’s army was entirely surrounded by the British in New York City. With tips from his spies, and being a man given to much time and prayer with God, his troops managed to quietly evacuate the city under the cover of night at an area not under guard. With dawn, however, came the realization that a large contingent still remained behind and would be very visible to the enemy. An answer to prayer was soon forthcoming to allow the balance of his men and equipment to leave the city – an unexpected and extremely dense morning fog enveloped the area, allowing them to continue crossing safely over into Jersey with the British unable to do anything about the Continental Army’s escape from their clutches. Because of the work of Washington’s spies and the “important memos” he managed to have planted with false information behind enemy lines, the Americans were able to surprise the enemy at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Day night 1776 after the British had relaxed their guard and celebrated the day in style. Needless to say, the Americans enjoyed a vital and rousing victory. Because of the spies and their efforts, accomplished with great fear for their own lives and that of their families, warning was given to Washington of 400 ships arriving from England. The spies’ insider knowledge that the British were planning to attack and scuttle the French ships and troops coming to Washington’s aid allowed him to turn the tide in a timely manner. He was able to fool the British into thinking he was readying an imminent attack on New York City, causing them to leave Long Island Sound, thus allowing the French time to land and move inland to safety in Connecticut without battling the British at sea before they even disembarked. Because of the spy who owned a print shop which seemingly supported King George, important plans were heard and passed on to Washington. Other spies were privy to the upper level of command amongst the British military at parties in a particular merchandise shop and a certain coffeehouse. A circuitous route was set up for their messenger across Long Island to Setauket where packets with concealed or innocuous-looking papers written in invisible ink and code were rowed to the Connecticut shore in a whale boat (while being pursued by the British) where another member took the seemingly innocent packet of merchandise and rode his horse overland to Washington’s camp in New Jersey. At times, someone simply traveled out of New York City to visit relatives in northern New Jersey and met up with another dependable link to pass the information along to Washington’s headquarters. Because of their courage and resolve, the spies assisted in uncovering the Crown’s Major John Andre` (who, himself, ran a British spy ring) as he worked with Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, American commander at West Point. Despite a prior stellar military record, but due to personal bitterness, Arnold was in the process of handing West Point over to Andre` and the British. Through a series of blundering mistakes, because of the spies’ knowledge given to Washington at just the right moment, and because of the quick thinking of a couple of patriotic guards on a bridge leading back into New York City, Andre` was captured and later executed. Arnold’s hand-over was thus thwarted, although Arnold managed to escape behind enemy lines and ultimately fled to England. Because of the supposed loyal British support by the owner of said print shop, a little book was obtained through his work as an undercover spy. This inconspicuous little book contained key information on British troop movements at Yorktown, Virginia. With important knowledge gained of the enemy’s military plans, Washington was able to redirect appropriate troops and ships to Yorktown. General Cornwallis surrendered for the British on October 19, 1781 in an American victory where total defeat for the Americans would have otherwise taken place. Because they swore themselves to secrecy, no one knew the full involvement of all six spies, nor all of their names. Only gradually over the last few hundred years has their identities become known, the fifth not confirmed until recently. All five men are now known, but the woman’s identity is not; she is simply known as Agent 355. It is believed she was captured and became a prisoner; but, there is no hard evidence by research even to prove that conjecture. The efforts of the six spies as they secretly obtained information and passed it along (devising their own specialty codes, using a unique invisible ink, and more) enabled them to maintain total secrecy. Nor did they ever seek accolades for their work after the war was over. The secrets to their successful accomplishments have been among the methods still taught and used successfully by our CIA today. In the interest of sharing the spies’ courage which undoubtedly helped us win the Revolutionary War, their story (as briefly described above) has been extensively researched and written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger in George Washington’s Secret Six, The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution. It was one of my Christmas gifts from my husband a few years ago, and I highly recommend it to other history buffs. It’s a read you’ll find hard to set down! While researching my ancestry over ten years ago, I purchased Revolutionary War pension application files of several ancestors who had served. For those whose government files I did not purchase, their data was obtained from Schoharie County Historical Society, various Revolutionary War books, CDs, and documents proving their service. Hoping that my family research might provide us a closer glimpse of the war through their experiences, I share their legacy. 1) Frantz/Francis Becraft/Beacraft, bp. 06/12/1761, Claverack, Columbia Co., NY - Private, 3rd Comp., 3rd Regiment, 1st Rensselaerswyck Battalion, Albany County New York Militia, on muster roll from Berne in 1782, 1790 census at Berne. In an 1839 affidavit, Francis Becraft of Berne stated that he “served as a Private in a company commanded by Capt. Adam Dietz in the County of Albany...” Frantz/Francis married Catherine Dietz (sister of said Capt. Adam Dietz), my g-g-g-g-grandparents. In researching my ancestors, I discovered an apparent familial tie to the notorious Tory Becraft/Beacraft. This man felt no remorse in aligning himself with Joseph Brant’s Indians to capture, kill and scalp Patriots throughout Schoharie County, known to have brutally killed and scalped a young boy in the Vrooman family who managed to escape the house after his family had been murdered. After the war ended, Becraft/Beacraft had the audacity to return from Canada to Schoharie County where he was immediately captured by ten men. In meting out a punishment of 50 lashes by whip, the men supposedly reminded him of his infamous acts against the community, his former neighbors. Roscoe notes that death did not linger for him after the final lash, and his ashes were buried on the spot. Of the ten men who swore themselves to secrecy, apparently only five are known. (History of Schoharie County, William E. Roscoe, pub. D. Mason & Comp., 1882, pp.250-251.) However, in "Families (to 1825) of Herkimer, Montgomery, & Schoharie, N.Y.," a genealogical source on many early families by William V. H. Barker, it is noted that the Tory Becraft/Beacraft was Benjamin, born about 1759, brother of my ancestor noted above, Frantz/Francis Becraft. If this is accurate and they are indeed brothers, they were both sons of Willem/William and Mareitje (Bond) Becraft. Another source, “The Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea…” notes Becraft survived his whipping and left the area (pg. 64), just as other undocumented sources indicate he survived and returned to Canada to live with his family. So, I am uncertain as to whether Tory [Benjamin] Becraft actually died from his whippings or survived and left the area. 2) Johannes/John Berlet/Berlett/Barlet, b. 05/08/1748, Schoharie, Schoharie Co., NY – Private, Tryon County Militia, 3rd Reg’t, Mohawk District. He married Maria Gardinier, b. about 1751; their daughter Eva/Eveline Barlett married Martin Tillapaugh, b. 1778, my g-g-g-grandparents. 3) Johann Hendrich/John Henry Dietz, bp 05/10/1722, Nordhofen, Vielbach, Germany – served in Lt. John Veeder’s Company, Rensselaerswyck, later under Capt. Sternberger’s Company at Schoharie. He married Maria Elisabetha Ecker, bp. 1725; their daughter Catherine Dietz, b. 1761, married Frantz/Francis Beacraft above, my g-g-g-g-grandparents. As per my upcoming article on Chemung County’s Newtown Battle, the Indian/Loyalist raids and massacres also touched my ancestral families in New York. In Beaverdam (now Berne), New York near the Switzkill River on September 1, 1781, the Johannes Dietz family was attacked. Johannes’ son, Capt. William Dietz was captured and forced to watch his elderly parents, wife, four young children and a Scottish maid be killed and scalped. (see “Old Hellebergh,” Arthur B. Gregg, The Altamont Enterprise Publishers, Altamont, N.Y., 1936, p. 24; signed by Gregg, in Roorda’s collection from her father.) Capt. William Dietz’s father, Johannes, was an older brother of my ancestor noted above, Johann Hendrich/John Henry Dietz. 4) Johan Dietrich Dallenbach/John Richard Dillenbach, b. 1733 per cemetery records, Stone Arabia, NY; father Jorg Martin Dallenbach born Lauperswil, Bern, Switzerland, emigrated with 1710 German Palatines. John Richard Dillenbach married Maria Mynard; their son Martinus took name of Martin Tillapaugh (my lineage), married Eva/Eveline Barlett as above. Dillenbach reported for duty March 20, 1757 when Sir William Johnson called local militia out to protect Fort William Henry on Lake George for the British. The Seven Years’ War, or the French and Indian War, began in 1754 and ended with the European peace treaties of 1763 during which year Dillenbach again reported to defend Herkimer with the Palatine District Regiment. James Fennimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans about the siege of Fort William Henry. Roughly 2300 colonial troops were protecting the British fort when the French arrived with about 8000 troops in August 1763 and heavily bombarded the fort. With additional supporting troops not found to be on their way, the garrison was forced to surrender. The men were to be protected as they retreated by generous treaty terms. However, as the Indians entered the fort, they plundered, looted, scalped and killed about 200 colonials, many of them too sick to leave. In desecrating graves of those who had died before the siege, the Indians exposed themselves to smallpox, taking the germs back to their homes. The French destroyed the fort before returning to Canada. Fort William Henry was reconstructed in the 1950s. Visiting this fort in 1972 with the Lounsberry Methodist Church youth group, I was unaware at the time that my Dallenbach/Tillapaugh ancestor had walked that ground, having been involved in the siege and survived. 5) Timothy Hutton, b.11/24/1746, New York City. He married 2nd) Elizabeth Deline b.1760. Their son George b.1787 married Sarah Wyckoff b.1793, my g-g-g-grandparents. Timothy served as Ensign in Philip Schuyler’s Regiment of Albany County Militia, at defeat of Gen. Burgoyne in Saratoga October 17, 1777; appointed Lieutenant in New York Levies under Col. Marinus Willett; defended Schoharie County from burnings and killings by British, Loyalists and Indians. This Timothy is not to be confused with a nephew of same name and rank, b. 1764, which many have done, including an erroneous grave marker in Carlisle, New York. Sorting their military service out was part of my extensive thesis and documentation in researching and publishing two lengthy articles on the origins and descendants of this Hutton family in the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record in 2004-2005. My Timothy’s nephew William Hutton served extensively in the Revolutionary War throughout New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. My Timothy’s nephew Christopher of Troy, NY served as Ensign, promoted to Lieutenant, member of the elite Society of the Cincinnati. My Timothy’s nephew, Timothy Hutton b.1764, served as Lieutenant in New York Levies under Col. Willett, enlisting 1780 at age 16 in the Albany militia. My Timothy’s nephews, Isaac and George (brothers of Christopher and the younger Timothy, all sons of George Hutton, my ancestor Timothy’s older brother), were well-known influential silversmiths over several decades of the Federal period in the late 18th/early 19th centuries in Albany. Hutton silver is on display at museums in Albany, New York. 6) Johannes Leenderse (John Leonardson), b.06/18/63, Fonda, Montgomery Co., NY - enlisted as private in 1779 at age 16, Tryon County Militia, 3rd Reg’t; Corporal in 1781; served on many expeditions in the Mohawk Valley and at forts; joined Col. Willett’s company on march to Johnstown October 1781 in successful battle against enemy who had burned and killed throughout Mohawk Valley; re-enlisted 1782. Married Sarah Putman b.1773. Their son Aaron Leondardson b.1796 married 3rd) Lana Gross, parents of Mary Eliza b. about 1732 who married William Henry Ottman, my g-g-grandparents. 7) John Caldwell McNeill, b. 1755, Londonderry, Rockingham Co., NH - at Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) on Charlestown June 17, 1775. As Sergeant under Col. Timothy Bedel of the New Hampshire Line, John bought beef to pasture and butcher as needed for the troops. Bedel’s regiment joined “Corp.1, Co. 1, New York Reg’t” on mission to Canada against British; taken captive with his cousins and friends at The Cedars near Montreal, an island in the St. Lawrence; soldiers were stripped of clothing, belongings and food, and released in cartel negotiated by Gen. Benedict Arnold before he became a traitor. John served at and discharged at Saratoga, NY. He married Hannah Caldwell b.1762; removed to Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York ca. 1794; their son Jesse m. Elizabeth Ostrom, my g-g-g-grandparents. 8) George Richtmyer, bp 04/23/1738, Albany Co., NY – Captain from 1775 through end of war in 15th Reg’t of Albany Militia, defending Cobleskill and Middleburg, Schoharie Co., NY. Married Anna Hommel; their son Henrich/Henry married Maria Beacraft (see above), my g-g-g-grandparents. 9) Hendrick/Henry Vonck/Vunck, b. 03/06/1757, Freehold, Monmouth Co., NJ - served as private and Corporal in New Jersey and New York City; carried papers for American Gen. Charles Lee; joined units marching to same area of Canada as John C. McNeill; on return became ill with smallpox with others at Lake George when news of the Declaration of Independence was made; honorably discharged; called to serve again at Sandy Hook, NJ; captured by the British at Sandy Hook, taken to a prison ship, then to the [Livingston] stone sugar house in Manhattan, then another prison ship, the Good___ (writing illegible on the early 1800s pension document, possibly Good Hope). After “one year and one month” as prisoner, he was exchanged and released. “Having suffered while a prisoner great privations and disease and in poor clothing and severely unwholesome provisions many prisoners died in consequence of their treatment.” (Per 1832 affidavit of military service for pension.) Conditions suffered as a prisoner left Henry in poor health the rest of his life; removing later to Montgomery County, NY. Married Chestinah Hagaman; their daughter Jane Vunck married James Dingman, my g-g-g-grandparents. From 1776 to 1783 the British made use of decommissioned ships (those incapable of going to sea) as floating prisons. At least 16 rotting hulks were moored in Wallabout Bay, the inner harbor along the northwest shore of Brooklyn, now part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Among the ships were the Good Hope, Whitby, The Prince of Wales, Falmouth, Scorpion, Stromboli, Hunter, and the most infamous HMS Jersey, nicknamed Hell by the men. (see websites below.) Over 10,000 men, perhaps at least 11,500, died on these ships due to the deliberate deplorable conditions. Men were crammed below decks with no windows for lighting or fresh air. There was a lack of food and clothing, with vermin and insects running rampant, and a lack of other humane efforts to aid the ill, all leading to the death of thousands. Prisoners died virtually every day, reportedly as many as fifteen a day. Some were not found right away, their bodies not disposed of until days later. Often, those who died were sewn into their blankets (if they had one) to await pick up by cart the next morning. Many were buried in shallow graves along the shore (unearthed during major storms) or were simply tossed overboard, later washing ashore. With development of Walloon Bay area over the last two centuries has come the discovery of their bones and parts of ships. To commemorate these soldiers’ lives and what they gave in the fight for independence, the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument was built. Located in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, it was dedicated on April 6, 1808 with improvements made to it several times since. (see websites below) At least another 5-6000 men died in the sugar houses, bringing the total who died as prisoners to more than 17,500 in the sugar houses and ships, more than double the battlefield losses. Sugar houses were buildings meant to store sugar and molasses. Affidavits by my ancestor, Henry Vunck, and friends note he was held for a few months in the “stone sugar house.” This could only mean the Livingston Sugar House, a six-story stone building built in 1754 by the Livingston family on Crown (now Liberty) Street in Manhattan. Demolished in 1846, buildings No. 34 and 36 are now on the site. (see website below) A second sugar house, the Rhinelander, a five-story brick warehouse, was built in 1763 at Rose (now William) Street and Duane Street. This building was eventually replaced and is now the headquarters of the New York City Police Department. A third, Van Cortlandt’s sugar house, was built about 1755 by the early Dutch family of this name at the northwest corner of the Trinity Church in Manhattan. It was demolished in 1852. (see website below) 10) Hans Georg Jacob Dubendorffer (George Jacob Diefendorf), b. 01/23/1729, Basserstorff, Switzerland – a Loyalist during Rev War, he left Mohawk Valley for Philadelphia and New York City, returned to a daughter’s home in Canajoharie, NY after the war rather than remove to Canada. A patriotic son disowned his father, taking his middle name (his mother’s maiden name) as his new surname, removing to Virginia. George Jacob married Catharine Hendree; their son Jacob Diefendorf married Susanna Hess, my g-g-g-g-grandparents. On February 3, 1783, the British government acknowledged the independence of the American colonies. The next day, they formally agreed to halt all military operations. A preliminary peace treaty was ratified in April, and Canada offered free land that summer to Loyalists who sought a new life. Still, the British military maintained a presence in Manhattan. When Britain signed the Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783 to end the war, the hated Redcoats finally and slowly began to abandon their New York City stronghold. Next would begin the task of establishing the government and president of this new nation, the United States of America. George Washington rode into Manhattan on November 25, 1783 with his officers and troops, eight horses abreast. At the same time Washington’s parade began, British soldiers and ships were setting sail for their homeland. Flags were joyfully waved, church bells rang in celebration, and cannons were fired in honor of those who had fought and for those who had given their lives, all for the independence of this fledgling nation. The war had definitely taken its toll; but, on this day, great joy was felt in every heart for what had been accomplished. And that is why we continue to celebrate our 4th of July heritage in style – as we remember and commemorate those who gave so much that we might enjoy so much. And, I trust we will never forget what their efforts wrought for us. SOURCES FOR PART I: Revolutionary War Time Line Paul Revere Robert Newman, sexton Old North Church, April 18, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill United States Independence Day Declaration of Independence Document Declaration of Independence - About the Signers SOURCES FOR PART II: George Washington’s Secret Six, The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2013. History of Schoharie County, New York, 1713-1882, William E. Roscoe, pub. D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, N.Y., 1882; Paperback Reprint by Heritage Books, Bowie, MD, 1994, Two-Volume Set. Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea; Including the Border Wars Two-Volumes, by William L. Stone, pub. Alexander V. Blake, New York, NY, 1838. Complete timeline of Revolutionary War History of the Fourth Sugar House Prisons HMS Jersey prison ship Monument to British prison ship martyrs
  3. In Silence You Sat...

    Sometimes we’re at a loss for words and don’t know what to say to the grieving. We want to say the right words to bring comfort. Yet, often the less said the better. The one grieving is struggling to take it all in, finding their attention span is limited. While life around them continues on its merry way, unfairly it seems to the grieving, their immediate world has come to a screeching halt. Unsure of the next step, they often move forward in pain-filled autopilot mode. I well remember… Though the steps of grief are typically similar, they’re not the same for everyone. A numbness or denial might be followed by a sense of guilt, the “if only” stage as I call it. You might feel anger at the cause of death, or that God did not answer prayers for healing. Perhaps depression sets in as you face life without your loved one. But, one day you realize acceptance and a healing sense of peace have touched your heart. The only way to truly understand someone’s loss is to mourn and grieve with them. Awash with empathy, love comes alive when your heart awakens to sharing another’s pain, to be there for them and to feel their sorrow. May you know that God has put you there in His place to shelter and hold His beloved as an emissary of His love. My poem below was written a month before my dad passed in April 2015. Not able to visit him several states away, a lifetime of memories came to mind as his life drew to a close. But, I also recalled the days when our 25-year-old married daughter, Jennifer, passed away in June 2003. Many people shared our grief in tangible ways as they shed tears with ours, shared joys in remembering a life well lived, and simply gave their loving support with kind words, food, and cards. Actually, it was a summer with many family losses, including my mother-in-law six weeks after Jenn. Ed’s uncle the week before Jenn, … a cousin’s son two weeks later, and two weeks later by my step-sister’s daughter and three of her friends in a fiery crash when hit from behind. There’s no preparing for your loss. You may realize their illness is terminal and know the end is coming as we knew with my dad and mother-in-law. You can begin to prepare yourself for the loss to come, but you cannot anticipate the depth of your feelings in the actual loss. On the other hand, you may have no warning as it was with Jenn. Her collapse was so unexpected. Ending life support and saying our final goodbye was not easy. In sharing our grief, friends and family sat with us in the hospital, sharing memories, and writing Scripture on the board in our conference room. Their presence meant much to us, as did that of our neighbor, Mark Stevens, owner of the golf course, formerly my husband’s family farm. Seeing me on my garden bench the day after Jenn died, he sat with me and shared the quiet time just to show how much he cared. Out of respect for our sorrow, he also stopped all construction on the golf course that day. In the days and weeks to come, emotions were up and down, and we’d often find ourselves deluged in tears. Yet, there was also joy in recalling a life well lived. I found solace in writing about her life and passing, including the growing-up years of all three of our children, recalling the fun and love they shared in an unpublished manuscript, “Watch Them.” Writing was cathartic, a healing release as I came to terms with accepting this loss and change in our family. Her life’s history was written in God’s book long before she was held in my arms at birth. The Lord took something so painful to reveal how His great love allows, and yet overcomes, our earthly sorrows. Like the tremendous sense of peace and comfort that washed over me when reading Psalm 139:13-16 on a beautiful plaque in Rochester International Airport. Likely placed in honor of the unborn, God knew how much those verses would mean to me and our family in the days and years to come. As a Houghton College grad unafraid to share her faith, two of her Alfred University friends accepted Christ following her death. Because of Jenn’s witness to them of God’s love, they readily testified with Scripture of their faith at Alfred University’s memorial service. Despite their mocking her for not going to bars, Jenn invited them to her home to work on their Master’s psychology projects, sharing her delicious home-cooked meals and desserts. From her love for them, and for how tenderly she worked with troubled children, her friends saw her inner beauty and wanted to know more. God’s love gently shone through in Jenn’s love for them. Crying so hard I could barely see as I typed, these words poured out of my heart like a cleansing release. “At times I am overwhelmed with thinking that God, our Great God, took the time to give us so many special reminders of His awesome presence in our lives. But, then really, it should not surprise me that He would care so much for each one of us… that we are so loved and so special to Him… that He would know our every need and handle them in such a way that would mean the most to each of us… that He would reveal His tender loving care in such a difficult and painful loss through Scripture, special visions, and through our loving family and friends. God was always here, loving us through our pain.” (“Watch Them…” by Linda A. Roorda, 2004, p.9) There is something to be said about the bonds of friendship and love which are strengthened during life’s deepest sorrow. In that time of quiet, when the one mourning is simply unable to voice their deepest pain, there’s no need for words. But through your act of love in simply being there, your presence brings peace to the hurting. This poem, then, is a tribute to each of you who supported us, and a tribute to each of you as you support others in their grief. In Silence You Sat Linda A. Roorda In silence you left like a shooting star. You lived your life full, a blessing to all. Where once you sat, an image lingers. Where once your voice spoke, now silence replies. ~ In silence you sat holding my hand close. You heard my sobs and shared my heart’s cry. You did not voice your thoughts for my pain But in this moment your silence spoke well. ~ The warm embrace as hands tightly held The soul in pain, the heart sinking low, You wrapped your love like a blanket warm Around my heart to share my sorrow. ~ Your silence spoke its volumes of love Your presence gave joy where none could be felt. Your smile gave light and hope far beyond A glimmer of life and meaning through pain. ~ As days pass by and the world moves on Life’s little routines bring normalcy home. But never forgot is the time you sat In silence to hold my heart in your hand. ~ With tears for a season was this grief expressed For you taught us well the lessons of life. As memories linger from a time held dear Where grief overwhelmed, God’s peace comforts and sustains. ~~ 03/16/15 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. Initially published as "When Grief Overwhelms" in the “Faith Nurture” section of The Network, The online resource of the Christian Reformed Church of North America "Poetic Devotions" offers faith-based poetry and devotions of praise by Linda Roorda. See more at her blog HERE.
  4. I Remember A Dad...

    Father’s Day… a time to remember the dads we treasure. They’ve taught us well in the ways of life. I remember a lot about my dad. In fact, it would be fair to say I had put him on a pedestal while growing up. It seems he could do anything and everything, a jack-of-all-trades. Though none of us can measure up all the time, there is One who is perfect… who forgives all our failings… our heavenly Father. There is so much my Dad, Ralph, taught me and my siblings, including all about the love of Jesus. As a small child on the farm, I would say, “Jesus is my best friend!” But, for a time as a teen, I forgot my childhood friend until my Dad reminded me of those words I used to say as a little girl. Oops! I loved playing board games on Sunday afternoons with my Dad, especially Scrabble. I love the challenge of this game and tend to play aggressively, perhaps because I was in tough competition with my Dad. Though I won only one game against him over those few years, it was a sweet victory knowing that I’d accomplished the win without his having given me an edge. He taught me honesty was the right way such that in 8th grade English class I chose to write an essay entitled “Honesty Is The Best Policy”, receiving an A. Actually, I think I may have gotten writing and art abilities from him. Although he was an exceptional storyteller, imitating voice and mannerisms of various comedians, I speak best through the written word. He also had a gift for drawing with his talent for art passed on to me and my son. As we grew up, we loved hearing Dad tell family stories of his and our childhoods. He had a gift for telling them in a personalized humorous way, and how I long to hear them all again. I asked him to write them down for posterity, but he never did. When he drove truck in the latter 1960s through the 1980s (and later huge tractors for an Iowan farmer in the ‘90s), he’d come home with stories from the road. He shared radio routines by Bill Cosby and southern Cajun comedians, recalling their stories and imitating accents perfectly! That was way better entertainment than TV any day! I also recall a few stories of his time in the Army at Fort Greeley, Alaska (1956-1957), a foreign assignment before official statehood. From 18 months to 2 years, I was too young to remember my six months at Delta Junction with my baby sister. But, I do remember having heard how he and several buddies found a sunken rowboat. As it lay not far below the surface of a lake, they pulled it up, cleaned it off, and took it out to fish. It made for an interesting adventure to say the least – while they each took a turn fishing, the other three worked hard at bailing to keep the boat afloat! Now that’s dedicated fishermen! Fort Greeley is also where he learned to drive big rigs. With someone ill, he was asked to take over in the motor pool one night. Proving he could handle backing up a trailer perfectly, the commanding officer asked where he’d learned to do that since everyone else struggled. “Backing up a manure spreader, Sir!” was his dutiful reply. They kept him in the motor pool, where he got invaluable training for later driving 18-wheelers. He also was given an unprecedented promotion because he took the time to thoroughly clean an office coffeepot, a skill learned from his Dutch immigrant mother who had taught him all aspects of housekeeping while growing up, like any good Dutch mother. With a general visiting Fort Greeley, and the coffee-making task handed down to my Dad, he took pains to provide a clean urn for making fresh-brewed coffee… which greatly impressed the general. When the general asked who made the coffee, the aide who was supposed to have made it “blamed” my Dad. Instead of the feared reprimand for the typically bad-tasting coffee the office was known for, the general complimented my father on the best cup he’d ever tasted! Turning to the senior officer, he told him to give my father a promotion! When we were younger, he always had time for us. I enjoyed it when he took us fishing. And, though I could never bring myself to touch those worms (still can’t!), let alone put them on a hook, and never did catch “the big one,” it was the quality time with our Dad that meant the world to us kids. As a tomboy, I especially enjoyed working outside with my Dad whether it was in the barn learning to care for the animals, in the huge vegetable gardens, or traipsing the fields and woods hunting. That love just naturally transferred to enjoying the time spent working alongside my husband out in the barn or in the yard, even growing my own gardens. As we grew older, I still adored my Dad. In my teens, he listened to us and gave sound advice, but I wasn’t always ready to listen to him. His careers changed from farming, to driving a grain truck delivering feed to dairy farmers, to carpentry with his Dad, a general contractor in northeast New Jersey, to driving a tank truck “locally” and later OTR (over the road/cross country). When we lived in Clifton, he drove chemical tankers locally in northeast Jersey, southern New England, and New York City. What stories he brought home from his experiences! I got to ride with him only twice and wish it could have been more. I was never so happy as when we moved back to New York in 1969! Though I hated city life, I can now look back with fond memories of Clifton. But, as we settled in to “backyard farming,” he taught me how to raise our mare, War Bugg, a granddaughter of Man O’ War. I helped him build her corral and box stall in the small barn, along with re-roofing and remodeling the old chicken coop for our flock. And then came the heavy-duty barn chores of mucking out the pens, learning to groom War Bugg and how to pick up her feet to clean the undersides. I saw his deep concern when I stepped on a wasp’s nest in the haymow with 11 stings on my leg, and saw his gratefulness for my dousing him with a 5-gallon pail of water when a torch threatened to catch him on fire while trying to burn tent caterpillars. But, I also learned the hard way that running War Bugg flat out up the road and back could have killed her. I was scolded but good, yet taught to walk her slowly, allowing her to have only small sips of warm water until she cooled down. As we grew older, we teens were often in our own world. Soon enough, I got married and began a new life with my new family, while my siblings and parents scattered themselves around the U.S. Life changes, and we change with it. I well remember teasing my Dad as a child when he turned 30 that he was old, and that when he would turn 50 he’d be “way over the hill.” Well, Dad, guess what? Your oldest daughter reached that milestone a ways back, too! Giving him this writing in 2014 before he passed away in 2015, he knew I felt blessed to have him as my Dad. Sometimes I wish I could go back and recapture the childhood fun of days long ago, but I greatly treasure the memories that linger. May you each be blessed with very special memories of your Dad! Happy Father’s Day! I Remember A Dad Linda A. Roorda I remember a dad who took me fishin’ And remember a dad who hooked my worms, Who took those hooks from fishy mouths, And showed me the country way of life. ~ A family of six, two girls and four boys Fun and trouble we shared as we grew. From farms and fields to paved avenues, Walking and biking, exploring we went. ~ I remember a time spent playing games, A dad who’d not cheat for us to win. Family and friends and holiday dinners, Lakes and farms and countryside drives. ~ Weeds were the bane of childhood fun, So ‘tween the rows we ran and we played. But as I grew and matured in age, Weeding was therapy in gardens of mine. ~ I remember a dad who thrived on farming Livestock and gardens, and teaching me how. I remember a dad who took me huntin’ Scouting the fields, always alert. ~ I remember a dad who taught us more For growing up we learn by example. I remember working alongside my dad Roofing a barn and building corrals. ~ I remember a dad whose gifts were given In fairness to meet each child’s desire. I remember a dad whose wisdom we honor In memories of caring and love in small ways. ~ I remember a dad who brought us laughter With Cajun and Cosby stories retold. For blessed with a gift of retelling tales Family and childhood events he recalled. ~ I remember a dad whose time was given To help his children face life’s turmoils. Time spent together are memories treasured For things done best put family first. ~ I remember a dad who taught me more To treasure my faith in Jesus my friend. In looking to Him as Savior and Lord, Salvation by Grace, not earned by my deed. ~ As I look back to days long ago, I remember the dad I knew so well. For I miss the dad who took me fishin’ And remember the dad who taught me more. ~ All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  5. From Whence Cometh Your Name?

    That's great they've done so much already! That's the best I can come up with for your VanDeMark meaning
  6. From Whence Cometh Your Name?

    Glad you enjoyed this, Hal! From a quick search online, Van de/der Mark is a topographical surname of those who lived by a border or boundary (of something!), from Middle Dutch marke/merke. My Dutch/English translation book does not give that meaning, but I'd go with it from a good legit source. Also, I'd be happy to check census records for some of your ancestors back into early Nieuw Nederlands if you'd like. You may email me at elr1074@frontier.com with names I can search - but be sure to fill in the subject line
  7. From Whence Cometh Your Name?

    Chances are, if your surname is Cooper, Currier, Miller, Slater, Smith, Tanner, Tailor/Taylor, or Wright, etc., the earliest known source for your name can be traced to those ancestors employed with such skills at a time when an occupation typically became the family’s surname. Over time, others may have adopted occupational surnames even though they, themselves, held no skilled connection to such a name. Some names are more obvious than others. A few years ago while writing this article on surname occupations, and discussing it with my husband, Ed began his own litany of surnames – Baker, Barber, Butcher, Carpenter, Plumber, Electrician… Laughing, I said, “No one’s last name is Electrician!” to which he replied, “Oh that’s right; they shortened it to Sparks!” You’re so helpful, dear! Centuries ago, typical Scandinavian patronymic (paternal) surnames used the father’s first name with sons adding “sson/sen/zen/zon” and daughters adding “dotter/dottr”, i.e. Nielsson/Nielsen, Nielsdottr”. Thus, each generation was tracked by the father’s birth name as a prefix in a generational changing surname. Legislation began in 1771 to establish permanent surnames, with subsequent amendments enacted frequently since. Surnames also denoted town of residence, name of residence, or occupation, for example: Moller = Miller, Schmidt = Smith, and Fisker = Fisher. Norwegian surnames might also reference their farmland, such as: Bakke/Bakken (hill or rise), Berg/Berge (mountain or hill), Dahl/Dal (valley), Haugen/Haugan (hill or mound), Lie (side of a valley), Moen (meadow), or Rud (clearing). Similarly, Swedish surnames include Lind/Lindberg (linden/lime + mountain), Berg/Bergkvist (mountain/mountain + twig), Alström/Ahlström (alder + stream), or Dahl/Dahlin (valley). Read more HERE. As a genealogist, I enjoy the study of surnames and what they mean, and to what nationality they’re linked. In genealogy research, I’ve been bemused by some of the names chosen centuries ago when families were forced to take a designated surname. I am more familiar with our Dutch family names, many families forced to adopt permanent surnames by Napoleon if they didn’t already have one. After occupying the Netherlands, on August 18, 1811, Napoleon required the hardy Dutch to register permanent surnames. The stubborn Dutchmen that they were/are, you can find many interesting surnames among today’s Dutch if you delve into the meaning, including serious, humorous, place names, and occupational names. Apparently, the top 10 Dutch surnames include: DeJong/DeYonge (the Young), Jansen (Jan’s son, like the American Johnson), De Vries (the Frisian, or of Vriesland), Van De Berg/Van Den Berg/Van Der Berg (from the mountain), Van Dijk/Van Dyk/Dyke (residing near a dijk/dyk/dike), Bakker (a baker), Visser (means fisherman with variations including Vissers, Visscher and Visschers. After emigration to America, this surname was often changed to Fisher, which my paternal grandfather’s uncle did); Smid/Smit/De Smit/Smidt/Smits (a blacksmith), Meijer/Meyer/Hofmeijer (a farmer who managed a farm/estate for the owner/landlord like the ancient feudal system.) My paternal grandmother’s Vos of Zuid/South Holland province means fox. My paternal grandfather’s Visscher (fisherman) family is from Groningen province, close to Germanic influence, and my husband’s Roorda (similar to the English Edward meaning famous guardian) is Frisian. The first documented Roorda in Friesland province rode with Charlemagne, though I don’t know how my husband’s ancestors connect to him. My mother-in-law’s family names include Van Der Heide (from the moor/heath), Van Den Berg (from the hill/mountain), and ten Kate (the cat). Other common Dutch surnames include Boer (farmer), Buskirk (bush church, i.e. kirk/church in the woods), de Groot (the large or great), de Wit (the blond), Mulder (miller), Noteboom (nut/walnut tree), ten Boom (at/the tree or pole), Van Der Zee (from the sea), van Dorp (from the village) van Staalduinen (from the steel dune) – you get the idea! As my long-time readers will recall, I’ve been enamored with all things Dutch having been born into a paternal full Dutch family. Though my mother’s family had had little knowledge of their full ancestry until my in-depth research, it is interesting to note my mother’s paternal Swiss Dallenbach/Tillapaugh/German Kniskern and maternal Scots-Irish McNeill/German Ottman are overwhelmingly Dutch and German Palatine with Scots-Irish, English and French scattered amongst them. That my mother’s parents each descend from one of the only two sons of a German Palatine widow is also among my treasured ancestral findings. I extracted a number of Dutch surnames from Wikipedia, particularly since early New York was settled predominantly by the Dutch in New Netherlands. Think about the names below, sound them out using your best phonics, and you’ll hear names and terms in use today, many of which are familiar to me from my grandparents and their friends. Baas – The Boss Bakker – Baker Beek, van – From the brook Bos – Forest Berg, van der/den – From the cliff, mountain Berkenbosch- birch wood, a grove of birch trees Boer, de – the Farmer Boogaard – from the orchard, Americanized as Bogart Boor, van der – possibly of the same French root as Boer – farmer or simple person, aka boorish Bouwman – mason, construction worker Brouwer – Brewer Bruin, de (Bruijn, de) – brown Buskirk, van – literally bush church, or church in the woods Cornelissen – son of Cornelis/Cornelius Dekker – from the verb dekken or to cover as in covering roof tops (compare English "Thatcher") Dijk, Deijck, van – From the dike Dijkstra – From the dike Graaf, de – The count/earl Heide, van der – from the heath Hendriks, Hendriksen, Hendrix – Henry's son Heuvel, van den – From the hill, mound Kuiper, Cuyper, Kuyper, de – the Cooper Leeuwen, van – From Leeuwen/Leuven; Levi Jaager, de – the Hunter Jansen, Janssen – Jan's son (compare Johnson) Jong, de – the Junior Koning, Koningh, de – the King Lange, de – the long/the tall Linden, van der – from the Linden (type of tree) Meijer, Meyer – Bailiff or steward Meer, van der – From the lake Molen, van der – from the Mill Mulder, Molenaar – Miller Maarschalkerweerd – Keeper of the horses (compare English marshal) Peters or Pieters – Peter's son Prins – Prince Ruis, Ruys, Ruisch, Ruysch – the sound of wind or water (surname common with millers). Rynsburger – inhabitant of Rijnsburg Smit, Smits – Smith Teuling – Toll taker Timmerman – Carpenter (timber man) Tuinstra – From the Garden Visser – Fisher [my ancestral Visscher – Fisherman (from Groningen, near Germanic influence)] Vliet, van – From the vliet (type of water) Vries, de – from Friesland/Frisian Vos – Fox Westhuizen, van der – from the houses located in the west Willems, Willemsen – William's son Wit, de – White (= the blond) But, back to our preoccupation with occupational surnames, particularly old English surnames. Brewster was a woman brewer of alcoholic beverages, like beer. Chapman, old English for ceapmann, was a merchant or salesman. A cooper made wooden barrels or tubs with innumerable uses. A miller owned or worked in a mill, especially noted early on for grinding grain into flour. A smith was a blacksmith, hammering out iron objects heated in the fire. A tanner cured hides, while a currier (remember the artwork of Currier and Ives?) removed the hair from the hide, readying it to be made into leather goods. An experienced tailor could sew the finest outfits just by taking your measurements. A wright was a skilled woodworker, the word replaced by carpenter in the 11th century. A prefix designated other skills a wright might be proficient in – i.e. a shipwright built ships, a wheelwright made and repaired wooden wheels, a millwright set up machinery, and a wainwright was a wagon maker. The name Cooper is Anglo-Saxon, stemming from the original Latin word cupa, Middle Dutch kuiper, German kuper, and anglicized in England during the 8th century. Surnames were also necessary when governments implemented a personal tax, or the Poll Tax as it was known in England. Over the centuries, many surnames have changed spellings, some dramatically so, often due to one’s ability to spell, or lack thereof. This fact alone is key when researching your ancestors. A cooper was a skilled craftsman who worked with a variety of carpentry tools. He made and shaped wooden staves with broadaxes, planes and drawknives to form the rounded vessel, which in turn was held together by wooden or metal hoops/rings around the exterior. He then fashioned wooden lids or barrelheads to fit tightly. A cooper played a vital role within a community. His barrels, buckets, butter churns, casks, firkins, hogsheads, kegs and tubs, etc. were needed to hold milk, water and a whole range of staples/food supplies, dry food goods, gunpowder, and other liquids like beer and wine. The products of a cooper’s trade were generally known as cooperage, or individually a piece of cooperage. A dry or slack cooper made wooden containers for dry goods including grains, nails, tobacco, fruits and vegetables. A dry-tight cooper’s casks kept moisture out, enabling gunpowder and flour to be preserved. A white cooper made the pails, buckets, dippers, butter churns and tubs to hold liquids, but these were not used for shipping. These containers used straight staves, or wood that was not bent. The wet or tight cooper made barrels and casks in which liquids, including beer and wine, could be stored and preserved, and later transported. Certain woods have long been used in wine barrels to give a distinctive flavor enhancement to wine and liquors. When we think of a miller, one who owned or worked in a mill, we usually envision a gristmill in an idyllic setting by a flowing stream and peaceful pond. The water flowed over the wooden “paddle wheel” which turned the shaft/gears which turned the millstone. A miller is among the oldest professions, a vital link within the community since everyone needed his product. Millers took grain and ground it finely between two flat millstones to make flour, the staple of breads, biscuits, pastries and pasta. Almost every community had its own mill for the convenience of local farmers transporting their grain. The miller’s income often stemmed from a “miller’s toll,” a certain percentage of the grain he had milled rather than a monetary fee. Wikipedia describes the milling process well: “The millstones themselves turn at around 120 rpm. They are laid one on top of the other. The bottom stone, called the bed, is fixed to the floor, while the top stone, the runner, is mounted on a separate spindle, driven by the main shaft. A wheel, or stone nut, connects the runner's spindle to the main shaft, and this can be moved out of the way to disconnect the stone and stop it from turning, leaving the main shaft turning to drive other machinery. This might include driving a mechanical sieve to refine the flour or turning a wooden drum to wind up a chain used to hoist sacks of grain to the top of the mill. The distance between the stones can be varied to produce the grade of flour required; moving the stones closer together produces finer flour.” Smith, another common old English surname of the Anglo-Saxon era, or the German smithaz or Schmidt, originates from workers who were skilled in working with metal, such as a blacksmith or metalsmith. They made wrought iron or steel items by forging - the process of heating the metal in a fire until it is soft enough to be hammered, bent or cut to make gates, railings, agricultural implements, tools, household items, and weapons, etc. Typically, a blacksmith made horseshoes while a farrier shod the horse, though often their skills were interchangeable. A whitesmith/tinsmith or tinker worked with tin, typically making useful household items. Working with a lighter metal, he did not need the higher temperatures of a blacksmith’s fire. The skills of both a silversmith and goldsmith are self-explanatory. Tanner is also an ancient Anglo-Saxon surname taken by those employed in the process of tanning animal hides/skins. It is thought to be of Celtic origin, a word for the oak tree and its bark which was used for tanning. A tanner held an important skill during the medieval era when leather was used for many common but necessary items including buckets, clothing, shoes, harness and saddles, and even armor for battle. Tannin (from the German word “tanna” for oak or fir, i.e. Tannenbaum) is the chemical residue from oak tree bark used to treat the animal hides, also producing the coloring during the process. The Wikipedia article in my research includes a photo entitled “Peeling bark for the tannery in Prattsville, New York during the 1840s, when it was the largest in the world.” Here, men are shown removing strips of bark from the base of trees in the forest. Oak and hemlock were the trees of choice. After peeling the bark off, the trees were sawn into firewood or lumber. The bark was set out to dry, then ground down and put into vats of water, and left to leach out the tannic acid necessary for tanning hides. Many of those early virgin forests were thus logged bare for the tanning products. Some of the tools used in the process of tanning include: Fleshing knife – for removing the flesh from an animal skin/hide Unhairing knife – for removing the animal hair on the skin/hide Sleeker – for smoothing the skin/hide Buffer – for shining the animal's skin/hide Stone mill - driven by horses, used for grinding oak-tree bark which is used during tanning. In the old days, tanning was an odiferous trade, typically performed by the poor on the outer edges of town. Even today, if the old-fashioned methods are used, tanneries emit foul odors and shops are set up well away from populated areas of town. The process is a lost art, one I found fascinating to read about, even if yucky. Again, Wikipedia gives an apt description of the processes. There may be some within our communities who trap and tan the animal hides to make their own leather. If so, they likely use a modern chemical process which I saw described online. But, for the purpose of the history of this interesting old skill, we’ll describe the ancient process. When the skins/hides arrived at the tanner’s shack, they were dry, stiff and filthy. The first step was to soak them in salt water for curing to help prevent bacterial decay. The soaking steps also helped to clean and soften the hides. The hides were next treated with a layer of lime, and then pounded and scoured to remove any remaining flesh and fat. The hair needed to be removed, either by soaking in urine, coating it with a lime mixture, or letting the skin putrify for a few months before dipping it into another salt solution. With the hair loosened, the tanner could more easily scrape the hair fibers off with the unhairing knife. After the hair had been removed, either animal brains, manure/dung or urine was pounded or rubbed into the skin. The ancient tanner often used his bare feet to knead the skins in dung water for a few hours. Centuries ago, tanners hired children to collect dung and urine from chamber pots set out on street corners for such a purpose. Plant juices or bone marrow, urine and rotted brains were used by many African tribes to make soft leather. The ancient Hebrews used oak bark, Egyptians used Babul pods, and the Arabs used barks and roots. Japanese preferred rapeseed (a flowering plant) and safflower oils. Eskimos used fish oil, while Native Americans would smoke the hides to tan them. Mud and alum were used by the ancient Chinese, as did the Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Indians, and Greeks. Softening the hide can be done by further pounding or rubbing it with sticks or heavy ropes, or by pulling it from the edges with another person to stretch it out. After putting the hide through all these processes, it would be pliable and to ready to use in making various items. I remember going with my father as an early teen to a leather shop in Newark, NJ where he picked out leather of various shades, thickness and flexibility, including alligator hide. Using a variety of tools to create designs, he made beautiful purses for my mother and others in the family. I still have a small one he made when I was about 5. The ancients took leftover leather scraps from their projects and put them into a vat with water to rot. After several months, this mixture was boiled down to make hide glue. Nothing was wasted! A cooper, blacksmith, tailor or wheelwright can often be found in living history museums like those I have visited: Bement-Billings Museum in Newark Valley, NY; the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, NY; Genesee Country Village Museum in Mumford, NY; and Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, just to name a few as there are so many other museums to visit.
  8. Releasing With Love

    As we travel life’s path we all manage to lose a few things… like special trinkets, and perhaps a few friends from another time and another place as live moves on. We even lose our patience a few more times than we care to admit. Though losing something special can be painful, it’s different from giving it away… releasing that treasure on our own is a whole other story, a gift of love. In this season of graduations, my thoughts began to travel in the direction of releasing our young with love. Letting go of what we hold dear can be difficult, perhaps even bittersweet, yet the release can leave us with a warm glow in our heart. It’s a process that takes time. As Corrie ten Boom, one of my favorite authors, once said, “I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hands.” Like a mother hen, we lovingly protect and keep our little ones safe, and try to impart some of our hard-earned wisdom over time before letting them take off on their own. After all, we truly want the best for them! But, as our little ones grow up, they mature with a wisdom found only by taking some of life’s most difficult steps. Learning to walk, falling down is a frequent occurrence as they learn how to get back up again. Then, as they continue to grow and mature, they also benefit by failing a few times, learning how to pick themselves up to try again. At times, though, I was over protective of my children, a hover-mother, not wanting them to face some of the difficulties I had… not my best parenting idea. I loved my children and wanted to be involved in every aspect of their little lives, especially since I didn’t have that type of close relationship with my own mother. We all know parenting has its challenges, and every so often I’d say, “It’s hard to raise a mother!” Raising our children was a joint learning venture, especially since they managed to arrive without an individual instruction manual in hand. But, now we have the pleasure of watching our children raise their children, and hearing their stories holds extra special meaning. Like when our daughter, Emily, was trying to put her middle son down for a nap. He had every excuse in the book as he fussed around. Finally, she let him know how frustrated she was getting with him. Patting her arm, 3-year-old Sam gently said, “It’s ok, Mom. You’ll get used to it!” And Em had to tuck her face into his blanket so he wouldn’t see her laughing. There’s more wisdom in those words than little Sam could have ever known! For out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom sweet. Should we hold too tightly to our children and their childhood, we may not allow them the freedom they need to grow and adjust with life’s changes. They may not become the well-adjusted mature adults they are meant to be. And, if we fail to help them discipline their own actions, they won’t know the rewards of self-control. Each child is a unique individual, a most precious gift from God to be treasured and loved as we guide them in starting their journey of life. My friend, Mimi, once shared a quote from her stitchery with me – “There are two lasting gifts we can give to our children – one is roots, the other is wings.” How true! May we love our children enough to provide them with the deep roots of a sturdy foundation, laughing and crying alongside them, while giving them wings and freedom to fly out into the great big world on their own. And may we learn the gift of releasing with love… allowing us all to see the beauty deep within their heart. Releasing With Love Linda A. Roorda Along life’s journey we lose a few things Like fancy trinkets and friends of the heart Even some time, and patience, too All that holds meaning through our hands will slip. ~ Losing possessions with meaning attached Shows how futile to retain our grip As respected wisdom gives true perspective That where grace abounds we hold but loosely. ~ When losing our self for a greater good We follow a path of godly wisdom And in giving thought to what holds our heart Is found the key essential to life. ~ For the years of youth build up to the time When wisdom is gained and freedom earned, We’ve gently led and helped them to know It’s time to fly on wings of their own. ~ By clutching firmly life’s fleeting passage We cannot grasp the beauty within For in the act of releasing with love We’ll come to treasure each moment’s sweet gift. ~~ 05/19/17 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  9. Mary or Martha?

    I got to thinking one evening while cleaning up dishes after dinner… am I a Mary or a Martha? Or perhaps a little of both? I’ve always been intrigued by the biblical story of Mary and Martha, two sisters, friends of Jesus along with their brother, Lazarus. Luke 10:38-42 describes Jesus’ visit to their home where Mary joined others and sat at His feet, listening to His teaching. But, Martha remained in the other room preparing a meal for their guests. While busying herself with all that went into food preparation, her frustration simmered to a boiling point. Life gets so busy and hectic sometimes, doesn’t it? Ever feel like you’re trapped in the kitchen while everyone else is having a great time visiting, talking and laughing? I’ll admit I have! Cooking is not my forte`. I’d much rather be visiting with my guests than in the kitchen. So, I empathize with Martha. There’s so much to do for your guests, and you fret and worry as time presses in. You want everything to be right for them to feel special, loved and appreciated… to give attention to the fine details as you prepare to serve them a delicious meal. Being the oldest of six, having helped care for four younger brothers during my teen years, plus an every-other-day 8-hour babysitting job of four children all through high school (alternating evenings with my sister), plus other weekend babysitting jobs, plus caring for my horse and flock of chickens and ducks, plus working for a lawyer in the afternoons during my senior year of high school and full-time after graduation, contributing a portion of my income to my parents for room and board while also buying my own clothes, fabric to make clothes, paying for my own school supplies and for a car with its upkeep, I’ve always felt responsible for myself, and everyone and everything else. Even my husband and kids will tell you that! To be honest, with Martha being the oldest sibling, perhaps she also carried the weight of responsibility and obligation that Mary may not have felt as strongly. So, as Martha prepared the meal, in frustration and perhaps with a quick temper, she petulantly asked Jesus, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” and then even demanded, “Tell her to help me!” On one hand, you’d think that was a valid request – after all, they needed to eat, and Martha did need help. But, on the other hand, I’ve also been appalled at Martha’s nerve for speaking in such a demanding tone to their beloved teacher. Instead of answering sharply, Jesus gently rebuked her for being concerned with these lesser matters, saying, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” His response to Martha can seem a bit confusing. As I contemplate His words though, I believe Jesus intended that the meal could wait. They didn’t need anything fancy – no abundant buffet or big fuss was necessary. Martha only needed to serve something simple, quick and easy. I believe He wanted Martha to understand the value of the personal time and teaching He was giving to the guests, and to the sisters in their home. In essence, He was reminding them of something He’d taught the crowds in His Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink… But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow… (Matthew 6:25, 33, 34a NIV) Priorities mattered then just as much as they do now… in my life… in all our lives. I need to set aside quiet time to think and reflect, to meditate, to pray and listen to what God is trying to say within my heart… and to give Him the weight of responsibility I feel for everything. I need not fret and worry. The Apostle Peter understood how we feel and said it well, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7 NIV) When I do, it sure seems to help me handle whatever comes my way. It also seems to put life into a clearer perspective so that I can better serve others with a heart of joy instead of stress in the little nuisances of life. Mary or Martha Linda A. Roorda If I were Mary, Or were I but Martha, What would I choose Should a friend come to call? ~ Would I be too busy To welcome my guest, Or would I gaze attentive And at His side be still. ~ But a meal must be served! The depth of discussion I’m too busy to hear There’s so much to be done! ~ Lord, can’t you tell Mary I need her help now! The preparations are great A burden for me alone. ~ Martha, my dear child Can you not understand? Mary’s gentle spirit Seeks my Word for her soul. ~ There’s a time and a place For the busyness of life With much to be done For those in need of care. ~ And yet there’s a time To come away from it all As you quietly listen And ponder My Word. ~ A word of wisdom I seek, To restore my soul. Lord, show me the path, My steps to trace Yours. ~ Attentive and still To quiet the chaos In the depths of my soul I need You, dear Lord. ~ Your soft voice I hear As I sit at your feet Resting in Your Word The Way for my life. ~~ 09/05/13 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. “Poetic Devotions" offers faith-based poetry and everyday devotions of praise by Linda Roorda. See more at her site HERE.
  10. Lady Wisdom

    Wisdom... that value within our heart and soul which helps guide our steps on this path called life. An entity more precious than gold. Lady Wisdom’s knowledge often comes from experience, by learning and gaining insight the hard way… you know, those mistakes that can either break or make us. She brings a common sense, discernment, shrewdness… an innate understanding of what’s best. But, this sound judgment can be lacking when we become distracted or enticed by what seems so right, yet, in reality, is so wrong when we heed the voice of Folly. One of my favorite life verses is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV) As our Pastor Steve put it recently, “Wisdom is knowledge applied God’s way.” Yet, like I’ve said before, I often think I can take the reins and direct my own way… only to realize that I erred, once again, and need to grasp His hand, allowing God to guide me as I learn from His infinite wisdom. With wisdom comes the ability to discern or judge right from wrong… to think and act appropriately, and to not become enmeshed in Folly’s foibles. As God searches the depth of our heart, His Spirit reaches out to us with a still small voice in our inner being. If we’ve embedded Lady Wisdom’s truth within our heart, we’ll know whose voice to trust and follow. And, as we humbly follow Lady Wisdom’s righteous ways, a calm and peaceful tranquility will envelope our soul. We’ll know we’ve chosen the right path when we’ve given time and consideration to acting in a way that would receive God’s blessing. I love the book of Proverbs for the depth of wisdom gleaned as we “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me… for whoever finds me finds life… but whoever fails to find me harms himself.” (Proverbs 8:33-36 NIV) Lady Wisdom… a personification of God’s attributes in the feminine form. She is not meant to take His holy place, but rather to give a human side to God’s omniscience… for “the fear [awe, respect] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV) Lady Wisdom Linda A. Roorda Lady wisdom carries high her torch She lights the way with truth on her side. Her words bring strength to face life’s trials With comfort and peace when the winds blow fierce. ~ Listen and heed her still small voice Words to the soul that lead and protect, For like a lantern which brightens the way So is Wisdom in guiding your life. ~ When lured and tempted by desires for more Do not be swayed by enticements sweet. For trust is earned with truth and respect A higher calling than rebellious ways. ~ Seek out the Lord whose hand will uphold Stand firm on His word within your heart. Learn at His feet, discerning the right His knowledge gain with treasured insight. ~ Be wise in judgment, perceiving the darts Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not upon your own understanding But acknowledge Him, the giver of Wisdom. ~~ 03/17/17 ~ 05/30/17 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  11. Spring's Debut

    It’s common knowledge that spring is my favorite season! I love earth’s awakening from those long and dreary winter days… though this past winter seemed like it just didn’t want to release its hold on the cold and snow. But now, the sun shines brighter, the sky is bluer, and there’s an obvious warmth that’s beginning to penetrate every fiber of every living thing. There may be a good deal of rain mixed in; but, with that rain, slowly and surely new growth takes shape as tiny leaves, flower buds, and new blades of grass begin to emerge. The cold blanket of snow has been thrown off, the creeks and rivers flow abundantly along their way, and sparkling gems of color begin to explode. It’s a seasonal dance featuring the debutant of spring dressed in her finest! Drink in the pleasure of every facet of spring… from the sylvan palette of leaves in multitudinous shades of green, yellow and purple… to blossoms of white, pink, yellow, red, blue and every shade in between… to birds with their various colors and lilting tunes… to skies wrapped in shades of azure with clouds from white to deep gray… to shades of pink, purple, orange and red at sunrise and sunset… to the velvet black night skies of sparkling diamonds… to spring showers bearing fresh aromas as they saturate and nourish the plants and soil… to the tantalizing and aromatic blossoms from lilacs, roses, sweet peas, irises, daffodils, lilies of the valley… and so much more. “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance…” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13a) Enjoy creation’s blessing in every sense of sight and sound, taste and smell, for “He has made everything beautiful in its time!” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a) Spring’s Debut Linda A. Roorda At the dawning of spring’s welcome debut The earth awakens from wintry slumber She yawns and stretches, throwing off covers Changing her gown from white to sylvan green. ~ She welcomes showers of refreshing dew As fragrant aromas drift on gentle breeze While life’s renewal and emerging growth Bring bright adornment for the bleak and barren. ~ Slowly she dons her delicate gown Until she’s covered in brilliant hues With sunlight’s rays streaming their warmth She lifts her face to absorb their glow. Regaled in finery like delicate silk She extends a brush to paint her palette With every shade of the rainbow bright Her crowning glory like entwining tresses. ~ As we gaze in awe at the transformation From sleeping beauty to splendor arrayed Like multi-hued gems that sparkle and shine Is spring’s debut, prepared for the dance. ~~ 03/05/17 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  12. Bannerman's Castle on the Hudson

    Totally agreed!!!! LOL!
  13. Bannerman's Castle on the Hudson

    I can just imagine being able to stand amidst ancient history!! but yuck about the Blarney stone!! too funny! LOL!!
  14. Bannerman's Castle on the Hudson

    How exciting you were able to go through Scottish castles, Mary!!! and yes, they are impressive for standing up to the test of time! My two youngest were blessed to go with our S-VE band to northwest England in latter '90s to give concerts in Yorkshire; they took a tour of Yorkminster and a few castles, saw Hadrian's wall, etc. I love Alf Wight/James Herriot's All Creatures book series and Ed had gotten me his photo tour of Yorkshire with some beautiful castles, or what was left of some. Amazing structures!
  15. Bannerman's Castle on the Hudson

    A Scottish castle on the Hudson? Drawn to the hazy beauty of this photo, I was mesmerized by the castle’s classic lines… so reminiscent of centuries-old castles scattered around the British and Scottish moors and highlands, intrigued to know it sat upon American soil. After researching and naming my Mom’s maternal Scots-Irish, I am proud to say that they, too, hold a special place in my heart amongst all my Dutch ancestors. Photo by Will Van Dorp, Tugster Think back with me to an earlier day when the adventurous Europeans followed Henry Hudson’s momentous sail north on a river now bearing his name. It was an era of exploration, a prosperous time for the Dutch and their friends as they established a considerable presence in the settling of Nieuw Nederlands… and traveled freely up and down the North River with its invitingly peaceful, and beautiful, sylvan surroundings. Now envision a fairy-tale castle of Scottish design built upon a solid rock foundation, entirely surrounded by a pristine and placid river as its moat. At times though, depending on the season and storm, the waters become riled and treacherous, perhaps evoking images of an ancient castle set upon the lonely and stormy seacoast of bonnie Scotland. Such a sighting embodies the ambiance of castle life in the Middle Ages… a time of chivalry when knights in shining armor went out to battle, bravely protecting their sovereign and his empire, returning home with honor to win the heart of a certain fair young maiden… Roughly 50 miles north of New York City lies an island comprising about 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 acres (depending on source) along the eastern shore of the Hudson River as you head north. Pollepel Island is a lush growth of trees, bushes, flowers and gardens, clamoring vines, weeds, bugs, ticks, snakes, and rocky ground. Not surprisingly, the hardy Dutch left their influence on our language and place names all throughout the new world in both New Amsterdam proper and environs of the greater New Netherlands. Naturally this little island, Pollepel (i.e. Dutch for ladle), was named by these hardy early settlers, situated in an area designated as the “Northern Gate” of the Hudson River’s Highlands. Just like in the Old Country, the island’s natural harbor provides the perfect setting for a castle… Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, to be exact. Arsenal, you ask? Yes, a place where knights could well have donned shining armor for their king and perched behind the battlements with all manner of arms. Photo by Will Van Dorp, Tugster, Long before there was a castle of dreamy old-world architecture, it was said that Native Americans refused to take up residence on this mound of rock. Believing the island to be haunted, the Indians rarely dared set foot upon it in daylight, if at all, while their enemies flaunted that fact by seeking refuge on the rocky shore… The hardy mariners who once sailed Hudson’s North River left a legacy of legends and tales of this little island. Washington Irving of Tarrytown, told with skillful imagination the story of “The Storm Ship”, also known as the “Flying Dutchman”. Fear of goblins who dwelt on Pollepel Island was as real as that of their leader, the Heer of Dunderburgh. It was well known that Dunderburgh controlled the winds, those furies which provoked the waters, making safe passage of the Highlands a thing to be envied. With the sinking of the famed “Flying Dutchman” during an especially severe storm, the captain and crew found themselves forever doomed. And, if you should ever find yourself traveling the river near Pollepel in such a storm, listen closely… for in the howling of the winds which whip the sails, you just might hear the captain and his sailors calling for help. Another legend which early Dutch sailors spoke about was that of Polly Pell, a beautiful young lady rescued from the river’s treacherous ice. Romantically saved from drowning by the quick wit and arms of her beau, she married her rescuer. Such are the dreams of the romantically inclined… From a more practical perspective, Gen. George Washington used the strategically placed Pollepel Island during the American Revolution in an effort to prevent British ships from sailing north. “Chevaux de frise” were made of large logs with protruding iron spikes which, when sunk upright in the river, were intended to damage ships’ hulls and stop the British from passing through. However, these particular obstructions, set up between the island and Plum Point on the opposite shore, did not deter the resourceful British. They simply sailed with ease past the sunken deterrents in flat-bottomed boats. Washington also planned to establish a military garrison for prisoners-of-war on Pollepel Island, but there is no proof extant that his idea was ever implemented. According to Jane Bannerman (granddaughter-in-law of the castle’s builder) in “Pollepel - An Island Steeped in History”, the island had just five owners since the American Revolution era: “William Van Wyck of Fishkill, Mary G. Taft of Cornwall, Francis Bannerman VI of Brooklyn, and The Jackson Hole Preserve (Rockefeller Foundation) which donated the island to the people of the State of New York (Hudson Highlands State Park, Taconic Region, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation).” Francis (Frank) Bannerman VI, the island’s third owner, was born March 24, 1851 in Dundee, Scotland. His ancestor was the first to bear the honored name of Bannerman seven centuries ago. At Bannockburn in 1314, Stirling Castle was held by the English King, Edward II. Besieged by the Scottish army, however, Edward II’s well-trained troops were ultimately defeated in a brutal battle. Less than half the size of England’s army, the successful brave Scotsmen were commanded by the formidable Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. During that battle, Francis VI’s ancestor rescued their Clan Macdonald’s pennant from destruction. In reward, Robert the Bruce is said to have torn a streamer from the Royal ensign and bestowed upon Francis’s ancestor the honor of “bannerman,” the auspicious beginning of the family name. Fast forward a few centuries and, interestingly, we learn that two years after the February 8, 1690 Schenectady (New York) massacre by the French and Indians, there was a similar massacre in Scotland. Barely escaping the Feb 13, 1692 massacre of the Clan Macdonald at Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands by the Campbells, Francis Bannerman I and others sailed to Ireland. With the family settling in Antrim for the next 150 years or so, it was not until 1845 that Francis Bannerman V returned his branch of the family’s presence to Dundee, Scotland. There, Francis VI was born into this distinguished family. When but a lad of 3 years, his father brought the family across the pond to America’s shores in 1854. Settling in Brooklyn by 1856, the Bannerman family has remained with a well-respected presence. Francis V earned a living by reselling items in the Brooklyn Navy Yard which he’d obtained cheaply at auctions. A few years later, on joining the Union efforts in the Civil War, his 10-year-old son, Francis VI, left school to help support the family. Searching for scrap items after his hours in a lawyer’s office, young Frank VI also sold newspapers to mariners on ships docked nearby. In the evenings, he trolled or dragged local rivers and searched the streets and alleys, ever on the lookout for profitable scrap items, chains, and other odds and ends, even sections of rope, all eagerly bought by local junkmen. Returning from war an injured man, Francis V saw how successful his son had become with his scrap business. By realizing that items he sold held more value than ordinary junk, young Frank had made good money. To handle the growing accumulations of items his son had collected, and the military surplus in 1865 purchased at the close of the Civil War, Bannerman’s storehouse was set up on Little Street. Next, a ship-chandlery shop was established on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Returning to school with his father at home, young Francis received a scholarship to Cornell University. However, owing to his father’s disability, family loyalty won out and he declined to pursue the halls of higher education in order to help run the family business. In 1872, 21-year-old Francis VI took a business trip to Europe. Visiting his grandmother in Ulster, Ireland, he met Helen Boyce whom he married June 8, 1872 in Ballymena. Two of their sons, Francis VII and David Boyce, eventually joined their father in the family business. A third son, Walter Bruce, took a different path by earning his medical degree. Sadly, their only daughter died as an infant. Charles, grandson of Francis VI, married Jane Campbell, a descendant of the ancient Campbells who had attempted to destroy the Macdonald clan (from which massacre Francis I had escaped). Their marriage showed love was the impetus to rise above the ancient rivalry between the families, reminiscent of the Appalachian’s storied Hatfields and McCoys. Considered the “Father of the Army-Navy Store”, Frank Bannerman VI opened a huge block-long store on Broadway by 1897. Here, his large building of several floors housed untold numbers of military supplies, munitions and uniforms from all around the world. Francis/Frank was the go-to man in equipping soldiers for the Spanish-American War. At that war’s end, the company bought arms from the Spanish government and most of the weapons which the American military had captured from the Spanish. Printing a 300-400 page mail order catalog from the late 19th century through the mid-1960s, collectors found a large array of military surplus and antiquities. As city laws limited Bannerman’s ability to retain his massive holdings within the city proper, a larger facility was sought to store their collection of munitions. As he relaxed by canoeing the Hudson River around this time, David Bannerman observed an inconspicuous little island. Finding Pollepel Island perfectly suited to their needs, his father, Frank VI, approached the Taft family and purchased the island in 1900. Designing a Scottish-style castle to honor the family’s legacy, they built an arsenal to store their vast munitions supplies, with a smaller castle providing a family residence. On the side of the castle facing the Hudson River, “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” is embedded in the castle façade, clearly informing all passersby of its purpose to this day. As the largest collector of munitions in the world, buying and selling to many nations, including Japan during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905,and to private citizens like you and me, even Buffalo Bill Cody, military memorabilia collectors, theatrical establishments, and artists needing props, Mr. Francis Bannerman VI held an in-depth knowledge of the military supplies and ordnance in his possession. But, not being a man of greed, he refused to arm revolutionaries and returned their money on learning their intention. At the opening of World War I, he reportedly shipped 8,000 saddles to the French Army and delivered thousands of rifles and ammunition to the British at no cost. Though extremely successful selling munitions, Francis/Frank Bannerman VI considered himself a kind and generous man, “a man of peace”. It was his intention that such a vast collection of arms as his would eventually be considered “The Museum of the Lost Arts.” Energetic and devoted to his church and public service, he also taught a boys’ Sunday School class. He enjoyed bringing friends to the island to experience his family’s hospitality. His wife, Helen, who loved to garden, had paths and terraces constructed throughout the property. Even today, tour guides point out the many flowers and shrubs she planted which have survived the decades, the beauty of which enhance the antiquity of the castle ruins. With the death of Francis Bannerman VI on November 26, 1918 at age 64, building on the island stopped and many setbacks seemed to befall his estate. Two years later, an explosion of 200 tons of stored shells and powder destroyed part of the castle. With State and federal laws controlling the sale of munitions to civilians, sales began to plunge for Bannerman’s Arsenal. Family continued to reside in the smaller castle on the island into the 1930s; but, for the sake of their customers, sold their goods more conveniently from a warehouse in Blue Point, Long Island into the 1970s. In 1950, a pall fell over the island and its castle when the ferry “Pollepel” (named for the island it served) sank in a storm. Then, when the island’s caretaker retired in 1957, Bannerman’s island remained abandoned and untended for years. Frank VI’s grandson, Charles Bannerman, wisely predicted in 1962 that “No one can tell what associations and incidents will involve the island in the future. Time, the elements, and maybe even the goblins of the island will take their toll of some of the turrets and towers, and perhaps eventually the castle itself, but the little island will always have its place in history and in legend and will be forever a jewel in its Hudson Highland setting.” Ultimately, New York State bought the island and its buildings in 1967 after all military supplies had been removed, and tours of the island and castle commenced in 1968. Unfortunately, a devasting fire on August 8, 1969 destroyed the Arsenal along with its walls, floors and roofs making the island unsafe, and it was closed to the public. Though the castle now sits in ruins, much of the exterior walls are still standing, accented with climbing ivy, and held up in the weakest sections by supports. Since virtually all interior floors and walls were destroyed by fire, “vandalism, trespass, neglect and decay” have continued taking their toll over the decades. In more recent years, the island once again made headlines with a tragic story. On April 19, 2015, Angelika Graswald and her fiancée, Vincent Viafore, kayaked to Bannerman’s Castle Island. Attempting to return from their outing in rough waters, Viafore’s kayak took on water and overturned, resulting in his drowning. Graswald, charged with Viafore’s murder, admitted to removing the drain plug. Arraigned in Goshen, Orange County, NY, a plea deal was later reached before the case went to trial. Pleading guilty to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide, she was released from prison not long after, having duly served the time of her reduced sentence. Few people know and remember “Bannerman’s Island” during its glorious past like Jane Bannerman (wife of Charles, Francis VI’s grandson). Assisting The Bannerman’s Castle Trust and the Taconic Park Commission to repair the buildings, Jane has noted, “…it all comes down to money, and if they don’t hurry up, it’ll all fall down. Every winter brings more destruction.” Unsafe conditions on and around the island are due to both underwater and land hazards, not to mention unstable castle walls. Due to these conditions, it is advised you do not attempt to visit the island on your own. The Bannerman’s Castle Trust has initiated “hard hat” tours along with other entertainment venues. By making island visits possible, it is the Trust’s hope they will be able to restore the castle, smaller castle home, and gardens for the public to enjoy more fully. In the interest of preserving the rich history of this Scottish Castle on a small island in the Hudson River, we hope The Bannermans’ Castle Trust is successful in its restoration endeavors. Hudson River Cruises advertise a tour from Newburgh Landing: “Ruins of a 19th century castle on Bannerman’s Island can be seen on special guided history and walking tours departing from Newburgh Landing and Beacon.” For information on 2-1/2 hour guided tours held May through October call: 845-220-2120 or 845-782-0685. With my own maternal Scots-Irish McNeill and Caldwell heritage, I was intrigued by the photos of such an old-world castle built on a small, seemingly insignificant island. The fairy-tale ambiance of this Scottish castle stands out, visible by boat and train, amidst the New Netherlands’ Dutch influence up and down the Hudson River. I hope someday to take a guided tour on Pollepel Island and see Bannerman’s Castle; but, for now, the photos and articles will have to do. Many thanks to friend Will Van Dorp who initially piqued my interest by posting his photos and synopsis of the island, castle, and its environs on his blog, Tugster: Hudson Downbound 18b, April 12, 2018 - Scroll down to photo of Bannerman’s Castle which prompted my story. Landmarks, Bannerman’s Castle Arsenal, 2013 More Ghosts, photography of Bannerman Castle, 2007 There is so much more in-depth reading and photography from many websites, but I referred to the following in my research: Bannerman’s Island Arsenal Bannerman Castle Trust FRANCIS BANNERMAN, the noted merchant and authority on war weapons Bannerman’s Castle: The Ultimate Army-Navy Store Bannerman Island: A Mystery Island on the Hudson Pollepel – An Island Steeped in History by Jane Bannerman Pollepel Island: Private Fortress on the Hudson Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, Historic Images – Old Photos/Postcards Bannerman’s Castle: The Ultimate Army-Navy Store (history and photos of military supplies) 1913 Military Goods Catalogue, Francis Bannerman, 501 Broadway, New York All Things Medieval Ghosts of Old Bannerman’s Island Wikipedia: Pollepel Island
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