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Linda Roorda

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Everything posted by Linda Roorda

  1. Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

    How do we see others? By their outward appearance? By what they’re wearing, or not wearing? By the words they speak? We can’t tangibly see their heart or their thoughts, nor they ours. So, do we react to what we see and hear, or reach out to meet others where they’re at? Not long after we moved to Clifton, NJ in 1965, my Dad went to the boys’ Calvinist Cadets meeting at the Christian school we kids attended. A few blocks from his destination, he saw a man struggling with a flat tire. Having been a farmer and now a truck driver, this was no problem for my Dad to fix, though it might get him dirty and make him late for his meeting. Without hesitation, he stopped and changed the tire for the stranger, refusing pay for his efforts. Each going his own way, they soon discovered their destination was the same meeting, and became instant friends! But, how do we treat that stranger when he or she walks into our church? They may be different from those of us who normally attend… and, sadly, the stranger in our midst may not feel welcomed or accepted. They may not be dressed up fancy like some of us. They may look a bit shabby and worn, be wearing the dirt of life, or even carry the aroma of alcohol. And I was reminded of the time a stranger dressed in black barged into our church, slamming the door behind him, dropping into the pew. As music worship leaders, my friend, Patsy, and I smiled to welcome this man as we sang. But, he was having none of it, staring straight ahead with an angry sullen attitude. Barbed-wire tattoos encircled his upper arms, the sleeves cut off a black T-shirt. His black hair stood up in spikes, and chains draped from his black jeans. Then, just as our Youth Pastor stood up to read Scripture as our pastor was away for the day, this man bounded up to the pulpit. Grabbing the Bible, he began to read: “…But the Lord said… Do not consider his appearance or his height.... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) What’s his purpose? Why is he here this morning? Does he have an ulterior motive? Are there more like him outside? Are there more like him in other churches in town? Why does he look so sullen and angry? Is he sad and lonely? Do we need to protect ourselves from harm? Does he have a gun? What could we use as a weapon? How can I make him feel welcome? I mean, he’s so different! Will he even accept us? How can we best reach out to him to meet his needs? Such were the questions running through the minds of us parishioners, as we slowly realized that this was actually our Pastor Steve dressed up for a lesson as he expounded on that verse. Do we share our love easily with someone different from us? We pride ourselves on maintaining a status quo of acceptable friends, those with whom we’re most comfortable. But what about others in various difficult situations? What about those who may be going through hard times and are poorer than us? What about those who are dealing with life’s deepest struggles, lost in the midst of their grief, dealing with inner emotional pain or depression, or perhaps seeking answers to life by delving into alcohol and drugs to numb their pain? They, too, are in need of the love and comfort we just might be able to give. What did Jesus say about the strangers in our midst? In telling one of his parables, Jesus spoke about a king whose servants were called faithful and righteous for the love they had shown the king in his time of need. They replied, “‘[But] Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King [replied], ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40) In response to his critics for eating with those considered “unholy”, Jesus gently said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) And later, the Apostle Paul wrote that this “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23) And I admit that I, too, stand guilty in many ways. We can express ourselves and our opinions with kindness rather than with an attitude. We can welcome the stranger who is different from us, sharing a peace and comfort from deep within our heart. And, we can reach out to others who are hurting with the same love and mercy we’ve been shown by our Lord… for in so doing, not only will they be blessed, but we’ll be blessed in turn. The Pew and the Barstool Linda A. Roorda One day I walked through an open door Looking for a seat but the pews were full, Except in the front where I sat to listen Searching for comfort from a world of pain. ~ The message of love was heard in my heart And I longed to feel this emotion lost. I yearned for peace in my troubled soul Hope for the day and light in the dark. ~ Wisdom and truth for a hurting world These were the words in the message heard. But as I turned to follow the crowd No one reached out… no one showed they cared. ~ No welcoming smile… no words kindly shared. Their glances away gave proof of their thoughts. Shabby were my clothes with tatters and tears, Dirty was I, and smelling of beer. ~ No comfort from pain, just withering looks. No peace or love was offered to me. I stood alone feeling shamed and grieved. Where was this love they sang from their lips? ~ And so I strolled to the other side Across the street where welcomed was I. Finding my seat on a barstool tall I ordered a round to drown out my pain. ~ If only they knew their hearts had grown cold. Who was this Lord they claimed for their own? Where was the love, the hope and the peace? Did they not know who walked in their midst? ~ Have they not heard and have they not read? I was a stranger yet nothing they gave. They fed not my soul, warm clothing not shared Sickly was I, but comfort they withheld. ~ Do they not heed the words of their Lord? Whatever is done for even the least Is done in His name to brighten a dark world, For those who bless will blessings receive. ~~ 12/08/15 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of the author.
  4. This is Love...

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

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

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

    It seems we often want our way regardless of how anyone else feels. That old “give-and-take” attitude I remember growing up with seems to be lacking... all too evident among those who mock and bully others, even within today’s world of politics… where a war of words has erupted yet again. It seems like absolute truth and moral or ethical standards have become a negative, cause for ridicule… while relativism, or determining our own truth as we want it to be, is more often revered. Authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens are now suspect, apparently not worth our reading in today’s political correctness. They, like many others, wrote about the way life was as experienced while they walked upon this earth. The Wilder Award in literature has been renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder used words of a different era, inappropriate for today. We were appalled at censorship, banning and burning of books many years ago, yet even now we walk a fine line of what is appropriate. We disallow our children to read of life in other times when words or language we now recognize as inappropriate was used. Even our Holy Bible is not accepted at times because it might offend. Yet, as discerning parents, we did not allow our children to read a few certain books in high school. We discussed why they were inappropriate reading material with both our children and school personnel. We were told by the principal that, because we calmly explained our objections, the school graciously saw our valid points and gave alternative reading material. In Jenn’s case, after giving one particular oral book report, two classmates told her they wished they’d read that book instead, too. A true story, it showed a quality of character in the challenges a young man faced as an Olympian runner diagnosed with cancer. Unable to compete, he turned to helping inner city under-privileged kids. The book read by the rest of the class, however, was filled with gratuitous sex, filthy language, and mocking of parental/family values – found when I simply opened the book at random junctures. Actually, the teacher told his students to seek their parents’ permission to read that book! And, apparently, if the kids actually showed it to their parents, I was the only one who said “no way!” Even the school board was shocked to learn what that book held, and it was pulled from the school’s recommended reading list. There truly is a time for discernment of right and wrong with respect. My poem here began to flow with news of the violence and tearing down of our nation’s historical monuments in the summer of 2017. Removing such historical memorials does not erase or change history. There are lessons learned in those memories earned. We’ve come so far. We’ve grown in understanding and acceptance. Isn’t that cause for celebration rather than condemnation? Our differences can be teachable moments. That’s what Freedom of Speech is all about… with a chance to show love and respect even in our disagreement, revealing true tolerance. Tolerance, by definition, is an ability to be fair, to accept a viewpoint which is different, and to bear with another in realizing that the opposition also has rights… without approving wrong by our silence. Perhaps we remember that society’s Golden Rule (which promotes tolerance, when you think about it), actually comes from the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law…” (Matthew 7:12a) Yet, tolerance is not a license to do anything we want at will. A moral society adheres to absolute truths of right and wrong, or it breaks down without this solid foundation. We should certainly be cognizant and tolerant of others’ opinions or beliefs, respecting our differences… but, that does not mean we have to tolerate rude or foul language, or abusive, bullying, or violent behavior. Tolerance is not freedom to persist in traveling down a wrong path. There are consequences for everything we do... and there is a time and place for speaking out respectfully against inappropriate words or actions. So, where did tolerance go? Too often, it seems tolerance is relegated to that which accepts and promotes a particular politically-correct agenda to the exclusion of the opposing view… and regards differing perspectives as not having validity to be honored. What happened to our ability to show respect through appropriate discussion? What happened to true Freedom of Speech? Why the hate-filled, foul-worded, disrespectful language? Why violence with riots and angry rhetoric to disallow conservative or religious speakers on college campuses? What is there to be afraid of? That others might actually have valid points, different than your own perspective? Fear of a differing opinion by engaging in anger and wrath toward that with which one disagrees serves no good purpose. We have heard violent mobs calling for their rights… while proclaiming how tolerant they are. Seems to me that violence as a coercive bully tactic is anything but tolerance. Perhaps it would be wise to observe that true tolerance… the courtesy to listen, even agreeing to disagree… comes by respecting another’s viewpoint, their freedom of speech, without the backlash of vitriolic speech and/or destructive violence. When morality steps up and extends a hand in true respect, we’re living out the ancient Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Given by God to Moses for the Jewish nation during its exodus from Egyptian slavery, these words serve us well as a moral foundation even in today’s modern society. Doing our best to live out Jesus’ words in what we call the Golden Rule, we show great love and respect for others… just as we wish to be treated. With this love, and acceptance of those with whom we disagree, we embody Christ’s love, for “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” (I Corinthians 13:6 NIV) Tolerance Linda A. Roorda ~ Could I but live a life that was safe I wouldn’t question the wrongs encountered. I would not wrestle with problems I face Or troubles inherent with consequent strife. ~ For if I the bad from this life expunged I’d then have left the best for display. My life would exist by my design For my benefit and pleasure alone. ~ Remove the memories and mask the failures Fashion the remains to what I deem fit. Let visible be selfish ambition My life according to myself and me. ~ I have no tolerance for views but mine My way is right and suspect is yours. I demand my way and fight you I will If only to prove entitled am I. ~ Yet what I now see is your hand held out Bearing a gift, tolerance by name. You’ve come to my aid and lift me up To help me stand with dignity tall. ~ There’s a price, you see, for this freedom shared It’s a cost in red that flowed for us all. And it grants relief from oppression’s fist That your words and mine comingle in peace. ~~ 08/18/17 – 08/30/17 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  8. The Artist's Eye

    I love a good painting, especially a realistic portrayal. Actually, once upon a time I painted landscapes, getting so lost in the effort of creating art that I’d easily forget the time and when to eat. Sadly, I haven’t picked up my brush and oils in a few decades… though I used pen and ink to illustrate a few stories I’d written for my grandchildren a few years back. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of abstract art, though I can appreciate various works of modern art among the different genres. Yet, each one of us views a painting, sculpture, or even a photo differently… because we “see” through our own heart, our own emotions, our own life experiences. That which may stir my thoughts and emotions with a depth of appreciation may do nothing for you at all. And that’s what art is meant to do – to stir our thoughts and emotions, perhaps leading us to recall another time and another place. A great work of art can transport us in thoughtful reverie as we ponder the meaning of the vision before us… taking us back in time to what once was… or stirring our imagination to envision something only a dream may hold. The artist’s work might convey a concept, an idea, a novelty… that which sparks our interest to understand better what the artist is trying to say or trying to elicit through our individuality. Good art should challenge us to think in a way we might not do otherwise. Good art can tear at our heartstrings and bring us to tears. It can incite anger at an injustice. It can elicit great joy within our soul. It can combine a dichotomy of powerful conflicting emotions. It can portray evil overcome by good. It can soothe the weary and distressed. And, it can even reflect a tremendous calming peace, a peace within the storms of life. A good painting can be likened to the beauty we see in the people around us. Each of us portrays an individual beauty, a uniqueness created by the Master Artist. We’re one of a kind, no duplicates. Even the world of nature exudes a seemingly immovable, yet ever-changing panorama which the Master Artist blessed us with. After He created each aspect of the world, our great God “saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1) And in our appreciation of nature, even the simplest perspectives excite emotions within us… as we observe brilliant sunshine lending both a glow and a shadow to life, the menacing darkness of gathering storm clouds, a brilliant colorful rainbow during or after the rain as the first rays of sun return, the fanning out of the sun’s rays from behind a cloud like fingers of God, the awesome display of stars and moon in brilliant light upon a black velvet tapestry, from the calm and peace of gentle waves to the roiling waters which batter a shore, from the awe of majestic mountain grandeur to the simplest flat or rolling land with grass gently waving in a slight breeze, to the colorful changes of the seasons… as these vistas elicit thoughts and emotions within our hearts and minds. And, though the world and people around us are seen individually, through our unique emotions, we see all as through the artist’s eye… The Artist’s Eye Linda A. Roorda In the artist’s eye is beauty beheld Within each scene perfection arrayed A haunting image that speaks to the heart A story told in visual display. ~ Facing blank canvas, brush poised in mid air A picture forms in the artist’s eye As ever gently stroke upon stroke The scene unfolds, its beauty to share. ~ From lighting bright to shadows darkened Lingering mirage or perspective clear Sentiments stir as we gaze upon The artist’s work from within the heart. ~ They say a picture is worth more than words And there are times words uttered alone Cannot convey the depth of feeling Where spoken voice the ambience missed. ~ For within our soul perception awaits The depths of which we don’t often plumb That we might enjoy designs unique By an Artist greater than humanity’s touch. ~ So we gaze upon the scene before us As emotions stir like brush on canvas For out of feelings tempered by life Colors are worked with passion displayed. ~ Thus, what the artist has framed for our gaze Reaches into the depth of our soul As image pondered gives rise to emotions Its secrets exposed through the eye of our heart. ~~ 02/13/15-02/15/15 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  9. You've A Gift Within

    I'm glad to know this meant alot to you, Hal and I appreciate your service (Navy? my brother is a 20-yr Navy vet, incl during the Gulf War). I totally agree with you re: MASH and The Waltons being shows with a message - awesome to know how much those shows meant to you and your friends in the service! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Hal
  10. You've A Gift Within

    Sometimes, our best inspiration comes from the most unlikely place! I often enjoy relaxing in the evenings with Ed by watching reruns of M*A*S*H. Though not overly fond of some of the show’s escapades, I especially prefer Corporal Walter (Radar) O’Reilly and the latter years with Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce’s new surgical partners, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, and Major Charles Emerson Winchester, III, as well as their commanding officer, Colonel Sherman T. Potter, and Major Margaret Houlihan. The show and its characters seemed to have evolved from a certain nonsense to one of moving and memorable themes. As the varied characters offer a wide array of human egos and emotions, I find the wisdom of humanity expressed well in many of the shows. Recently I saw an episode that has always held a special place in my heart, one that I consider the arrogant Major Winchester’s best. After operating on a wounded soldier, able to save the young man’s leg with his surgical expertise, Winchester tries to encourage his patient further. Explaining that, although he’ll have permanent nerve damage to three fingers of his right hand, it won’t be too noticeable. Angry, the soldier is reduced to tears and despondency, telling Winchester that his surgical efforts weren’t good enough. His hands were his life… he was a concert pianist! With determination, Major Winchester approaches the 4077th’s company clerk, Corporal Max Klinger, handing him a list of sheet music to pick up in Seoul. Later, with music in hand, Winchester wheels Private David Sheridan into the Officers’ Club and positions him in front of the piano. Despite his patient’s disgust, Winchester attempts to encourage the young man’s gift to make music. Angry and resentful, Sheridan wants none of it. Unshaken, Winchester shares the story of a pianist from another time who’d lost the use of one hand. Placing sheet music for a one-handed pianist in front of Sheridan, he asks, “Don't you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be.” Private Sheridan scoffs at his surgeon: “Gift? You keep talking about this damn gift. I had a gift, and I exchanged it for some mortar fragments, remember?” With great feeling, Winchester responds: “Wrong! Because the gift does not lie in your hands. I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play, but I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You've performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you've already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live. Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world - through the baton, the classroom, or the pen. As to these works, they're for you, because you and the piano will always be as one.” (from the TV series M*A*S*H, “Morale Victory”, 1980) Just as Maj. Winchester tried to help Pvt. Sheridan understand, we’ve each been blessed with a special gift, a talent. We can hide it, misuse it, or use it to benefit others... we have a choice. Though we may not see our gift as the blessing it is, Jesus’ brother James acknowledged that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17a) Even the Apostle Peter encouraged us by writing that “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10 NIV) We can encourage a friend with our words or any of our special gifts, like the gift of our time. When we make wise use of our talents and training, we truly are blessing the recipients of our gifts. In faithfully serving others, may we one day hear our Lord say to us just as he told the young man who grew his financial gift: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV) You’ve A Gift Within Linda A. Roorda You’ve a gift within your heart to be shared To love your neighbor as you do yourself But much more than this is humble service Sharing devotion from depths of true love. ~ Seek out the hurting, the ones bewildered In a world of turmoil, in the midst of grief, At a loss for words, not knowing where to turn, Be an anchor bringing peace to their soul. ~ Be generous with praise, speak truth with wisdom, Carry the burden to lift the heavy heart Encourage and esteem, strengthen with hope Humbly meeting each need on your path. ~ Lift up the oppressed, release from restraints Enfold in your arms those wounded by life. Show mercy and grace, forgive the offense Come alongside to guide wavering feet. ~ For out of confusion and cries of the soul In walking a line tween query and quest, Comes peace that calms and joy that rebuilds From the gift within your heart that was shared. ~~ 04/06/18, 06/30/18, 07/22/18 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~~
  11. Hiawatha Island, Owego, New York

    Hiawatha Island… The name alone brings to mind a land of legends and visions from a long-ago era. Did the legendary Hiawatha ever frequent its shores? Not likely. But, it is believed the Iroquois nation once used the island as part of their homeland. Artifacts found in its soil from bygone eras have been donated to the collections at both Binghamton University and the Tioga County Historical Society museums. The Big or Great Island, as it’s been called, comprises 112 acres in a beautiful tranquil setting. A few miles east of Owego proper, it’s surrounded on all sides by the Susquehanna River flowing west. Once a bustling retreat for locals and tourists alike, it contained a beautiful three-story hotel and meandering sylvan paths with the island’s dock reached by steamboats throughout the summer months. Earliest records for the island note that Britain’s King George III issued a mandamus (a writ directing a lower court to perform a specific act) dated January 15, 1755, deeding land, including the island, to the Coxe family in exchange for their territory in Georgia, the Carolinas and the Bahama Islands. By 1821, the Coxe family had surveyed and divided the land into small farms with the Big Island designated as lot no.120. Moving to Lounsberry in 1969, I did not pay much, if any, attention to Hiawatha Island during my high school years in Owego, NY. However, about 15 years ago, I discovered a [supposed] ancestral tie that piqued my interest in the island’s history. My earliest genealogical research found a McNeill family paper filed at both the Tioga County Historical Society in Owego and the Schoharie County Historical Society at the Old Stone Church in Schoharie, NY. This paper claimed that a Ruth McNeil, b. 1782 in Weare, New Hampshire, was the daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill of Weare, Londonderry and New Boston, New Hampshire. Ruth was noted to have married Matthew Lamont(e). (Note my specific use of one or two “L’s” in the McNeil versus McNeill name.) This is where due diligence pays off in checking all genealogy sources yourself. The person filing that family paper did not reply to my inquiry in 2002. Digging deeper, I found and purchased a McNeil family history from the Montgomery County Historical Society in Fonda, NY simply to see if that family held clues to my own. However, that historical writeup is about the family of John and Ruth McNeil of Vermont who lived in Fulton, NY, with that genealogy listing a daughter Ruth who the researcher was unable to trace further. From personal extensive research on my own McNeill family, it is proven that John C. McNeill and Hannah Caldwell married May 8, 1781, that their first daughter, Betsey, was born December 5, 1781, and that she was adopted by Hannah’s childless older sister, Elizabeth. In checking late 19th century census records for Matthew and Ruth LaMonte’s children, they note their mother was born in NY, not NH. With the above John and Ruth McNeil’s family history listing a child named Ruth of whom nothing more was known, I felt there was sufficient circumstantial evidence for Ruth (McNeil) Lamont to be their child rather than a daughter of my John C. and Hannah (Caldwell) McNeill. Furthermore, John C.’s family did not contain the name of Ruth in any older or younger generations as does the Vermont McNeil family. Of additional interest, my earliest ancestors and their descendants consistently spelled their name McNeill while John and Ruth’s descendants consistently used McNeil. Matthew and Ruth LaMonte removed from Schoharie County to Owego, Tioga County, NY in the early to mid 1820s. The second registered deed to the Big Island, dated June 23, 1830, is to Matthew and Marcus LaMonte. Matthew was the husband of Ruth above. Their son Marcus had at least three children: Abram H., b.1831 on the island, Susan Jane b. 1834 (as a teacher, one of her students at the Owego Academy was the young John D. Rockefeller), and Cyrenus M., b.1837. Cyrenus purchased the Big Island in 1872 just before its commercialization commenced in 1874 with picnics and summer events. The earliest known birth on the Big Island was that of Lucinda (Bates) Lillie, born August 16, 1800. It is also known that various squatters took up residence on the island, particularly when owners were absent, making good use of the fertile river-loam farmland. Another tie of note to the island is that of Ezra Seth Barden who was born in 1810 at Lee, Massachusetts. In 1833 he brought his young bride, Catherine Elizabeth Jackson, to Owego where they set up their home on the Big Island. She just happens to be a second cousin of U. S. President Andrew Jackson. The LaMonte family had their main farm directly north of the island where Rt. 17C runs near Campville. They retained a few acres on the island after selling the rest in 1831, selling that small balance of acreage in 1834. From my previous research, the LaMonte family operated a ferry across the river to the island. In 1840, with her five children, Mrs. William Avery Rockefeller (the former Eliza Davison) removed from Moravia, NY to Owego, renting a house on the LaMonte farm. One of her sons, John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., 11 years old at the time, often worked for pennies a day on the LaMonte farm. Born July 8, 1839 in Richford, NY, John D. Rockefeller, world-renowned founder of Standard Oil Company, went to the Court Street Owego Academy, was tutored by Susan Jane LaMonte at her home, and often kept in touch with her on his returns to Owego as an adult. Another student of renown who taught at the Owego Academy was Benjamin F. Tracy, Secretary of the Navy under President Benjamin Harrison. The former Owego Academy at 20 Court Street is an old brick building still very much in use, nicely remodeled, repainted, and well kept over the years. It was in this Federal style building (built in 1827-28) where I began my secretarial career in 1972 as a high school senior. I worked part time, then full time after graduating high school, for Lewis B. Parmerton, Esq., gaining valuable knowledge from his experienced secretary, Kathy. My desk was at the second window to the left of the front door on the first floor, looking out on two tall buttonwood (sycamore) trees which are now gone. The basement then housed the N.Y.S. Department of Motor Vehicles where I obtained my learner’s permit and driver’s license. I will also never forget the sale of a particular old building on Front Street along the river’s edge to Pat Hansen. After all paperwork had been completed and signed, and Ms. Hansen had left, Mr. Parmerton stood in the office with us two secretaries, shaking his head, “I don’t know what she wants that old building for.” Little did he, or Kathy and I, realize then, but Pat Hansen turned her building into the extremely successful store, “Hand of Man,” spurring on the revitalization and growth of Owego’s Front Street businesses which continues to this day! I love poking around in the “Hand of Man,” enjoying the delicate and gorgeous one-of-a-kind gifts. But, among the antiques in the Parmerton office was an oil painting of the Owego Academy, with two young sycamore/buttonwood saplings which stood in front of our office windows. I cannot find a copy of this painting in an online search. The building’s tin ceilings were high and ornate. There were beautiful fireplaces, an old Seth Thomas pendulum clock, an 1850 map designating every road and building in Tioga County, and Mr. Parmerton’s office/library was lined with bookshelves filled to the high ceiling, rolling ladders needed to reach the upper shelves. The floors were wooden, uneven and squeaky in places, with a beautiful dark wood banister going up the stairs to the second level. In fact, taking the stairs to the upper floor, I had occasion to enter the office of two elderly attorneys, the Beck sisters. I remember Rowena Beck, the first woman lawyer in Tioga County. The sisters’ grandfather was Professor Joseph Raff who, in 1875, composed the Blue Tassel Quadrille for the start of a new season on the Great Island. Of further interest, Sedore notes that Raff was the brother of Joachim Raff, an accomplished orchestral composer, who just happened to be “a personal friend of Franz Liszt and Hans von Bulow.” (Sedore, p.23) Small world indeed! Little did I then know the history I was working amongst! When speaking of the island’s early years, one must also include reference to Joseph Shaw DeWitt, or “Old Joe” as he was otherwise known. Coming from Binghamton to Owego about 1841, he was an actor, fireman, businessman and restaurateur. On the side, he made and sold cough drops in a box which looked much like the Smith Brothers box, along with cream candies, and beer. He owned a restaurant on Lake Street, but it was at his hotel on Front Street in Owego which began the greatest period of Hiawatha Island’s history. Here, on August 5, 1873, a number of businessmen met to form a stock company with the purpose of building a steamboat intended for trips on the Susquehanna River between Binghamton, NY and Towanda, PA. They approached Cyrenus McNeil LaMonte, who had purchased the Great Island in 1872, and thus began the island’s “most flamboyant years.” (Sedore p.5) The Owego Steamboat Company had its first boat ready by the end of February 1874. The “Owego” was 75 feet long, 26 feet wide, capable of carrying 200 passengers. Unfortunately, she did not have the most auspicious start to her career. Putting the “Owego” into the river with 20 men aboard on April 6th was the easy part. All too soon, however, they realized her paddlewheels were too light and frequently simply stopped moving. But, that was easy enough to rectify – a man lay down on top of each wheel house, pushing the paddle wheels with his hands to keep them working! What a job that must’ve been! Having finally gotten the “Owego” into deeper water, things only went downhill from there. As they tried to bring her back to shore, someone misjudged and she stopped with a sudden thud on hitting the embankment. This sent several of the men sprawling flat out on the deck. Deciding to take the flatboat to shore (towed behind for emergency situations), the men got safely onto this small boat – only to find it couldn’t handle their weight, and it promptly sank. With chagrin, their only option left was swimming to shore, likely glad it was the middle of the night with few fans around to observe the indignity of it all. Sixteen days later, though, the “Owego” was steaming to Binghamton and back, and the Big Island was being cleared of brush where a dance hall and restaurant were to be built. “Old Joe,” the first caterer, fed all picnickers who came to the island for its opening day on Wednesday, June 10, 1874. Professor Raff’s cornet band provided entertainment on the “Owego”. Ever the entrepreneur and entertainer, “Old Joe” was ready for customers wearing Indian feathers and war paint on his face, and dubbed his restaurant “Hiawatha’s Wigwam.” Hiawatha Grove was the name for the eastern end of the island and of the train station on the opposite north shore (off Rt. 17C near Campville). Soon, though, the Big Island began to be known by the name of Hiawatha Island thanks to the showmanship of everyone’s favorite businessman, “Old Joe.” Over the ensuing nearly 20 years, the Hiawatha House hotel was built and eventually expanded to three stories with a dance hall, restaurant, and honeymoon suites, with its front balconies overlooking the river. Gravel strolling paths were made, with small “arbors” built along the paths to sell confections, cigars and lemonade. Games were played on the lawns of the island, and scull races were held on the river. Clam bakes were also quite popular, as was the dancing held until the early morning hours, keeping the steamboat busy at the dock. Many businesses and churches from local and numerous outlying communities soon found it a popular picnic destination spot over the years. In 1875, a new and better dock was built. It was 75 feet long with thirteen 16-foot-long piles driven to a depth of 10-1/2 feet. Sedore comments that nine of these original piles are still visible when the river level is down. This was another boom year for the island. In September, the “Owego” was sold with plans in the works for a new steamboat, the “Lyman Truman,” bigger and better at 120 feet long. She was launched March 9, 1876 from the riverbank just west of the Owego bridge, taking far longer to do so than expected. She broke the ropes as she lurched forward, gliding about a mile downstream before being stopped and held in place. Her engine and boiler were not yet completed; sadly, these, too, met with misfortune. The day before the “Lyman Truman’s” launching, the boiler exploded while being tested in a machine shop on Hawley Street in Binghamton. Parts flew upward and outward, some landing 500 feet away, another part embedded itself into the roadway, severing a gas pipe with noxious fumes filling the air. Two people were killed instantly, a third soon died from his injuries, and ten others received various light to severe injuries. By mid May, the “Lyman Truman” had a new boiler in place, just in time for the island’s full season. This was 1876, our nation’s centennial year, and celebrations were being held everywhere, with the island no exception. A great loss, however, was the passing of “Old Joe” in April, but the island’s summer calendar moved forward. The Hiawatha House hotel had just had its third floor added and was ready for the grand opening on June 7th of Hiawatha Grove on the Big Island. About 2000 people came for the July 4th centennial celebrations on the island. Even with a brief heavy shower, everyone was in high spirits. The Declaration of Independence was read along with prayer, a song, and a lengthy speech. Croquet and various lawn games were played, and bands provided music for dancing couples, along with a great deal of delicious food being consumed by those enjoying the day’s events. Every year, travel to the island was enjoyed by thousands. There were other steamers like “Helen,” “Welles,” “Glen Mary,” “Dora” and “Clara,” with the “Marshland” in use for the 1884 season after the “Truman” had been sold. In 1883, the crowds virtually disappeared with the “Lyman Truman” having been sold, as complaints began surfacing of island/hotel mismanagement in 1882. Now, with the “Marshland” operating in 1884, business picked up again with its 4th of July celebrations reportedly being better than ever with 3000 tickets sold for the day! People were coming from as far away as Elmira, Carbondale, PA, Auburn, NY, Waverly, Candor, Cortland, and, of course, Binghamton, Owego and Nichols. The Grand Army Association held its annual reunion of Civil War veterans with tremendous crowds attending. In fact, by the end of the 1884 season, “the Hiawatha House hotel register [showed] that…people had come to the island from twenty-six states and nine foreign countries.” (Sedore, p.85) In August 1887, Cyrenus LaMonte sold the Big Island, now known as Hiawatha Island, to Dr. S. Andral Kilmer and Company of Binghamton who later sold his half to his brother, Jonas M. Kilmer, in 1892. Apparently, Kilmer had stated he hoped to build a sanitarium on the island. Though the 1888 season was a great success, the island was never again used as a summer resort. The Big Island’s greatest days were unexpectedly silenced forever. The Kilmers made no announcements or promises for opening the 1889 season. The steamboats were leased or sold. Boats were not allowed to dock at the island by the Kilmers, and no one was allowed entrance to the island to observe how their work was coming on the new sanitarium. “The 1889 season came and went without the usual excursions to Hiawatha House and the grove. There was no dancing, bowling or billiards. Hiawatha was closed to the public.” (Sedore, p.111) Though small groups were occasionally allowed entrance to the hotel, the demise of the island’s success was obvious. Instead, the Kilmer family used it as their private family retreat. Sedore includes an 1890 photo of the Hiawatha House (Sedore, p.121, fig.32). Near the dock at the river’s edge, she stood tall, an elegant lady in white, an impressive four stories, with first and second floor balconies, and fourth floor dormers. In 1900, the island was sold by Jonas Kilmer, and a succession of various owners filed through the property in the ensuing decades. Hiawatha House was taken down in 1932 after falling into disrepair as other outbuildings either burned or collapsed with age. Aerial photos from 1900, 1937, and 1955 show how few trees remained on the island. From the highways today, it’s hard to tell what the interior of the island looks like beyond its border of trees along the river’s edge. It has been used during the 20th century for private family retreats and camping to dairy farming. I also recall that Hiawatha Island went on the auction block on August 20, 1988 following financial difficulties by its then current owner. Inquiries about purchasing the island came from Japan and the Arab countries, with an ad in the Boston Globe bringing ten phone calls in two days. Having heard a local land developer intended to purchase the island to strip-mine it, the Historic Owego Marketplace, Inc., also known as the Hiawatha Purchase Committee (a non-profit group of Owego business people), decided to purchase the island to protect it. They barely managed the successful bid at $351,000; yet, with a 10% buyer’s premium, the total purchase price was $386,100. Ultimately, the final cost was over $700,000 with interest payments and other expenses. Numerous people, volunteers, and businesses came together to help raise funds to pay off the purchase price, an accomplishment many thought impossible. A good number of fundraisers were held, with Noel “Paul” Stokey (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) coming to town to give a concert. After four years, the fundraising group was able to pay back those who had kindly loaned money to the purchase committee. An annual “Walk Through Time” was held on the island along with a Native American Pow-wow. When the Hiawatha Purchase Committee paid off their debt for the purchase in 1993, they turned their ownership over to the Waterman Conservation Education Center in Apalachin for perpetual conservation. The purchase committee insisted on restrictions to keep the island in a natural state forever, and that the name would always be Hiawatha Island. Waterman Center’s director, Scott MacDonald, has said, “From a naturalist’s standpoint, we preserved a very unique piece of land for the community. It truly is the ‘jewel’ of the river.” (Life in the Finger Lakes.com) “The Waterman Center plans to use the island for education classes on Native American civilizations, conservation, wildlife, and perhaps archeology.” (Sedore, p.220) In 2006, a family of bald eagles was actually spotted living on this now-protected island! And, I’m sure that many more eagles have made the island their home since then. What a legacy the Hiawatha Purchase Committee has left us for the future. In allowing the island to rest without commercial traffic, its use strictly limited under conservation guidelines, this gem of the Susquehanna once again shines in its natural state. BOOK SOURCE: Hiawatha Island: Jewel of the Susquehanna by Emma M. Sedore, pub. Tioga County Historical Society, March 1, 1994.
  12. You've A Gift Within

    It says so much, doesn't it?! Nice to know it's one of your favorites, too, Ann!
  13. It's Laundry Day!

    Starting my early Saturday morning chore of laundry, I couldn’t help recall this article posted a few years ago. Doing the laundry is everyone’s favorite chore, right? Ummm… no! Even with modern conveniences, it’s a task I don’t think many of us look forward to. Sort the darks and lights, delicate linens from the jeans, pre-treat stains, use various cycles and water temperatures, to bleach or not to bleach, does it go in the dryer, on a hanger or the clothesline outside, does it need to be ironed or can it get by with some wrinkles, etc. You all get the idea! https://homespunancestors.wordpress.com/ I remember as I grew up that my dad’s mother did laundry on Monday and ironed on Tuesday, without fail. Both she and my mother had old wringer washers, which fascinated us kids. My sister and I actually enjoyed putting the laundry through the rollers to “wring” out the excess water, heeding the warning to keep our fingers away from those menacing rollers! I’m sure many of my readers remember those antique washers, too! With perhaps a few fingers painfully scrunched between the rollers. So, imagine what it must have been like doing laundry in colonial days without washers and dryers. The fabrics were wool, linen, cotton or silk, without permanent press. It was a major undertaking back then, and not an effort completed every week. I found it interesting to learn that most items laundered were “body linen.” These garments (undershirts, shifts, chemises, etc.) were worn next to the skin to protect the fancy outer shirts and dresses from skin oils and sweat. Clothing from a few centuries ago was not laundered often because the undergarments protected them, in turn being the very reason that antique clothing has survived the centuries. Removable cuffs and collars also protected their shirts and dresses from dirt, along with the full bib aprons which I recall my mom’s mother always wearing over her dresses in the old farmhouse. My dad’s mother seemed to wear mostly a from-the-waist type apron over her every-day dress. Wearing pants, or jeans, was out of the question for my grandmothers’ generation! But, to wash all the laundry, soap was needed. One of the annual fall chores was to make soap, typically done after the fall butchering of hogs. Virtually every part of a butchered hog had a purpose with the lard being used for cooking or making soap. Soap making began well in advance by burning hardwoods down to white ash. Next, a tall wooden barrel was set up with holes in the bottom for drainage. Small stones were placed in the bottom of the barrel, and covered with straw. A good layer of white ashes was put in with naturally soft rainwater poured on top of the ashes. Then followed a slow drainage of the water down through the ashes, straw and stones before the liquid leached out of the holes in the bottom of the barrel and into a separate wooden or glass bucket. This effort produced liquid lye. Aluminum containers were not used as the lye would destroy them. Sometimes an ash hopper was used to make lye rather than the tall wooden barrel. By keeping the ash hopper in a shed to protect it from rain, fresh ashes could be added periodically with water poured on top every so often to obtain a steady supply of lye. Again, the lye would drip slowly into a bucket beneath the hopper. To test the strength of the lye, either a potato or an egg was floated on top. If it floated with about a modern quarter-sized area of its surface above the liquid, the lye was ready for use in making soap. If it was too weak, it could be boiled down more, or poured back through more ashes. If it was too strong, a little more water was added. To make old-fashioned soap, water, lye and tallow/animal fat is needed. One recipe I found online uses 2 gallons of rain water, 10 ounces of lye by volume (not weight), and 5 lbs of tallow/lard (animal fat). Trim the fat into about 1-inch cubes, removing anything that looks like meat or is not white. Start a fire under a cast iron pot (split pine apparently works best as it heats quickly and the heat is controlled easier). Place the tallow cubes into the pot to render (cook) the fat into a liquid. Once the fat has cooked down, strain it through cheesecloth in a funnel-shaped container. The liquid should be a nice amber color. Then, measure and weigh 5 lbs of liquid fat, putting it back into the cast iron pot (again, aluminum will be eaten by the lye). Slowly add the water to the fat, which cools the fat down to solidify it into a greasy cream. Make sure the mixture is well blended. Carefully measure out 10 oz. of lye into a glass container. (Red Devil Lye brand can be purchased, and was often used by our ancestors if they did not make their own lye from ashes.) Carefully add the lye into the tallow/water mixture using a wooden paddle to stir it gently. Be careful - since lye is extremely caustic, it can burn your skin and eyes on contact. Cook the soap mixture for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, adjusting the heat to keep it from boiling over. After cooking, the mixture should be similar to a creamy chicken soup. When the wooden paddle removed from the mixture has “sheets” that look like hot wax hanging from the paddle, it’s ready to pour into wooden, glass or cast-iron molds that have been lined with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Allow the soap to harden for a few days before cutting it into bars. It may take a week or more to harden for use. (Online Source: Shepherds Hill Homestead, Making Lye Soap) Before washing stacks of laundry, the ladies would have sorted the clothing, soaking some overnight in soapy water. Sounds similar enough, doesn’t it?! But, the difference starts with their gathering enough firewood to feed a large fire under each huge copper (which did not rust or stain like iron) or black cast-iron kettle. You’ve seen those kettles in front yards either upright or on their side as a large flower urn. The Iron Kettle Farm in Candor takes its name from their large black iron kettles on display. Next, water had to be hauled from the well to fill the kettle(s) and any other wash or rinse basins. About 20-40 gallons of water were needed per wash load, with perhaps 10 gallons more for the scrub and rinse basins. Remember, they had no running water back then either; and, if they did not have a water source close at hand, walking a distance with heavy shoulder yokes to carry buckets of water would have been the norm. My mom’s mother raised a large farm family of 12 children, not having running water in the house until about 1932, 21 years after my grandparents married (my mother, child #11, was born in 1933). Are we tired yet?! After starting a good fire under the kettle to boil the water, some lye soap was put into the water. Clothes were then dunked into the boiling water and agitated by using a 2-3 foot long wooden paddle. Some garments might be removed to a smaller basin where they could be scrubbed more thoroughly to remove dirt and stains. Remember the antique wooden shutter-like washboards? They were put to good use as the clothes were rubbed over the “shutters” to loosen dirt. Chalk and brick dust were often used on greasy stains. Alcohol could treat grass stains, kerosene, and blood stains. Milk was believed to be helpful in removing fruit stains from clothing and urine stains from diapers. Lemon and onion juice were often used for bleaching. Colored garments were not washed with lye soap in order to prevent fading. Instead, they were scrubbed by hand in cold or lukewarm water. Need something starched? Great-great-grandma simply put that garment into water that had been used to cook potatoes or rice, making sure the water had not soured or turned moldy before putting the clothing in it. If the used potato or rice water was not used for laundry, it was often used to make bread. Nothing went to waste back then. Once boiled, washed and rinsed, the laundry had to be wrung out before drying. If you were wealthy, you might own a “box mangle” which wound the laundry around rollers, and then rolled a heavy box over them to squeeze out excess water. Normally, water was simply wrung out by hand by twisting each garment. Then, the clothing was hung on a clothesline (without clothespins), spread out on bushes, hedgerows, fences, wooden frames, or even spread out over the lawn. And, oh my! If the farm animals or pets got into the clothing, one likely had quite a mess and had to start all over again. If it was not good drying weather, everything was dried inside the house or up in the attic. A good hot fire in the fireplace or cook stove would help dry the clothes very well. After the laundry was done and dried, the ladies would need to iron the clothing. That required heating up heavy irons in the fireplace in order to press each garment. What a hot chore that must have been! And all the time they were taking care of the laundry, they had other household chores and meals to prepare, children to care for, and barn chores if the man of the house was out in the fields clearing land, planting or harvesting. It was definitely not an easy life for our ancestors…
  14. Something I've Learned

    With school either having started for some, or about to start for others, I pondered the realization that there’s so much I thought I knew when younger, but really didn’t. Over the years, I’ve learned I can’t turn the clock back to undo or redo what’s been done. Life doesn’t have a rewind button for our editing... so we inevitably move forward in a relentless flow of time. And in that flow, learning becomes an emotional and spiritual process as disappointments and suffering soften our hearts amidst the joys. This is how we mature and become wiser. In the process, we learn that we may not get that second chance. Make amends now… apologize, forgive and move forward. Love one another… and let the other know it. I have searched for and regained friends from years ago… friends I’d lost when moving away, and a few friends lost when my childish words took their toll, and to whom I’ve given heart-felt apologies. I cannot undo, but I can atone for and correct my wrongs. Walk away from sin… don’t let it overtake you with its tempting appeal. Don’t condone or excuse the habit of lying, concealing your wrongs to protect yourself. Even if no one else is the wiser, God knows. Own it, confess it, and make amends. Others do take notice of what we do… do it well, for a good name is much to be treasured. Love, listen, take advice gladly, and learn… and you won’t go wrong. “Be very careful, then, how you live… making the most of every opportunity…” (Ephesians 4:15-16) As we look back, we often wish we knew then what we know now. Wouldn’t such knowledge have saved us a whole basket of trouble?! But, did we hear, did we listen, did we truly heed the advice given as we grew up? I’m afraid I didn’t always do so. I thought I “knew it all” in my teens. It took time as life traversed a variety of circumstances unique to my needs to gain understanding and knowledge with wisdom from God. And from the realization of my own errant ways and words, I apologized and made amends… because the Lord has done so much more for me. For the loving Father that He is, God took the time to teach me all through the years. Because I was often not listening to wiser words in my youth, I now treasure the wisdom of others as I sit at their feet to learn, and recall fragmented words of wisdom expressed years ago. Blessed with Godly wisdom, Solomon wrote in Proverbs 2:1-6: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” And vs. 9 adds, “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path.” Oh, how true! If only… that age-old phrase we all quote... if only I knew then what I know now. So, let me take what the Lord has taught me through the difficult struggles to reach a satisfied contentment… through tears of deep sorrow to tears of great joy with laughter’s healing touch. And may we use the blessings He’s bestowed upon our hearts to reach out in love with something we’ve learned… Something I’ve Learned Linda A. Roorda ~ Something I’ve learned since I was young… If I knew then what I do know now I’d have been spared life’s toughest lessons. But, then again, how else would I learn? ~ Something I’ve learned came slowly with time… For I wanted life to move fast forward And in wanting more, I just needed less As contentment dwells in life’s simplest gifts. ~ Something I’ve learned by looking backward… That in facing life I thought I knew all, But looking forward from slow motion days Impatience revealed an unsettled heart. ~ Something I’ve learned wishing I’d discerned… By heeding then the sage’s wisdom Who’d lived and seen what I could not fathom For experience marks the role of teacher. ~ Something I’ve learned is not easy to say… That which I rue when youth went its way As lessons learned brought maturity’s wealth With understanding through wisdom’s trained eye. ~ Something I’ve learned by climbing the hill… Conquering hurdles that hindered my path, For stones that seemed like unmoving boulders, Were mere stumbling blocks to peace found in You. ~ Something I’ve learned I treasure now more… My faith in You, Lord, once taken for granted Its value gained from bumps in the road Which led me to where I stand on Your Word. ~ Something I’ve learned we all have to face… Sorrow and loss have taught to accept That which was healed as my heart grew wise For only from pain can compassion speak. ~ Something I’ve learned about all my stuff… I can’t take it there on the day that I leave Much better by far to share with you now Showing my love in tangible ways. ~ Something I’ve learned that when the door shuts… Reasons there are for not looking back. Express regret for what’s done is done Then welcome the door He flings open wide. ~ Something I’ve learned with You at my side… To share the bounty of blessings divine To gently speak with a tender voice And to hear with love from a generous heart. ~~ 05/21/16 – 06/02/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author. ~
  15. Going Back Home...

    Attending my Owego Free Academy 45th class reunion on July 28, 2018, it was great to see and chat with several former classmates. We were the 100th class to graduate from OFA, and the first class to graduate from the new high school building – such honors! Having moved 15 times by the time I was 15, attending five different schools, learning to make new friends at each school, I’ve held onto many treasured memories. With the reunion in mind, I just had to share this blog originally posted in 2013. Oh, the childhood memories of places we’ve been and the friends we’ve made! Don’t you just love to visit with friends from long ago, remember childhood fun, and recall the good ol’ days when life was simpler? I suspect we all have precious memories tucked away, ready to be pulled out every so often. It’s a chance to gaze back in time, to smile anew on fun shared by all. But, I’m sure I’m not alone in having some memories that bring emotions to the surface, and tears to the eyes. Twice a year as our children grew up, we’d visit back and forth with my childhood friend and her husband, Hugh. Kathy and I were friends in East Palmyra – in church, in class at the Christian school, and in playing at our homes. We continued our friendship via snail mail after my family moved away in 4th grade, just before I turned 10. It was a very painful and emotional move for me – away from farm life, away from the best friends I’d ever known to city life in Clifton, New Jersey where I was born, and where my dad’s parents and siblings’ families lived. It was an unwelcome change. I hated city life, was horribly homesick, and cried for weeks. But, life got better as I let go of childhood pain and released the sadness. Though there were difficult times and events in Clifton, I now find many good memories to replay in my mind’s eye. It was an era when my sister and I could walk or bike everywhere without fear. And then there was the time we biked from our eastern side of Clifton to where our grandparents lived all the way on the other side. When my grandmother opened the door to our knock, trust me, she was not pleased… because no had known where we were! Still, with the used bikes my grandfather gave us, we felt so rich! I treasure memories of fishing with my dad in northern Jersey lakes, and of spending time with my grandparents. My grandmother was a former professional seamstress who taught me to sew clothes and quilts – and to rip it out if it wasn’t right and sew it over again, more than once as I recall! This little Dutch immigrant had an unspoken life motto - “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” How I miss her greeting us at the door with a hug and always sweetly saying, “Hello Dear!” in her Dutch accent. Admittedly, my favorite memories are those of my childhood on the farms, and the fun my sister and I had back when there was no technology to ruin what our little minds could conjure up. My earliest memories, though, begin after we moved back from Delta Junction, Alaska. My dad had a foreign assignment in the Army, stationed at Fort Greeley before Alaskan statehood. He wanted to homestead, but my Mom wasn’t keen on the idea, so back to New Jersey we went. I’ve often wished I’d been old enough to remember the trip and the beautiful sights down the Al-Can Highway back to the States; but, then again, as I heard about the road without guardrails next to steep cliffs, of an old car with a steering wheel that caught at the most inopportune times (like coming around a curve and heading straight for a cliff when, at the last moment, the steering engaged again for my Mom, preventing us from plummeting off the cliff), maybe I’m glad I wasn’t old enough to remember that trip. Dad got rid of that car as soon as they got into Washington state, and they took a train east to Newark, NJ where my grandparents brought us back to their home. Dad next went to work on the Everson Farm in Clifton Springs, NY. I have photos of that time, but my first memories begin when he worked on the Wychmere Farm in Ontario/Sodus, NY. I clearly recall that, at age 3-4, we drove down a lane to a Lake Ontario beach where I floated in an innertube. Seeing a ship on the horizon, my child’s mind feared it would “run me over!” Then, imagine my excitement when, while dating my husband-to-be, Ed, my friend, Kathy, and her husband, Hugh, took us to that very same lane and beach near Chimney Bluffs and it was totally familiar to me, remembered from all those years ago! Next, on the Breemes farm in Marion, NY, my sister and I could be seen playing in and around the barn; milking “my cows” with an old tea kettle on the bank-barn’s wall ledge while standing on a bale of hay as Dad milked his cows; throwing rocks into mud/manure puddles with my sister, and accidentally following those rocks into the muck. My brother, Charlie, was born that year, an interloper to our fun… or so I thought at that age. Later, we once again moved back to Clifton, NJ where I went to kindergarten, a big girl walking several blocks by myself to school. Returning to Marion, NY the following year, we had many more adventures with Fran and Betty DeVries while living upstairs in their beautiful Victorian house on their parents’ farm. I still remember the layout of their barn, helping a few times to put milking machines together, watching their Dad put in silage with the belt-driven unloader off the tractor. My Dad knew Gerald and Joann from the Sussex, NJ Christian Reformed Church when he was herdsman for old Mr. Titsworth after graduating high school. Actually, Mr. Titsworth was a direct descendant of Willem Tietsoort who settled in that area after the 1690 Schenectady massacre, purchasing extensive lands from the northern Jersey Indians. Unknown to our family back then, my genealogy research several years ago discovered a daughter of Willem Tietsoort was one of my mother’s ancestors! Moving up the road to the spacious farmhouse on the Musshafen tenant farm brought more fun as we meandered the fields, and walked back up the road to spend time with Fran and Betty. My Dad bought a steer from Mr. DeVries to raise for beef. We girls named him Elmer… as in Elmer’s Glue! My sister and I thought it was more fun running between rows in the garden instead of our weeding chore. Brother Mark was born here, with Charlie anxiously asking, “When can he play ball with me?” My Dad’s sister, Aunt Hilda, taught us the little ditty, “On top of spaghetti...” Needless to say, whenever I recall that song, it is always with images from that house as the poor little meatball rolls off our dining room table, out the back door, down the cement steps, down the slope, past the garden and under the lilac bushes this side of a small creek! We shelled endless piles of peas and snapped mountains of beans, and, I’m ashamed to say, threw some under those lilac bushes when we got tired of it all. We practiced our fishing techniques, aiming to put the dobber into a bucket though I don’t believe we were too accurate. We caught tadpoles and watched them grow into frogs in jars before returning them to the creek. And we tried to fry an egg on the road on a very hot summer day… well, the adults always said it was so hot you could…! Next, as tenants on the Bouman farm on Whitbeck Road, fun found us running with Ruth, Annette and Grace in the haymow, catching my shoe on baling twine and tumbling down to the wooden floor below, barely a foot away from the upturned tines of a pitch fork and getting a concussion; traipsing over the fields and through the woods; walking among the cows in the pasture only to be chased by a very indignant new mom for getting too close to her baby and barely making it under the fence with her hugeness right behind me; roller skating, only once, on a pond because we didn’t have ice skates; building snow forts, sledding down the hill outside the barnyard; playing telephone as we kids all sat in a circle, laughing at how the secret message had changed from the first person to the last; playing Mother May I, Red light, Green light, and Hide and Seek; learning to ride bike under Grace’s tutelage with resultant scraped-up knees; playing at friend Kathy’s home, sledding down their hill and across the field when a train came through, freezing up and not thinking to roll off - thankfully, the sled came to a stop a few feet away from the track as I looked up in horror at the train rushing by; voraciously reading every book I could get my hands on, a life-time habit; and so much more…! Oh such fun!! Then, abruptly, we moved back to city life in Clifton, NJ. Sadly, Dad left much behind, including the unique doll house made especially for us girls when I was in kindergarten. Now, we enjoyed visiting often with our grandparents, and loved the family gatherings for every main holiday on the calendar. When brother Andy arrived, my sister and I, at ages 10 and 11, were responsible every week for months for hauling the family laundry in a wagon to the laundromat across the street from the bar at the top of our block, washing and folding it all (we became little pros, respected by all adults doing their own laundry), and getting to buy treats like 5-cent double-stick popsicles, way bigger than today’s version! We taught Charlie to ride bicycle in the former train station’s empty parking lot across from the end of our block. Our Dad took us fishing to northern Jersey lakes and on Clifton’s Garret Mountain with its great vista overlooking the cities to the New York City skyline, all fishing holes from his childhood. We two girls enjoyed traipsing the city unsupervised and unaccosted, walking or biking everywhere to parks and the city library, and to Passaic Christian School and then Christopher Columbus Junior High 12 blocks from home. I can still visualize so much of the city like the back of my hand, forever frozen in time. After four years, my heart rejoiced when we moved back to New York, through the outskirts with heavy traffic and hippies of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969. Our long drive ended in Lounsberry, half-way between Owego and Nichols, where the odor of neighboring farms was heavenly. Here, my latter teen years were spent caring for three-dozen-some chickens, 6 Muscovy ducks and their newly-hatched ducklings (who grew to provide us with fine dining), my lamb, and mare, War Bugg, a beautiful grand-daughter of Man O’ War… along with our youngest brother, Ted. I was, admittedly, very disappointed he was not a little girl, but I soon fell in love with him and those big blue eyes as my sister and I helped care for him. After all, we were “pros” in baby care by then! Simply spending time recalling precious memories of family and friends in a long-ago world brings a few tears and many smiles to my heart… So, what cherished memories do you have that are waiting to be brought to mind and shared? Going back home… Linda A. Roorda Going back home within my mind To simple retreats of childhood days Holding sweet memories of yesterday Like quiet oases of rest and peace. ~ Stirring emotions that overwhelm On traveling back to gentler times With early images tucked far away On pages engraved in a long-ago world. ~ For what could ever make me forget The fears that then descended strong With dog at fence and thunderstorm To shake the world of toddlerhood. ~ While a life-long love was built in scenes Of farming and learning beside my Dad With laughter heard through carefree days In adventures had by my sister and me. ~ The many homes of my younger days Are shelters now for cherished views As dear and precious memories enhance Wistfully perfect they ever remain. ~ But tucked within the pages recalled Are days of change and tender tears Moving away and losing friends Through a lifetime lived, they’re never forgot. ~ Yet often they say it’s just not the same We can’t return to scenes of our youth That life and times are forever changed The rift between then and now is too great. ~ But as I gaze on all that once was I find it’s okay to let the tears flow As they wash away the lingering pangs To leave my heart refreshed and clean. ~ So I shall always savor the joy Of going back home within my mind And holding dear those treasured days Of childhood mem’ries and lessons learned. ~~ 09/21/13 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author.
  16. Contentment Flows...

    It’s just an accumulation of trinkets and stuff, an assemblage that needs to be fed every so often. I should know, because I have my own collections from the past. But, in the long run, none of it will go with us when life’s earthly journey comes to an end. We should be content with what we have and who we are… not seeking to satisfy our appetite with more of everything life has to offer. Be at peace, rest in who we are meant to be… don’t compare or judge ourselves to others. In contemplating that accumulation, I’m reminded of a song by the rock group U2 from their Joshua Tree album – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” A fitting comment to an endless search for just the right thing. Theodore Roosevelt was even noted to say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How truthful and fitting both sentiments are for all of us at times! So, what is contentment? How do we find it? And when is enough… enough? The dictionary on my desk tells me contentment is where the heart is at… perhaps rested and satisfied, at peace, with a quiet and calm joy. Contentment is an attitude of the heart… being thankful and grateful for what we do have, serving others out of a joyful appreciation. Because, believe me, contentment is not found in eyeing what someone else has… of being jealous or envious of what’s on their plate… as if we didn’t have enough to take care of on our own. In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul wrote “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Hmm… so how could he say that with all the many difficulties he faced? There’s an old hymn I’ve loved since childhood, coming to treasure the words even more after our daughter, Jennifer, died. Horatio G. Spafford wrote a poem after he and his wife lost their 2-year-old son, their property in the 1871 Great Chicago fire, suffered further economic losses in 1873, and then lost their remaining four daughters at sea - “When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul…” …well-known words of comfort. Having three more children, losing a second son at age 4 in 1880, he resettled in Jerusalem with his wife and remaining two daughters. There, he founded the American Colony, a Christian group providing humanitarian relief to the disadvantaged of any faith. He’d learned the secret to contentment. The Apostle Paul, writing to a dear young friend, stated in I Timothy 6:6-7: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Don’t get me wrong… it’s not about denying ourselves the ability to succeed in our careers or home life and to have nice things. Instead, it’s all about the depth of our heart, our faith, our attitude… the intangibles… the spiritual treasures. Life really isn’t about gathering as much stuff as we can hoard for ourselves. Life was never meant to be like that old saying attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not about God ensuring that we have a wealthy and happy life. It’s not His plan to make us “rich and famous” in a life of ease without pain. Instead, contentment is a learning process… learning to be who God intends us to be… learning to be gracious and loving when our life is full of pain, disappointments, illness and setbacks. And, in learning to give thanks and appreciate what we do have, we find ourselves gladly serving others around us with a heart of joy and peace… as contentment flows from our soul. Contentment Flows Linda A. Roorda Contentment flows from the soul at peace Not easily grasped though deeply pondered How quick am I to follow my will While yielding to trust finds Your truth with grace… ~ Grace to understand blessings of mercy In wending my way through waves of turmoil Seeking shelter from storms that threaten As Your calming spirit brings showers of peace… ~ Peace that envelopes my very being From the depth of stress that oft overwhelms Which tugs and strains the restful repose To humility meek with a heart of joy… ~ Joy that shines bright in the face of woe Amidst the sadness of sorrow’s dark tears As rays of hope through shutters burst forth To flood my soul with serenity’s rest… ~ Serenity’s rest within the world’s din Marks peace of mind when focused on You Grant me, I pray, a heart full of love One filled with thanks as contentment flows… ~~ 07/06/16 All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of the author. "Poetic Devotions" offers faith-based poetry and everyday devotions of praise by Linda Roorda. See more at her site HERE.
  17. 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
  18. 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. ~~
  19. 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. ~~
  20. 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.
  21. 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. ~~
  22. 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.
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. Gardening Thread 2018

    Good job Chris!! Hard to admit, but it's been over 30 yrs since I last planted a humungous garden to can and freeze a year's worth of benefits when our kids were little and Ed was farming... and then I had to return to work full time. I enjoy the puttering/relaxing in several perennial flower gardens now, but in two the grass and a gazillion baby maples are taking over faster than I can find time... Maybe some day when I retire I'll return to the veggie garden. In the meantime, enjoy the "fruits" of your labors, Chris!!
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