Saturday, April 21, 2018

Society Saturday - An evening with the Madisons

At the Associate Council of the Daughters of 1812, we were entertained by James and Dolley Madison.

They were portrayed by Kyle Jenks and Judith Kales who perform first person interpretations of several historic figures.

We learned specifically about the events surrounding the British burning of the White House in August 1814.  James had gone off to be with the US troops, and Dolley stayed behind to safeguard the documents and treasures of their home.  When she was forced to flee, they spent a harrowing several days trying to reconnect with each other.

"Jimmy" and Dolley then told us several anecdotes about how they met and what their family life was like.  

It was a very interesting evening with our fourth President and First Lady.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Society Saturday - Mary Pickersgill

At the recent meeting of John Kinzie Chapter USD1812, we had the pleasure of meeting Mary Young Pickersgill.

She was presented in first person by educator Lynn Rymarz.  She told us of her life, beginning in 1776 in Philadelphia.  Her family moved to Baltimore when she was a child.  After she was widowed at the age of 36, she began a flag making business out of her home.  This was a natural move for her as her mother had been a flag maker during the Revolutionary War.  Her flag making business was well known because Baltimore was a harbor and she sewed many flags for the ships.

One day in 1813, General Armistead came to her shop and commissioned two flags - a smaller storm flag, and a large flag that could be seen from afar.  Both were to fly at Fort McHenry.  Mary Pickersgill  searched throughout the city for enough cloth for her flag, ultimately buying 400 yards of red, white, and blue wool bunting.  She added white cotton for the stars.

The flag was to be 30 feet by 42 feet.  Each stripe was 24" wide, and each star was 2 feet across.  Because this flag was too big for her home, she assembled it at a local brewery that was not occupied in the summer.  Ultimately, she, along with her daughter Caroline, her mother, and some household servants, working late into the night, were able to complete the flag using 350,000 tiny precise stitches.

demonstrating how big one stripe was

Upon completion, she was paid $574 for her work and the flag was flown at Fort McHenry.  This is the flag that inspired Frances Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sentimental Sunday - Christmas meal traditions

As I'm sitting here thinking about what time to start dinner, I was reminiscing about the various Christmas meal traditions I have been part of.

When I was growing up, my parents would host dinner on Christmas Eve.  This included my immediate family (myself, mom, dad, sister, brother, his wife and their 3 children) as well as my dad's sister and my mother's father.  Mom would always make standing rib roast - she had ordered it from the grocer weeks before to be sure it was the right size and cut.  There was also a jello salad that she always made - called crown jewel salad - white fluffy base with squares of different colored jello (this was, after all, the sixties). 

Dad carving the roast - 1974

After dinner, everyone would pitch in to clear the table and do the dishes.  Then we would gather around the Christmas tree for our gift exchange.  After my brothers family went home, we would go to bed early because Santa was coming!

my sister, me, my nephew and my niece - 1967
My brother and his family 1968

In the morning, we would get up and come downstairs to see what Santa had brought - in our stockings and under the tree. 

My sister and I on Christmas morning 1968

Then we would go to my dad's brother's house for Christmas day dinner.  Uncle Dick and Aunt Mary would open their house to whoever was around - the gathering often included other aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as some neighbors.  They always had a little gift for everyone - I remember lots of little wind up toys.  Dinner there consisted of lamb (I have never tasted lamb that delicious since), and a noodle dish that we called "Greek Macaroni", because of Aunt Mary's Greek heritage.

Uncle Dick and Aunt Mary 1985
After I was married, our traditions changed a little.  We would have Christmas Eve at my parents, but Christmas day would be spent with my in-laws. My mother-in-law Trudi was an excellent cook.  She would make duck on the rotisserie, with all the trimmings (stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc).  And of course, Austrian pastries.  Yum!  Then we would gather around the Christmas tree.  My father-in-law would pass out presents - sometimes mixing up the "to" and the "from" on the tags.  Then, with a shout of "GERONIMO!" we would open the gifts.

My father-in-law distributing the presents 1983

I still carry on some of these traditions with my girls.  Today (Christmas Eve), I will make standing rib roast and Greek macaroni.  After church, we will have our gift exchange - with "Geronimo!".  The girls will wake me up early tomorrow morning and we will see what Santa brought.  Then I will make duck on the rotisserie and we will enjoy our Christmas day meal.  There are some variations, including Tofurky for my vegetarian daughter, but we try to keep the old meals alive.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Society Saturday - Visiting Cape Cod

I recently attended the second annual meeting of the Descendants of Cape Cod and the Islands.  This group was founded about a year and a half ago by Shari Worrell.  To qualify, an applicant must prove lineal descent from someone who lived or owned land on Cape Cod, Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard prior to 1700.

This meeting was held in Brewster on the Cape at the beautiful Ocean Edge Resort.  This is on the north coast with a lovely view of the ocean.  We enjoyed visiting outside on the balcony during the opening reception despite the chill in the air.

Vice President Tim Finton 
After our business meeting on Saturday morning, we traveled to Barnstable for our tour.  We visited the Barnstable Historic Society where we were quite impressed by their collections and the organized way they were displayed.  Some of their highlights focused on early Cape Cod history, early industry on the Cape, and maritime history of Barnstable residents.

One of the missions of this society is to support the history of the Cape - this was an excellent opportunity to present a donation to their docent.

DCCI members presenting Betsy the Docent with our donation
Then we walked across the street to the Sturgis library.  This serves as the public library for residents of Barnstable, but we were most interested in the older part of the building.  The original portion of the building was built in 1644 for Rev. John Lothrop, one of the first residents on the Cape (and a qualifying ancestor).  This houses the library's considerable genealogical collection.  Admittedly, several members were paying more attention to the bookshelves, than to our guide's description of the building.  We presented them with a donation as well.

Treasurer Sue Gray and President Shari Worrell present Lucy a check for the Sturgis library
The high point of the evening was our banquet and speaker.  He was Richard Pickering from Plimouth plantation.  He told about some of the research at the plantation and a little about several of the Mayflower passengers who also owned land on the Cape.

our speaker Richard Pickering
When he put on the hat, he took on the persona of Stephen Hopkins.  He gave a fascinating first person interpretation, including speaking in the dialect and accent of 1620.  He advised one young man not to marry too soon.  He chided a female attendee for knowing how to read.

"Stephen Hopkins"
All in all it was a fascinating weekend and I look forward to returning next year.

Registrar Kimberly Nagy and President Shari Worrell with our banquet speaker.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Society Saturday - Hamilton's Women

I recently attended a high tea for one of the area DAR chapters.  They had a fabulous speaker, Dr. Leslie Goddard. I have heard her speak before, and have always enjoyed her programs.

Dr. Goddard specializes in first person interpretations of historic females. This presentation was depicting the Schuyler sister who were related to Alexander Hamilton. They are seen in the hit musical "Hamilton", and we learned more about the lives of these women than what is in the play.

We primarily heard from Elisabeth, or "Eliza", who was married to Alexander Hamilton.  She told of meeting him, marrying him, and having 8 of his children.

Leslie them switched gears (or hats) to depict Eliza's sister Angelica .  She talked of her admiration for her brother-in-law, and complained a little about her husband John Church, who she admitted was a little dull. 

We also briefly heard from Eliza's younger sister Peggy who told about growing up in a revolutionary family with British loyalists ready to destroy them.

Back to Eliza, who disclosed some details of her husband's affair with Maria Robinson. Finally, she talked about how it felt to lose first her son, then her husband in a duel. Since then she made it her life's work to tell the story of how patriotic he was.

All in all, it was a very interesting program.  I learned more about one of our founding fathers.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Society Saturday - Washington in 1812

Following the Fall board meeting of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, we toured some 1812 sites in Washington, D.C.

Our group made 3 stops to Federal period homes in the district.  We learned a lot about that style of architecture and furnishings - symmetry, columns, textile designs, etc.

All 3 homes had ties to important people of the era.

The Octagon House was designed by William Thornton, the first architect of the U.S. Capitol for the Tayloe family.  They used it as a winter home and would rent it out to government officials in the summer.  During the summer of 1814, it was rented out to the French minister.  When the British started burning the city, they could not touch the home because it would be viewed as an act of war against France, with whom they recently had reached a peace accord.  When President and Mrs. Madison returned to the city after the battle, they stayed at the home.  Dolley would entertain in the fashionable parlor and dining room.  President James Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent in the upstairs office of this building, officially ending the War of 1812.

Plaque placed by U.S.D.1812

Replica of the Drum desk used to sign the Treaty

Tudor Place was built for Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter of Martha Washington.  The home was kept in the family for 178 years.  We enjoyed walking around the period-style gardens and partook of high tea while we were there.

This is a view of the Dell in the gardens.  

The Dumbarton house is currently owned by the National Society Colonial Dames of America.  The home was owned by Joseph Nourse, first Register of the U.S. Treasury.  It is said that Dolley Madison was a frequent visitor.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Those Places Thursday - Visiting Pomona

I was recently in southern California for a board meeting and realized that I was very close to where my great-great-grandparents had lived - and died.  I had visited their gravesite several years ago and decided to go back and pay my respects.

George W. Wiley and Susan Mumford Wiley moved to Pomona, California sometime in 1904-1905.  They are enumerated there in 1910 - living at 925 N. Garey St., Pomona, CA. 

Susan died at home in 1916 - same address - from cerebral hemorrhage. (from her obituary and death certificate).

George died at home - the same address - in 1920  from bronchitis and chronic gastritis (from his obituary and death certificate).

I have a couple of pictures of them standing outside of their home.  These pictures were taken at different times, but one shows the address "925" above the door.

I was hoping to see the house they lived in - almost 100 years later.  I found the address easily on my gps - it is a fairly main street in Pomona.  When my gps announced that I had arrived, I looked up and saw....

A taco restaurant.  Oh well...

Unfortunately it appears that the Wiley home had been torn down in favor of businesses.  Next door was a flower shop, and a currency exchange, with a tax accountant and an auto repair shop nearby.  Sadly, no remnant of their house existed.

I had better luck at the cemetery.  After a quick stop in the office for directions, I easily found their graves.

The cemetery is a very peaceful little spot in the middle of town.  In the distance is Mt. San Antonio, and there are palm trees all around.  All of the stones seemed to be well maintained.   

George W. Wiley
Born Nov. 29, 1838 - Died Jan. 1, 1920
Vet. Co. B., 2nd Ill. L.A.
Susan Mumford
wife of G. W. Wiley
Born April 4, 1844
Died Jan. 15, 1916

Upper right corner of the base - 
"Our Comrade Soldier 61-65"