Friday, August 31, 2012

Recipes: Edna's Chocolate Cookies Icebox Cake

Another recipe of Edna's (I believe.) She seems to have been a big fan of icebox tortes. They were probably appealing in that they were fairly simple to make and could be prepared a day ahead, leaving more time on the day of a party or event to make all of the other complicated, labor-intensive recipes that dominated in the days before "modern conveniences."

Chocolate Cookie Icebox Cake

36 oblong chocolate cookies*
4 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 package of whipped cream
1 pkg. Knox gelatin

Dissolve gelatin in 1/3c. cold water for 10 mins. Add 1/3c. hot water. Beat eggs until light, add sugar and beat, then whipped cream and cool gelatin. Arrange layer of cookies in pan - spread with mixture, then another layer of cookies and mixture, finishing with cookies. Serve with whipped cream. Serves 12 people.

*Not quite sure what "chocolate oblong cookies" refer to. Possibly those inexpensive chocolate sandwich cookies that come prepackaged at the grocery store?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recipes: Edna's Farina Torte

Another recipe from Edna, this time for something called a "Farina Torte." I had to look up what Farina is. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"Farina is a cereal food, frequently described as mild-tasting, usually served warm, made from cereal grains. In contemporary American English use, the word usually refers to Cream of Wheat brand cereal made from soft wheat. Wheat farina is a carbohydrate-rich food, often cooked in boiling water and served warm for breakfast, or cooked with milk and made into semolina pudding. It is used as an ingredient in many dishes and in processed foods such as breakfast cereals and pasta."

So it seems in this case, Farina refers to Cream of Wheat cereal. Interesting fact also learned from Wikipedia: You know the powder-y crumbs that are often found on the outsides of English muffins? That is farina, which is used to keep the muffins from sticking to the baking tins.

Edna's Farina Torte

(2/3c. bread crumbs - 1/2 c. Farina) sifted together
1 1/2 tsps. B.P.*
1/2 c. nuts
6 egg yolks
1c. sugar
6 egg whites

Beat egg yolks well, gradually beat in sugar and then bread crumbs + Farina and B.P. Add nuts and lastly fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in 1 or 2 largers (? Could not read handwriting - Ed.) and serve with whipped cream.

*I assume this means baking powder.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hattie Vaughn Cheeseman

I have lots more recipes of Edna's to post, but I've started to feel guilty that poor Hattie hasn't gotten an entry yet.

As you know, my grandmother's mother (Ora) was one of three sisters born to Otis Vaughn and Fannie Brittain Vaughn on the family farm in Spring Prairie, Wis. And it's tempting to call Hattie (Harriet) the oldest, although technically, there was a baby born before her. Julia Vaughn was born in 1870, but died in 1871. There's a heartbreaking photo in the collection with what must be Fannie's handwriting on the back that just says, "Julia August Vaughn. Our first little girl, born April 25, 1870."

First-born daughter Julia would only live about a year.
Hattie was born in 1873. Fannie was 26 when she was born and Otis was 32. There are quite a few photos of Hattie, possibly due to the fact that she was the first-born to survive.

Ora (left), Edna and Hattie (right) at Loomis farm; the caption on the back of the photo says, "Lottie [Loomis] took this at Aunt Hannah [Loomis]'s farm home, 1898)

Hattie is also probably the best-represented sister in the clippings in the scrapbook. It begins when she is just a child, when she has a starring in this dramatic piece of "news" printed by a local paper:

"Mr. Otis Vaughn and wife of Spring Prairie had a remarkable escape from what might have been serious and fatal.
     The facts as we learn them from Mrs. Silas Patten are as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn were returning home after passing a portion of the early evening at the residence of Mr. William Hubbard. In passing the house of Vernon Raleigh and turning the corner, Mr. V. turned himself to look and see if any one was at home or lights to be seen, when the horse started rather suddenly, instantly throwing Mr. Vaughn to the ground, becoming insensible and unable to move; the line and the robes went with him. In this dilemma, Mrs. Vaughn considered what was best to be done; both children were on the seat beside her. Failing to stop the horse by repeated cries of, "Who," she took the youngest child [Edna, in this case -Ed.] under her arm and jumped, fortunately clear of the wheels and safe. The horse continued to run with the other child [Hattie - Ed.]. Mrs. Vaughn hesitated between going back to see her husband or to go forward and try and rescue the other child.
    As soon as possible, she made an alarm and roused the people at Mr. William Vaughn's, where was a party. Instantly parties came out and learning the facts, Mr. Allan Cocroft started upon a run, and as the horse was rising another hill slackened somewhat his speed, when Mr. C. caught the rear of the buggy, drew himself up under by the reach, grasped the reins, and then called to the horse to stop, which in a moment he obeyed. The horse was not frightened but loose and of course was on his way home.
    Getting into the buggy, Miss Hattie, 6 to 7 years of age, said to Mr. Cocroft that she kept calling Who, Who, Who, to Billy, and who can say that the animal was not quieted by the child's voice. She told her mother afterwards that she tried to get out but the wheels turned so fast she could not, she got back in again. Mr. Vaughn was immediately cared for. It was found he had cut several places in his head, beside bruises, &c. He fainted after being taken into the house, but gradually recovered. Altogether it was a most fortunate escape."

(I think the most incredible part of that story is the part where Allan Cocroft runs fast enough to catch a runaway horse, then pulls himself onto a moving carriage and climbs forward enough to grab the reins and stop the horse. Action movies have nothing on these early pioneers.)

Hattie, around the age she would have been when she survived the harrowing runaway carriage incident

Other mentions of Hattie in the clippings:

Miss Hattie Vaughn remained over Sunday with friends at Elkhorn.
Misses Hattie Vaughn and Leta Holmes are attending school at Burlington.
Miss Rispah Harriman spent Thursday with Hattie Vaughn.

Hattie, front left, and Jack Cheeseman, back right, pose for a photo with Ora and Clarence

In October of 1903, this marriage announcement appears in the Burlington paper:
     "The marriage of Miss Harriet Vaughn and John J. Cheeseman, of Chicago, took place last Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Vaughn, in the town of Spring Prairie. The ceremony was performed by Rev. P.H. Linley, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Elkhorn, in the presence of only the immediate relatives and a few intimate friends. The house was very prettily decorated  with fall flowers and autumn leaves. An elaborate wedding dinner was partaken of by those present, after which Mr. Cheeseman and bride departed on a two weeks wedding trip to the east, after which they will make Chicago their home, where the groom has a desirable situation. The bride is well-known in this city, where she made her home for a number of years and was also a teacher in the public schools. She has a wide circle of friends who will extend their best wishes for a happy future."

Another announcement from Elkhorn, dated Oct. 7, 1903:
     "The marriage of Miss Harriet Vaughn and John J. Cheeseman of Chicago was solemnized yesterday afternoon at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Vaughn at Spring Prairie. The ceremony was performed at 12:30p.m. by Rev. P.H. Linley of St. John's Episcopal Church of this city, in the presence of relatives and a few intimate friends. The house was very beautifully decorated with autumn leaves and flowers. The wedding march was played by Mrs. W.H. Brigham of Chicago.
    The bride is a sister of Miss Edna Vaughn of this city, and was a teacher in the schools here three years ago. She has many Elkhorn friends who will extend their best wishes for a happy future. Mr. and Mrs. Cheeseman departed for a two weeks' trip through the east, after which they will live in Chicago, where the groom has a good position."

(This means that Hattie was 30 years old when she got married. We have this nostalgic idea that everyone got married so young back then, but over and over again, my family seems to have bucked that tradition.)

Two years later, Hattie is mentioned in Edna's wedding announcement; "Owing to the continued and dangerous illness of the bride's sister Mrs. Cheeseman..." so it appears that not long after being married, she developed some sort of dangerous illness, though I suspect it may have been related to the birth of her first child, a daughter named Loraine, in January of that year (1905). She must have recovered, because she had a second daughter (Harriet) on August 21, 1909.

Then nine years later, in 1918, her husband (known by the family as "Uncle Jack") died suddenly and unexpectedly of the horrible Spanish flu pandemic. His obituary, dated December 17, 1918, reads:

"Friends of the family here were shocked on Tuesday to hear the news of the death at his home, 775 Pennsylvania Ave., Milwaukee, of John J. Cheeseman, a son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Otis E. Vaughn of this city. Mr. Cheeseman's death was due to pneumonia, which followed an attack of influenza he contracted the previous Friday. The remains will be brought here over the interurban* on Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock for interment in the city cemetery, short services being held at the grave.
    Mr. Cheeseman was born in England in November, 1867. He came to this country at an early age and was living in Chicago when he was married to Harriet A. Vaughn in October 1903. They moved to Milwaukee four years ago, where Mr. Cheeseman was holding the position of traffic manager for the Cudahy Rubber Co. at the time of his death. He is survived by a wife, two daughters, Loraine and Harriet, and two sisters."

After his death, Hattie moved with her two children, then 9 and 13, back to Burlington where they lived with her parents. My grandmother Genevieve was just 8 at the time, and since she lived on the Potter family farm in nearby Elkhorn, I believe she saw her cousins Loraine and Harriet fairly frequently.  (Corrine would have just missed them -- her family moved up to Manitowoc right around the same time, though she remembered spending time with them on her trips to visit "Grandma and Grandpa Vaughn" in the summers.)

Hattie lived to 1950, dying one day shy of her 77th birthday.

As I type up the condensed life stories of these people I didn't really know, I am repeatedly struck by the truism that no one's life is easy. Hattie was a survivor; first she survived infancy (when her older sister Julia had not), then she survived a harrowing runaway carriage incident, then a "dangerous illness" probably related to giving birth, then the Spanish flu and the death of her husband.

The human ability to rise above tragedy and heartache is never more clearly on display than in the stories of those who came before us, and who persevered and made an enviable, beautiful, complicated whole out of the sum of the parts of their lives, many of which were devastating. You can see it in their faces as they age; graceful, determined, steely, human.

Hattie as a baby

Hattie, age 3 or so?

Perhaps a year or two later

Hattie, right, and possibly Ora? I can't quite tell. Hattie looks to be 12 or 13?

Hattie at high school graduation?

This looks to me like a school photo from her teaching days, though I can't be sure.

*Interurban railways were electric railroads that connected urban centers in the first part of the 20th century. From an article I wrote about them for At the Lake Magazine:

"The words “light rail” or “commuter rail” are a fixture of modern politics these days, but most people don’t realize that a century ago, the communities of southeastern Wisconsin were leaders in the burgeoning light rail service.  At that time, the mostly passenger service lines were called interurban railways, or “interurbans” and they were designed to provide residents in outlying rural areas with access to nearby urban communities. Interurbans proliferated in Midwestern states from Ohio to Wisconsin, where greater distances between cities and poor road quality made carriage travel slow, difficult and unpredictable.

Around 1900, as electricity became more widespread, the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L for short), under the direction of John I. Beggs, began plans for an ambitious interurban railway plan for southeastern Wisconsin, one of the most ambitious in the country at that time. Though the plan was never fully realized, track was laid from Milwaukee as far south as East Troy... Residents could now make a trip into Milwaukee in about an hour-and-a-half; a considerable improvement over horse-drawn carriage.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipes: Edna's Orange Cake

Another one of Edna's cake recipes. This one is complicated, but I bet it's gorgeous when it's finished. (Very Pantone Color of the Year, I imagine.)

Edna's Orange Cake

8 eggs separated
1 1/3c. sugar
1 c. + 2tbsps. cake flour
1 tsp. cream tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4c. orange juice
grated rind orange

Beat whites with salt until foamy, add cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Fold in 1/2 of sugar and beat some more. Beat yolks until stiff - add juice and rind of orange and remaining sugar. Sift flour 3 times, fold into batter. Bake in slow oven for one hour in ungreased, large angel food tin.

Orange Cake Filling

3/4 c. sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1 egg
1 orange

Mix sugar and flour - add beaten egg, juice of one orange and grated rind. Cook in double boiler until thick. Cool, then add 3/4 cup whipped cream. Cut cake in three layers - put together with filling and spread on top.

*Here's a note at the bottom of the recipe: "We served this at a supper we served the W.R.C. (Woman Relief Co-op) and just baked a plain sponge cake in a flat pan - then cut a nice sized piece and served this orange filling on top. Just used 1/2c. of whipped cream instead of 3/4c. It went over big and wasn't very expensive."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Recipes: Edna's peanut cookies

Here's another recipe attributed (in Gen's handwriting) to "Aunt Edna":

Edna's Peanut Cookies

3 eggs beaten
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 cups salted peanuts (ground)

Bake in slow oven. Burn easily.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Recipes: Edna's Nabisco Icebox Torte

In Gen's box, there are two pages of hand-written recipes for various tortes and cakes - it looks as though Gen was perhaps taking notes while assisting in the kitchen. The very top of the page says, "Aunt Edna Clark's" and then goes on to include this recipe for "Nabisco Ice Box Torte." Given the consistency of the notes, I believe all six of the recipes can be attributed to Edna. I'll publish all of them, but let's start with this first:

Edna's Nabisco Icebox Torte

3/4 lb. of Nabiscos* put through food chopper. Take 1/2 and put in bottom of pan, save 1/2 for top.

Cream 3/4 c. butter and 1 c. powdered sugar, add 2 beaten egg yolks. Beat 2 eggs whites stiff and fold in mixture. Pour this on top of Nabiscos in pan. Then add 1/3 c. chopped walnuts and on top of that either 1 quart of fresh strawberries or raspberries, or canned apricots or pineapple. Then top with whipped cream and cover cream with Nabisco crumbs. Put in ice box overnight.

*What are Nabiscos, you ask? According to Wikipedia, Nabisco Wafers were introduced in the early 1900s and were later sold in one form as Biscos, a sugar wafer originally containing a variety of flavored fillings. From what I can ascertain, as the Nabisco company added more and more types of cookie to its line, it changed the name from Nabisco wafers to Nilla wafers. Any food historians out there? Is this correct?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Piecing together Edna's life

Edna's calling card
Probably because she was the one compiling all of the research from which I've been basing this blog, I feel like I have a fairly clear window into Edna's life. I have her Elkhorn High School diploma; she graduated June 10, 1896 and got her highest marks in Latin (with a 97) and algebra (with a 94.) Her lowest marks were in composition, natural philosophy and civil government (all 80s.) She also took courses in grammar, U.S. history, German, English history, arithmetic, geometry, book-keeping, political geography, physical geography, physiology and botany.

She appears in the newspaper clippings in the great scrapbook a few times.

From an undated clipping: "Miss Edna Vaughn is at present assisting Miss Rispah Harriman in the Kindergarten at Elkhorn." (Rispah Harriman was a first cousin of the Vaughn sisters. Her mother Phebe and their father Otis were siblings, and sadly Rispah's story is a tragic one (more on that later.) This clipping most likely dates from the late 1890s or early 1900s, after Edna graduated from high school and before she got married.)

Thomas A. Clark

From April 19, 1905: "Miss Edna Vaughn of Burlington and Thomas A. Clark of this city (Elkhorn) were married at Burlington yesterday. Owing to the continuous and dangerous health of the bride's sister, Mrs. Cheeseman, the invitations which had been issued to a few friends outside the immediate family were recalled. The young couple, so well known in this city, have the cordial wishes of a great number of friends who wish them all the joy in the world and who anticipate their coming to this city with much pleasure. Mr. and Mrs. Clark will reside in the Ellsworth house recently vacated by Fred Schmidt on south Wisconsin Street."

I notice on the modern map that there is a short, one-block long street that runs between Highway 67 and S. Wisconsin St. in Elkhorn that is called Clark St. I wonder if it was named for Thomas Clark's family? Or possibly because that is the part of Wisconsin street where Thomas and Edna's house was located?  Also, it's interesting to note that despite her "continuous and dangerous health" (possibly related to complications from giving birth to her first daughter in January), Edna's sister Hattie (more on her later) would survive for several more decades.

And then of course, there are the many plays she appeared in at school, indicating that she had a flair for the dramatic, at least in her youth.

Edna. This photo is blurry because it is so large that it doesn't lay flat on my scanner. A dramatic pose and a dramatic ensemble for a dramatic girl.

So from all of these clues, I feel I can safely piece together Edna's life story: she was born on the family farm in 1877. She grew up the middle of three sisters; Hattie was four years older and Ora was 7 years younger. She likely went to a one-room schoolhouse through 8th grade, after which she attended Elkhorn High School. She was a good student, getting all As and Bs in school. She aspired to be an actress, at least on a local level.  After graduating from high school in 1896, she took a job assisting her cousin in an Elkhorn kindergarten classroom; in the 1900 census, she was living with Rispah's parents (Edna's Aunt Phebe and Uncle Rufus) in Elkhorn. She married Thomas Clark, a druggist in Elkhorn, when she was 28 years old, and they moved into a house, which may have been on the corner of what is now Wisconsin St. and Clark St. Seven years later, they had their only child, a daughter they named Corinne, after her husband sponsored a naming contest in his drugstore. When Edna was about 41 or 42 years old, they moved to Manitowoc, WI, where she lived the rest of her life, though she came back every summer to visit her parents and her sisters and families.

Think about that for a moment: In an age when communities were small and close-knit and your neighbors were more like your family, at a time when communication was slow and difficult, Edna and Thomas uprooted their whole life moved far away to a town where she knew no one. They were both in their 40s and had a young daughter. How hard must it have been for them to say goodbye to their family and friends? They packed up all of their belongings, including several pieces of furniture Edna's father had made, and arranged for it all to be delivered to the small house they rented in Manitowoc when they first moved there. Edna didn't like the rented house, however. She had arthritis in her legs and had trouble with the stairs.

Thomas Clark opened a filling station and garage in Manitowoc, and in order to build these, he first had to take down a building on the site. He used the reclaimed lumber to build a house at 857 N. 9th St., for the family of three to move into. The house wasn't finished on time, so they spent a winter living in the filling station/garage. Imagine Edna, 40-something, far from her family for the first time in her life, living in a filling station garage for the winter while her house (with a bedroom on the first floor) was being built for her. This story reminds me that she was only two generations removed from the ambitious pioneers who settled what was then the Northwest Territory.

Corinne, date unknown. Possibly high school graduation?

Perhaps because of the isolation of being so far from other family members, Edna and Corinne were obviously very close. I believe Thomas Clark passed away before Corinne married Earl Tetzlaff, because the two women remained in the house that Thomas Clark had built; Edna simply moved upstairs and gave the newlyweds the run of the main floor. She lived there with Corinne and Earl until she died, which I believe was in the late 1950s or early 1960s. My dad remembers "Aunt Edna" vividly from her annual trips to Walworth County in the summer.

Earl Tetzlaff, who moved in with Edna after he and Corinne were married after World War II.
 Whenever Corinne would talk about how she and her new husband moved back in with her mother, she said it as if it was the most natural thing in the world. But whenever my mother hears that story, she says, "Earl must have been a saint to agree to live with his mother-in-law until the day she died." But it was a different time. People expected less, appreciated more. And they valued their family connections in a way that is hard to fully understand today. Maybe it was the most natural thing in the world then. Corinne and Earl were married over 50 years. Living with his mother-in-law for 15 of those years seemed only to strengthen their relationship.

Corinne, circa 1940s