Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ora and Clarence

There's a lot more I could (and probably will eventually) say about Genevieve, but since my goal with this blog is to learn more about the earliest settlers of Walworth County and write about some of the incredible primary resources I've uncovered, let's jump back a generation to get closer to these amazing pioneers.

Genevieve at about four months

Genevieve was born at home in July of 1910, home being Potter Farm - on Potter Road, east of Elkhorn. (The farm is still there, and Genevieve's brother's widow still lives on it, though she rents out the fields now.) Gen was the first child born to her parents, Clarence Potter and Ora Vaughn Potter. Her parents were both about 26 when she was born; census records indicate they were both born in 1884 (though census records are notoriously imprecise sometimes.)

Clarence and Ora's wedding photo

Both Ora and Clarence were born into families that were some of the original settlers of this area, but for clarity's sake, let's focus on Ora's family for the time being. Ora was born around 1884 on her parents' farm in Spring Prairie, Wis. Both of her parents had lived in Spring Prairie/Honey Creek almost all of their lives. (Her father was born in Spring Prairie shortly after his family settled there in the late 1830s; her mother moved to Honey Creek from Lincolnshire, England when she was about eight years old.)

Genevieve and her mother, Ora, in their best winter furs, probably circa 1915 or 1916.

Ora was the youngest of three daughters. (Her mother gave birth to four girls, but the oldest, Julia, died in infancy.) From all appearances, Ora and her sisters were very close. Edna, the middle daughter, was Corinne's mother, and since we know that Corinne and Gen stayed close all their lives, this seems to indicate that their mothers did as well. The oldest sister, Harriet (or Hattie as she was called), initially married and moved to Milwaukee, but after the untimely death of her husband, moved with her children back to the Vaughn family home in Burlington.

Ora, Edna and Hattie Vaughn in 1898 at the Loomis farm

I believe the scrapbook I inherited from Corinne that started this whole project was something her mother Edna put together in the 1930s, and there are several clippings from old newspapers that mention the Vaughn girls. Hattie and Edna get the most ink, however. Ora makes almost no appearances in these clippings until she gets married. What I can piece together from these clippings, however, is that when Ora was 4 years old, her parents moved off the farm and into the newly burgeoning town of Burlington.

The scrapbook tells me that they initially lived in "the P.H. Cunningham house on the east side of the Fox River" but that "early next spring Mr. Vaughn will build a fine residence on his lots on the corner of Washington and Dyer Streets, at the rear of the Opera House." (Washington and Dyer Streets no longer exist in Burlington, but the Historical Society tells me that the Opera House was located at the corner of what is now Milwaukee Ave. and N. Kane St. The photo below has a note on it that says it was located at 602 Lewis St., which is not terribly close to Milwaukee and Kane, though, so I am still unclear as to where the house was located.)

The note on the back says, "Otis Vaughn house in Burlington. 602 Lewis St."

Another clipping from the next year tells me that they "moved into their home on the corner of Washington and Dyer Streets and will soon be comfortably settled in their fine, cozy home." Ora's father, Otis (there will be LOTS more on him to come) gave up farming to run a wagon shop in Burlington, and the newspaper assures us, "Mr. Vaughn is a fine mechanic." (His ability to build things is something I can attest to personally. He made a lot of furniture to give to his three daughters, and since Gen's and Corinne's deaths, I have inherited quite a bit of furniture that I can say was hand-made by my great-great-grandfather.)

The lack of clippings about Ora means that I don't know much about her. I know that she married Clarence Potter sometime before 1910, when Gen was born. But beyond that, I know very little  about her, other than what the photographs reveal. Of the three girls, she looks the most like her father. Where Hattie is tall and angular and Edna is fair and dimpled, Ora has a roundness about her, with slightly awkward features and a swarthy complexion; she doesn't smile much.There is no mention of her getting a teaching degree like her older sisters, or of appearing in local plays like Edna or participating in clubs or hosting card games. Which is not to say that she didn't do all of these things; it's just that the record is silent.

She appears in the newspaper clippings only once, when Gen's brother Warren was born. The announcement reads, "A little son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Potter at their home in the town of Lafayette on Friday, Dec. 28, 1917. It is needless to say that Grandpa and Grandma Vaughn are pleased over their first grandson."

Warren Potter as a toddler
So instead of information about Ora, I mostly have questions. For example: I wonder if it was hard for her to marry a farmer and move to the farm after not having lived on one since she was five years old? Did she feel overshadowed by her older sisters when they were all young? Was she her father's favorite, looking so much like him as she did? Was she a stern woman, as the photos seem to indicate? Or did they simply fail to capture her warm spirit, the way she could hold the attention of a roomful of people with her conversation? These are all things I will probably just never know. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recipes: Graham Muffins

From Wikipedia: "Graham flour is a type of whole wheat flour named after the American Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham (1794–1851), an early advocate for dietary reform. Graham despised the discarding of nutrients and bleaching with alum and chlorine involved in making white flour and white bread, and believed that using all of the grain (without adding chemicals) in the milling of flour and baking of bread, was a remedy for the poor health of his fellow Americans during changes in diet brought on by the Industrial Revolution."


Graham Muffins - Makes 18

1 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup graham flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, well beaten
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. nutmeals
1 cup milk
4 tbsp. melted butter

Sift flour once, meausre add baking powder, sugar & salt. Sift again. Add graham flour, nuts and mix. Combine egg, milk and shortening - Add flour mixture, beating only enough dough to dampen all flour. Bake in greased muffin tins in hot oven 425F for 25 minutes.

Note: Plain whole wheat flour can also be used as a substitute, but the texture of the resulting baked goods will be different.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Great American Road Trip, Circa 1936: Part 2

This Friday, Nik Wallenda, a professional tightrope walker descended from the famous Flying Wallendas high-wire act, will attempt an 1,800-foot tightrope walk across Niagara Falls, so I figured what better time than now to have a Niagara Falls-themed post?

In the last post, I told you the story of how Gen and Corinne took a road trip to New York City in the summer of 1936 with two of their teacher friends. I believe they took the southern route in one direction and the northern route in the other, and though I have no evidence to verify this, I suspect that upon leaving New York City, they drove north.

Their next stop would have been Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls itself was having an interesting year. In February of 1936, the water flow on the American side of the Falls had reduced drastically due to ice jams further upriver. The reduced water flow allowed the falls to freeze over, and they froze solid for almost 15 days in February. (This has only happened a handful of times in history, and is unlikely to ever happen again due to modern technology and conservation.)

Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of the Niagara Falls Public Library.

Gen and Corinne would have arrived there in the end of June or beginning of July, long after the ice went out.

According to his essay, "A 'New Deal' for Leisure" from the book Being Elsewhere: Tourism, Consumer Culture and Identity in Modern Europe and North America, Michael Berkowitz explains that tourism expenditures continued to rise six years into the Great Depression and that "tourism appeared more integral to the economy of the 1930s than it had been during the previous decade." In other words, these were good years for places like Niagara Falls. Since the early 1800s, Niagara Falls had been a prime North American tourist destination, and by the time Gen and Corinne visited, it was well established as the "Honeymoon Capital" of the country.

Probably aping that reputation, the road trippers took a hilarious picture of themselves swooning at the top of the Falls:

Corinne (left) and Gen (second from right) impersonate happy honeymooners at Niagara Falls in 1936.

They also took a traditional shot:

I imagine the Falls themselves haven't changed much in 200 years.

Gen's snpashot of the Falls.

It looks like they went on a boat ride in Niagara Falls, possibly on the famous Maid of the Mist, which has been operating since 1845:

The teacher friends on a boat in Niagara Falls, 1936.

And of course, they visited the famous lookout points:

Next up, we come to a few photos I can't quite place. I can't tell if this is still Niagara Falls, or possibly a rest stop along the way. (Is it Pennsylvania? Canada?)

Corinne (standing) and Gen (forefront) with their travel buddies and an unidentified fifth friend. Where was this taken?

It seems to have been taken at the same time as this one:

Speaking of Pennsylvania, I should have included this photo with the last batch. It looks like they drove to New York City by way of Philadelphia, stopping long enough to take this one photo, at least. (It took me a while to identify the location, hence the delay. Ultimately it was the partially obscured Public Ledger ad in the background that solved the mystery.)

From Niagara Falls, so far at least, the record is silent. (I always hold out hope that I will stumble across more brochures or photos in a box or folder I haven't looked at yet.) I assume they drove home through London, Ontario and Detroit, though I suppose they also might have come down through Erie, Pennsylvania and Cleveland. I don't know exactly when they made it home to Wisconsin, either. Probably mid- to late-July, in time to start preparing for the new school year.

I imagine they brought home with them memories that lasted their lifetimes. When I was in high school, overachieving and following every rule ever laid down in front of me, I went to visit Gen one day in the nursing home. We chatted a bit, as we always did, but at the end of my visit, she said something that has stayed with me since that day. After listening to my stories about grades and after-school activities and achievements, she turned suddenly more serious than usual, looked right at me and said, "Make sure you have some fun in life, too."

I wonder if she was thinking of this trip as she said it.