Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Genevieve's Recipe Box: Thanksgiving Edition

Since it's time for another Thanksgiving dinner, it seemed like a good time to rifle through my grandma Genevieve's recipe box for vintage and heirloom recipes for the upcoming holiday. If you haven't finalized your menu yet and are looking for something new-but-old to try, here you go!

Rich Brown Giblet Gravy 

(Note: my dad still loves the turkey neck and giblets, because my grandma cooked them up so well.)

1 quart water
Turkey neck and giblets
1/2 cup flour
1 cup cold water
2 teaspoons salt
Turkey fat
2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet

Bring quart of water to boil. Add turkey neck and giblets, cook until tender. Drain off broth, measure and if necessary add additional water to make three cups total. Mince and add neck meat and giblets. In a separate bowl, blend thoroughly 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup cold water and 2 tsps. salt. Add to broth gradually, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Drain fat from roasting pan, measure and return 1/2 cup fat to the pan. Add thickened giblet sauce, stirring vigorously until thoroughly blended. Stir in two tsps. Kitchen Bouquet. Heat until thoroughly hot. Yields about one quart.

Broccoli Casserole

2 pkgs. frozen, chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs
4 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 cup Hellman's Mayonnaise
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 cup Ritz Crackers

Mix all ingredients except crumbs, pour into square, well-buttered baking dish. Sprinkle crumbs on top. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Wild and Long Grain Rice Dressing for Duck or Cornish Hens

2 pkgs. rice (Will fill 3 cornish hens and make large casserole, or 1 pkg make small casserole) Use only 1/2 of herbs in one pkg.
bouillon cubes
1/2 pound ground beef (optional)
1 can mushroom pieces

Cook rice as on pkg, but add beef bouillon cubes. Brown onion and celery, cut up. Add about 1/2 pound of ground beef (optional). Add 1 can mushroom pieces. Add this to rice.

Note from Gen: I put giblets on top of rice casserole and cover it with foil until about done.

Whatever you end up doing for the holiday, I hope you have a great meal and great company! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Otis's Siblings: Delia and LG Latham

I've been doing a disservice to my great-great-grandfather Otis's sister Delia, by telling you all about her siblings and not devoting a whole post to her. So let's fix that today.

As you know, my grandmother's grandfather Otis Vaughn had three siblings who survived to adulthood. We've learned about his sister Phebe and his brother BF already. Today let's focus on his sister Delia, the second oldest of the Vaughn clan.

Cordelia Bowher Vaughn, circa 1860s?
Cordelia Bowher Vaughn was born in Tecumseh, Michigan on Feb. 16, 1833, during the few years that Sam and Sarah lived there before continuing on to Wisconsin. Delia was five years younger than BF. Another brother, Melvin, had been born in 1831, but died in infancy. When she was just two years old, Sam and Sarah had another daughter, Abbie, while living temporarily in Franklin, Michigan.

When she was four years old, Delia's parents packed up a covered wagon (including among their belongings two dozen dozen grafted apple trees*) and traveled south around Lake Michigan, passing through the fledgling town of Chicago the year it became incorporated as a city. Sam's sister Mary and her husband made the trip as well, so it's likely the extended family caravanned together through Chicago. They arrived in Spring Prairie in March, 1837. Delia had just turned four years old; she would live in Walworth County for the rest of her life.

When they first arrived in Spring Prairie, the little family  -- Sam and Sarah, BF, Delia and Abbie -- lived in a log cabin that Sam built. Phebe was born in the log cabin the next year. It wasn't until the fall of 1839 that Sam built the frame farmhouse on the property and they moved into a real house, so from the time she was four until she was seven, all Delia would have known was life in a log cabin or a covered wagon.

Two years after they moved into the farmhouse, my great-great-grandfather Otis was born there, rounding out the Vaughn family in Spring Prairie, Wisconsin.

LeGrand Latham, Delia's husband
In 1861, Delia married LeGrand (LG) Latham. LG was the son of early Elkhorn settlers Hollis Latham and Lemira (or Louisa?) Bradley Latham. In fact, LG's parents had the distinction of being the first couple married in the town of Elkhorn -- they were married there in April 1838.  LG was born in Elkhorn in January, 1839 and was named for another prominent early Elkhorn settler, LeGrand Rockwell. (Rockwell was the first clerk of court, register of deeds, acting postmaster and founder of the first bank in Elkhorn.)

Louisa Latham as a girl. She bears a resemblance to BF's four daugthers.

In 1862, Delia and LG had their first child -- a  son they named Hollis after LG's father. Three years later, a daughter was born. They named her Louisa.

Delia (back left) and Phebe pose with what appears to be LeGrand(?) and an unknown sitter
It seems they remained close with the Vaughn side of the family. Both Phebe and Delia had moved to Elkhorn when they were married, so it is safe to assume they saw each other often.  The few times that Delia and LG appear in Corinne's scrapbook, they are usually mentioned along with Delia's siblings.
  • Date unknown: Otis Vaughn and family, of Burlington; Peter Howard and wife; and LG Latham and wife, journeyed northward on Saturday afternoon until they came to Idlewild at Lake Lauderdale, where a week will be spent in pleasure and resting...
  • Date unknown: Mrs. Harriman and Mrs. Latham, of Elkhorn, made their brother, Mr. Otis Vaughn and family, in this village a pleasant visit last Friday, returning to the quiet village of Elkhorn in the evening after a day's pleasure viewing the sights of this bustling city [Burlington.]
I have not discovered what LG did for a living prior to 1876. But in that year, he and Phebe's husband Rufus became partners in a meat market in Elkhorn. Rufus eventually bought him out, and in 1900, LG's profession is listed as "nursery agent," so presumably he owned or was working for a nursery in the area.

Louisa and HDL Adkins wedding photo, 1887
In 1887, their daughter Louisa went on to marry HDL Adkins, who worked at the First National Bank in Elkhorn. Sadly, she died in 1889 at the age of 24, most likely from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. (Twenty years later, the same tragedy would befall Delia's niece Rispah. In fact, all of the Vaughn siblings would lose a daughter relatively young, echoing the loss of their own sister Abbie at the age of 15.)

Hollis married Emily Duckett and they went on to have just one child -- a daughter born five years after his sister Louisa passed away. They named their daughter after Louisa, but changed the spelling slightly to Louesa. Hollis found work with the railroad and moved his family all over Illinois -- they lived in Hancock, Chillicothe, Aleda and Rock Island. (Interestingly, Hollis's daugther Louesa seems to have been quite a wild child. She got pregnant at 16 and went on to have a total of nine children, the youngest of whom just passed away in 2007.)

Delia, later in life
Of Otis's siblings, Delia is the most enigmatic. I know the least about her life, perhaps because unlike Phebe, Delia had a child and grandchildren who survived her and to whom I assume she left the bulk of the things that would help to tell her story. She appears the least in the scrapbook as well, which could mean her name appeared in the paper less often than that of her siblings. Or it could just be that when Edna was doing this research, she was less interested in the Lathams and therefore didn't send requests to newspapers for clippings containing their names. It's hard to say.

Fifteen years after losing her daughter, Delia herself passed away at the age of 71. Her obituary described her as a "well known and esteemed resident of the city [Elkhorn]." It went on to describe:
The fulsome measure of love and esteem however which scores of friends and acquaintances held for her came not from a long residence but from an active life rich in sympathy and good works toward her neighbors and friends. Her life has been of availing helpfulness and her own patience in bearing those tribulations, the all too common lot of life, made firm those bonds so rudely broken by her death.

*This fascinating article from Mother Jones about early American apple trees is really educational, and well worth reading. It helped put into perspective why my great-great-great-grandfather Sam would have prioritized bringing two dozen apple trees with him in a covered wagon.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Recipes: Labor Day picnic suggestions

Getting ready for a Labor Day picnic this weekend? How about a few vintage recipes from my grandma Genevieve's recipe box to bring to a potluck?

Sauerkraut Salad

1 quart sauerkraut
2 cups celery cut fine
1 green pepper
1 large onion
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup salad oil

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Corinne's Carrot Casserole

1 1/2 pkg. carrots
2 small onions
2/3 cup Saltine cracker crumbs
For topping:
2 tsp. brown sugar
chopped pecans
little grated or powdered cheese

Cook carrots with about 2 T chopped onions. (Editor's note: I don't know what this means. Any ideas?) Then mash (or put through blender and then cook with a little water -- easier for large amount.) Mix with cracker crumbs. Put topping on and bake in casserole or flat 9x9-inch pan. Cut like brownies to serve.

Cocktail Meatballs

1lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
handful of Italian bread crumbs
parsley (optional)
Spices: Accent*, powdered onion, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and salt

For small electric casserole:
4 lbs. ground beef
1/2 lb. pork
2 eggs
Put in plenty of oregano

[Editor's note: There are no instructions listed, just ingredients. I assume you mix everything together in a bowl, roll out 1-inch meatballs and bake? Anyone have suggestions?]

*Accent is a spice that combined MSG and hydrolized vegetable protein. Probably best to leave it out if you're taking this dish to a potluck, as many people are allergic/sensitive to MSG.

Monday, August 19, 2013

B.F. and Martha Vaughn

As we've learned, my grandmother's grandfather Otis Vaughn was the youngest of six children born to Sam and Sarah Vaughn (who I've recently learned was sometimes called Sally.) Their second child, Melvin, died in infancy in 1831. We've met Otis's sister Phebe already. So now let's meet his oldest sibling, B.F. (I like to call him Ben, though there's no evidence anyone else did during his lifetime.)

No labeled photos of B.F. exist, so this may or may not be a picture of Benjamin Vaughn.

Benjamin Franklin Vaughn was born in 1828 in Carver, Massachusetts, where Sam and Sarah were living at the time with Sam's younger brother David. Sam and David were trained as carpenters, but were also farming. When B.F. was around one year old, they packed up their things and moved west, most likely in search of better opportunities and better farmland. They first landed in Tecumsah, Michigan, which is about 30 miles southwest of Ann Arbor. By the time B.F. was 7, they had moved again to Franklin, MI, about 70 miles north of Tecumseh. It was a short-lived move.

In March 1837, when B.F. was 8, his sister Delia was 4 and sister Abbie not yet 2, Sam and Sarah hitched up a team of oxen and traveled around Lake Michigan, passing through Chicago the year it was incorporated from a village to a city, and landed in Spring Prairie, WI, "in those early days when the Indian and deer still roamed the prairies," according to B.F.'s obituary. (Though it's likely both Indians and deer were scarce when they made the trip: The winter of 1836-1837 was particularly brutal, and it was still very much winter in March when they came.)

B.F. attended one of the earliest one-room schoolhouses in Walworth County at a time when there weren't even roads to get there, and going to school required walking across the neighbors' lots: "when it meant a walk of six miles across lots back and forth each day in quest of the 3 "R's", then the specialty of the county schoolmaster"  according to his obituary again.

Perhaps because he had done so much traveling and pioneering when he was under the age of 10, B.F. displayed a wanderlust all his life. It is probable that Otis didn't know his older brother very well; by the time Otis was born, B.F. was already 12. In February of 1850, when B.F. was 21 and Otis just 9, B.F. left Spring Prairie to join the hordes of gold-seekers in California. He went by ship around Cape Horn at the very southern tip of South America, a journey of six months, landing in California in August of 1850. He spent six years seeking his fortune on the west coast, but eventually returned to Spring Prairie, this time taking the shorter "Isthmus" route across Panama. (The train route connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic across the Panama isthmus had been completed just one year earlier, reducing what had been a six-month journey to a 30-day trip.)

Shortly upon returning to Spring Prairie, he married Martha Vaughn, who lived in Honey Creek, the next hamlet over. (Where Otis's wife Fannie also came from.) It is possible that B.F. and Martha thought they were not related to each other, despite having the same last name, though two Vaughn families ending up in such close proximity to each other in southeastern Wisconsin, and having similar first names recurring throughout both lines might indicate they did in fact know they were distant relations. (We'll probably never know what they knew.) Modern internet research reveals that B.F. and Martha did in fact share a common ancestor six generations back: Joseph Vaughan of Middleboro, MA, who was born in 1652 and died in 1734.

Martha Vaughn was the daughter of Erastus and Olive Vaughn. (Erastus's middle name was Otis; you can see the similarities between the two Vaughn families.) She was 10 years younger than B.F. They were married on Dec. 9, 1856 and settled again in Spring Prairie. They had four children, all girls: May was born in 1858, Sadie born in 1862, Olive born in 1865, and Grace (who was evidently nicknamed "Birdie") born in 1871. A fifth child, a boy, died in infancy.

May Vaughn West, oldest daughter of Ben and Martha

B.F. Vaughn served as the town clerk of Spring Prairie from 1861 through 1877. Sometime after that, most likely in 1878, B.F. and Martha and the three younger girls moved west to Sundown, MN, in the southwestern part of the state not far from South Dakota. (Oldest daughter May had married Henry P. West and moved with him to Ripon, Wisconsin.)

By the 1900 census, they had moved west again to Yakima, WA. (The history of the city of Yakima is rather interesting. According to Wikipedia: "When [Yakima was] bypassed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in December 1884, over 100 buildings were moved with rollers and horse teams to the nearby site of the depot. The new city was dubbed North Yakima and was officially incorporated and named the county seat on January 27, 1886.") The 1900 census lists B.F.'s occupation as "landlord" and indicates that his home in Yakima was a farm and was owned free.

Sadie Vaughn Robertson, second daughter. She went on to have eight children of her own.
B.F. died in Yakima in 1910 at the age of 81. Martha went to live with her daughter Olive, who was married to a man named James Berry; they lived in Stockton, California. Martha died in 1921 there.

Olive Vaughn Berry
B.F. and Martha had several grandchildren. Birdie remained single all her life and seems to have lived in Portland, Oregon. But the other three girls were prolific: Sadie and her husband Middleton Robertson had eight children, Olive had three boys, and May had four children.

Frustratingly, I have no labeled photos of B.F. or Martha. There is one daguerreotype from the late 1850s or early 1860s in the collection that belonged to Sarah Vaughn (Otis and B.F.'s mom) of Otis seated with a mystery person. I strongly suspect that this is B.F., but I have no way to know for sure. (If it is him, wouldn't you expect him to pose with his wife and baby rather than his brother? Though if it isn't him, I can't imagine who else it might be.)

Otis (on the left) and very possibly B.F.?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Otis and Fannie Vaughn's Burlington house

We've been talking about the siblings of my grandma Genevieve's grandfather Otis a lot lately, but let's go back to Otis and Fannie for a moment, because I had the good fortune to stop by the Burlington library one day last spring when the resident town historian was there, and he helped me track down the house that Otis built in town when they moved off the farm in 1889. (It was a little trick to find the house because Burlington renumbered its streets in the 1960s.)

 I was able to go back to Burlington recently and get some pictures of the house, which is still in great shape, though it's been converted to a duplex now.

The house Otis Vaughn built in 1888-1889, on Lewis Street just off of 36 downtown.

You'll remember from Corinne's scrapbook that there were a few newspaper clippings regarding Otis building the house:

"1888: Mr. Otis Vaughn is hauling stone for the foundation of his new residence to be built early next spring on his fine corner lot at the rear of the Opera House, opposite the old 'Sawyer property' on Washington and Dyer streets."

The stone foundation that my great-great-grandfather Otis laid in 1888.
"1889:  Mr. Otis Vaughn and family moved into their new house on the corner of Washington and Dyer streets last week, and will soon be comfortably settled in their fine, cozy home."

The house as it looked when it was first built. Note the barn behind the house and the size of the tree in front.
Otis and Fannie moved into the house in 1889, though they maintained ownership of the farm in Spring Prairie at the same time. (I assume they rented it out.) In 1918, their oldest daughter Hattie lost her husband to the Spanish flu, and she and her two young daughters moved in with Otis and Fannie to the house in Burlington. Five years later, in 1922, Otis passed away. Hattie and Fannie and the two girls lived in the house together until Fannie's death in 1931. This is the house where Corinne would stay when she was a little girl visiting "Grandpa and Grandma Vaughn."

Today the barn has been torn down and there are houses close on either side. The little tree has grown much taller.
Remarkably, other than a paint job, the exterior of the house looks almost identical to the way it looked when it was first built. I assume that is a testament to the craftsmanship of the house itself, which was built entirely by hand by my great-great-grandfather. The barn behind the house is gone now, and there are houses right next to the house that weren't there when it was first built (though I suspect they were built not too long afterward, judging by their age and appearance.) Though the double mailbox out front and the double addresses indicate it is being used as a duplex, you can't tell that from the outside, so the conversion was commendably unobtrusive.

It is a piece of my family's history that is still a living, contributing part of the community in Burlington, Wisconsin. I hope that someday the people who live there now will read about Otis and learn to appreciate his handiwork the way I do, 125 years later.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Phebe's paintings

So as we have learned, the last decade or so of Phebe Harriman's life was a sad one. She lost her only daughter to childbirth, then raised her grandson for six years until his father returned to take him away from her as well.

But Phebe's story is more than just this sad coda. Despite (or possibly because of) growing up isolated on a farm in rural Wisconsin during the earliest days of its settlement, Phebe grew up with an artist's eye. As an adult, she seems to have been an avid painter. When my great-aunt Corinne passed away, I drove up to her house in Manitowoc to buy items from her estate and discovered she had left a list of several family heirlooms that she hoped I would take in order to keep them in the Vaughn family. Some of these heirlooms were Aunt Phebe's paintings.

The crown jewel of the collection is this oil painting of a landscape scene, possibly inspired by her travels. It measures about 12" by 18":

(I had to take the picture at an angle, to avoid re-hanging the painting, hence the slightly crooked perspective.)
I absolutely love the lavender sky reflecting in the river and the serene little skiff sailing off into the distance.

Then there is this vertical landscape attributed to Phebe, which measures 12" by 24":

This one may be an earlier work; this painting displays less mastery of dimension than the first painting, as evidenced by the relatively flat rocks in the river and the way the water line cuts off rather abruptly in the distance. But the colors themselves are lovely and subtle: a peach haze in the sky, the burnt red of the leaves changing, the light reflecting on the river.

When I was looking through Corinne's things at the estate sale, I found a little painting underneath a blanket on a chair that seems to have been one of Phebe's as well. The styles are remarkably similar, and like the vertical landscape above, this smaller painting is painted directly on board. It measures 6" by 10".

And finally, the last painting I have by Phebe is a sweet little hand-painted scene on a butter paddle, which is all the more meaningful for potentially being her way of commemorating an item that was already a family heirloom in her day. (Pioneers to Wisconsin made their own butter using churns and butter paddles. It is likely that this butter paddle initially belonged to Phebe's parents, the original immigrants Sam and Sarah.) The paddle itself looks hand-carved from a single piece of wood and shows signs of use prior to being painted. I am guessing it was carved by Sam and used by Sarah before Phebe painted a pastoral river scene with a church and her signature sailboat (a favorite subject for her, it appears.) The butter paddle is about 8 inches long and 4.5 inches wide at its widest part.

Looking at her paintings, I am curious whether Phebe was self-taught and painted all her life or if she took it up after losing her daughter and possibly received instruction from someone associated with the Art Institute of Chicago, which held classes in nearby Delavan in the first part of the 20th century and was responsible for the presence of a small artist's colony there during that time. Phebe passed away in 1914 at the age of 75, and may have spent the last 10 years of her life attempting to paint away her pain under the tutelage of professional artists.

Either way, I am grateful to have inherited her paintings, which seem to me to transcend the label of folk art and reveal a true artistic talent.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A milk & mettle mystery item

Speaking of my great-great-aunt Phebe, this is a mystery that has been driving me crazy:

I inherited a burlap... something... that used to belong to her. It has her name embroidered on the seam along with "Elkhorn, Wis." -- the town she called home from 1876 until her death. The mystery item is about two feet in length and sort of half-oval or crescent shaped. It has a row of buttons across the top like you'd find on a duvet cover. But what is it?

Several people have suggested a cover for a bolster pillow. This may turn out to be the case, but that makes me wonder why she embroidered her name and city on the pillow?

Other suggestions have included: old-fashioned nursing pillow and hot water bottle holder. (The size of it makes me doubt it was a hot water bottle holder, unless they had the world's largest hot water bottle. Nursing pillow was an interesting suggestion, but Phebe only had one child, and they didn't move to Elkhorn until that child was four years old.)

So I need your help: does anyone know what this is? Is it in fact an unstuffed bolster pillow? Or is it something once essential that we no longer recognize?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day stories: Stewart Sizemore and the Korean War

This Memorial Day, I'm taking a break from writing about my own family's history to tell the story of one incredible veteran I had the good fortune to interview in 2006 when I worked for a local Walworth County newspaper. Stew Sizemore has one of the most incredible life stories I've ever heard. His stories from the Korean War awakened in me a fascination with that war and its sad mismanagement that is still very strong in me today. Stew is also one of the kindest and warmest people I have met. Below is the story I wrote about him in 2006, when he was included in a Wisconsin Public Television documentary about the Korean War.

Lake Geneva veteran Stewart Sizemore poses with the medals he received as a result of his service in the US Army during the Korean War.

Lake Geneva veteran featured in Korean War documentary

Orig. published 11/03/06 in The Beacon (Walworth County)

“It was the bloodiest battle I ever saw,” remembers Lake Geneva resident Stewart Sizemore of the Battle of Taejon, fought in July 1950. It was one of the first major battles of the Korean War and Sizemore, a 17-year-old infantryman, was there.

More than 56 years later, the memories haunt him. “When we went out to Korea, we had 138 men in our company. I wandered around behind enemy lines for five days after Taejon … dodging North Korean patrols. I had a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) with one round left in it. When I came out in an apple orchard five days later, we had 12 men left in the company.”

The Korean War, long known as “The Forgotten War” for its relative lack of exposure with the American public, produced thousands of similarly horrific stories. Many of these stories have never been told. As the veterans of the Korean War age, these “forgotten” stories are being lost forever.

Wisconsin Public Television, in association with the Wisconsin Historical Society, recently undertook a project to document the stories of Wisconsin residents in the Korean War. They have produced a two-part documentary entitled Wisconsin Korean War Stories.

Sizemore was one of 52 veterans interviewed for the program.

Producer Mik Derks (Wisconsin World War II Stories) amassed a wide range of interviews for the documentary, selecting veterans from different branches of the service and all areas of the state. Due to the nature of the Korean War, most of the interviews that made the final cut of the documentary were told by soldiers who fought in the ground war. “Most of (the Korean War) was the ground war,” said Derks, “so we focused on the Marines and the Army who were right there slugging it out.”

The project began three years ago after the success of the Wisconsin World War II Stories series. Derks felt it was vital to collect the stories of Korean War veterans. “They really do feel forgotten,” he said. “People just didn’t pay much attention to (the war) and the longer it went on, the less they seemed to care about it.”

Sizemore agreed to be interviewed by Derks because of that feeling of invisibility. “I got so sick of watching the news and they would mention WWII and they would mention Vietnam, they mention Afghanistan, but they don’t mention the Korean War.”

Sizemore’s story is an amazing tale of survival. Born in rural Appalachian West Virginia, his mother gave birth to three sets of twins during the Great Depression. Unable to feed them, she sent them to live in an orphanage. When Sizemore was 5 years old, he and his siblings were adopted out as farm labor to a rural farm. “It was basically slave labor,” Sizemore said. “We got one pair of shoes a year, and we walked seven miles to school and seven miles back again every day.”

To escape a life of back-breaking labor, Sizemore ran away as a teenager and adopted a hobo life, riding the rails and living in hobo jungles around the country. When he was 16, he and a friend were hopping a freight train in southern Illinois on a rainy night. Sizemore caught the train, but his friend slipped and fell, and was pummeled under the wheels of the train. “They carried him out of there in a bushel basket,” he said. “And I decided right then I was joining the service.”

When the Korean war broke out on June 25, 1950, Sizemore was stationed in Japan. His unit shipped out to Korea on the Fourth of July, arriving on a fishing boat. They had no heavy artillery. Their supplies were inadequate. Many of the men in Sizemore’s unit were 16- and17-year-olds who had never seen battle. Their unit saw 55 consecutive days of action before getting a one-day break.

“You fight all day, and you walk all night. You have nothing to eat. You’re eating whatever you can find, whatever you can swipe out of the fields. You are just totally, totally worn out. And every day, you’re losing people.”

Sizemore himself was injured on the Yalu River when China entered the war on the side of the North Koreans in November of 1950. The Chinese mounted a surprise attack with an army of more than a quarter of a million men, many of whom had trained in the People’s Liberation Army in the 1930s and 1940s.

“I got smashed in the face and all my teeth knocked out with Chinese rifle butts. They blew me out of a machine gun embankment and just left me for dead. Had it not been so cold, I wouldn’t be here. It was 20 below zero. It kept me from bleeding to death.”

Sizemore showed me this photograph of American troops in Korea to illustrate the extreme climate they were fighting in.

From there, Sizemore spent three weeks in a M.A.S.H. unit. “As soon as they got the swelling down to where I could open my eyes, they sent me back out on the line. My face was a mess. I didn’t have any teeth. I weighed 98 pounds and had dysentery and malaria. But at that period in time, they would not take you off the line as long as you were physically able to fire a weapon, that’s how bad they needed bodies.”

American forces suffered heavy casualties throughout the first 12 months of fighting. By November of 1950, the South Korean territory was reduced to a small patch of land in the far southeast portion of the country only 140 miles wide, known as the Pusan Perimeter. American forces fought hard to maintain this tiny stronghold before the entrance of the Marines turned the tables on the fighting.

Sizemore fought along the Naktong Bulge in the Pusan Perimeter and up to the 38th Parallel before rotating out of Korea in Aug. 1951. He spent three months recovering from malaria in the United States before enlisting with the Marines and returning to Korea for a second tour of duty. This time, his experience was very different. The U.S. Forces were on the defensive and camped out in bunkers, the front shifting only a few miles a day. “It wasn’t easier, but it was different,” he said. “You never get used to it. War is hell, any way you look at it.”

Korea’s status as the “Forgotten War” extends to the high price paid in casualties over the three-year conflict. “A lot of people don’t realize how many men we lost over there,” said Sizemore. Some estimates indicate that the American Armed Forces lost around 54,000 men between July 1950 and July 1953, when a cease-fire was declared. (By comparison, the Vietnam War claimed around 58,000 lives in a16-year period.)

Also forgotten was the lack of resolution surrounding the end of the Korean War. No peace treaty was ever signed. The two countries remain technically at war to this day, a fact that is difficult to ignore in light of recent headlines emphasizing North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Though Derks had no way of knowing at the time, the documentary he set out to record three years ago suddenly has poignant relevance to the headlines of the day. “It’s suddenly very topical,” he said, “which I hope makes people want to watch it, because people know very little about this war.”

Sizemore warns that any future conflict with North Korea may be even more difficult for American Forces than it was in 1950. “North Korea’s equipment is very good… their training is outstanding. If we ever have to go in there again, we’re going to be in trouble.”

“I’m not for war, I don’t glory war, because I’ve seen too much of it," he says.  "But I think this needs to be told, because I think there are so many people in this country who don’t realize the price that’s been paid.”


Sunday, May 26, 2013

The tragedy of Rispah and Harriman McKinstry

I've been alluding to a deep sadness that entered Phebe and Rufus's lives, but I've been finding it a difficult story to tell. They only had one child, a daughter named Rispah May. She was born when Phebe was 34. (This is a pattern I see a lot on this side of the family; women having their first child after the age of 30.) Rispah grew up in Elkhorn, and was evidently a social and intelligent girl. When she graduated from Elkhorn High School in 1890, she went on to Milwaukee to study kindergarten education, most likely at the newly opened Wisconsin State Normal School, a school for teacher training. (The Milwaukee State Normal School, now UW-Milwaukee, was an early adopter of kindergarten teacher training. According to one website, in 1892 the school added a Department of Kindergarten Education, which required two years of training. Students received a kindergarten assistant certificate after one year and a kindergarten director diploma after two.)

Rispah's graduation photo, 1890

After receiving her certification, she went on to teach kindergarten for three years in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, before returning to Elkhorn to take over the kindergarten there for one year, where according to Corinne's scrapbook, she was assisted by her cousin, Edna Vaughn.
  • 1896: Miss Edna Vaughn is at present assisting Miss Rispah Harriman in the Kindergarten at Elkhorn.
While living in Elkhorn, it seems as though she was close with her Vaughn cousins:
  • Date Unknown: Miss Rispah Harriman spent Thursday with Hattie Vaughn.
The next year (1897), she married Byron McKinstry and moved to Harvard, Illinois, where he owned a clothing shop. Over the next ten years, they moved to Seattle, and then to Idaho, chasing the new opportunities out west.

Then, in Corinne's scrapbook, comes this sad clipping:
Sept. 1908: Sad Journey Ended: Remains of Rispah Harriman McKinstry Brought Here; Death Calls Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. D. Harriman at Ruhl, Idaho - she leaves infant son and husband

"Word received here Thursday forenoon telling of the hopeless illness of Rispah Harriman McKinstry, wife of Byron N. McKinstry and only child of Mr. and Mrs. R.D. Harriman, was followed about two hours later by the sad brief message telling of her death at her home near Buhl, Idaho. The message from the anxious husband telling of his wife's illness was the first intimation friends and parents here had that she was other than in perfect health and spirits.

Last week Tuesday, a son, their only child, was born to Mr. and Mrs. McKinstry, and only a few hours later, the parents joined in a brief letter to Mr. and Mrs. Harriman, telling of their joy over the happy event. Then, when everything seemed most propitious, the mother was taken ill suddenly, sinking into convulsions and later into unconsciousness. In that condition, Thursday, five hours from the time she was taken, nurses and doctors and the bereaved husband witnessed the passing on in answer to a summons all earthly skill could not stay. The brief note telling of the birth of a son did not reach this city until Monday, the day set for the funeral. The remains were brought here by Mr. McKinstry for burial, the long journey ending Sunday night when scores of sympathizing friends met the train and bore all that was mortal of a loving wife and daughter and a sincerely esteemed young woman, to her girlhood home.

Rispah May Harriman was born in LaFayette Jan. 10, 1872. She was four years old when her parents came to live in this city [Elkhorn.] She attended school here, graduating with her class in 1890, and took up the study of kindergarten work in Milwaukee. After finishing her course, she taught three years at Fond du Lac, where she successfully superintended the work in three departments. Returning to Elkhorn, she taught in the local school one year and Set. 8, 1897 she was married to Byron N. McKinstry. They were residents of Harvard, Ill. during Mr. McKinstry's proprietorship of a clothing store in that city. Later they moved to Seattle, Wash., and it was while there that Mr. McKinstry became interested in the new irrigation project near Buhl and purchased land. Two years ago, they went to Idaho to live.

It had been a happy and enjoyable experience for Mrs. McKinstry. Success crowned united efforts to establish a new home in a new land, and each seemingly insurmountable difficulty had been made light of and overcome. Western hospitality and neighborly kindness, never more generously forthcoming than during the sad hours of her sickness and death, had often been spoken of in home letters and only a few weeks ago, Mrs. McKinstry told of plans and hopes indicating her desire to make Idaho her permanent home. But in a far country, 'midst greener hills and sweeter valleys, she awaits the coming of her friends.

Rev. JF Taintor of Ripon, former pastor of the Congregational church here where Mr.s McKinstry worshiped, conducted the funeral services in the absence of Rev. AO Stevens. The music was by a quartet composed of Mrs. FH Eames, Mrs. PS Stewart, and Messrs. Arthur Freligh and WE Dunbar. Fuller evidences of love and regard, manifested as they were in the outpouring of friends and in the wealth of floral offerings, have seldom been witnessed here. The internment was in Hazel Ridge."
Byron McKinstry arrived in Elkhorn with his wife's body and his newborn son, named Harriman after his wife's maiden name. Overwhelmed and full of grief, he left the baby with Rufus and Phebe when he returned to Idaho. They raised Harriman as their own for six years.

Phebe and a young Harriman McKinstry

Harriman around age 1

Harriman in a baptismal gown
Harriman as a toddler

Harriman around age 3
A school-age Harriman after he moved back to Idaho with his father

Then, when Harriman was old enough to start school, Byron McKinstry came back and claimed his son, taking him away from the grandparents who had loved and raised him in his infancy. The loss of her daughter, and then her daughter's son, was a blow from which Phebe never recovered. We know this from her obituary:
Around Aug. 9, 1914: Mrs. RD Harriman called suddenly: Expires from heart trouble Sunday morning: Was Seventy-Six Years Old and Lifelong Resident of the County -- Funeral Yesterday Afternoon

Mrs. Phebe Vaughn Harriman, wife of the late Rufus D. Harriman, and life-long resident of Walworth County, died at 9:30 o'clock Sunday morning of heart trouble. Her death was sudden, being sick less than two hours. She was taken about 7:30 and a few minutes later Mrs. Emma C. Blodgett, who occupies adjoining rooms in the Harriman house, came in to extend the usual morning greetings. Mrs. Harriman complained of severe pains across her chest, and asked Mrs. Blodgett to telephone for Dr. Geo. H. Young. Mrs. J.B. Stokes, one of the neighbors, was also summoned. Mrs. Harriman's condition continued to grow rapidly worse, and up to twenty minutes before her death, when she lapsed into unconsciousness, she suffered intensely.

Teh news of Mrs. Harriman's death spread over the city, just as people were preparing for church. It came as a great surprise tot he community for comparatively few had heard of her condition. She was a native of Walworth County, her birthplace being in Spring Prairie, and the date November 22, 1838. Her maiden name was Phebe Ann Vaughn, the daughter of Samuel Cole Vaughn and Sarah Vose Vaughn. She was one of a family of four children, but one of whom Otis L. Vaughn, of Burlington, survives. Another brother, Benjamin F. Vaughn, who was a resident of California, died a few years ago, and her only sister, Mrs. Delia B. Latham, died in 1904.

On March 31, 1864, she was married at her home in Spring Prairie to Rufus D. Harriman, then a resident of LaFayette. Mr. Harriman was engaged in farming and LaFayette continued to be their home until 1876, when they moved to Elkhorn and Mr. Harriman entered the meat business, which he followed for many years. One child, a daughter, Rispah May, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Harriman. She became the wife of Byron N. McKinstry. She died September 3, 1908. her death proved a blow, to which her parents never became reconciled. An infant son, Harriman McKinstry following the death of his mother, was taken by the grandparents and for nearly six years he received the tender care of one of the most devoted of grandmothers.

During her long residence in in Elkhorn, Mrs. Harriman had been especially active in church circles. As a member of the Congregational Church, she was among its most faithful and zealous workers, and her demise takes one whose interest and devotion was always manifest. Mrs. Harriman was always interested in the welfare of others, and always anxious to do her part in any sphere of usefulness where she could be of any service to friends or neighbors and of these shad had an especially large circle. Mr. Harriman's death occurred August 3, 1913, his wife's demise following just one year and six days later.

The funeral services were held at the house at 2:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon and were conducted by the Rev. H.A. Schuder of the Congregational Church. The services were largely attended, it being necessary to provide seating for fully one-half of the friends out on the porch and lawn. 
But as often happens, out of grief comes beautiful art. In the next post, I'll share some of Phebe's paintings with you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Phebe and Rufus

In the last post, we met Otis's siblings: Ben, Delia and Phebe. Of the siblings, I find Phebe the most compelling (her story having a deep note of melancholy running through it), and the most perseverant, with an artist's eye and sensibility.

Phebe as a young woman

She was born Phebe Ann Vaughn on the farm in Spring Prairie in 1838, before Sam and Sarah had even built the frame house on the property, so she was probably born in the log cabin. She married Rufus Harriman on March 31, 1864. Rufus was the son of a Canadian logger who brought his family to Walworth County in 1846 and eventually owned a large piece of land here where he raised stock.

It seems likely that Rufus initially took over the operation of his father's stock farm. Then in 1876, Rufus (along with Delia's husband LeGrand Latham) became partners in a meat market in Elkhorn, (probably drawing on Rufus's extensive knowledge of quality meat from his upbringing on a stock farm). Eventually Rufus bought out his brother-in-law and became sole owner of the market.


Unfortunately, it seems that Rufus suffered from a chronic illness (possibly rheumatoid arthritis) that forced him to retire in 1883. The following newspaper clippings appear in Corinne's scrapbook:
  • Thursday, June 28, 1883: It is understood that Mr. Harriman has sold the lower meat market, business, building and all, to a new firm composed of Messrs. Hale Foster and Henry Ketchpaw. Mr. Harriman has done well by his customers, who will part from him with real regret, and but for his ancient and relentless enemy, inflammatory rheumatism, he would have done well enough for himself by remaining in the business.
  • 1883: Mr. Harriman's cigars were passed about on Saturday among some of his friends. It would not be easy to reach all of them with cigars. It was a sort of acknowledgment, as far as that simple set could go, of his grateful sentiments toward the people who, he says, have stood by him in his successful seven years career as a businsessman in Elkhorn. The business was profitable as he could wish, and it was his hard infirmity, and not his free will, that had at last made him pass it over to other hands. Could he have heard on Saturday half the kindly-spoken regret, dropped naturally and unaffectedly from the lips of friends, who sincerely wished it had so been ordered that friendly sympathy might mend his pain and release him from his wearying captivity, he would have felt some of the satisfaction that an honorable man must feel at finding that generous manhood and upright dealing do not always pass on unnoticed or unappreciated.

In 1872, four years before Rufus entered into the meat business, Phebe gave birth to their only child, a girl named Rispah May.

Rispah as a young girl

At the time of Rispah's birth, they were still living in LaFayette (between Elkhorn and Spring Prairie), but when Rufus went into the meat market business, they moved into Elkhorn, where they made a wide circle of friends and became pillars of the community. A clipping from 1884 recounts the incredible story of their surprise 20th anniversary party:
  • 1884: "The friends of Mr. and Mrs. R.D. Harriman chanced to remember that Monday was the twentieth anniversary of their marriage, and that it behooved them to appropriately celebrate the event. Consequently after Col. Copeland's lecture, the friends, to the number of at least a hundred and fifty [Ed. note: 150 friends in ONE town!], preceded by the band, wended their way to Mr. Harriman's commodious home on Walworth Ave, and without so much as a "by your leave," took summary possession thereof, much to the surprise of the man of the house and his estimable wife, and a merrier company seldom gathers anywhere than was there that evening. Mysterious baskets and packages indicated that a still further surprise awaited the victims, and when silence was proclaimed, and Rev. Mr. Barrett presented to Mr. and Mrs. Harriman in behalf of the friends assembled, a handsome, gold headed cane and a natty white "tile" to the former, and to the latter a beautiful set of decorated china, then they understood that the mission of the intruders was one of good will and peace. After the presentation and congratulations, requisition was made on the contents of sundry other baskets, and the company were served with a bountiful collation. Delightful music by the band, jokes and chit-chat filled in the balance of the only too short two hours, which intervened ere the commencement of another day, and about midnight the guests folded their wraps about them and not altogether silently stole away, all with one accord declaring that the evening had been well spent, and wishing Mr. and Mrs. Harriman many joyous returns of the day."
Rufus, or as he was known around town, "Ruff"

Despite Rufus's illness, he and Phebe seem to have had a full life. The following announcement appears in the scrapbook:
  • 1885: Mr. R. D. Harriman and wife; Miss Ruth Wales, Miss Jessie Wiswell, Mr. Charles Ellsworth, Mr. John Hare, Mr. Ogden T. Hubbard, and Mr. Geo. W. Wylie, left on Tuesday last, Feb.17, for New Orleans. May they have a pleasant season and a safe return.
More amazingly, I also inherited a hand-copied version of a the first part of a journal that Phebe kept on this trip to New Orleans. It appears to have been copied in Corinne's hand. I have transcribed the whole thing (in which she recounts leaving a day late in bitter cold weather, traveling to Chicago and then St. Louis) below:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Otis and his siblings

So, let's recap a little:

My grandma Genevieve's grandparents were Otis and Fannie Vaughn. Otis's parents were some of the original settlers of Walworth County, coming here in 1837, just one year after the land became available to white men

Otis and his siblings went on to be fixtures of Walworth County in the years as it transitioned from wilderness in the Northwest Territory to a rural pastiche of prosperous, orderly villages. In their lifetimes, they saw some of the biggest changes the modern world would bring: electricity, automobiles, industrialization. They started life in log cabins or westward wagon trains and ended up in comfortable houses on paved streets in fully formed towns that would have been unimaginable in these locations at the start of their lives.

Otis was one of five children (a sixth son, Melvin, died in infancy.) His sister Abbie only lived to be 14; we don't know which childhood illness claimed her life, but sadly this was not an uncommon story in the days before vaccines and antibiotics. His oldest sibling, a brother named Benjamin, was significantly older than Otis; 13 years separated them. Though Ben initially married and had children in Walworth County, he eventually moved his family out to the west coast. (More on Ben and his wife Martha to come in a later post.)

Phebe and Otis, around 1844

Phebe and possibly Abbie, around 1848

It seems that throughout his life, Otis was closest with his two sisters, Delia and Phebe. Delia was eight years older than Otis, and Phebe was only four years older than he was.The three of them lived in Walworth County all their lives; Delia and Phebe ended up living closer to Elkhorn, and Otis eventually moved into Burlington, but they visited each other often and from the newspaper clippings, we know that their families often traveled together.

Phebe poses alone a few years later

The sisters lived in Elkhorn because they both married men from that city. Phebe married Rufus Harriman; Delia married LeGrand Latham.

Delia (back left) and Phebe pose with their husbands. (The couples were arranged diagonally; Rufus is on the left in front.)
In posts to come, I'll delve a little deeper into the lives of Otis's siblings and their families, starting with Rufus and Phebe. In the treasure trove of family history and photographs that I inherited when Corinne passed away, Phebe has the most prominent representation in the collection, (after Otis and Fannie, of course.) It's likely this is related to the sad story of their estranged grandson and heir. With no one to leave her family heirlooms to, perhaps Phebe gave them to her brother's children instead.

But that is a story for next time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Recipes: Quick Coffee Cake

Most of the recipes from Genevieve's recipe box that I have posted in the past have been posted "blind" -- meaning I haven't had the ingredients or the cooking confidence to attempt them. But this Quick Coffee Cake was easy enough that I decided to give it a try.

Quick Coffee Cake

1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
1 c. flour
2 tbsp. shortening
1/2 teas. salt
2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. vanilla

1/4 c. brown sugar
1 teas. cinnamon
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. melted butter

Beat egg. Add sugar, then milk. Alternating with flour, salt and baking powder. Add melted shortening and vanilla. Baked in greased 8" cake pan for 25 mins. at 350-375.

Sprinkle the topping on cake before baking OR just plain with cinnamon and sugar is good - this after it's baked.

Note: I didn't have an 8" cake pan so I used a bread pan instead. Also, I used vegetable shortening when I'm guessing Genevieve would have used lard. And I used skim milk, which Genevieve would never have had in her house. But despite that, I am happy to report that the coffee cake is delicious! Cinnamon-y, buttery, and just all around good. And so easy to make!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nourishing Notes tea towel

I found this great kitchen towel at the Dose Market in Chicago a couple of months ago, and just have to share it with you.

It's by a company called Nourshing Notes, and they have a bunch of other great, old-timey greeting cards, kitchen linens and such. Check it out!

And of course, preserve your family recipes. I will continue to share recipes from my grandma's recipe box and hope to have some new content up soon! Stay tuned...