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Thursday, May 31, 2007


I've been researching my Powell line for about three years. I always wondered about this line because it is not a traditional Mennonite name. It is slow going because, as far as I have been able to determine, no one has ever traced this line before. I have discovered more than one Mennonite in the line, but the majority of them were other denominations---or perhaps none at all.
I have my line traced to Edward Powell who was married in Philadelphia in 1771 and moved to Lancaster a few years later. But there I come to a brick wall I have not been able to break through. I have a theory where Edward came from but have not found anything to prove or disprove my ideas. My previous theory was disproved this winter when I found a deed in Harrisburg State Archives, so I am cautious about promoting my new theory without any documents for evidence.
In the meantime, I have been tracking the various branches of the Powells who descended from Edward but are not my direct line. This week I treated myself to another trip to the Lancaster County courthouse where I dug through the Orphan's Court records. I have been at this so long that I now recognize names in the records. I had a wonderful time and came home with quite a few notes and photocopies. One of them gave me the names of the four children of Peter Powell (son of Edward) who died in 1813. That turned out to be a Mother Lode! With those names, some of the information I had before now made sense and fit into place. And that led me to more information. I was up until 11 that night fitting puzzle pieces into place. I spent most of the next day working on it and by the end of the day I had found three of Peter's four children (who were the first cousins of my gr-gr-grandfather, Josiah) as well as their mates and children.
This was the biggest break I have had in many moons. I told Leroy, "This is more fun than Rough and Tumble." He rolled his eyes and groaned. He is welcome to go to Rough and Tumble in August to see the steam engines and tractors running if that's what spins his crank. To me, they look and sound the same every year. At least when I go Powell-ing I can turn up something new. We both like history and old things; we just go down different roads to get there. To each his own!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mulching Marathon

I can think of a lot of M-words to describe today:

Muggy May Morning
Memorial Day
Mulching Marathon
I spent a week getting all the flower beds weeded on our little estate. Then it took another week to get things trimmed and edged. Finally, today we were ready for mulch.
Leroy used Gerald's truck to fetch two loads of mulch. He shoveled it off and I spread it evenly around the plants. This is the rock garden. The mountain pinks are over for this year.

When we got to this point of the second load I began to wonder if men who don't have wives realize what they are missing. A man would probably be satisfied with a couple shrubs around the house surrounded by stones on top of black plastic---or nothing at all. But a woman must have flowers all over the place---annuals and perannials. Flowering bushes that need trimmed--and sprayed--and watered--and fertilized. So she buys bottles of stuff to make things grow and other bottles of stuff to kill the things she doesn't want. She plants bulbs that must be dug up every year and stored in the basement over winter so they can be planted again the next spring. And all this digging and trimming and mulching requires the help of a man. A man who is so flower-illiterate he is able to identify only roses and daisies.
So why do men plague themselves with wives who make them spend a muggy Memorial Day mulching flowers? It must be because they didn't read the fine print at the bottom of the script before they said "I do." And now it's too late!
The roses are just starting to bloom. I know already what he will say when I bring the first ones into the house. "See. I don't need to spend a lot of money to buy you roses. We can raise our own." He really doesn't mind helping keep things in shape around here. There's enough farmer left in him to actually enjoy it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Gerald started his summer job at Hershey Medical Center on Monday. (Yes, at Hershey, Pa., the town with the most fragrant air pollution in the world.) He thinks his uniform (white pants and baby blue shirt) looks feminine. Hershey Med is associated with Penn State University and their colors are blue and white so I suppose that explains their color choice.
The first two weeks are basically orientation but after that he will be working on the nurosurgery floor. He is looking forward to getting some hands-on experience in the hospital. Hershey takes only 15 student nurses for Externship I so he was very fortunate to be accepted. This position puts his foot on the first rung of the ladder he hopes to climb at Hershey. If they like his work it will be easier for him to get one of the 45 Externship II positions next year. Then he can request the department in which he would like to work instead of being assigned to one as he was this year. And then he should be in good standing to land a job there after graduation the following year.
I am using this post to congratulate him on his progress thus far---two years of college behind him and a good start to a career a nursing. You're doing great!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Maytag Motor

Leroy bought a Maytag motor at his dad's sale two years ago. He tinkered with it on and off ever since, trying to get it to run. His cousin told him about a man in Juniata County who is an expert with Maytag motors. I was asked to speak at a Mother/Daughter banquet at Crossroads Church last evening. The Maytag man lives about six miles from there. So while I was at the banquet, he took his motor to Mr. Litzel. He put some new plugs in, switched some wires around, and made a new gasket. The thing runs like a charm now and Leroy is delighted!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ascention Day

Did you remember that yesterday was Ascension Day? Forty days after Easter Jesus ascended to heaven. Yesterday was 40 days after this year's Easter and the day we remember His ascension.
My grandmother considered it "bad luck" to do any work on Ascension Day. The day was kept almost like a Sunday. My parents dropped the bad luck idea (which I agree was the right thing to do) but still went to church in the morning and kept the rest of the day as a religious holiday. When we were first married, we did the same. We went to church in the morning and then to a Stauffer reunion for lunch and the afternoon. As the years went by, attendance at the reunion dwindled because people were no longer observing the "no work" rule. So the reunion was shifted to a Sunday instead of Ascension Day. We continued to go to church in the morning but, with nothing scheduled for the afternoon, worked around home in the afternoon.
Within the last 10 years, as the observance of the day continued to decline, the place Leroy works allowed them to take off for Ascension Day if they wished but did not shut down. Many other places of business that were formerly closed for the day also remained open. Naturally, we noticed a marked decline in church attendance as more people worked on Ascension Day. This year church services were held in the evening in an attempt to bolster attendance. So we both worked all day and went to church in the evening. Attendace was no better than last year at a morning service. Whether we want to admit it or not, we have basically adapted to the values of society around us and lost respect for the day.
Just before His death, Jesus said He was going to go back to heaven to prepare places for us and personally promised to return to take us to live there with Him. Ascension is not only about the ascension of Jesus to heaven, but also about our hope of His return. Hebrews 9:28 says "unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Does the dwindling observance of the day mean we are not taking His return seriously? Is there a connection between the two? What do you think?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Buttercups and Bluebells

May is one of my favorite months of the year. Everything is green and growing, and the weather is about as perfect as it gets in this part of the world. I have revived my daily walking habit that got stuffed in the closet over winter and it is now warm enough to walk earlier in the morning than I did in April.
My walk this morning was no longer than usual but it took me back 50 years when I noticed some Buttercups blooming along the way. Just like that, I was nine years old again and playing in the meadow at home. This time of year the meadow was full of Buttercups and the creek bank was blue with Bluebells. I picked great handfuls of them to take into the house.
Our meadow was largely populated by gentle sheep in the summer and usually a safe place for me to play. In the back half of the meadow was the brush pile. Daddy put the tree trimmings there and eventually burned them when the pile grew large. One year when the brush pile was just beginning to grow again, I made a play house out there. I arranged the branches and sticks to mark of the walls and rooms of a "log house." The meadow "magically" became a prairie, the Buttercups and Bluebells were the wildflowers, and I was a pioneer as I re-enacted the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I had been reading.
I can see now that my love affair with history began 50 years ago when History was added to the subjects I studied at school. I'm sure my imagined life as a pioneer woman did not come close to reality. I feel sorry for children who play video games instead of using their imaginations to create their own entertainment. They are cheated of the pleasure of innocent childhood dreams. I'm glad I am living in this century but also glad my memory could take me back a half century to that meadow filled with Buttercups and Bluebells.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Journey to Florida

For several years we had been looking forward to the day my sister Carol would receive her Doctorate in English from Pensacola Christian College. She actually finished the work the end of last summer but graduation ceremonies are not held until May. As the time drew nearer we began making plans to travel to the graduation with my sister, Betty Ann, and her husband. We mapped out a route that took us to Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and back home to Pennsylvania, visiting friends and relatives along the way.

Our first stop was near Waynesboro, Georgia, where Betty Ann's daughter, Karen, is teaching school this year. We got there Saturday evening and were there until Monday morning. Karen lives with a widow lady. We stayed there two nights. We went to the Waynsboro Mennonite Church on Sunday morning. They had a potluck meal for dinner which was cooked and served by the men. The majority of the dishes were meat, but it was all very well done. I can't quite imagine the men in our church cooking a meal like that.

After a good Southern breakfast Monday morning, May 7, we headed down to Dublin, Georgia, where we had made plans to visit Jerry and Rhoda Martin. Leroy worked with Jerry at Shank Door back in the 70s, until he moved south. They served us a big dinner and took us around their neighborhood. We could not stay long because my cousin, Evelyn Dick, was expecting us for supper in Albany, Georgia. She had another big meal prepared for us. Three big meals in one day! She had invited her friends, Gilbert and Marilyn Harris, for supper too. We had a good time renewing our acquaintance.

Evelyn provided beds for us for the night and on Tuesday morning, May 8, we headed for Pensacola. Carol had rehersal Tuesday and discovered then she was supposed to wear all black. She had black shoes along but nothing else that color. So she borrowed a pair of nylons from Betty Ann and we made a quick shopping trip to the Goodwill Store where Carol bought a black T-shirt and skirt. Then we went out to Pensacola Beach for the afternoon. They have beautiful white sand there. We crossed a bridge that had been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and also saw a lot of rebuilding being done along the beach. During the summers Carol was in Pensacola to study, she learned to know Daniel and Debbie Carpenter. They had invited all of us to stay with them when we came for the graduation. We had supper at their house Tuesday evening and slept there two nights.

Graduation was at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, May 9. Carol had gotten tickets for us for some of the best seats in the house. The ceremonies were dignified and impressive. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures. There were around 700 graduates but only five of them received Doctorates. They were the first to come in but the last to receive their diplomas. The Vice-President of the college introduced each one and placed the hood on his/her shoulders. Carol's tassel and hood are blue, which is the color for Doctor of English. As she stood there in her black cap and gown, receiving the honors she deserves, I got a little emotional. We sure are proud of her! But I knew something most of the crowd did not know; she was wearing Goodwill clothes under that high-class gown.
We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

After graduation we went to the Naval Air Museum at Pensacola. We saw the Imax film on Hurricane Katrina and toured the museum. Then we headed back to the Carpenters for another supper and night in their home.

On Thursday morning we headed north toward Kentucky where we had made plans to visit Paul and Elizabeth Brubaker. They live at Scottsville, a little south of Bowling Green. We got there about 4:30 Central time, but since they do not observe DST it was only 3:30 to them. Elizabeth is one of my mother's cousins. They are a very conservative branch of Old Order Mennonites. All of their work is done by hand or horsepower; no engines of any kind. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) they have no electric or telephones either. Elizabeth cooked a delicious supper for us on her wood burning stove. The meal began with homemade bread and homemade butter and ended with tapioca pudding and jell-o. We visted the Brubakers before and I knew what to expect, but after the elegant ceremonies the day before the abrupt change was almost culture shock. Elizabeth had told her four married children that live nearby and other people in their church that we were coming. The first visitors arrived about an hour after we did. There was a steady stream of visitors the rest of the afternoon and evening. It was very interesting but I'm sure I will not remember all of the names and faces. Paul and Elizabeth have eleven married children living in Kentucky, Missouri, and Belize. At the moment they have 99 grandchildren but they will soon top 100. This is Elizabeth's kitchen.

We realized we need to get an early start on Friday morning, May 11, because we had a 12-hour drive home and would lose two hours to boot. It was a little after 7 a.m. when we left the Brubakers, but that was actually 8 according to DST. And we lost another hour when we returned to the Eastern time zone. It was a long haul, so we each took a turn driving. There was a mighty cheer when we finally crossed the Pennsylvania line! We finally got to our house at 11:15 p.m.

The last place we made a pit stop I smelled the wonderful aroma of Penn's Woods. That is one of the things I noticed the south is lacking. The pine trees in Georgia and palms of Florida just do not have the smell of our hardwoods. Another difference is the grass. The grass in the south is more coarse and not as velvety soft as here in the north. We traveled over 2000 miles in the past week. Thanks to the friends (some which we had never met before) and relatives we visited along the way, it was not an expensive trip. We bought only three meals on the trip and did not need a motel any of the six nights. But after all that was said and done, the place where we started and came back to still looks the best to me! Maybe one of the reasons we need to travel once in awhile is to help us appreciate what we have at home every day.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Pomp and Circumstance

After years of waiting, the time has come! We will be heading south early tomorrow morning to attend my sister's graduation from Pensacola Christian College. Carol spent a couple summers at Pensacola studying for her Doctorate in Education. Then the monster job of writing her Dissertation (about the development of English curriculum in Mennonite schools) was spread out over a couple more summers at home. She actually finished that job last summer but PCC does graduations in May. We three sisters took a trip to Mexico two years ago (sans husbands) but this time the spouses are going with us to celebrate this milestone in Carol's life.
We'll make the trip do double-duty by visiting friends and relatives both coming and going. We will spend Sunday in the Waynsboro, GA area. On Monday we move on to visit friends in Dublin, GA and then spend the night with a cousin in Albany, GA. We plan to reach Pensacola around noon on Tuesday. Carol has made arrangements with someone she knows in the area for our lodging there. Graduation will take place at 9 a.m. on May 9. We will do a little sightseeing in the afternoon and leave town Thursday morning. We will come home by way of Scottsville, KY where we will stop to visit relatives and spend the night there. Then we have a long run home on Friday, May 11. In good "Mennonite Your Way" fashion, we will not need a motel any of the six nights of this trip. Are we tight-wads or friendly?
At any rate, we're glad we can go to watch Carol march to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance and share in the joy of her achievement. Then the letters EdD will be officially added to her name and (except for teaching) she will be finished going to school.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


We had Members Meeting at church last night; the periodic review of a portion of the Rules and Discipline. Those meetings are generally considered ho-hum, not inspiring. But I actually was inspired last night.
The last time we had a Members Meeting we reviewed the first section of the Discipline which contains the Eighteen Articles of Faith. Our Anabaptist forefathers in Europe wrote several confessions of faith. One of the best was written in Dordrecht, Holland, in 1632 and adopted by Pennsylvania Mennonites at their conference in 1725. The Eighteen Articles of Faith which we have today was adopted by the Mennonite General Conference in 1921 and is a restatement of the Dordrecht Confession written nearly 300 years earlier.
The first Article concerns the Word of God. It says, "We believe in the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible as the Word of God; that it is authentic in its matter, authoritative in its counsels, inerrant in the original writings, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice."
Stop on the fifth word. What does plenary mean? You're smarter than me if you know. I had to go to a dictionary. It means "full, complete, absolute."
This First Article of Faith is the foundational belief on which every other thing I believe is built. The Bible is the full and complete Word of God. Nothing will ever be added. It is the absolute Word of God. Nothing will ever be changed. It says what it means and means what it says.
In contrast, the portion of the Discipline we reviewed last night was the man-made rules concerning how the church is to operate and how the principles of the Bible are to be applied to daily life. That portion of the Discipline has undergone many changes in the history of the Mennonite Church, and there is great variety in these rules among various groups and conferences of Mennonites. Why? Because the man-made rules are not plenary. They were written by fallible men who (unlike God) are not immutable and omniscient.
Our Anabaptist forefathers would not have been able to imagine the world we live in today. They could not have written a set of rules which would address the issues of the 21st century--e.g. guidelines on proper use of the computer. Man-made rules change as the world in which we live changes. But they could (and did) write a Statement of Faith that is just as applicable to us today as it was in 1632. That is because the Word of God is unchanging. I can stake my life and my eternal future on the plenary Word of God and be secure for time and eternity. A thousand years after I have died, the requirements for eternal life will be the same. THAT is inspiring!