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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kansas Trip

Two weeks, 450 pictures, and 3300+ miles later, I'm back. The trip to Kansas has been a dream for years and now it is a memory. How much do you want to hear? You can choose to stop reading whenever you wish.
We left home on May 16 and spent the weekend with Cheryl and her family in Ohio. There was a heavy frost when we left there on Monday morning (18th) and that was the last we wore any kind of sweater of jacket. That whole week was warm and sunny. We could not have asked for nicer weather.
We stopped at one cemetery at Lancaster, Ohio, which I had missed when we were there last summer and then went on to visit some of Leroy's cousins at Bainbridge, Ohio. His cousin, Chester Martin, took us around their community and showed us where people live, the produce market, bakery, grocery & craft store, etc. We stopped at Mahlon Stauffers and thoroughly surprised them. She used to paint things for me when they lived at Ephrata. Chester's brother, Eugene, and his wife as well as Leroy's cousin Elise (Sensenig) and Paul Stauffer, were also at Chester's for supper. Those cousins had a rollicking good time visiting. We could hardly tear ourselves away to make it to our motel in Erlinger, Kentucky, by bedtime.
On Tuesday we visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky. There are beautiful gardens outside the museum. It is well worth your time if you get a chance to go there.
Wednesday (20th) we drove from Louisville, Kentucky, to Latham, Missouri, where another of Leroy's cousins lives. Shannon and Miriam (Stauffer) Zimmerman moved out there more than 30 years ago. Their church has gone from a few families meeting in their house to a congregation of about 150. They took us around the neighborhood and gave us supper. I knew some of the history of that area so we stopped at a couple of the oldest Mennonite churches in that area, built in the 1870s. After supper we went to another cemetery where I knew someone was buried. Shannon owns over 500 acres of land plus the four acres where their new house is built. They know the area well.
On Thursday (21st) we drove to a spot a little west of Coffeyville, Kansas, where Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie stands. The lady who works in the gift shop there declares the house actually stood half-a-mile away where she lives. Whether or not the log cabin is on the exact right spot did not matter to me. The house has been recreated the way Laura described it in her book and the prairie across the road has been returned to its native state. That is good enough to give a person an idea of how it looked when Laura lived there.

On our way from the Little House to Newton, we stopped at Neodesha where Leroy wanted to see a guy about Novo engines. It was 9 p.m. when we finally got to the home of our hosts, Ed and Marge Harms, in Newton. They had invited us to stay with them and only on the last day did I learn they are listed in Mennonite Your Way. They were wonderful hosts and did everything imaginable for us. They had plans to be away overnight on Friday night but gave us the key to their house and insisted we stay there anyway.

Friday (22nd) was our flexible day. We began with a lengthy breakfast with about a dozen people at The Bread Basket in Newton. Then Ivan & Bert Bontrager (sitting next to Leroy) took us to the Mennonite Heritage Museum at Gossel.

The museum at Gossel features the history of the Russian Mennonites who settled there in the 1870s after coming in by train to Peabody. Two entire congregations immigrated together. One of the immigrants brought with him the Turkey Red seed wheat which turned the Midwest into the breadbasket of America. Although our interest was not as much in the Russian Mennonites as in the ones who had migrated to the area earlier from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, it is still part of the local history out there and was interesting to see. The Russian Mennonites had some customs which are different from those in our German background. For example, this is the roller they used to thresh wheat. It was hitched behind a horse and dragged over the stalks.

After we finished at Gossel, we went through the Kauffman Museum which is across the street from Bethel College in North Newton. They have a larger display of Mennonite artifacts than at Gossel. The Martyrs Mirror collection is housed there. They have seven of the copper plates used to print the pictures in the Martyrs Mirror in Holland in the 1600s. We were there until it closed and then went for supper and hung out with the rest of the crowd who were staying at the motel. More people kept dribbling in through the evening.

Saturday (23rd) was the big Good Tour of the Peabody area. Meredith Mauck, who was hosting the reunion weekend, had arranged to have one of the school busses provide our transportation. We got a real taste of Kansas! Most of the roads we drove on were dirt roads and clouds of dust blew right through the open windows. Don Good, who was the tour leader, planned a route that included family farms, Mennonite churches, and cemeteries. One of the most tragic Kansas pioneer stories was told at this little Brunk family cemetery where the father and siblings of George R. Brunk I are buried.

Henry G. Brunk contracted Typhoid Fever from drinking contaminated water along the way as he took his family from Illinois to Kansas. Most of the family were sick when they arrived. Henry hurriedly threw up a crude shelter and died eight days later, on October 21, 1873. He was buried on a corner of his new farm. A few weeks later, Henry's wife, Susan, gave birth to a son whom she named Henry Jr. In December two of the daughters also died and were buried beside their father. Henry Jr. died when he was four months old and was the fourth Brunk to be buried here. Susan was left with only four children, one of whom was George R. and also expected to die. But he survived and went on to became a well known bishop of the Mennonite churches in central Kansas and later in Virginia. His son, George R. Brunk II followed in his footsteps and was a well known evangelist.
The bus tour included one totally unplanned surprise. We started going down a dry country road when the bus hit a soft spot and all four wheels sank. The first tractor which came by and tried to pull us out was not powerful enough to do the job. The farmer went home and got a bigger tractor which effortlessly pulled us out.

Sunday morning (24th) we went to the Grace Hill Mennonite Church with Ed & Marge Harms. Grace Hill is one of the churches which immigrated en masse from Russia. Ed's ancestors were among them. After church we returned to the Peabody Elementary School for the Good reunion. The nine grandchildren of Isaac B. Good are the nucleus of this reunion, but other more distant cousins also attended. One of the Good traditions is homemade ice cream and they far exceeded the need by providing nine freezers of ice cream. After the reunion we made a short run to Hutchinson to see what we were told are the biggest grain elevators in the world. One row is a half-mile long, and there was more than one row. Hutchinson was the furthest west we traveled.

On Monday morning (25th) we began our trek back east. We stopped at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Strong City, Kansas, and took a free bus tour of the prairies. The bus took us way out back where nothing could be seen except the rolling prairies and cattle grazing. It was beautiful in its own way. Leroy wanted to see the Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City but we missed the last tour by 45 minutes. They made an unannounced early closing because it was Memorial Day. So we drove east a couple hours instead and stopped at Columbia, Missouri.

Tuesday (26th) we drove to Carbondale, Illinois, where I wanted to stop at a cemetery. Joanna Coughanour, the sister of my great-great-grandfather, Josiah Powl, is buried there. It was raining when we got into town but by the time we had lunch and found the cemetery the rain had stopped. The longer we were there the brighter the sun shone. So I did not get drenched and got some nice pictures of the stones. From there we went to my cousin Anna & Vernon Weaver at Bluford, Illinois, where we spent the night. They have been living in Illinois for 34 years and this is the first time we got there to see them.

Wednesday (27th) was my big research day. I had been searching for years for the burial place of Lavina Griffith (a sister of Joanna and Josiah). The last trace I had of her was in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1880. About a month before we left I got a tip that told me she was buried in Paris, Illinois (20 miles west of Terre Haute), where both she and Joanna had lived for about 15 years. I made a quick stop at the public library in Paris and then went to the Genealogical Library a few blocks down the street. I spent a couple hours looking at their records of the Edgar Cemetery (which is a HUGE city cemetery) and marking the spots on a cemetery map which I wanted to visit. Leroy waited patiently and went for some lunch while I worked. Then we went out to the cemetery and walked two hours to find all the stones I wanted to see. I took about 100 pictures in that cemetery alone. After years of searching, I finally found Lavina's resting place which also told me her birth and death dates. She was the hardest to find, but now I have seen all the places where Josiah and his siblings are buried---Lancaster County, Pa., Stark County, Ohio, Jackson and Edgar Counties, Illinois. Many of the descendants of both Joanna and Lavina are buried in this cemetery. One of them was actually buried while we were there.

I ended the research day at the Vigo County Public Library in Terre Haute, Indiana, where I found Lavina's obituary on a microfilm of the 1884 newspaper. I could not find one for her husband who died in 1874. Obituaries were rather sketchy in those days. I also found a few other things at the library. They have the largest historical section I have ever seen in a public library. I could have spent days there! It was 8 p.m. when I decided I must quit. I was too tired to drive east as I thought we might, so we got supper and a motel right in town. This day was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

On Thursday (28th) we drove back to Cheryl's place in Ohio and spent the night there. We left around 7:30 Friday morning and drove the last stretch home. It was a great trip. My dreams have become memories that will keep forever. We met a lot of friendly folks and I owe them a debt of gratitude for making our visit to Kansas such a pleasant experience.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Go West!

Everything on my job list is crossed off. Our bags are packed except for the last minute things. Take off is scheduled for 7:30-8 a.m. tomorrow. I don't have a laptop so unless I can hock the use of a computer somewhere, posting will be scanty (or none) until after May 29.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three For Breakfast

Back in the early 1970s my dad bought a movie camera to take pictures on their trip to Israel. He had a Super-8 projector to show the pictures and then also bought a few cartoon films to show to his grandchildren---Pooh Bear, Three Little Pigs, etc. Those films became a standard part of the afternoon at the family Christmas dinner. Everyone knew what would happen next because watched them every year, but we never got tired of them. Of course the films were all silent, but the watching children provided sound effects.
I think the favorite of all was Three For Breakfast. Yesterday I found it on YouTube. Some sounds have been added but the pictures are exactly the same as the film we watched over and over. I tried to embed the film in this post but for some reason the entire link wouldn't copy. So I went with Plan B. If you click on the link below you can watch Three For Breakfast on YouTube. It will bring back memories to those of you who watched it with the family every year. And maybe the rest of you will see why we loved this one.

Novo Engine

For a change, this post is about Leroy's activities instead of mine. He's been collecting parts since last summer to make a garden-tractor-size John Deere B. He saw one at a show that had an old Novo engine which sounds just like a John Deere, so he started watching for a Novo engine. He bought this one at a sale the end of February. He saw more potential in it than I did.

It did not run when he brought it home and he wasn't sure how much it will cost him to get it going. He's been tinkering with it. First he got it loose so it turns. Then he took off the muffler and cleaned out the cherry seeds some rodent had packed in there all the way into the engine. Last evening he tinkered some more and got it to spark. It looks like he may not have to spend a lot of money after all to get it going. It should sound like this when he's finished.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ready, Set

This is the countdown. There are five days left before take off.
We've been dreaming for years of taking a trip to the Midwest "sometime." The longer we dreamed and talked, the longer the list became of places and people we want to see. The trigger that finally got us to set a time to go was an invitation from Meredith Mauck to spend Memorial Day weekend with them in Kansas. We have flown over and driven all around Kansas but never set foot on the soil. My original idea was to go to the Little House in Coffeyville, Kansas, just so I could say I was in Kansas, and then head back east. But the invitation from Meredith has extended the time in Kansas a few days and will take us a little further west to the Mennonite area around Newton and Peabody.
One of the high priorities for me on this trip was to find Levina (Good-Powell) Griffith's death date and burial place. The last trace I had of her was in the 1880 Census in Terre Haute, Indiana. I was planning to allow three days to look for clues in a library and the couthouse. Leroy doesn't mind helping to look for gravestones in cemeteries but he was groaning about waiting a couple days while I dig through old books. Now he doesn't have to. About a month ago I got a tip that led me back to her former residence in Paris, Illinois. After years of searching, I now know she is buried in the Edgar Cemetery and we can go directly there.
Here is the itinerary I have planned. (Some things could change as we go.)
May 16-17--Spend the weekend with our daughter, Cheryl, and family in Antrim, Ohio
Monday, 18th--Stop at a cemetery south of Lancaster, Ohio; go on to Bainbridge, Ohio, to visit a couple of Leroy's cousins; spend the night in Erlanger, Kentucky
Tuesday, 19th--Spend the day at the Creation Museum and the night at Louisville, Kentucky
Wednesday, 20th--Drive to Leroy's cousin at Latham, Missouri, and spend the night there
Thursday, 21st--Drive to Coffeyville, Kansas and see the Little House on the Prairie; drive to Newton, Kansas and check into our Kansas "home" with Ed and Marge Harms
May 22-25---Sightseeing in Kansas and visiting with our friends; spend the night of 25th somewhere in Missouri
Tuesday, May 26--Drive to Carbondale, Illinois, and visit the Oakwood Cemetery where Joanna (Good-Powell) Coughanour and some of her descendants are buried; spend the night with my cousin in Bluford, Illinois
Wednesday, May 27--Visit the Edgar County Genealogy Library in Paris, Illinois, and then the Edgar Cemetery where Levina (Good-Powell) Griffith and her descendants are buried
Thursday, May 28--Drive back to Ohio and spend the night with Cheryl again
Friday, May 29--Drive home

Friday, May 8, 2009

Three Old Ladies

I grew up attending a little Mennonite church in a little town. Sallie Schaeffer, Florence Graff, and Sallie Balthazer were three old ladies from town who were not members but attended our services every Sunday. I have good memories of each of them.
Sallie Schaeffer lived just down the street, within sight of the church, and for years was our self-appointed janitor. She cleaned the building, mowed the grass, turned on the heat, and generally watched over the place. I have a big old antique mirror in my bedroom which used to hang inside her front door. She always had bunches of dried Money Plant at the top of the mirror. I also have some Mountain Pinks which came from the rock garden behind her house. I thought of Sallie this week when I was weeding my rock garden.
Florence Graff (she used the German spelling of Groff) lived down the street on the opposite side of the church. I remember going to her house for a Sunday dinner. That was the first time I had mashed potato filling which is a Berks County PA Dutch specialty. I have made it many times since.
Sallie Balthazer lived across the street from the church. She was the oldest of the three ladies. Her hands were crippled by arthritis. With her thick PA German accent she used to moan, "Ach, I have the arseritis so." It's been a long time coming, but since I started having pain in my hands a couple weeks ago I am finally beginning to realize how much she suffered. My fingers aren't crooked like hers were but I'm already saying, "Ach, I have the arseritis so."
Those three old ladies are long gone but their fingerprints are on my life. And (can it be??)now I'm one of the old PA Dutch Berks County ladies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swine Flu

Here's how it started

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Grandpa & Grandma Size

The garden is planted at last. We got the vegetables planted the beginning of the week and then Leroy seeded the top half in grass. This is the third time the garden has been cut in half. This picture looks like the new lawn section is bigger than what is left of the garden, but that is due to the angle from which it was taken. Gene stepped it off before we planted and the remaining garden is just as big as the newly seeded grass section. Gerald got a couple bales of straw from one of his farmer friends and spread it over the grass. With the cloudy skies and showers we're having, the new grass should come up quickly and we'll have a Grandpa-size garden.
And here is my Grandma-size strawberry patch. When I was young and foolish I planted 100 strawberry plants in the garden. I don't know what I was thinking when I did that. We had strawberries for everybody and their brother! I gave up having a strawberry patch perhaps six or eight years ago. We missed having fresh strawberries of our own when they are in season but I can no longer keep a patch weeded all summer. This year I got the bright idea to put a couple strawberry plants in this big pot behind the house. They will survive the winter and eliminate the need to buy annuals to plant in that pot every year. And we can have a taste of fresh strawberries in season. It takes so little to keep me busy these days!