Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Isadore's Cookbook

Buckeye Cookery Book.

I remember when my Mom brought this particular book home. Unwrapping it carefully, she held it in her hands as she looked upon it with absolute love and adoration. I could almost hear the celestial voices singing in the background...yes, it was one of those kinds of moments. When it came to collecting and reading cook books in particular my Mom had a "kid-in-a-candy-store"  glee about her.  She told me once, when she was very young, that someone asked her which of her teeth was the sweet one. She thought about it, then opened her mouth wide and pointing said 'all of them'.  It was much the same with her cookbooks when someone asked which one was her favorite. The ones though with the splattered and liquid dimpled pages, the ones with the handwritten notations and recipes in the margins, with cutouts from newspapers glued on the inside covers, the old ones, those were the ones that made her heart pitter-pat...the ones that had been used and loved by other women.

This particular book was much loved; the cover is no longer attached and has what appears to be old brown paper glued to the back and front covers which is now smooth and cracked, weathered and peeling away from the scuffed and rounded corners and edges. The title was a mystery. There is no spine, just open threads and paper, no title page survived inside. However there was a clue, an intriguing dedication;
                                                   "To the Plucky Housewives
                                                                of 1876,
                                         Who master their work instead of allowing
                                                  their work to master them,
                                                    this book is dedicated."

There was also a signature on the inside cover, lightly written in pencil, to whom the book belonged; 
                                             "Mrs. I.A. Morrow, Yankton, 1878"

Mrs. I.A. Morrow Yankton, 1878.
      I have thought about this book often and came across it in a box a couple of weeks ago. I knew that I wanted to write about it on this blog so I got to work and did some research into both the book and the woman. I made some interesting discoveries....

The book itself is called "The Buckeye Cookery...with Hints on Practical Housekeeping". It was first written by the ladies of the First Congregational Church of Marysville, Ohio (about an hour from where I now live) as a fundraiser to build a new parsonage. It was a great success and the ladies raised $2,000.00. A Mrs. Estelle W. Wilcox ,who was quite involved with the book from the beginning, and her husband recognized the potential of the book and bought the rights to it. They then moved to Minnesota and published the book and subsequent editions for the next 28 years, Estelle at the helm. One can imagine the voice of authority when you read; "Let all things be done decently and in order and the first to put in order when you are going to bake is yourself." This was from the longest chapter in the book, 41 pages, dedicated to "cake-making". There are 46 chapters in all plus an index, a total of 464 pages. There are chapters on catsup's and sauces, pickles and canning fruits; as well as housekeeping, butter-making, hints for the sickroom, and management of help. How many cookbooks tell you the best way to survive a "runaway" horse and wagon? Stay in the vehicle and do not jump is the answer. 

Handwritten recipes.
In a back portion of the book the publisher left 15 empty lined pages so that one could include their own recipes. Here is where Isa (sometimes noted as Ida on census forms) jotted down her recipes for
Sweet Potato pudding, washing fluid, pudding sauce, "a delicate omelet", ginger cookies, steamed graham pudding (she loved puddings) and there is even a numbered recipe from Petty's Centennial Prize soap bearing her signature glued on the last page. She had to sign the form promising not to divulge the recipe to anyone outside of her own family and it was signed by an agent of the company.

So my next step was to look for information on Mrs. I.A. Morrow. Years ago when Mom first brought the book home I did a search for Yankton and discovered it was in the Dakota territories. On an 1880 census for the area I found one Isadora A. Morrow age 36, living in Yankton with her husband S.J. Morrow and three children; Nellie age 11, Percy, age 6 and Earl age 4. Isa's birth year was about 1844 in Ohio and her parents were originally from New York and she was listed as a "house keeper" which meant Mother. And that was all I found...then. So where to look now I thought to myself?

I decided to look for her husband, S.J. Morrow. I came across an odd little biography on a historical society site. It mentioned something about how he got some wonderful "views" of this area and that site. I didn't understand what they meant. So I kept going. and I discovered his name was Stanley Morrow and he was born on May 3, 1843 in Richland, Ohio. He moved west to Madison, Wisconsin in 1854 and joined the army, the 7th Wisconsin Regiment of Volunteers, where he served for the next 4 years. Upon leaving the service he married Isadore (a) Ketchum on the 31st of Dec. 1865. This was in the History of S.E. Dakota, 1881. While serving in the army he was the assistant to the famous Civil War photographer Mathew Brady and in turn became a photographer himself.

Stanley J. Morrow, photographer.
At some point he and his young wife Isa and their daughter Nellie moved further west to Yankton, Dakota territories and set up shop. He taught Isa all about the photography process and while he was out and about Montana and the Dakota's taking pictures she ran the business and studio. She also had Percy in August of 1875 and Earl in February of 1877.
In fact, Stanley Morrow became rather a famous western photographer himself, most notably of the military expedition by Gen Crook in 1876 during the great Sioux Indian wars and the "clean up" photo's taken after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Gen Custer's last stand. He is also known for his photographs of Native Americans, views of Fort Keogh, and scenes of Montana and the Dakota's.

Yankton, Dakota territory, later SD. 1876.

Just for some sort of historical timeline and just what it was like to live in Yankton, which was the territorial capital at this time, these events show what life was really like in the wild west. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874. It became a thriving river port, with steamboat landings on the Missouri river by the 1880's.  Another claim to fame was the trial and hanging of Jack McCall in 1877, who murdered Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood City in 1876.

In 1881 there was a great flood on the Missouri River with great ice blocks crushing many of the steamboats and flooding the town. It was never the same after that, the trains started to take over the moving of goods across land instead of down the rivers. By 1882 it was remarked that Isa gave up the photography business herself and by 1883 her health was failing and the family decided to move to Florida.

Stanley died in Dallas, Texas in 1921 and is buried there at the historic Greenwood cemetery. Isadore offered his collection for sale in 1923 and later passed away in Santa Ana, CA circa 1926 at the age of 82. I have not found any other information for the years in between 1883 and their deaths.
Nor have I found where she is buried.

On the list of the 70 images that survive of Stanley's photo's there are two that are supposed to be of Isadore, one of which is described as her being seated on a wagon with their daughter Nellie behind her in a place called Prickly Pear Canyon. The other is a portrait of her. I'd like to see them someday, they are in the archives of the Montana Historical society.

What a life Isa lived...and throughout all of her travels she carried this book. She carefully noted her recipes;  Sauce for puddings. Two teacupfuls of sugar, one wineglassful of wine, melted together and a tablespoonful of flour mixed in a cup of cold water and poured in. Season with nutmeg."  She cooked for her family, kept her house, and took care of her loved ones during illnesses, she traveled by wagon, took photographs alongside her husband in beautiful country, managed a studio, made her own washing liquid and raised her children. I'd say she was one "plucky" housewife and quite a woman!

Thanks Mom...

Note; Her name appears as Isadore, Isadora, Isa and Ida as these are all of the various names I came across on the documentation mentioning her.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Within the past few weeks I have been finding nests, empty nests. So many in fact that I began to think, "OK Universe, what message are you trying to send to me?"  I found them here and there blown from trees, looking empty and sad. One day I kept going back to one in particular. I looked at it again and again, thought about it and finally felt compelled to go pick it up. The nest was well woven, thick and strong in my hands. It had good bones. Instantly an idea popped into my head and that thought was that I needed to fill this nest with something, something positive and happy. It was to be an act of intention. So the nest went home.
Later that same day I also found a perfect little wren egg nestled in the grass, it was speckled and dear. There was a small hole pecked into the side so perhaps another bird stole the precious life before its time in order to sustain its own. I couldn't help but feel that this too was another message.
Eggs in many cultures are representatives of fertility and new growth, hope. What do I want to resurrect in my own life? What do I want to give birth to? How do I go about nurturing that which I need in my own life so that I can grow and become? 
My first thought was that I needed to fill it with love. My Mother always collected heart rocks and I had three that were about the size of eggs. The first is a green stone that she always carried with her and I figured the color green was perfect to symbolize fertility and growth (not actual fertility, I'm a little too old to go down that road at this stage in my life, thank you very much!) and healing.
 The second, a bright yellow sandstone heart decorated with delicate flowers, is a happy stone. To me it represents inspiration and communication since I love to write, garden and create art. 
The third is a small glass heart with yellow stripes. Glass is fragile, transparent, and beautiful. Glass encompasses the qualities of sincerity and purity. Yellow represents being positive and optimistic.
I choose three because that is the number of new beginnings, of creativity and renewal. I have been working with the energy of air, with birds, within the element of Air for some years now as I rebuild and re-envision my life. So three is also one of new vision for me, what do I "see" for this next stage of my life?  

Placing the nest on my shelf I nestled the three hearts within and lit a candle and meditated upon filling the nest with love and beauty.
Just yesterday I was working on my vegetable garden, preparing the soil and planting seeds. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two Robins come to rest on top of a large bush that grows next to the patio and the back door of the house. They dove into the bush. I crept over and peered through the branches and there, towards the top was a nest and a little bird was looking directly at me with big eyes. It filled me with hope and happiness.
Sometimes life is like a tree in a windstorm, we are sent thrashing around as we try to
 hang on, not wanting change, resolute that we know best.  We most often times will break under the pressure. If we can learn to let ourselves be free to bend with the changing winds we can withstand just about anything. We may loose a few branches and leaves but our trunk, our foundation remains standing strong.
Looking at the nest it reminds me of my own life. I have been rather unsettled these past two years. I left my home, my choice, to try something new. It hasn't been easy leaving everything I knew behind in search of something...else. I seek my Self, my authentic self, that voice in my heart searching for that which makes me truly happy and fulfilled. But, I am strong like this nest. It was torn by the wind from its tree but its strong foundation kept it whole, kept it intact. It has a new home, a new life and it is filled with new dreams now.....

Friday, March 6, 2015

Her Name was Mary, and Hers was Clara

Grave stone of Mary, Mrs. J.E. Townsend, Mammoth Lakes, CA.

When I lived in the town of Mammoth Lakes, CA, high in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, I came across this lone grave nestled amongst the pine trees up off the road on the way to the lakes basin. It was near an area called the old Mill site, an area that once hosted a large mining operation in the late 1870's. Intrigued as to why this young woman was buried by herself on the side of a mountain I decided to do some digging, and no not literally but rather into her history. It saddened me too that she was only referred to as "Mrs. J.E. Townsend:," I needed to know her name. There is power in your name and she was obviously a strong woman if she found her self in these remote and high mountains in the 1880's.

In a book that I picked up from a local antique store called "A Child Goes Forth" (now known as "Doctor Nellie" published in 1934) I came across the story of  Mrs. Townsend. Dr. Helen MacKnight, a local, early woman doctor, had recounted the story told to her by an old prospector known as "Old Charley". He had been friends and a business (mining) partner of Townsend's throughout the mining camps in Nevada and Northern California. Townsend met and married a beautiful young woman and brought her to Pine City, the mining camp located in what became Mammoth Lakes. They were very much in love and he wanted her to leave for the winter but she refused. She wanted to stay by his side. Well that particular winter proved to be very difficult with storm after storm and deep snows. The last storm was said to have left 6' of snow and they were desperately hungry. So the men decided they would go attempt to shoot some rabbits. While he was cleaning his gun a shell got stuck in his rifle and the gun went off and killed his wife.

Sierra's around Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Charley said Townsend went just about out of his mind with grief. They couldn't bury her body. So they had to bury her body temporarily in a hole in the snow and then stake the spot and keep the coyotes out of it and wait for spring. Charley ended up nursing his friend throughout most of the winter and watching over him so that he wouldn't kill himself. Finally in the Spring they were able to take her down to the flat and bury her. She was from back East Charley said and she was always talking about having a little house with a white picket fence around it so they built one around her grave. Eventually Townsend left the area because it was too painful for him to remain. Her name was Mary... and she was just 34 when she died.

All the years that I lived in Mammoth I would make a small wreath of flowers and bring it to Mary's grave in the Spring. This stone and fence (not picket) was built in the 60's by a local craftsman. The name Mary has its origins in Egyptian and meant simply Love. How apropos.

Now I find myself in Ohio and I wander and explore the many pioneer cemeteries scattered across the
countryside here. One day, in the small town of Verona I came across a large monument dedicated to the McGrew's. The stone announced that the couple had been "massacred at Taiama" and that they had been missionaries in West Africa. I was intrigued and had to know more.

Clara McCoy McGrew, Verona, Ohio.

Clara lived the life of a simple farmers daughter until she met and married her husband Lowrey in 1883. She entered the seminary in 1886 and went on to share the pulpit and duties of her husband who became a minister. They were members of the United Brethren in Christ church and became active in missionary work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The Brethren are German Baptists, also referred to as "Dunkers" because they believe in triple immersion as well as non resistance, they were pacifists.
The Rev. Lowery McGrew and his wife Clara B McCoy McGrew were killed in May of 1898 during an uprising. Apparently they were taken by canoe to an island in the middle of the Taia River and there they were beheaded and their bodies thrown into the river, and were never recovered. I found this information in the History of the Woman's Missionary Association of the United Brethren in Christ archive online.
The name Clara means "bright and clear" and I can imagine, looking at her picture, that she was both of those things and much more.

I find great inspiration in both of these women's stories; courage, conviction, strength, daring, and dedication. They both died in their 30's and both tragically, and in a time when women had few rights they were both determined pioneers. Both followed their hearts and that is what is most important.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Heart and Life Abloom

Rose Mallow, Wegerzyn Gardens, Dayton, Ohio.

 Flowers have always held me in a state of inspired fascination. It is much more than just a surface admiration for their beauty and charm. With me it runs deeper still, it's a spiritual connection if you will. Flowers and representations of flowers have been at the fore front of my life; early childhood memories spent in the garden with both Grandfathers and my Mom; thirty plus years as a professional floral designer; even to the beaded Native American medicine bag that came into my hands years ago. Flowers have become a personal symbol and extended expression of my journey.

Rose Mallows, Wegerzyn Gardens, Dayton, Ohio.

My Swedish Grandfather was three kinds of an engineer, an inventor, an artist, a blacksmith, and an avid gardener and gentleman farmer. The family farm was in upstate Massachusetts and it was where he artfully designed and planted his four acres of gardens and orchards. White picket fences acted as backdrops to his flowers and white benches were strategically placed for maximum viewing and enjoyment. An expanse of green lawn further highlighted the colorful flower gardens and led one to the fruit orchards and vegetable plots. It had flow. Each area had its own magic; the apple and pear trees that snowed white blossoms in the late spring; the cool and feathery asparagus patch where as a child I could hide beneath the towering stalks; stately old trees that dumped mountains of leaves which we grand kids jumped in merrily every Autumn; even descending into the root cellar was an adventure. It lay beneath the kitchen and one entered through a wooden door from the outside. I remember the smell of earth, potatoes and dill in particular. Grandmother put up shelf after shelf full of canning jars that held the fruits and vegetables gleaned from their land.

Grandfather's flowers though were his labor of love; bright orange Oriental Poppies, stately Gladioli, showy Dahlias and Peonies, but the showstoppers were his Bearded Iris. I was four years old when I experienced my first flower that captivated my heart. It was a deep purple and heavily ruffled iris. I couldn't take me eyes away from it as I absorbed every detail, every ruffle and flounce. Grandpa told me the story of Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow and how her chariot would fly across the sky leaving a trail of bright colors in its wake and how the flowers grew where the rainbow colors touched the earth. The name Iris meant "Eye of Heaven". It was magic to me.

Black Iris.

My Dad's father was a machinist all of his life until he retired and went to work in a garden nursery. It was his bliss and in his blood as he had come from a long line of New England farmers. Every Spring and Summer he brought flat after flat of annuals to my mother for her garden. Dusky blue Ageratum, sweet smelling Alyssum; Petunias and Marigolds, Pansies and Johnny-Jump-Ups. Her special treat was Martha Washington Geraniums, her favorites. We'd all get down on our knees and get our hands in the soil together. We were encouraged to be creative, plant where we liked, create  pleasing designs. Being in nature, always surrounded by flowers and my family made for a happy childhood.

Swallowtail Butterfly.

As a teenager, who never seemed to fit, nature was my go-to place. I always had a special affinity towards Lilacs. I'll never forget one particular home (we were transferred a lot) that had a wall of old lilac bushes that ran the entire length of the property. White, light lavender and dark purple drifts of blooms sent wafts of alluring fragrance throughout the house every time the wind blew. It always drew me outside and I would go and crawl underneath into the cool caves that formed beneath the bushes. I'd lie there on my back looking up through the branches, perhaps bring a book and read and it always made me feel better. Lilacs have a peaceful aura. 

Funny how things work out...my first job, after school, was working for a large grocery chain. My first month was spent bagging groceries, stocking, and learning the cash register. One afternoon though I was told to go help out in the floral department. I happily spent my time watering plants, changing the water in the flower buckets and loved every minute. I apparently made a good impression and was moved there permanently much to my delight. My teachers were the older florists and I learned how to make corsages and boutonniere's by sheer repetition. I took to design like a duck to water. Who was to know that my after school job would lead me to a thirty year career as a florist. To be creative and be surrounded by flowers was perfect.

I remember, many years ago, listening to an interview with a Native American totem pole carver and he said that he would spend time with the tree and listen to the wood and then release the figures within, and his approach resonated within me. I design this way, I listen to how the flowers want to express themselves. I am merely taking direction from them.

Medicine Bag with flower bead work.

As I have always been drawn to flowers so too have I been drawn to Native American culture. Years ago, while living in Texas, I was spending an afternoon walking around a large antique mall when my eye caught sight of a medicine bag partially concealed on a shelf within a cabinet. I figured it would be too expensive for my purse so I kept walking but something kept drawing me back. Upon finding the dealer in his booth I asked to see it and my heart skipped a beat when he placed it in my hands. The front of the bag had a white beaded flower on a turquoise field surrounded by rings of blue, red and yellow. It had distinctive beaded flaps with tassels that I had never seen before. It spoke to me. I asked what he wanted for it. When I heard his answer I figured that he either had no value for it himself or he was giving me a break. It was all I could do to not cart wheel down the aisle as I went to pay the $15.00 price! I have been told that it is brain tanned and was a probably a personal piece, not one made to sell. I have treasured it all these years and feel that it is a woman's piece, the energy is feminine. I consider it a gift from Spirit. How apropos that it should have a flower design?

In sacred geometry the Flower of Life is a divine pattern. From a geometric standpoint all of the building blocks of creation are found within this pattern and make up the whole thus it symbolizes that everything within the Universe is connected. It is a pattern replicated both in nature and in the art of many different cultures. The image below was found in India. Others have been found in Turkey,
Egypt, in the temple of Osiris; Japan and China; and various parts of the Middle East from Israel, to Morocco, to Syria. Other examples have been found in Scandinavia, Greece and Italy, Albania, Austria and Scotland and the list goes on.
 It has been used as a symbol by alchemists, Masons and the Knights Templar. Even Leonardo da Vinci studied the Flower of Life.  
Flower of Life pattern from India.
 To me it is a symbol of life in its entirety, a spinning wheel of movement and growth that radiates outward in continuous circles. I believe that it is the key to the theory of Lumen Naturae, the light hidden within; it is our spiritual mission to release our own light, our inspired Self. To do this we must discover that which makes us 'shine' and 'radiate' with love and share it outwards. We each can be a bloom within the beautiful garden that is this Earth.