An American Story…and Grandma Minnie’s Cookies

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This post will be a bit of a departure from those I typically write. As I have listened to the various voices concerning the issues surrounding immigration, I have begun to think of my own family, one that has been a part of the American fabric for many generations. But way back in the 1800’s, my family were immigrants, too. So, I decided to dig deep into the boxes I have that are full of pictures and memorabilia, nudging my memories, and giving me new understandings about the generations that came before me.

It is not a particularly exciting American story. It is, rather, a fairly ordinary story of people looking for a better life, a new home, a better place to settle and raise a family. So many other Americans have a very similar, pretty ordinary story. That is part of who we are as a people, a nation…that our ancestors were able to come here with little drama, but a whole lot of yearning.

“Abba, lieber Vater, Amen”…this is the very first prayer I ever learned. It is the prayer my father taught me when I was very young. His is the family about which I know the most. His ancestry was German and Prussian.

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My father was born in Redbud, Illinois. He was the second child, and the oldest son of my grandparents. Theirs was a German Lutheran family, and the church was the center of their religious life, as well as their social life.

It always amazes me to hear people talk about how important it is for immigrants to learn to speak English. Well, of course it is! English is the language spoken in this county. But when western European immigrants came to this country, they more often than not, did not speak English, and they worked hard to learn English after their arrival. But they also hung on to their mother tongue, always using it in their homes, teaching it to their children, and in German Lutheran communities, they attended worship services conducted in German. My dad, who was born in America, and my grandparents, who were also born here, attended German church services in Wartburg, Illinois for many years. Until my father was nine years old, and he moved to Detroit, he attended German Lutheran school, where all the classes were in German, while the students also learned to speak a better English. I always thought it was really impressive that my dad was bilingual. I did not, however, think it cool when he and my grandparents spoke German to one another, so that my siblings and I could not understand what they were saying.

So my father teaching me a simple German prayer was not a sign that he was not a “real American”. It was his attempt to bring me into the history of the family, his way of sharing with me his heritage, his faith, and all the things he wished for me to understand as important.

When my father was nine, his father declared bankruptcy and lost his family farm. He moved to Detroit, where he worked for the Detroit utility company until his retirement. Grandpa was a teddy bear of a man, and I loved him dearly. When I spent the night with my grandparents, he would always take me to see the bride in the window of the bridal shop on Livernois Avenue…one of my most treasured memories. He also always took me for ice cream on our walks to the market, making me promise to never tell grandma. Somehow I always suspected she knew. He was also a proud and honest man. I was always proud of his German stubbornness and that German pride that made him pay back every penny he owed, though with his bankruptcy declaration he would have never been required to repay any of his debt.

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Though my grandparents had five children, only two of them grew to adulthood. Both my father and my uncle served in the armed forces during World War II, my dad as a Seabee, and my uncle as an Army pilot. While flying cover for General Patton’s army in the Battle of the Bulge, my uncle was shot down over enemy territory. He was reported missing and presumed dead. I always wondered how my grandmother was able to go on, having lost three children, and then learning of the assumed loss of one of the only two children she had left. And then a miracle happened. My father, stationed in Ireland, received word that it was possible his brother had been located in a hospital in France. He was given leave to check on the truth of the report, and did indeed find his brother in a French hospital with an injury to his left arm that would leave him with a lifelong disability. I can only imagine the joy that filled my grandparents house when they received the news.

And so it goes. My father and my uncle both had families, and those families now have families. We are all-American, and we seldom think about where our roots are…across the Atlantic Ocean in a far away country most of us will never see.

I guess the whole point of this post is to remind everyone that we are all from somewhere else. We are all Americans, and our ancestral traditions, the various heritages we represent, are the things about all of us that have made this American quilt, this American experiment, this American greatness, so amazing.

Don’t worry that the immigrant does not speak English upon his arrival. He will learn the language if we help him. My dad spoke German to his dying day, and he had a good command of the English language as well…I envy that.

Don’t worry that the immigrant may need assistance upon arrival. He will “pick himself up by his bootstraps” if we give him a fair chance, if we help him. My grandfather, a second generation American lost everything, and owed a lot of money to a lot of people. He not only picked himself up, he honored every debt he ever incurred. I am so very proud of this grandfather whom I adored.

Don’t worry about the honor of your own forefathers, nor grant them special commendation, who fought the wars that have kept us safe and secure between two oceans. They did not fight those wars to save this nation only for those who were already here. America is not that nation. My father and my uncle were third generation Americans who fought to save the world from the madness of World War II. Many immigrants, here in this country now, are fighting alongside natural born citizens to protect us from the madness we have in our world today, as well as the madness that comes occasionally to the home front. Turning our backs on our new immigrants will only turn them against us, and they will choose to fight against us, instead of for us. Turning our backs on refugees who want to become immigrants, as they escape the horrors in their own homelands, will have the same effect.

Wherever you come from, wherever your neighbor comes from, wherever that young family getting off that refugee flight as a new immigrant to this nation comes form, understand we can all find a place here. We can keep America as great as it has always been…as long as we realize we are all in this together! Maybe we can make it even better, by realizing that this quilt will never, ever, be quite finished.

Grandma Minnie’s Cookies…Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I first posted this recipe two years ago in one of my very first posts about growing up in Detroit. I have tweaked it a bit here, giving more complete instructions than are found on the original copy, and making it with lard rather than the drippings my grandmother often used. They are really good…they remind me of family, and they bring a smile to my face. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • Servings: 4-5 dozen cookies
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c lard
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. sour milk*
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 c. dry rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Cream together the sugar, lard, and butter.
  2. Mix in the eggs and sour milk.
  3. In another bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. Add these to the creamed mixture, and mix until combined.
  4. Stir in the rolled oats, raisins, and chopped nuts.
  5. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, greased the first time only.
  6. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes

*You can make sour milk by putting 1/2 Tbsp. of vinegar in a 1/2 c. measuring cup, then filling with milk to the top. Let sit for 5 minutes before adding to the dough.

Stonehenge x Two…and Almond Shortbread

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Several years ago, I read the novel, “Salisbury”, by Edmund Rutherford, and since then visiting Stonehenge had always been on my bucket list. This past summer I was able to realize that dream as we traveled to England to see Stonehenge and a lot more of the country of England.

Stonehenge MST

In the meantime, while I awaited our trip of a lifetime, I was able to enjoy Stonehenge on a smaller scale, right here in my own hometown. And I have been back since our trip with a newer understanding and appreciation of both Stonehenges (not sure what the plural of Stonehenge should be!)

Our Stonehenge in, Rolla, MO, sits among modern buildings. Thousands of automobiles drive past it each and every day.

Our Stonehenge in, Rolla, MO, sits among modern buildings.

My hometown Stonehenge, constructed on the campus of Missouri University of Science and Technology,  is a half scale partial reconstruction of the original in England. Its ring has a diameter of fifty feet with 29 1/2 sarsen stones that surround a horseshoe of five trilithons. Sunrise and sunset can be seen through these trilithons, which one depends on the season of the year.

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Sunrise through the southeast trilithon at Stonehenge MST

There are two features that have been added to our Stonehenge that are not part of Stonehenge in England. One is the addition of an analemma, a figure 8 carved in stones that lie behind the south facing trilithon. Each day at noon, the sun, if is it shining, casts a light through a small opening in the trilithon onto the figure 8 which corresponds to that day’s date.

The analemma behind the south facing trilithon

The analemma behind the south facing trilithon

The second feature of the Stonehenge MST that is not found on the original is the Polaris Window found on the north facing trilithon. On a clear night, a visitor will be able to observe the location of the North Star through this window.

The Polaris Window in the north facing trilithon.

The Polaris Window in the north facing trilithon.

Stonehenge, England

I was so excited about seeing the original, the authentic Stonehenge, and it did not disappoint. Stonehenge lies out in the English countryside, and the trip there was all by itself, a real treat.

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Sometimes, when you travel to a site you have looked forward to seeing for a very long time, you find you are somewhat disappointed…you have, after all, seen that place many times, depicted in many formats, and now here it is, and it is just as you had seen it pictured so often. This was not true of Stonehenge.

Of course I had seen pictures of Stonehenge many times, from many angles, but it is not the same as seeing it up close and realizing that men, not machines, were responsible for its construction. I understood that even before the bus took our group out to the site. There is a huge stone on rollers at the bus platform. It is hard to fathom how any group of men could have moved a stone weighing somewhere in the area of 40 tons to another spot, let alone then standing it on its end!

A sarsen stone on rollers...the method used to move the stones that became part of Stonehenge.

A sarsen stone on rollers…the method used to move the stones that became part of Stonehenge.

And then you finally arrive at Stonehenge. I will leave you to discover the specifics of its physical properties and the purposes for its construction with your own research. My intent in this post is to express its impact, its meaning to me as I walked on the path around it.

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Stonehenge is a magical, and for me, a very mystical place. I was struck by its size, and by the sheer strength and intense work its construction must have entailed. I was amazed at the mathematical understanding of the planners and the builders, who were able, in 2300 B.C., to put up a structure of such magnitude. I was intrigued by the religious significance of Stonehenge, and the religious beliefs of the people who gathered at this important site. And it was so old, and still so solid, so substantial, so permanent.

There is a stone a bit away from Stonehenge, called the Heel Stone. It is believed that this half buried stone, may have been there before any building began, indeed it may have been the reason the builders chose this particular spot to build Stonehenge. It is over the Heel Stone that you will see the rising midsummer sun.

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The Heel Stone at Stonehenge

And then you see them, the gatekeepers of Stonehenge, the rooks.

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Rooks are fairly large black birds, and they are everywhere around the Stonehenge structure. They do not appear to be afraid of people, and often seem to be staring down the visitors at the site. They nest in the sarsens of Stonehenge, and they were an experience I had not expected.

A rook "standing guard" atop the Heel Stone.

A rook “standing guard” atop the Heel Stone.

Rooks flying off a trilithon at Stonehenge.

Rooks flying off a trilithon at Stonehenge.

Another unexpected treat on our visit was the reconstructed neolithic buildings at the visitor center. The small village gave us all a look into the lives of the people who lived in the area, and who would have gathered at Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is a marvelous place, and our little Stonehenge here in Rolla is also worth a visit!

Afternoon Tea

While we were in England, I insisted that we have afternoon tea. All the family looked at me as if I was crazy…I absolutely do not like tea! But if you are in England, well…I was introduced to really good black tea at Harrod’s, and ever since I have enjoyed tea very much. Apparently I don’t like the tea here in the states, in a tea bag…my daughter calls me a “tea snob”.

I purchased a small cookbook, “Tea Fit For A Queen” written in association with the Historic Royal Palaces. In it I found a wonderful recipe for shortbread that goes perfectly with my afternoon tea. I have changed all the recipe amounts to the measures we use here in the United States. Enjoy!

Almond Shortbread

Almond Shortbread

Almond Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 1 stick + 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 c. caster sugar, plus extra for dusting*
  • 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. + 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. ground almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, and lightly grease an 8″ round pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium low speed until light and creamy.
  3. Sift in the flour and cornstarch, then add the ground almonds to the bowl.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture on low speed.
  5. Press the mixture evenly into the greased pan.
  6. Press a knife edge or fork along the round edge to make a pattern on the shortbread, then score into eight wedges and prick all over with a fork.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and score the shortbread again.
  8. Continue baking for 30-40 minutes or until golden around the edges.
  9. Dust with additional sugar. Cool in pan.

This shortbread can be stored for up to five days in an airtight container.

*Caster sugar is very finely granulated sugar. It is not easily found in the United States, but you can make your own caster sugar by pulsing regular granulated sugar until it appears sand like. Do not pulse too far, or you will end up with confectioner’s sugar!

 

Resilient

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Weekly Photo Challenge

Resilient…able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

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This past summer we were fortunate enough to visit England, where one of my favorite sites was Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset County. Built by the Saxons, and made even more extraordinary by the Normans, the Abbey fell victim to the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII.

Over time, the Abbey was looted of its valuables, and stripped of its lead and stone which were hauled away for buildings elsewhere. By the eighteenth century, the Abbey sat in ruins, and in the nineteenth century, the site was blown apart with gunpowder and became a quarry. In 1882, the Glastonbury Abbey came under the protection of the government and has been a preserved site ever since.

It was my favorite site because walking the grounds of the Abbey, I could not help but think of how resilient are both nature and beauty. You simply cannot destroy the beauty of what was once an incredible building, crafted by talented men who loved their work. Nor can you destroy the resiliency of nature. Nothing gave me as much pleasure as viewing the flowers that grew on the remaining stones of this once magnificent structure. Life is resilient…and it always will be!

You simply cannot destroy beauty!

Path

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I believe life is made up of choices…choices about the paths we will take as we live our lives each and every day. Some of the paths we choose are spiritual, some are physical, some are emotional, and in the end the paths we take define us. They define who we are, and they help each of us define who we will become.

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This path is from a state park near our home, where we often go to take long walks…to clear our heads, find new perspectives, and walk out our worries. And as in real life, we often run into forks in the path. On this day, a day in mid-November, we chose the path on the left, the one we knew was longer, more intense, and would allow us more time to consider the future, and our particular place and responsibility to that future. We were thinking of our children and our grandchildren, and how we can leave them a world in which to thrive, while also being kind, generous, and tolerant. Yes, it was a long walk!

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We walked this path at a nearby conservation area one very cold day last winter. As we looked at the footprints and paw prints of those who had come earlier, we were reminded that we are not the only ones to use this path…or indeed, any of the other paths along our life journey.

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This is a path I walked with my daughter and granddaughter at a conservation area near Minneapolis. Our granddaughter could hardly wait to find out what we would find behind that bend in our path. As I looked with her youthful eyes, I was reminded to always look forward…to the future, to the surprises, to the magic of the journey.

Paths are an important part of our lives, may we never avoid venturing out onto them.

Weekly Photo Challenge

Christmas at State Historic Sites, and Holiday Turkey, Act II

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Christmas in the Parks

My husband and I have been visiting our state parks here in Missouri, and state parks across the country for many years. They provide invigorating hikes, exciting wildlife viewing, and interesting and enlightening nature programs. We have also discovered that they are fun to visit as we travel to enjoy the Christmas season.

To escape the pressures of daily life,  to get away from the news, and to get a head start on our Christmas shopping, we recently traveled to Galena, Illinois. Galena is a small town in northwestern Illinois (you will find yourself only about 15 miles from the Wisconsin border).

While enjoying our weekend in Galena, and in an attempt to get me out of the stores, Jim discovered that Galena is also home to the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site. The home was built in 1860, and presented to the Grant family in 1865 in gratitude for his service in the Civil War. The family lived in the home until Grant was elected President in 1868. After his election, he visited the home infrequently, but maintained it as his voting residency.

On the particular weekend of our visit, it was open for tours…and it was decorated for the Christmas season in the manner in which the Grants would have decorated while they lived in Galena.

This weekend, we again ventured out. This time we were on our way to Hermann, Missouri to visit the Deutschheim State Historic Site. Hermann is the center of Missouri’s wine country, and so we planned on visiting a couple of wineries, too.

Deutschheim State Historic Site was established to preserve the heritage of the German immigrants who moved to east-central Missouri between 1820 and 1860. They became the residents of a new town, Hermann, founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia on 1,000 acres of farmland along the Missouri River. The crop these Germans introduced to the area was grapes, and the product they made was wine. When you visit Deutchheim, you will see some vines that are over one hundred years old, vines that helped establish the wine producing industry which is still expanding across the state. Wine is serious business in Missouri, and I can personally tell you that it is well worth your effort to experience some of our state’s great wines.

This particular weekend, Deutshheim was celebrating a Weihnachtsfest, or Christmas celebration. We toured one of the homes, decorated for Christmas, and enjoyed traditional cookies that would have been made for the Christmas celebrations of the German immigrants, including lebkuchen, chocolate lebkuchen, springerle, and pfeffernusse. They also had a display of springerle molds and rolling pins, and many of these were for sale in the gift shop. I am German from both sides of my family, and these Christmas traditions so reminded me of watching my grandmothers make springerle and lebkuchen. If I was not in the spirit before visiting Deutschheim, I certainly am in the Christmas spirit now.

One of my favorite scenes in the house was this Christmas tree, hung from the ceiling with wire. This method of putting up the tree not only saved space, it also kept little hands out of mischief.

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I also enjoyed the “real” Noble fir tree set up in the parlor. It is the type fir that was the inspiration for the “feather” trees so indicative of German Christmas tradition. It was decorated with traditional scherenschnitte ornaments (I am so German, I spelled that correctly on the first try!).

Other areas in the house were also ready for Christmas…

And then it was time for lunch and a visit to a couple of wineries…

You can find out more about each of these sites we visited by visiting their websites. Galena has a visitor guide website at http://www.visitgalena.org. You can learn more about Deutschheim at https://mostateparks.com/park/deutschheim-state-historic-site.

I would encourage all of you to check out your own state parks and historic sites this Christmas season. You might be surprised at the magical Christmas events they have to offer. Merry Christmas to all…and to all, good traveling!

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Turkey with Lemon Garlic Sauce

This is one of the very best ways I have found to use some of that leftover turkey from the holidays. It is easy to make, does not take much time, and is perfect for those evenings when you are busy, want to get dinner on the table in less than an hour, but still want a special and delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 1/2 c. turkey broth*
  • 1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 slices bacon, crisply fried and crumbled
  • 2 c. turkey, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 c. half and half
  • 1/2-1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the garlic. Saute over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the flour, cooking for 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the turkey broth, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and simmer on medium for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the bacon, turkey, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and the half and half. Simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until everything is warmed through.
  5. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice, either is great!

*I make my own turkey broth from the bones of the turkey. If you do not have turkey broth, chicken broth will do fine in this recipe.

 

Finding Your Park in Your Own Backyard, #13…A President From the Neighborhood and Ozark Pudding

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  • Adventure #12–Harry S. Truman National Historic Site

On an absolutely gorgeous October morning in our home state of Missouri…

Traveling north on US 63 as the fog lifts off the Gasconade River.

Traveling north on US 63 as the fog lifts off the Gasconade River.

—my husband, Jim, and I started out for Independence, and the home of our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman, and his wife, Bess. It was a beautiful drive across the center of the state, through farmland and small towns.

We were on our way to visit the last of our Missouri National Park sites as listed on the NPS website.  As our nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service, we decided to find our national parks…in our own backyard, our own state. What an experience it has been. We have learned so much, had so much fun, and have come away from our journeys with so much more appreciation of our nation, its natural places, its history, and its impact here and on the entire world.

When we arrived in Independence, we stopped for lunch at Cafe Verona on the city square. The grate on the front windows was very intriguing, adorned with dozens of locks. I took a picture of them and posted them to my Facebook page. I was surprised when a friend commented that there is actually a tradition to locks on bars and fences. The lock is put on by loving couples to signify that their love is for no other, and will never end.

Tokens of love on the window gates at Cafe Verona in Indepependence, MO.

Tokens of love on the window gates at Cafe Verona in Indepependence, MO.

Harry S. Truman NHS Viaitor Center

Harry S. Truman NHS Visitor Center

Our next stop was the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is located at 223 N. Main St. There we viewed a film on Truman’s life in Independence and picked up our tickets to tour the house itself.

219 N. Delaware St.

219 N. Delaware St.

The Truman home is at 219 N. Delaware St. My first impression as we drove up to the curb in front of the house was how much the area reminded me of the Midwestern neighborhood in Michigan in which I grew up, and how much it reminded me of the Midwestern neighborhood in which we raised our own five children. The house looked, and felt warm and inviting, like a place where a family really lives.

Though Harry Truman and Bess Wallace had been acquainted since childhood, it was on a day in 1910, when Harry returned a cake plate from his cousins, who lived across the street from the Wallaces, to Bess’s mother that he fell head over heels in love. After a courtship of nine years, they were married on June 28, 1919, and moved into her family’s home.

While living in the Wallace house in Independence, which became the Truman home after the death of Bess’s mother, Harry Truman opened and lost a men’s clothing store, was elected to two judgeships in Jackson County, lost one re-election bid, was elected to serve as a US senator from Missouri, and in 1944, was elected to be Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President.  While living on N. Delaware, Harry and Bess also welcomed a daughter, Margaret, their only child.

Less than three months after assuming the Vice Presidency, and following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States on April 12, 1945. It would be many years before Harry and Bess could return to their quiet, Midwestern home in Independence, MO.

But return they did, to the place they both loved best. It was amazing to me how normal a life the former first family was able to lead, though it did have its challenges. There had always been people who wanted to see the place “where the President lives.” The biggest intrusion on their quiet life had been the installation of a security fence to keep out the sightseers, especially those who thought it was okay to walk into the garden and pick one of Bess’s prized flowers. Some had even torn boards off the house. On one occasion, Bess discovered two “visitors” walking through the house!

This fence was installed around the yard to keep "visitors" at a distance.

This fence was installed around the yard to keep “visitors” at a distance.

Until 1963, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, former Presidents were not given Secret Service protection…and Harry Truman, citizen, did not like it when it did come! Secret Service agents were installed in a house across the street, which is privately owned and inhabited today. They did not come into the Truman home without an invitation, and that was rarely extended.

When you visit the Truman home today, you will see it just as it was on the last day Bess lived there. Their daughter, Margaret, helped the park service set the dining room table as her parents would have it set when the entire family was there to eat together. The same appliances, dishes, wallpaper, and furniture are just as they were. As you look into the library you will see the books each of them enjoyed. The yard has been kept as the Trumans preferred it… natural, with no fancy, formal gardens. And in the garage sits Harry’s last car, a Chrysler Newport.

Each and every day, Harry Truman took a two mile walk around Independence. You can still follow in his footsteps as you follow the signs that mark his route. You can also visit the Noland Home across the street, where Harry Truman’s cousins lived.

A visit to the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site would not be complete, however, without a stop at the Truman Library, just a couple miles away.

The Truman Library

The Truman Library

The library is a marvelous place, with displays depicting the times of the Truman Presidency. Here are a few of the memorable things you will see on a visit to the library….

You can learn more about the Truman Home and the Truman Library by visiting their websites at:

http://www.nps.gov/hstr/index.htm for the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, and

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/ for the Truman Library

This year spent visiting the national park sites in our own state of Missouri has been so rewarding. It has reminded us of how fortunate we are to live in this country, this place we call the United States of America. America is a homeland to cherish, even as we take stock of who we are as a people, learning from our mistakes, taking pride in our successes, and forever moving forward to create a better country, a better home for all of us, and all who want to become a part of us.

So go on, get online, find the national park sites in “your own backyard”, and then get out there and discover your America. Have a great time while you are traveling, exploring, and learning, gaining a new understanding of your backyard, your own state, that one that you call home!

Bess’s Ozark Pudding

It is said that when Harry felt homesick for Missouri and their house on N. Delaware Street, Bess would make him some Ozark Pudding. She would also often serve it for dessert to visitors at the White House.

I must say, it is really easy to make, but tastes like it takes a lot more time than it does. It is not like a real pudding, but rather a gooey, puddingy cake (not sure about that word, puddingy, but it fits the dish perfectly. The top is like a crusty, browned meringue. When you break into it, it falls immediately, but don’t worry, that is what it is supposed to do. Bess would have served it warm with fresh whipped cream with a bit of rum added. We ate it warmed with vanilla ice cream, and it was absolutely delicious. There was something about it that tasted very homemade and comforting. It reminded me of my childhood, eating at my Grandma’s house…love!

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Bess’s Ozark Pudding

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chopped apples
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat egg well with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar, beating constantly until light and creamy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to egg mixture, blending well. Lightly stir in apples, nuts, and vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured 1 qt. baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!

 

Finding Your Park in Your Own Backyard #12…”To Keep Missouri in the Union”, and Harvest Tomato Soup

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  • Adventure #11-Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

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As we have traveled around our state of Missouri, I have often wondered at the absence of the state’s history in the history books of our school systems across the nation. My husband and I both grew up in Michigan, went to college in Illinois, and taught in schools in Michigan, Indiana and Missouri. In all those places, in all those years, we never happened across curriculum that would inform our students, or even us personally, about the history of the Civil War as it related to Missouri. Nor was there any way for students to learn of the experiences of ordinary citizens within the state as they dealt with the consequences of the great divide between the North and the South. I have always believed that the failure to include the story of Missouri during the Civil War deprived us all of the opportunity to learn how the war affected Americans far-flung from the eastern states and eastern battlefields. The Civil War was fought across the nation with consequences still being felt today…across the nation.

As we seek to visit all the national park sites in Missouri during the Park Service’s 100th anniversary year, we find ourselves at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in southwestern Missouri. We have taken our children there many times, helping them to better understand some of the things that happened in this state they call home, and to help them understand some of the things still happening in Missouri…both good and bad. We always sought to teach them that they did not simply live in a “fly-over” state, but one that was, and is, a vital part of America.

And so, this is Missouri during the Civil War, and Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield…

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A stop along the auto tour of Wilson’s Creek battlefield-Sigel’s Final Position.

In 1820, Missouri applied for statehood as a slave state. In 1821, under the conditions of the Missouri Compromise, Missouri was admitted as a slave state, while, to maintain a balance between free states and slave states, Maine was admitted as a free state.

But as time went by, and by the time the Civil War began, a majority of Missourians had voted to stay in the Union, and were willing to fight to preserve the Union. The governor of Missouri, Claiborne Jackson, however, sympathized with the Confederacy, and was in favor of secession. The Missouri State Guard, under the command of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, was charged with the task of moving Missouri into the Confederacy. The stage was set for hostilities, and these hostilities would break out in battles near towns, as well as on fields and farms throughout Missouri.

At the beginning of August, 1861, Maj. Gen. Price and his troops were camped just outside Springfield, MO. They were preparing to attack and capture Union troops positioned at Springfield.

At the same time, Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, commander of the Union troops at Springfield was planning to attack and defeat Price’s troops in order to save Missouri for the Union.

On August 10, 1861, Lyon and his combined forces of around 6,400 men attacked the State Guard forces, 12,000 strong, at Wilson’s Creek. While Lyon and his force of 4,200 men quickly overtook Price and his men, the follow up force of around 1,200, led by Col. Franz Sigel, was unsuccessful in its assigned flanking action.

The ensuing battle lasted for more than five hours, on a field that would forever after be known as “Bloody Hill”. The advantage went back and forth between the Union and Confederate forces, but in the end, Sigel and his men fled, and Brig. Gen. Lyon was killed on the battlefield, the first general to be killed in battle in the Civil War.  All totaled, the Union lost one of every four soldiers in the battle.

"Bloody Hill", where Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, along with 1,700 Union and Conferate soldiers lost their lives during the Battle of Wilson' Creek.

“Bloody Hill”, where Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, along with 1,700 Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives during the Battle of Wilson’ Creek.

Victory in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek went to the South, but the Confederate forces were unable to pursue and totally defeat the Union army. Under the command of Maj. Samuel Sturgis, the Union troops were able to withdraw and maintain a position for the Union in the state of Missouri.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek has been called the “Bull Run of the West”,  yet very few have ever heard of it. To further understand the impact that Missouri had in the War, it should be noted that Wilson’s Creek was not the only battle fought in Missouri during the Civil War. Missouri ranked third among all the states in the number of Civil War battles within its boundaries. The battles to preserve the Union were indeed not fought only in the eastern states.

When you visit Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, you will be able to take a 4.9 mile auto tour of its important sites. You will also be able to get a feeling of what it would have been like to be a civilian living in southwestern Missouri, confronted with a terrible war in “your own backyard”. Here are some of the sites you will see, and what you will learn from them.

For years, the area around Wilson’s Creek had been home to many pioneers. They had come from the East, from the states of Kentucky and Tennessee to start a new, and hopefully prosperous, life on the fields of southwestern Missouri. The people living in the community would have walked to Gibson’s Mill for supplies, to learn of news from the outside world, and to visit with friends. It would have been a gathering place. Children of the area would have played outside, helped in the fields, and traveled to school. Families would have traveled to church services, and planned outings and picnics with other families of the area. One can only imagine the horror that filled them as they saw war break out around them, and the bodies of dead soldiers on their fields as a result of the battle.

John Ray owned a house along the Wire Road, where he lived with his wife and nine children. Part of the battle was fought in his cornfield. During the battle, his wife, children, his slave Aunt Rhoda, and her four children all hid in the cellar of the house. During the battle, the Ray House became the field hospital. It was here that the body of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon was carried following his death on the battlefield. The events of that August day would live in the minds of this family for as long as they lived.

The site of the Edwards Cabin/Price's Headquarters

The site of the Edwards Cabin/Price’s Headquarters

Maj. Gen. Sterling Price set up his headquarters near William Edward’s cabin. The cabin you will find at the site is not the original, but one that was found about two miles down the Wire Road. It was uncovered when a house that had been built over it was being raised to make room for the construction of a new home.

There are eight stops in all along the auto tour. In addition to pointing out the ways in which the battle affected civilians, you will find stops that explain the battle as it was conducted on the surrounding landscape.

I hope you will take an opportunity to visit Wilson’s Creek if you ever find yourself in southwestern Missouri. It gives tribute to an important event in the Civil War, most of us know too little about. The Civil War was a fight for the survival of a nation, and it was a fight that was fought across the whole nation. You can find more about Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield at its National Park Service website.

Harvest Tomato Soup

As I thought about the recipe I would use for this post, and as I stopped at the John Ray house and learned about his family, I could not help thinking about the time of year we have just begun. It is autumn, and with autumn comes harvest time. I could not stop thinking about the mountain of tomatoes I had left sitting on my kitchen counter when I left on this little trip. It made me think of Mrs. Ray, and the vegetables she would be getting out of her own garden.

When I returned home, I decided to find a soup in one of my vintage cookbooks that would use many of my tomatoes, and thought maybe Mrs. Ray would have done the same with some of hers. I found one in “An Army Wife’s Cookbook”, a favorite of mine for many years. The recipe I am including in this post is adapted from that soup I found in the cookbook. This soup is not as thick as that you would get from a can, but it is oh so very tasty…Jim loves it, and that says a lot, because he is a very fussy eater. Served with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and a salad, it makes a wonderful autumn meal.

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Harvest Tomato Soup

  • 1 qt. homemade beef stock*
  • 2 qt. fresh tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 turnip, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, finely cut
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1-2 tsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the cut tomatoes, onion, carrot, and turnip together for about 1 hour. Strain. I pressed it a bit to get as much of the tomato pulp into the soup as possible. This should give you about 1 quart of tomato mixture. Put the tomato mixture and the beef broth together in a pot. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan, add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is brown and has a nutty odor. Add this mixture to the tomato and broth mixture. Add the sugar, the salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes.

*I make my own beef stock for this soup, because it does not have the dark color of store bought beef stock. This lighter broth allows the red of the tomatoes to be a beautiful characteristic of the soup.

Enjoy!

 

Find Your Park in Your Own Backyard #11…”The Boy Who Loved Plants”, and Peanut Cookie #1

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  • Adventure #10-George Washington Carver National Monument

“To those who have not yet learned the secrets of true happiness, begin now to study the little things in your own dooryard.” George Washington Carver

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“The boy who loved plants.”

When I first began this journey to visit all the places in Missouri that are listed on the National Park Service website, I did so because I believed that, as important as it is to learn about our nation and its magnificent places, it is equally important to learn about that special place each of us calls “home”. My husband’s and my latest trip took us to the birthplace of George Washington Carver (my daughter asked me if he was the Peanut Man), in the little town of Diamond, population, 902. It is now one of my favorite national parks, and I can not figure out why I had not found it earlier. It is also special because I immediately related to the Carver quote above, about learning of your own “dooryard”.

George Washington Carver was born in or around 1864, to Mary, the only slave of a farmer named Moses Carver, and his wife Susan. For the first two weeks of his life, he lived with his mother in a small cabin on the Carver property. Our ranger guide agreed to stand inside the reconstructed layout of the cabin to give an idea of just how small this cabin was.

The cabin in which George Washington Carver spent the first two years of his life.

The cabin in which George Washington Carver spent the first two weeks of his life.

George was born during turbulent times in Missouri during the Civil War. When he was two weeks old, George and his mother were “ku Cluckeled”, kidnapped, by a band of guerrillas, and sold in Arkansas. Moses Carter sent someone out to find them and bring them back, but George was the only one he found. George never knew what happened to his mother.

He lived with the Carters until he was between nine and eleven years old. They treated him well, and raised him in their own home. While he was living here, he loved to go out into the woods and the prairies nearby. He loved plants, and took every opportunity he had to gather them, study them, and experiment with them. Some people called him the “plant doctor” because so many plants did so well under his care.

Because he was an African American, George was not allowed to attend the school in Diamond Grove, so he left the Carters to attend a school in Neosho, MO. There he lived with the family of Mariah Watkins, who nurtured and encouraged him in his interests, and in his thirst for knowledge.

From Neosho, George went to attend school in Ft. Scott, Kansas, then on to study in Olatha and Paola, before he graduated from high school in Minneapolis, Kansas. He applied to study at Highland College, but was refused because of his race.

George loved plants, but he believed that he loved to paint them even more. He had decided many years earlier that painting the plants he loved was what he wanted to do for all of his life. So, in 1890, George applied to, and was accepted to Simpson College in Iowa as an art major. His art teacher, Etta Budd recognized George’s great ability with plants, and encouraged him to study botany, which she believed would provide him a better standard of living than he would find in the art world.

George enrolled in Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames, Iowa (today the school is known as Iowa State University), where he earned a Bachelor degree in Agriculture in 1894, and a Masters of Agriculture degree in 1896. After receiving his degrees, George accepted an offer from Booker T. Washington to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

George Washington Carver realized his life’s dream of serving others during his years at Tuskegee Institute. He understood that growing cotton year after year was hard on the soil, that it made it less productive as the years went on. Through his study and his teaching, he was able to convince southern farmers to grow peanuts and soybeans to rejuvenate the soil, and save their livelihoods. He was an amazing man, with an amazing spirit, an amazing desire to help others, and an amazing understanding of the world around him.

George Washington Carver National Monument

George Washington Carver National Monument Visitor Center

When you visit the George Washington Carver National Monument, you will find plenty to do inside and outside. The Visitor Center is a fantastic place with a museum, a museum store, and a theater which shows a film about Carver, his life, and his legacy. But the place in the Visitor Center that I love the most is the laboratory. It is used by school groups who come to do botanical experiments…George would be so proud! Across from the lab is a 1800’s vintage classroom to which students can come and learn about George Washington Carver and his contributions.

And when you venture out onto the grounds, you will find…

The George Washington Carver National Monument is an extraordinary place that encourages us to be all that we can be, in the place that we are, with the gifts we have been given. Jim and I always encouraged our children to strive to be the best that they could be; this special place is the perfect place, with the perfect story, to drive that message home.

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”    George Washington Carver

So go out to a prairie, out to a woodland, into a museum, onto a seashore, up into a mountain, and find your park…or come see our little corner of the world, and the Carver Monument in southwestern Missouri. To learn more about George Washington Carver National Monument, and to plan your visit, go to the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/gwca/index.htm

Peanut Cookie #1

George Washington Carver was an expert on peanuts. He was an expert in growing peanuts, and an expert in using peanuts. He discovered 300 ways to use a peanut, and in the 1930’s, he used peanut oil to bring comfort to polio patients by applying the oil as part of a massage treatment.

He experimented with peanuts, and created many recipes using peanuts. For this post, I chose Peanut Cookie #1. Because his directions are very general, I had to do some experimenting of my own!

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Peanut Cookie #1

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups ground peanuts*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.**

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the beaten eggs. Measure out the flour and combine with the baking powder. Add the milk and the flour mixture, mixing well. Lastly, stir in the peanuts.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a well greased baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes.

*I used my small food processor to grind roasted, unsalted, and shelled peanuts.

**When I make these again, I will try a 375 degree oven, just to brown them a little more.

Enjoy!

 

 

Finding Your Park in Your Own Backyard #10…Trail of Tears State Park, an Old Mill, and Cherokee Brown Bean Bread

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  • Adventure #9-The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
  • Destination #2-Bollinger Mill State Historic Site
  • Destination #3-Trail of Tears State Park

In my last blog, posted on May 31, 2016, I introduced readers to the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The trail was established in 1987, as a memorial to the suffering of so many Native Americans when they were forcibly removed from their homes in the East to Indian Country, the area we now call Oklahoma. The trail runs through our home state of Missouri, from the Mississippi River in eastern Missouri to the Missouri-Arkansas border on the far western side of the state. We can actually walk in their footsteps, over the same paths they traveled. The trail serves as a reminder of a sad chapter in American history…one the likes of which we can never repeat.

Our next stops take us to Bollinger Mill State Historic Site and Trail of Tears State Park, both of which are on the Trail of Tears, as we continue to visit the National Park sites in “our own backyard”.

Bollinger Mill State Historic Site

Bollinger Mill

Bollinger Mill

In 1800, a man named George Bollinger moved, with a large group of his relatives, from North Carolina to a spot on the Whitewater River in southeastern Missouri. Bollinger built a mill on the site, while the twenty other families in the group built farms along the Whitewater, the Little Whitewater, and the Castor Rivers.

Over the years, a total of three mills have stood at the site.  During the Civil War, the mill was burned by the Union Army to prevent the Confederates from obtaining flour or meal from its operation. Following the war, the mill was rebuilt with brick on top of the stone foundation that had survived the fire. Bollinger Mill went out of business in 1953.

When the Cherokee people were moved through the area, the disbursing agent, John Reynolds, purchased supplies at Bollinger’s Mill. In front of the mill, in the picnic area, you will find an interpretive sign showing copies of receipts itemizing those purchases.

The Burfordville Bridge over the Whitewater River.

The Burfordville Bridge over the Whitewater River.

Next to the mill you will see the Burfordville Covered Bridge. It was built in 1858, and is the oldest of only four covered bridges that still remain in Missouri today. It is 140 feet long and spans the Whitewater River.

The picnic area at Bollinger Mill State Historic Site.

The picnic area at Bollinger Mill State Historic Site.

If you visit the mill today, you will find displays that explain the work of the mill during its many years of operation. You can walk across the bridge, which is now closed to motor vehicles. While walking across the bridge, see if you can find the plastic owl mounted on the ceiling. My husband and I are still wondering why it is there. And when you are done seeing the sites, you can enjoy a pleasant, and peaceful picnic lunch in a beautiful grove of trees along the water’s edge.

To learn more about the mill and the covered bridge, visit their website http://www.mostateparks.com/park/bollinger-mill-state-historic-site.

Trail of Tears State Park

The Mississippi River at Trail of Tears State Park

The Mississippi River at Trail of Tears State Park

Another view of the river as we explored the park.

Another view of the river as we explored the park.

We visited Trail of Tears State Park, just north of Jackson, Missouri, on a beautiful, sun-drenched day in June. It was cooler than a typical summer day in Missouri, so we took a few short walks enjoying the bird song and the summer flora in the park.

But Trail of Tears is also a haunting reminder of the tragic journey of the Civilized Tribes. Just across from the park, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River is one of the two places the Trail of Tears entered the river to cross into Missouri on the way west to Indian Country.

The Visitor Center has displays about the Trail of Tears and an informative movie on what it was, and why it happened. It is the same movie we saw at Meramec Spring Park, but it was certainly worth a second viewing.

After crossing the Mississippi River, some of the Cherokees camped at Moccasin Springs, which is in Trail of Tears State Park.

After crossing the Mississippi River, some of the Cherokees camped at Moccasin Springs, which is in Trail of Tears State Park, as depicted in this display in the Visitor Center.

A boardwalk takes you to a beautiful view of the Mississippi, and a look back into history.

As we were leaving the park, we visited the Bushyhead Memorial. When ice began to mount up on the river, the crossings were halted for a time. Those who had already crossed, camped in the December cold, waiting for the remainder of their group to join them. They were under the leadership of Reverend Jesse Bushyhead. His sister, Nancy Bushyhead Walker Hildebrand, died during that cold winter, and she was buried in the park. The memorial was placed in the park to honor her life, as well as the lives of all the Cherokee who lost their lives along the Trail of Tears.

The Bushyhead Memorial

The Bushyhead Memorial

Our National Parks are a national treasure. We find in them relaxation, renewal, a call to nature, and sometimes we are called to recall our national history…the good and the bad, the joyous and the tragic. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is one of those park sites that should make us stop and think, to reflect on some of our past that is not so heroic, not so commendable. But in so doing, we should not despair, but we should look forward, and pledge to do better, to learn from our mistakes, to become a better people, to make this an even better nation.

You can learn more about Trail of Tears State Park at their website, http://www.mostateparks.com/park/trail-tears-state-park.

Cherokee Brown Bean Bread

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I found this bean bread on a site that featured Cherokee Indian recipes, and adapted it slightly. It is delicious, and makes a perfect meal when served with a big fresh salad, a big pat of butter, and a glass of white wine. Enjoy!

Cherokee Brown Bean Bread

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup melted shortening
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2-15 oz. cans pinto beans

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and put a greased cast iron frying pan in to get it nice and hot.

Drain all the liquid off the beans.

Mix all the ingredients except the beans thoroughly. Fold in the drained beans.

Pour into the hot skillet and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Finding Your Park In Your Own Backyard #9…Meramec Spring Park Iron Works and Cherokee Blueberry-Honey Cake

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  • Adventure 9-Trail of Tears National Historic Trail 
  • Destination 1-Meramec Spring Park and Iron Works

The Trail of Tears

One of the saddest and most shameful moments in American history was the forced removal, by the United States government, of the Indian tribes who populated parts of the eastern regions of our nation from the Ohio River into Georgia.

The Cherokee Indians, along with the other Civilized Tribes, the Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek, had for many years sought to heed the invitation of the Americans to live in a civilized manner, just as the American citizens themselves lived. The Cherokee people instituted their own court system, built schools to educate their children, took up farming as an occupation, established their own newspaper, and created their own written language. They were, while also holding true to their own traditions and beliefs, living the typical American life.

But as time went on, the ownership of Native American land was threatened by the insatiable desire of white American citizens to move further and further west, and claim more and more land for homesteads. This desire for land was made even worse for the Cherokee living in Georgia when gold was discovered in the area, and miners paid little heed to those who owned the land, lived on the land, or were sustained by the land. These settlers and miners were attempting to live their own personal American dream, and the Native Americans were in the way!

As more and more land was taken from the various tribes, the Cherokee people went to the United States Supreme Court for help. In spite of the fact that the Court ruled in their favor, the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, sided with the state government and initiated a forceful removal of the native peoples far to the west, to Indian Territory, in what we now call the state of Oklahoma.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail-in Missouri

Today, the journey the Cherokee were forced to take is called the Trail of Tears. In 1987, the United States government established the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail to help us remember this important time in our history, to learn from it, and to keep us mindful of the fact that it must never be repeated. Part of that trail runs through our home state of Missouri, and that is our next stop in our effort to visit all the national parks in our state. We begin near St. James, Missouri, close to Meramec Spring Park, and not too far from our home.

The Snelson-Brinker House

The Snelson-Brinker House

The Snelson-Brinker house is the oldest house in Missouri’s Crawford County. Built in 1834, by Thomas Snelson and his son Levi, it served as a trading post, as well as being the first courthouse in the county.

In the years 1838 and 1839, several detachments of the Cherokee people stopped at the house and camped on the property as they moved toward the Indian Territory. The Cherokee family of Richard Taylor, with a total of four members, died while on the grounds, and were buried in the Snelson family cemetery.

Today, you can visit the property, now adjacent of the Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area, on Missouri Highway 8. It looks much as it did when the Cherokee saw it, and my husband I wish that it was a bit better taken care of. It is, however, a haunting place, one that when understanding its history, will not soon leave you.

Meramec Spring Park

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Meramec Spring Park is a little further west along Highway 8. Meramec Spring Park is not a new destination for our family…we simply love the place! I wrote about our family’s history with the spring and park in a blog on May 23, 2014. But it is also a place located along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

In 1825, Thomas James and Samuel Massey moved to the Meramec Spring area in central Missouri to open an iron works facility. Iron was used in making the essential tools used on the farms, and in the homes of early America. By producing it in the midsection of the growing nation, it could be sold at a much lower price, avoiding shipping costs. The large red rock pit the men found near the spring (a source of water), and the large wooded expanses (a source of fuel for the fires in the furnace they would build), assured the two men that this site was the perfect place for their iron works.

So, from 1827 through 1876, the Meramec Iron Works was in operation at what is now a beautiful park, renowned trout fishing destination, and treasured artifact site of things from long ago-it is a part of our Missouri heritage. When you visit Meramec Spring Park you will see the preserved relics of the iron works, as well as having the opportunity to visit the museum. Exhibits in the museum explain how the work was done, who the people were who lived in and around the iron pit, and information about the natural flora and fauna of central Missouri.

In the most open area of the park you will find many remains from the days of the iron works operation…

When you drive the historic trail at the park, you will find not only the open ore pit, but also evidence of the lives of the people who operated the iron works. It is a beautiful, quiet, and memorable drive.

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Meramec Spring Park is included in places to see along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail because the Cherokee people, taking the northern route of the trail, stopped here to rest and camp on their journey from the eastern United States to Indian Territory during the years 1838 and 1839. When you visit the museum, you will be able to see a very excellent film, produced by the National Park Service, on the Trail of Tears…how it happened, what it meant, and how we should learn from it to become a better nation going forward.

You can learn more about visiting the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail at its National Park website by clicking on the link. You can find help planning your visit to Meramec Spring Park by clicking its link. As you Find Your Park in this National Park Service anniversary year, I welcome you to visit our sites in Missouri, and I encourage you to visit other sites along the trail…to take some time to learn more about our national history by learning more about the Trail of Tears.

Cherokee Blueberry Honey Cake

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The Cherokee would have made this loaf cake with huckleberries they gathered in the southeastern United States, before their removal to Indian Country. Huckleberries and blueberries are members of the same family, and since we do not have huckleberries here in south-central Missouri, I used blueberries from my freezer, picked last summer just south of my home. Though I did add the extra tablespoon of flour to my batter, the blueberries still sunk to the bottom. But that was okay with me…this bread is very most and absolutely delicious. It is the perfect morning snack while reading, planning a new adventure, or just because I am hungry!

Cherokee Blueberry-Honey Cake *

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. unbleached flour
  • 2 tsps. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup blueberries or huckleberries, fresh or frozen

Cream together the butter, sugar and honey. Beat in the eggs and the milk. Sift the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt, and add it to the mixture, combining it completely.

Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour with the berries, and gently fold them into the batter. This is to help them stay suspended in the batter…as noted, it did not work in my cake. Perhaps you will have better luck!

Pour the batter into a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

*This recipe is adapted from a favorite cookbook of mine that I purchased at the Native American Museum in Washington, D.C. It is entitled “Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking” by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs, and was published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.