I pulled back the blinds one morning last weekend and instantly felt that kind of ‘wow’ kids feel when they wake up in the morning and catch their first sight of an overnight winter snowfall. But instead of a blanket of white snow, I saw a preserve dotted in white—a patchwork quilt of white ibis, palms, and cypress trees. And for every white ibis I could see, there was a brown ibis blending in with the debris and dark waters on the cypress preserve floor.
I guess we can thank El Niño for this unusual winter sight. Record rainfall has filled swamp areas back up to summer levels, and these ‘gals’ and ‘guys’ have come to scour the grounds for bugs and other edible critters. And throughout the past week, they have continued to turn up daily to put on their show. Greedy for more, I am now hoping some egrets, herons, woodstorks and roseate spoonbills decide to join them!
When one sees ibis in such abundance, it’s hard (and sickening) to imagine that there was a time 100-odd-years ago when ibis and many other of Florida’s beautiful birds were hunted down and slaughtered for their plumage with populations being decimated as a result. The author of the accompanying article from the Rome Daily Sentinel, published on 18 August 1896, attests to the fact that hunting for the birds had gotten way out of control and measures were desperately needed to protect them. Thankfully, that eventually happened, and hence, sights such as the one in my backyard are not uncommon in Florida today (they are just uncommon in my backyard!).
The 1896 article mentions the scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) as particularly being singled out by hunters (image right) along with herons and snowy egrets, and song birds like mockingbirds and cardinals. (The American flamingo, mentioned in the article as being abundant in South Florida in the 1800s, has all but disappeared in the wild. If you happen to see one in Florida today, it is likely an escapee from an area attraction.)
I’ve never seen scarlet ibis in the wild in Florida, but apparently they are occasionally spotted. Their native range today appears to be along the northern and eastern coastlines of northern South America, down to São Paolo. They can appear as vagrants in Florida, Ecuador, and a number of countries in the Caribbean.
The current IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists the scarlet ibis as a species of ‘Least Concern’, which would please the article’s author, no doubt, if he were alive today, as would knowing that all of Florida’s birds became legally protected in 1913.
The Smithsonian article “How Two Women Ended the Deadly Feather Trade” describes how this hideous trade ultimately came to an end:
Egrets and other wading birds were being decimated until two crusading Boston socialites, Harriet Hemenway and her cousin, Minna Hall, set off a revolt. Their boycott of the trade would culminate in formation of the National Audubon Society and passage of the Weeks-McLean Law, also known as the Migratory Bird Act, by Congress on March 4, 1913. The law, a landmark in American conservation history, outlawed market hunting and forbade interstate transport of birds.
One hundred years later, we are blessed to have these birds in our midst, but the picture is far from 100% rosy as Florida’s current list of threatened and endangered species attests. Thirty-six species of birds are on the list, including the snowy egret, brown pelican, and white ibis, which are classified as ‘species of special concern’, so if they were ever completely ‘out of the woods’ after 1913, they are back in them now…something to keep in mind and let others know about, if they don’t know already.
Well, enough said—time to take another look out the back window.
Have a great weekend, all, and thanks for stopping by.
Rome Daily Sentinel, 18 August 1896 (Credit: Fultonhistory.com):
As some longtime readers of this blog know, occasionally I post Florida-related items, usually on a Friday. For example, one backyard wildlife post from two summers ago featured a bobcat—a very rare sight for folks in this area. Another featured some of the spring and summer critters who live in these here parts; another featured the resident short-tailed hawk getting scolded royally by a feisty mockingbird; and yet another the sight of two great-horned owls atop some nearby trees at dusk.
Unfortunately, with all the construction going on in this area, we’ve made fewer and fewer interesting sightings in the last year. However, two Sundays ago, we were shocked to see not one, but two bobcats playing out back in the woods across the water run-off ditch. As luck would have it, my camera was not immediately available, so I took the below images with my cellphone, zooming in as best as I could. Unfortunately, I missed the initial action of the two of them playing in the grass, and the glass in the sliding door and the screen on the lanai made for some less than ideal images. Still, they are worth a look (I think), so have a scroll through the below if you want to see more.
Perhaps this was the same bobcat from two summers ago, but this time she was with one of her offspring (the one in the distance with the darker coat)?
I recently happened upon the London Times article “Bad Health and Body-Fragility of Americans” which was published in 1858 in many US papers including the Long-Islander (Friday, 12 March 1858; article below, courtesy of Fulton History dot com).
It’s quite a curious read, the writer observing how weakened the American populace had become compared to their ancestors, the early colonists, and he had various theories for that, as did Americans themselves—they also found this phenomenon distressing. He mentioned feeling somewhat encouraged by America’s adoption of cricket as a sport, and indeed if you troll through 1858 newspapers, you will find plenty of mentions of cricket being played around the US. Click here to view a digital image of the printed engraving “Cricket Match Between Canada and the United States, at Hoboken [NJ], August 2, 3, and 4, 1858.”
Cricket had been played in America since the early 1700s. George Washington is even said to have joined in a game with his troops at Valley Forge during their winter encampment of 1777-1778. Philadelphia, which once had as many as 100 cricket clubs, became its epicenter. While the sport’s popularity began to wane when baseball gained a foothold during the Civil War years, it was still being widely played into the early 20th century (up to the WWI-era). Interestingly, efforts are underway to rebuild this most English of sports in America where it is experiencing a revival in places like Atlanta and Los Angeles. For the interesting 2006 Smithsonian article “The History of Cricket in the United States,” click here. The Atlantic‘s 2014 article “Cricket Is Back” is also worth a read.
Cricket or no cricket, at least on the surface we seem to be doing better as a nation today than in 1858, when the average American was viewed as a “thin, frail creature.” That said, as we all know, the pendulum has definitely swung in what could be argued an equally undesirable direction: approx. 66% of Americans (and 62% of UK residents) are now categorized as overweight or obese.
And, while the US and the UK have garnered high numbers of Olympic medals (the US garnering the most of any nation), neither country can claim to be the most athletic. When comparing a country’s population to its medals, the US ranks 17th worst, and neither the UK nor the US makes it into the list of the top 20 healthiest countries in the world. So it looks like both sides of the pond still have some work to do. I wonder what they’ll be saying about all of us 158 years from now, in the year 2174? And, will they be viewing us from a Wall-E-world type of environment and marveling at how slim and mobile we are? Or will, fingers-crossed, the pendulum have swung back for them and stopped in a much healthier place? For their sake, I hope it’s the latter!
The book of American pastimes: containing a history of the principal base-ball, cricket, rowing, and yachting clubs of the United States by Charles A. Peverelly, published 1868
Before you read this post, try to balance yourself on one foot. Focus on doing 60 seconds on each leg. How did it go? Did you make it to the end?
Ankles. To a great extent, our longevity depends on them. Strong ankles = good balance, and good balance is a key ingredient to keeping people mobile and fall-free as they age. Obviously, at this point most of us are not going to train to become ballerinas or danseurs, but no matter how old we are we need to strive to achieve our best balance, best range of motion, and best levels of strength and endurance, if we want to stick around and be independent for as long as possible.
So what’s all that got to do with a family history blog? Well, I care about all my readers for one thing. For another, when we look back in our family trees of all those who have since passed on, we see two dates against each name. As the pastor said one Sunday (his misuse of grammar intentional): “Ain’t none of us gettin’ outta here alive.” Why not do everything we can on our part to ensure that when our time comes, those two dates are as far apart as possible?
Time is not kind to ankles. If left to their own devices, the ankles of both men and women slowly weaken and lose their ability to move in all those different directions to the extent that was previously possible. In fact, women in their 80s can experience up to an 85% decrease in ankle range of motion. Yes, ladies, it’s true. Hearing that a few years ago was a wake-up call for me. Maybe it will sound some alarm bells for you, too.
Men are not in the same dire straits, but things can get pretty bad for them as well. And, when your ability to flex, extend, invert and evert your ankles deteriorates, your balance deteriorates and then the body starts trying to compensate for that deterioration in different, unhelpful ways.
So if you have not done so already, I want to encourage you to find your own strategy for working on your balance, posture, and maintaining good muscle strength. And moving (!)—the more the better. It’s absolutely never to late to make improvements. If you’re not sure how to start, talk to your doctor or drop by to ask a physical therapist what they’d recommend for you. Start slow. Practice standing on one leg at a time every day. One good ankle exercise, with toe pointed and knee extended: spell the alphabet with your big toe each day, one foot at a time. How simple is that? As easy as A-B-C… ;-)
One hundred seventy years ago yesterday, a significant Brodhead marital union took place in Pike County, Pennsylvania, in the presence of family and, perhaps, some close friends—I say significant because had it not occurred, I would not be writing this blog, and many of you would not be reading it!
On 1 January 1846, a Thursday, vibrant and young 22-year-olds Andrew Jackson Brodhead and Ophelia Easton were waking up as man and wife. They’d just celebrated a family New Year’s Eve wedding the night before, with parents Garret and Cornelia (Dingman) Brodhead, and Charlotte Newman Easton* present, and here they were embarking on Day 1 of their 59-year marriage. They could not have known anything of what the future held for them—not the long marriage, the ten healthy children who all survived and thrived well into adulthood, the ups and downs that any marriage brings, Andrew’s zig-zagging career, and the moves they were to make in life–from the Bushkill, Pennsylvania area, to East Mauch Chunk (present-day Jim Thorpe, PA), and to Flemington, New Jersey–nor the 35 grandchildren and their myriad descendants (two great big thumbs up there). (Many of the aforementioned details were documented in a previous post.)
What was the weather like when they woke up on 1 January 1846? Well, probably cold and probably snowy. Apparently, they’d just endured a brutal cold December; according to p. 71 of The Literary Record and Journal of the Linnaean Association of Pennsylvania College (pub. by The Association, 1846): “The month of December 1845 was remarkable for the severity of its cold On the first day there was a fall of snow of the depth of nine inches and at various other times during the progress of the month there were others which increased the total amount to twenty-three inches and a half from the very commencement the temperature was greatly reduced and it continued so with but little abatement to the close of the month.”
I am extremely grateful to James and Barbara Brodhead for sharing with me the below images of Andrew & Ophelia as a young couple. Prior to seeing these images, I’d only viewed the pair as a couple in old age. It’s delightful to see them in their much younger years, and it seems highly plausible that these photos were taken specifically to mark the occasion of their marriage. The clothing matches the fashions of that era; long ago, I wrote a post on wedding traditions in which I mentioned that before Queen Victoria started the trend of the white wedding dress, brides wore their “best dress,” so this may well have been Ophelia’s “best dress.”
It’s fun to think about the planning that commenced once Andrew and Ophelia were engaged. I imagine them thinking about when to have their wedding and deciding to make it New Year’s Eve so they could start their marriage off on such a festive occasion—with the added bonus of never having to worry about forgetting their anniversary ;-). I’ve always thought that Andrew (in his senior picture) had such a merry twinkle in his eyes—perhaps the idea of a holiday wedding was his.
It’s hard for me to imagine Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jackson Brodhead at a time in their lives when they did not have any children—the fleeting moment in their marriage that lasted all of 11 months and 28 days. So the year 1846 must have been an especially carefree and contented time. And, all these years later, I look back and can’t help but feel very happy for them. Happy 2016, all!
*Calvin Easton died in 1826.
Well, Christmas is fast approaching—there are cookies that need baking and carols that need singing, so…
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support this past year and to wish you and your families a very peaceful Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.
May 2016 bring new discoveries that excite, entertain, and educate us about the lives of our ancestors whose traditions & values have been passed down to us and remain woven into the fabric of who we are. I’ll leave you with a couple of quick, easy recipes for any last-minute baking. See you in 2016!
Grandma’s Ice Cream Patties
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg well-beaten
1/8 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup walnuts/candied cherries (cut into quarters/eighths)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly. Blend in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and salt together and add to the creamed mixture, blending well. Measure small spoonfuls of batter (1/2 tsp) onto well-greased baking sheets. (If you use parchment paper, they don’t spread out as much and the edges are more widely browned). Place a piece of walnut/candied cherry in middle of each cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (as early as 6 minutes, especially if you are at a low altitude). Yield: 4-5 dozen patties.
• One cup of cranberries
• One cup of walnuts
• One-half cup of sugar
Put mixture in a greased pie pan.
Then, mix together:
• One cup flour
• One cup sugar
• One melted stick of butter
• And two eggs
Dump on top of cranberry mix and spread out.
Bake at 325 degrees F. (163 degrees C.) for 50 minutes. Serve with large dollop of whipped cream.
While Jule De Ryther, a famous concert soprano, found a second career discussing and sharing her knowledge about food, Juliet Corson (1841-1897) spent her whole career trying to educate the public about food and cookery, and healthy and economical eating, particularly among society’s poorest. She was a proponent of letting nothing go to waste and making the tastiest and most nutritious meals possible no matter how small the budget. At 35, she founded the New York School of Cookery and operated it for seven years before ill-health forced her to close it down. She traveled the country, between bouts of ill-health, to promote the need for cookery classes in public schools. The French Consul General in NYC even consulted with her to see how her methods could be adapted to France.
Miss Corson’s numerous publications included Fifteen-Cent Dinners for Workingmen’s Families, published by the author for free distribution to working-people earning $1.50, or less, a day (New York, 1877), Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six (1879), and Practical American Cookery & Household Management (1886); for links to other publications, click here. I’ve not had time to read any of them, but I am sure she has plenty of tips that could apply to us today. Many of us are always looking for economical ways to feed our families and maximize our resources. One can only speculate what else Corson may have taught us had her life not been cut short at age 56 by a debilitating tumor (NYT obituary – “Death of Juliet Corson; The Well-Known Writer and Teacher of Cookery and Dietetics Expires Almost Alone”).
By the time Miss Corson penned this article in 1896, she was near her life’s end. You can tell from the article how passionate she is about food, and how knowledgeable. I was going to include just the portion about Madame De Ryther, but decided to include the entire article since it contains so much interesting information on the history of food and the preparation of game, an art that was already being lost in this country back then when venison was “the only wild meat ever seen freely in the New York market,” and is now in most places a great rarity, which is understandable of course, but it’s still interesting to get a sense of how our ancestors lived and worked, and what they ate. And how they may have prepared it.
Have a good Monday, all!
PS: Receipts = recipes; frumenty = thick wheat porridge usually served with venison (in Medieval times).
If you’ve been to the cinema recently, you may have seen the brief but brutal trailer for Leonardo Di Caprio’s latest film Revenant (“one that returns after death or a long absence” per Merriam-Webster’s). Based on true events, the film recounts what happened in August 1823 to frontiersman Hugh Glass when he—at roughly age 43 (a senior citizen by early 19th-century standards)—was deliberately abandoned in what is now South Dakota by two men who had been ordered to stay behind with him after a brutal bear attack left him almost dead. The men were members of a corps of 100 men, led by General William Henry Ashley, who were traveling up the Missouri River on a fur-trading expedition. (For more on “Ashley’s Hundred,” click here.) (If you are planning to see the film and don’t want to know the back story, stop reading here!)
Seriously wounded, Glass regained consciousness to find himself alone with no provisions or weapons two hundred miles from the nearest American settlement. Determined to survive, get back his weapons, and hunt down his betrayers, Glass bound his broken leg and crawled for six weeks through the wilderness, surviving initially on berries, before making it to Fort Kiowa (in present-day South Dakota) where he recovered. Then he set off again, still in pursuit of his belongings and betrayers, surviving more near death experiences before wandering into Fort Atkinson (present-day Nebraska) in June 1824—much to the astonishment of all those who recognized him and thought him long dead. Glass had gone there because he’d heard the second of his betrayers was at the Fort (he’d already tracked down and pardoned the first). But by then that second betrayer was serving in the Army so Glass spared his life.
Out of curiosity as to what was actually reported in the press at the time, if anything, I did a bit of research on the Fulton History site, and discovered the below article from an 1825 issue (exact date not clear but sometime between June-December 1825) of the New York Spectator in which Hugh Glass’s harrowing adventures are recounted. (see below.) It’s not hard to imagine our American ancestors living at that time reading this article with rapt attention, and recounting its contents to family, friends and neighbors. Having read the article and some other materials about Hugh Glass, I can see why the film trailer looked so brutal. By today’s standards, those were extremely stark times, and what Glass went through could not look anything but raw, gritty, and downright harrowing. I’m still weighing up whether I want to see the film.
The frontiersman, already the stuff of legends, eventually lost his life in winter 1833 to attacking Arikara Indians. Glass’s story could not help but fuel the imaginations of future generations of Americans.
In 1915, Glass’s adventures inspired John G. Neihardt, future poet laureate of Nebraska (1921), to write the 120+ page epic poem The Song of Hugh Glass. In 1923, on the 100th anniversary of Glass’s amazing feat of survival, one Nebraska English professor, Julius Temple House, announced his plans to recreate the journey exactly as it happened (of course, minus the bear attack, open wounds, real broken leg, Indian attacks, etc.): “Professor, with Leg Bound, Will Crawl 100 Miles; Would Duplicate Feat Hunter Had to Do in 1823” (Buffalo Courier, 19 August 1923). (Scroll down for the article.)
Professor House had been a contributor to Neihardt’s The Song of Hugh Glass and in 1920 published a biography: John G. Neihardt: Man and Poet. Did Professor House ever make the journey? I found no evidence of that, so, perhaps, it was a publicity stunt or the professor was simply swept up in the romanticization of the old West and the yearning for a frontier that was no more. The Professor found romance in a different form ten years later when, as a widower, he met and married his childhood sweetheart from 50 years before, and took up a teaching post in Athens, Greece (October 2, 1933, The New York Sun). Perhaps, by then, he no longer had any need to channel his “inner Hugh Glass.”