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Author Archives: Sheila Ingle

Faith of the Founders

When the 56 Signers of The Declaration of Independence signed their names to that document, each knew they were committing treason against the British Crown.  If caught and captured, they risked death. But death would not be swift. It would be by hanging to the point of unconsciousness, then being revived, disemboweled, their body parts boiled in oil and their ashes scattered into the wind. Our Founding Fathers valued freedom, for themselves and their posterity, to the extent that they found this fate worth the risk.

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Second President John Adams said, “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity…I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

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The Declaration of Independence identified the source of all authority and rights as “Their Creator,” and then accentuated that individual human rights were God-given, not man-made.

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In that core group of delegates, according to public record were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Pres- byterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists,  Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and 3 deists (those who  believe in an impersonal God), who gave the world its initial impetus but then left it to run its course).

Pictured above: Thirty-three-year-old Thomas Jefferson wrote most of this document. In approximately two weeks, he penned it in two rented rooms in the home of Graff, a noted bricklayer.

The universal words were carefully chosen, but it was individuals who signed their names. The Declaration of Independence was seditious and a break-up letter never to be forgotten.

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What were their professions? Twenty-five were lawyers or jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers or large plantation owners. One was a teacher, one a musician, and one a printer. These were men of means and education, yet they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Their commitments were heart-felt. As Abraham Clark said, “Let us prepare for the worst. We can die here but once.”

Five were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the War for Independence and died from wounds or hardships they suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the fifty-six had their homes pillaged and burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. The British jailed Francis Lewis’ wife for two months, and that and other hardships from the war so affected her health that she died only two years later.

Thomas Heyward, Jr., Edward Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton, all of South Carolina, were captured by the British during the Charleston Campaign in 1780. They were kept in dungeons at the St. Augustine Prison until exchanged a year later.

Such were the stories and sacrifices typical of those who risked everything to sign this precious document. They were soft-spoken men of means and education who were passionate about their country. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged:

“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” 

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The basement of Independence Hall in Philadelphia once served as the city’s dog pound, and the second floor was once the home to Charles Wilson Peale’s museum of natural history. Windows were kept tightly closed, so that others could not hear their discussions. It is said that the elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin, would intentionally trip other delegates from his aisle seat. Serious, thoughtful, careful were the discussions, and sometimes quite loud.

“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight!

The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I Am Not A Virginian, But An American!” Patrick Henry

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And it happened here in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This is why we celebrate July 4, 1776.

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Colonial Charleston Taverns

A century or so leading up to the Revolution, colonial taverns and inns were an essential part of the community. Horses needed frequent rests, and travel by coach and horseback were far from comfortable. In Massachusetts on the roads leading to Boston, taverns and inns were spaced about every eight miles, which worked out to a reasonable journey in the winter cold before a person needed to warm up, inside and out.

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In the cities and some rural areas, taverns were much more plentiful. The difference between a colonial era tavern and an inn is that the inn offered accommodation, the tavern only food and drink. In the earliest days of the colonies, the term was Ordinary, which stuck around longer in the south. By the end of the 17th century, the word tavern was displacing ordinary along the eastern seaboard.

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Charleston has long been known for its hospitality. With its beautiful houses and churches, a number of taverns have played important roles in the city’s history.

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Taverns were the hub of colonial social and civic activity. This public establishment served multiple purposes, not only for eating and drinking, but also for lodging, conducting business, holding public meetings, staging shows and entertainments, and even serving as post offices.

Before a former bank building was designated as City Hall in 1811, all of Charleston’s civic meetings and courts were held in local taverns.

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Taverns also played an important role in the city’s philanthropic life, and Charlestown was a philanthropic town. Here gentlemen of various ethnicities and persuasions met regularly, forming benevolent societies to raise funds as they drank in support of newcomers to the colony as well as fellow countrymen who had fallen on hard times.

It is reported that the Holy City boasted more than 100 taverns during the colonial era, among them Dillon’s, Swallows, Gordon’s, Sign of the Bacchus, City Tavern, Henry Gignilliat’s, and the Georgia Coffee House.

Shepheard’s Tavern was established by Charles Shepheard c. 1720 on the corner of Broad and Church streets. The tavern’s “long room” served as the city’s first courtroom; the powerbrokers met here. The South Carolina Gazzette announced the first theatrical play in America was staged here, as was the nation’s first opera, both in 1735. That building burned, but Shepheard immediately rebuilt at the same location using salvaged materials and was accordingly appointed postmaster in 1743. Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 of Freemasons met here in 1754, and the tavern was the birthplace of the Scottish Rite Freemasonry in America, 1801. But perhaps one of the most historically significant activites to take place here was that Shepheard’s served as the meeting place where Christopher Gadsden sparked the flames of the America Revolution among his rebel group that became known as the Sons of Liberty.

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In 1773, when the establishment was known as Swallow’s Tavern, the first Chamber of Commerce in America was formed on the site. The St. Andrew’s Society and other fraternal organizations held their meetings and dinners at Shepheard’s. During the Revolutionary period, the tavern was among those that hosted meetings of the Sons of Liberty.

On August 29, 1783, 43 Continental officers assembled at the tavern and formed the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati. Maj. Gen. William Moultrie, hero of the battle of Fort Sullivan, was elected its first president. Their mission was to preserve the principles of liberty for which its founders had fought during the Revolution and to perpetuate those values through their descendants. This group is the only Southern society to have remained in continuous existence since its founding.

Edward McCrady wore many hats; he is listed as a barber, an inventor, a breeder and racer of horses, and owner of McCrady’s Tavern, the only historic Charleston tavern that still exists as a dining establishment and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. McCrady built this tavern with a separate kitchen to reduce the threat of fire c. 1779, offering meals, drinks and lodging. A four-story Georgian hous was built on East Bay Street. By 1788, McCrady had completed its “long room,” which was used for banquets and theatrical performances.

McCrady, a devout Patriot, was captured by the British and sent to prison in St. Augustine, Fla., along with other leading Charleston Patriots. After the war, he returned to his home and business, which became the hub of social activity in Charleston in the years following the Revolution. Small wonder then that when President George Washington visited Charleston in 1791, McCrady’s was the site of a magnificent 30-course banquet held in his honor by the Society of the Cinncinati – very appropriate given Edward McCrady’s return to his old business a la old Cinncinatus himself, the consummate citizen-soldier.

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The Pink House, 17 Chalmers St., served as a popular local tavern in the 1750s. It has variously been used as a brothel and lawyer’s office, rounding out the more unsavory aspects of its history. In more recent times, the building, made of Bermuda stone with a tile roof, has been used as a residence, art gallery and office space.

American Patriot and tavern owner John Readhimer, who died in May 1826 at the ripe old age of 72, was not only known as a brave soldier, but as a gentleman, devout Christian, honest businessman, and true friend. He is buried in the St. James Goose Creek Chapel of Ease, not far from where he operated his tavern.

Historic maps found in Scotland and the Netherlands indicate that there was a Seafarer’s Tavern here in 1686, which would make it the oldest liquor store in America

Robert Dillon’s two story brick tavern stood in the middle of town. In the 1730’s, it had doubled as a theater and a courthouse before other structures were built. He welcomed classical musical concerts, meetings of the elite jockey club, aid societies, and gentlemen needing a place to conduct business. The Charleston Library Society met there every Wednesday, and the Sons of Liberty were regulars. As one guest said, “There are very few there at any time but those who are playing Back Gammon.” Governor Bull entertained gatherings there.

Benjamin Backhouse also hosted performances at his waterfront tavern, but they were not as refined as at Dillon’s. Sailors, actors, party gentry, and the local Sons of Liberty were frequent guests. As well as back gammon, he offered ten public billiard tables. Gambling and competition were invitated. (Perhaps the games offered made a difference in the venue. Back Gammon is played between two players, and many were involved in billiards.)

At each location, the tavern community began with a friendly glass. Entertainment, business, or politics then followed suit.

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One hundred years later, one of my favorite authors, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, described an old tavern in The Wayside Inn.

“One Autumn night, in Sudbury town,
Across the meadows bare and brown,
The windows of the wayside inn
Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves
Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves
Their crimson curtains rent and thin.
As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality;
A kind of old Hobgoblin Hall,
Now somewhat fallen to decay,
With weather-stains upon the wall,
And stairways worn, and crazy doors,
And creaking and uneven floors,
And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall.
A region of repose it seems,
A place of slumber and of dreams,
Remote among the wooded hills!
For there no noisy railway speeds,
Its torch-race scattering smoke and gleeds;
But noon and night, the panting teams
Stop under the great oaks, that throw
Tangles of light and shade below,
On roofs and doors and window-sills.
Across the road the barns display
Their lines of stalls, their mows of hay,
Through the wide doors the breezes blow,
The wattled cocks strut to and fro,
And, half effaced by rain and shine,
The Red Horse prances on the sign.
Round this old-fashioned, quaint abode
Deep silence reigned, save when a gust
Went rushing down the county road,
And skeletons of leaves, and dust,
A moment quickened by its breath,
Shuddered and danced their dance of death,
And through the ancient oaks o’erhead
Mysterious voices moaned and fled.
These are the tales those merry guests
Told to each other, well or ill;
Like summer birds that lift their crests
Above the borders of their nests
And twitter, and again are still.
These are the tales, or new or old,
In idle moments idly told;
Flowers of the field with petals thin,
Lilies that neither toil nor spin,
And tufts of wayside weeds and gorse
Hung in the parlor of the inn
Beneath the sign of the Red Horse.
Uprose the sun; and every guest,
Uprisen, was soon equipped and dressed
For journeying home and city-ward;
The old stage-coach was at the door,
With horses harnessed,long before
The sunshine reached the withered sward
Beneath the oaks, whose branches hoar
Murmured: “Farewell forevermore.
Where are they now? What lands and skies
Paint pictures in their friendly eyes?
What hope deludes, what promise cheers,
What pleasant voices fill their ears?
Two are beyond the salt sea waves,
And three already in their graves.
Perchance the living still may look
Into the pages of this book,
And see the days of long ago
Floating and fleeting to and fro,
As in the well-remembered brook
They saw the inverted landscape gleam,
And their own faces like a dream
Look up upon them from below.”

Oh, to have sat in a corner and listen to Henry Laurens passionately speak against the Stamp Act or eavesdrop on the Charleston Library Society determine what next to read and “see the days of long ago.”

An Old Cherokee Tale of Two Wolves

“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you,” says John C. Maxwell.

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One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

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The puzzled grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied,  “The one you feed.”

This is such a simple story, and yet so true. I think each and every one of us has these two wolves running around inside us. The Evil wolf or the Good Wolf is fed daily by the choices we make with our thoughts. What you think about and dwell upon will in a sense appear in your life and influence your behavior.

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We have a choice, feed the Good Wolf and it will show up in our character, habits and behavior positively. Or feed the Evil Wolf, and our whole world will turn negative: like poison, this will slowly eat away at our soul.

The crucial question for us is “Which are you feeding today?” “Which am I feeding today?”

Our lives are a result of the choices we make. If we don’t like our lives, perhaps it is time to start making better choices. Remember our choices make us.

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A Look at Memorial Day

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The First Memorial Day

This above April, 1865, photo shows the graves of Union soldiers who died at the Race Course prison camp in Charleston, which would later become Hampton Park.

On May 1, 1865, some 10,000 black Charleston residents, white missionaries, teachers, schoolchildren, and Union troops marched around the Planters’ Race Course, singing and carrying armfuls of roses. Gathering in the graveyard, the crowd watched five black preachers recite scripture and a children’s choir sing spirituals and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

On that day, former Charleston slaves started a tradition that would come to be known as Memorial Day.

The Charleston Daily Courier published an article about the event entitled “Martyrs of the Race Course.” It reported that the day-long service began with the reading of a Psalm. The crowd sang a hymn, then prayed. Everyone in the procession carried a bouquet of flowers.

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Rightly named, it was called Decoration Day. These graves were moved to Beaufort National Cemetery in the 1880s and remain there today.

General John A. Logan, a veteran, proclaimed May 30, 1868, Decoration Day, which was “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” After a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, 5,000 Americans adorned the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers entombed at the cemetery.

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For more than 50 years, the holiday was used to commemorate those killed just in the Civil War, not in any other American conflict. It wasn’t until America’s entry into World War I that the tradition was expanded to include those killed in all wars, and Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, with America deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War. It became a national holiday.

Those who have chosen to fight for America have been purposeful in this decision. Before Nathan Hale was executed during the Revolutionary War, he said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The long-cherished Memorial Day tradition of wearing red poppies got its start in 1915. While reading Ladies’ Home Journal, a war secretary named Moina Michael came across the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, which begins, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row.”

Moved, she vowed always to wear a silk poppy in honor of the American soldiers who gave up their lives for their country. She started selling them to friends and co-workers and campaigned for the red flowers to become an official memorial emblem.

The American Legion embraced the symbol in 1921 and continue to give them away today.

Growing up, I remember my dad always stopping to make a donation to the American Legion and receiving a poppy for my brother and me. Honestly, those paper flowers meant little to me then, as I didn’t know the significance. But I do remember the pride in his voice as he presented us with them.

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Despite the increasing celebration of the holiday as a summer rite of passage, there are some formal rituals still on the books: the American flag should be hung at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raised to the top of the staff. And since 2000, when the U.S. Congress passed legislation, all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. The federal government has also used the holiday to honor non-veterans—the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922.

General Norman Schwarzkopf gave tribute to our soldiers. “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

 

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As General George Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that they lived.”

It is no wonder that when we say, “Thank you for your service” to our veterans that we can see a myriad of memories flood their minds.

They gave their tomorrows for our todays "My Knight In Body Armour" By Jacqueline Hurley Port Out, Starboard Home Original Art

Military doctor, Major John McCrae, was seen writing this poem while sitting on the rear step of an ambulance on the day after burying his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. Among the graves were vivid red poppies spring up in the burial ground.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Let’s not forget that “Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend, and neighbor.” President George H. W. Bush

A Legend Brought to Life — Patti Shene

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HiStoryThruTheAges

Today I’m happy to welcome author Pattie Shene as she shares some fascinating history about a legendary man.

On Christmas eve 1809 in Madison County, Kentucky, a child was born to Lindsey and Rebecca Carson and given the name Christopher Houston Carson. This young man would grow up to be one of the most notorious legends in the west, the famous “Kit” Carson.

Kit encountered tragedy at a young age when his father was killed by a falling tree when Kit was barely nine.. He had a price on his head while still in his teens, when he ran away from an apprenticeship with a saddle maker who offered a reward of one-cent for the return of the boy in a local paper.

He probably never saw the notice, for he had joined a wagon train that took him to the west he yearned to explore. Kit’s many occupations in…

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“Mary Had a Little Lamb”

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(from a 1903 edition of Mother Goose)
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.
Why does the lamb love Mary so?
The eager children cry;
Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,
The teacher did reply.
The nursery rhyme was first published by the Boston publishing firm Marsh, Capen & Lyon, as a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale on May 24, 1830, and was possibly inspired by an actual incident. The book, Poems for Our Children, was designed for families, Sabbath schools, and infant schools and written to inculcate moral truths and virtuous sentiments.
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The author of this children’s poem was Sarah Josepha Buell, who was born in Newport, New Hampshire, on October 24, 1788. Home schooled from the textbooks of Dartmouth College, used by her brothers, she became a teacher at 18 in her hometown.
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Sarah married lawyer David Hale in 1813, and he encouraged her avid reading and writing. The couple had five children before David died of a stroke in 1822. As a single mother, she worked first as a milliner, a designer and maker of hats, before she started her career as a writer and editor.
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In 1828, Hale became editor of Ladies Magazine, which became the popular Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1837. She worked for this magazine for 40 years and focused on feminine etiquette of the day.
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Hale and Publisher Louis Godey steered away from politics, religion, and social issues, focusing instead on women’s domestic education from health to home to fashion—the magazine was especially noted for its colored fashion plates. See below.
This publication eventually had a circulation of 150,000. She published the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She also published unknown women authors who wrote about abolition, temperance, and suffrage.

Hale kept attuned to world news. The American public couldn’t get enough information about the increasing royal family, publications such as Godey’s Lady’s Book, always on the pulse of subjects of interest to women, presented the engraving “Queen Victoria’s Treasures” in February 1844, invoking the idea of royal jewels (see below). In the accompanying article, the Queen is observed to “be an example for the women of her own great kingdom, [and] is, therefore, highly important to the world; and we rejoice that she so beautifully exemplifies the best virtues of her sex, in her character as wife and mother.” In order to ensure that there were no questions about viewers’ gaze being directed towards her maternal characteristics the article concludes, “All the regalia in the Tower of London would not so adorn and beautify Victoria in our eyes, as the jewels of her maternal love, which she displays in this picture.”

 

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As an editor, she focused on promotion of causes she also was passionate about: the preservation of Mount Vernon and the establishment of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. She advocated for property rights, increased wages for women, as well as expanded educational and career opportunities. She knew first hand what it was like to support a family on her own.
The cover of Godey's Lady's Book in 1867.
What she wanted was to create a new national holiday—the American Thanksgiving Day. In her quest to accomplish this, she sent detailed petitions to five presidents and devoted numerous column inches to the idea in her magazine. More than any other individual, Hale was responsible for the creation of Thanksgiving as we know it, a country-wide day of rest and feasting at the end of November. She campaigned for a Day of Thanksgiving, conceived as a Christian holiday, focused on prayer rather than food.
In 1860, more than a decade after she first started promoting the idea, Hale declared victory. “We may now consider Thanksgiving a National Holiday,” she wrote. So many states had celebrated it so consistently on the same day, that Thanksgiving was no longer “a partial and vacillating commemoration of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, observed in one section or State” but a “great and sanctifying promoter of the national spirit.”
Finally, she retired in 1877 at the age of 89 and then died at her Philadelphia home in 1879. This literary pioneer opened the doors for other women authors and editors, as she worked hard at her job for fifty years.
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In a Vermont Public Radio commentary, the historian Cyndy Bittinger said of Sarah Josepha Hale, “With Hale as an advocate, women began to study at female seminaries and academies, and many contributed original material to her Godey’s Lady’s Book...[By publishing] the works of women [and] giving them a platform for their ideas and advocacy…Hale enabled female reformers of the 19th century to influence attitudes…[of both women and men].”
Sarah Hale said, “The burning soul, the bruden’d mind, In books alone companions find.”
This nineteenth century, American woman is one to be remembered. Her story is one of unending influence, as she maximized her intelligence and creativity.

Our Family Circle

 

I grew up in a family that ate our meals together at the kitchen table or the dining room table. We had assigned seats at each place that I never figured out. The kitchen table was round, and the dining room table was a rectangle. Mother fixed and served our childhood plates.

One of my earliest memories of a catastrophic supper was at our small duplex on East Main Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

As an opinionated preschooler, I had decided that I didn’t like the taste or texture of raisins. My two-year-old brother Critt was given the last of the corn flakes; he sat in his high chair munching away. The next thing I knew was that a bowl of Raisin Bran was in front of me. I questioned this decision and made quite a protest. Then I had the audacity to demand a switch with my brother. Neither of my parents listed to me, so I made a decision to take the situation into my own hands. Without thinking about possible end results, I stood up, grabbed the high chair’s tray, and pulled.

The results were not what I expected.

With a noisy crash, the high chair fell forward. Then with an earsplitting scream, my brother announced that his forehead hit the table. Bedlam reigned, as my parents jumped into protective mode. Blood, a high-speed rush to the ER, and stitches were the end result.

No, I never learned to either like or eat raisins, but my selfish, childish actions have caused me embarrassment. A smidgen of this escapade still rattles around the corners of my memories.

My dad was a stickler for manners on all occasions, even at the table. “Please” and ‘Thank you” were phrases that were expected.  If we wanted the ketchup bottle, we had to use the required “please.” If “thank you” was not our next response, the ketchup would be taken away. We learned in a hurry to not forget the phrases.

I clearly remember a few weeks at the supper table that provided distinctive entertainment.

My brother was around three, and I was six. Picking up his milk glass for a drink became a challenge for some reason. He took several sips and then spilled the rest of the glass on the table, the floor, and himself. (Interesting that this accident never happened at any other meal.) Through surreptitious glances in his direction, I remember watching to see when the trouble was going to happen, and then suddenly he just stopped spilling the glass of milk..

Critt was always a jokester and a tease. He particularly relished my gullibility, as he shared tall tales with me. To this day, I don’t know whether the spills were purposeful and he finally grew tired of the game or what. I was sorry the anticipated spills stopped, but am sure my parents were thankful.

Our family meals were not always around a table. Franklin Curtus Justus, known as F.C.,  my grandmother’s brother, enjoyed camping in Pisgah Forest. He and his wife Ina lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, so the commute was an easy one. They often invited other family members to join them for breakfast on Saturdays.

My dad was convinced that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so he was eager to accept these invitations to a cooked meal on a creek bank. I can see his smile of anticipation, as we walked toward their camp site.

There is a lush area of cove forests and streams known as the Pink Beds, and this was the chosen place. The area is named for the profusion of pink wildflowers, including mountain laurel and rhododendron, which appears in the spring.

It was the smells that led us to breakfast from the car. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee burst through the air. Shortly behind were the scents of bacon frying in an iron skillet over a cooking fire. Hollers of welcome soon joined the mealtime odors.

Before long, blue tin plates, almost overflowing with eggs, grits, and bacon, were in each hand. Hot coffee or milk was poured into matching mugs. A hodgepodge of forks and spoons were available, and my grandparents (Alex and Edythe Cox), parents Sam and Evelyn Collins, various great aunts and uncles found canvas camp stools, metal lawn chairs, or stumps to sit on. There were always several station wagons, and the tail gates were let down for more seating.

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No one sat far away from the group, because everyone wanted to be part of the conversations. As the plates were cleaned, the chats increased.

Family memories were shared about my great grandparents and the rock house that Pop (Franklin Curtis Justus, 1871-1958) built. He was a contractor for the Saluda Grade that ran through the Saluda Mountain, and he owned acres of land in Hendersonville County until the Crash and Great Depression. A tall, strong man who took what was available in the job market, even if it was bagging groceries, to keep his family together. Hearing his adult children talk about him, their admiration was evident.

Granny (Minnie Fortune Justus, 1875-1970) graduated from Asheville Female College with a degree in Mistress of Arts and Sciences. To make ends meet for their large family of ten children, she took in boarders and used her gift of hospitality to make all welcome. From using clean, ironed cloth napkins at each meal to seeing that fresh room linens were always available, she taught her daughters why sharing the best was important. Even into her late 80’s, all received a warm welcome to her home.

I learned some of my family history at these breakfast picnics. This generation learned how to ride horses, before they drove cars. They plowed, planted, and weeded gardens before they ate the fruit of their labors and sold the access. Fishing, hunting, and raising beef cows, hogs, and chickens added to the vegetables they grew. Being only familiar with grocery shopping, their lives sounded like fascinating tall tales to me, similar to one of my favorite books, Little House on the Prairie.

Mostly I caught and grabbed hold to the love and respect that was an essential portion that tied them together. Though they lacked much in worldly possessions, they relished the retelling of stories about their kinfolk and lineage.

On my dad’s side of the family, we also often shared meals outdoors, rather than indoors.

For years, we spent his week of summer vacation at Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Though born in Louisville, Daddy, his two brothers, and sister learned to walk, climb trees, and milk cows on this dairy farm.

My grandmother Lulu and her brother and sister enjoyed getting together. When we visited, we spent one day in Lexington with her brother Owen Hitt. They lived outside the city, and his wife Carrie Lee would prepare a picnic lunch to be eaten on a picnic table under the trees in their back yard. There was fried chicken, an array of vegetables from her garden, hot biscuits with homemade butter, and cobbler for dessert. Sweet ice cold tea was the beverage. It was a feast! Our hostess was full of laughter and energetic. Our next treat was to go to the fence to talk and pat the horses in the field, and the adults joined us.

On another day, we went to Louisville to be with Aunt Kitty. Here we were back to the dining room with the lace tablecloth, silver, and lovely china. Our hostess was conscious of good eating habits, so baked chicken or ham, a couple of vegetables, yeast rolls, and usually a slice of pie were served. Water in goblets and coffee were served. This was where I first saw individual salt and pepper shakers and bread and butter plates and knives at each place, The table cloth and napkins were hand embroidered by her mother-in-law. I felt like a princess here and learned that table conversation can be quiet. Trying hard to be compliant and well-behaved in such surroundings was a challenge worth meeting. Going through the many book shelves in her home were the entertainment as the adults visited.

Lulu prepared a family picnic the day before we left for home. Contributions from everyone led to two eight-foot tables sagging under the weight of all the food offerings. Lulu’s garden served up lima beans, corn, tomatoes, green beans, and beets. Her blackberry cobbler and chocolate pie had to be tasted by all. Cousins came to play, and the yard was our playground. There was no jungle gym, but a tire swing hung from the apple tree. We hung on the rail fence to watch the cows meander back and forth from the barn. A game of softball catch was fun, and we tried our hands of little skill at horse shoes.

Image result for tire swing

Ladder back chairs and stools were brought out from the kitchen. The cast iron outdoor glider, swing, and chairs were arranged in a circle, so the adults could hear each other. We children were allowed to roam free after the blessing. Laughter and loud talking were in equal measure, as plates were refilled from the lavish tables.

They shared both familiar and new stories. Our ancestor Jesse James, the bank robber, was vilified and defended. Since we had all visited Boonesborough, Lulu would disclose her knowledge about Daniel Boone and his clearing a path through the Cumberland Gap. Then we begged for the story of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia and his adventures in finding new land in Virginia with his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. Sitting on the grass, making daisy-chain necklaces, these adventures became real.

Related image

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52)

It is no wonder that I used to pack my little brown suitcase and want to go to “Tucky. Since it was my doll’s luggage, there was little room for anything. But I wasn’t planning on an extended stay; I was yearning for my family and their stories.

American writer, Michele Huey, said “Roots are, I’m learning, as important as wings.”

Our stories are important; let’s share them with family and friends.