Historic Places in South Jersey

Historic Places in South Jersey - Places to Go and Things to Do

A discussion of things to do and places to go, with the purpose
of sharing, and encouraging exploration of South Jersey.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Fearless Benjamin Lay, by Marcus Rediker.

Today, I finished the book, "The Fearless Benjamin Lay" which I found deeply moving. One hundred years before the full-scale Abolition movement, before the Underground Railroad, Benjamin Lay was a radical activist, a ceaseless goad to the wealthy educated class of his fellow Quakers, who ran the Meetings and owned slaves. He was not for "gradual emancipation" but immediate release of enslaved people. A dwarf with a spinal deformity, he suffered unending persecution yet persevered in his quest, because his soul was straight and his compassion drove him to use his life to fight this horrifying crime against humanity. I will give the book back to the friend who loaned it to me but the memory of the courage and purity of Benjamin Lay will stay with me. The author is Marcus Redicker. This is an amazing book!

The author asks and answers many of the questions I had such as why have we not heard of Benjamin Lay before? And the answers are enlightening and speak to several other interests of mine: Benjamin Lay was a self-educated commoner. Like many reformers, he had worked with his hands and taught himself. He was not the descendant of wealthy merchants educated at fine schools. Benjamin Lay had seen first-hand, as a sailor, many facets of the horrors of the slave trade, especially in Barbados where public torture and murder of enslaved people was common. Also, many of the educated and refined people of the time, people of power and social standing, were slave holders as for example Thomas Jefferson. I have read several books over the many decades, gradually revealing the sexual exploitation of Sally Hemmings and the enslavement of the offspring of this relationship of Jeffersons with this enslaved woman, including the most recent work on the dna proof of her descendants' relationship to Jefferson.

A topic rarely put at the front of the Abolition movement and the struggle is that along with the exploitation for free labor of kidnapped and enslaved people, one of the deep and powerful and abiding motivations for the oppression of enslaved African people was the access it gave men with money to the bodies of women.

Today pornography and prostitution flourish and journalists and educated men of power and social standing make jokes about it as though the exploitation of the disadvantaged is funny and acceptable, as long as they are women. The recent expose' of widespread intimidation of women for perverted sexual gratification shows us where the ongoing battle is taking place.

For people of conscience the two new fronts in the ongoing war between good and evil are in the cruelty towards animals and the sexual exploitation of women. Just as with Benjamin Lay, who was also aware of the issue of animal cruelty and exploitation, those of us who share this consciousness are continually exposed to ridicule for our beliefs that all creatures deserve justice. Just as we live in a world where people blithely pander to their base desires and justify the practice, like Benjamin Lay, those of us who have reached a conscientious awareness of the injustice must bear up and live on in our principles and hope that as with the on-going and successful struggle against enslavement of people in the U.S., the work against the enslavement and exploitation of animals will one day be seen for the wrong that it is and will cease. And the degradation of women for the entertainment of men along with it.

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you"
(and in that thought an expansion is treat women the way you would want your mothers, sisters, daughters treated)

Happy New Year!

Happy Trails!
Jo Ann

Thursday, December 28, 2017

More Comments on "The Fearless Benjamin Lay'" book by Marcus Rediler

The Chapter on Benjamin Lay and his love of books and learning is particularly pertinent to the conflict between poetically powers adversarial to a free press that we are experiencing today.

In his attempts to shut down CNN and to pervert free expression by having his rich cronies buy up media outlets, Trump (whom I will NEVER call President) has made war on a basic American safe-guard, the Free Press.  Even in Benjamin Lay's time, the mid 1700's the press was under attack in various ways.  The Quaker hierarchy of the time suppressed all writing that was anti-slavery as the "meeting" had been overtaken by ministering "men of power" who acquired their wealth to a large measure by the trade in human flesh and the exploitation of the enslaved people.  Therefore when any member of the faith attempted to expand the continuous protest against this evil, the speaker was silenced through censure in Meeting or denial of publication. 

Fortunately then as now, there were those who respected and protected free speech and our own hero Benjamin Franklin published Benjamin Lay's great work against slavery and false ministry  

I believe that great danger is from money and monopoly.  Everyone understands censorship but we didn't anticipate that billionaire in protecting their wealth and the means by which they acquire it, as well as the protection of their treasure against taxation by off-shore accounts - as pirates buried their treasure in the Carribbean, that these billionaires would buy and monopolize media and pervert it to their own uses.  Hence, Fox news.  And the attempted purchase and perversion of CNN that was recently foiled.  Next the loss of Net Neutrality is a danger to us.  Well voices for truth and justice have aways found a way to make themselves heard and I have faith that will continue to be the case in this war between Good and Evil.

My view of this is that Good is for the greater good of all people, and it is loving and compassionate, that it protects and supports the poor and needy, the weakest, and most vulnerable of our society.  Evil is the pursuit of amassed riches, the exploitation of the poor the needy and the vulnerable, the misuse and abuse of people and animals, the setting off of some people as inferior because of color or religion or place of origin.  These sides are pretty clear in today's political climate.  One leader refuses to pay taxes, hides his money, brags of abusing women, denied his workers their fair pay in New York, and attacks the free press while throwing open the gates to the destruction of our planet by wealth seeking businessmen who wish to destroy our mountain tops by blasting them, poisoning our streams with pollutants, encroaching even further and faster upon those few natural lands left to us, and exploiting the workers at the same time.

If Benjamin Lay were alive today, I think I know where he would stand.

Happy Trails - enjoy the wood while you can - soon the various pipelines (through the pines as well as under the river of the invaded Dakota native American lands) will have polluted and laid waste to those woods.

In History our great war against evil was the war against the exploitation of our colony by the King, the war against enslavement of people, and now it is the war against the waste of our land by blind pursuit of individual wealth seekers.  They don't care what they do to our land in their avid urge to gather as much money as they can and hide it.

Quakers in South Jersey - some thoughts!

In the 1730's a man, Benjamin Lay, who had been born with a spinal deformity (dwarfism and hunchback) stood up in Burlington Quaker Meeting, and struck a sword through a pig bladder of red liquid spraying it upon those slave holding Quakers who were profiting from the sin and abomination of enslaving their fellow man.  An emigrant from England, immigrant to Philadelphia, Pa.  Benjamin had been cast out, persecuted, shunned and tormented for his belief that enslaving people was an immoral and un-Christian practice.  It is hard for us in our modern, post-Civil War period to imagine that a group so pious as the Quakers would betray and persecute one of their own for witnessing to what we hold to be a truth today about the enslavement of people.

A close friend of mine and fellow history aficianado, Barbara Solem, recommended the book "The Fearless Benjamin Lay" written by Marcus Reducer.  She had attended a book lecture and heard him speak.  She bought the book, loved it and loaned it to me.

This book has great interest to me for three deep reasons:  1. I was once a member of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, which I had to leave after I moved and was so beset with employment to support my child and myself, that I couldn't and wouldn't give up my only day off from work to go to meeting in New Jersey AND I had no car which would have required me to pack up my child and take buses to the nearest meetings.  I was exhausted.  I tried to keep up my attendance in Philadelphia until the morning that my daughter and I were endangered on the bus home by a drug addicted bus driver who kept swerving into the oncoming traffic when he drifted down on the nod.  I was released from membership by retained my belief in the basic tenets of the Society of Friends, the light within that guides us to humane and righteous behavior when we listen to it, and a respect for and practice of egalitarian behavior to all creatures, human and animal.  Though the last tenet is more characteristic of early 'Primitive Quakerism' there are still many practicing Friends who believe in it.

From time to time, after I retired and my mother gave me her old car, I was able to visit various meetings and remembered with warmth and affection my years with the Friends.  Frequently I consider attending again as I have met some meetings that seem populated with truly good Friends and have amongst my acquaintance people who attend there, such as the Medford Meeting.

Also, 2.  I have always been interested in those courageous people who stand out against accepted wrongs of their contemporary society to put their safety between the exploitation of the vulnerable and the abuse of the weak by the powerful "Speaking Truth to Power"  This is as relevant in today's headlines as it has been in other periods of time.  Today we confront the evil behavior of rich and powerful men towards those who fall under their power from Harvey Weinstock abusing women to Kevin Spacey abusing and exploiting young men.  You don't have to look far to find other kinds of abuses, of farm workers, of animals, of poor workers producing products for American consumption in slave like factories in foreign countries with unregulated labor practices.

Finally, Benjamin Lay joins a pantheon of heroes of mine from my home-places Philadelphia (where I was born) and South Jersey (where I have lived all my adult life).  These people include Alice Paul who fought for women's right to vote, and Abigail and Elizabeth Goodwin who lived devoted to abolition and the support and aid of fugitives from slavery, John Woodman, and all the strands of history that unite good people doing great work - including Harriet Tubman who has ties to South Jersey history through the Underground Railroad and her employment in Cape May.  Almost every path that I take near my home, brings me in the vicinity of some good work - the Saddler's Woods for example, and my many samples over the asphalt trails of South Jersey have always taken me by Quaker Meetings from Haddonfield to Greenwich and the dozen or more in between.

I strongly recomment the book "The Fearless Benjamin Lay" to anyone with an interest in humanitarian activism, the history of our country, the Civil War, Anti-slavery movements, South Jersey and Philadelphia history, and religion and religious activism.

Sometimes the trails are sandy hiking paths, sometimes asphalt highways, backroads, and often, the trails are intellectual throughout time and allowing us to enjoy the companionship of great minds.
Happy Trails,
Jo Ann

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Living History Re-Enactments and other live performance providers

If you like history and you have an event, you might like to consider entertaintment such as storytelling for an alternative to a DJ, for example.

One of my best and oldest friends, Dorothy Stanaitis has been providing storytelling programs for adults for many years since her retirement from library work.  She was a Children's
 Program Director, and also had a story time television program for children, but when she retired she branched out into storytelling for adults.  She has many fine programs in American History such as "Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggarman, Thief"  and "Rumors, Scandals, and Dirty Rotten Lies" to name just a few, and the one I saw recently was "Don't Touch That Dial" which was a nostalgic look at Radio programs from the Golden Age of Radio.  

When I worked as a Historic Site volunteer, I met many Character re-enactors from living history programs, George Washington, Dolly Madison, Molly Pitcher, and Jane Austen, to list just those that came most quickly to mind - oh yes, and Sojourner Truth.  I myself portrayed an Abolitionist on the Underground Railroad for several years for Camden County Historical Society for a completely different set of program directors who were in charge a few years back.  I based my character on Abigail Goodwin of Salem, New Jersey.

Recently at the Coffee Shop Railroad Station in Merchantville, I picked up a card for a Living History Re-Enactor whose program was called "Notorious" and she portrays Lizzie Borden, Typhoid Mary, and the Bride of Frankenstein: Lightning Strikes Twide.  Info from her card says, "For More info on Notorious Women of History contact Kate @ 856-912-1082 and NotoriousDames.com also you can e-mail her at Decotique.info@verionnet.  A vintage apparel shop it is located at 13 N. Centre St., Merchantville, NJ 08109

This made me think of characters I would like to see portrayed, Heroic Women.  The bad girls always get so much attention but the good ones change the world:  Clara Barton, Margaret Sanger, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth White, Ida B. Wells, Billy Jean King, to name just a few - though I guess you shouldn't do women who are still alive and perfectly capable of doing themselves such as Ms King.  So scratch that name off the list, maybe put Babe Didrikson in there instead.  And of course, my personal favorites Abigail Goodwin of Salem, NJ and Alice Paul of Mount Laurel, NJ.

I wish I were younger and had more energy, I would do it myself. How much fun that would be!

Happy Trails!
Jo Ann

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The American Holly, mistletoe and bittersweet.

Probably no plant is more symbolic of the holiday season than the American Holly.  Of course there is the Christmas Tree, the most famous symbol of all, but shrinking down to plant size, Holly has to take the crown.  And after all, though lots of people have Poinsettia in their homes and offices, Poinsettia is not native to our North American clime.  Oh, yes, there is also the mistletoe, and New Jersey is, in fact, famous for mistletoe as well as for holly.

Although holly is considered a shrub, it can grow to tree size even 245 to 60 feet tall!  I am most fortunate in having the kind of soil and yard that holly likes.  There are probably more than half a dozen good size hollies in my yard, some as tall as my house, but my house is one story.  I LOVE the bright red berries that brighten the yard in winter when all the leaves are finally gone and the yard is a dull  brown - then I look down the drive and my queen of holly shrubs shines its glossy green leaves and waves its red berry bangled branches and everything looks cheerful again.

Interesting fact:  hollies are "dioecious" meaning there are male and female plans and you must have both, and close to one another, in order for them to make berries and flowers.  Bees and Birds Love the Holly and butterflies lay their eggs at the base of the flower buds each year.

Holly is a symbol of Christmas from pre-Christian times.  Along with the evergreen tree, the bright and vigorous endurance of these hearty winter survivors gave people hope of making it through the cold Northern European winter season.  Their decorative beauty made them a top choice for decorating homes and churches in days gone by.  

A New Jersey connection:
"Elizabeth White (of Whitesbog Village near Browns Mills) experimented with one more type of plant: the American holly, ilex opaca. She even founded her own nursery business—Holly Haven, Inc.—and is credited with having helped to rescue the American holly from obscurity. She was even one of the first members of the Holly Society of America, founded in 1947.  Elizabeth White was most famous for successfully cultivating the blueberry at her family's cranberry bog plantation. 

Mistletoe:  "Mistletoe is most often found dangling over doorways at Christmastime, customarily with the promise of a kiss.
But the rare plant also drapes the forests of South Jersey, growing in twisted tree limbs 50 to 60 feet in the air. The trick is getting to it. Enter the mistletoe hunter. And his shotgun.  Squinting skyward, they stalk treetops for clumps of green. When hunters spot the coveted flora, they squeeze the trigger, pumping a bullet into the branch so it falls to the ground.  "Shooting mistletoe is how most people collect it," says David Snyder, a botanist from the New Jersey Office of Natural Lands Management. "It’s so high up that it’s difficult to get. The only other options are to cut down the tree or have utility people saw off the branches. We haven’t developed a better scientific method of collection."
The tradition continues to this day, although it is increasingly obscure. Mistletoe is categorized as endangered, protected by state law, as is bittersweet, pictured below.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Most Christmas Decorations - Pitman, Nj

Another fun day!  Today, FridayDecember 22, 2017, a friend and I drove to Pitman, New Jersey to see the house with the MOST Christmas decorations.  This house has been celebrated on tv and in the newspapers, so we decided to see it for ourselves!  

If you have never visited Pitman Grove, you SHOULD.  It is a historic district of quaint houses that date back to Pitman's early years as a Bible Camp Meeting hub.  The Grove auditorium, built in 1882, was recently renovated.  

The "most decorated house" was not a disappointment.  They had so much stuff, they had to expand into a neighboring yard!  The many unusual decorations included Santa's bathroom with Santa in the shower, and exotic figures from around the world.  

We had 'panzerotti's" at Attillio's pizzeria on Broadway, and visited all the decorations stores, primitives and country style, as well as the latest Art show at the Pitman Art Center, and the free book give-away at the library in the center of town.  Although there were many happy visitors strolling the sidewalks of the main street of Pitman, we had no trouble finding parking right off Broadway.  

It was a delightful day and lifted our spirits.  The gloomy gray threat of storm weather had us in the dumps, and Pitman cheered us right up again.  We went down 47 to get there and came home on 45 to enjoy driving through Woodbury.

Happy Trails!  And while you are there, pick up a copy of the Country Register - it is free and has tons of information, recipes, events, and locations of even more fun places to visit.  For example in this issue, I discovered some history of cranberries, of holly, and a new antique place called Cawman's Antique Mall, 529 Salem Quentin Rd., Salem, NJ open Wed. through Sun 10 - 5.  I plan to go there on my next ramble on the roads of South Jersey.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mount Laurel Day of visits

Another fun day wandering from historic spot to historic spot, this time in Mount Laurel which I didn't know was Evesham!   That solves a few small mysteries in my family history search of long ago.  One early branch of my family were under the care of the Evesham monthly meeting as per records in the Corson Poley Center in Burlington City.  I couldn't quite figure out where Evesham was.  Now I know.

We visited the Farmers  Hall which was having an open house from 1:00 to 4:00 today and serving hot cider and home-made cookies - my special favorites were the caramel chip and a layered cookie with jam, and chocolate icing!  There were also the perennial favorite snickerdoodles.  

Farmers' Hall had originally been a kind of grange where farmers met to talk over agricultural practices and seed prices.  It later became a police station and post-office, a municipal building, and finally was rescued from becoming a parking lot by the Mt. Laurel Historical Society.  This historical societies are my heroes!  They have saved so many wonderful old and irreplaceable buildings like this one, by their own sweat and tears.  They did remodeling and they always hold fund-raisers and use the proceeds for renovations and upkeep.

We walked across the corner to the oldest Friends Meeting in Burlington County, first meeting built in 1668, then the stone version built in late 1700's.  It is a beautiful native stone structure still in use for meeting.  Behind it is the brick schoolmaster's dwelling from an early school.  

We had veggie burgers at Whelihans for lunch.  It was a delightful day finished off by some browsing at Second Time Around Books in Rancocas - a charming book store!  Lots of good books on New Jersey history featured there too!

Go  on over and check them out!  Happy Trails!
Jo Ann

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Three fun places to visit in MERCHANTVILLE, NJ

Today, Saturday, Dec. 16th, two friends and I had lunch at my all time favorite lunch place, Maritza's on Main Street in Maple Shade.  I was dropping off a painting for the small works show at Main Street Art, same Main St. as Maritza's.  An old college classmate of mine, Diane Paul is proprietor and artist-in-residence.  By the way, looking for a great holiday party, birthday party, or just for fun place, she has great sip and paint classes and a new addition, bleached art t-shirts!  She also has a wide array of wonderful gifts.  

I was dropping off the 4th in a short series of paintings of historical places in Maple Shade, the railroad station, the one-room school, and the stone silo on Collins Lane with farmhouse, and the Dairy Queen Drive-in.  They are $100 each, 8 x 10, framed and ready to hang, so if you are looking for that special and unique gift for a 'Shader' or former 'Shader' drop in and have a look.

After lunch and our errand, we went to Merchantville to check out an all-hand-made health items store called Spirit to Sole Connection, 23 N. Centre St., where I sampled the tea, and home-made cookies and bought a fragrant lavender sachet for my daughter's Christmas stocking.  

Next we headed over to the Railroad Station for coffee and for me to show my friends the upstairs gallery where I may try to have an Art Show for my birthday one upcoming year.  I love the setting!  There was an art show up and several small works at reasonable prices that would, again, make excellent gifts.  You can also get lunch there, but we had already had lunch, so we settled for iced oatmeal cookies and hot drinks.  I had a pumpkin spice latte' - super delicious and perfect for the late afternoon of a snowy cold day - and also a perfect day for a drive around Merchantville looking at the gorgeous Victorian homes with their snowy white skirts.  Just along the railroad beside the station cafe' are several noteworthy Victorian beauties!  

Merchantville is the town where I went to high school, graduating in 1963 at age 17.  They no longer have a high school because Maple Shade, where I grew up, built their own high school and Merchantville lost the transfer population they needed to keep the high school open.  That's too bad.  It was a fine high school with dedicated and dignified teachers and a serious and hard-working student body.  I learned a lot there, and in fact, became a teacher myself many years later.  I always loved that town.

So if you are looking for a nice place to visit, right in your own backyard, give Merchantville a chance.  There are several interesting small stores worth trying too, which I am saving for my next visit:  Decotique, fine vintage at 13 N. Centre, for example.  And I would like to make a return visit to Spirit to Sole connection.
There was a little Christmas shop that we passed while driving down Centre Street that I would like to visit as well.

Happy Trails!
Jo Ann

Prairie Fires final review comments

I am at the end of Prairie Fires, the biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and a couple of conclusions struck me:  1.  The tv series, in which the original Little House stories were taken over by Michael Landon and remolded into his political view, glorified the prairie settlements as the way American kept fed during the depression, whereas in fact, most of the settlers were forced to leave after their ecological devastation of the plains caused the dust storms and heat and drought that followed excessive logging of the forests.
2.  The Little House tv series was popularized during the greatest period of Native American civi rights protest, and, similarly, glorified the genocide of the Indigenous people after the greedy land grabs and the fraudulent treaty deals of the Federal Government.
Also worth note, the individualistic survival simplicity is in fact, utterly delusional.  No one survived on the plains or anywhere else without help from others then or now.  "No man is an island" has always been true.  The settlers depended on federal land gifts (so much for limited the federal government preached by Republicans) and endless loans which could never be repaid after ecological disaster destroyed crop after crop and finally forced the failed small farmers off their land and into the westward migration to California to work as agricultural labor.
Still, a very informative and interesting book on many levels and I recommend it highly!  It is especially interesting to fans of the work of Willa Cather, another writer of the plains experience.

Today, Saturday, I am off to Maple Shade to put my historic places 8x19 painting of the Drive In Custard Stand in the gallery of Main Street Art to join the other three paintings on display there, The one-room school, and the railroad, and the stone silo.  Then on to a health food store I have seen on Facebook at 23 Center St. in Merchantville, all after lunch at Maritza's also on Main Street in Maple Shade.

Tomorrow, off to the Farm Museum in Marlton and Second Time Around Book Store, and lunch with pal, Barb Solem.

Have a wonderful weekend - Happy Trails!
Jo Ann

Thursday, December 14, 2017

South Phila. Childhood

Sometimes in the morning when I am drinking my first cup of

coffee, before I become engaged with reading a book, or 
paying bills, or some other activity, my mind drifts and a memory from my early childhood will come back to me.  This morning, I was thinking about the hucksters who came up the alleys behind our our row homes in South Philadelphia.  This was a remarkable event because they rode horse drawn wagons!  Their wagon beds were piled high with vegetables and they had a swinging silver panned weight hanging from the framed wagon structure.  

Housewives would go out into the alley and buy a pound of carrots or green beans (which we called string beans) and the huckster would pile them into the weighing pan.  The horse waited patiently, and other housewives gathered at their back gates for their turn.

These vegetable hucksters came from "The Neck" which was some mysterious place south of where we lived and also south of "The Dump" which was a place my parents would go from time to time in search of something.  Once we went there for a medicine cabinet which my father installed in the bathroom of our row home.  Every year in December we drove down to the Neck for our Christmas tree, which cost about $5.  

Many years later, I was idly searching around on the neck and I came across an old etching of the a farm at the neck and this interesting piece of information which I found again today from a different source:

Philadelphia RowHome magazine Winter 2009 by Omar R - issuu

Jan 5, 2010 - Senick said his family lived on Stone House Lane, around where 3rd and Pattison is now. ... The Neck apparently was first settled before the Revolutionary War by Germans, Swedes and French, among others, by people who were doing what came naturally for a time when the economy was dominated by ...

Although I visited their web site, I couldn't find the article quoted on this teaser.  In the original tidbit, it was mentioned that the original settlers were Germans, some of them left here after the Revolutionary War, when several thousand Hessian soldiers had been hired out of German (not yet a unified country) and employed as Mercenary soldiers.  Wounded, deserters, and imprisoned Hessian soldiers, left behind after the war, often settled here.  Since many of them had been originally peasant farmers in their home duchies, they returned to farming in America.  In the marshlands where the Schuylkill and Delaware meet, in the area known as the neck because of its shape between the two rivers, they drained the swamps with canals, built small truck farms, and lived harmoniously for a couple of centuries, joined by Swedes, Irish, and others who were happy to find free land where they could throw up a shack and farm, or raise ducks, pigs, rabbits and other livestock.

Since this land was considered 'waste' being marshy swamp land, it was mostly ignored until Philadelphia filled up, and then areas were turned into land-fill and dumps.  Eventually, in the early 1900's and particularly after the second World War, the land was confiscated by the government, the people driven off their small plots, their shacks and cottages burned, and the polluted marshland filled in and turned into the industrial, refineries, ship-yard and airport uses of today.

Since my father's heritage is half German, half English, I have always been interested in the early German settlers of the area where I grew up.  Also, when I was a child, my mother was a Sunday School teacher at Gloria Dei, "Old Swedes" Church, and I have also always been interested in the first Swedish settlers in the area because of that early association. 

So much of what was when you were a child disappears as time marches on, that you can't help feeling nostalgia for the irreplaceable past - a place you can only visit in your memory.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Prairie Fires, b Caroline Fraser and a pertient detail

Anyone who has looked into Pinelands history, would have come across the name Doctor Still.  He was an African American healer who practiced in the pines and left a long line and a large line of ancestors who celebrate his history to this day.  I have been to lectures several times where his ancestors recount his life and adventures, and to one where historians described efforts to buy his property where he once lived and dispensed his herbal medicines to those in need.

An abiding interest of mine throughout my life has been the history of the forgotten, whether African Americans, the poor, Native Americans, or my own class of 'invisible people' - women.  Often I have thought that if I had it to do over again, or more time in my life now, I would take up the study of Women's History, but all I can do is study it independently and I have throughout my life.  In fact, I donated an extensive collection of books on that subject to the Alice Paul Foundation's Library at her farmstead in Mount Laurel.

In Prairie Fires, the biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the series - Little House on the Prairie) author Caroline Fraser includes many fascinating details of the historical context of Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood, including the land grab that destroyed the Native Americans of the plains.  On page 56, she also describes an African American botanical herbal healer, George Tann, who saved her family when they were all sick with malaria, by treating them with quinine.  This doctor, a self-taught son of free people, also treated the Osage Indians whose land was being stolen by the illegal settlement of pioneer families like the Ingalls in 1870's Kansas.  This doctor, it seems to me is worthy, in his own right, of a biography, I wanted to know more about him.

Such is the colorful and scholarly prose of Caroline Fraser, that there are a constant succession of descriptive details that make this a page-turner, and inspire a longing to 'know more.' You can feel her passion for history in this writing and her broad understanding, as well as appreciate her lively prose style.  

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history and anyone who loved the Little House series, in book form or on tv.  I never read the books myself, whether because I was older when they became popular, or whether they just never crossed my path, but one of my younger sisters was an avid and devoted fan of the tv series throughout her childhood and her adulthood.  I bought the boxed set of the Little House books to read after I finish the biography.

Happy trails
Jo Ann

Friday, December 1, 2017

Shooting Stars and A Christmas Story

December 13 is he night of the Gemini meteor shower, visible with the naked eye in most of the world.  Find a place away from city lights and enjoy the show.  It is the best meteor shower of the year!

Decmber 17, at 7 p.m., three hour musical version of A Christmas Story, the beloved classic by Gene Shepherd, tis time interpreted through music by the composers of La La Land.  The channel wasn't printed in the magazine where I got this but my guess would be Channel 12.