Friday, July 30, 2010

Finding the Holy Grail In My Backyard?

As many of you know, I've been on a mission to find the Holy Grail for quite some time. I've been to all three coasts in my search and as far north as the wind still carries this side of the Mason-Dixon line. I've found half of the Holy Grail several times but never the whole thing all in one place. All this time, I've not been actively seeking it but waiting it to find me. Well a couple weeks ago, I think I may have found it. I'm referring to the Holy Grail of BBQ.

It was one of those rare days here in Iowa when it wasn't raining so I took half a day of vacation, grabbed the wife and daughter and hit the road for a river town about an hour's drive away. We had nothing planned other than to kill some time and enjoy the day but the first order of business was to find some grub. Business and pleasure has carried me to that town several times over the past year but every time we have been there, a little hole in the wall BBQ joint called Dillon's BBQ had been closed with no clear times posted as to when they might be open. The first time I saw it I was intrigued because it had all the signs of a good BBQ place. It was small and cozy so they were definitely interested in producing good BBQ and not selling it to the masses. The only sign other than the hand painting on the window was one of the rolling light signs on wheels with plastic letters. The menu was short and sweet and posted on a sign behind the cash register. It wasn't written on a chalk board but I've never considered that a hard and fast rule. Perhaps the best sign of all was that the entire back end of the building was in the form of an enormous SST smoker/grill. Where the grill ended the building began.

But on this day as we pulled up a little after one on a Friday, a hanging open sign dangled in the window beside the door. We were the only vehicle in the parking lot. The special of the day was a BBQ beef sandwich and so we both ordered one up, being careful not to order it Carolina Style which I assumed meant slaw on top. By the time we had gotten our drinks and sat down, our food was in front of us and we dug in. The first bite of the sandwich was heaven. The meat was tender, very flavorful and full of a delicious BBQ sauce that wasn't too tangy and not too sweet. It was perfection between two bun halves and wrapped in waxed paper.

Now we both had the BBQ beef sandwich so I can't tell you how the rest of the very limited menu is but if the beef is any indication, I'm sure it is worth trying out. In the end, even if they don't have the best ribs, the best pork, or the best slaw, I am confident that after all the years of looking for it, I have finally found the Holy Grail of BBQ beef sandwiches, and of all places, it was almost in my back yard. I couldn't have thought of a better place for it to be.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pictures of the Past and Another Mystery

Back in the early days of my genealogy digging into the Baker side of my family, I quickly found a person who had been filling up all the usual genealogy sites with questions about the same people I was looking for. I think we exchanged one email and then she disappeared. Since she is two generations ahead of me, I thought the worst had happened and that the separation would be permanent. However, about three months ago, contact was again established and we have been exchanging information. As far as research goes, I've progressed past where she is thanks to new technology, namely the Internet. Since I've exhaustively written about this progress many times before on John Henry, siblings and parents, I will just post a bunch of links to them at the bottom of this post. She did however, have some pictures of my second great grandfather John Henry Baker and his second wife Katie Byrel Stevens. The picture of them above is one taken later in life. He died at age 61 so I'm guessing that picture wasn't too much ahead of his death.

The pictures below though only bring up more questions for me. The next two oval ones were labeled John Henry Baker and Katie Byrel Stevens Baker. I'm not yet sure at this point who did the labeling. It appears to be a wedding picture of the two but here's the rub. When John and Katie married, they were 45 and 35 years of age respectively. Those two certainly aren't that old. When John was married to my 2nd great grandmother Blanch Jessie McKee, they were 26 and 19 years old. That seems about the ages of the two in the oval pictures. Another thing that stands out, is that all the pictures of Katie, including the one above, show her with what appears to be olive skin or a healthy tan. There are half a dozen of them in all and they all look like that. The bottom photo below is the youngest one I have of her with a baby that I'm guessing is from her first marriage since she doesn't look 35 years old. Compare that picture with the oval picture above it. They don't look like the same person. The nose is different. The eye structure is different. The skin tone is different. If I had to guess, I would say the second picture below is one of my 2nd great grandmother Blanch Jessie McKee. Another mystery from a family that has been full of mysteries.

John Henry Baker and the Search for His Father
Who Are You John Henry Baker
John Henry Baker's Parents: Part One
John Henry Baker's Parents: Part Two
France E. Bolton
Charlie Chicken
Joseph Baker: Part One
Joseph Baker: Part Two
The Bakers Chicken
Across Oceans and Continents: Part One
Across Oceans and Continents: Part Two

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Notorious I.O.W.A.

I'm not sure many people outside the state realize that Iowa has been prominently in the news recently. It all started with some conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posting a small clip supposedly showing Shirley Miller Sherrod making a racist statement. Fox News picked it up and ran with this doing the usual "fair and balanced" reporting. This got to the desk of the Secretary of Agriculture, Shirley Sherrod's ultimate boss who fired her. The NCAAP also immediately condemed Sherrod for said clip. No one evidently thought to take ANYTHING Fox News said with a grain of salt.

As we all now know, Sherrod was relating a story that happened twenty years ago when she was still fuming over the father's death at the hands of a white farmer. Ultimately the video went on to explain how she learned that this wasn't about black or white but was about poor people. The everyone backtracked, except of course Fox News and the initial blogger, and the Secretary of Agriculture apologized and offered her a different job from the one she had.

So how does Iowa play into this? The Secretary of Agriculture is none other than former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack who was raised by foster parents just twenty miles down the road from me. He was governor for two terms here in Iowa but gained national notice by launching the first and ultimately the shortest election bid for the 2008 presidency of the United States with a run that lasted less than three months before he realized that nobody knew who the heck he was. That is fortunate for us Iowans as had he gotten farther onto the national stage, Iowa would have been the butt of many jokes.

I'm also a little disappointed in how Sherrod has handled this situation. She demanded apologies all the way up to the president even though he had nothing to do with the ordeal. All the while she went on and on to whoever would listen about how she didn't want her job back and when offered a job created specifically to appease her, she said she would think about it and to my knowledge, is still thinking about it. To me, she appeared a bit pompous like Henry Louis Gates Jr., though not on the pompous ass level he got too. I don't think anyone can top that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Too Wet To Burn

A guy died one day and found himself waiting in the long line of judgment. As he stood there he noticed that some souls were allowed to march right through the pearly gates into Heaven. Others though, were led over to Satan who threw them into the burning pit. But every so often, instead of hurling a poor soul into the fire, Satan would toss a soul off to one side into a small pile.. After watching Satan do this several times, the guy's curiosity got the best of him. So he strolled over and asked Satan what he was doing. "Excuse me, Mr. Prince of Darkness," he said. "I'm waiting in line for judgment, but I couldn't help wondering, why are you tossing those people aside instead of flinging them into the Fires of Hell with the others?" "Ah, those," Satan said with a groan. "They're all from Iowa. They're still too wet to burn."

Ain't that the truth.

Over this last year as I've been commiserating with others about our near constant rain here, I've found myself thinking that I said the same things over the last three years. It has seemed as if we have had four especially wet years in a row. Then a couple weeks ago, I found a website run by a state university that records the amount of rain falling in my part of rural Iowa on a daily basis and has records going back a long ways. They even have a way to export the data into a format that I could import into an Excel spreadsheet to clarify things. As you can see in the graph below, it really does help to see just how wet it has been here. There are three lines. The top line shows or average annual rainfall for this part of Iowa which is 36.5 inches. The middle lines shows our accumulated precipitation thus far this year. We are at slightly above 33 inches (14 inches above normal) for the year and counting. Another thing to notice on the middle line is that there are very few level spots where rain has not falling. You can see the two weeks around the middle of April where the farmers got their crops in the first time and then it has been all uphill since. The bottom lines shows where our moisture should be on a "normal" year.

So this brings me back to my claim that I've been saying the same things for four years now. I dumped the data in the spreadsheet along with the data for 1993 which was the wettest year in the history of Iowa and got the graph below. The bottom line is the same average precipitation that we are supposed to receive in a year. The next three lines above average precipitation line represent the years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. That along with the half line of 2010 show that it hasn't been my imagination. The scary thing about this is that the 2010 line is keeping up with the blistering pace set on the wettest year in the records books, 1993. In 1993, it rained well into September before the spigots turned off.

I'm beginning to think I should pull my boat building dream off the back burner and put it on the front burner. I should also up-size the pot and start thinking ark sized boats.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Now I've Seen Everything

This has been a rough year for farming. We've had about ten planting days during the entire two and a half month planting "window" where it was actually dry enough to plant. But my parents managed to plant the crop twice with only a couple hundred acres that won't get planted at all this year. Much of what was planted will be rated poor when it comes time to harvest but sometimes you have to go ahead and play the odds. All of that is why I am not a farmer and how my only beef with the rain is getting the lawn mowed.

I have joked at times this year about getting ready to "remove the pontoons" off my lawn mower and sadly, it hasn't been to far from the truth. I have a small lawn here in town and only have a push mower but at times, I've rutted up my yard getting the grass cut. Although I am a minimalist when it comes to lawn care, I've occasionally sprayed some chemicals here and there to keep the Creeping Charlie in check so that when it fades out of season there is still some grass afterwards. This year I haven't been able to even do that because I haven't had an open window where rain wasn't threatening the forecast. However, I've always been able to eventually get it mowed before it looks to obscene and have never had to mow it during a rain storm. My neighbor across the street uphill from the Lawn Nazi can't say that after last week.

I was on my way home from daycare during a brief downpour when as I turned into my driveway, saw my neighbor across the street mowing his lawn. He wasn't heading toward the garage and wasn't just finishing up. In fact, it looks like he had perhaps started only fifteen minutes before I drove by. He would push his lawn mower forward for about ten feet, stop, and then proceed to shake it violently to clear the clogged grass out of the discharge. If that didn't work, which was about half the time, he would stop the mower, clear it with a stick that he was carrying in one hand and then start up the lawn mower and proceed. Water is pouring from the skies and running off the lawnmower in small rivers!

I know this isn't very believable because who mows lawn when it is pouring rain out but it is true. All I had was my cell phone and standing in my garage with him only 40 feet away wasn't enough of a comfort zone to take a photo inconspicuously. So I hurried inside, found my digital camera and was going to take a photo through our front window but he gave up at that point, threw his stick across the yard and drug his lawnmower around the corner of the house. I feel his pain. My lawn is going on 9 days now since the last time I mowed it and I don't know when I will be able to mow it next. Perhaps I too will be mowing in the rain soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Acting Koi

One of the perks of living in the Urban Jungle has been buying and using season passes to the local zoo. It isn't very big and the selection of animals is small. In fact, even if you mosey and read every word of every sign as well as spend some time admiring every animal, you are still only talking about an outlay of perhaps two hours. Three if you throw in lunch. But I have yet to tire of it.

It seems as if every time we go, my daughter seems to "discover" a new animal that she really hadn't paid attention to before and as any parents knows, one of the best perks of being a parent is seeing the world again through their child's eyes. On this particular trip, my daughter discovered the koi pond.

As you can see, the koi pond is packed pretty tight though in reality, they are only that tight due to their gluttony. The pond covers probably an acre or two but there is a wooden dock that encloses a spot of 100 square feet where people can walk and feed the fish. My daughter decided she wanted to feed the fish and so I fished through my pockets and came up with one quarter. I put it in the dispensing unit, turned the handle and nothing came out. The feed was caked up inside. But my daughter really had her mind set on feeding the fish. So being the good dad that I am, I spent the next fifteen minutes picking up individual nuggets of fish food that had spilled down onto the docks and giving them to my daughter to toss into the pond. I am happy to report that my efforts were not wasted. Not one single nugget of food made it to the bottom of the pond, many of the fish went home that evening just a little bit fuller, and the dock was a little bit cleaner. My hands however, smelled a bit fishy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Genetically Iowa: By the Numbers

Sometime in 1841, John Chapman and his wife Jane Cather would cross the Mississippi into the very southeast corner of Iowa Territory, a territory created less than three years earlier. Only a year later, James Ware and wife Polly Busick and parents Lindsey and Martha Ware would cross at the same area and continue on into what is now Davis county, Iowa where they would take up farming. The great grandchildren of the John and Jane Chapman and James and Polly Ware would marry and their only son would be my grandfather. These were the first of many ancestors who would migrate to the state of Iowa which for me, has the best of every state in this union combined and placed in the center of our country.

One more set of 4th great grandparents would make it into Iowa before Iowa was even a state. Salmon Cowles and wife Polly Miner would also cross into Lee county in 1845 and declared it home. They were just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Out of my sixty-four 4th great grandparents, 6 were here in the state before Iowa became a state and another 14 would move here within the next decade. Only 11 more would would ever come and it took them an addition decade. All told by 1870, 12 of my 128 5th great grandparents and 31 of 64 4th great grandparents would be living or buried in Iowa.

By 1880, all but two of my 32 3rd great grandparents would be in Iowa having been born here or immigrated here from other countries. Those two holdouts, Jessie Luther and Mary Igo would have a son David Luther who most certainly traveled to Iowa or perhaps lived here for a short time because he would marry my 2nd great grandmother Sarah Gordy whose parents moved to Iowa. David and Sarah's son born on May 18, 1894 was my great grandfather and the last of my ancestors to arrive to Iowa.

As I have mentioned before, my goal is to identify all 256 of my 6th great grandparents, a job that is only 34% complete. Likewise, I have only identified 74% of my 5th great grandparents and 91% of my 4th great grandparents. Only when I get to my 3rd great grandparents have I identified all 100% of them. What amazes me most so far in that task is that I have only found ten that immigrated here. Two of them came from Germany, one from Switzerland, two from Ireland, one from Canada and four from England. Five of those are my 3rd great grandparents and five are 4th great grandparents. If you carried that out to my group of 256 6th great grandparents, only 52 or 20% never lived in America. I'm guessing there is still a handful of lurkers out among the ranks of my 5th great grandparents that were immigrants but I haven't found them yet.

All told, I have 100 ancestors buried or still living in Iowa. Although I haven't kept records, I have probably visited the graves of almost half of them leads me to another quest of mine. I would like to visit all 100 graves and pay homage before I become the 101rst person in my great family tree to be buried within this state.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Double Dragon


The Internet is a great way for exploring cities. You can run a search of what you are interested in and the name of the city and usually come up with something. A GPS device takes it to the next level especially if you are a believer in Garmin brands which have millions of way points already stored in the device so you can search for them on the fly so to speak. However, neither of those devices will help you find something truly unique that only the locals know about.

Being married to someone of the Asian persuasion, we need to stock up on supplies that you just can't find in any supermarket here in the Midwest. Over the years, we have found little stores here and there across the state of Iowa and they do well but even they lack the variety that can usually only be found in a mega-city. So when my wife stumbled upon the Double Dragon in the urban jungle, she was in heaven. Only, she couldn't remember where it was when I came along.

So we drove through the neighborhood for a time and had given up when we decided to see what places around here were available to eat at. I searched through the Garmin way points, chose a likely place and away we went... on a route that took us right by the Double Dragon. We were too hungry to stop so I just touched the screen to set a custom way point and we now, for the life of our GPS anyway, have instant directions to the Double Dragon whenever we want.

By Asian store standards, the Double Dragon is huge. It is about twice the size of the largest Asian food store that I have had the pleasure of setting foot in. In one half, it is well stocked with all kinds of frozen and fresh sea foods and meats and in the other half, full of dry goods and vegetables. Throughout the stores narrow isles, hordes of small Asians rummage around for this and that and one tall gringo tries to keep tabs on his wife who is quickly slipping through the crowd with eyes just like a kid in a candy store.

Although you couldn't buy a steak or even hamburger, you could buy among other things in the meat section:

Pork Bungs and Chicken Feet

Pork Ears, Spleen, Stomach and other parts


Fish Heads

My wife can turn the fish heads into a delicious soup along with the chicken feet though I have only had the latter during one of my trips in the Philippines. I've eaten duck and it is quite tasty. However, I pass when given the opportunity to consume pork bungs, ears, spleens, livers, stomachs and other parts of the pig that aren't in chop or steak form. I always figure that I'm just doing my part in the world by eating those other parts of a pig that no self respecting Asian would consume.

Public Service Notice: No pigs, ducks or chickens were harmed in the making of this blog post. They were like that already when I found them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little Abbey Update

According to my archives, it has been six months since I last did an update on my daughter. Since then she has turned four and thinks she rules the roost. I don't expect that will change over the next 14 years. For now I still have a mental edge over her but we'll see how long that lasts.

I must say that by far, this is my favorite stage in her life so far and for once, I don't wish for something more. When she was born, I couldn't wait for her to crawl so that she didn't constantly need held. Then it was walking so that she didn't need help over insurmountable obstacles. Then it was talking so I could understand what she wanted. Then it was to mature a bit so I didn't constantly have to entertain her ever second of the day. But now, she is just right. She can talk and we can have entire conversations albeit on a simple level. She still wants to be around the action and still wants daddy to play with her but she can entertain herself for periods of time and not need constant monitoring in all situations. She says something that melts my heart on a daily basis and I am still the center of her world though she spends more time away from home (school, daycare, other activities) than with me at home, at least in an awake state. It is perfect and she could stay like that for the foreseeable future and I wouldn't mind, at least until I retire from the 9 to 5 gig. In another year, she will be starting kindergarten and though she is ready, I'm not sure I am ready. Perhaps soon after, dear old dad won't be cool out in public anymore and playing with dad after school will be traded for texting friends, hanging out in the bedroom listening to music I don't understand at too loud of a level, and all the other things teens do. But for now, she is still young, innocent and naive to the world which still revolves around me. She can do much by herself but prefers to do so in my company. It is my favorite stage.

This stage might not have been my favorite had I not quickly learned to harness the power of competitiveness. Evidently, four-year-old kids start becoming competitive amongst each other which is evident at any social event with more than one four year old. The air is full of "look at what I can do." I quickly used that mental edge mentioned above to gain the advantage. If she doesn't want to dress herself I will say lets race to see who gets dressed the fastest. If she doesn't want to go somewhere I will say lets race to see who gets their shoes on and out to the car the fastest. If she doesn't want to go to bed I will say, lets see who can get upstairs and start brushing our teeth the fastest. It works every time... for now. Sooner or later she will wisen up and I will lose a little bit of my mental edge but for now, I'm taking advantage of it.

I've lost a lot of ground on the food front and most of that is probably due to daycare. She won't eat when we are eating mostly because she is holding out for something she would prefer better. She knows that unless it is a weekend, she just has to hold out to daycare and then she can load up there. Mrs. Z at the daycare feeds her lots of fruit and vegetables but also a lot of baked french fries, chicken nuggets, fish sticks and those sorts of things that young kids seem to love. I have got her hooked on quesedillas which I fill with vegetables and other better for you foods which helps a bit but I've a lot of ground to make up. But she looks healthy and is growing like a weed so I guess I'm not too worried yet.

I'm not sure I ever mentioned this previously but when she was in preschool, she spent quite a bit of time bringing up Anthony. It was always Anthony this and Anthony that. So during our field trip to ride on Amtrak which I wrote about here, we were waiting in line to board and I struck up a conversation with the parent/kid combo beside me. When I inquired "and who is this" while looking at her child who looks like a mixed race child just like Little Abbey, she told me he was Anthony. I mentioned that my daughter talks all the time about Anthony which surprised the parent. She said when people talk to her about Anthony, it is usually about something bad he has done. Great I thought. My daughter is already hanging out with the trouble makers. Flash forward now to summer break and I finally got around to developing the film from one of those disposable cameras that we sent with her to school with her name on it. While looking at the pictures, she was pointing to the kids and naming each of them for my benefit. I asked her if she had a crush on Anthony when his picture came up. No she said, Anthony just lets me play with him. I feel a little bit better now... slightly.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Across Oceans and Continents: Part 2

I decided to pursue John and Mary Bolton's early life and after some searching, I found that John & Mary Bolton immigrated to America in 1844 and patented land in Lafayette county Wisconsin in 1848. Then John disappears before the 1850 census and his wife and two daughters, leaving them living with a prominent family in the area headed by Elias Pilling. This is right before they too disappear in the U.S. Federal census record.

On the off chance that I might find something conclusive which has never been the case, I checked the 1861 England census to see if by some chance John had died soon after immigrating to America and mother Mary and family had gone back home. Indeed, I almost certainly found a census record for 1861 in Cumberworth Half, Yorkshire, England where a now widowed Mary Bolton, daughters Selina Jane and Frances Ann are living and the correct ages as the ones listed in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census and a brother, Jeremiah J Bolton too. Selina Jane and Frances Ann are both listed as having been born in Wisconsin and Jeremiah in California. Selina Jane was easily traced and went on to have a family of her own. Jeremiah would die in young adulthood. I'm not sure on Mary. Since she was born in England as were most everyone living in England, it is hard to separate her out of the many other Mary Boltons living there. Selina and Jeremiah were easy to track with their United States births. Frances should have fallen into the same category but disappears. More on that later.

One little detail of finding my Bolton family in England that threw me for a loop was Jeremiah being born in California. Then I realized that it offered up a likely explanation on what happened to Mary's husband John. John patented land in Wisconsin in 1848 and then disappeared while his wife and two daughters stayed behind in 1850. Let me give you the hint that the year between these two events was 1849. Combining the year and the fact that his son was born in California in 1854, I think this is my first confirmed ancestor that was part of the famous California Gold Rush of 1849. He must have first went out there by himself and later did well enough for his family to join him so that Jeremiah could be born in 1854. Still something went wrong again for him to be dead and the rest of his family to end up in England less than seven years later.

After all this, I feel that I am on the right track and that my 3rd great grandmother Frances Bolton is indeed the same Frances Ann Bolton listed in the Willow Springs census and that her parents are Mary and John Bolton. I would still however like to have that proverbial smoking gun and figure out under what circumstances Frances came back to America. Her obituary says she was married in the year preceding the Civil War to my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker but no mention of where. Did she meet Joseph Baker after she got back to England and then immigrated back with him to start again? If so, I have been unable to find an immigration record for them together. If the obituary were correct with all their dates, which they often times aren't, she would have been married at the age of ten or twelve if I use the birth year in the census records. Either way, she was pretty young to be married and ship off to another continent. I suspect that she probably got married in the year AFTER the Civil War was over which puts a three year window between marriage (at age of 18) and the birth of her first child in 1869. One census record listing her years of marriage seems to support this also.

Did she come back with her mother Mary who perhaps remarried? I haven't found record of that and I would have thought that if that were the case, Jeremiah would have come along too since he had been ten years old or younger. But Jeremiah certainly stayed in England and died at age twenty. Did Frances come back alone? I think that would have been very unusual unless she had previously met her soon to be husband Joseph Baker but that would mean that she probably met him in California, which would put his parents involved in the gold rush too. I haven't seen any evidence to support this and it just doesn't feel correct to me.

If I were a betting man, I would say that Frances Bolton met Joseph Baker in England in the early 1860's after the death of her father and the boat ride back from California. Together, they immigrated back to someplace unknown in America and Joseph got caught up in the ongoing Civil War. This might explain the lack of a service record for him. After the war, they settled briefly in central Illinois before migrating to northwest Iowa where the family settled down. Joseph soon died in 1882 of an old war injury or perhaps murder so Frances unable to raise five children on her own, kicked the oldest two (my 2nd great grandfather John Henry Baker and his oldest sister Frances Ellen Baker) out the door and gave up the middle two for adoption to the Chicken family and kept the baby Mary to raise. Forty-five years later, she would end up in the same bone yard as her first husband Joseph and a couple of their children though next to her second husband whom oddly enough, lived in the same Illinois town as she and Joseph did before moving to Iowa. In fact, he was there until Joseph died and suddenly moved to the town where Frances lived and married her. I'm sure there is probably an interesting story buried in that bit of information.

So a brick has fallen out of the brick wall due to my repeated head banging and given me some more clues to follow. Unfortunately, so far, they only seem to lead to another brick wall. I suspect more head banging is soon to commence but for now, I am just savoring the new bit of knowledge.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Across Oceans and Continents: Part 1

I suppose the best analogy for my genealogy research is that if you pound your head against a brick wall hard enough and enough times; eventually a brick may fall out. But before I talk to you about the brick, let me go back a bit and tell you about the process of hitting the wall.

Frances Bolton is my 3rd great grandmother and is the only 3rd great grandparent born inside the U.S. whom I don't know anything about her past, namely who her parents were. Fittingly enough her husband and my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Baker, is someone whom I have written about exhaustively on this blog but because he wasn't born in America, he falls into the category of 3rd great grandparents born outside America and whom I don't know anything about their past. Only two other 3rd great grandparents fall into this category. I tell you this because of goal of mine has been to fill out my ancestry chart completely out to my 6th great grandparents, a process that is about 38% done at the 6th great grandparent level and until recently 88% done at the 4th great grandparent level. If you do the math, that means that out of my thirty-two 3rd great grandparents, I knew the parentage of all but four of them. So I find myself repeatedly hitting my head against the same brick walls trying to uncover leaded on the three holdouts, Frances Bolton being one of them.

For the longest time, I only had one confirmed record of her, the 1880 Federal Census Record when she lived in Parkersburg, Iowa. Then, in a discovery that I blogged about here, I found out that she had eventually remarried, perhaps given some of her children up for adoption and then disappeared again off the census records at a ripe old age, presumably dead. Since the only newspaper records during the timeframe of her death were on microfiche, I bided my time waiting for a chance to get up there to search them to try and find when she died and where she was buried. Most importantly, I wanted to find an obituary in the off chance it listed her parents and provided more information to where she was born other than Wisconsin. I had a census from 1850 in Willow Springs, Wisconsin that I thought might be her with one sister and her mother but couldn't find any of them between 1850 and 1880 census records to prove it. Again, the brick wall.

So on an inspired hunch, I posted her name and known information on a genealogy forum in the county where she had lived for 40 years before I theorized she died, and asked if anyone could locate when she died, where she was buried and an obituary in the local paper there. A week later, some Good Samaritan had given me all three answers. Turns out, Frances (Bolton) Baker Heppenstall had died on 22 January 1927 and was buried in the same cemetery as Joseph Baker and my 2nd great grandfather John Henry Baker. She doesn't have a gravestone but records point that she is there just the same right in-between her daughter Lena and second husband Thomas Heppenstall and her grandson Leslie and his wife Lily. Best of all, the Good Samaritan took the time to search the microfiche and sent me a copy of her obituary.

Sadly, no parents were listed but her birth was listed as being in Darlington, Wisconsin, which is just a few miles from Willow Springs where I have a census that I believe, lists her name. If this is indeed she along with her mother Mary and older sister Selina, where did they go? I can't find them in the 1860 census or any other census. By 1870, Frances Bolton was already married to my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker and living in Illinois making babies though that census record doesn't exist either. It wasn't until 1880 that Frances finally shows up in Parkersburg, Iowa but Salina and Mary are never seen again. According to a couple separate sources, Mary's husband is John Bolton and yet he doesn't show up in the 1850 census. No record of him being buried in Willow Springs or anywhere else in the area exists so where did he go. Again, more of the brick walls I've been facing. However on my most recent bout with the wall, a brick popped out...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Crazy For Columbine

My favorite flower and one of the few I can identify is the columbine. I first fell in love with this flower in the upper reached of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming where they grow wild mostly in hues of blue. They are such delicate flowers and have four distinctive horns growing out the backside as you can see in the picture below. This variety is a springtime bloomer which gives you an idea of how long this has been on my draft board getting bumped for other blog posts.

Back after we bought our house, my wife was planning on what flowers she wanted in her flower beds that she was creating and I thought I would like a columbine or two. For some reason, it didn't make the cut for the flowerbed and ended up being planted at the base of the big silver maple tree out back. It did come up for a couple years but since it wasn't in a defined bed, it kept getting cropped off by the lawnmower and eventually stopped coming out in the spring. My wife however got a different variety that is suited for her in the mid-west and planted it in one of the flowerbeds out front so now every spring I am greeted by several clumps of columbine. I don't think I will ever tire of seeing them and it is certainly easier right out my front door than three fourths of the way up a mountain halfway across the United States.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Story Behind The National Anthem

[Reposted from my archives. Happy birthday America!]

The Story Behind The National Anthem
By an unknown speaker

There was a lawyer once. His name was Francis Scott Key. He penned a song that I'm sure you're aware of. You've seen it; it's in most hymnals throughout our churches. It's called the National Anthem. It is our song as an American.

We go, however, to a ballgame; we stand in our church services and we sing the words to that song and they float over our minds and our lips and we don't even realize what we're singing. Most of us have memorized it as a child. But we've never really thought about what it means. Let me tell you a story.

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer in Baltimore. The colonies were engaged in vicious conflict with the mother country, Britain. Because of this conflict (and the protractiveness of it), they had accumulated prisoners on both sides. The American colonies had prisoners and the British had prisoners. And the American Government initiated a move. They went to the British and said let us negotiate for the release of these prisoners. They said, "We want to send a man out to discuss this with you." They were holding the American prisoners in boats about a thousand yards offshore. And they said, "We want to send a man by the name of Francis Scott Key. He will come out and negotiate to see if we can make a mutual exchange."

On the appointed day, in a rowboat, he went out to this boat and he negotiated with the British Officials. And they reached a conclusion that men could be exchanged on a one-for-one basis.

Francis Scott Key, Jubilant with the fact that he'd been successful, went down below in the boats and what he'd found was a cargo hold full of humanity. Men.

And he said, "Men, I've got news for you tonight, you're free!" He said, "Tonight I have negotiated successfully your return to the colonies." He said, "You'll be taken out of this boat, out of this filth, out of your chains."

As he went back up on board to arrange for their passage to the shore, the admiral came and he said, "We have a slight problem." He said, "We will still honor our commitment to release these men, but it'll be merely academic after tonight. It won't matter."
Francis Scott Key said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "Well Mr. Key, tonight, we have laid an ultimatum upon the colonies. Your people will either capitulate and lay down the colors of that flag that you think so much of, or -- you see that fort right over there -- Fort Henry?" He said, "We're going to remove it from the face of the earth."

[Key] said, "How are you going to do that?" [The admiral] said, "If you will, scan the horizon of the sea." As [Key] looked, he could see hundreds of little dots. And [The admiral] said, "That's the entire British war fleet." He said, "All of the gun power; all of the armament is being called upon to demolish that fort. [The fleet] will be here within striking distance in a matter of about two and a half hours." He said, "The war is over; these men would be free anyway." [Key] said, "You can't shell that fort!" He said, "That's a large fort." He said, "It's full of women and children." He said, "It's predominantly not a military fort."

[The Admiral] said, "Don't worry about it. They said we've left them a 'way out'"

[Key] said, "What's that?"

[The Admiral] said, "Do you see that flag way up there on the rampart?" He said, "We have told them that if they will lower that flag, the shelling will stop immediately...and we'll know that they've surrendered...and you'll now be under British rule."

Francis Scott Key went down below and told the men what was about to happen. And they said, "How many ships?", and he said, "Hundreds." The ships got closer. Francis Scott Key went back up on top and he said, "Men, I'll shout down to you what's going on as we watch."

As twilight began to fall.and as the hays hung over the oceans as it does at sunset, suddenly the British war fleet unleashed.


He said, "The sounds were deafening." He said, "There were so many guns, there were no reliefs." He said, "It was absolutely impossible to talk or hear." He said, "Suddenly, the sky, although dark, was suddenly lit." And he says from down below, all he could hear, the men, the prisoners saying was, "Tell us where the flag is. What have they done with the flag? Is the flag still flying over the rampart? Tell us!"

One hour. Two hours. Three hours into the shelling. Every time the bomb would explode and it would be close to the flag, they could see the flag in the illuminated red glare of that bomb, and Francis Scott Key would report down to the men below, "It's still up! It's not down!" The admiral came, and he said, "Your people are insane." He said, "What's the matter with them?" He said, "Don't they understand this is an impossible situation?"

Francis Scott Key said he remembered what George Washington had said. He said, "The thing that sets the American Christian apart from all other people in the world is he will die on his feet before he'll live on his knees."

The Admiral said, "We have now instructed all of the guns to focus on the rampart to take that flag down." He said, "We don't understand something. Our reconnaissance tells us that that flag has been hit directly...again...and again...and again, and yet it's still flying. We don't understand that." "But", he said; "now we're about to bring every gun, for the next three hours, to bear on that point."
Francis Scott Key said the barrage was unmerciful. All that he could hear...was the men down below...praying. The prayer: "God keep that flag flying...where we last saw it."

Sunrise came. [Key] said there was a heavy mist hanging over the land, but the rampart was tall enough...there stood the flag...completely shreds. The flagpole itself was at a crazy angle. But the flag was still at the top. Francis Scott Key (went aboard and) immediately went into Fort Henry to see what had happened. And what he'd found had happened was that that flagpole and that flag had suffered repetitious direct hits...and when it had fallen...that men, fathers...who knew what it meant for that flag to be on the ground...although knowing that all of the British guns were trained on it, walked over and held it up...humanly...until they died. Their bodies were removed and others took their place. Francis Scott Key said what held that flagpole in place at that unusual angle...were patriots' bodies.

He penned the song.

"Oh say, can you the dawn's early light...what so proudly we the twilight's last gleaming...for the rocket's red glare...the bombs bursting in air...gave proof through the night...that the flag was still there! Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet (fly and) wave...for the land of the free...and the home of the brave." The debt was demanded. The was paid.

(Actual lyrics)
The Star Spangled Banner
O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
'Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - "In God is our trust,"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Friday, July 2, 2010

One Year Ago and Two More Yet to Come

As long time readers may remember, my soon to be wife, gave up practicing medicine in England to immigrate to the United States and marry me. I'm not sure why. But I do know she was tired of the chaos of socialized medicine over there and wanted to take a break for awhile. She got into doing medical research which she excelled at for a few years, even published a few papers, but being exposed to the American (at least pre-health care bill) style of medicine lured her back into the profession. But there was a rub. In order to practice medicine here in the United States, she had to take her U.S. Medical License Exam and undergo three years of residency training.

She applied a couple times at the closest training hospital which happened to be where she worked as a medical researcher. However, it was also home to a University known for their medicine program and was flush with new graduates looking to get into the residency program. My wife tried to increase her odds by doing volunteer residency where she basically shadowed a doctor for a month at a time but in the end, they were more interested in recent graduates than someone who had graduated a decade and a half earlier and had been out of the industry for almost five years.

So we made the difficult decision of looking further away and eventually my wife was accepted into the program in our capital city of Iowa, a place I have deemed the urban jungle. It is twice as far away as the nearest place which necessitated the need for renting an apartment where my wife could stay during the week. On the weekends, she either comes home or we go up there depending on if she is working those days or not. It meant that for a large part of the week, I would be holding down a full time job and raising my daughter by myself. I wasn't so sure that I could do that and had she been younger, I wouldn't have but as it turns out, we've been able to do just fine.

The reason that I write about all this is because if you pay attention to the counter on the left side down at the bottom of my sidebar, it now reads less than 730 days, i.e. she has one year completed and only two more to go. She is now considered a "senior" resident so although she has to call the shots, she has people that work for her now and do most of the dirty work. In a couple months, she will complete the final test of her medical license exam and officially be licensed to practice medicine in this country. Only two more years left. After nearly four years of dating across an ocean, two years 150 miles apart is a walk in the park.

When she finishes her residency, her plan it to move back to rural southeast Iowa and practice medicine among us impoverished folks. She has grown to like it here and best of all, people are literally begging for her to practice medicine here. I hope that it might someday equate to money being thrown at her but until then, the begging is reassuring. Doctors, like many people these days are flocking to the city so there is real competition there for jobs while out here, there isn't. I'm already pushing for interviews only in small riverside towns with an abundance of cheap river bluff top land.