Sunday, October 16, 2011

Old-fashioned ways

Mike Beaty's draft horse team were the stars of Saturday morning's open house at the museum.

I got to thinking this morning about just how many miles the four of us had covered  last week while exploring the past in 21st century style --- a trip up from the deep South, flights to and from the West coast, long drives around Iowa.

Then wondering how far we'd have gotten if horsepower had been provided by this team of Belgians brought to the LCHS museum campus from Russell for our fall open house Saturday morning by Mike Beaty.

All in all, the open house was a good way to return to ground and take a look at some of the reasons why life used to move at a substiantially slower pace.

These draft horses, both beautiful and mellow, were among the stars of the show and both kids and adults loved them. But they arrived and departed in a big horse trailer and nearly all of our guests came in cars and pickups.

We had a great crowd, beautiful weather and good food --- not a bad way to begin the weekend.

Down at the cabin, spinners were demonstrating how much of the fabric our ancestors wore and used in other ways would have begun --- yarn or thread spun from natural fiber, in this case wool (some of this wool was from a llama --- a critter Iowans of the 1850s wouldn't have known quite what to make of).

Up at the Stephens House, we have a square of homespun dating from the 1820s that looks surprisingly contemporary with a yellow and brown plaid design. But it began when sheep were sheared, the wool carded and then spun, the thread dyed, then hand-woven on a loom. I wonder how long it took to produce a homespun blanket in 1820.

Part of the purpose of Saturday's open house was to show off the new blacksmith shop and Jerry Book, an experienced blacksmith involved in planning and the first stages of this building's construction, was on hand to show our guests how the nails that supplemented pegs to hold our early buildings to gether were forged.

Most of these nails, he pointed out, were mass produced --- sort of --- using child labor to forge and shape them.

Elsewhere, we were able to gather some descendants of Edward and Sophia (Barnhart) Arnold around an elaborately embroidered white linen coverlet that Sophia had crafted, then autographed (in embroidery) "Sophia Arnold" and dated, "April 1869." I'll have some photos of that another time, after working on close-up photos of white-on-white detail.

The Arnolds from Garden Grove brought along old photographs, including a few unidentified ones --- and that experience proved my point that no vintage photographs, including unidentified ones, should be thrown away. Some time, somewhere, someone will come along who will be able to provide the idents.

In this case, I was looking through an envelope of photos and unexpectedly came across a postcard photo of my great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Clair) Miller, three of her sisters and their mother, Elizabeth Rachel (Rhea) Clair. Someone had tried really hard to figure out who these women were, assuming that they were Arnolds.

After thinking about it for a while, I remembered that my mother's first cousin, Ariel Ruth Mason, also a granddaughter of Mary Elizabeth (Clair) Miller, had married Ivan Anderson whose mother was Della (Arnold) Anderson. This must have been one of Ariel's photographs. She died in her 30s, so was not around to identify it for her children and it apparently passed from the Andersons unidentified into the Arnold photostream.

So there you have it --- personal vindication. Never throw an unidentified photograph away. You just never know ....


Ken said...

Frank, did the Arnolds happen to donate the photo you mention to the Museum? If so, I'd love to have an electronic copy so I could post it on

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Ken: No; I wish they had (or "donated" to me) and I was too busy to even think of scanning it. However, it was taken at the same time and place (in Kansas) as the larger group photo we already have, of Elizabeth Rachel and all her children. Apparently the daughters were separated out for a separate photo as the sons were.

Ken said...

OK. Thanks.