Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wilford and Larry

Albertus Schaffer home, Wilford in the goat cart?  Pre Larry?
No this isn't about a comedy team or a musical act.  Several months ago I was asked if I had knowledge of  an Albertus Schaffer, or if he was a relative because she had a newspaper article.  Well, being the genealogist that I am,  I knew the name and had filed away a little information about the family.  In the Community section of the Hoffman, Mn newspaper there appeared a story by Jim Belgum about "A boy and his pony" and the boy's name was Wilford/Wilferd, son of Albertus and Louisa (Caesar) Schaffer/Schaeffer.  Sometime between ca 1905-1940 the publishers of Farmer's Wife Magazine promoted a contest awarding prizes to children who could sell the most subscriptions.  The grand prize was a shetland pony with a saddle or small cart, but this offer was viewed with skepticism by many, so the company also included the requirement that each winner needed to submit a photo in addition to a short story about his or her new  pony.  Wilford wrote a charming description of his life with his new buddy, Larry, which included details about riding to school where he patiently gave rides to students, going to the village drugstore where the proprieter handed out treats such as ice cream cones, pop and root beer and even gum; the pony partaking of these goodies while standing at the counter!  In reading several of these stories, it was obvious that the ponies became like a pet dog or cat and spent time with their new families in the house.  Larry  was also attached to the goat cart or was coaxed into the cart for rides around the yard. (I actually found a picture of the goat cart in front of the family home in Pelican lake Township.)  While looking through my collection of family Christmas postcards--which I just wrote about ----I found A POSTCARD OF WILFORD ON LARRY'S BACK---sent to my aunt Elaine!!! The message:  "Dear Elaine, come over sometime and we will have a gay old time."  Wilford's father Albertus was descended from Abraham and Marie (Losack) Schaeffer of Saxony Germany and I am descended from his brother August and Minna (Caeser) Schaeffer  Love family trees!  google Pony Club and read about some of the 500 stories that were collected.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas postcards from the past

Tis the season-----for searching out those favorite treasures that are packed away for most of the year.  There are a few things I like to keep close at hand so they can be enjoyed throughout the months.  Since everyone in my maternal and paternal family trees were "savers", I have many things that have a special place in my heart and bring me much pleasure.  I feel so fortunate that several albums of postcards were faithfully preserved throughout years that extend back to great grandmothers, grandmothers and finally to an unmarried aunt who was the final occupant of a house that was first occupied by Jacob and Dorthea Treise in the early 1900s.  I remember sitting in a bedroom that had become a store room,  looking through albums that contained beautiful cards that had been sent to my father, his parents and grandparents, as well as to his sisters.  My dad was born in 1906 so there was quite an accumulation.  There are some postcards sent by his father, Frank, when he was away buying cattle in Belmont, Montana, reminding Wyman  to go school and to be a good boy.  Wow, today  kids get text messages or carry cell phones.  The art of writing meaningful messages to just keep in touch, or to send invitations or to remember a special event; seems most of us have lost that very personal element in our social upbringing.  I have chosen a few Christmas postcards to share with you because they are particularly interesting and pretty.  Most were printed in Germany, which was one of the first sources of postcards and since my father's grandparents both were of German heritage, it seems appropriate they should be the reciepients of such cards.  Of course, this was no doubt a coincidence, but, this is my daydream, after all.  Many of the older cards have birds and trees with winter snow so Santa isn't always the main character. There is one little fellow in a bright red cap with a  pointy tail soaring behind him who seems to have a smile frozen on his face as he flies down a hill in a sled.  I used to have a vintage frame minus glass, backed with green felt on which I would display a few of my favorite cards, but haven't done that in a few years.  Maybe it's time to bring back that tradition to enjoy for the coming winter season.  Merry Christmas to you all and may your year be filled with wonderful memories!
Card in upper left, orange background by Raphael Tuck & Sons

Friday, November 2, 2012


Battery powered mechanical decoy!

Decoys of the 70s and 80s

The vintage red head, tried and true.
My father considered hunting/fishing/trapping his true vocation and we always thought he was born 50-75 years too late to be a frontiersman.  But he carried  on traditions his father and grandfather before him started as a way of survival on the prairie lands of western Minnesota.  Our house was always full of men dressed in kahki (before camo and bright orange), dogs,  kids and involved lots of activity in preperation for whatever season was upon us.  For years he hunted with wooden decoys which eventually ended up in gunny sacks in the attic.  Not until my mom passed, did we tackle the task of figuring out what was actually there.  One of my dad's last years of hunting brought him bragging rights by shooting two ducks with one shot---and that was after he lost eyesight in one eye due to glaucoma.  At any rate, it became necessary to downsize lots of equipment and our sons chose special mementos of their "Boppie."  We decided on the spur of the moment to include 3 of those vintage wooden decoys on a local consignment auction----I nearly dropped my teeth when they brought more than several hundred  dollars!  And they were well used by many hunters.  Several years ago the decoy collectors of America were in their element when a pair of never before seen pintail decoys were sold for $39,100 at an auction in Illinois.  They were carved years ago by a local bachelor farmer who spent long hours producing hundreds of these wooden art pieces.  Make no mistake---decoys are the ultimate in folk art, I believe.  At any rate they were found stored in a barn along with many others that had been purchased in the 1950s after the man's goods were sold by family members who thought he was dead. ( short version---he went into hiding because they thought he was not capable of taking care of himself).  We have a first hand account from another man who went to that auction and was only able to buy odds and ends on one of the hay racks due to lack of money....doesn't he wish!  Today, our son has continued the tradition of sitting in the blind waiting for that flock to land among the decoys.  Today's technology has provided a totally different type of duck----battery operated with moving wings.  Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I found two of these critters sitting on my kitchen cupboard getting  their batteries charged.  How my dad would have laughed----actually he probably is!

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Van Briggle Collection

My collection of Van Briggle pottery started purely by chance when I saw a lovely turquoise/aqua bowl with lovely scalloped edges sitting on a hay rack at an auction many years ago.   Auction goers are familiar with that setting!  The piece just spoke to me and even though I had never had an inkling that pottery was my "thing", I leaned over and told my husband that it had to come home with me.  Actually, I wasn't familiar with the name and have done some research over the years as my collection has grown.  My family continues to add unusual pieces of this Van Briggle pottery so my one shelf , which has now increased to several,  including the top of a pie safe.  One of my sons spied a piece across a crowded room----actually a gymnasium where a fund raising garage sale was being held----and nearly leaped chairs to get to it.  What a deal at .50!  Another of my sons found several pieces on e-bay, but went to the end pages where he found prices about half of what was found on the first few.  Guess it pays to keep looking!  Got a sweet little bunny from a daughter in law so you see, everyone keeps their eyes out for those beautiful blue green pieces of art pottery.  Maybe I'm drawn to this color because my birth sign is Cancer with a toe into Gemini----maybe it's the ocean calling!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Grant County Historical Museum display

oxcarts gathered on the trail
Before there were cars, trains,  planes and automobiles,  there were the oxcarts.  For years fur traders, called voyageurs, who were often of French, Scottish and Indian descent, traveled from Pembina, ND near the Canadian border, through Grant County as they made their way to St. Paul, Mn., a trip of over 400 miles which took 30-40 days.  They also forged trails in other parts of the state as they carried their overloaded carts piled high with furs and buffalo hides toward their destination.  The oxcart was a truly crude but wonderful invention and served the early voyageurs well.  They were sturdy, carrying up to a thousand  pounds and could be pulled by one oxen averaging 15 miles per day.  Only two trips per yr. were attempted; In spring after the grass was tall in order to provide food for the oxen and  a return trip in the fall.  Three or four pulled in tandem could be controlled by one driver and stories are told that as the trains passed near farmsteads, the Metis could often be seen lolling atop a high stack of furs, dressed in colorful clothing, smoking a pipe, singing and waving to the interested settlers as though he or she were out for a joy ride.  The carts could be heard from many miles away, groaning and screeching as they traversed through prairie grass, swamps, up hills and down.  Bear fat or even squashed grasshoppers were used to "grease" the wheels!  They were usually constructed entirely of oak and cost  around $60.00 each.  Use of the oxcarts peaked in about 1858 when approximately 6,000 carts left Pembina for St. Anthony near St. Paul.  Amazingly between 1855 and 1863 it is estimated  $1,500,000 worth of goods and supplies were transported through the Minnesota wilderness!   Visit the Grant County Historical Museum in Elbow Lake, Mn.  to see a real oxcart!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sweet Rememberances

Recently, my childhood friend spent the night with us and included in the gathering were our kids, grandkids and the granddog.  She is used to activity since she has at least a dozen nieces and nephews with whom she is very close and they consider her an awesome Auntie so she  fits right in with our noisy and active crew!  We only see each other perhaps once a year, but each time it's as though we just spent time together the day before----friends can pick up where they left off at any time!  M.E. is the PERFECT hostess and PERFECT guest.  She always comes bearing gifts that are unique and special.  This time I was totally blown away with a thoughtfully selected treasure.  M.E.'s mother was our second grade teacher and I believe as she watched us grow,  some days she thought I was going to lead her girl into mischief.  Never----we just had innocent fun exploring life in a small town.  Anyway, Agnes Lynne, was an institution in Elbow Lake, having taught 1st grade for a kazillion years and eventually had several generations of families pass through  her classroom.  At some point she gave M.E.'s mom some little rememberances  and that is what I received as a hostess gift!  These sweet rememberances will remind me of Miss Lynne, Mrs. K and M.E. whenever I glance at them where they reside with many family keepsakes.  Thanks so much M.E.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fort Pomme de Terre

In an earlier story, I told you about a unique flag and  mentioned that this year  is the 150th commemoration of the Sioux or Dakota War which originated in southern Minnesota.  Several weeks ago the Grant County Historical Museum hosted tours to the original  site of Fort Pomme de Terre,  which is today a farmstead.  In February 1863, a directive was sent to commanding officers in Mn. that bullet proof stockades were to be constructed in the western regions of the state, including several along the Abercrombie Trail.  Fort Pomme de Terre would became the principal outpost  between Alexandria  and Fort Abecrombie, which was located along the Red River.   This trail was a major "highway" for ox carts, military supply trains, settlers and others looking to start businesses or perspective farmers.   Today the land upon which the fort was built is privately owned and the caretakers are a family living in a house where fort buildings once stood.   We gathered in front of a grave site where two soldiers stationed at the fort were killed by Indians on May 3, 1863.   Adam Hair/Hare and Zenas Blackman had set out in search of goose eggs one morning so when their dog returned to the fort covered in blood a search party was sent out and soon recovered the bodies.  Initially, they were buried outside the walls in wagon box where they lay undisturbed until the 1930s when a local Legion post decided to commemorate their death by establishing a proper grave site and marker.  A woman who was just a child when her family first moved there, remembered the approximate location of the buried wagon because when she and her father would go to fetch water, they would often lay flowers in commemoration of the two young men who lost their lives in that place.  There was also another soldier killed that day farther to the west at a site south of present day Fergus Falls.  He was accompanying a farmer taking cattle to the troops at Fort Abecrombie.  His name was Comfort Luddington.  Most of the soldiers stationed at this fort were from Fillmore County in Minnesota.  Despite these deaths, life at the fort and friendships with the neighboring Indians seemed to be peaceful and pleasant according to letters and diaries left by those who lived there at that time.  The fort was only occupied for 3 or 4 years so by 1865, local settlers were already making use of the timbers and logs and actual buildings by constructing other homes or barns on their newly acquired property.  Today, the grave is surrounded by tall trees and thick brush and usually the only witnesses to the passing of the years is the family living close by.
Adam Hair and Zenus Blackman burial monument.

Replica of Fort Pomme de Terre 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Norwegian language Uncle Tom's Cabin

I have been helping organize the 4th annual Oldies But Goodies Sale, which is a major fundraising event for the Grant County Historical Museum and Veterans Hall in Elbow Lake, Minnesota.  Every year seems to be getting bigger and better than the previous year----isn't that what it's all about?  Some really interesting items were donated for the sale on Saturday, Aug 18th 8:00 to 4:00.  Many of them are in an album on my business facebook page which can be accessed by clicking on the icon on this blog.  One of the really unique treasures is Uncle Tom's Cabin in Norwegian!  This area was settled by many families from several Scandinavian countries and to this day this is probably the dominant ethnic group.  Several heirs have been sorting through, cleaning out and deciding what to do with parents or grandparents collections of saved goods.  This book has wonderful illustrations, which caught my eye.  Even though I am unable to read or speak Norwegian,( my mom taught me to say I canna snok a Norsk--- spelling?)  people seem to understand those rudimentary words.  I was able to quickly figure out the title of the book and when I opened it and saw the simply drawn black and white illustrations, I thought, what a wonderful book to add to a collection of classics.  Hope you enjoy the examples I've included and take a little time to see the other things that will be for sale!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Unknown maker

A few years ago on a trip to Atlanta to see relatives and to do some shopping at favorite antique stores, I came across this quilt.  For some reason, it immediately spoke to me and it was a very reasonable price, so it came home with me. However, there was more to this quilt than just an attractive color combination----I spent a good deal of time checking the fabrics, sewing stitches and the patterns.  A variety of  patchwork designs, simple sewing stitches:  this had to be older than even those made by my grandmothers in the early 1890s.  The feel of the fabrics indicate age and use and fragility.  I would love to know who worked on this quilt and how long it took to save enough "pieces" to finally put it together.  I would also like to know who used it and where they lived.  Quilts are examples of marvelous cultural artistry and so many have been tossed or ripped apart for rags and underappreciated for the time and a effort and yes, the love that went into these often utilitarian household goods.  The making of crazy quilts kept children quiet in times of illness when they would learn their fancy stitches, or friends groups or church groups or homemakers groups put together quilts that included names.  Then there were those made by a single person, sewing alone by kerosene light or the glow of a fireplace.  I think the woman who made this was alone and sewing with pride.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Traveling light.

Luggage wagon at Grant County Museum in Elbow Lake, Mn
I was fortunate to have had the chance to visit Ellis Island while at an ESL (English for speakers of other languages) convention in New York City many years ago.  It was such a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city when we entered the facility and looked through the empty rooms where those long ago immigrants entered into this country with such high expectations and probably a good deal of fear of the unknown.  Imagine the crowded benches and overflow of bags, trunks, suitcases in which everything they owned was stored.  No doubt many lost track of the few possessions they were able to bring and ended up without the any precious belongings.   Some displays that have remained in my memory were large railroad wagons piled high with satchels and other suitcases that were collected to replicate the scene in those early days.  At the Grant County Historical Museum in Elbow Lake, Minnesota, there is a similar display with similar items which always makes me wonder what those early travelers brought to America initially, or what did the pioneers bring when they ventured farther west.  No doubt, they traveled with bare necessities.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I spend a lot of time at the Grant County Historical Museum and Veterans Hall in Elbow Lake, Minnesota.  Since my paternal grandparents settled in Pomme de Terre in 1873, I have collected numerous stories and artifacts pertaining to this area in Minnesota.  Part of the mystique of history is trying to understand events and the people who lived through them.  This year Minnesota commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Sioux Uprising of 1862, which occurred in southern Minnesota but which spread fear throughout the state.  Small forts were constructed between Fort Snelling in St. Paul, to Fort Abecrombie on the western border on the Red River.  The United States was also fighting the Civil War, so significant military support was not available to be sent to this area. Military units with supplies traveled constantly  through the Pomme de Terre area, where a Fort was constructed which mostly served as a stagecoach station and a refuge for local settlers.  However, Hatch's Battalion was stationed here for some time and military families as well as Indian guides lived within the log walls.  The fort was used for a short period--perhaps 3 to 4 years before it was deemed safe and the settlers returned to a normal routine.  There is a replica of Fort Pomme de Terre at the museum and for years a flag attached to a simple branch with a partial log stand has stood in the middle of that display.  It is crudely made with hand stitching on rough textured red, white and blue cloth.   It has 2 blue stars.   No record of origin or donation  has ever been found, so who made it?   Did it belong to a soldier,     a settler .................?     who?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unique Auction Finds

Not sure if it is a K9 collar or part of a military bridle?

Part of a vintage catcher's uniform.
Last weekend we attended an auction near my husband's hometown in southern Minnesota.  We always try to watch for sales of long time residents because there are usually items that are meaningful to him and his growing up days.  He likes to find things that advertise businesses or families that are no longer around and this time the family having the sale was familiar to him, in that he had gone to school with several of the children.  The father had a car dealership years ago in a small nearby town, but also was engaged in farming a large acreage, which  included  a spacious farmstead with lots of out buildings.  The buildings became the storage area for most of the family cast offs and out of date farm equipment.  People who lived during the Great Depression tended not to throw anything away so there were many things to be found.  Our treasures  included part of a vintage baseball catchers uniform without a shirt to identify the name of the team or town, and a puzzle----looked like a dog collar with a disc pin (an officer's?) which might be part of a bridle instead of an old K9 collar.  Will look forward to learning more about this.  The catcher's uniform was special because my husband was a catcher during high school as well as for that nearby town team for many years----who knows who might have worn this old baseball equipment!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A mug of his own!

Once upon a time gentlemen frequented barber shops daily for shaves and trims.  Wow, the whiskered looks of macho actors, musicians and just plain guys these days are a far cry from the carefully manicured mustaches and beards of old.  It was considered a badge of one's social status if a gentleman arrived at the barber shop for his daily visit and the barber reached up to a beautiful cupboard made especially for shaving mugs and proceeded to use one with either the individual's name, occupation or both in writing on the front.  The one in my photo is not a shaving mug per se, but perhaps was used as one.  This mug was given to Mr. J.N. Greathouse, who was  from Muscatine, Iowa.  He  was the contractor of the Masonic Hall in Oelwein, Iowa.  The mug is nicely decorated with symbols of the Masonic order, in addition to having the gentleman's name , so it falls into a rather unique category for collectors.  I was able to find information about Mr. Greathouse (isn't it a rather grand name) so a genealogist, Mason, Iowan, mug collectors could all be happy owning this item.  It can be seen at Exit 55 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brand new pair of roller skates-------

Ye olde clamp on skates!

Nary a skate key to be found---but what a variety!
No doubt you've heard the song commonly referred to as the roller skate song or its official title "Brand New Key."  Catchy number, simple lyrics no back up band, no hard rock accompaniment: just a simple little tune for a toy that probably every kid in the country played with growing up.  Those were the clamp on metal skates which were so popular until the shoe boot style became the fad.  Pom poms on the ends of laces, cute and colorful little suitcase to carry them in and skating at an indoor roller skating rink.  I even joined a "mom's morning skate group" when my kids were growing up and later took my ESL classes to learn all about a real American past time for kids!  As a child, I remember having to go a block away to skate because we didn't have sidewalks in front of our house until I was much older but it was a fun time with all of the neighborhood joining in. Lots of skinned knees, to be sure, but at least I could stand up with roller skates whereas ice skates were a whole other story!   I've got a brand new pair of roller skates, you've got a brand new key, I think that we should get together and try them out, to see.....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Elaine's legacy

Old Lake Calhoun boat docking area---Minneapolis area

Outdoor market scene.
Elaine was my son's awesomely wonderful sweet mother in law who passed away last week after a number of years of declining health---she was 89.  Her legacy will live on through her creative talents: she was a gifted artist who tried her hand at many mediums and her family, old friends and neighbors have examples of her considerable output of artistic energy.  She was honored last week at a remembrance party since she had requested there be no funeral so her 3 daughters, son  and husband certainly provided a day to remember Elaine with fabulous food, ambiance, stories and lots of laughter, which is just the way she would have wanted it. Several people brought paintings that had been given in friendship years ago but had never been seen by her children so those added joy to the gathering.  Elaine and Mac visited us here at the lake a number of years ago and she was thrilled with the sparkling water.  I once sent a photo card which pictured our dock: her response was that her spirit flew right down and sat on the bench to enjoy the view.  I have saved every greeting card she sent for some 17 years because she always wrote a note on tablet paper tucked inside some wonderful photo which can be framed.  She was truly a vintage lady inside and out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


The other day I stopped at Pomme de Terre on my way to a nearby town to pick some lilacs that have been growing by the cemetery fence for many years. They are very woody and the blooms are not as perky as on newer bushes.  But, I love the aroma and knew it would permeate the house and our weekend fishing guests loved them.  I decided to take a picture of the back wall of the little brick school house where generations of children have gone to school.  I talked about it in Echos Across the Prairie and thought you might enjoy seeing the initials carved into the brick.  I like to believe the WS carved in several locations may have been done by my father, but several families in the past have had children with those very initials.  But, I can imagine my dad or as my sons used to call him "Boppie" wanting to leave a sign that he had indeed been there.  Sort of like a Kilroy was here message to all who come after!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Afternoon Delight in a Perfect Garden

If you follow my facebook, you will have seen some pix I took last week during a morning of garage saleing with my daughter in law.  After checking out some listed on line, we decided to "free lance" and just followed signs in an older well established neighborhood.  WOW, we came across a fabulous sale that is held twice a year in Anoka, plus they also do various local shows.  Much is handmade out of recyclable materials, including lots of reclaimed wood.  This couple is so clever and talented and I would love to have them in our Exit 55 shop in Fergus but----distance is a factor.  They were wonderfully welcoming, letting me take photos despite the fact they were really busy.  It's obvious that theirs is not such a well kept secret since it seemed there were lots of smart shoppers who had been to sales many times, including occasional salers? and dealers in shops?  Suggested they start an email list for those of us who would love to attend more of their back yard boutiques!  By the way, we are still warming up here in Mn so not lots of colorful blooms yet!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bottles and more Bottles

Bottles bottles everywhere but not a drop in any.  Sometimes I wonder what the fascination is in collecting different types of bottles/glasses/jars etc.  But when looking through them, some have bubbles or strange little blurps as though a breath of air has been caught between layers of glass.  There are wonderful sites on line for seeking history and information on an assortment of styles and types of glass as well as the years in which they were blown or molded.  Imagine the history of an old bottle recovered from beneath an old saloon or pub.  Or---horrors can you picture yourself with shovel or trowel uncovering them from an outdoor biffie???  We live by a lake and when the water is low, we have walked the shoreline and found shards of crockery, stoneware and even small pieces of flow blue dishes.  Occasionally we find bottles as we walk through the woods.  We do know the location of an outdoor facility, but so far haven't ventured to find out what is buried beneath the flowers that bloom on the spot!  Relatives in Tacoma once hid many bottles of liquor and wine behind the basement walls during the depression and future owners were greatly surprised when they began to remodel for a family room!  Some bottles can be traced using the etched name of the company and city in which it originated others have preserved little bottles in collections.    Good hunting!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Mystery Box

I love reading mysteries, searching for past generations of my family, digging for information to provide provenance for antiques we buy--always new things to learn!  In an earlier post I told about shopping at the antique mall in Pardeville, Wisc. and included some pictures of the primitives for sale there.  In one of the booths I was drawn to a small reddish box sitting in the corner of a shelf in a large cupboard.  Upon picking it up, looking at the tag this is what I read:  Official  "State of Minnesota" wooden box--possibly a ballot box.  "State of Minnesota" still readable--state seal is not.  Well, did I need encouragement or persuasion?  I walked immediately to the front desk to add it to my stash of goods.  This little box is still in my possession and will remain with me.  Could it have been a ballot box?  Could it have been used to collect mail somewhere in the countryside?  Could it have been nailed to the seat of a stagecoach? Could it have held government papers?  There are two large holes in the bottom as you can see in the picture so it was obviously attached to something.   Oh, the possibilities for my imagination to run rampant.  I think in terms of life at Pomme de Terre, Grant County in the time of my great grandparents which I wrote about in Echos of the Past.   Ah yes, could it have been.............