Feisty Females: Mary Ann Bickerdyke (Part Two)

MaryAnnBickerdyke_picAfter arriving in Cairo, Illinois to deliver and administer the medical supplies donated by the citizens of Galesburg, Mary Ann Bickerdyke saw an even greater challenge – sanitation.  The conditions she encountered were more dire than the description given by the young Galesburg doctor – ten men to a tent, many lying on straw pallets and human excrement everywhere.  (In case you missed Part One of this story, you might want to read it here before continuing.)

The first order of business was to clean the place up, starting with baths for those who could manage to rise from their cots or straw pallets.  While they bathed, clean linens were placed on the cots or laid over clean straw.  A hearty meal was prepared with the food donated by Galesburg, and by the first day’s end the camp, with the help of volunteers, was looking better in Mary’s eyes.

Given only a day pass, she would return again the next day and the next …. the task was too great for Mary Ann to merely deliver supplies and return home.  She decided to remain for an extended time and appealed to her hometown for a weekly stipend to cover room and board.  The committee agreed to send her ten dollars a week.

Mary Ann would soon discover that one of the problems plaguing troops was digestive in nature due to poor food preparation, or a soldier’s lack of basic cooking skills.  The Army had no allowances for cooks, so each man was given a ration of food supplies consisting of such things as salt pork or beef, hardtack bread, beans, flour or corn meal and green coffee.  The official list of rations was long, but the supplies were more often short.

So, in addition to her nursing skills, she gave cooking lessons, teaching the men to prepare more palatable meals and hopefully receive more nutritional value.  After settling in, Mary discovered that a young woman named Mary Safford of Cairo had been dropping by the camp at times with jelly and soup, although not allowed inside the gates.  She taught Mary how to tend to the sick while she handled the job of cooking and cleaning.  By the end of the summer the men were calling Mary Safford “Angel of Cairo” and Mary Ann was “Mother Bickerdyke” to men aged fifteen to sixty.

Another Mary (Livermore) of Chicago founded the Soldiers’ Aid Society which regularly sent appropriate non-perishable items.  Livermore later helped organize the Chicago chapter of the United States Sanitary Commission, forerunner to the American Red Cross.  While the Commission had no real governing authority they managed to wield considerably influence as advisors in regards to camp locations, water supplies and so on.   The only dealings Mary Ann had with the Commission was their regular delivery of much-needed supplies.

After General Ulysses S. Grant took command of forces in Illinois, he would have his first encounter with the “cyclone in calico”.  Following a battle in early November with 485 Union soldiers killed, wounded or missing, the two Mary’s were waiting to receive the wounded, ready to take them to the hospital and whatever spare rooms they could find in Cairo.  Mary Ann commandeered the operation and amazingly was told by surgeons her help was not wanted.

Not so fast.  Mary Ann went directly to General Grant and came away with a personal note from him addressed to the surgeon who didn’t need her services.  The general was reluctant to interfere in medical operations, but he thought it would be a good idea to install Mary Ann Bickerdyke as hospital matron and overseer.  With restrictions, the surgeon grudgingly agreed to make the appointment.  She was to handle receipt and delivery of supplies and be the laundress, but was told to stay out of the hospital wards.

If you think that didn’t go over very well with Mary Ann, then you’d be exactly correct.  When she found out that liquor was being brought in for purposes other than medical and supplies were being sold on the black market, she confronted the senior surgeon.  His response was to dismiss her from her duties altogether – women have no business at a military camp, pack your bags and go home.

Mary Livermore would later record Mary Ann Bickerdyke’s exact words in reply:

Doctor, I’m here to stay as long as the men need me.  If you put me out of one door I’ll come in at another.  If you bar all the doors against me, I’ll come in at the window, and the patients will help me in.  If anybody goes from here it’ll be you.  I’m going straight to General Grant.  We’ll see who gets put out of here.

Needless to say, the doctor backed down and allowed her to continue, but only as the hospital matron.

So disturbed was she about learning supplies were being confiscated and sold, she set a trap of sorts in the kitchen.   Some dried peaches had arrived and she put them on the stove, added water to hydrate them and added brown sugar and spices.  The smell of the peaches stewing wafted throughout the camp.  When they were done she ladled them in platters, placed them in a window and instructed the cook that the peaches were for the patients.

Tom the cook swore no one else would touch them and Mary Ann went on about her work.  Later she began to hear moans coming from the kitchen.  Upon entering she saw grown mean writhing on the floor and retching, cursing, and as the author of Cyclone in Calico put it, “calling upon their Maker.”  The peaches hadn’t agreed with these non-patients because she had added tartar emetic, an expectorant meant to induce vomiting.

Mary Livermore wanted to meet Mary Ann but had little time as she was darting about the country overseeing the Aid Societies.  Dorothea Dix, another advocate for cleanliness in hospitals, who yielded considerable influence in Washington, D.C.  She also thought that soldiers would benefit from a woman’s care and was organizing the Female Nurse Corps as part of the Army’s medical department.

As Grant moved his troops down the Mississippi River, Mary Ann came along as Chief of Nursing, efficiently and properly setting up hospitals as they were needed.  As you might imagine, she continued defying male authorities, whether they be soldier or doctor.  She had little patience for drunken doctors either, frequently reporting their misdeeds – whiskey as medicine was acceptable, but not for pleasure.

CivilWarHospitalsGeneral William Tecumseh Sherman was so fond of her that she was the only woman allowed in his camps.  When she broke regulations and Sherman received complaints, he could only shrug and say little but “she outranks me.”  She also worked on the first hospital boat, helped build some three hundred hospitals and was on hand at some of the bloodiest battles and campaigns of the war, including Shiloh, Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Before the war ended, she had plenty of opportunities to both confront generals and hospital staff — and took those opportunities liberally.  The Army had never been too generous in supplying needed medicines and as the war wound down, supplies became increasingly hard to find.  Mary Ann stepped in with her botanic skills and made medicines from herbs, weeds and berries, and she still believed hot baths, clean linens and adequate nourishment were the key to treating the sick and making them well.

As Sherman moved through the South and she tagged along, Mary Ann was known to forage not only for food but barter for such things as laundry soap.  She was present at the fall of Atlanta, and with so many casualties, Sherman ordered several large revival tents to house them.  The soldiers called it “Mother Bickerdyke’s Circus”.  One patient thought a circus should have pink lemonade and she agreed.  She made some, colored it with raspberry juice and served it to the fevered men – it turned out to be good medicine and became part of hospital diet.

In the aftermath of Atlanta’s fall, Mary Ann wanted to establish more hospitals but Sherman wanted to ship casualties North to be treated.  She argued with him, and for once lost – he had finally outranked her.  She still argued for her plan but it was futile.  After carrying out his orders and assisting with patient transports, she left Atlanta just before the depot was set afire.

After returning to Illinois and finding she needed to find new boarding homes for her sons, Mary Ann took some time to make those arrangements and continued traveling on behalf of her causes.  She lectured audiences around the country in graphic detail about the conditions she had encountered – amputated limbs piled high, gangrene, inadequate supplies of bandages and more.  During one New York lecture she paused and admitted that she had used pretty graphic descriptions, but was determined to tell the truth.

She decided to continue on that track, asking the Brooklyn ladies in the audience how many were wearing at least one muslin petticoat – how about those wearing two?  Three?  Four?  Five?  Apparently in that day it was fashionable to wear as many as five to make one’s dress stand out.  As related in Cyclone in Calico, Mary Ann continued:

All right ladies.  Every one of you is sitting there in five muslin petticoats – and I had to tie up a dying boy’s stump in a piece of gunnysack.  I don’t know whose boy he was.  One of you might be his mother.  Does that make you feel good, in all them yards of clean muslin?  Ladies, I speak to you now as a mother, and I speak from my heart.  Four petticoats is enough for any decent modest Congregational woman.  Stand up, all of you.  Lift your dresses.  They’s no one but us women here.  Ladies of Brooklyn, in the name of my boys, drop that fifth petticoat!

And you know what, they did just that in the midst of giggles and tears.  She gathered three trunk loads of muslin petticoats for medical purposes from that one speech.  The petticoats would eventually make their way to the Andersonville Prison survivors.  Her next stop was Philadelphia where she received a personal summons from Sherman to join him in Savannah where he had ended his March to the Sea.  She made it only as far as Wilmington, North Carolina before disembarking.  Freed Andersonville prisoners were streaming into the city and Mary Ann saw a greater need there.

At least she didn’t have the task of identifying the Andersonville dead.  That onerous task fell to Clara Barton, later founder of the American Red Cross.  Since Clara served as a nurse on the eastern front, it’s unlikely she and Mary Ann ever crossed paths.

When the war officially ended, Mary Ann Bickerdyke, at the personal request of General Sherman, rode at the head of the XV Corps for the Grand Review in Washington.  Mary Ann worked tirelessly until the war’s end, and then she did even more amazing things, always for the soldiers she loved.

MaryAnnBickerdyke_2She worked for the Salvation Army in San Francisco, became a lawyer and assisted Union veterans with legal issues – I would imagine she might have done a little “doctoring” too.  In 1886 Congress granted her a special pension of twenty-five dollars a month.  She later moved to Kansas and ran a hotel in Salina for a time and then retired to Bunker Hill, Kansas.

On November 8, 1901, Mary Ann died of complications from a stroke.  She was transported back to Galesburg, Illinois for burial next to her husband.  She was a heroine to so many and the town erected a statue in her honor.  Years later two ships, one a hospital boat and the other a World War II liberty ship, would be named in her honor.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

WPGo to www.historydepot.net for more information

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Book Review Thursday: Before The Trumpet

BeforeTheTrumpetMake no mistake, author Geoffrey S. Ward is a big fan of the Roosevelts, and this isn’t his first book which presents a detailed story of the man who led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II.  Although I haven’t yet read it, his other book, A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt (1905-1928), is the direct follow-up to Before the Trumpet – together there are almost fourteen hundred pages of meticulous details about the thirty-second President of the United States.

Ward prefaces the book with the following quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Too often is the biographer tempted to confine himself to that comparatively brief period after the trumpet of fame has directed the eyes of the world upon him whose life story he writes.  But to understand properly the greatness or littleness of any man we must now something of his whole life – what went before and what went after.

Even though the book is about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the reader will also read a thorough history of the family, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin’s fifth cousin.  Ward devotes about one-fourth of the book’s opening content to the history of the Roosevelt family, before Franklin was born in 1882.

For me, the Delano family history, included later in the book, was eye-opening.  I had no idea they had amassed most of their wealth as participants in the lucrative opium trade in China.  At that time, opium was legal and Warren Delano, Jr. was a successful businessman who took his family there to live for a time.

His daughter Sarah married widower James Roosevelt in 1881 and the following year their only child, a son named Franklin Delano, was born on January 29, 1882.  The rest of the book is devoted to Franklin’s growing-up years and the influences that both of his parents (and their extended) families had on his life.

Ward also includes background on the “Oyster Bay/Sagamore Hill” Roosevelts, Teddy’s side of the family.  Interestingly, Ward suggests that Franklin’s father James and his grandfather Isaac, who had both held public office, were not interested in elective politics – “competing for votes was thought unseemly, unprincipled, vulgar.”

Sarah Delano Roosevelt almost died having Franklin so she never had any other children.  It’s just as well because she was plenty busy making Franklin the center of her attention.  Ward details the “hovering Sarah” and how, until he finally did indeed marry his cousin fifth cousin (once removed) Eleanor Roosevelt, she made every effort to control just about every aspect of her son’s life, including the engagement announcement – she urged him to wait for awhile (probably secretly hoping nothing would come of it).  Throughout the book you will also find details about FDR’s staunch Episcopalian faith as well.

I have another one of Ward’s books on hold at the library on which the recent Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, The Roosevelts, was based on, so look for a review soon.  If you’re fascinated by the Roosevelts, then you would enjoy this in-depth look into the early life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as the family and circumstances that helped shape his character.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

WPGo to www.historydepot.net for more information

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Ghost Town Wednesday: Snowball, Arkansas

GhostTownWednesdayAll that remains today of the town of Snowball, Arkansas, besides abandoned buildings and storefronts, is a Masonic hall, a church and a few residents.  This town, originally known as Calf Creek, did thrive after being formally settled in the late nineteenth century, however.

The area was home to Cherokees led by chief Peter Cornstalk before white settlers began to arrive in the late 1830′s.  Even though the area was being settled, the town site didn’t start taking shape until the late 1800′s when in 1885 the Calf Creek Masonic Lodge was founded.

A lodge was built, serving as a church and school as well, and named after county sheriff Bill Snow.  Businesses started coming in and a post office was established in 1888.  The legend of how the town got the name of “Snowball” is that postal officials misread the application and gave it the name “Snowball” instead of “Snow Hall”.

A hotel and general store were built in 1890, and in 1912 the H.D. William Cooperage Mill (barrel manufacturer) opened nearby and many residents were employed there.  In 1938 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a new school, but by the 1970′s school enrollment had declined dramatically, down to about thirty students.  The school was later merged with another district.

Snowball1937By that time the town, which once boasted as many as five hundred residents, had dwindled to four families.  A resurgence of sorts occurred later in the 70′s when so-called “hippies” came to the area to “get back to the land”.  But like most fads of that era, interest waned and the hippies left.

A fire destroyed much of the business district in October of 1945, including the post office and three businesses.  The post office was rebuilt, but closed permanently in 1966.  According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, as of 2012 there were only a few residents living there, with several abandoned buildings storefronts.

SnowballToday the Masonic Lodge is still active, along with Snowball Baptist Church.  The town site is now referred to as an “unincorporated community” which is often synonymous with “ghost town”.  Calf Creek/Snowball was home to the subjects of yesterdays Tombstone Tuesday article, Isaac Lafayette and Arabazena Ottalee (Turney) Castleberry.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

While researching this story, I came across some other “snowball” stories – you’ll see those in upcoming Military History Monday articles.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

WPGo to www.historydepot.net for more information

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Tombstone Tuesday: Isaac Lafayette and Arabazena Ottalee (Turney) Castleberry

TombstoneTuesday   The subjects of today’s Tombstone Tuesday article, husband and wife, were both children of Civil War veterans whose stories are of interest as well.  The state of Arkansas was considered part of the Confederacy, yet after the fall of Little Rock in 1863 to Union forces, several infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments were formed to serve on the Union side.  Some would be forced to serve in the Confederacy against their will, however.

Isaac Lafayette Castleberry

Isaac Lafayette Castleberry was born on July 15, 1861 in Searcy County, Arkansas to parents John Robert and Margaret Ann (Morris) Castleberry.  Less than six months following Isaac’s birth, John was mustered in as a private in Company I of the 18th Arkansas Infantry (Marmaduke’s) on December 18, 1861, under the command of Captain John J. Dawson.  The unit would also be referred to as the 3rd Confederate Infantry.

Companies I and K of the 3rd were also called the “Burrowville Mountain Guards” (Company I) and the “Rector Guards” (Company K) and all haled from Searcy County.  Of particular interest is the fact that these two companies were thought to consist largely of the Arkansas Peace Society members, of which John was a known member.

In November of 1861 Confederate authorities were alerted as to the activities and sympathies of this pro-Union group, located primarily in Searcy, Marion, Carroll, Izard, Fulton and Van Buren counties and comprised of about seventeen hundred members.  According to the Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Spring 1958, p. 83), local units of the Peace Society “were quickly suppressed by extra-legal citizens’ committees or by the state military board at Little Rock.

Some members were tried for treason and acquitted, while many were forced into Confederate service, which appears to be what happened to John.  The Quarterly article also reported that most of the leadership of the society were Southerners, born and bred, including six preachers who appeared to have been quite influential.  The society was composed mostly of mountain folk who didn’t want to take up arms with either side – they just wanted to be left alone.

One month and a week after being mustered into forced Confederate service, John Robert Castleberry died in Warren County, Kentucky (Bowling Green) – not from a mortal battle wound but a measles epidemic that killed several in his regiment.  It is believed that he and about two hundred other Confederate soldiers were buried in a mass grave.

So, Isaac never knew his father.  Census records indicate that Margaret never remarried and the family continued to live in the community of Calf Creek in Searcy County.  In 1880 Isaac was still living with his family, but on March 16, 1884 he married Arabazena Ottalee Turney, he twenty-three years old and she not yet seventeen.  Their children were:

Barney Lillard (18 Dec 1884)
Harmon Hartwell (30 Jan 1887)
Dennis (21 Apr 1889; died 23 Dec 1897, three days after brother John was born)
Vertie Idella (16 Feb 1892)
Elmer Earnest (15 Apr 1894)
John Spurlock (20 Dec 1897)
Paul Taft (07 Feb 1908)

Isaac was a farmer who appears to have lived out his life in peace and minding his own business, in his Searcy County community.  The father he never knew didn’t have that option after being forced to join the Confederacy.  Arabazena preceded him in death on February 28, 1934; Isaac died on May 21, 1939.  They were buried together in the Snowball Cemetery.

Arabazena Ottalee Turney

Arabazena Ottalee Turney was born in Calf Creek, Searcy County, Arkansas on October 7, 1867 to parents Josiah Spurlock and Cynthia Delilah (Strickland) Turney.  Like Isaac’s father, it appears that Josiah may have been a member of the Arkansas Peace Society (there were others of the Turney family who were members), although his name doesn’t appear on the list.  Josiah did enlist (or was forced to do so) with the Confederacy in 1862.

Family historians surmise that at some point he deserted from the CSA (and records seem to reflect that) and joined the Union, signing up as a Private and mustered out as a Sergeant Major, probably in 1865.  He is said to have returned home and became a school teacher.  Sadly, John died on May 22, 1867 and Arabazena never knew her father.  It appears that Cynthia (or Cyntha as she was called) probably died sometime between 1870 and 1880 because in 1880 Arabazena was living with her older brother John and his family.

This was a unique story of two people who married and had a large family, neither one of them knowing their fathers.  I had heard of some Arkansans having Union sympathies – some of my Arkansas ancestors had split loyalties in their families it appears.  My fourth great grandmother, Mary Ann (Story) Hooper was called “Aunt Pop” by her friends and family and known as a charitable person.  She lived in Logan County, and during the Civil War fed hungry soldiers on both sides, treating them all with equal care and consideration.

I hope you enjoyed today’s story – be sure and stop by tomorrow for a ghost town article on Snowball, a.k.a. Calf Creek, Arkansas.

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

WPGo to www.historydepot.net for more information

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Mothers of Invention: Ruth Graves Wakefield (Toll House Cookies)

RuthWakefieldHave you noticed it’s almost Thanksgiving, which means Christmas is just around the corner,  which means the baking season is upon us.  All of which usually makes me start thinking of what kind of outrageous chocolate chip cookies I’ll bake this year!  So a little history is in order today – who invented the chocolate chip cookie anyway?

Ruth Graves Wakefield was responsible for this so-called “accidental” invention.  She was born on June 7, 1903 to parents Fred and Helen Graves in East Walpole, Massachusetts.  In 1924 Ruth graduated from Framingham State Normal School (now Framingham State University) with a degree in household arts.

With her degree she taught home economics at Brockton High School for two years before marrying Kenneth Donald Wakefield in June of 1926.  Between the years of 1926 and 1930, Ruth worked as a dietician and food lecturer and the couple had two children, Kenneth and Mary Jane.  In 1930, in the middle of the Great Depression, Kenneth and Ruth purchased a building which had originally been a toll house in Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

TollHouseInnThe house was built in 1709 and originally used as a sort of way station for travelers, a place for a change of horses and a respite for travelers, who enjoyed a meal while the horses were changed and the road tolls paid.  In keeping with its original purpose, Kenneth and Ruth restored it and named it the Toll House Inn, furnished in classic colonial styles.  Still, it was a risky proposition given the economic situation, and after purchasing and remodeling it the Wakefields had only about fifty dollars left to work with.

The operation was so small that, according to The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book: Scrumptious Recipes & Fabled History From Toll House to Cookie Cake Pie ITALICS by Carolyn Wyman: “When more than one of the seven tables were taken, salad plates from their limited supply of dishware would be whisked away from one table only to reappear a few moments later freshly washed and bearing dessert at another.”

The beginnings may have been shaky, but by Christmas they needed several employees to assist them.  The inn seemed to be in perpetual remodeling mode as they added to it over the years. The inn became a popular destination, especially for large events, and Senator John F. Kennedy and his father were patrons as well as celebrities like Joe DiMaggio, Gloria Swanson, Betty Davis and more.

Ruth’s lobster dishes were what first made her famous, and she had a large collection of New England recipes which she inherited from her grandmother, along with her own recipe creations.  Every January the Wakefields took a vacation overseas and Ruth always came back with new recipes to try. She seemed to have a knack for knowing just how to make it from scratch on her own.

Her first (small) cookbook, Toll House Recipes Tried and True, was first published in 1931 and reprinted twenty-eight times until by 1954 it had grown into a book with over eight hundred recipes.  Her desserts were particularly well-known and service superb as guests were often greeted personally by the Wakefields.  Ruth became famous for her Toll House cookie recipe, but truly the woman was a dessert-genius.  Her Indian pudding was lauded by none other than Duncan Hines – in 1947 he proclaimed it one of his favorites.

The “accidental” story claims that she was making a recipe of Butter Drop Do cookies and wanted to add chocolate.  Another story said she was missing nuts and decided to add the chocolate pieces.  With no bakers chocolate on hand she decided to chop up a semi-sweet chocolate bar in pieces instead.  At least one version of the story goes that she assumed that after stirring the chocolate pieces into the dough, the two would somehow melt together and make the cookie chocolate.  But, instead of melting, the pieces came out as bits of chocolate scattered in each cookie, and she first called them Toll House Crunch Cookies.

However, the restaurant promoted itself as a military machine or factory production line, geared to smooth-running cohesion, as Wyman pointed out.  “Long-range planning and constantly studied personnel are reflected in an operating teamwork flawless in its unruffled perfection.  Confusion is unknown.”

So, as Wyman noted, it seems unlikely that Ruth would not have all needed ingredients on hand, and she thought the whole “substitute chocolate for nuts” story was preposterous.  One story told by an employee over the years had its own flair.  George Boucher would tell how one day he heard vibrations from the mixer which caused chocolate stored on a shelf above it to fall into the dough.

It wasn’t until the 1970′s when Ruth finally explained what had really happened.  For years the restaurant had served a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream.  Her customers loved them and she wanted to try something different, so she devised the Toll House cookie recipe, working on it while returning from a trip to Egypt.

Another point Wyman made was that the story about Ruth thinking the chunked chocolate would melt into the cookie dough was unlikely given her background in culinary arts and a household arts degree.  She had studied food chemistry and knew chocolate chunks would not melt into the cookie making it chocolate through and through.  Instead, Ruth and her pastry chef Sue Brides worked together to create a new cookie to serve with ice cream.

Ruth had, of course, used Nestlé chocolate in her recipe.  While several chocolate companies wanted her to endorse their products, Ruth stuck with Nestlé, and on March 20, 1939 gave the recipe to them for one dollar.  The recipe was changed over the years by Nestlé, but what a stroke of luck for them, eh?

If you search the internet you will find all the “accidental” stories in one form or another.  In truth, I almost fell for them too, but they were beginning to be a bit confusing and convoluted.  So, I kept searching and stumbled upon Wyman’s book, an obviously well-researched and thoughtful book (although I only read a synopsis in Google Books).  I find this so often whether I’m researching an article for the blog or genealogy — you just have to keep digging until you find the truth!

So, the moral to the story is you just can’t believe everything you read on the internet … but you probably (hopefully) already knew that.  Happy baking season!

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

WPGo to www.historydepot.net for more information

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Hymnspiration: Eugene Monroe Bartlett, a Founding Father of Southern Gospel Music

EugeneMBartlettToday’s hymn, Victory In Jesus, was written by Eugene Monroe Bartlett, Sr., considered to one of the founding fathers of Southern gospel music.  He wrote hundreds of songs, both sacred and secular, but this one is probably the most enduring and still sung in evangelical churches today, one of my favorites.

Eugene Monroe Bartlett was born on Christmas Eve 1883 (according to 1900 census, although most list his year of birth as 1885) in Waynesville, Missouri to parents Hiram Frasier and Mary Elizabeth (Atwell) Bartlett.  Not long after his birth the family moved to Sebastian County, Arkansas, home to some of my ancestors and kin.  At an early age Eugene became a Christian and later developed a talent for music.

He was educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee and the William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri, trained in music and education.  He married Joan Tatum in 1917 and together they had two children, Eugene, Jr. and Charles.

In 1918 he founded the Hartford Music Company in Hartford, Arkansas, publishing hymnals and conducting singing schools throughout the South.  According to Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, “in later years his schools brought together such well-known teachers as James Rowe and Homer Rodeheaver” (look for a future Church Traditions themed article on singing schools).  Eugene’s goal was to teach people to sight read through the use of shaped notes (an assigned tone for each note on the eight-note scale).  He also edited a music magazine called Herald of Song.

He served as president of Hartford Music Company until 1935 and during that time branch offices were opened in Nacogdoches, Texas and Hartshorne, Oklahoma.  Eugene continued to write gospel songs, many suited for what came to be known as Southern gospel music with its classic four-part harmonies.  He also wrote secular songs popularized at the Grand Old Opry like You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down and Take An Old Cold Tater and Wait.

With his success in the music publishing business, Eugene was able to help other writers and musicians get their start, including Albert E. Brumley who wrote gospel classics like Turn Your Radio On and I’ll Fly Away.  Brumley arrived in Arkansas to attend the singing school without sufficient funds to pay his tuition.  Eugene let him enroll for free and stay in his own home.  After stepping down at the music company, Eugene worked for a time for Stamps-Baxter Music Company and the James D. Vaughan Music Company, and continued to conduct singing schools throughout the South.

Eugene didn’t pen the words and music for Victory in Jesus until 1939, following a devastating stroke which left him bedridden.  Partially paralyzed and unable to travel any longer, he wrote the upbeat tune which perhaps might have reflected his own Christian testimony in three stanzas:

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there
The song of victory.

He struggled to write the song, taking almost a month to complete it.  Eugene Bartlett died on January 25, 1941, and in 1973 was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  His songs have been sung by quartets, choirs, bluegrass and country musicians and more.  Some of his other gospel songs include (you can click on the link to hear them — enjoy!):

Camping in Canaan’s Happy Land
Everybody Will Be Happy Over There
Jesus Opened Up the Way
Victory In Jesus

The opening notes of Victory In Jesus are inscribed on Eugene’s tombstone:


Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

WPGo to www.historydepot.net for more information

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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Surname Saturday: Folger

FolgerCrest   This surname is interesting to me because as I began to research it I discovered that one of its spelling variations is the same as some of my ancestors (Fulcher).  I would have never made the connection, but I will soon be researching that further.

The Folger surname is believed to be of Germanic origin and probably first seen in England when William the Conqueror and his forces crossed the English Channel.  The spelling at that time might have been slightly different as “Foulger” or “Fulcher” (or “Fulchar”).  The theory about those bearing the surname is plausible since Fulcher/Fulchar broken down translates as “Folk” (people) and “Hari” (army), or “people’s army”.

Spelling variations include: Fulcher, Foulger, Folger, Fulker, Folker, Futcher, Fuge, Fudge, Fullager and many more.  The name first appeared in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire around the time of William the Conqueror.  According to House of Names, “the Fulchers were known as the Champions of Burgundy and records were found of the name spelt Fulchere in Normandy (1180-1195).  They also note that the Folger surname could have been derived from an Anglo-Saxon word “folgere” which means a free man who attended someone else.

The Folger name is, of course, synonymous with “the best part of waking’ up is Folgers in your cup”™.  First though, a little about the earliest Folgers to come to America.  John Folger and his son Peter immigrated to America, landing in Boston and eventually settled on Nantucket Island.  Peter was also the grandfather of one of the most famous Americans, Benjamin Franklin.

Peter Folger

Peter Folger was born in 1617 in England to parents John and Meribah (Gibbs) Folger and his family came to America around 1635, first settling around Watertown, Massachusetts.  In 1644 Peter married Mary Morrell (or Morrill).  Peter may have attended university before immigrating because he was skilled in mathematical sciences, working as a surveyor of both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

At one point Peter became a Baptist and after moving to Nantucket was said to have evangelized the local Indians and performed baptisms, assisting Reverend Thomas Mayhew.  Peter and Mary had several children: Joanna, Bethiah, Dorcas, Eleazar, Bethsheba, Patience, John, Experience and Abiah (Benjamin Franklin’s mother).

As Nantucket was in the beginning stages of settlement, five persons were chosen to survey it, Peter being one.  For his services apparently he was granted a half share of land in July 1663, provided he came to live there within a year with his family and agree to serve as interpreter with the Indians.  Peter agreed and spent the rest of his life on Nantucket, immersing himself in the civic affairs of his community.

In addition to his mission work with the Indians, he also served as clerk of courts for several years.  Peter made his mark, garnering recognition from Cotton Mather, who believed him to be a learned and pious person.  A poem Peter wrote and published in 1675/1676 was included in his grandson’s autobiography, entitled A Looking Glass for the Times, or the Former Spirit of New England Revived in this Generation.  He may have established himself as one of the first to advocate freedom of religious belief for all, be they Quakers, Catholics, Anabaptists or Puritans.

James Athearn Folger

James Athearn (J.A.) Folger was descended from Peter Folger through his son Eleazar, and was born on June 17, 1835 to parents Samuel Brown and Nancy Hill Folger.  Samuel was a master blacksmith who invested in the manufacture of tryworks, a trywork being the most prominent feature located aft of the fore-mast on a whaling ship, and also purchased two ships.

In 1846 a fire destroyed the family business and eleven year-old James helped his family rebuild.  In 1849 gold fever gripped the nation and fourteen year-old James set out with his older brothers Henry and Edward that fall to seek out their fortunes in California.  They boarded a ship for Panama, hiked across the Isthmus and caught a ship to California on the other side, arriving on May 8, 1850.

JAFolgerBy the time the three Folger young men arrived, there wasn’t enough money left to allow all three to travel from San Francisco to the gold mining towns.  James remained in San Francisco to earn his way to the mines while his brothers proceeded without him.

Commercially roasted coffee had been around since the beginning of the nineteenth century, but considered a luxury by most.  Ground coffee had not even been conceived of yet.  That would soon change, however, when William H. Bovee hired James to erect the first mill in San Francisco to produce ground coffee, The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills.

James worked for Bovee for almost a year before he saved enough to join his brothers.  He agreed to also take samples of coffee and spices and take orders from general stores throughout mining country.

When James returned to San Francisco in 1865, he had apparently succeeded well enough to become a full partner of Pioneer.  In 1872 he bought out his partners and renamed his company J.A. Folger & Co.  In 1861 he married Eleanor Laughran and together they had four children.

After James became the sole owner his focus turned to producing bulk-roasted coffee which was delivered in drums and sacks to stores.  His son James, Jr. worked in the family business and took over after his father died on June 26, 1889.

I’ve been conducting research for a friend this year (see my articles here and here) and found she was related to a host of famous families who all lived on Nantucket, including the Folgers, Macys, Bunkers, Coffins and Starbucks.  With this new insight on the origins of the Folger name and its possible roots in the German name Fulcher, I’m excited to see if perhaps I might have a connection to the Folgers further down the line.  Stay tuned . . . if perchance I find out someday I’m also related to Benjamin Franklin, you’ll definitely hear about it here!

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.
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