From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Panthers and Wolves in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

A big mountain lion remembered


The following passage is quoted from A History of Muhlenberg County (pp 114-116), written by Otto Arthur Rothert and published in Louisville, KY, by J. P. Morton in  1913. I've divided the paragraphs and added some punctuation and words in brackets to make the passage easier to read on the screen. The Mud River, mentioned in the cougar story, forms the eastern boundary line of Muhlenberg County today.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Speaking to me of the old days, Judge David J. Fleming said :

I have often heard my father, Samuel C. Fleming, tell of an incident that took place about the year 1815, or shortly after my grandparents settled in the Mud River country.

Ammunition was scarce in those days, but game was plentiful and easily caught. My grandfather, David L. Fleming,had cleared a small field, in which he built a turkey-pen for the purpose of trapping wild turkeys. One day at dinner my grandfather told my father, then a boy of about ten, to go over to the turkey-pen after dinner and see whether any turkeys were in it.

Shortly before supper, [my] father walked over to the pen, but found no turkeys nor any signs. On his return he followed a path through a strip of dense woods. Soon after entering the woods, he heard a noise like a crying child. He glanced around, and seeing nothing, rushed home and told his father, who was then in the blacksmith's shop at work. [My grandfather]... remarked that he had often heard a "child" crying in the woods at night, but never before so early in the evening.

Grandfather picked up his gun and followed the path leading to the turkey-pen. He entered the woods, looked and listened, and after hearing the expected cry, hid himself behind a tree and from there mimicked the slowly approaching beast. When it came within safe shooting distance, he blazed away and killed one of the largest 'Tom' panthers ever seen in Muhlenberg County. The animal measured eleven feet from the end of his nose to the tip of his tail. Although I was not born until about eighteen years later, I remember using this old panther skin for a pallet [a flat bed on the floor].

No panthers have been seen in Muhlenberg since about the close of the Civil War, notwithstanding that even to this day, reports are occasionally circulated that one had been seen, or rather heard, in the Clifty Creek country.

Wolves, too, have long ago disappeared. The desire to exterminate wolves, and incidentally to receive the bounty paid for their scalps, resulted in a war on wolves that lasted as long as there were any to be killed. Anyone producing the head of a wolf before a justice of the peace, stating under oath when and where he killed the animal, was granted a certificate to that effect. These certificates, upon presentation to the sheriff, were paid for at the rate of two dollars and a half for wolves over six months of age and one dollar for those under that age.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Quoted from A History of Muhlenberg County (pp 114-116), written by Otto Arthur Rothert and published in Louisville, KY, by J. P. Morton in 1913.

An 1808 wolf-kill certificate, reproduced in A History of Muhlenberg County

Friday, January 25, 2013

Two Repairs for Broken Headstones

Two fixes for fallen tombstones


I hate to see old tombstones that are broken and lying on the ground in pieces. Sometimes the bottom half is still standing. Vandals have snapped the stone, or a tree has fallen on it. Sometimes, natural forces heave the whole stone out of the ground, and it breaks when it falls. Whatever the cause, broken gravestones are a common sight and a real problem in old cemeteries.

I saw this repair of a broken grave marker at Golconda, Illinois. It should last for many years. Someone cut a big cedar fencepost (naturally resistant to rot) in half lengthwise. Then he made a long, square groove down each half  to fit the side of the tombstone. The cedar pieces are set into a concrete base that also serves as a foundation for the headstone.

Top view: the stone fits into the grooves.

Broken stone held upright and stable

I like this repair because the stone isn't messed up with globs of adhesive or concrete. The pieces fit together cleanly, the stone is restored to an upright position, and the broken parts are supported.

I've also seen pictures of this repair method done with U-shaped metal pieces.  The cedar log was probably a cheap, readily available material for this repairman. Pressure treated lumber could also have been used. One good thing about using wood is that it does not tempt metal thieves.

I saw another type of repair in the Willoughby Cemetery in Republic County, Kansas.  This method does a superb job of joining the parts of the headstone together. If the stone had been set on an incline, rather than flat, water would have drained off better. But I still appreciate the respect that someone showed by making the effort to repair the broken gravestone.

You can find a lot of information about good (and bad) ways to repair broken gravestones on the internet. Check out this search: How to repair a broken tombstone.

Affordable Alternative Grave Marker

Dignity Marker© for unmarked family graves


Dennis and I both have great-grandparents whose graves are unmarked. We have talked from time to time about getting headstones for them. It would fulfill the wishes of our parents as well as honor the memories of our great-grandparents. However, four granite or marble headstones would be a considerable investment for us.

We are interested in a solution from Ron Yates, a family tree researcher with roots in Crawford County, Indiana. Ron has an extensive genealogy website that includes my great-great grandmother Susana Jane McCleary (1848-1906.) That's how I began an internet acquaintance with him. 

Ron and other Yates family members have struggled to meet the need for dozens of grave markers in old cemeteries in Crawford County. So many graves needed attention that it was impossible to provide a marble or granite headstone for each one.

The search for an alternative memorial led the Yates family to an Illinois manufacturer, who helped them develop the Dignity Marker©. It's an attractive plaque, made of HPDE, a strong, durable synthetic that is used for plastic lumber, landfill liners, hard hats, water pipes, and many other products. It is available for $45 per plaque plus shipping (discounts for quantity orders.)

The Dignity Marker©, side view.
Testing the fit before packing
the holes of the block with dirt.
The Dignity Marker© is adhered to a standard concrete block (16 in. x 8 in. x 6 in.) with Liquid Nails Extreme Temperatures and Conditions (LN-201) construction adhesive. The block is then installed at the grave site, either flush with the ground or upright, depending on personal preferences and the cemetery rules. Any able-bodied person could do the job alone.

Ron wrote to me that they will be fabricating and installing 30 or more of these markers in April at the Yates Union Chapel Cemetery near Grantsburg, Indiana. What an achievement that will be!

A newly installed Dignity Marker©.
I told Ron that I might purchase the plaques, even though I didn't know when we would be able to make the trip to install them. He suggested that we could ask a local historical or genealogical society to recommend a reputable handyman, pay him for a couple of hours of work, and request a digital photo of the installed markers.

Dignity Marker© is not a big company. Rather, these are family genealogists who are sharing a simple solution to a real need. I am so impressed that I decided to help spread the word about this product. There are so many situations where an inexpensive grave marker is needed. (This post is not a paid advertisement!)

Please see the Dignity Marker© website for much more information than I've given here. They also have a Facebook page with lots of photos.

Thanks to Ron Yates and Dignity Marker© for permission to use the photographs in this post.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Books To Keep

Sorting through the juvenile fiction


We have come to the point in our house where we need another bookcase -- or fewer books. Unless I happen to find a cheap, good-quality, used bookcase, I always feel morally obligated to build one. So I decided to spare myself that task (and the challenge of finding a place in the house for another bookcase, once built.)

I sorted through most of our juvenile fiction, discarding duplicate titles, lesser works, extremely worn books, etc., and now I have a large, very heavy box of kid books sitting on the kitchen floor, waiting to go to the Salvation Army thrift shop.

But before I take it, I will let both Keely and Isaac see if they want to keep anything from it. These are books that accumulated during their childhood years.

I also made a list of the books I decided to keep. I have quite a habit of looking through any used books I find. If I have a list with me on my tablet as I'm looking, at least maybe I won't buy a duplicate book.

Here are the keepers. Note: this is not a list of all the great books I think kids should read. It's just a list of what's on my bookshelves tonight. I notice a sad deficiency in Mary Poppins and Little House books. Keely says that's because she and Isaac wore them out so thoroughly when they were kids. Also, no Little Women!

Well, I can't own them all. Not without more bookcases...

  • Allen, Philip Schuyler: King Arthur and His Knights, A Noble and Joyous History
  • Bowman, James Cloyd: Pecos Bill
  • Cameron, Eleanor: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet
  • Cleary, Beverly: Beezus and Ramona
  • Colder, Soon: Artemis Fowl
  • Dahl, Ronald: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Dahl, Ronald: James and the Giant Peach
  • Dodge, Mary Mapes: Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
  • Estes, Eleanor: The Middle Moffat
  • Estes, Eleanor: The Moffats
  • Forbes, Esther: Johnny Tremain
  • Graham, Kenneth: The Wind in the Willows
  • Hale, Shannon: The Princess Academy
  • Krumgold, Joseph: Onion John
  • L'Engle, Madeleine: A Swiftly Tilting Planet
  • L'Engle, Madeleine: A Wind in the Door
  • L'Engle, Madeleine: A Wrinkle in Time
  • Lawson, Robert: Rabbit Hill
  • Lear, Edward: Nonsense Book
  • Lofting, Hugh: Doctor Doolittle
  • Lovelace, Maud: Betsy and Tacy
  • Lovelace, Maud: Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
  • Maclachlan, Patricia: Sarah, Plain and Tall
  • McCloskey, Roberta: Henry Reed, Inc.
  • McCormick, Dell J.: Paul Bunyan Swings His Ax
  • Neville, Emily: It's Like This, Cat
  • Norton, Mary: The Borrowers
  • Norton, Mary: The Borrowers Afloat
  • Norton, Mary: The Borrowers Aloft
  • O'Brien, Robert C.: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
  • O'Dell, Scott: Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • Paterson, Katherine: Bridge to Terabithia
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan: The Yearling
  • Rawls, Wilson: Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Sachar, Louis: Holes
  • Sachar, Louis: Wayside School is Falling Down
  • Sachar, Louis: Sideways Stories from Wayside School
  • Sachar, Louis: Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger
  • Scott, Dr. Jonathan (translator): The Arabian Nights Entertainments
  • Sewell, Anna: Black Beauty
  • Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein
  • Spyri, Johanna: Heidi
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis: Treasure Island
  • Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Twain, Mark: Tom Sawyer
  • Verne, Jules: Around the World In Eighty Days
  • Verne, Jules: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Wells, H. G.: The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Wells,H. G.: The Time Machine
  • White, E. B.: Stuart Little
  • White, E. B.: The Trumpet of the Swans
  • Wyss, Johann Rudolf: The Swiss Family Robinson

I have been typing this on the Nexus tablet that the family gave me for Christmas. Now I am going to attempt to take a photo with this little machine and add it to this post. After the post reaches the internet, I guess I will have to edit it with my desktop computer, so I can italicize the titles. I'm not seeing how to do that with the Blogger app I'm using. (And that's what I did.)

Edited 1/6, 10:55 p.m.
Retrieved by Isaac from the give-away box:
  • Winthrop, Elizabeth: The Castle In the Attic
  • Finger, Charles J.: Tales From Silver Lands
  • Juster, Norton: The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Selden, George: The Cricket in Times Square
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.