Saturday, March 21, 2015

Society Saturday - General George Henry Thomas

The members of the Daughters of Indian Wars and the Dames of the Court of Honor recently met for a joint meeting.  Our speaker was Jerry Kowalski who portrayed General George Henry Thomas.  He spoke about the General's life and service prior to the Civil War.

Unfortunately, my camera wasn't working, but to show you his attire I found a similar picture of him at a previous event he spoke at.

(credit to

General Thomas was a Virginian who attended West Point.  While there, he became close friends with William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee.

He served in several battles leading up to the Civil War.  These included the Seminole Wars in Florida in 1841 and the Mexican American War in 1845.  He taught artillery and cavalry at West Point in the 1850's which allowed him to select some of the best cadets for his units later. 

When the Civil War broke out, he remained with the Union, feeling that his oath to the Constitution was more important than his native ties to Virginia.  This caused his sisters to disown him.  He commanded the Army at the first Union victory at Mill Springs (Logan's Run) in Kentucky.  He never advanced as far as some of his contemporaries, largely because there was always suspicion about whether he was truly a Union soldier based on his origins.

It was a very interesting program about an early American Military hero that we don't hear much about.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Matrilineal Monday - Mom's birthday celebration part 2

In addition to the card shower planned for my mother's 90th birthday (see previous post),  We had another surprise planned.

I had told her that I was going to take her to lunch at her favorite restaurant - Shorty's BBQ. What I didn't tell her was that several of her friends were going to join us.

I had secretly invited several of her friends and family to join us - some by facebook, some by email, and some by old fashioned snail mail.

Unfortunately, there was 14 inches of snow on her birthday so lunch had to be postponed.  I had to let everyone know of the new date, and hope they would be able to come.

We went a few days later.  When we walked into the restaurant and walked back toward our table, all of a sudden she saw several people she knew.

It was quite the surprise.   Including mom, there were 13 people.  Some cousins and a niece from her side of the family, some nieces from my dad's side, some friends, my sister and her daughters, and myself.

As for the card shower - as of yesterday, she had received 107 cards and a bunch of balloons.

And, being snowed in was a great opportunity to scan through some of her old photos - to be posted at another time.

It was a great way to celebrate 9 decades of her life.  Now what to do for her 100th???

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Society Saturday - Dinner at the White House

While in Ohio for a visit, I attended a meeting of my original DAR chapter.  

The speaker was member Marge Waterfield who told us about White House China.

She showed examples of the China used by several of the Presidents and told about some of the symbols used on them.

Not all of the Presidents had their own China, but some had it included in the federal budget.

Marge told us about some of their state dinners and what was served.  For example, the Washingtons had "spiced gyngerbrede " and the Lincolns served "thanksgiving salad".  Andrew Jackson served "barbeque ribs with rum " on the White House lawn.

Woodrow Wilson was the first to have China made in America.  He ordered a 1700 piece from Lennox company.  

She also brought some pieces from her collection of reproductions to show.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Matrilineal Monday - Celebrating a milestone birthday

Today my mother turns 90 years old!  Yes, that's right - 90.  9/10 of a century.  Nine decades.

When Ruth Steinbrecher was born in 1925, Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States.  When he was inaugurated for his second term a month later, he was the first to have his inaugural address broadcast on radio.  Prohibition was well established, and Al Capone was taking over the Chicago bootlegging racket.

It cost 2 cents to mail a letter.  A loaf of bread was 10 cents and a pound of beef was 39cents.  A half gallon of milk was 28 cents.

F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, and the New Yorker magazine published their first issue.

Chrysler corporation produced their first car, and the first double-decker busses appeared in London.

You could order a three bedroom house from the Sears catalog and build it yourself for $2000.

A lot has changed in the last ninety years!

When Ruth graduated from High School in 1942, the country had just entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Men were signing up to fight "over there" and women were helping with the war effort at home by joining the work force, planting victory gardens, and rationing.

Ruth herself entered the work force by working as a bookkeeper for Buddy's box lunch (a nascent catering company).  There she met Donald Ormsby as the result of a wrong number, and they were married in 1950.

Ruth and Don raised 2 daughters and his son.  He died in 1988, and she has been going strong ever since.  As of now, she has 7 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.

To help celebrate her birthday - after all, what does a 90 year old lady really need? - her daughters came up with 2 things to make it special.

My younger sister Robin planned a card shower.  Notes were sent to everyone we knew to send her a birthday card - whether they know Ruth or not.  As of today, she has received 92 cards from across the country, and is having a lot of fun going to the mailbox every day.

I had planned to take her to lunch at Shorty's BBQ - one of her favorite restaurants.  Unfortunately, northwest Ohio is still digging out from a major snowstorm, so we won't be going today.  We'll try again in a couple days.  As she says - she's old enough to understand that her birthday doesn't have to be celebrated on the exact day.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Society Saturday - Celebrating the Huguenot Heritage

The Illinois Huguenot Society met to celebrate our Huguenot Heritage.  We are all descendants of the Huguenots - a group of French Protestants who were forced to flee France in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The meeting opened with the traditional singing of Le Cevenol, the Huguenot hymn.  Member Bonnie Gerth sings this a cappella in French or English.  This time she invited us to sing along with her (in English!).

Genealogist General Jeannine Kallal (and member of Illinois Society) told about attending the National Conference in New Paltz, New York. This town was settled by Huguenots in the late 17th century.  Highlights were tours of Huguenot sites, including Huguenot Street, the oldest true street in America, and the Reformed Church which was founded by member Sunny Hayes' ancestor Antoine Crispell.

Plans were made for next year's National conference which will be hosted by the Illinois Society.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Society Saturday - Three Illinois Women in the Civil War

The John Butler chapter of the National Society Daughters of the Union had a very interesting speaker at their meeting.

Betty Carlson Kay is a former school teacher who has written several books about the Civil War and various people associated with the Civil War.  She gave us a program in first person about three women from that era.

One woman was Mother Bickerdyke.  She was Mary Ann Bickerdyke, a widow from Galesburg, IL who was asked to assist at the Army hospital in Cairo, IL for a few weeks.  She realized the great need that the army had for someone to properly care for the soldiers, and ended up spending several years with the army.

Another was Julia Dent Grant.  She was from Missouri, but became the wife of Ulysses S. Grant, a West Point classmate of her brother Frederick.  They lived in Galena, IL before he became President.

The most interesting woman that Mrs. Kay portrayed was Jennie Hodgers.  She was an irish woman who immigrated to this country ca 1860 and settled in Belvidere, IL.  Because she was young and single, she pretended to be a man so that she could work and not be taken advantage of.  Thus, Jennie Hodgers became Albert D.J. Cashier. She joined the Union Army and served throughout the war, retiring to Saunemin, IL.  She continued to live as a man and even stayed in the Quincy Veterans Home.  Her secret was discovered on occasion by a few doctors, but they let her continue with her deception.  Her tombstone was recently marked by our chapter, and contains both of her names.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Society Saturday - Colonial Dames of America

We were pleased to welcome our President General, Sharon Vaino for an official visit.  She had made a point of visiting all 37 of the CDA chapters during her term.

President Vaino told us all about current activities of the Society.   Her husband Jaan traveled with her and even helped serve the drinks for our luncheon.

The society owns the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum in New York city.  This once was part of the country estate of Abigail Adams Smith, daughter of John Adams.  Although it is now in the middle of Manhattan, during the mid-19th century it was a destination in the country.  Most of the national functions are related to the care and upkeep of this museum.

It was interesting to learn more about our national society.