Picking the perfect pumpkin is a family tradition. Whether a miniature or the largest pumpkin in the field is chosen to adorn the front step, much discussion and deliberation ensues. Each year, the trip to the pumpkin field ignites memories beginning with “Remember when…”. The excitement and resulting anticipation heightens while bumping through the field on a wagon ride.
Children spring from the wagon and scatter through the field. Some will choose the first one spotted; others will wander for a while with much consideration; one great thinker seemingly arrives on each wagon ride. The most patient driver becomes restless. The other children begin to call. A set of parents begins to apologize as their child carries several pumpkins to a central location and checks for imperfections. Those that do not make the final cut may have a speck of dirt, a rough patch, or perhaps a slightly irregular shape, but the child knows that there is only one “Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”!
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling, When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling! When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, Glaring out through the dark with a candle within! When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune, Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon, Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam, In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!
Reflecting on our own lives seems to naturally follow attendance at a memorial service, yet it can be overlooked in the daily living of life. Whether sitting in a rooftop garden in Manhattan, walking in the local park bursting with color in all seasons, or escaping to a summer cottage at the lake, the need to commune with nature is ingrained within us.
After attending a service in the Hudson Valley this weekend, I recognized the beauty of the day- misty and overcast while listening to the minister’s words and the treasured memories of family and neighbors. Set in a grassy rise overlooking the pond on his ancestor’s farm and imagining his daily swim, we could appreciate a life well-lived while hearing the sounds of Nature. By living a life driven by his passion for music and the natural world, Robert Shook discovered his life well-lived.
On the drive home, I questioned myself:
How do I live a life well-lived?
While reflecting on the importance of nature in my life, I re-read an inspiring passage entitled “The Approach of Day” originally scribbled on a faded scrap of brown wrapping paper by my great-grandfather Burton Coon in 1888.
The Approach of Day
All is dark. Night has long settled o’er hill and vale; the birds have ceased their timeful melody; the whir of the partridge, the chirp of the cricket, the chatter of the squirrel are no more heard; the insect world is lost in slumber. The beasts of the field and the fowls of the air are alike resting their weary frames in sweet repose; all Man, the lord of creation, is fast locked in the embrace of sleep, and all the sounds of nature have passed into temporary oblivion. Silence reigns supreme.
The night advances. Still all is dark, but the silence is at last broken by the sweet heralds of the dawn- the birds. They are the first to disturb the hitherto unbroken solitude of the night by singing praises to their creator. The melodious strains catch the ear of the almighty, and he is glad. The fowls of the farmyard too have spoken; “Nature hath found a voice”, and silence reigns no more.
While this wonderful change is progressing, another and equally great one is taking place in the atmosphere. At first, all was silent and dark; now the silence has been broken, and the gray mists of the morning like silent spectres begin to rise from the rivers and lakes, imparting a damp smell and chilly feeling to the air. The mists are as yet invisible, for all is dark. But wait a moment, now look toward the eastern skies; a faint gray streak is plainly visible; this lengthens and broadens until it finally extends along the whole eastern horizon. The morn advances as the stars in the east begin to pale and shed a softer light; those in the west still shine with their brightness. Wait another moment, the oriental skies are tinged with purple and scarlet and gold, at first darkly, then brighter and brighter until the whole eastern heavens are aglow with beauty and loveliness. The grandeur of the night is fast fading into the glories of the morning. The stars in the west have paled and faded and are seen no more while the western hills glow with the beauty reflected from the eastern skies.
Glorious scene! What majestic changes have taken place. Silence has been broken; the close thick atmosphere of the night has been dampened by the mists of the morning; darkness has fled away; and last of all the lord of day arises from behind the hills, and with a brightness too severe for the gaze of man, begins his daily course, as “Bright aurora’s rosy fingers open wide the gates of day”.
The night has gone; the morning has dawned; Nature’s glorious resurrection is at last completed: it is day.
Coon, Burton Barker. “The Approach of Day”. Shookville, New York. June 24, 1888.
How will you make this day a part of your life well-lived?
Inspiration sometimes derives from the most commonplace thought. When I was captivated with two thick volumes entitled The Cherries of New York and The Peaches of New York dated 1914 and 1915 respectively, I realized how many of my most precious moments included fruit.
Simple idea yet I can plot my growth from child to woman with such experiences. As a child, I recited Eugene Fields’ children’s poem, “The Little Peach”
"A little peach in the garden grew, A little peach of emerald hue; Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew, it grew. One day, passing that orchard through That little peach dawned on the view...",
learned the Biblical account of Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and viewed many artists’ depictions of fruit arrangements. Despite my appreciation for the arts, it was another role that impacted me even more.
I selected apple drops from beneath the trees in Grandpa’s orchard. The story I learned as a child was that Grandpa, a dairy farmer, had researched which apples would grow best in Dutchess County before purchasing a few additional acres that were set at a higher elevation overlooking rolling hills. In an orchard that already included some old apple trees, he planted Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, McIntosh, and (I believe) Cortland. His research proved insightful as the trees bore delicious and well-formed apples for many years.
This childhood adventure began when our car climbed up the bumpy pathway. When we arrived, we jumped out and ran to select “our” tree. My brother and I were not allowed to climb the ladders; we were in charge of clearing the area beneath each tree. The drops were generally only slightly bruised but could not be sold at full price and were sometimes fed to the farm animals.
After descending from the orchard, we would go to visit Grandma who owned the local general store. She would arise early to bake apple pies and bread at home for her customers. Sometimes she would ask me to help her in the store. Using the old cash register, putting candy bars in the ice cream freezer to prevent melting in the summer, and going down to the crick beneath the bridge were memorable times.
On another farm in Milan, NY where my Grandma grew up, my great-grandfather Burton Coon wrote in his journal entry for Thursday July 18, 1907:
"75 degrees- 5am; foggy, quiet 74 degrees- 9:30pm; partly cloudy Humid in am- Showers in pm picked pail cherries cut weeds along fence in upper garden and found wood chuck hole used trap-got him alright pulled weeds from sweet corn and planted a little pm-raked up cleaned rifle 42 eggs"
My Auntie was only two when her father wrote that journal entry, but she continued to live at Trail’s End and harvest the fruits and vegetables her whole life. The following recipes were preserved in her recipe box.
Auntie’s Vintage Recipes
Slice long, fine berries. Cover them with orange juice and stand on ice. Add a teaspoon of powdered sugar. Serve in sherbet glasses. Mrs. Horace Dutcher
Into sherbet glasses, put small squares or slices of plain cake or lady fingers, half a preserved peach, 2 tablespoons of plain ice-cream, juice of cooked fruit, 2 tablespoons of whipped cream, and garnish with Maraschino cherry. Serve cold. Mrs. F. S. Rogers
2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons sugar 4 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder 3 tablespoons shortening 1 egg 1/2 cup milk
Sift dry ingredients, mix in shortening; add beaten egg to milk and add to dry ingredients to make soft dough. Smooth one half of dough out lightly. Put into greased deep layer tin; spread with butter; cover with other half of dough which has also been smoothed out to fit pan. Bake in hot over 20 to 25 minutes. Split while hot and spread crushed and sweetened berries and whipped cream between layers; cover top with whipped cream and whole berries. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Put all in preserving kettle on back of stove and melt down slowly. Bring to front of fire and cook until quite thick, stirring constantly. Remove any scum which may arise. If peaches seem tart, add a little more sugar. Mrs. Anna B. S.
Strawberry shortcake at a small-town church Hot apple cider with an old-fashioned donut Caramel or candied apples? What are your favorite fruit recipes?
Stay tuned for more of Auntie’s Vintage Recipes next time.
Meandering the backroads of New York state, I have frequently passed farm stands. What is it that makes some of us stop and return to take a closer look?
A few weeks ago, I pulled into a farm stand in Milan, NY. At first, it appeared to be a simple setup with some vegetables arranged on a wooden table. When I approached a gentleman seated on a lawn chair, we greeted each other before I began to examine what was on display. A jumble of vintage books in a crate and other curiosities surrounded him. He slowly began to tell some stories about the items, and I prompted him with questions and some of my memories of visiting relatives at Trail’s End Farm.
Gradually, I explained my fascination with stories passed down through the generations, and he began to tell me about his origins as a Czech immigrant. His eyes sparkled and his voice became resonant as he recalled those earlier days and a time that was pivotal in the life of his family. It is not only his poignant story which should be heard but also those stories in our own families or communities.
As his story ended, I realized that I hadn’t chosen any vegetables for dinner. A vivacious young lady assisting him packed up my selection ranging from patty pans to blueberries. After we said our goodbyes, I drove away wondering…
What is the lure of a farm stand?
Is it the beauty of the palette of nature?
Is it the succulent flavor to add to our meal?
Is it the yearning for a simpler life?
Does it bring back memories?
Whatever compels me, you may still find me stopping at a farm stand… What are your memories of a farm stand?
Blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries and strawberries should be canned as soon as possible after picking.
Hull or stem.
Place in strainer and wash by lifting up and down in pan of cold water.
Pack into hot sterilized glass jars, using care not to crush fruit.
To insure a close pack, put a 2 or 4 inch layer of berries on the bottom of the jar and press down gently with spoon.
Continue in this manner until jar is filled.
Boiling water or boiling thin or medium syrup should be poured over the fruit at once.
Sterilize 10 minutes in boiling water.
Remove jars, tighten covers, invert to test seal and cool.
Note: This torn and yellowed recipe was preserved in Auntie’s recipe box.
As I select vintage recipes to transcribe from Auntie’s recipe box, I recall those treasured moments in her kitchen when I observed and assisted or perhaps hindered her progress with the meal.
My memories of the cooking experience include my hesitant journey into the dirt floor cellar of the old farmhouse to retrieve a Mason jar of the requested fruit canned the previous season. Slowly, I took the first step on the worn narrow stairs illuminated with a swinging dusty bulb. I viewed the cobwebs, smelled the dust, and felt the damp chill of being underground.
I proceeded cautiously toward the wooden shelf containing neatly lined and labelled Mason jars. With two hands tightly grasping the blue glass jar, I turned around and saw shadows in the dark corners. An avid reader of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I imagined myself the protagonist of my own mystery …
until I heard my Auntie calling.
Auntie was the best cook that I can recall. What are your memories of a favorite cook?
1 cup of milk
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of molasses
1/2 cake of Baker’s chocolate
Boil an hour and cool on buttered tins.
Courtesy of Mrs. A. Campbell
2 tablespoons of tapioca, soaked in cold water.
Set on the stove.
When thoroughly dissolved, pour in a quart of milk.
When this begins to boil, stir in the yolks of two eggs, well beaten.
Stir in a cup of sugar.
When this boils stir in the egg whites, beaten to a stiff froth.
Take immediately from the fire.
Flavor to taste.
Courtesy of Mrs. A. Campbell
Ruth’s Layer Cake
(Ruth may have been Ruth Coons of Barrytown, NY- the site of memorable July Fourth Family Gatherings.)
1 cup of butter or lard
2 level cups of sugar
4 eggs (separated)
1 cup milk
4 level cups of flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 level teaspoon of salt
Bake in 4 layers.
Pare and core half a dozen very tart apples;
cook them in half a tea cup of water till they begin to soften;
put them in a pudding dish and sugar them;
beat eight eggs with four spoons of sugar;
add three pints of milk;
pour over the apples and bake half an hour.
Shared by Miss M. A. Hedden
Into a quart of sifted flour put two heaping teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt;
mix together while dry;
then rub into it a piece of lard a little larger than an egg; mix with cold sweet milk;
cut with a tin cutter;
and bake a light brown in a hot oven.
Send to the table immediately.
Come back to visit again soon. New recipes will be added each week.
BENEATH THE MOUND: CAPTAIN ALEXANDER HAMILTON SHULTZ
The key to discovery is questioning. Through the seemingly simple question of “Why? Why is there a mound in the middle of rows of grave-stones in a cemetery?”, Local History Librarian Beverly Kane unearthed a mystery.
Kane’s curiosity led her to examine a map of Rhinebeck Cemetery which revealed that A H Schultz purchased two plots at that location. Further research in Deaths, Marriages, and Much Miscellaneous From Rhinebeck, New York Newspapers 1846-1899 Volume 1, Deaths confirmed that Alexander Hamilton Shultz was buried in a family vault in the Methodist section of the cemetery.
The story begins. In the family history Christian Otto Schultz and his American Descendants compiled by Enid Dickinson Collins, Alexander Hamilton Shultz born on August 15, 1804, son of Lucas, grandson of Peter, great grandson of early Palatine settler Christian Otto Schultz, is called “Captain”. Collins’ source is Edward Harold Mott’s Between the Ocean and the Lakes; the Story of Erie.
“Capt. A. H. Shultz, the pioneer Erie steamboat Captain, was born at Rhinebeck. Before there were railroads in Central and Western New York, he ran stages between Rochester and Buffalo. Later he ran a steamboat between Amboy, N. J. and New York. He began in the Erie service January 1, 1841, having been harbormaster under Governor Seward, before the railroad was in operation, and continued until 1844.”
When the schedule for the two modes of transportation, train and steamboat, was published in New York in 1842, Alexander’s business acumen became apparent.
“The ‘Winter Arrangement’, made December 12, 1842, announced that the cars, on and after that date, would ‘run in connection with the steamboat ‘Arrow” (Capt. A. H. Shultz), daily except Sunday.“
That same pioneering spirit evident in Alexander’s Great Grandfather Christian Otto Schultz as he sailed from Rotterdam on the ship “Hope” in 1734 appeared in Capt. Shultz throughout his many challenges. University-educated Christian Otto was trained as a civil engineer and became a teacher, but he began his first days on American soil as a farm laborer. His descendant Alexander became one of the pioneers of transportation in America.
“The winter of 1843 was one of the hardest on record. Capt. Shultz made his two trips on the Hudson River daily between New York and Piermont, although the ice was twelve inches thick, missing but one trip. April 28, 1843, in recognition of this, the people of Piermont presented him with a solid silver snuffbox, lined with gold.”
Much as the original German settler Christian Otto did, Alexander Hamilton not only created opportunities but was also willing to take risks.
“In September, 1846, Capt. ‘Alec’ Shultz, who owned the Hudson River steamboats that ran in connection with the trains at Piermont, and who seems to have been a man with no inconsiderable ‘pull’ in Erie transportation affairs, con-ceived the idea of an excursion over the railroad, and down the river and bay to Coney Island, then a sand barren, ex- cept at its northern extremity, where famous clam bakes were served. The idea meeting with the approval of Super-intendent H. C. Seymour and his lieutenant, S. S. Post, the event was announced.”
The excursion was not a success for several reasons not the least of which was a train accident considered the “first serious accident in the history of the railroad” only about six weeks earlier.
Although it is uncertain when Alexander began his position as “Alderman from the Fifth Ward of New York”, it is known that he was in “Government service for many years” before his death at Philadelphia on the 30th of April in 1867.
Despite his death, the story does not end. Interns under the direction of Beverly Kane at the Rhinebeck Cemetery discovered the headstone of Lucas Shultz, Alexander’s father, buried near the mound. It is unknown how many years ago the headstone was buried, but it was preserved beneath the ground and is in remarkable condition. Nearby, beneath the mound, Alexander Hamilton Shultz’s vault remains…?
Making history come alive is not merely compiling facts. It is sharing the stories of humans, their strengths and their weaknesses. It is the stories that reveal how those who lived before us remain relatable to each succeeding generation. It is the stories that remind us that all humans are not infallible. It is the stories that enable us to understand the triumphs celebrated and the defeats endured throughout history. By focusing on one individual, then one family, one community, one region, one nation, one world, we keep our history alive. Sometimes these stories are shared by our forefathers, but perhaps even more frequently the stories are discovered with one seemingly simple question.
More about Alexander Hamilton Shultz:
Collins, Enid Dickinson. Christian Otto Schultz, 1712-1785 and His American Descendants. E.D. Collins, 1943.
Kelly, Arthur C. M. Deaths (Vol. 1), Marriages (Vol. 2) and Much Miscellaneous from Rhinebeck, New York Newspapers, 1846-1899.
Mott, Edward Harold. Between the Ocean and the Lakes: the Story of Erie.
~Dedicated to researching and sharing local history~