Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Short Digress to the Willow Ball

I must beg indulgence from my regular readers for just a moment. The blogosphere allows for random flights of fancy and group participation in grand fantasies that a standard subject specific writing sphere would not permit. Below is my entry into the magical universe of the 3rd annual Willow Ball held at the stately Willow Manor. To read about the history and rules of participation, please visit the main Willow Manor blog site. However, if you choose to read further, you must remember only one thing.....ANYTHING is possible at the Willow Ball!

I begin this tale by confessing that I am tremendously nervous as this is my first ball. I know, I know, a pretty and successful girl such as myself should have had her fair share of balls by now….but alas, school and work and family obligations took their toll on my elegant social life. That is not to say that I abandoned the pursuit of beautiful and classic things in my life, but they were never afforded the prominence to allow a ball. Therefore, the beautiful invitation from our gracious hostess to attend the 3rd annual Willow Ball was the cause of instant excitement and something very close to giddiness.

Even though my head began to spin as I considered all of the preparation possibilities, the choice of escort was a simple long as he concurred, of course. In fact, I would have to say that my date choice was the inspiration for the rest of my ball embellishments. When I think of a glamorous night of dancing with a man very comfortable in a tux, and light on his feet, my mind immediately flashes to the image of the incomparable William Powell. If any man was comfortable in a tux, it would be this classic charmer. His adorable sense of humor, suave and graceful, yet masculine demeanor, would make any evening a night to remember forever. Besides, I also happen to have somewhat of an Art Deco fetish. Without going overboard, I incorporate this motif into decorating whenever I can...even if only subversively. The glamorous and sleek style of this time period that also coincided with a golden age of Hollywood is one of my greatest inspirations, and indeed, inspired the remainder of my selections.....well not everything. Inspiration is just that....not the creation of an exact replica, but rather a touch of classic elegance that when combined with current contemporary elements, can create the remarkable.

My fears of a necessity to pick another escort were dissolved with William's most eager and gracious acceptance. He was delighted to have an excuse to dust off the tux again...although I pointed out that I sincerely doubted he ever neglected a tux to the point of one becoming dusty....if any man's dance card is habitually completely full, it is our dear William. He chuckled softly and added that he was even more delighted at the thought of twirling me around the dance floor all evening and made me promise to reserve most of my dances for him. He was not eager to share his date overly much on such a beautiful evening, and especially when the date is so beautiful....did I mention how the man has made flattery an utter art form? This conversation had me floating around while shopping for the next week, all with a silly smile on my face.

I am a firm believer in serendipity. Especially when searching for the perfect dress. My first leanings were toward a beautiful ball gown with somewhat large skirts to produce that beautiful swooshing sounds when gliding across the dance floor in the arms of your handsome partner. The thought of moonlight and beautiful music had me settled on a beautiful sapphire theme which of course made the jewelry selection even more fun.....until.... I stumbled upon the perfect dress that was opposite of what I had originally intended. This gown was still reminiscent of moonlight, but in a more silvery manner. The silky flow of the shimmery fabric was even more perfect as it meant freedom of movement as the night would wear on, and the sensual feel of a dance partner's hand upon one's back. I knew instantly that this gown from a London boutique would make me feel as beautiful as possible.
As you can see it was also a perfect fit for my Art Deco sensibilities. This was very reminiscent of the glamour days and I was certain that just a few additional diamond accents would make this ensemble complete. Once again serendipity was on my side as this most beautiful vintage Art Deco diamond necklace was made available at just the right time to make our wonderful ball! I rounded off the ensemble with these gorgeous Jimmy Choo glitter pumps with handbag to match. I also could not resist the temptation of wearing some sheer white gloves to add to the moonlight of the night. When it came time to get dressed, I knew I had made the right choices, but the anticipation was building to such a height....did I mention how nervous I was?

When my dashing date arrived to pick me up he surprised me in his beautiful open top 1927 Bentley. The look on his face when he first took in the radiance of his date was a priceless moment that I shall never forget - one that instantly dissolved my fears. "Why my dear, you are a vision of moonlight and elegance, you are certain to be the belle of the ball....and what better way to celebrate the moonlight on this most balmy of evenings than a in a classic open chariot." As I blushed and thought to myself how observant and gallant he was, he stopped me as I began my way down the front steps. He pulled out of his pocket, a perfectly trimmed, white heirloom rose blossom that he proceeded to tuck into my hair. He smiled, kissed my cheek, then my hand and said..."to the ball madame!". Our ride was a short one as we are not too far from the Manor, but when we arrived, we knew we had been transported to a magical place far away. Yes, of course we danced all night and let the champagne's bubbles make us lighter than we already were, but for more details as to that lovely night, I'm afraid you'll have to visit the main posting about the night's events by our beautiful and gracious hostess, Ms. Willow. It was truly a magical night to remember forever!
Until next year!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sepia Saturday - The Allender Case

The title for this week's Sepia Saturday post is a small play on words. I refer to both a physical photo case as well as a bit of a mystery. My maternal great grandmother, Nellie Cox Beyersdoerfer, of Pendleton County Kentucky, was the keeper of the family photos. She had a ton, and some from the mid-nineteenth century. Among her plethora of tintypes and carte de visites is only one set in a double case, reminiscent of the daguerreotype or ambrotype presentations. This sixth plate sized double tintype portrait of a young couple came with a note from one of Nellie's unmarried cousins written in 1958. Pearl Allender, the author of the note, would have been the niece of the female subject. According to Pearl's note as seen here, the subjects were Tobe Conley, his wife Elizabeth Allender and their daughter Enola. The note includes Elizabeth's parentage (James Jackson Allender and Mary Stout) as well as the sad report that baby Enola died not long after this photo was taken. Pearl also goes as far as identifying the burial place of all three subjects. The location she gives is described in typical country style, by listing the current farm owners: "along side of road between Roy Biddles & George Norris." Thankfully, my mother who is from the area, had grown up knowing exactly where this was, because Nellie took her on little family field trips, detailing important locations - I like to think of her as the equivalent of a family history GPS system. She knew where each little event happened and was quick to sound an alarm instructing you to "turn here!"

In modern terms, this little family cemetery along side of the road would be on Thomas Road, just after it forks off of Hickory Grove Road, which is off of Highway number 10. The cemetery is nothing more than a farming family's plot, under an old tree grove, as owned years ago by the Conley or Connelly clan. I cannot locate a submission for this cemetery on Findagrave, and any pictures I took of the stones years ago are probably sitting on undeveloped 35mm film rolls. So, hopefully, when I head to the Kentucky Wool Festival in Falmouth in two weeks (October 1-3), I will head up the hill to snap some photos for submission.....if they can still be read. It's been years since I've seen them, but I will try nonetheless.

The case as seen above is one of those embossed faux leather pieces with a detailed scotch thistle in the middle on both sides - with the family name of Connelly, I'm not surprised at the motif choice! The portraits themselves are beautifully crisp and clear after so many years. Elizabeth is holding something in her hand to attract Enola's attention while the photo is being taken. Post production meant someone adding a little gold paint to the object, thus obstructing our view enough to prevent identification. Whatever it was, it must have worked because Enola is only blurred a little bit.
Since these beautiful portraits never made it to my original web site, this is the first time they are being shown to the public, and as such, required further study as usual. Based on Elizabeth's style of dress, I was guessing Civil War era. I went back to my records to determine her age range at the time of the war, and this is the breakdown for the family:

Children of James Jackson Allender and Mary Stout:

Elizabeth b. 1835

Jane b. 1837

Angelina b. 1839

George b. 1842

William James b. 1846

Charles b. 1853

Benjamin b. 1859

As the oldest, her clothes and age would put me in right range, but knowing the little girl died, I decided to head in that direction. Little Enola Jane Conley or Connelly was born in 1857 and died in the fall of 1859. While digging for this information, I also came across some other info about her parents. Tobe was actually named Thompson and the former was merely his nickname. The couple was married October 9th, 1856, and sadly, Elizabeth followed Enola to the grave within the next year at around the age of 24. Apparently, Enola was Tobe and Lizzie's only child, and from other relative interviews from the 1940s and 50s, Tobe had to have followed his small family in death, since they are all buried at the family farm.

However, as I was reviewing the basics from my own Gedcom, I came across another researcher who claimed Tobe went on to marry another woman in the fall of 1861 and later moved all of them to Illinois. Tobe and Eliza Ann Fryer's subsequent children have been listed, with their first child being a little girl - whom they named Elizabeth.

I always find it intriguing when our family lore can be mostly spot on when the factual records are researched, but can then stray completely off course in some instances. The people reporting that Tobe and Elizabeth and Enola were all buried on the Connelly farm were nieces and nephews of Elizabeth, and not children, which might make a difference here. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I seem to remember not being able to find Tobe's grave among the others, but as proven with the story above, our memories can easily play tricks on us - the proof of our mettle lies in backing up those memories with documentation. I hope to provide the photos of that little cemetery within the next couple of weeks.

Until next time,
As a side note, I loved the flip side of Pearl's was a receipt from the local grocers. Her bread was 48 cents, but she was credited for eggs worth $2.25. I love those little snippets of history....they too give us little insights.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Homage to the Constitution

To mark the birthday of our glorious Constitution (September 17th), I thought a little fun and education were in order! There is not much to say about our Constitution, except maybe, that it totally Rocks! A document that details freedom for a people is something worthy of celebration. There are numerous gatherings today, and different ways to celebrate. The Constitution Center has announced a contest on their Facebook page, encouraging fans to post photos of themselves celebrating this momentous day. At the University of Kentucky, freedom of speech was celebrated by the public reading of banned books. As a way to open this event to those outside the campus community, they fed the live audio into their Second Life Island space. I am including a couple of snaps from this in-world celebration.

For added fun, here are some primary source materials for your perusal. Most of us have looked closely at the first page of that old document, but not many have studied the subsequent pages. Enjoy these images of the original source!

On that last page I can spy a large number of surnames!

And lastly, many of us remember having to memorize the Preamble in school. For those of you who were not fortunate enough to memorize this with the help of that classic School House Rock video, this might have been closer to your experience:

For those of who are a part of that privileged generation, enjoy some classic fun!

Happy Birthday Constitution!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 A Complex Remembrance

As an American, today has to be one of the hardest days of the year to get through. For those who lost loved ones, getting through is not possible on any day of the year. Collectively, it is a day that has tremendous power. Prior to 9/11 I had not encountered an historical event on this scale. My generation had been fairly lucky....we were born after or at the end of Vietnam, the only other war we knew of was the first Gulf War. There were no moments in our decades that produced this level of collective grief and remembrance. After the events of that horrible day, our existence of feeling safe on American soil was over - and our view of world events would be forever altered.

The power of this day is complex. Not long after the event, they removed the images that we had obsessively watched for weeks. We fought this decision, and still do to a degree, but since the removal, we were able to mentally and emotionally return to a semblance of normal life. Every year, I am starkly reminded of the contrast of feelings from September 10th to September 11th. We fight on daily both through politics and war, but we live without the constant reminders of that day. However, when September 11th roles around each year, the images return, and with them, the complex emotions.

We are immediately transported back to a time and place that we can only bear to remember once a year. The images themselves resurrect such powerful emotional responses: fear, anger, intense grief, shock, patriotism. Sadly, in other parts of the world, these images bring happiness and cheers. This contrast in world emotion is why this is such a complex and powerful memory. The entire world witnessed it as it happened, and the entire world grieved or celebrated depending on which pocket of society the cameras happened to film. On either side, this is an event that we have all vowed never to forget.

Ironically, the three thousand we lost nine years ago were only the beginning of the lives that would be lost worldwide and continue to be lost because of radicalism and unadulterated hatred. President Bush described it as 'evil' all those years ago, and he was correct. Despite the political spin that has been put on all of the complex events that spiraled out of that horrible day, and still continue to spiral, I believe in good overcoming evil. Regardless of your views on how evil or good America has acted over the years, her people have collectively stood for and prayed for good, and in the end, we have always exhibited good when it counted. I pray we never lose sight of the good we can achieve and the Republic on which we stand. Our freedoms are worth fighting for and dying for.....although I'm ready for the day when the world recognizes the value of freedom, and the dying for this honor can finally stop.

We choose to remember this day for the loved ones lost, and the many heroes born out of those tragic events, as we watched, helpless. As historians and genealogists, it is also vitally important to remember our own personal memories of that day. We have a responsibility to pass down our experiences to the next generation so they may never forget this day - in all of its complexity of meaning!

For that reason, I join with my fellow GeneaBloggers and record my own memories of that morning:

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was working at the University of Kentucky's William T. Young Library. It was a normal morning, and I was working on sending some book requests out to neighboring libraries throughout our state. The first word we heard was from our department head who was out due to illness. She called our office to tell us a plane had hit the World Trade Center in NYC. We were a little surprised at this call, but kept working because in our minds, we visualized a small plane hitting a tower on accident. We could not begin to grasp what had just happened. Not long after that, my Mother, at home on the farm in Bourbon County Kentucky, called my personal line to tell me the same thing, but she sounded much more upset. I still could not understand why everyone was so hysterical. Plane crashes have happened before, and no one had ever called to interrupt work prior to this day. While she was on the phone with me, I could hear my uncle in the background shouting about something, and my Mother told me that another plane had just hit the towers. I can remember my Mother asking if my uncle was sure, and he was shouting that he just saw it hit.

With my Mother's phone call I decided to get online and check out the national news sites for more info. This was the step that concerned me: all of the major news organizations had placeholders for their sites that said the traffic was too heavy and no one could get through. I kept refreshing and CNN finally put up a photo with their traffic notice - it was a photo of the towers with smoke billowing into the sky.

Soon to follow was another call from my Mother telling me the Pentagon had been hit. I remember freaking out a bit at that moment - complete with audible gasp and turning to my co-workers about the newest development. My memory is a tad hazy at this point because soon after, the Library began broadcasting a live TV news feed into the auditorium so we could see what was happening. As a department, we filtered down there one by one when it was convenient - after I got my courier bags packed - and watched in silence at the news coverage.

I remember the concerned faces of those around me, but I have to say I could not watch the screen very much. At this point in the coverage, the film crews were still zooming in on the people trapped at the top of the burning buildings. When they zoomed in on a woman in a skirt that jumped, I could no longer watch.....I had to leave.

It was surreal the rest of the many reports coming through. We worked the rest of the day, but the e-mail was flying. I had a cousin that lived in NYC, and we were e-mailing family members trying to see if she had been accounted for. I had a dear pen pal in Germany, a young boy at the High School age, and he sent me an e-mail that tore at my heart. He said he and all of his friends were crying for America and that this was the worst thing he had ever seen.

I can also remember my co-worker sending me a link to a naval site posted and maintained by navy wives.....detailing the movements of our Aircraft Carriers all day. As each new report came in....we were riveted. Finally the news agency sites were back up and we could review video of what had happened that morning. I will admit we did not get much work done the rest of the day, and some people went home out of shock, grief, fear, or needing to learn about loved ones in NYC. But for me, I think I was in shock.....I could not absorb what had happened. I watched every report, but almost in a detached manner. In fact it was not for a couple of days that I could eventually cry over the enormity of what had transpired. Once I cried, I remember it being intense, and from then on, every new report about our heroes and victims brought a new tear very easily.

Beyond that day, I can remember well the days that followed. The memorials, the change in shipping rules to Washington D.C.....some of which are still in-tact today. The anthrax scares, the apprehension that this could be repeated....would we ever be safe again?

For posterity, I printed out all of my e-mails from that day to keep alongside the tactile memorials we all kept, such as newspaper headlines, etc. I packed them away and have only looked at them once....when moving to a new house. They are full of memory triggers that, like the anniversary every year, produce a very nauseating feeling in my stomach. It was horrible and an event that has shaped our future path into something we had never thought possible.....but it is important that we remember.....and indeed never let the future generations forget.

One of my favorite pieces in my 9/11 memory box is the published speech that President Bush gave to the American people that night. When remembering history, I love doing so with as many primary sources as possible. The video below is the audio of his speech set to the song that none of us can listen to without being transported back in time to 2001.

With prayers and tears:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sepia Saturday - Tuna Hunting

Having grown up in the Cincinnati area, my childhood is full of memories that include activities along the Ohio River. Naturally, when I was out on an antique shopping spree, hunting for old photos, this one had a uniqueness and familiarity that immediately connected with me.

The photo was purchased somewhere here, in the central Kentucky region, and with our close proximity to the river - only a few counties away - I didn't give the photo much thought. I purchased it, put it away for awhile and would re-visit it from time to time as a curiosity, always with the intention of digging deeper into its past.

I always noticed that there was some writing on the back, but very faint. I could make out some letters, but never tried exceptionally hard, resigned to the fact that I may never be able to read the letters. I also noticed the photographer's stamp on the back from Pennsylvania, but as a border state to Ohio, and since photographers traveled quite a bit, I wasn't immediately drawn to Pennsylvania as a possible location - but I was open to possibilities.

As a piece of sepia curiosity, I pulled this out for our Sepia Saturday post, with the intention of connecting this to some unique resources for Steamboat Study. Since the photo does provide the name of the boat, "Tuna", I decided to try some of the registries out there that have been put up by some very enthusiastic hobbyists. However, I was very aware that the Tuna appeared to be quite a small vessel, and probably not one that would be recorded in these larger registries.

With no luck in the registries, and some categorized by state, I was pretty close to giving up on any fruitful search. I did come across a published registry from 1856 as digitized by Google Books, but it listed a Steamboat called the Tuna as one that burnt in Natchez in 1854. Of course, we can tell by the photo itself and the style of dress that we are looking at a photo taken post 1860s. One of my favorite segments of this photo is the couple in the foreground with their umbrella, turned to look at the photographer - very reminiscent of Renoir, Cassat, Monet, Caillebotte etc.

Just before this posting I took one last look at the writing on the back while standing in the sunlight. The pencil is very faded, but beyond the words "Military captain", I can make out the letters Jno. Above this line was the most faint line, but this time I could make out letters.....a long C word followed by Lake. I typed in how the word appeared in Google, and a couple of the suggestions sent me to Conneaut Lake in Pennsylvania! After looking into this lake, and how it looks today, I took a closer look at the photographer's stamp, which read: From F.E. Maas, Ground Floor Gallery, Conneautville, PA.

In conclusion, this appears to be a small excursion boat on Lake Conneaut. I'm not sure if the group is there honoring a military captain, or if someone there served in this role, but either way, the more scrutiny, the more these photos reveal their secrets. As a side note, the size of this little vessel reminds me of the tiny one seen in Steamboat Willie.....that old classic cartoon, also in sepia.

I have included some of the Steamboat and Conneaut Lake links that I came across - very interesting databases and photos.
Happy Saturday!
CD 9/4/10
P.S. Upon finishing this blog post and including the links below, I made a surprising new discovery. The very first Conneaut Lake link has a series of 4 small slide shows at the top of the page. While there, I noticed that the first block of slides rotates to a close up segment of the very same photo as the one I have shared with you! It appears this photo was mass produced in some format as a souvenir. I still believe it to be an original from the time period, but, even in my own family, we have duplicate cabinet cards that were purchased to pass around to different family members - I'm just not sure how many were produced. It makes me want to do further research into the availability of this photo, as the historical society may have an answer as to the event shown. I will provide an update later if I learn more!
Links of interest:


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