Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sepia Saturday 239, 2015 August 22: McPherson's Old Town Pizza, The Family Gathering Place

I am not drinking fine Czech beer, or any beer, nor am I shopping or cruising down the Vltava, but I wish you good cheer and have fun.  On the other hand, I do have photos of our family gathering place  -- at McPherson's  Old Town Pizza Co. in Klamath Falls, Oregon.  On this  occasion in 2003, my Aunt Pearl McPherson was in town and wanted to have a chance to visit with our family.  She had been married to my dad's brother, Clive McPherson, for just over forty-six years when died  in 1980.

Mother and Pearl were but teenagers in 1934,when they dated the brothers, Harold (my dad) and Clive.  After they were married,  the two young couples shared a small house in Stockton, California, where their husbands worked for Weyl Zuckerman Co.  Later both couples moved back to Klamath Falls and worked for Zuckerman Brothers Farms.   For nearly twenty years, mother and Pearl were close friends as well as sister-in-laws.  Their lives were intertwined not only because their husbands worked together, but also because they were swooped into that extended McPherson family.  They raised their children to be nearly as close as siblings and they shared triumphs and heartaches as their husbands built an entity they called McPherson Bros.  Then one day, with the death of Harold,  it all started to unravel.  Mother stayed in Klamath Falls and Clive and Pearl and their family moved to southern California.   Even so, those bonds forged as teenagers and young mothers remained. 

It was a good day for a family gathering. Lunch at the pizza house was the last time that Pearl and mother ever saw one another.  Pearl passed away in Apple Valley, California,  three years later, 2006 November 6.  Mother died at her home on  2008 February 17, a little over a year after Pearl's death.
Pearl Beasley McPherson and Ruth Sigford Carland
at Old Town Pizza, 2003

Pearl Beasley McPherson at Old Town Pizza in 2003
2003, Ruth Sigford Carland seated  at Old Town Pizza
with one of her sons and his wife.

Now, stroll on over and take a seat for the fare served by other Sepians

~ ~ ~

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sepia Saturday 292, 2015 August 15: Historic Banks in Klamath Falls, Oregon

Hmmnn,   Money, Banks, Guards, Notes.  That's the theme for today but I don't actually have any photos of any of those things in my archives.   However I do have memories of three historic banks in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the town of my childhood.

The Oregon Bank Building as it is in the 21st Century.  In the Klamath Falls when  I was growing  up, it was commonly known as the Medical-Dental Building because it housed many office of physicians and dentist.  The building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, DSC0938-Klamath Falls, and the ground breaking was in 1929.  The doors of the bank opened on March, 3, 1930.  Unfortunately the banking institution closed sometime some time in 1932, according to the  Klamath Echoes, 1967, #5.  The site, 9th and Main Street, was where the First National Bank was located in the 1920s.  According to my mother and her childhood memories,  the old Golden Rule store wrapped around bank (early  First National)  like an L.  The Golden Rule Store became J.C.Penney Store, but my mother as an eighty-year-old woman  remembered going into the Golden Rule Store with all the wonderment of a child.

I was never in the Oregon Bank and Trust when it was a bank, as it ceased to exist before I was born.  However, I have been in the building many times during its many permutations since then, and the it's greatest allure was its elevator.  Klamath Falls did not have many elevators, much less an elevator with a uniformed operator that closed the gated door, pushed the buttons and to a child looked so very impressive. Also, for many years the ground floor housed one of my favorite dress shops.  No memories of a bank, but plenty of memories of the building.

Here are some photographs of the early days of the Oregon Bank Building in  Klamath Falls, Oregon .
Ground Breaking for the Oregon Bank and Trust Co.,
on the site of the old Central High School

Oregon Bank and Trust Building Almost Finished

Oregon Bank and Trust Building at 8th and Main Street,
early downtown view
Courtesy of the Klamath Country Museum

The next bank of this post is Klamath Falls' First National Bank.  The First National Bank was originally established in Klamath Falls in the early 1900s.  By the 1911, it had merged with the Klamath County Bank, and at one point in the 1920s was located on the site of what would become the Oregon Bank and Trust.  However the First National Bank that I remember was, and is, located at 6th and Main Street.  The First National Bank opened its doors at its new location on November 16, 1930, a scant 8 months after the opening of its rival the Oregon Bank and Trust.  I have always thought this was a lovely building, and as a child I was sure it was made of white marble.   Actually the surface of the building is of a gleaming white cast terra cotta that was in great contrast to the black granite base.  The first photograph was shortly after the open of the new bank building.

First National Bank Building, Klamath Falls, Oregon
circa 1930
Courtesy of  Oreon Historical County Records Guide
 This bank had a revolving door which certainly was an intriguing element for a youngster.  As child, I would go round and round in the glass quadrants, that is, until my mother would give me that LOOK.  I always loved the sculptured designs on this building,  that were supposed to reflect the area's heyday of the lumber industry.  Although, I was never sure just what the sculpture over the door was supposed to represent.  Some said it was a mythological Mayan god, but I certainly knew nothing of that sort of thing.  I just knew it was impressive.  I think this bank building is still a very impressive looking building.
First National Bank Building, Klamath Falls, Oregon
circa 2010
Courtesy of  Oreon Historical County Records Guide
The last of the banks that I remember as a child growing up in Klamath Falls is the U.S. National Bank Building located on the corner of 8th and Main Street.  As one of the old Klamath Falls banks go, this building is a comparative newcomer, built in 1937.  The building is listed as one of the historic buildings of Klamath Falls.    This is the bank that I most remember, which probably means that as a family we did most of our banking at this bank.  I know as a child I was quite proud of my passbook for my (small) savings account at this bank.  It is now located next door to one of my favorite places in Klamath Falls,  McPherson's Old Town Pizza.

Klamath Branch, U. S. National Bank, KIamath Falls, Oregon
Wikepedia, List of Historic Buildings in Klamath Falls, Oregon
I am closing, not with a photo of a bank, but of the Williams Building, built in 1907, in the Italianate design.  I have many fond memories of this building.  When I was growing up it was the site of the Pelican Cafe, which in my childhood memory bank,  was the epitome of elegance.   And the good memories were even greater when it became Klamath Falls home of McPherson's Old Town Pizza  -- the place of many, many wonderful family gatherings.  Did I mention that McPherson is my line.
McPherson's Old Town Pizza, Williams Building,
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Wikepedia, List of Historic Buildings in Klamath Falls, Oregon

This ends the tour of some of my favorite Klamath Falls buildings, banks or not.  Now grab a satchel and slip on over to see what other kind of loot you can gather Sepia Saturday.

~ ~ ~

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 August 10, Amanuensis Monday: J.P.McPherson's Diary, Review of 1851

The James P. McPherson Family in 1851
An Annual Review of The Diary

As 1851 heralded in the new year, James P. McPherson family had only been in their newly finished log-cabin for just two weeks. He and his wife Mary must have been excitedly busy at getting their four children settled into their new home. In addition, he was busy attending to his tailoring and sewing as he had a number of requests. With these orders, one might think that James P. had a large, well-lighted sewing room. That was not the case. Rather, he, Mary, and their four children were all cramped in the tiny log cabin (as shown in a previous post). In addition, the cabin had to accommodate James P.'s his pieces or rolls of cloth and tools of his trade. Then, of course, he had to have room to lay out his patterns and cut the garment pieces before he commenced sewing. It's hard to believe that all of that activity could be done in such a small setting. During January, he finished a coat for Mr. Meyers; made sack-cloth coats for Mrs. Thomson's two boys, vests for George and Alexander Davidson, vests for David and John Beats as well as a coat for John, a coat for Mr. Whyte, and a vest for Samuel Miles.

    In mid-January, a fiercely cold Wisconsin storm hit. Even though the cabin walls had been chinked, the fierce winds and cold blustering through the cabin must have been terrifying for twenty-nine year old Mary as she tended to her four small children, seven year old William (Billy), five year old James (Jim), five year old Jabez (Jabe) and baby Anne, only six months old. James noted on the 16th of January, when the strong winds swept away part of the thatched roof, “slept none at night”. The family must have huddled together for warmth and security all through that long cold night as the temperature plummeted. The next day, a neighbor, Thomas Miles, came to take the McPherson family to his home. For the next three days, the McPherson family stayed at the Miles' house until James P. and neighbors (Thomas Miles, Samuel Lamont, James Beat, Robert Meinzies and Alexander Davidson) repaired the roof of the cabin. Four days later, James, Mary and the four young ones moved back into their cabin. 

    During the next week, James P. again worked at his sewing and also went to the Nash "raising."  Then on the 29th and 30th, the cold weather returned  According to J.P., "So cold I could not work."  When we read about the cold the family faced during that first January in their new home, we must remember that the only heat in the log cabin was a pit in the floor, near one corner -- no chimney and the smoke (and heat) escaped through the thatched roof.  Those Wisconsin folks,  those ancestors, were stout-hearted and resilient.

After the hard work getting the cabin finished and then the brutally cold weather in January,  J. P. and Mary must have been glad to have a comparatively quiet February. March, too, seemed to be a time for McPherson to work on his house, cut logs to split for rails, get seed wheat, and help neighbors.
Although he rarely mentioned his wife or family in the diary; however, on April 30th, he noted “Mary at Mitchells,” but not a clue as to why she is at Mitchells.

On May 5th, J.P.'s notation that he dug his well told us that the family did not have a well during that first year in Springdale.  Their property may have had a creek or spring, or perhaps they carried water from a source further away from their property.  Whichever might be the case, it probably meant that water for the most basic needs required significant.

Another interesting entry concerning their house occurred on June 6th, when J.P. "bot. 225 feet of flooring"  provided the reader with much information. That the cabin had a dirt floor from the time they moved into the cabin in December, 1850, until sometime after June of 1851; also there was an indication of the size of the cabin.   A quick analysis of the cabin based on some "guess-ti mates" of features in the photo of the house, such as the wash tub and the windows, indicated that the cabin was most likely 10'x20' (200 sq. ft) or 15'x15' (225 sq. ft.).  The 15'x15' model was the most likely, given that J.P. purchased "225 ft of flooring" and as a frugal Scotsman, he would not purchase more flooring than needed.  Also, the 15'x15' model also provided 25 sq. ft. more floor space for the same amount of outside materials.

J.P. was able to purchase the flooring after receiving a $200 draft from R. Grant on May 7th.  According to Measuring Worth.com, $200 in 1850 was worth between $4,200 to $5,700 in today's economy.  So far there iAt that point in the diary there was no indication as to the identification of R. Grant, or where he resided, or what his relationship to James P. McPherson. 
About the same time, J. P. also “bot. a red heifer for $11,” to add to their two pigs from Mrs. Thomson and he went to another raising - John Beats' house. 

Although July and August were harvest months in the village of Springdale, Wisconsin,  James P. McPherson managed to go to Madison on July 2nd to pick up the wool bags.  He started to pack wool on July 7th, but was "stopt by rain."  There is no further mention of the wool for the remainder of July and August.  However, he corresponded with R. Grant and received a draft for $100 on August 6th.  Considering the timing of the letters to and from R. Grant and the money drafts from R. Grant over the last few months, it may be that R. Grant and James P. McPherson were engaged in a business relationship and  that McPherson may have been selling the wool to Grant. An intriguing thought.
The last entry for August was rather curious and I was not exactly sure what to make of the entry that stated, "At Henry Bolton's grave for Black Horse."   I suppose that it could have been a very important black horse  -- or perhaps, Bolton just needed help burying his horse.  It would have been helpful if my Scots ancestor had not been so sparse words.  

The major endeavor of the last 10 days in October was raising and hauling stone, and then building the chimney for their cabin. When I read this series of entries about the fireplace and chimney, I realized that the McPherson family had spent the first year in 15' x15' log cabin with only means of cooking and heat had been a fire in a pit in the dirt floor. That realization made the winter storm when the thatch roof blow off even more harrowing for the family. 

As winter weather was approaching J.P. McPherson's diary entries focused wa on finishing the work on the fireplace for their cabin. Once the stone was raised and hauled in October, the task took 11 more days of work to complete. McPherson's frustration and irritation was almost palpable when after 8 days of working on the chimney, the entry for the 9th day tersely stated, “working on the chimney. On the last two days, he is assisted by William Henderson, William Brown and Mr. Anderson(J.P. rarely uses Mr. Anderson's first name, and to make matters more confusing, in 1850 there were two Anderson's in Springdale) and the fireplace and chimney are ready just in time for winter weather.

As we have seen throughout the diary, Sunday was a day reserved for more family and social activities for the McPherson family. In the early days of the diary, James P. did most of the visiting and when neighbors visited, they seemed to come to talk with the man of the house. As the family became more established in the community, a few women came visiting, and in October, Mr. and Mrs. Jackman visited as a couple. 

As the reader starts to get glimpses of the McPherson family life in Springdale, we find there are more unanswered questions. For instance, did Mary attend the funeral for the child of Christian Morich? She was definitely called on when folks were ill and needed help, so it seemed likely that she would have been in attendance. On the other hand, walking was their means of getting from once place to another, which would have been problematical with four young children. A question to ponder. 

September and October of 1851 were busy times for James P. McPherson.  Harvesting, haying,husking, and thrashing for neighbors as well as for himself comprised about one-half of the entries.  He also described an incident when he was husking corn for Daniel Lester and he “fell across the tumbling rod, got caught by the coupling pin and was carried around the roll two or three times.”  J.P. wrote that he “escaped with only bruises,” though it sounded like the tops of his pants and drawers might have suffered damage.

J.P. did, however, have his priorities.  The next day, October 8th, there was no mention of the accident, Only this cryptic entry, “Husking corn. No Paper.” As you might remember that he ordered the newspaper, Wisconsin Argus, on September 20th. Newspapers had long been important to McPherson and it worth noting that his order of the newspaper subscription was the first non-necessity item that was noted in the diary and he had to walk to Madison to order the subscription.

J.P. kept a detailed log of his correspondence, but it is far from satisfying to the reader of the diary. He often sent letters to and received letters from Ann Adamson.  Based on the diary and family photographs, it is clear that Ann and Tom Adamson are related, in some fashion, to the McPherson family.  However, when it comes to the Hon. A. A. Bird, R. Grant, R. Duncan, and John Brown, the letter writing became more of a mystery. A quick search of the internet revealed that the Hon. A. A. Bird was an early pioneer of Dane County,  but it's puzzling why James P. McPherson, who had been in Wisconsin for less than a year, was writing to the Hon. A. A. Bird.  

During the summer and fall, James P. evidently had little time for correspondence, but as winter approached he again took up his correspondence with Ann Adamson and John Brown. He was apparently trying to convince them, both living in New York, to move to Wisconsin. He sent copies of Statistics of Dane County to each of them at least once, and possibly twice. He also wrote to the Land Office, as well as Mr. Crawford, S. Westwood, R. Brand and A. A. Bird. As the diary unfolds perhaps the relationship between McPherson and these folks will be clarified.

Politics is another interesting facet of J. P.'s life.  In April, 1851, he attended his first Town Meeting and his friend and fellow Scot, John Mitchell, was elected Town Clerk.  A few days later, J.P. noted that he was filing the town papers and he also wrote to the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  When I read these passages, it wasn't clearwhether "filing town papers" meant that he was legally filing the documents and that had to do with writing to the Clerk of the Circuit Court; or whether his friend John Mitchell brought the town papers to him in a bag and said, "Wouldya file these for me, old friend?";  or perhaps it was both.

By the end of April another of J.P.'s ongoing interests showed up in the diary, as he noted that he was going to the School Meeting. Shortly after that he was working “at the school.”  Education and politics are two themes that we will often read about in this McPherson diary.

Even though summer work took up most of his time, James P. McPherson found time to sttrnf s meeting on July 20th, as his diary noted "At Meeting."  Shortly afterward, he noted that Mr. Lamont was appointed Post Master and that the Board of Health was organized.  These are interesting entries because as we will see in the future, James P. McPherson was a long time Post Master in Springdale and very involved in county education and health issues.

In the last few months of 1851, McPherson's increasing involvement in the village politics became more apparent.  On September 29th, he was appointed Town Clerk, Pro Tem by Morgan.L. Curtis, Clerk of Election. The next day, he commenced his appointment by tracking down the “town box.” He posted a notice of a General Meeting and Special Election for the town of Springdale on October 18th and the meeting was held on the next day. Then on October 30th J.P. was “visited by the Hon, Mr. Bird,” with whom he had been in correspondence over the past year. It is not clear why McPherson contacted the Hon. A.A. Bird, nor the content of their subsequent letters, but it does seem to be important, whether the reason was political, town, or business related.

Springdale, Wisconsin, in 1851 was a very good time and place for James P. McPherson and his family.

~ ~ ~

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Sepia Saturday 291, 2015 August 8: The Osborne 1, My First Computer

 Although Alan left us with "telly's" whilst he went Wales Watching, my brain took a sharp left turn.  I saw all of those little roundish screens looking out of the photo and my mind fixated on a time in my life that our office had a mighty contingent of little screens looking back at us.  Now I am talking little screens, tiny 5 inch screens.  The Osborne 1, the first really portable and affordable computer.  What!  You've never hear of the Osborne Computer!  Yeah, I get that response --- along with weird looks -- when I mention my love affair with the Osborne computer.

The year was about 1982.  My business partner and best friend, and I had started a vocational rehabilitation company in the fall of 1978.  By the time the Osborne hit the shelves, the company had grown far beyond the "2-gal" shop that we had first envisioned.  We had a staff that included several counselors, and a clerical support staff.  We were awash in paper -- reports, evaluations, reports, and did I mention reports. Oh, but, wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

My alpha geeky son had been extolling the benefits I would have if I only would buy one of these new "gadgets", at least to me that was what I thought of  a portable computer.  The final selling point to me was that I wouldn't have to hand write my reports.  I could use a computer with its "real" word processing program Wordstar.  I was a convert.

So I plunked down the $1795 for my own personal portable computer.  I showed up at the office with the Osborne 1, which was as big as  my portable sewing machine -- not that portable though I did haul it the breadth and width of the state.  The clerical staff "ooh-ed and ahh-ed" over the computer.  They hated my hand writing!!!  After a report or so that came off of the computer, mumbling was heard from the clerical staff that they needed the computer more than I, after all they had ALL of the reports to type, not just mine.  So I lost my first Osborne.

I missed my computer, so not too much later, the company bought a new computer for me -- after all, I had lost my first computer to the clerical staff.  However, we had a cadre of fast fingered typist that just couldn't wait to get rid of carbon paper and white out.  And, yes, the second Osborne went the way of the first, as did the third Osborne.  When I got the fourth Osborne, I was sure it was for me!  Not so!  The bookkeeping and number crunching staff were saying, "When do we get a computer?" Number four had been spoken for!  The fifth Osborne was mine -- of course, by that time the little Osborne had had it's day in the sun and was due to be replaced by computers with newer operating systems, larger screens and more bells and whistles.

The Osborne had its drawbacks.  The tiny
5 inch display resulted in eyestrain, headaches and, of course, errors.  So new larger monitors HAD to be purchased.  Then there was the need for copious numbers of 5¼" floppy disks.  Each disk only held a piddly 185kb of data --  we thought that was a huge amount in those days.  We had hundreds floppy disks, which required a dedicated filing system and protocols for the multitude of report -- and floppy disks.

I also remember the day that I watched in horror as my alpha geeky son fearlessly dismantled that first little Osborne.  It's little drives, boards, the thing-a-mabobs strewn across the kitchen bar and much messier than the picture to the right,but with no notes as to what was what and where did it go.  Nonetheless, he kept our phalanx of tiny screened computers running and putting out ever so much data so that our little company was heads above in the technology of most of similar companies of the day.  Not only did we put out hundreds of pages of reports a week, but we also had a data base that produced more timely and accurate information for our company than did the State for which we worked.

 Adam Osborne's dream of  world of personal computers was actually realized, but not how he envisioned Osborne's place in the computer world.  He and his portable computer had a very short time in the spotight.  His company could not compete with the names on the horizon -- KayPro, Atari, Commodore, TRS, TI and Apple, just to name a few.

  As computers changed, so did our company -- but I remember fondly of the days when we thought that we were on the "cutting edge" of technology.  And I guess, for the time and place, perhaps we were close  -- at least for small company and people who hadn't even dreamed of using a computer a few short years before.

Now check out the offerings of our fellow Sepians.

~ ~ ~

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sepia Saturday 290: 2015 August 1: The White Pelican Hotel, Kamath Falls, Oregon

When I first looked at the prompt for this 290th Sepia Saturday, I knew immediately that I wanted to highlight the White Pelican Hotel in Klamath Falls, which was under construction when my grandparents, Frank and Agnes Laura Sigford had moved to the town.    The grand opening was held on December  2, 1911 with a formal banquet, which drew not only Klamath county notables, but people from San Francisco, California, to Portland, Oregon.

The grand hotel burned to the ground just seventeen years later, but it has lived on in the memories of my mother, and now me.  Not because we ever saw or experienced it's elegance, but because my grandmother, Agnes Laura Sigford did.

The Sigfords were of modest means in 1911, and certainly weren't on the guest list for the dedication banquet, but my grandmother did have a meal in the hotel.  She  would tell my mother and my Aunt Gail about the hotel and how magnificent it was -- and later she would also hold me enthralled with her memories of the White Pelican Hotel.  She had a treasured wine glass engraved with a pelican.  This treasure she kept in her trunk and was one of the few things that she saved from a fire that destroyed the only home they would ever own.  The wine glass survived move after move, and even the grinding poverty of the Great Depression.  Later, when I was a child,  we would go visit her every summer. I remember her bringing that precious wine glass from the glass-fronted book case, where she kept her treasures. After her death that the pelican engraved wine glass graced my Aunt Joyce's china hutch, always bringing back those memories of Grandmother and me.  Her precious wine glass from White Pelican Hotel hauntingly disappeared after the death of my Aunt Joyce.

Even without the wine glass, the White Pelican Hotel lives on in my memories, imprinted by my grandmother's rapturous memories of going into the the grandest hotel between San Francisco and Portland, sitting down to a fine meal and being presented with  - or perhaps purchased -  a pelican engraved wine glass.

In 2004, I put together a book for my mother, A Saturday In October, Memories of the Sigfords and Their Homes in Klamath County, in which I described the White Pelican Hotel.  Because a variety of computer problems over the years, I have lost the original photographs that I purchased from the Klamath County Museum.  So as a fall back position, I have had to photocopy the pages from the book that I wrote for my mother.  The quality does not do justice to that grand hotel of my grandmother's memories, and for that I am sorry.

A Saturday In October, p.v,  by Joan G. Hill
Courtesy of the Archives of JGHill and Roots'n'Leaves
The Klamath County Museum

A Saturday In October, p.v,  by Joan G. Hill
Courtesy of the Archives of JGHill and Roots'n'Leaves
The Klamath County Museum

 Now stroll on over to see the wondrous places found by our fellow Sepians

~ ~ ~

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


Monday, July 27, 2015

James P. McPherson husking for Mr. Lester, Springdale,Wisconsin, 1851

Husking for Mr. Lester – in the afternoon fell across the tumbling rod – got caught by the coupling pin and was carried around the roll 2 or 3 times. Escaped with bruises on my legs and side and the tops of my pants & drawers.

The above was the entry of October 7, 1851, in the diary of James P. McPherson. According the diary, McPherson had worked for Daniel Lester since November, 1850. There was also a number of visits between the two men and one time Mr. and Mrs. Lester came to visit at the McPherson house. On this October day, he was again working for Mr. Lester when the accident occurred. Although he did not mention the incident involved with husking corn in future entries, the notation "escaped with bruises" made me wonder about the type of machines that he and his friends and neighbors used. 

When James P. first wrote of assisting neighbors with husking, I thought the scene might be similar to the one below, in which the farmers were husking the corn by hand.  That might, indeed, have been the situation on some of the farms, or they might have hauled a wagon-load of corn to the corn cribs, where they the would do the husking  before throwing the ears in the crib to dry.

Hand-Husking in the Field
THE IOWA AGRICULTURIST For the Farm, Garden, and Household

It is more likely that the corn husker that my great great great grandfather McPherson was working on when he sustained the "bruises" was similar to the hand-powered corn husker shown below.  As you can see, the wheel and gears are unguarded and a man could easily be caught by turning wheels, gears, rods, and such. While being “carried around the roll 2 or 3 times” must have been scary, it seems as though the wheel on a hand-turned husker could have been stopped more quickly, but perhaps centrifugal force was enough to keep the fly wheel turning for a couple of rounds – or perhaps it just felt like “2 or 3 rounds.”
1850 Hand-Cranked Corn Husker
THE IOWA AGRICULTURIST For the Farm, Garden, and Household

McPherson made no mention of the husker being powered by horses and in those days he was usually quite specific when someone's horse or oxen was being used. Therefore it seems unlikely that they would have been using the next generation of huskers or threshers, which were powered by horses turning the wheels, such as the horse driven treadmill as shown below:

Horse-Powered Thresher
THE IOWA AGRICULTURIST For the Farm, Garden, and Household

In the days when corn and grains were planted, cultivated and harvested by hand, it has been estimated to have required 250 to 300 labor-hours to produce 100 bushels. The labor hours were reduced in the mid 1800s by more than half, only 75 to 100 labor hours per 100 bushels of grain.  By 1890, the increasing mechanization of farm equipment, and fertilization techniques, that same amount of wheat or corn needed only 50 to 35 labor-hours. A significant portion of the more efficient farming techniques came from the mechanization of the harvest machinery.

For thousands of years, grain was separated by farmers beating the grain stalks with flails. Hard and time consuming work. Beating the stalks with flails was replaced in the late 1700s and early 1800s by the early hand-powered threshing machines, such as the one shown below:
Early Threshing Machine, circa 1830
The Emigrant Ship

The men in the picture are turning the crank by hand and appear to be using a lever device to feed the stalks into the machine. In this picture, a woman is seated on the machine itself to feeding straw into the cutting blades. Although this was rather dangerous work, women and children did this sort of task, leaving the men to do the more strenuous tasks.

The next picture shows the improvement made in threshing machines. Although this type of thresher could be hand-powered, it was increasingly powered by horses on a treadmill to turn the gears and wheels, or a larger set-up by which the horses walked around in a circle, turning gears, fly-wheels and belts to drive the machinery.

 1851 Threshing Machine.
Illustrated London News. 1851.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.

The following diagram of an early thresher shows the general working parts of the machine. The grain stalks are fed in through the front, moved along on a conveyor to the turning “flail” which separates the grain from the stalks. The grain either drops through to the floor or stationary threshers, or held in a drum for off-loading in field threshers; the refuse stalks are fed on out the back of the machine and used for animal feed, bedding, or plowed back into the ground for fertilizer. There are many moving parts – gears, fly-wheels, belts, conveyors, fast turning and sharp flails – which could easily cause serious injury or death.

Courtesy U. S. Department of Agriculture

By the turn of the twentieth century, the increasing number and seriousness of injuries caused by these types of threshers and huskers heralded a concern for making the machinery more safe. Even in the last half of the 19th century, when we read of the harvesting done by James P. McPherson and his friends and neighbors in Springdale, harvesting was a dangerous job – gears, belts, fly-wheels have no safety coverings, ever open to drawing a person into the machinery and potentially causing serious injuries.   Nonetheless, there was a certain camaraderie when neighbors and friends came together to harvest one another's fields.
1896 Threshing Machine and the Crew
The Mitchel County Press and The Osage News Consolidated Osage, Iowa
June, 21, 1956, Vol. 91, No. 25
Although the following newspaper descriptions of threshing machine accidents are from England, there was very little difference in the machines used in the U.S.  The Drum Roll, Interpreting Threshing Machines in Rural Life Museums (http://www.collectionstrust.org.uk/assets/drums_roll.pdf) has a number of nineteenth century newspaper articles about threshing accidents which give all of the gory details, as well as reflecting how injuries were viewed by the general population, reporters, and judges. As the injuries became more prevalent and serious, one can see a subtle change. The injured party or family filed suit against the employer and in an 1853 account, the jury gave a subtle nod to the employer's responsibility for safety issues.

1811 November 27th from The Bury & Norwich Post reflects the beginning awareness of the dangers associated with the “recent inventions:”

(The Bury & Norwich Post - 1811 November 27th ) “There has not been any recent inventions by which human calamity has been produced as by the new implement called the thrashing machine and this in greater measure arises from unskilfulness of those employed to work it and are often ignorant of the powers of mechanism.We notice that Mr Arthur Brooks of Horringer had a very narrow escape within the last few days as the whole of his clothes, even his shirt was torn from his back and had not his men stopped the machine with such promptitude there would have been loss of limbs and probably his life. It would therefore be prudent to prohibit the use of the implement under penalty unless attended by a skillful mechanic.” 

In the 1850s, the threshing machines were more often powered by horses and the injuries could be more severe as there was more “horse power” and it took more time to stop the horses. The two following examples are from the 1850s:

(The Bury & Norwich Post, April 19th, 1854)“On Saturday last as a poor woman named Ashman was attempting to step over the spindle of a threshing machine at Aldersfield Hall, Wickhambrook, her garments became entangled and in attempting to save herself, her right thumb was drawn in by the wheels in front of the machine and so much injured as to render amputation necessary.”

(The Bury & Norwich Post -February 16th 1853)“Inquest at Suffolk Hospital at Bury on David Scates, labourer, aged 25, in the employ of Mr Samuel Payne of Hawstead, who on the previous Monday was engaged in moving straw from the threshing machine when the spindle caught his frock and wound him round and before the horses could be stopped, he dashed his head on the floor of the barn, he was removed to Bury Hospital but died in three hours. The jury expressed a hope that Mr Payne would erect a cover over the spindle.”

As the technology increased, so the potential for a greater number and more severe injuries also increased, as noted by the following newspaper accounts:

(Stamford Mercury – 6th September 1867) “Girl named Eliza Stocks, aged 16 … had been cutting bands upon the stage, and when they had just finished a smart shower of rain drove the men to take shelter, and some loose straw was thrown over the drum hole and the steam partly shut off. The girl had forgotten her knife, and on returning for it appears that she put her foot through the straw … her foot was caught by the drum, which dragged in her leg, smashing it to atoms, and the machine was not stopped until it reached her thigh, then it brought the works to a stand … it was more than 10 minutes before the poor suffering creature could be extricated … Every attention was shown to her by neighbors and the messengers posted off for medical assistance, and the limb was amputated … the poor sufferer died at 3 o'clock the following morning.”

(Suffolk Free Press – September 24th 1868) “there was a fatal accident on the premises of Mr. Tomas Green at Acton Hal on Friday afternoon. A man named Neave aged about 68 years from some cause slipped and his foot became entangled in the steam threshing machine. Medical aid was summoned and was quickly on hand, Mr. Jones the surgeon thought it necessary to amputate the foot but the shock was too much for the poor fellow and he died. Accidental death.”

(Suffolk Free Press – June 17th 1908) “A shocking accident occurred at Hole Farm, Finchingfield. Harry Coote, 26, a Toppesfield man was feeding the threshing with beans, he left the feeder to get a fork from E. Cook who was on the fore part of the machine, upon returning Coote slipped and stepped on to the revolving drum, he was immediately drawn in by the left leg and his lower body was torn away and smashed to pulp, he died without speaking.”

After looking at  the types of threshing and husking machines that were used, as well as the injuries that resulted from using these machines, my ancestor James P. McPherson was very fortunate that he was not more seriously injured. When I read the descriptions of injuries resulting from threshing and harvesting accidents, I was also surprised that McPherson and his friends and neighbors did not sustain a greater number of incidents.   Now a simple phase, "threshed or husked for ..."  will certainly have greater impact when I read future entries in J.P. McPherson's diary.


 www.The Mitchel County Press and The Osage News Consolidated Osage, Iowa,June, 21, 1956, Vol. 91, No. 25
THE IOWA AGRICULTURIST For the Farm, Garden, and Household, www.uni.edu/iowahist
 Drum Roll, Interpreting Threshing Machines in Rural Life Museums, http://www.collectionstrust.org.uk/assets/drums_roll.pdf  

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 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sepia Saturday 289, 2015 July 25: Beach Party,But No Ocean In Sight

Summer is here in my Pacific Northwest, specifically in southern Oregon.  Triple digit temperature, aggravated by little or no winter snow pack have spawned wildfires in the mountains throughout the western States.  In my home which is surrounded by mountains and hundreds of miles from the ocean, beach photos are a rarity.  Lakes, rivers, and sometimes just the local reservoir provides a "beach-like setting.  And so it is, I submit a land-locked version of a  1937 beach party  -- looks like sand so it must be a beach party.

Courtesy of the Archives of Roots'n'Leaves
and JGHill

These two photos appear to have been taken at the same time and place.  Summer, 1937, would be the year, but the place, I know not.  My best guess is along a canal bank, or perhaps a river  --- probably in the Stockton, California, area, although it could easily be in southern Oregon, around Klamath Falls..  Wherever the location of the site in the photo to the right, I seem to be sitting on a sandy "beach" and not quite into the beach party thing.

Courtesy of the Archives of Roots'n'Leaves
and JGHill

The photo to the left is about the same vintage and perhaps the same day, but clearly there is more vegetation to be seen.  I look a bit pensive.  Perhaps I am nervous, sitting there on the back seat of dad's new Pontiac, trying on mother's high heels for a "nudie" stroll on the "beach", or alongside a river or canal.

I remember several times when I was a bit older, probably four or five years old, and the back seat of the Pontiac was taken out for party seating,  The back seat came out easily so it could be used as ad hoc seating for whatever occasion -- rather like an early day "camper."  It didn't take much to have a beach party in those days.

 Now, stroll on over to see what summer time fare is being offered by fellow Sepians.

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 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications