Monday, February 28, 2011

Cerro Romauldo Hike

On Saturday, I told you I'd provide some photos of the hike up Cerro Romauldo.  Our town is a few miles from the ocean, but there's a chain of volcanic hills between us and the beach.  We received permission from the California National Guard to hike on their property, since Cerro Romauldo is on a military base.

(Starting up the trail)

(View from part way up showing chain of hills to the ocean)

(Final ascent, looking towards our town, Cerro Romauldo on extreme left)

(Some of my scouts at the summit)

(My son Tim and me on the summit)

(View from the top looking northwest towards the Pacific)

(View from the top looking southeast towards San Luis Obispo)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grand Reveal

Yesterday's Person-of-Mystery was none other than the famous explorer and journalist, Henry M. Stanley, famous for his finding of the famous missionary Dr. Livingstone and his later explorations of the Congo.

Thanks to all who played!

Saturday, February 26, 2011


The mystery theme for today is "Missing Persons."

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Although the Person-of-Mystery Contest is under way, I won't be able to comment until later this afternoon.  I'm taking my Boy Scouts on a hike up Cerro Romauldo today.  Good guessing!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Greetings from Ingersoll, Oklahoma, 1908

Postmarked Ingersoll, Oklahoma, October 14, 1908, PM

Miss Jessie Burrows
1153 University
Wichita, Kansas

Dear Teacher,
I hope you will excuse my delay in answering.  I didn't have any post cards nice enough to send until I went to town and got this.  School is doing nicely.  Old Bob is dead.  Died last Sunday.  When are you coming to visit school.
Mildred M.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Montenegrin Flag

When I was a kid, I knew all the flags of the world, but it appears I haven't been keeping up on things.  The other day, I noticed someone logging in from Podgorica, a town I didn't recognize immediately together with a flag I didn't immediately recognize.  When I read up on it, I realized why it didn't look familiar, it's from the country of Montenegro and has only been around since 2004.

I kind of like it for several reasons.  For starters, it looks like a much older flag, which means it looks pretty nice flying over historic structures and such.

It also uses muted tones of primary colors, which means it's bold and recognizable, but not an eyesore.

It incorporates the double eagle of flags nearby, which makes it nice on school children trying to place it on the map, but it seems to buck the trend of other new flag designs which look to me so much like a bunch of company logos from the 1980s.

So kudos to whoever designed this one!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Celery Farm and Palm Forest, Sanford Fla., 1909

This card is from Clarrie Fowler Bass, the aunt and onetime guardian of Jessie's future husband, Will Benton.

Postmarked Sanford, Florida, March 6, 1909

Miss Jessie Burrows
1153 University
Wichita Kansas

Mar. 7, 1909

Dear Jessie,
Does this look trifling?  This is the raw land before it is cleared.  Would a cabin there be homelike?  I had the privilege of cooking a meal at the shack.  My thoughts were of you.  See you later.
Mrs. Bass.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bathing, Long Branch, N. J., 1907

The first of the many post cards from the collection of my great-grandmother, Jessie Burrows Benton.

Postmarked Long Branch, New Jersey, July 26, 1907

Miss Jessie Burrows
University Ave
Wichita Kans

Nice breeze here always the water all time wet.  I heard Manuel & Deses were back home. Mr. Hawarel is taking back your school.  Micheal Alare Casino Ind Band.  Micheal Alare but a big band of lots 50 pieces goin swimming every day.  Hey, this is what I call fun - you splash me & I splash you.  Well hows the quakers.  Still eating oats.  Now send me a card from Wichita you see & don't put it off.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Fox Sisters

Congratulations to DAG, winner of this weekend's Persons-of-Mystery contest!

(The Fox Sisters: Margaret, Kate, & Leah)

Originally hailing from Consecon, Ontario, John and Margaret Fox relocated their family across Lake Ontario to Western New York in the early 1840s.  The family first settled in Rochester, but in 1848 they moved to Hydesville, where they found an inexpensive cabin to rent.  Among the reasons for the inexpensive rent was a local rumor of murdered traveling salesman who had supposedly been buried in the cellar.  In fact the previous tenant had left unexpectedly when he had heard strange ghostlike sounds.

Undeterred, the Foxes moved in.  However, in short order, the family began to hear thumping and knocking sounds too.  Rather frightened, the family began sleeping in the same room where they could all hear the knocking.  Finally, 11 year old, Kate Fox challenged the ghost.  At first Kate asked the ghost to repeat the knocks, which it did, then she asked it to give them her age and the ghost replied with the correct number of knocks.  Neighbors were summoned to witness the phenomenon and one of them, William Deusler, suggested a system where they would run through the alphabet and wait for the spirit to knock at the appropriate letters to spell words.  Before too long, it was discovered that Kate's sister Maggie was also able to communicate with the dead.  They were also able to ascertain that they were speaking with the spirit of the slain peddler who identified himself as Charles B. Rosma (the cellar was dug up extensively, but no body was found).  Later a system of knocks was worked out, one for 'no' and two for 'yes.'

Word of the remarkable spirit contact spread quickly, drawing the attention of believers and skeptics alike and the girls were asked to contact spirits of departed loved ones.  Their married older sister, Leah Fish, soon became their manager and in November 1849, at the supposed urging of spirits, Leah announced that they would hold public demonstrations for 25¢ admission at the Corinthian Hall in Rochester.  The sisters appeared for four nights and were thoroughly examined by skeptical investigators, people held their feet or tied their skirts, and a group of ladies even made the sisters go backstage and disrobe, but no fraud was discovered.

The Fox Sisters, soon added additional components to their repertoire including early forms of the ouija board, spirit cabinet, automatic writing, and the traditional seance took form.  Famous and influential people attended their seances including Horace Greeley, James Fenimore Cooper, Sojourner Truth, and William Lloyd Garrison and Spiritualism took off like wildfire.  First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, was known to have relied on mediums and clairvoyants and may have even held seances at the White House.  P. T. Barnum even added the girls to his show of wonders.

In later life the sisters relationships experienced some difficulty.  Leah continued managing her sisters until their marriages, but seems to have spent most of their earnings.  Leah married several times, first to Bowman Fish who deserted her before the spirit activities began, secondly to Calvin Brown, and finally to Daniel Underhill.  Margaret met and married the famous Arctic explorer, Elisha Kane (who remained a skeptic).  Margaret converted to Roman Catholicism and her husband attempted to distance her from her sisters, but after Kane died in 1857, Margaret returned to her work was a medium.

(Elisha Kane)

In 1871, Kate traveled to England on a trip funded by a New York banker involved in Spiritualism and she was instrumental in introducing the new religion to Europe through her seances with influential people there.  The next year, Kate married a barrister and supporter, H. D. Jencken and together they had two sons.  Kate continued her mediumship and received much publicity when the chemist and physicist Sir William Crookes put her through a series of examinations and tests in which he could not find evidence of fraud.  In 1876, Margaret joined her and the two became close friends again, but Kate's husband died in 1881 and the sisters returned to the States.

(Examination of the Fox Sisters by Dr. Austin Flint in 1851)

After their return, both Kate and Margaret developed problems with alcohol and Leah and other prominent Spiritualists attempted to have Kate's children removed from their mother's custody.  Margaret began to move back towards Roman Catholicism and started talking negatively about Spiritualism.  Eager to hurt Leah (who was a leader in the Spiritualist movement), the younger sisters agreed to a public debunking of their fraud in exchange for $1,500.  On October 21, 1888, at the New York Academy of Music in New York City, Margaret with Kate in the audience demonstrated how she could produce raps at will throughout the auditorium.  Members of the audience came on stage to verify that the knocking sounds were coming from the popping of her joints in the toes, knees, and fingers.  She also produced the following statement for the press regarding the events in 1848:

"Mrs. Underhill, my eldest sister, took Katie and me to Rochester. There it was that we discovered a new way to make the raps. My sister Katie was the first to observe that by swishing her fingers she could produce certain noises with her knuckles and joints, and that the same effect could be made with the toes. Finding that we could make raps with our feet - first with one foot and then with both - we practiced until we could do this easily when the room was dark. Like most perplexing things when made clear, it is astonishing how easily it is done. The rapping are simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is not commonly known. Such perfect control is only possible when the child is taken at an early age and carefully and continually taught to practice the muscles, which grow stiffer in later years. ... This, then, is the simple explanation of the whole method of the knocks and raps."

This public exhibition was the death knell for the Spiritualist movement and all three sisters would pass away within five years of the demonstration.  Margaret further revealed that the original noises in their Hydesville home were a practical joke on their mother (where they tied apples on strings and had them thump against the floor) to spook her, but when Leah got involved they realized they could make money by continuing the amusement.

Interestingly enough, in 1904, a body was found in a crumbling cellar wall of the Hydesville home which sparked renewed interest among the faithful, but in 1909, it was revealed that the body was planted there years before for amusement.

It's still interesting to me that so many could be taken by some joint popping girls in long dresses for well near 40 years.  But I guess it's like P. T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute!"

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Who could we be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My First Car

Yesterday, there were lots of nice comments about cars.  It seems as though many people fall into two camps, those who view them as solely means of conveyance and those who hold some kind of sentimental attachment to a vehicle.  I think I'm somewhere in the middle on this one.  For the most part, I side with people who use them to get around.  I drive a very generic car today, a silver 2007 Toyota Corolla.  It's pretty much like half the cars on the road out here.  Actually exactly like them.  Not too long ago, I stood for about 10 seconds in a parking lot pointing my key remote at my car, wondering why the doors weren't unlocking until I realized that I was standing with my back to my car looking at the exact same car parked next to mine.

My first car was a 1968 VW Karmann Ghia.  I bought it with money I had saved delivering newspapers and doing odd jobs.  Of course I wasn't the original owner and the thing had some quirks.  Some of the drives to school in the morning were a little chilly, I could only listen to AM radio, and I would get passed by tractor trailers when going up hill, but I still have a fondness for that little car.

(1968 Karmann Ghia from VW promotional materials)

I can't figure out if it's because it was my first car, if it brings back good memories of driving so low to the ground, or if there is just something about having to struggle a little with the elements and imperfect machinery that seems lost by today's noiseless, climate controlled, perfectly comfortable cars that you never really need to work on, find parts for, or tinker with.

I don't know what it is, but I always find myself smiling whenever I hear the distinctive put-put of a of a VW engine or I see a Ghia drive by.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Mr. Allen Swift of West Hartford, Massachusetts died in October 25, 2005 at the age of 102.  While living 102 is remarkable in and of itself, his automobile may have been even more impressive.  While Mr. Swift's brother went to college, Allen stayed with his father to look after the family business.  In appreciation his father rewarded him by buying him a new two-tone green 1928 Phantom I, S273 FP Rolls-Royce (built at the Springfield, Massachusetts factory).

Mr. Swift remained the sole owner, putting 170,000 miles on the car, until August 2005, when he donated $1 million dollars to the Springfield History Museum along with his automobile.

(Springfield History Museum)

What's the longest you have ever owned a car - that still runs?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Image Search Before Google

In the days before the Internet, when people wanted to share what places looked like, they often used photographs and mailed them.  One easy and convenient way to do this was to mail post cards.

So the other day, my mom calls me and says, "I have I bunch of old post cards, I was going to throw them away, but then I thought you might like them."  Now in my marriage, I'm the pack rat collector and my wife is the organized one.  I'm getting better, but if I have a buddy who says, "Hey Nate, I've got ten five-gallon buckets, do you want them?"  My first inclination is to bring them home, because you never know when you might use them.  My wife doesn't see things the same way.  She looks at them and thinks, oh great, more junk he won't use, how long must I let him keep these until I can toss them without his notice.

So, being the thoughtful husband, I told my mom, "No, go ahead and toss them."  I immediately had second thoughts and said, "Wait, tell you what, bring them over, I'll take a quick look through them and then toss them."

When I came home, I was in for a surprise.  I had wrongly assumed that my mother was talking about a few post cards from maybe the 1980s or what not.  There in my living room was a large sack of post cards mostly addressed to my great-grandmother, and many of them about 100 years old or so with penny postage.

So I've been having the time of my life going through the sack.  Before too long I'll start scanning them and posting them here.  Unfortunately for my wife, all the work my she had put in getting me to say, "Oh, that's okay, I don't need it," has for the time being, been completely undone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Unknown Couple

Recently, Roger sent me something that was rather remarkable.  He was cleaning up and going through a box of books found in his mother-in-law's attic when he discovered a couple tintypes inside one of them.  No one in his wife's family could recognize them and he believes they may have belonged to one the home's previous owners, so instead of tossing them, he sent them to me.

I am very touched by Roger's generous gift and remain very grateful.

Today, I'd like to share the images with you too, by posting them here.  I wonder who they were and what their lives were like.

Thanks again, Roger!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grand Reveal

This weekend's Person-of-Mystery was Craig Breedlove, five-time land speed record holder in his car, Spirit of America.  He holds the distinction of being the first man to go faster than 400 mph, 500 mph, and 600 mph.

And while it's not one of their better songs, the Beach Boys' song "Spirit of America" is also about Breedlove.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Missing in Action

To my faithful readers:  Sorry for the delay in posts.  Things have been a little busier than normal.

I would like to congratulate Robert, winner of this week's Person-of-Mystery, and our first back-to-back winner!  It was indeed Glenn Curtiss and I hope to have a writeup on him soon.

So what have I been doing?  Some of you may know that I'm the Scoutmaster of a growing Boy Scout Troop.  I've been busy planning several outings this month:  a sandboarding campout at the dunes, a radio transmitter hunt using yagis, and a cross-country ski trip at Yosemite - and that's just this month!  (Oh, and in case you missed it, Boy Scouts of America turned 101 yesterday!  Wahoo!)  I still have my day job teaching high school and I'm trying to be a good husband and dad too, so I apologize for the delay, things will be back up soon.

Special thanks to all those who sent messages and notes seeing if I'm okay.  That was really nice and certainly appreciated.

See you all soon!

Saturday, February 05, 2011


The mystery theme for today is "Hall of Famer."

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Sutyagin House (once the tallest wooden structure)

It no longer exists, but at one time, the Sutyagin House in Archangel, Russia, was was the largest wooden structure in the world.  Its impressive 13 floors (reaching a final height of 144 feet) was all the more impressive when it is revealed that it was pretty much designed and built by one man, Nikolai Sutyagin.

Nikolai was a hard working man who had grown up in the Soviet Union.  In 1992, when Russia began taking steps towards capitalism, Sutyagin cornered (some say through gangsterism) the lumber business in Archangel.

Now the richest man in the city, Sutyagin wanted to display his wealth and had plenty of lumber, so in defiance of building codes, he began expanding his house.  He kept adding on bit by bit, occasionally stopping for a time, only to resume again.  At one point, after a few years, he thought he was finished, but then realized that if he kept going a little higher, he'd have a view of the sea.

His work was finally halted in 1998, when he was sent to prison for four years on racketeering charges.  When he was released, he discovered that his rivals had robbed him blind and now he didn't have the money to finish his home or to bribe building inspectors (Archangel has a two story limit on wooden structures).  To stave off authorities, he sealed the roof at the second floor and claimed in court that everything above was decorative.  However, in 2008, the city condemned the property as a fire hazard and on December 26, 2008, demolition began.

I always find it interesting what one man can do if he puts his mind to it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson

The Civil War was a brutal and savage conflict, but try as I might, I can't think of anyone as bloodthirsty as William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson.  Born about 1839 in Kentucky, the family early moved to Missouri, where William grew up near the town of Huntsville in Randolph County.  In 1857, the family moved to Kansas and William worked for a time escorting wagons along the Santa Fe Trail.  Kansas and Missouri were considered the limits of civilization and the border region was open for all manner of lawlessness individuals.

For years before the war, a proxy conflict had been waged in Kansas and parts of Missouri over the issue of slavery in the Kansas Territory.  Pro-slavery guerrillas (primarily from Missouri) were known as "Bushwackers" and anti-slavery guerrillas (primarily from Kansas) were known as "Jayhawkers."  Pro-Union supporters often harassed pro-Southern families and in March of 1862, Anderson's father was accused of horse thievery during an argument was shot dead by a local judge.  William and his brother later confronted the judge and shot him dead.  Following this incident, the family left Kansas relocated to Missouri.

(A young William Anderson)

When the Civil War broke out, many of these Jawhawkers enlisted with the Union Army, however because of the weaker organization of the Confederates in Missouri, many of the Bushwackers became Partisan Rangers and operated in favor of the Confederate cause, but under their own command.  Anderson joined up with William C. Quantrill's guerilla outfit.

(William C. Quantrill)

Hatred ran deep on both sides.  Jayhawkers would kill and loot in Missouri and Bushwackers would retaliate in kind.  Events quickly spiraled out of control to the point where US Senator James Lane led a force of about 1,200 drunken   soldiers in the burning, looting, and indiscriminate killings in Osceola, Missouri.  In retaliation, Quantrill's men skirmished with Union forces from Kansas, raided pro-Union towns, and robed mail coaches.  At first, Quantrill operated under clear guidelines of war, but when the Union Army began executing Quantrill's captured men, Quantrill started ordering the execution of captured Federal soldiers.

(Senator James Lane)

Enraged at the return executions of Union prisoners, General Thomas Ewing, Jr., ordered the arrest of women in the families of known Confederate Partisans or other women suspected of providing food or medicine to rebel soldiers.  Among the women taken by the Union Army were three of Anderson's sisters: Mary, Josephine, and Martha.  The women were imprisoned in the three-story Longhorn Store and Tavern in Kansas City, Missouri.  In order to accommodate their large number of prisoners, the Federal soldiers removed supporting beams in the lower floors.  Unsurprisingly, the building collapsed, killing four of the women and injuring many more.  One of those killed was William's 14 year-old sister Josephine and his sister Mary was crippled by having both her legs broken.  Two other women who perished were cousins of Cole Younger (who would later ride with Jesse James).

(Thomas Ewing, Jr.)

Four days after the collapse of the jail, General Ewing issued his General Order Number 10, expelling families with known Southern sympathies from their homes, those homes to be burnt, and women and children to be sent south.  When word of the killings and forced expulsion order reached Quantrill's men, it enraged them to the point that they no longer cared about their lives, only retribution.  Quantrill, with his lieutenant William T. Anderson, hatched a plan to attack the Jayhawker stronghold of Lawrence, Kansas (Lawrence was also the home of Senator Lane who had led lead the earlier attack on Osceola).

Quantrill called upon various leaders of independent Bushwacker outfits (many of whom rode over 24 hours straight lashed to their saddles in order to rendezvous with Quantrill) to join him in the raid against Lawrence.

(Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas)

Just before dawn on August 21, 1863, somewhere between three and four hundred Bushwackers led by Quantrill converged on the town of Lawrence.  Each of the men was armed with multiple revolvers stuffed into their shirts so they wouldn't have to reload.  The raiders set fire to the town and for four hours went house to house killing every able bodied man they could find.  For his part, Senator Lane escaped death by fleeing through a cornfield in his nightshirt.  In the end, just shy of 200 men were killed by Quantrill's men that day.  The Bushwackers broke into smaller units with many of Quantrill's men including William Anderson heading down to North Texas.

(Lawrence After the Attack)

Four days after the attack, General Ewing issued his infamous General Order Number 11, which ordered for the forced expulsion of everyone (regardless of their allegiance) in the Bates, Cass, Jackson, and Vernon Counties of Missouri.  All homes were to be burned and widespread looting by the military ensued.

(Execution of General Order Number 11)

While in Texas, Anderson fell for and married Bush Smith.  Quantrill disapproved of Anderson's marriage and the two parted ways, with Anderson becoming the leader of his own company of Partisans that then returned to Missouri in the Spring of 1864.  During this time, Jesse James joined his brother Frank who was already riding with Anderson.

(William T. Anderson)

Writing to a newspaper in July, 1864, Anderson explained his rationale for becoming a bandit:

"I commenced at the first of this war to fight for my country, not to steal from it.  I have chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge myself for wrings that could not honorably avenged otherwise.  I lived in Kansas when the war commenced.  Because I would not fight the people of Missouri, my native state, the Yankees sought my life, but failed to get me.  Revenged themselves by murdering my father, destroying all my property, and have since that time murdered one of my sisters and kept the other two in jail twelve months."

Anderson earned the nickname "Bloody Bill" about this time in reference to the increasingly barbaric practices of Anderson's company.  Federal soldiers and Unionists were always killed when captured and their bodies were frequently mutilated by decapitation, scalping, or castration.  Scalps were hung from their bridles and it is said that William kept a silk cord in which he tied a knot for every Yankee he killed.

(Three of Anderson's men in Sherman, Texas
From left to right: Archie Clement, Dave Pool, and Dave Hendricks)

On the morning of September 27, 1864, with about 80 men dressed in Union uniforms Anderson rode into Centralia, Missouri and blocked the rail line.  The train was stopped and 23 of the 125 passengers were found to be Union soldiers going home on leave.  The soldiers were ordered to strip off their uniforms and Anderson asked if there was an officer among them.  Sergeant Thomas Goodman, expecting to be killed for the others, lied and said that he was an officer.  Anderson's men then took Goodman prisoner and killed the rest of them and then mutilated their bodies (Anderson's plan was to exchange Goodman for one of his men who was being held prisoner, but Goodman escaped after ten days).  Anderson's men then set fire to the train and sent it down the tracks.

(Sgt. Thomas M. Goodman)

The commotion attracted 155 men of the Union's 39th Missouri Mounted Infantry armed with Enfield rifles.  They formed a line and called out Anderson's men.  Anderson charged with pistols and he and his men killed 123 of them in the ensuing battle.

(Centralia Battlefield Marker Showing Union Dead)

When word of Centralia reached the Union command, they tasked Col. Samuel P. Cox with eliminating Anderson.  Cox with about soldiers tracked Anderson's men to Albany, Ray County, Missouri, and on October 26, 1864, lured him into an ambush with a detachment of cavalrymen.  Coming across a strong line of dismounted cavalrymen most of Anderson's men turned attempted a getaway.  Anderson rode through the line unhurt with Archie Clement, but turned around when he noticed young Clell Miller had had been wounded.  When he returned to attempt to rescue Miller, Anderson was himself felled.

The bridle of his horse contained numerous scalps and among the his possessions was a silk cord with 53 knots.  His remains were taken to Richmond, Missouri, where the body was posed with a pistol and photographed.  He was then decapitated and his head was placed on a telegraph pole outside town while the rest of his body was dragged through the streets.

After the fall of the Confederacy, Anderson's men would continue their banditry.  After several bank robberies, Jesse James was at the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri, in December 1869, asking the cashier to change a $100 bill when Frank walked in, pulled Jesse aside, and pointed out that the cashier resembled Samuel Cox (the man who killed Anderson).  The two immediately turned their guns on the cashier and shot him dead.  The cashier was not Samuel Cox, but rather an innocent John Sheets.