Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving thanks at table and pew

vintage photo of crowds leaving church on Thanksgiving 1915
Even into the 20th century, people went to church before
sitting down to dinner on Thanksgiving. This photo shows
crowds leaving St. Patrick's Church in Washington, D.C.,
after the Pan-American Mass on Thanksgiving Day 1915.
(Photo credit: Library of Congress)
Thanksgiving in the late 19th century was as much a day of churchgoing as it was of feasting. I was surprised to learn that. Records show up in more than one Florida newspaper in online archives.

An article in the Chipley Banner on Nov. 26, 1898 reminded readers that: “In every State of the Union the people last Thursday, assembled in the churches and in their homes to render unto Almighty God their thanks for the blessings that had been vouchsafed to them, and to their country during the past year.”

Several years earlier, the Florida Agriculturist reprinted the governor's entire Thanksgiving proclamation in its Nov. 28, 1892 edition. The proclamation read, in part:
The past year has been replete with blessings to the people of Florida. 
In accord with a custom honored in its observance, I, Francis P. Fleming, governor of the State of Florida, do hereby appoint and set apart Thursday, November 24, 1892, to be a day of thanksgiving and recommend to the people of our State, on that day, to attend their respective places of public worship and render thanks and praise to the Giver of all good for bountiful harvests; for peace and prosperity, for freedom from pestilence; for health and happiness; for civil and religious liberty and all other blessings of His Divine Hand, and invoke the continuance of His mercies and protection. 
In the enjoyment of our many blessings, let us not forget those in need and distress...
After church, people dined at home or at places like the Montezuma Hotel in Ocala, where manager J.P. Galloway planned an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner in 1901, as noted in the Nov. 27 issue of the Ocala Evening Star:
All who desire to partake of an excellent dinner and do not care to go to the trouble of preparing one at home are respectfully referred to the accompanying menu. Dinner served from 12:30 to 3 o'clock. Only 75 cents.
If you're wondering what was on the menu, here it is:

  • Soup: Beef and Celery Bouillon; Cedar Key Oysters on Half Shell; Red Snapper, Genoese Sauce
  • Relishes: Celery; Mixed Pickles; Chicken Salad, with French Dressing'
  • Roast: Prime Ribs of Western Beef, Brown Gravy; Wild Turkey, Oyster Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce
  • Entrees: Compote of Quail, with Olives; Veal Croquettes, with French Peas; Banana Fritters, Wine Sauce.
  • Vegetables: Potato Croquettes; Candied Yams; Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce; Turnip Greens, with Bacon; Steamed Japan Rice; Old Fashioned Corn Pone
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Pie; English Plum Pudding, Hard Sauce; Frappe Creme de Menthe; Assorted Cakes; Assorted Nuts; Crackers; Fruit in Season; American Cheese; Iced Tea; Coffee; Buttermilk.
I hope no one went hungry back then, and won't go hungry today. Let us all pause and give thanks before taking the first forkful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Florida roses 'a joy forever'

Part 2 of 2 

"Think of a roof of white roses in February!" So wrote Florida newcomer Julia Daniels Moseley in 1882, in a letter to her friend Eliza in Illinois. Julia and her husband were en route to their new homestead in what is now the Tampa area, and had stopped overnight in Limona. It was south of Crescent City, but no longer exists. Julia wished she could send Eliza "a few yards" of climbing roses after seeing "beautiful old homes and more than one lovely old garden" (18) during a twilight stroll.

Closeup on a Bermuda Spice heirloom rose bloom
This Bermuda Spice, aka Hume's Blush, heirloom rose
grows in my yard with little care. (Gerri Bauer photo)
Rose references are threaded throughout the narrative in Moseley's Come to My Sunland: Letters of Julia Daniels Moseley from the Florida Frontier, 1882-1886. A friend once came to visit with her hands full of crimson roses (144). Another time, roses and oleanders decorated a room (81). 

These weren't the roses you see at the florist's or on Valentine's Day. They were old-fashioned roses, today known as heirloom or antique roses. Their blossoms are smaller, they don't hold their petals long when cut, and most have one or two peak flowering periods a year. They generally have rich rose fragrance. 

They also weren't what pioneers were growing up North. "As yet, they are hardly worth the ground they occupy; and whether they ever will do anything is a matter of doubt," (183) groused author Harriet Beecher Stowe in Palmetto Leaves. She was speaking about the "fine varieties of roses" she'd brought to Florida from her Northern home in the 1870s.

As her transplanted shrubs struggled, Stowe noted that: "Meanwhile we have only to ride a little way into the pine-woods to see around many a rustic cabin a perfect blaze of crimson roses and cluster roses, foaming over the fences in cascades of flowers" (183). "These are Florida roses, born and bred ..." she added. 

Easy-care heirloom roses beautified many a pioneer homestead. On March 2, 1892, a Pasco County correspondent wrote to the Floral Department of the Florida Agriculturist newspaper to praise Marechal Niel as a glorious rose. "Well pruned, watered and fertilized, it will richly repay you with its golden wealth of richly scented flowers; a thing of beauty, a joy forever" (135), said the writer, identified only as P.A.L.M.  (See Part 1 of this post for more on the Marechal Niel.)

Later in the year, on Nov. 30, 1892, another correspondent identified as New Resident wrote of being "encouraged by success rooting rose cuttings, several together, in large-mouthed, low glass bottles on a south window sill in the heat of May, and also in the open ground in summer in the partial shade of an allamanda" (759).

Pioneers were surrounded by roses during shrubs' heavy flushes of blooms in spring and fall. Some people may have made the rose-petal jams, rose-water cakes, and rose-petal sandwiches author Jean Gorden said were popular in Victorian times (Pageant of the Rose, 92). But Florida homes in that pre-air-conditioned era were open to the smells of the farm and homestead. I rather think more people followed the advice of one K.B.S of DeLand, who shared this Rose Jar recipe in the July 13, 1892 issue of the Florida Agriculturist:
"Gather roses, take the petals only; after well dried place them in thin layers in your jar with a light sprinkle of salt between layers. After your jar is full of roses, or petals, you mix an ounce of cinnamon, ounce of allspice and ounce of cloves with the roses; then put on five cents worth of essence of wintergreen from the druggist's, also five cents worth of lavender and another sweet perfume that you like, and you have your sweet jar that will perfume the whole room."
Now, as then, such scents become memories that linger.