Sunday, December 25, 2011

Snowflakes for a Very Merry Christmas Time!

I am up and about early this Christmas morning greeting Santa and waiting for my family to wake.  When I think of Christmas time I think of the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating our home with festive family treasures, and the tremendous joy of family gathered together to celebrate the season.  I am so happy to be able to spend this time with my wonderful family!

I have always associated Christmas with hot chocolate, warm fires and snow.  It rarely, if ever, snows where I live.   Oh, we can find snow alright, but  to do so we would have to take a two hour drive to the mountains.  Alternatively,  there are plenty of paper and plastic "snowflakes" hanging in all of the local stores.  Some of these "snowflakes" are really beautiful, and some...not so much.

Although real snowflakes are ephemeral, they are beautiful and mesmerizing in their complexity.  In 1885, Wilson A. Bentley of Vermont produced actual photographs of snowflakes.  "Snowflake" Bentley, as he became known, created a process using an old microscope, a bellows camera and a black velvet surface to capture over 5,000 images of snowflakes during his lifetime.

W. A. Bentley Snowflake, 1890

Bentley described snowflakes as "tiny miracles of beauty" and "ice flowers".    I have included a few selected images on this page.  You can view many other Bentley snowflakes, however,  by browsing The Bentley Collection website here.

Sadly,  "Snowflake" Bentley died as a result of his work.  He contracted pneumonia after walking for miles through a blizzard to capture more photographs of snowflakes.  He passed away just two days before Christmas in the year 1931.

"Snowflake" Bentley at work


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mothers and Sons

The Sepia Saturday prompt for this week is a beautiful photograph of Princess Marie-Gabrielle of Bavaria in a loving embrace with her son Prince Luitpold taken sometime during the second decade of the twentieth century.   The prompt reminded me of all of the photo sessions I have had with my children through the years.   My husband and I both enjoy taking pictures of our children and I am convinced we have thoroughly documented each of their lives!  There were many photos of my son and I in our collection that I could have chosen to match what I saw as this week's theme:  the loving bond between mother and son.   Rather than look for a photo from my own life, I decided to look instead for a photograph of my father with  his mother.  My father was born in 1917, so a baby picture with his mother would represent a comparable era to the photo of this Bavarian Princess and her son and would thus be apropos.

My father's mother was the strength of his family.    Born in Tennessee in 1891, she  traveled west as a youngster with her family in a covered wagon pulled by oxen.   They settled in Oklahoma territory at the turn of the century living initially in a half-dugout earthen home as was common for folks in the area.  Like her father, she became a school teacher when she came of age, and continued a career in the classroom until she became too old to go on.   She and my grandfather were married in 1915.  While he took up farming initially, my grandfather later tried his hand at other businesses (insurance, construction, etc).  He was not a good businessman and did not manage money well over the years, which was most likely a strong factor in my grandparents' eventual separation.   My grandmother's teaching career became the sole source of income for the family.

My grandmother was not Bavarian and was definitely not a princess,  but she and my dad had a very strong and loving relationship throughout their lives.   He often talked of her with both pride and respect.   In his later years he wrote of her, "She had a tremendous love and loyalty to her family absolutely seeing and accepting no wrong in any family member."  He went on to say, "She possessed tremendous strength both physically, mentally and emotionally.  She was a fighter for her beliefs, stubborn in her thoughts, loyal church member, proud of community."  He concluded "one could only be proud to have her as a mother.  Hats off Mother, to a life well spent."

When I came across the photograph below I chuckled and thought it would be a perfect selection for this week's post.  It shows that while relationships can be strong and loving, there will always be little spats along the way.  Oh, what I would give to know how old he was and what restriction my grandmother may have placed on my father the day he did this:

Please click Sepia Saturday to visit the other posts for this week.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Muddled Comanche Command at a Wichita Village

U.S. Army Major Earl Van Dorn was anxious to fulfill his new orders to march against the Comanches.    The Texas Rangers had been having success pursuing maurading Indians deep into their own home territory.  The U.S. Army, embarassed by their own lack of success, had recently authorized a change in strategy in Texas: commanders no longer had to wait and launch responses to attacks, but could now emulate the Rangers and actually initiate action against the Indians, even if it meant going deep into Comancheria.   Anxious to follow through on the Army's new orders, Van Dorn set up Camp Radziminski in Indian Territory (near present day Highway 183) along Otter Creek in what later became Kiowa County, Oklahoma.  He had four companies of 2nd Cavalry troops and a unit of friendly Indian scouts captained by young Lawrence Sul Ross along with him.  Not long after Camp Radziminski was established, Ross's scouts returned with news that they had located the  Comanches they were pursuing at a nearby camp beside a village of Wichita Indians along Rush Creek.   Dorn ordered his troops to head out right away in order to conduct a stealth attack on the located Comanches.

Wichita encampment (

Comanche encampment (Fort Sill Museum photo)

The Comanche and Wichita people were peacefully mingling at that time in their encampments at Rush Creek, unaware of any danger from the U. S. Army -- and with good reason, too.  In addition to the return of stolen horses as a peace offering to the Wichita,  the Comanche had also just concluded a peace treaty agreement with the U.S. Army's Post Commander W. Prince at nearby Fort Arbuckle.

Battle of Wichita Village

Unaware of this treaty at Fort Arbuckle, Van Dorn's troops launched a brutal attack against the camping Indians at dawn on October 1, 1858.   According to S. C. Gynne in his excellent book Empire of the Summer Moon, "Ross and his (scouts) had run off the horses, so most of the warriors were forced to fight on foot.  It was more of a massacre than a fight.  Two hundred blue-coated troops were in the village, blasting away into the tipis, while the Indians frantically tried, as they aways did, to cover the retreat of their families.  Seventy Indians were killed, untold numbers wounded....The army burned one hundred twenty tipis, along with all the Comanche ammunition, cooking utensils, clothing, dressed skins, corn, and subsistence stores.  Those who escaped had only the clothing on their back, and many were afoot, since the soldiers had captured three hundred horses, too" (p. 171).  

Van Dorn and Captain Ross were both severely wounded in the battle suffering from arrow and bullet wounds.   Too injured to be moved right away, they were left lying on the field for five days after the battle until they recovered sufficiently to be taken back to Camp Radziminski.  The desperate Wichitas who survived the attack were left with no food, housing or clothing.  They eventually found their way on foot to Fort Arbuckle for assistance.  Van Dorn, a West Point graduate, later joined the Civil War as a Confederate General.  A renowned womanizer, Van Dorn died during the war at the hand of a spurned husband.   Sul Ross, who also became a Confederate General, was elected the 19th Governor of the State of Texas in 1887, and later became President of Texas A&M University.

The Army continued to operate Camp Radziminski as an outpost for a little over a year after the Battle of Wichita Village.   It was abandoned in 1859 and was taken over later as a temporary post by the Texas Rangers before being abandoned altogether.    The memory of Camp Radziminski may be lost to all but those few who happen upon the little roadside marker off Highway 183, but the story of  the Battle of Wichita Village is not forgotten.

Courtesy Exploring Oklahoma History

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Permit to Drive!

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt, "The Greatest Chevrolet in Chevrolet History," is a colorful illustration of a couple setting off for a pleasant drive in their automobile.   I rummaged through my old family photos to see what I might find that would inspire my submission for the week.   I found my mother's old high school scrapbook from the 1930s and there it was:

Permit to Drive!
It was a picture of my mother preparing to get behind the wheel of the car after getting her first permit to drive!   I am not familiar enough with cars to determine if it was a Chevrolet model or not, but it was definitely not "shiny and new" like the one in this week's prompt.   In fact, on a nearby spot in the scrapbook was another picture of her brother with the same car.

It appears to me that it may have been necessary for him to do some repair work or adjustments on the car.  Perhaps it was to get it started for her on that very same day.

I vividly remember the day I first got my license to drive.  I passed the driving test at the driver's bureau with ease: parallel parking, three point turns, manual turn signals with my arm, etc.   Later that afternoon, after much begging, I finally got permission to take my brother's car out for a short drive by myself.   His car was a beige Chevrolet Corvair.  (Yes, the very same model that activist Ralph Nader demonized).   I drove in a big circle around a neighborhood park then headed up the hill intending to ride by a friend's house.   We didn't have cell phones at that time, of course, so I had called her from home before I left to let her know my plans hoping she would watch for me to ride by from her house.  I was finally sixteen!  I was so proud and felt so grown up!

Suddenly, I was spinning in circles on the road.   I had no idea what had happened.  My hands were frozen in place on the steering wheel until well after the car came to a stop heading in the opposite direction and on the opposite side of the road.   I had been hit broadside by another car.   It was not long before a policeman arrived to evaluate the scene.  He spoke to the other driver first and then came over to take my information.   When he looked at the merely-hours-old driver's license I produced he paused.   I must have been a pitiful sight.  Without writing anything down he told me to go home right away and come in and file my report on another day.

If only my brother had been so kind.....

Check this week's Sepia Saturday site to see other's posts inspired by "The Greatest Chevrolet in Chevrolet History."

Thursday, November 17, 2011


George Catlin, 1834:  Comanche Feats of Horsemanship
The path south on Highway 183 through Kiowa County traverses a small section of the land known during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as "Comancheria."    The Comanche people that lived there have been likened to migrating birds: they would go south to stay warm for the winter months and travel north to stay cool during the summer season searching all the while for the herds of buffalo which provided their primary source of food, fuel, housing  and clothing.   Comanches were among the first Native Americans to acquire horses brought to North America by the Spaniards.   They mastered animal husbandry over the years and became legendary for their horsemenship.  It was reported that they could ride, full-speed, on their battle-trained ponies while accurately shooting their weapons, even while crouching horizontally off to the side for protection.  Additionally, Comanches mastered violent warfare.  Their constant migration pattern put them into frequent territorial battles with the Spanish, the Mexicans and the other plains Indian tribes as well as the outposts of white settlers claiming more and more land in the 1800s.  They were known to ruthlessly torture defeated enemies on the battlefield in horrid ways.   Human scalps were trophies of the battle and a Comanche warrior's prestige was often measured by the number of scalps he collected.

Cries for protection grew with the westward expansion of white settlements into the plains.  U. S. troops were sent to man a string of forts that were built throughout the area.  This protection was primarily defensive.  The newly formed state of Texas, particularly effected by Indian raids, had organized their own state troops to protect its citizens.  These troops were willing to go on the offensive against the Indian raids.  They would ride well into the Comancheria to attack -  they were The Texas Rangers.   The U.S. Army commander at Texas' Fort Belknap later got permission to do the same.  This was a clear shift in military strategy.  He sent Major Earl Van Dorn with four Companies of the 2nd Cavalry to pursue the Comanches into their territory north of the Red River.  In 1858 the troops went north and established a camp along Otter Creek near a part of the highway between the present day Mountain Park and Snyder communities in Oklahoma.  They named their base for this offensive Camp Radziminski after a fallen member of their Cavalry.

Camp Radziminski Marker (from

There were never any permanent structures built at Camp Radziminski.  It was to be used as an outpost to launch raids into Indian Territory.  The site was abandoned by the Army just a little over a year later.  Today there are only a few piles of stones left at the site of the encampment - stones and a lone highway marker.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1911 - One Hundred Years Ago Where I Was Born

I have struggled with this week's Sepia Saturday prompt.  I struggled, in part, because I wanted my topic to be "special" in honor of the special achievement of reaching the celebrated 100 mark.   In my search for a topic, however, I could find no obvious connections with my own family photos or history.  My regular blog posts have been chronologically retracing the places where I have lived or traveled through in my life.  Since I am relatively new to blogging,  my "virtual travels" have all been within the state of Oklahoma thus far, so I decided to focus on something that happened in this state where I was born.  My topic, I concluded, would be something about  Oklahoma, in the year 1911 - one-hundred years ago. 

 My struggle was compounded, however, when I followed this lead and came upon a topic that was quite disturbing to me.    I tried to set it aside and look elsewhere for a different topic, but I was haunted by it, and in the end I could not leave the horrible story behind.   

Okemah, Oklahoma 1911

On the afternoon of May 25, 1911 in the little town of Okemah, Oklahoma it was reported that early that same day Deputy Sheriff George Loney had attempted to arrest Mr. A. Nelson, an African-American, for stealing cattle.  During the arrest Loney was shot and left to bleed to death outside the Nelson house.  It was believed that Loney was shot by Lawrence Nelson, the suspected thief's teenage son.  Laura Nelson, however, Lawrence's mother, claimed that it was she who had fired the fatal shot.   Laura, her husband and their son Lawrence were put under arrest and jailed.  It is not clear what became of their baby during this ordeal.  Mr. Nelson pleaded guilty to larceny of cattle and was shipped off to serve a two year sentence in the state prison.  Laura and Lawrence were charged with murder and were held in the county jail in Okemah.

Three weeks after the murder of Deputy Loney a mob of 40 armed (white) men arrived at the Okemah jail.  They tied up the jailer and stole away with prisoners Laura and Lawrence Nelson.  The Sheriff,  J.Dunnegan, sent several search parties out when he learned of the incident, but no traces of the prisoners or the mob could be found.   No traces could be found, that is, until the next morning when a crowd was seen gathering on a bridge over the nearby North Canadian River to observe this scene:

Postcard:  Crowd gathered to observe Lawrence Nelson (on left) and Laura Nelson (on right) hanging from bridge.

The photo, above, was taken by the local photographer George H. Farnum.  It is one of several photographs he took of the scene, including close-ups of Lawrence and Laura taken from a boat while floating below their corpses hanging from the bridge.  Lawrence's hands were bound and his pants were down to his ankles while Laura's hands were free in this picture.   Farnum made these photos into postcards that were actually sold locally as souvenirs.   The U.S. Post Office had recently (1908) declared it illegal to send postcards with pictures of lynchings through the mail.   Apparently, these postcards functioned as gruesome "trophies" to share the event with others. 

Included in this crowd at the bridge was a local man named Charley Guthrie.  An active member of the local Ku Klux Klan,  he would later tell stories of this lynching scene to his son, Woody,  who was born  in Okemah the following year.  Woody (Woodrow Wilson) Guthrie, unlike his dad, would grow up to be an outspoken advocate for the downtrodden and disenfranchised in America through his music.  

Following is a video of the song "Don't Kill My Baby & My Son" performed by artist Brooke Harvey.

This song is one of three songs written by the aclaimed folk artist Woodie Guthrie about the lynching of Laura and Lawrence Nelson.  This haunting version stands as a moving requiem to this shameful event in Okemah, Oklahoma of 100 years ago.

Please click on the link to check out the many other Sepia Saturday posts for the 100 Celebration this week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Lennox Municipal Band

When I first saw the prompt on this week's Sepia Saturday post my thoughts went immediately to Lennox, South Dakota, home of the much acclaimed Lennox Municipal Band!   Lennox is a small community of about 2,000 people situated in the midst of Lincoln County's pasture and farmland in the southeast corner of the state.   The village, originally known as "Ben Lennox" in honor of an official of the S.S. Merrill, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, began as a tiny isolated prairie community of less than 100 immigrants and adventurers in the Dakota Territory during the mid to late 1800s.  According to the city's website, "In 1885 Lennox boasted the following establishments: 4 general stores, 2 blacksmith shops, 3 saloons, 2 hotels, 1 harness shop, 2 boot and shoe shops, 1 livery barn, 2 hardware stores, 1 lumberyard, 1 clothing store, 2 millinery shops, 1 ball room, 1 drug store, 1 physician, 1 attorney, 3 churches, 1 school building, 1 butter packing house, and a cornet band!"

Lennox Band of 1887

The Lennox Band was organized in this little community in 1883.  A young farmer, Mr. A. B. Jacobs, also known as "Whiskers," (who curiously has no whiskers in this photo) took up the baton as band leader right away and was instrumental in its ongoing success and growth.   The original eight charter members of the band pooled their money to buy a set of second hand instruments from Garden City Music Company in Chicago for $60.   Jacobs is credited with teaching many members of this little community band to not only enjoy their band music, but to learn to play instruments with which they had little or no experience.  

My grandfather, Selmer Stubsten,  was one of those novice musicians whom Jacobs taught to play.  The son of Norwegian immigrants to the Dakota Territory, my grandfather had had no formal musical training.  He joined the band at the age of 30 and took up the tenor saxophone under Jacobs' tutelage.  The earliest photo of the band I could find that included my grandfather was in 1917.   He can be seen in the middle row on the left in the picture below:

Lennox Municipal Band 1917

In 1958 the Lennox Municipal Band held a big celebration for its "Diamond" anniversary denoting 75 years of continuous service to the community.   Included in the celebration was a tribute to my grandfather for his 50 years of continuous participation in the band.  (My grandfather was 80 years old by that time.)

My family was living in Oregon in 1958, and I was very young, so I have absolutely no memory of this event.   We did go on a train trip to South Dakota around that time, however, so I wonder if we were actually able to attend this concert that honored him.  (I would like to think that my mother, especially, was able to be there for him).  

Today The Lennox Municipal Band is still going strong, which means that it has now been in continuous formation for 128 years!  The band, of course, still holds the title as "the longest running municipal band in the state of South Dakota".  The city now supports the band financially, however, and in 1963 the community actually built a new Bandshell in the local park so the Municipal Band could perform concerts for this little community "in style"!    

Jacobs Bandshell of Lennox

Please check out the many other interesting Sepia Saturday blog posts this week.