Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Swap Meet or Flea Market?

Flea market, swap meet. Are they the same thing? I always thought so. I thought they were like garage or yard sales on steroids. But after spending several winters in Texas and Arizona, I have decided that swap meets are just a large setting for shopping mall kiosk sales, small commercial spaces for new and/or popular items. This week we attended a flea market that truly was like garage and yard sales. Where do you think we are?

That's right. Wisconsin, home of the cheeseheads, Green Bay Packers fans. And we weren't in a dusty field or open building. We were in a forest.

What is big in Wisconsin? Fishing. These are antique trolling motors.

Lots of fishing poles. And most of them don't look like fly rods.

There were even fishing pool covers.

Look at these fishing lures.

You would only find birch bark baskets in the north woods.

There were lots of old and antique snow shoes and skis.

Old wooden boxes

Fun signs

Beautiful flower arrangements

The usual cute dogs

Of course, there were some commercial booths--or people whose collections have gotten out of control.

After sauntering along for an hour or two in the flea market, we escaped the crowds and walked a couple of miles on a beautiful hike/bike trail in St. Germain.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Learning from History

For the past couple of months or so, we have been visiting libraries, cemeteries and museums.  Much of the history we have been exploring concerns the Civil War, early pioneers in what was once considered the "west" and slavery.  Both John and I have always enjoyed history, but why this focus?  It's all about family, especially John's ancestors.

From 1865 to 1934, a former slave and Civil War veteran, Benjamin Franklin Robinson, shared his life with members of John's family. He was known as Uncle Ben.  Uncle was a term of respect after Civil War by whites for African Americans they valued. (We learned this fact while touring the Andrew Jackson estate near Nashville, TN.) This summer, we visited the Civil War battlefield at Franklin, Tennessee.  In 1864, Uncle Ben was a teamster in the Colored Troops at that battle.  History has a lot more meaning when you know, or know of, someone who was present during some historic event.

Uncle Ben first came to the Gans-Andrews family in 1865 in Olathe, Kansas.  William Gans was John's great-great grandfather.  The family story is that he came to the home and asked if he could work for the family in  return for a meal and a place to sleep for the night.  Over the years, we had wondered why he came to William Gans' home and why he was in Kansas.  In our research over the past few years, we have learned that Uncle Ben had enlisted in the Union Army in Kansas.  We also learned that William Gans, a minister in the christian Church, moved to Kansas in 1858 in the movement to assure that Kansas was admitted as a free state, not a slave state.  This was part of the result of the  1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act.  We wonder if Gans was a part of the Underground Railroad. Because of all of this family history, we have been interested in museums that concern slavery and the Underground Railroad, as well as Civil War sites.

We know Uncle Ben had been a slave.  We don't know how he received his freedom.  Did he escape?  Did he buy his freedom?  In one museum we visited this summer, we learned that Union troops freed slaves when they occupied Southern areas.  The slaves were considered  "contraband" property and immediately given their freedom.  So, we have even more options to consider regarding how he became free.

In Tennessee, we visited the Shiloh Battlefield National Historic Park.  Since then, we have been reading a series of books by  Phillip Bryant about soldiers from both sides that fought in that battle. A few weeks later, we found that one distant relative had fought and died at Shiloh.

In 1905, another of John's great-great grandfathers, Ray W. Andrews, died in the Old Soldiers and Sailor's Home (now known as a VA hospital) in Leavenworth, Kansas. He had been wounded in the Battle of Pea Ridge.  His application for a VA pension states that he was wounded by shrapnel in the Battle of Pea Ridge in Missouri.  Several years ago, we visited that battlefield.  In our travels this year, we stayed at an RV park in Parker's Crossroads, TN.  We toured a battlefield there, where we learned that the dried wood of the split-rail fences often shattered when hit by artillery shells.  The shrapnel from that wood caused many serious wounds.  Was Ray W. Andrews, John's ancestor, injured by wooden fence shrapnel?  We will probably never know.

During one museum visit, we learned that Abraham Lincoln received so many death threats after his election in 1860 that a private group of soldiers accompanied him on his journey to Washington, D.C. for inauguration.  They also stayed in the White House to protect him for some time.  This all fit in with another aspect of William Gans' history.  We had learned that Mrs. James Lane moved from Indiana to Kansas with the Gans family in 1858.  Her husband, General Lane, was a part of the militia that fought to make Kansas a free state.  He had served in the Indiana legislature and as a US senator from Indiana before moving to Kansas.  He and some members of the militia were the soldiers protecting Lincoln in 1861.

We have also learned about the early settlers in Ohio during our travel this summer.  Ohio became a state in 1803.  In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance had created the Northwest Territory, allowing Americans to settle the area northwest of the Ohio River, land that had previously been a part of Quebec, Canada. John's great-great-great grandfather came to Ohio in the year it became a state. We found Daniel's grave in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. Daniel's son William, born after the family came to Ohio, married a woman in Indiana. When she died, he returned to Indiana where his brother John was living, and met and married his second wife there, as well. Traveling to Indiana, we found marriage records, cemetery records and graves of that part of the family. Sometimes the best research must be done in the locations where ancestors lived. Many members of the same family tend to live and die and be buried together. Looking at the graves often fills in blanks that were left on the internet, like who some members married. "Unknown" dates of death can be filled in.

During our time in Shipshewana, Indiana, we visited the Menno-Hof Museum, where we learned the history of the Mennonite and Amish people. They left Germany because of persecution of all those who refused to be a part of the established state church. The Brethern was another group that fled that persecution and their beliefs are/were similar. That gave us more insight into the Gans family. These groups also were anti-slavery. George Gans, John's great-great-great-great grandfather, came to Pennsylvania from Germany with The Brethren. His son Daniel settled in Ohio in 1803; his son William moved to Kansas to help assure it would become a state that did not allow slavery. All of this research on family, Civil War and slavery is interrelated. Our travels, our research, our seemingly unrelated museum visits, all helped us understand more.

While staying outside Columbus, Ohio, we visited a number of cemeteries. One helped us to appreciate how things had changed since John's early ancestors had lived there. In 1830 and 1831 a great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother, Amasa and Polly Wiswell, were buried in the Kempton Cemetery. Seven years later, a great grandfather, Amasa Wiswell Jr., was also buried there. Since Ohio only became part of the US in 1787 and became a state in 1803, it couldn't have been very heavily populated in the 1830s. Today, the tiny cemetery (it is only about 1/4 of a city block square) is surrounded by a busy road and a condominium complex. Columbus is a major metropolitan area. Very few of the gravestones in the Kempton Cemetery are even legible. Marble deteriorates quickly. We had to rely on internet research to know the family member graves were there. It was sad, while at the same time, an emotional experience to make the visit.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Painters and Boats

Does this look like an artist's studio? We didn't think so. And, since earlier in the day we had seen someone sitting along Lake Michigan painting a sailboat in the shallow water, while we searched out lighthouses, we decided to ask this artist what he was doing. Tom Maakestad explained that he was one of the featured artists in the 2014 Door County Plein Air Festival. I knew that meant painting outdoors, but that was all. From the festival website I learned that in the mid 19th century, some artists began painting subjects from life and from nature, instead just painting scenes from antiquity and Biblical scenes.

Each day of the Door Country Festival, 40 artists were given a subject or location to paint. At the end of the week, the paintings are for sale. One day it was gardens, another fields. It was the bay the day we saw the painters. Other subjects were sunsets and farms.

This was the scene Tom was painting.

While walking further along the ship canal in Sturgeon Bay, we also saw two women painting this tug boat. Unfortunately, I didn't get their names.

These are two of this woman's paintings from earlier.

Across the water, there is a boat builder. Look at this custom luxury yacht that is having the interior work completed.

We also watched this draw-bridge across the ship canal open for the fire boat tour boat.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Door-kin It

We are in Door County, Wisconsin, where 11 lighthouses on Green Bay and Lake Michigan provide a way to learn about the county's rich maritime history. Yesterday, we went driving to find three of those lighthouses. The trip took us on numerous country roads and we came on this crane and structure which blocked the road.

As they slowly moved the roof structure down a road on the left, they revealed a truck with a whole stack of similar structures. We were glad we could squeeze around before they finished moving the whole load, or we would have been there all morning. They were building a house down the side road.

Our first stop was at an active Coast guard station at the Lake Michigan end of the Ship Canal.

According to Wikipedia:
The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal is a shipping canal connecting Sturgeon Bay on Green Bay with Lake Michigan, across the Door Peninsula, at the city of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, United States.[1][2]
Boat passing eastward through the Sturgeon Bay Canal in stormy weather (September 2013).

The canal is approximately seven miles in length, and consists of two parts: a dredged portion of Sturgeon Bay, and a 1.3-mile canal dug through the eastern side of the Door Peninsula. This shorter portion was dug by a private group headed by then-president of Chicago and North Western Railway, William B. Ogden, between July 8, 1872 and the late fall of 1881. Although smaller craft began using the canal in 1880, it was not open for large-scale watercraft until 1890.

There we saw the Ship Canal Light.

In 1881 work began on a light at the Lake Michigan end of the newly constructed ship canal, linking the town of Sturgeon Bay on Green Bay to Lake Michigan It was a white, open framed tower on the outer end of the north entrance pier. The focal plane of the sixth-order Fresnel lens in the lantern on the tower was 29' above the pier and 35' above the water. The light was white. In 1898 construction began on a double-walled steel tower, 78' high. The third-order Fresnel lens, with alternating red and white lights, was 107' above lake level.

Two fog signals were built in the 1880s and a light added at the entrance to the ship canal. In 1903 one fog signal and the light were consolidated in a building that is reached by an elevated walkway from the lighthouse.

Next, we drove north on the peninsula to Baileys Harbor and the Cana Island Lighthouse.

After parking, we walked a short distance over a raised causeway to the island.

The lighthouse was built in 1869 of Milwaukee brick and was the tallest brick structure in Door County. In the early 1900s, the brick was enclosed in protective steel cladding. The third-order Fresnel lens has been lit continuously since it was first lit, making it one of the few US lighthouses whose original lens is functioning as an active navigational aid.

I choose to climb the 97 steps to the top of the lighthouse. (John stayed on solid ground.) The spiral staircase is a little daunting, but really pretty.

This is a view from one of the port-hole windows out to Lake Michigan.

Looking up into the lens is interesting. It is illuminated by a single halogen light bulb that is about 2 1/2 inches long. There are three bulbs there and when one burns out, the mechanism automatically rotates to another bulb.

Here are the lighthouse grounds from the walkway around the lens.

And a family on the lake-shore, seen from the other side of the walkway.

A stone wall surrounds the lighthouse grounds. There are picnic tables for visitors to use today.

To learn more about the lighthouses of Door County, you can visit the Maritime Museum web site.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Not Fun

Driving through the Chicago suburbs to Wisconsin is not fun. The traffic is terrible.

The tolls are expensive. Even though we paid for the privilege to drive the road, it was really rough.

It may be the fastest route (that is what our GPS says), we still had to stop for toll stations--costing 85 cents, $2.80, $17.00 and probably others I can't remember.

Finally, we made it to Wisconsin. After driving through Milwaukee, we saw the beautiful, neat farms we remember from when we lived here in the 1980s.

We are glad to be here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Old Time Farming

Saturday there was a demonstration of old time farming methods in Shipshewana, so we went to see what they had.

Wait. Is it a steam train engine?

No, it's a thresher.

So is this.

The steam engine runs these belts, which in turn operate other machines. Like a saw mill.

In 2008 we volunteered at Oregon's White River Wildlife Refuge, where we had the opportunity to see the Dufur Threshing Days. You can read about threshing here.

Some of the old tractors in Shipshewana were very interesting.

Can you imagine how long it would take to build something if you first had to make the nails, one at a time?

How about pounding out a small coal shovel this way?

Here is an old washing machine powered by a gas engine. I'll bet there are people near Shipshewana who use a motor like this to run their clothes washer today.