Friday, January 17, 2020

Juliette Gordon Low – Founder of the Girl Scouts

 
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote. During the year, we will explore the lives and deaths of some of the more well known women in American history.
 
By Joy Neighbors

Juliette Gordon Low

It was summer in England in 1911 when Juliette Gordon Low joined the Girl Guide movement. The group was based loosely on British general Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout troupes. At the time, the Boy Scouts had more than 40,000 members in England and the U.S. Later that year, Low organized a girls group in Scotland in a similar vein and called it the Girl Guides Patrol. Members were taught how to spin wool, care for livestock, and read a map. Girls also learned how to do drills and how to set up a camp. By the end of the year, Low had formed two more groups in England.


When Low returned to the United States in 1912, she decided to form a U.S. Girl Guide troupe in Savannah, Georgia. With 18 members, she searched for ways to teach girls practical skills and independence. Low felt this would be an organization that would help girls build character and self-reliance.

There was competition in the form of the Campfire Girls. When Low invited the group to merge with her own, the leader, James E. West refused citing the Girl Scouts were teaching females to do gender-inappropriate things.

In 1913, the Girl Guides became the Girl Scouts. In 1915, official paperwork was filed and the name legally became Girl Scouts, Inc. Low served as the first president to a group of more than 2,400 girls.


By 1920, Low had stepped down as president of the Girl Scouts so she could continue working to get the group worldwide status. Low worked tirelessly to make the Girl Scouts an organization that promoted a girl’s self image and gave her the skills necessary to succeed in life.

In 1923, Low was diagnosed with breast cancer but kept it a secret. She tried numerous treatments and had several operations but all were unsuccessful.

Juliette Gordon Low died on January 17, 1927 in Savannah from the final stages of breast cancer. She was 66-years-old. Her casket was escorted to the church and graveyard by an honor guard of Girl Scouts. She was buried in her Girl Scout uniform with a note tucked into her pocket that read, “You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.

In 1979, Juliette Gordon Low was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

On May 29, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts, Low was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her “remarkable vision.” The medal also celebrates “her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.”

Peak membership in the Girl Scouts was recorded at 3.8 million in 2003. Today the number is roughly 2.6 million.


 

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Children’s Blizzard of 1888


By Joy Neighbors

It began on the wintry Thursday afternoon of January 12, 1888 in the Great Plains. For the past several days the weather had been snowy with brutally cold temperatures but it appeared a reprieve had been granted.  Temperatures were on the rise. Just a few hours out in the warmer weather would be a welcome relief before the next storm was due to hit later that day.



According to the Weather Bureau forecast that day. "A cold wave is indicated for Dakota and Nebraska tonight and tomorrow; the snow will drift heavily today and tomorrow in Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin.” Today, forecasters would call this the start of an Alberta Clipper.

Children had walked to school in the warmer weather and farmers took to the fields to see what damage the last storm had done. But by mid-morning, the snow began to fall again in the Dakotas. By noon, another storm had rushed in and temperatures had fallen so fast many teachers had already used up their allotment of wood for the day. With a blinding blizzard there was no way to get more. Desks and chairs were tossed on the fire in an attempt to keep frostbite at bay until help could arrive - and no one knew how long that would be.


In Minnesota, temperatures were just above freezing early that afternoon and many stepped out to enjoy the welcomed break. Around 3:00 clouds began furiously rolling in to the area and the wind increased quickly. By 3:30 one of the worst blizzards on record was already loose upon the state. The somewhat balmy afternoon had turned deadly cold with temps plummeting 50 to 60 degrees in a just minutes. They now registered in the negative 40s and 50s.

When teachers realized the severity of the situation, most kept children in the classrooms and schoolhouses. Those who had already ventured out were facing dire consequences.  The children in Nebraska and South Dakota fared the worst with an official death toll of 235 people – mostly children caught out in the storm who froze to death. Some reports said the number killed was closer to 500 people considering some folks in the country were not missed until the spring, and some bodies were not discovered until later in the year when all of the snow had melted. Not only was the human death toll high, the toll on livestock caught out in the storm was also extensive.

The storm took down Western Union telegraph lines, which stopped warnings from reaching other states in the path of the storm. Trains were stopped where they stood.  In the nine states and territories including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa, it was one of the worst winter storms to ever hit that area.


The weather the next day dawned clear and cold with snow drifts up to five feet tall and 30 feet wide in some places. The Children’s Blizzard was the tail end of six years of extreme weather for the region, which began in 1882. Forecasters had dubbed the freak weather, “The Little Ice Age.”

Friday, January 3, 2020

Four Great Genealogy Conferences to Attend in 2020


By Joy Neighbors


If your New Year's resolution is to attend more conferences and seminars this year; congratulations, that's a perfect way to make connections and stay up on what's happening in the world of genealogy. If you’re searching for genealogy conferences with the most bang for the buck, here are four recommendations to consider.

February 26-29, 2020

Let’s start with the largest genealogy conference in the world held right here in the U.S. Each year, Rootstech has a theme and this year will be about The Story of You. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, RootsTech offers an amazing line-up of presentations, events and technology. And this is one conference that’s aimed at you, regardless of if you’re new to genealogy, have some experience, or if you're a certified genealogist. There’s something for everyone with more than 300 breakout sessions, gala events and a Family Discovery Day on Saturday, February 29th.

If you’re searching for the latest, greatest technology in the genealogy world, this is your go-to place. Take time to wander the Exhibit Hall and get your questions answered by experts in the field.

One thing to note: Get your lodging reservations in soon. Some attendees reup their rooms from one conference to the next; so don’t wait to book a room. Salt Lake City is easy to get around in and with Uber and Lyft available, travel time is minimal to and from the Salt Lake Palace.

(Full disclosure, I will be speaking twice at RootsTech. One session is about Forgotten Records of Death, and the second is a one-woman performance on The Victorian Celebration of Death.) 





April 29 – May 2, 2020
This is another conference I have had the pleasure of speaking at and it is always educational, and delightful. This year’s theme is Unlocking the Pieces. Although as a state conference it is somewhat Ohio-centric, speakers and presenters cover a wide range of materials that appeal to the genealogist in all of us including national law in regard to genealogy, tracing African American ancestors and record analysis.

The OGS website offers attendees the chance to filter presentations by day, track or speakers so you can always be up-to-date on what is happening during the conference.

A member of the National Genealogical Society, the Ohio conference will be held at the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio. This is a family-friendly location with the Midwest’s largest indoor water park. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore between sessions without ever leaving the resort.


May 20 – 23, 2020
National Genealogical Society’s (NGS) Family History Conference is about Echoes of Our Ancestors. This conference is held around the country but this year it will also be in Salt Lake City, just one block from the Family History Library.

The NGS offers a fabulous opportunity to network with more than 2,0000 genealogists. Attendees have the chance to attend more than 150 presentations, many given by nationally recognized speakers. The Exhibit Hall offers a chance to discover the latest and greatest in the genealogy world from more than 80 exhibitors.

Salt Lake City is a friendly city with plenty of access to the other genealogy sites around town. Most downtown lodging is within an easy distance of public transportation, and for the hale and hearty, walking is always an option.


November 13-15, 2020
The Texas Genealogy Society will hold their 60th annual conference in November. Their theme is Remembering Your Heritage. More than 300 speakers will enlighten and encourage attendees in DNA technology, records and research, ethnic research topics and much more. 

Again, while Texas-centric in some sessions, this conference also offers topics that will resonate with everyone.

The conference will be held at the Omni Mandalay Hotel Las Colinas in Dallas.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon


Mattoon Illinois in the 1940s
Small towns across the country have their share of odd stories and urban legends, and Mattoon Illinois is no exception.  Located in the central part of the Prairie State, Mattoon is bordered by a sea of corn on the north and timberlands to the south. But in the 1940s, it became known for its “Mad Gasser.”
"Anesthetic Prowler" on Loose
 It all began the night of Friday, September 1, 1944 when Aline Kearney and her three-year-old daughter Dorothy Ellen were awakened by a sickening sweet smell. When Mrs. Kearney tried to get out of bed to investigate, she discovered that her legs and lower body were paralyzed. When her husband returned home from work at midnight, he saw a man prowling around the house and gave chase. Mr. Kearney reported that the man was extremely thin and dressed all in black. The next day police said that apparently a burglar was attempting to anesthetize his intended victims before breaking into their homes. Two other homes had also reported similar incidents that night.
Mad Gasser of Mattoon
Another resident, Urban Raef reported the next day that he was awakened by an odd smell in his bedroom on the night of August 31. Raef woke his wife who thought that maybe the pilot light had malfunctioned on the gas stove. When she tried to get out of bed her legs would not move. Raef was unable to help her because he became physically sick. Both attributed their problems to the strong smell.
Each night more incidents occurred and the next morning the local paper carried more stories about the “Anesthetic Prowler,” later dubbed the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon.”
 By September 5th, evidence was supposedly found. A Mattoon woman discovered a piece of white cloth on her porch that had an odd odor and caused her mouth and nose to burn when she inhaled it. That same night, another resident reported that gas was blown into an open bedroom window awakening them.
The symptoms of the attack were always the same: vomiting, a burning sensation in the mouth and nose, lightheadedness, problems breathing, and temporary paralysis of the legs.
The following Wednesday, September 6, seven more families had been gassed. By September 10, another half dozen residents had experienced the Mad Gasser’s attacks. Officials said that by the description of the smell, they thought that ether or chloroform was being used.
Reports were now coming into police headquarters at a fast pace and local police had no ideas what was happening or how to stop it. Their only clues included the white cloth, cut window screens and a woman’s footprints found outside some of the windows. Roadblocks were set up and armed patrols scoured the neighborhoods where the attacks occurred. Vigilante groups took to the streets in search of the culprit but no one was ever caught.
Police were baffled and claimed the incidents were the result of mass hysteria caused by the original news reports. The police chief suggested that any gaseous fumes could be coming from the Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine Plant in the city. (However no employees of the plant reported any of these symptoms during this time.) Police, tiring of the media frenzy, threatened that they would start arresting anyone who reported a gassing and then refused to submit to a medical exam. Only one more report was filed.
The final call came on Wednesday night, September 13 when a woman told police that she had seen a female dressed in men’s clothing skulking outside her house. However, there was no report of any odors. 
In all more than two-dozen people reported being disabled by gaseous fumes sprayed into their homes within the two week period.
Was there really a “Mad Gasser” in Mattoon during the late summer of 1944? Or was the theory of mass hysteria correct? University of Illinois psychology student Donald M. Johnson published a paper in 1945 suggesting that since the incidents occurred during the war when the men were off fighting, it could have been caused by mass hysteria brought on by paranoia, fear and delusions.
Others pointed to local resident and university student Farley Lewellyn who was studying chemistry. Lwellyn had been shunned by the small community for the suspicion of being a homosexual. Many suggested that the attacks were based on his “mental instability and pent up anger.”
Another theory is that residents reading the war news from Europe may have thought that the Nazi’s were attempting a poisonous gas attack in the heart of the U.S. – an area that was supposedly safe from attack.
Botetourt County, Virginia
It is curious to note that similar events occurred in Botetourt County, Virginia from mid- December 1933 until February 3, 1934.  There too gas was used to immobilize residents and make them ill. Dubbed the “Anesthetic Prowler,” a man dressed in dark clothes was reported to have flooded several homes with an unknown gas that caused victims to choke, gag, experience weakness, headaches, dizziness and breathing problems. For unknown reasons, the gasser then moved to Roanoke County where the incidents continued from February 7 to February 12. Police received 19 calls within that six-day period, but again, no one was ever caught and the entire episode was listed as the result of mass hysteria. Was Mattoon's gasser a copycat?
To this day, no one has ever arrested for being the Mad Gasser. Who and what caused the illness of more than two dozen residents of Mattoon during those two weeks in early September 1944 remains unsolved.
~  Joy

Friday, June 14, 2019

Burma Shave Safety Reminder Jingles


It all began as an ad campaign in the 1920s when the brushless shaving cream Burma Shave decided to take advantage of the open road. Burma Shave was released in 1925 by the Burma-Vita Company in Minnesota. By 1947, more than 7,000 sets of signs could be found along the nation’s roads and byways in 45 states. Burma Shave had become the second-highest selling brushless cream. But sales began to drop in the 1950s, and by 1963 the last Burma Shave sign had been posted. By 1966, all were gone from the roadways.

The signage ad campaign was composed of four or five roadside signs that rhymed their message with the last sign bearing the name of the company – Burma Shave. Signs were posted about 100 feet apart for easy readability from cars traveling 35mph. The signs were always done in capital letters because they were easier to read when traveling down the road. Drivers and passengers found the signs to be entertaining and interesting - a welcome diversion along America’s byways.

In the late 1950s the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was developed. Roadways were kept in better shape and vehicle speeds were increased making it more difficult and dangerous for drivers to try to read the signs. 

When Phillip-Morris Company took over the company in 1963, the signs were discontinued upon advice to their attorneys. Television advertising also dealt a death knell to the signs because it was more economical to write a thirty second commercial than to write, paint and post signs around the country.

For the first couple of years, the ads were rather unimaginative. Here’s a verse from 1926:
SHAVE THE MODERN WAY
NO BRUSH
NO LATHER
NO RUB-IN
BIG TUB 35ç
DRUGSTORES
BURMA SHAVE

But by the 1930’s, the puns and rhymes were everywhere along the roads.

KEEP WELL
TO THE RIGHT
OF THE ONCOMING CAR
GET YOUR CLOSE SHAVES
FROM THE HALF POUND JAR
BURMA SHAVE

By 1939, roadside safety messages began to appear all over the country and continued until the end of the campaign in the early ‘60s. Here are some that reminded drivers in  a humorous way that the Grim Reaper was never far away. 

HER CHARIOT RACED
AT EIGHTY PER
THEY HAULED AWAY
WHAT HAD BEN HUR

ALTHOUGH INSURED
REMEMBER, KIDDO
THEY DON’T PAY YOU
THEY PAY YOUR WIDOW


TRAIN APPROACHING
WHISTLE SQUEALING
PAUSE! AVOID THAT
RUNDOWN FEELING


SPRING HAS SPRUNG
THE GRASS HAS RIZ
WHERE LAST YEAR’S 
CARELESS DRIVER IS


PROPER DISTANCE
TO HIM WAS BUNK
THEY PULLED HIM OUT
OF SOME GUY’S TRUNK


AROUND THE CURVE
LICKETY-SPLIT
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL CAR
WASN’T IT?


VIOLETS ARE BLUE
ROSES ARE PINK
ON GRAVES OF THOSE
WHO DRIVE AND DRINK


HE TRIED TO CROSS
AS FAST TRAIN NEARED
DEATH DIDN’T DRAFT HIM
HE VOLUNTEERED


ANGELS WHO GUARD YOU
WHEN YOU DRIVE
USUALLY RETIRE
AT SIXTY-FIVE


PASSING CARS
WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE
MAY GET YOU A GLIMPSE
OF ETERNITY


IF DAISIES ARE
YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER
KEEP PUSHIN’ UP
THOSE MILES-PER-HOUR


HE LIT A MATCH
TO CHECK GAS TANK
THAT’S WHY THEY CALL HIM
SKINLESS FRANK


YOU CAN DRIVE
A MILE A MINUTE
BUT THERE IS NO
FUTURE IN IT


SAW THE
TRAIN AND
TRIED TO
DUCK IT
KICKED FIRST
THE GAS
AND THEN
THE BUCKET


HARDLY A DRIVER
 IS NOW ALIVE
WHO PASSED
ON HILLS
AT 75


DROVE TOO LONG
DRIVER SNOOZING
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
IS NOT AMUSING


SPEED WAS HIGH
WEATHER WAS NOT
TIRES WERE THIN
X MARKS THE SPOT


AT INTERSECTIONS
LOOK EACH WAY
A HARP SOUNDS NICE
BUT ITS HARD TO PLAY

And the one everyone remembers:

IF YOU DON’T KNOW
WHOSE SIGNS THESE ARE
YOU HAVEN’T DRIVEN
VERY FAR
BURMA SHAVE

~ Joy


















Friday, June 7, 2019

Worth a Visit: Gill's Funeral Practices Exhibit


The small town of Washington Indiana has a nostalgic feel with laundry drying on the clotheslines, quilting parties still in vogue, and horse and buggies traveling the roadways. More than 800 Old Order Amish reside in Daviess County, which is home to one of the largest Amish settlements in the country. But that is not what spurred my visit this spring. As a Tombstone Tourist, I went in search of Gill’s Funeral Practices Exhibit.

Daviess County Historical Museum
Located in the former Masonic Lodge, the Daviess County Historical Society is home to this rare and interesting collection.The exhibit can be found on the fourth floor of the museum and “viewing” the historic equipment is available only with a guided tour you must request. But the artifacts on display show the amazing story of how funeral practices became accepted in our society.

             
The Parlor
The entire presentation is done quite tastefully and is suitable for families. In fact, it was interesting to see the reactions of my nine-year-old granddaughter Alessa as our guide carefully explained the procedures used in the 19th and 20th centuries to prepare a body for viewing and burial. Instead of being “icked out” by the equipment, she was fascinated and highly involved throughout the tour.

Casket with Window
Done in chronological order, the tour begins in the parlor of the deceased with a wooden casket complete with a viewing window to check for signs of life during the wake.




Portable Embalming
From there we continued down the hall to the bedroom where the death occurred. The portable table had been prepared and the equipment was set up to begin the preparation and embalming process.




Funeral Home Embalming Room




The embalming room set up for the early to mid-century funeral home is stark and clean with licenses on the wall and necessary tools at hand.




Funeral Parlor
A funeral parlor visitation room is filled with flowers and wooden seats from the past.

Zinc Casket
From there, you can get an up-close view into some of the different types of coffins that were available over the decades including one for an infant, a child and an adult along with coffin moving equipment. Two intriguing casket styles included a wicker coffin and a zinc casket.
 

Embalming during the Civil War
The exhibit was made possible by James Pirkle and the Gill Family Funeral Home, which has been doing business in the county for almost 150 years. In 1865, cabinet-maker Joseph Gill returned home to Washington after serving in the Civil War where embalming was introduced. Gill was hired by Bonham Brothers Furniture and Undertaking Company. 

Funeral Home
In 1892, Gill and Son opened their own funeral home in the city. The business moved several times in the next fifty years as the need for services increased. In 1974, the last of the Gill family retired from the business and sold the business to their funeral director and mortician, James Pirkle who has since retired. But today Gill Funeral Services continues as the oldest continuously operating business in the town.

Historic Downtown Washington
The Daviess County Historical Museum is located at 212 East Main in Washington, Indiana. If you’re traveling from Indianapolis, Indiana, its 114 miles, and from Louisville, Kentucky, it's 91 miles - well worth the trip, if you're a Tombstone Tourist.

While you’re there –
Oak Grove Cemetery
Be sure to visit Oak Grove Cemetery where two US Congressmen are buried. If you are a fan of tree stones or white bronze monuments, there are several located here. Plus, I have visited here three times and two of the three trips, all made during the day, I have left with unexplained occurrences happening.

Safe Travels!
 
~ Joy

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beware the Ides of March


Beware the Ides of March. This famous warning was issued by a soothsayer to Roman leader Julius Caesar. Caesar paid little attention to his demise and was murdered on March 15. But the date seems to draw interesting tragedies to it.
Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his thrown on March 15, 1917. NASA announced on March 15, 1988 that the ozone layer over Northern Hemisphere was depleting three times faster than predicted. And then there was the blizzard of the century …

March 15, 1941 had been a delightful day in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota. The sun had come out and the snow was beginning to melt. Spirits were high because spring couldn’t be far behind. It was Saturday night and local residents were enjoying a night on the town after a week of grim war news from Europe.
The weather forecast was typical for the area -snow with colder temperatures arriving overnight. No one knew that the weather system bearing down on the region would be remembered for decades as the Blizzard of the Century.                                                                          
It began with the wind – intensely cold wind that kept building until it sustained at 50 mph with bursts up to 85 mph. People were driving to activities when the winds hit. Reports indicated that temperatures dropped 20 degrees within 15 minutes that evening as artic air roared through bringing blizzard conditions. Many families froze to death in their vehicles or trying to find shelter. Snow drifts measured 7-feet high, some reaching up to 12-feet. When the storm had passed, 151 people had perished - 39 in North Dakota and 32 in Minnesota.
This freak storm brought about a necessary change in how blizzard watches and warnings were handled. No longer would Chicago weathermen issue alerts for regions outside the Windy City.  Local weathermen would begin to establish control over their region’s forecasting, and issue alerts and warnings as needed.
Here’s wishing you a calm and enjoyable Ides of March!
Joy