Lessons of History (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 28)

“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are. ”

~ David McCullough

Grateful to those who recognize the lessons that history leaves for us, and have the courage to speak truth to power. May they continue to do so, and may we always find the strength to join them.

~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Opposites (The Blue and the Gray)

This past weekend coincided with the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.  The Union versus Confederate armies represented the opposing sides in the Civil War, clashing mightily, battle after battle, with both sides sustaining massive loss of life not only from combat casualties but even more so from disease and illness during the lengthy war.

Cavlary Combat 20160703 1

Cavalry Rebel Yell 20160703 1

The annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg brings the 3-day battle to life, with cavalry, infantry, artillery, living history, and sutlers camps. Intertwining visits to the reenactment site with exploration of the National Park Service’s Gettysburg National Battlefield Park over the course of this anniversary weekend was a thought-provoking immersion in a significant chapter of our nation’s history.

Cavalry Union Charge 20160703 1

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. ~ Maya Angelou

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Opposites” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Opposites.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close Up (the Family Reunion Edition)

On July 26, 2015, in a small town in Iowa, the descendants of some of the original Benton County homesteaders gathered for the 100th annual Brody Family Reunion.  One of the treasures brought to the reunion by a distant cousin was an almost 100-year old postage stamp quilt, hand-quilted by my great-great grandmother.  At any distance, the quilt is an amazing piece of handiwork.

Hand-quilted postage stamp quilt

With each closer look, one’s appreciation for the love and attention paid to this heirloom only grows.

Hand-quilted postage stamp quilt

What appears at first glance to be a precise, machine-measured covering is a collection of meticulous, individually-embroidered stitches.

Hand-quilted postage stamp quilt

Close up, one can marvel at the slightest variation from each carefully placed stitch – the thousands of tiny segments of thread, woven in and out of the fabric, through the hundreds of postage stamp-sized fabric squares.

Hand-quilted postage stamp quilt

This quilt was just one of many special mementos shared during the reunion weekend, as family members old and new became acquainted or reacquainted again.  Members gathered from all over Iowa, and traveled from as far as California, Washington, Alabama, and Utah, to name a few states.  Babies were cradled in the arms of those approaching their own century mark.  The potluck table was loaded with salads and cupcakes and pies, as the aroma of the roasted pork and ham filled the church hall.  Professions and vocations ran the gamut, as did political beliefs, spanning both ends of the spectrum.

Over 100 years, the family tree grows many branches, each still drawing strength from the original trunk.  That old wide-arching tree, just like the arms-length view of the hand-crafted quilt, have a lot in common as illustrative symbols of the family tree and relation’s ties. They remind us that just like no two branches are quite the same, and each carefully pieced quilt may have some slight variations or imperfections, we have much more in common than we even want to admit at times.

We are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends and community members, wanting the best for those we care about, and feeling pain when we lose those we love. We may talk a little different, check a different box in the voting booth, spend our leisure time in different ways, but we are family.  Pull one thread, and you find it’s connected to the rest of the quilt.  Find a calico quilt block in this corner, and sure enough in an opposite corner you might find a similar pattern.  Maybe they don’t match exactly, but they coordinate closely enough to complement each other and complete the pattern that is so pleasing to the eye from afar.  If the quilter used the same fabric for each block, how dull that finished bedcover would be!  It is the diversity of pattern and contrast in color that create the fascinating beauty of the hand-pieced quilt.

Urbana Cemetery - Urbana, Iowa

I prepared a press release for local news outlets, and share it with you here to provide additional background information on the woman behind the quilt and the enduring tradition of the Brody gatherings:

Hugh and Joanna (Osborn) Brody established their homestead in Polk Township, just a couple miles south of Urbana, shortly after the Osborn family moved to the area in 1840.  Joanna Brody was the guest of honor at the annual family reunions, which were held in the Urbana area every summer beginning on August 24, 1916, with 125 family members in attendance.  On July 26, 2015, over 200 descendants of Hugh and Joanna Brody are expected to gather at St. Mary’s Church in Urbana for the 100th Annual Brody Family Reunion. 

The September 6, 1921 edition of The Vinton Eagle published Joanna Brody’s obituary, “Benton’s Oldest Settler is Dead.” She had lived 78 of the last 81 years on the same homesteaded farm, before coming to her final resting place in Kisling Cemetery.  After coming by wagon from Indiana, the Osborn family landed in Center Point.  Hugh Brody married Joanna Osborn in 1843, and they had 11 children.  At the time of Joanna’s death in 1921, she was reported to leave 50 grandchildren, 90 great-grandchildren, and 19 great-great-grandchildren.

Hugh and Joanna Brody and family
Hugh and Joanna Brody and adult children, with my great-great grandmother, Rebecca Jane Brody, sitting at the far right of the front row.
Brody kith and kin from all over the country are again returning to the area, filling the Urbana Inn & Suites for the weekend to reconnect (or to connect for the first time!) and share family history stories, photos and other memorabilia.  A new page will be added to the reunion record book that was purchased in 1917, recording minutes from the business meeting at the reunion, and continuing the tradition of documenting family births, deaths, marriages, as well as special program features of this year’s get-together. 

1939 Brody family reunion
Brody Family Reunion, ca. 1939
The words from that first reunion in 1916 ring as true today as they did 100 years ago, from the “Address of Welcome” delivered by Reverend David Shepherd, son-in-law of matriarch Joanna Brody: 

“Man is a social being and it is meet and proper that there by family reunions of all family relatives from time to time, which has been the case with well-ordered families for ages past and will continue to be as long as time shall remain.  These reunions are calculated to draw the relatives closer together, though each family are doing for themselves. By these reunions we become more interested in one another’s welfare and thereby preserve a spirit of unity and love for the best well-being of all.”

The unity and love of the Brody family lives on. 

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  “Close Up” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

The Invention of Wings: The Rest of the Story

Charleston is a city overflowing with history, culture, and beauty …. not to mention an endless abundance of memorable food options.  A long weekend with camera in hand could yield months of blog posts at the rate I have been posting lately!  First, though, I want to share with you an opportunity that is available only through the 26th of October, as part of the Preservation Society of Charleston’s Fall Tour of Homes:  the “Invention of Wings” walking tour.  If you are in the Charleston area during the month of October, I urge you to order your tickets now for this tour that is certain to sell out as the word spreads about it.

2019 Update: This walking tour now appears to be scheduled on request through the Grimké Sisters Tour website at http://grimkesisterstour.com/.

Charleston's Unitarian Cemetery

The two-hour tour was led by Lee Ann Bain, who has put together the tour based on Sue Monk Kidd’s popular novel, The Invention of Wings.  The walking tour expands on the historical fiction profiles of the Grimké sisters to illustrate pre-Civil War life in Charleston, and goes beyond with fascinating research regarding interesting extended family stories and perspectives of both slaves and slave owners during the periods covered in the novel and beyond.

Charleston tour guide Lee Ann Bain in front of the Sword Gate

Shortly before I left for the special weekend with my mom and sister, Charleston-area blogging friend Tina, over at Travels and Trifles, sent me a link to an article in the Post and Courier discussing the Grimké sisters and the tour we were scheduled to take just a few days later.  I was reminded of the community we build through our blogs, and was touched by Tina’s thoughtfulness in following up with me, after previously sharing other Charleston travel recommendations.  The Post and Courier article provides a brief overview of the Grimké sisters’ lives, but the rest of the story will have to be shared on the tour — no spoilers here!

Charleston street scenes

The tour winds through some of Charleston’s noteworthy neighborhoods, with architectural details galore. Many of the buildings captured in these photos are significant to the story of the Grimké sisters and their family, and tour guide Lee Ann Bain uses these structures as the backdrop to bring to life the history behind them.

Scenes from the Invention of Wings walking tour, Charleston

In between historical stops, the walk takes you through postcard-perfect settings.

Charleston , South Carolina street

From the tour’s start in the Unitarian Cemetery (pictured above), to the stop in front of the First Scots Presbyterian Church, the story of the Grimké sisters is intertwined with the story of Charleston.

First Scots Presbyterian Church, Charleston, SC

Charleston's Heyward-Washington House

The majestic oaks define the landscape everywhere you look.

Charleston Grimke 20141005 15

The tour also weaves in the critical history of the slaves that were brought to Charleston against their will, and provides some insight into how the abolitionist movement changed the landscape of the South for men and women.

Charleston's Slave Mart Museum

As the 2-hour tour wraps up, you can catch a glance of the little pink house on Chalmers Street that holds more history than almost any other in the South — this pre-1700 structure hosted a brothel and a tavern at various times, and was an important fixture in Charleston’s colorful past.

The Pink House on Chalmers Street ~ Charleston, SC

Lee Ann Bain and her tour partner Carol Ezell-Gilson worked incredibly hard to put together a fascinating “behind-the-scenes” look at the family introduced to so many through Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, The Invention of Wings.  I would love to share with you all the interesting details they researched and pulled together for the tour, but I think it is only fair you go on the tour yourself to hear the rest of the story firsthand.

Charleston tour guide Lee Ann Bain at the end of the Invention of Wings tour

If you do not have the chance to take the Preservation Society’s tour, be sure to stop by the storefront on King Street and view the painting on display this month, created by Carol Ezell-Gilson from photos of the Grimké sisters. If you are not able to enjoy the Preservation Society’s special events this month, the Society’s gift and book shop on King Street is a worthwhile stop for any Charleston traveler throughout the year.

Ciao! ~ Kat

For more information on the Preservation Society of Charleston’s Fall Tour of Homes and special walking tours, including the Invention of Wings tour by Lee Ann Bain and Carol Ezell-Gilson, visit the Society’s website:  http://www.preservationsociety.org.



Glensheen Festival of Fine Art and Craft ~ Duluth, Minnesota

Clear blue, sunny skies, with temperatures in the mid-70’s, and a light breeze off Lake Superior in the northern Minnesota city of Duluth — the artists at the Glensheen Festival of Fine Art and Craft could not have asked for a better day to kick off the 18th annual weekend event.  The festival takes place on the grounds of the historic Congdon estate, which is situated on over seven acres fronting Lake Superior.

Glensheen, the Congdon family estate ~ Duluth, MN (Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)
Glensheen, the Congdon estate built in 1908
(Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)

The estate’s 39 rooms still contain many of the original furnishings and decor which were present at the turn of the century.  Touring the mansion in December, when it is decorated for Christmas and the holiday season, is particularly lovely.  However, the gardens and grounds on a summer day like today are picturesque, with Lake Superior’s sparkling waters as the backdrop.

Glensheen's gardens looking toward Lake Superior (Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)
Glensheen’s gardens looking toward Lake Superior
(Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)

Paintings, jewelry, pottery, fiber arts, handmade soaps . .  . and one of my cats’ favorite Minnesota art fair vendors, Marvelous Melissa!  We came across Marvelous Melissa at another area art fair, and my cats soon endorsed the recycled wool stuffed cat beds and wool scrap catnip mice as their favorites.  I also appreciate a small business that does good deeds by making a donation to the Duluth spay-neuter clinic, Northland Spay/Neuter, with each cat bed purchase.

Marvelous Melissa at the Glensheen Art Fair (Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)
My cats thanked me for stopping by Marvelous Melissa’s space and picking up a new trio of catnip mice.
(Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)

The festival also features some classic crafts — including a blacksmith demonstration and a glassblower.

Blacksmith at Glensheen Festival of Fine Art and Craft ~ Duluth, MN (Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)
Blacksmith demonstration at the Glensheen Festival
(Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)

The estate originally included large vegetable gardens, and some of those gardens have been replicated as part of the estate’s ongoing operations.  The vegetable gardens provided a quaint spot for one of the festival’s vendors, Simply Nuts.

Glensheen estate's vegetable gardens in the background (Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)
Glensheen’s vegetable gardens in the background
(Photo: Kat B./travelgardeneat)

The Glensheen Festival of Fine Art and Craft is a pleasant way to enjoy the grounds of the Congdon estate and pique your interest for a full tour or repeat visit. And, any time you can enjoy a glorious summer day by the shores of Lake Superior is a good one.