Easter Greetings

The celebration of the arrival of spring began in ancient times.  The pagan goddess Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn and spring – bringing brighter and longer days.  She was also the goddess of fertility (eggs were a symbol of fertility and newborn chicks represent new growth).  Around the 2nd century AD, Christian missionaries ventured north and used existing pagan holidays as a way to convert people to Christianity.  They allowed people to continue their seasonal celebrations, but added Christian meanings to them, and gradually over time overtook the pagan meaning.  This is why the pagan goddess’s name Eoster – is now the name of the spring holiday Easter.  It is also why some of the symbols used to celebrate the pagan holiday are still seen today – brightly colored eggs, baby chicks, rabbits, and flowering plants.

Although eggs have always been a symbol of the season, the practice of delivering eggs was first introduced in German in the early 17th century and brought to the U.S. by Dutch settlers in the 1700s.  German children would make decorated nests for their eggs – which were filled with eggs and little gifts by the Easter bunny the night before (kinda like Santa).

We can really see the blend of seasonal and religious symbols in the holiday’s greeting cards.  Ancient Egyptians would exchange notes on papyrus – and this practice was also shared by Greek and Chinese cultures.  These would be much the same as handmade paper cards that were popular in the early 13th century.  But it wasn’t until postage stamps were introduced in the 1840s that greeting cards came into their own.

Cards became an extremely popular way to send personal messages – and with the availability commercial production – they were made on a mass scale.  Cards were made for all the holidays, but since Easter was mostly seen as a religious holiday, the use of greeting cards didn’t take off until the turn of the 19th century.  The Easter card was born in Europe when a stationer in Victorian England added a drawing of a rabbit to his greeting card.  Later cards included chickens, eggs, rabbits, the cross and more. Early Easter greetings were sent on postcards that featured Easter symbols or natural scenery.  Many were colorful and often embossed, or had gold cutouts.

According to American Greetings, Easter is the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, just behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  Here are a few from our collection…

And just for fun… here is a stereoscope card of a woman “Trying on the Easter Bonnet”.  Easter was also known as the holiday were it women would sport their new spring hat/bonnet.

steroscope-easter

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Funny Photos From The Lebens’ Collection

As we finish inventorying our collection of LeRoy Lebens’ photographic work, a whopping 32,617 images, we thought it would be fun to share some of the most entertaining images that we’ve found through the past year. Having taken photos for most everything you could imagine: weddings, portraits, advertising, and nature, just to name a few, Lebens caught a lot of interesting and funny moments. These are only a small selection of what we have found. If you are interested in finding out more about the LeRoy Lebens collection, come by and give us a visit at the Scott County Historical Society.

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Groom being pulled into the church by his fellow groomsmen (Joyce – Sames Wedding)
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Groom being carried up the stairs at St Mary’s Church for his wedding (Schmitt – Rosckes Wedding, 1972)
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Leroy Huth posing against a fence post (1966)
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Valley Players (1966)
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Just a posing clown (Circa-1965)
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Clown (Circa-1980)
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Ad for the “Barron Book Rest” (1960) Probably not the safest idea…
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Pirate
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Pirate
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Just a Jailbird (1965)

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Probably my favorite picture of the collection, a turkey dressed up with a doll’s head, named “Roy Turkey” (1963)
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Photo for a Friday the 13th calendar (1967)

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1967

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St. Patrick Hamlet

With St. Patrick’s day just ahead there is an obvious desire to want to write about it.  Instead of talking about the day itself, though, I would like to discuss the small hamlet in the Cedar Lake township named after that patron saint of Ireland.  St. Patrick, like so many aspiring towns of its time, never really grew bigger than a couple hundred people.  Today, St. Patrick is not more than three points of interest, clumped together on a stretch of road called Old Highway 13, and a few residences.  What is there has an interesting and long standing histories.

Prior to the intrusion of settlers, the area of St. Patrick was heavily forested land inhabited by members of the Sioux tribe.  The Sioux in this area lived primarily on a hill, referred to as Teepee Hill, at the time that settlers first arrived.  This hill served as both a village, with 50 bark teepees at the time settlers arrived, and as a sacred meeting place.  Nearby lakes were used for fishing.  The swamps and woods of the area also provided wild animals for fur and food.

The first white settlers of the area were of Irish decent, arriving in the early 1850s.  Ireland at the time, was suffering under the atrocities committed during the Great Famine.  Many families were fleeing  Ireland at this time to escape the combined problems of potato blight and gross mistreatment at the hands of the British government.  This resulted in large numbers of Irish immigrants arriving in North America.  The first settler to arrive to the area of St. Patrick was named Thomas O’Donnell.  Early on, a total of 65 Irish families ended up settling  in the area.  The area was then, and is still now, used primarily for farming.

These Irish families were of the Roman Catholic faith, hence the town’s name, and they held early church services in the cabin of one Thomas Quill beginning in 1856.  In 1857, these families claimed Teepee Hill for their own and started to build the first St. Patrick Church and cemetery there.  Despite this, the settlers relationship with the native Sioux remained friendly with only some moments of tension that never spilled over into violence.  This church, which was built from logs, was completed in 1859.  In time, this church became inadequate for the needs of the people of St. Patrick.  Using limestone from Jordan, construction on a new church was began in 1870 with the cornerstone being laid in 1873.  This church and cemetery still stand today.

In the late 1800s, the people of St. Patrick built a combination tavern and hall.  This original building burned down in the early 1900s but was rebuilt.  A gas station and repair shop were added in 1939.  The building is currently known as St. Patrick’s Tavern.  This tavern was, and still is, the center of information and social activity in St. Patrick.  One of the most popular activities held here were card parties involving games like poker and euchre.  There were also plays, dances, celebrations and even traveling medicine shows.  Of course, St. Patrick’s Day was the most important celebration of the year.  The people had a local reputation for their celebrations, not only on St. Patrick’s Day.

Besides its church, tavern, and renowned celebrations, St. Patrick used to be a popular destination for local farmers to buy feed and sell their milk.  This is because St. Patrick used to have a creamery and feed mill which allowed people to take care of selling milk and buying feed in one location.  These two places used to be the main source of business in St. Patrick and made it much more of a destination than it is today.  When the feed mill caught fire December 2nd, 1962 it was completely destroyed while the nearby church and parish building were both saved.  The feed mill was not rebuilt making it less convenient for farmers to sell their milk.  Farmers went to places like Jordan or Lydia seeing as both these areas had feed mills as well as creameries.  This along with being passed by for railroad construction stopped St. Patrick from growing.

Though it is not growing now, St. Patrick did see more immigrants coming to the area between World War I and II.  Czech families began moving to St. Patrick during World War I while Irish families began to slowly move out.  The Czechoslovakian families were not well received to the area but these poor relations never led to violence.  Throughout World War II more Czechoslovakian, German, and Swedish families moved to the area as more Irish families left.  By the mid-1950s only four Irish families still lived in the area.  This change was said to have revitalized this community.

The other remaining attraction, besides St. Patrick’s Tavern and St. Patrick Church, was built during the 1950s around the time of this revitalization.  On May 25th, 1952, Bonin Field was officially opened just behind St. Patrick Church.  This baseball field was named after the former Catholic Priest, Leo Bonin.  The field was renovated in 1989 and now has teams from third to eleventh grade as well as two adult teams.  One adult team, the St. Patrick Irish, are an MBA Class C team that have won 13 state championships.  The other adult team, the St. Patrick Shamrocks, play in the Federal League and have won four Class A state championships and one Class C state championship.  The field has no bleachers but fans can get a good view of the field from a hill just past the line between third base and home.  Children can make a little bit of money by helping to fetch the balls.

Despite its small population St. Patrick still attracts a decent amount of attention with its three points of interest.  St. Patrick Tavern still pulls a crowd, St. Patrick Church still has a strong congregation, and Bonin Field has a lot of baseball going on.  From the early settlers rough beginnings, St. Patrick has formed a small and enjoyable community.

 

Written by Tony Connors, Curatorial Assitant.

Sources:

Rass, Jeanne.  “St. Patrick: Irish settlers move, but town remains.”  Prior Lake American, 3 Aug. 1987.

The New Prague Times, 29 May 1952.

“Losses Total In Excess of $50,000 As Weekend Fires Destroy Feed Mill, Granary, Cedar Lake Home.”  The New Prague Times, 6 Dec. 1962, vol. 74.

Doerr, Sylvia.  “Stories and recollections of St. Patrick, Cedar Lake.”  As I Remember Scott County, edited by Marcia Spagnolo et al., Scott County Senior Citizens, 2006, pp. 113-115.

 

Housekeeping Then & Now

When we think of housekeeping today we usually think of dusting, vacuuming, throwing clothes in the washer/dryer, grabbing ingredients from the fridge and whipping up dinner – or nukeing a frozen dinner in the microwave.  Things were much different over a century ago.

Because tasks were so more time consuming, they were assigned specific days of the week…

  • Monday – wash clothes
  • Tuesday – iron
  • Wednesday – mending
  • Thursday – churn butter
  • Friday – clean the house
  • Saturday – bake
  • Sunday – rest

drysinkWashing clothes was a huge chore.  If you weren’t lucky enough to have a cistern in your house where you could pump water into the kitchen – then you had to fetch water from a well.  Then the water needed to be heated on the stove.  Laundry detergent wasn’t available.  You would have had to make your own soap from lard (or fat), water, and lye.  To wash clothes you soapwould shave some slivers of soap into the boiling water, fill a washtub and hand scrub the clothes on a washboard.  Another tub of clean water was needed to rinse the clothes, then they were hung outside to dry (yes, even in the winter).  All this work gave you back pain, cracked hands, and scraped knuckles.

washtubEventually washing machines were created to help with the work.  This is a hand-operated wooden washer and wringer – made doing laundry easier and saved water.

After clothes dried – you ironed them on Tuesdays.  No plugging in a steam iron; you placed a heavy “sadiron” (so called because of its weight 5-9 pounds), on the cook-top to heat.  These irons ironhad wooden handles to protect your hands.  However, they didn’t  hold heat very long, so you always had a second iron on the stove ready to switch out.  Ironing gave a person some awesome arm muscles.

While ironing you would notice whether a piece of clothing had any tears or holes.  That was set aside for mending on Wednesdays.  Clothes were NOT thrown out – they were sewingrepaired, socks were darned, and those too worn beyond repair were saved for quilts or rags.  If the item needed major repair work, the treadle sewing machine was put to use.  This made mending and creating clothes so much easier.  Although a person could purchase clothes from a store – most women made clothes for themselves and their families at home.

Thursdays were spent churning, making butter for Saturday’s baking.  Milk was put into churna wooden container and a dasher was plunged up & down for 30-40 minutes to make butter.  The leftover milk – buttermilk – was saved for baking too.  This was usually a child’s chore.

broomFriday – cleaning day!  The same bar of soap was used not only for washing clothes, but also for washing dishes, cleaning floors, wiping down walls and furniture, taking baths – everything.  Floors and ceilings were swept, rugs were hung out and beaten, beds were striped and remade, furniture was dusted – the full house was wiped down.

Saturday was set aside as baking day, partially because families usually age a big meal on bakingSunday.  Women would bake bread for the full week on Saturday – maybe 10 – 12 loaves – from scratch.  Not only did you need ingredients, you needed fuel for the stove – whether wood, corn cobs or coal.  No turning a knob, or pushing a button to set a temperature – temperature was tested by running your hand in the oven to feel the heat.  Ovens cooked much slower, which is why cooking started in the morning for the evening meal to be on time.  It’s also why a specific day was set aside for cooking the weekly bread supply.

After a week’s worth of work, Sunday was set aside as a break from chores to relax, visit with friends and family, and have fun activities, such as singing around the piano, or listening to records on the Victrola.

Housework 100 years ago took lots of time and elbow grease. Today we take for granted the machines that allow us to complete in minutes what used to take days.  So next time you sprinkle some detergent into an automatic washing machine, be a bit grateful you didn’t have to make the soap, heat the water, hand scrub the clothes, or wring them out.  Today’s housekeeping is so much easier thanks to advances in technology.