Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's Halloween!! (Editors Note: It's November 12th.)

Right, OK. So I know it's the middle of November. Several relatives have pointed out that I haven't put up any pictures of the girls in their Halloween costumes yet, tick tock. You guys, it's been NUTS around here. Today is the first normal day without a PTO responsibility, a school holiday, or a sick kid since this month started. And Mike has a work thing tonight and won't be home until after the kids go to bed, so you know, "normal." I do not like this kind of normal, but I admit that I piled quite a bit of our recent chaos on myself.

Just a friendly warning: I'll be taking the month of December off, except for our Christmas travel which I'm looking forward to. If you come at me with some chore between December 1st and January 7th (the day after Kate's birthday) I will ping candy canes off your forehead until you run away! Beware!

ANYWAY, here are some photos of the more fun stuff we've been up to since Halloween...

Pumpkin carving!


At Maggie's insistence, I did roast the pumpkin seeds like my mom used to do. They were a hit!

Kate wasn't so into the grodiness of pumpkin carving. This is about the closest she got to the pumpkin.

Mike's handiwork.

The girls were witches this year, which surprised me. They started out wanting to be a cat (again) and Elsa, but switched to this instead. They looked great!


Hobo Witch?

They organize their candy like this every year.

Not too extravagant, but all high quality loot.

The next night, we met Cousin E up at Gram and Grandpa's in NH to trick or treat again! It was pouring rain and freezing, but they had the best time - and then we had clam chowdah to warm up. CLASSIC New England Halloween.

We also celebrated Sweet Caroline's First Birthday!

Everyone loved the balloons best of all.

Next up - the required Fall in New England leaf-raking, pile-jumping photo shoot.


Silly girls with leaves in their hair (and socks and pants and everywhere).

And finally, since the girls were out of school yesterday for Veterans' Day, they watched the movie Elf for the first time, and Kate decided to make her Christmas ["Crismiss"] List...

Reminds me so so so much of my cousin Amy when we were kids, although I think Kate might have her beat.
Please don't buy her the "lizrd glasis" because I'm getting those.
Also, she cut it in half so everyone could have a piece of it - covering all her bases, present-wise.

Not to be outdone, Maggie (who just wants some "fun stuff, like about science or whatever") decided to make the following rather fancy letter to Santa:

"Maggie's Wonderful Christmas List
Dear Santa, I realy want a fluffy kitten for Cristmas. Love, Maggie"
So to stay competitive in this current holiday present market, Kate also had to get in on this letter to Santa thing:

"Dear Santa, for Christmas I wat a mack your onw cat trees [I want a make your own cat treats (kit). - this actually exists]. Kate."
So, there you go. A photo update of our autumnal shenanigans. Thanks to Mike for his photography help otherwise this post never would've seen the light of day. Back to the grind!

PS - All I want for Christmas are bottles of bourbon and a nap!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Maggie Sez...

*singing* [Each girl gets to sing one song before lights out at bedtime.]

... up above the world so high like a diamond in the sky twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are MIDDLE FINGER!

Mike: Um, what?!

Maggie: Middle finger! *pointing at Kate (with her pointer finger)* MIDDLE FINGER!

Me: Why are you saying that? Where did you hear that?

Maggie: Middle finger, Kate! You know, "Where is middle finger?"

Kate: Oh yeah! Middle finger!

*Kate sings "Where is middle finger? Where is middle finger? Here I am! Here I am!" complete with hand gestures*

[Kate has been singing Where is Thumbkin? every night, one finger/verse per night. Tonight was Middle Finger Night.]


[Mike and I manage some nonchalant Good Nights and run out of the room before laughing.]

Friday, October 17, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are: Jayhawker or Bushwacker?

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed into law on May 30, 1854, creating the Kansas Territory and opening it for settlement by non-Natives. My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Edward B. Johnston, settled near Lawrence with his family in June of 1854, just one month later.

[Kansas Territorial Voter] Census of 1859
Township of Lawrence, County of Douglas, Kansas Territory.
Name of Voter: E B Johnston
Date of Settlement: June/54
Number of Minors: 5, Total: 7
Number of Col'd Persons [blank]
(Note: you can click on photos to enlarge)

"Bleeding Kansas" was a violent stretch of years leading up to the Civil War. Some historians even say the War began in Kansas when conflict over the slavery issue ignited into guerilla warfare.

Prior to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, slavery in the territories was determined by the Missouri Compromise line of latitude: all new states above the 36°30′ N parallel would become free states, and all below, slave states. The new Act effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise by declaring that settlers in the new territories would decide for themselves by voting.

While a democratic solution might seem best, the real outcome was that instigators from both sides flooded into the territory, establishing themselves as settlers in order to vote. Tensions bubbled over into bloody midnight raids by "border ruffians" from the slave state of Missouri and deadly skirmishes between the abolitionist Jayhawkers and the pro-slavery Bushwackers.

The violence lasted from 1855 until a legitimate election in 1861 finally declared Kansas a free state. However, the episode had deepened the divisions within the nation as a whole to the point that the Civil War officially began a few months later. While most Kansans joined the Union Army, guerilla fighting between the old factions continued back home in the new state.

My ancestors were front-and-center to the conflict from the very beginning.

There are very few records for Edward or his wife Rebecca prior to their arrival in Kansas. From census documents, I know that Edward B. Johnston was born in Pennsylvania around 1817, and Rebecca was born in St. Clair County, Illinois, in 1820 or 1823.

They do appear on the 1850 US Census in St. Clair County, IL, with their first child, Delila, who was born around 1844. Their second daughter, Susan, was also born in Illinois in 1853.

Excerpt from the 1850 US Federal Census
District 3, St. Clair Co., IL
Edward B. Johnston is 35, a farmer with $800 worth of property, and has Ohio listed as his birthplace. It says Pennsylvania on every other document, so maybe he came to IL from OH. Rebecca is 27 and Delila is 7, both born in St. Clair Co.

It is interesting that the family has origins in Illinois because Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic Senator from Illinois (and later famous for being the other half of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates), was the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Perhaps, after having intended to settle in Illinois with Rebecca's family, the news and popularity of Douglas' activities in Washington gave Edward the idea to move on to Kansas.

Whatever spurred them westward, they later told the state census collector that they arrived in Kansas in June of 1854, a couple of months ahead of the first group of anti-slavery political settlers sent by the New England Emigrant Aid Company. The Boston-based NEEAC organized and armed groups of radical abolitionists from New England states (including the infamous John Brown) who wanted to settle in Kansas Territory and vote against slavery. In the summer of 1854, NEEAC scouts reported that a few pioneer families were already living along the banks of the Kansas River at the site of their proposed headquarters. One of these families may have been the Johnstons. In October of 1854, the NEEAC founded the town of Lawrence there and it became one of the centers of anti-slavery efforts in the Territory. Other anti-slavery Jayhawker towns were Topeka and Manhattan, while Atchison, Lecompton, and Leavenworth were associated with the pro-slavery Bushwackers.

The first house built in Lawrence.
(Not the Johnstons', as far as I know.)

Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, c. 1856.

A territorial census was conducted in early 1855 that listed Edward B. Johnston in District No. 1, Lawrence Township, Douglas County.

My great-great-great-grandfather, Allen McGee Johnston, was born to Edward and Rebecca on March 20, 1855, in Kansas.

Ten days later on March 30, 1855, Territorial Governor Andrew H. Reeder held an important election to select members for a new House of Representatives. Reportedly, pro-slavery Missouri residents flooded over the border on the day of the election to illegally vote and violently intimidate the local settlers at the polls. Locals rejected the pro-slavery winners as "The Bogus Legislature" and established their own shadow legislature at Topeka, an NEEAC-established Free-State town. A Congressional investigation took place in Washington, DC, in 1856. E. D. Ladd, postmaster of Lawrence and NEEAC settler, testified and presented lists of residents named on the census rolls cross-referenced against the names on the voter poll.

E. B. Johnston is listed as a resident and voter.

Next, Edward shows up on the voter poll list for an election on January 15, 1856, residing in District 1, Franklin Township, which was just to the east of Lawrence City.

His participation in this particular election is possibly more evidence that he was a Free Stater and not pro-slavery. The election on Jan. 15th was held by the rebel Topeka Legislature to ratify their anti-slavery Topeka Constitution and elect abolitionist Charles L. Robinson as Territorial Governor (he would later be Kansas' first State Governor). The election was boycotted by most Bushwackers, and later in that same month, President Franklin Pierce declared the Topeka Legislature revolutionary and treasonous and ordered the arrest of it's members.

There is no record of Edward voting in the election to ratify the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution, which was drawn up by the official Territorial "Bogus" Legislature. Like in Topeka, the Lecompton election was boycotted by most voters from the opposition.

On the other hand, I also can't find a record of E.B. voting on the anti-slavery Wyandotte Constitution in April of 1860, which finally brought Kansas into the Union as a free state. So it's possible that the records just don't exist, rather than that he was abstaining on principle.

As unlikely as it seems to me, it is always a possibility that the Johnstons were Southern sympathizers. We have no way of knowing how E.B. voted on any of these elections, and I find no specific mention of him in either guerilla camp, probably because he was really just a simple pioneer farmer. I am also not able to find a definitive Civil War service record for him on either side, mostly because there are a lot of Edward Johnstons, but also possibly because many able-bodied Kansans stayed behind to fight with the home-guard militias as the local disputes and raids continued during the War.

While he is still in District 1 in the 1856 voter record, his township changes from Lawrence to Franklin. The town of Franklin was considered to be a pro-slavery settlement. However, the Johnstons are back in Lawrence Township as of the 1859 state census. My guess is that, being farmers, they lived in the country somewhere to the east of the city of Lawrence, and that their apparent movement around Douglas County between 1854 and 1860 only indicates that the township lines were in flux as the population grew and the voting precincts changed.

Douglas Co. 1857.
I so wish I could read the names of the individual property owners plotted on this map, but they are mostly too small. I can't pick out any Johnstons.

Edward and Rebecca show up next on the 1860 US Federal Census in Wakarusa Township (which surrounded the city of Lawrence), Douglas County, with their children Delila J. (16), Susan (8), Allen M. (5), John (3, b. 1857), and Mary A. (2, b. 1859).

Excerpt from the 1860 US Federal Census
[There is a typo listing him as "J B Johnson" but the names, ages, and birth places of the rest of the family, in addition to the residence in Douglas County near the Lawrence post office is correct. JH Van Winkle, the hired laborer listed, is probably Rebecca Van Winkle Johnston's brother or nephew.]

Douglas County: Wakarusa Township shown in red around the city of Lawrence in grey. (from Wikipedia)

The next trace of Edward is in the record of his marriage to his second wife, Eliza Ann Hatton.

Fourth from bottom: "Johnston, E. B., of Douglas co., and Eliza A. Hallier [sic], of Jefferson co., mar. June 16, 1864, by A. G. Sherwood, J. P."

Eliza A. Hatton, daughter of Adam and Mary Hatton, age 26 in 1860, born in Kentucky, and (I think it says) a "Tayloress" in Kentucky Township, Jefferson County, near the Oskaloosa post office.

Sometime between 1860 and 1864, Rebecca must have died, but I can't find any record of her death or a grave site. I also don't find any listing of her name as a victim of the Bleeding Kansas violence, such as Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence in 1863.

She just disappears, and on the 1870 US Federal Census, Edward and Eliza Johnston are listed with their children, Susan (17), Allen M. (15), John (13), Mary A. (11), and William (5, son of Eliza and E.B.). Delila Jane is missing because she had married Thomas Moon in 1864. They are located near the Perry post office, Kentucky Township, Jefferson County, which was immediately to the north of Lawrence across the Kansas River and nearer to Eliza's parents.

Excerpt from 1870 US Federal Census

They show up again on the 1875 Kansas State Census in Beaver Township, Cowley Co., near the Winfield post office.

EB Johnston (58), Eliza (41), Susan had left home and her whereabouts are unknown to me, Allen (19), John (18), Mary (16), WA (10), Jesse C (4, son of Eliza and EB), Maude Johnston (10; I have no idea who this is, although the name runs in later generations of the family), and Edward (9 months, son of Eliza and EB).

And the last we see of E.B. and Eliza is the 1880 US Federal Census for Hendricks Township, Chautauqua Co., which was right on the southern border between Kansas and the Osage Reservation.

Edward (63; listed as suffering from Paralysis, father's place of birth is "Ocean" and mother's is Virginia), Eliza (47), John H. (23), William A. (15), Jesse C (9), and Edward (5). Also, there is a border, Alexander Crody (26) who is a "Gentleman" from Virginia!

My great-great-great-grandfather, Allen McGee Johnston, had married Margaret Ann "Maggie" Huff in 1876, and they were still living in Cowley Co. in 1880 with their four-year-old daughter Dolly May and their one-year-old son Miles Robert, who was my great-great-grandfather.

Allen McGee would go on to run the Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893 in Oklahoma Territory. The claim did not have enough water on it to farm so the family ended up moving to Pawhuska in the Osage Reservation one year later.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Love me some Cajun music...

Jesse Lége, Joel Savoy and the Cajun Country Revival

Listen to and purchase their albums here on Bandcamp or here at Valcour Records.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Quick Peek At My Recent Internet History

50 States of LEGO
This site called The Brick Fantastic made a funny diorama for every state out of Legos.

Spending the Stephen King Money
Stephen King published a book with the same title as her book and suddenly the money started rolling in (sort of), so she made this funny blog about what she did with all that extra dough.

170,000 photographs from around the United States, 1935-1945, taken by photographers for the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI).

Timetable at the Interurban Streetcar Terminal, Oklahoma City, July 1939

Old Maps Online
Look, old maps. They're online. :)

"Mama Don't Allow" backstage at the Central Time Tour
A trip through American music history with Pokey Lafarge, Dom Flemons from The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Joel Savoy, Jesse Lége & The Cajun Country Revival, The Tillers, and The Loot Rock Gang.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Summer Adventures, Part Four

After the week of our Vermont and Star Island trips, I got pretty sick with a virus we'd been passing around the family all summer. We spent a week just watching TV and playing Minecraft (the girls) and lolling on the couch while coughing (me). By the time I felt better, I realized that the summer was winding down and we hadn't done some of the outings with Gram that we had hoped to do. So Mike's mom and I made a plan to meet up and take the girls to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. She surprised us with a side trip to Cannon Mountain to take the tram to the top and have a picnic first! It was the perfect day for it.

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is part of the Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountain National Forest. Interstate 93 passes right through the Franconia Notch mountain pass, so Cannon Mountain is easy to get to and the drive up is absolutely gorgeous. It's a ski resort in the winter, but in warmer months, the entire state park is laced with hiking and biking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail. There are bike rentals and the New England Ski Museum at the base of Cannon, and Echo Lake Beach is next to it.

We went up to the visitor's center, had lunch on the observation deck, and hiked the short summit trail which takes you to an observation tower on the opposite side of the peak.

After we took the tram back down the mountain, we headed south to Holderness to our original destination, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. [Note: Holderness is where On Golden Pond was filmed.]

The Center is a walking trail through the woods and marshes with native animal habitats and educational exhibits along the way. They have deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, otters, foxes, etc., all under a shady canopy of green trees around a small brook, pond, and wetland area. It's a great place to go on a hot day in the summer.

Black Bears

The boardwalk through the marsh

You can also pass through the Kirkwood Gardens from the Science Center to get to the Holderness Inn, which has a café and a shop selling local art and crafts.

If you squint, you can see the girls running laps across the lawn. Where do they get all that energy?

Dancing under the pergola where they host weddings.

After ALL OF THIS we were exhausted and starving, so we stopped at the Common Man Restaurant in Ashland to have a very nice dinner, complete with a frosty bottle of root beer. Cheers, Gram!

The VERY NEXT DAY (and after a sleepover at Gram and Grandpa's house) we took the subway into Boston to catch the ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands National Park to spend the afternoon on Spectacle Island -- because we are gluttons for fun and punishment, I guess.

The ferry leaves directly from the waterfront downtown (so the girls were able to run around on the playground in Columbus Park while we waited for our ferry time), and there are 34 islands, 12 of which have camping, hiking, swimming beaches, and/or historical sites on them.

Spectacle Island is just 15 minutes from the city and is a great choice for a day trip because it has a visitors center with a snack bar and bathrooms, a swimming beach (with lifeguards), picnic areas, and walking trails. There is also a marina for private boats and an event venue -- they were setting up small fire pits and wheeling in catering carts as we were leaving! How fun would that be?

Look! You can see Boston from the pier and the beach! It's pretty weird to be on a little island with the city RIGHT THERE.

Never have I ever seen so much sea glass and broken china (Kate insisted on calling them "cup parts") on one beach. They actually have a mural made of sea glass and exhibits on the stuff that has washed up there in the visitors center.

The girls also got to do a little splashing on the beach, even though it's pretty rocky and it wasn't a terribly warm day.

Under the pier was their absolute favorite place on the whole island!

After two days of fun and more fun, we were beat! The girls slept and slept and I washed some Motrin down with a pot of coffee. But it was tons of fun, and I definitely want to explore more of the Harbor Islands next summer. There's always so much more to see...

... like the Duck Tour of Boston, for instance. Can you stand to hear about ONE MORE excursion?? Well, hold on there for just a couple more minutes, here we go...

Our school district has kind of a weird schedule at the beginning of the year. Maggie started a week before Kate, and the second Tuesday (the day before Kate started) happened to be an election day, so their school was closed as a polling station! So we had three days of school, a weekend, one day of school, a day off, and then Kate's first day. So weird. But it was a good excuse to run downtown again to squeeze in one more day of fun.

I asked the girls what they wanted to do: Visit our modern art museum (the ICA -- we've already done the MFA)? Run around the Common and do the swan boats in the Public Garden? Children's Museum?

They wanted to do a Duck Tour. It's pretty pricey and parts of it are kind of slow for small kids, but they loved splashing into the Charles River and seeing the city from the water. They even both got to drive the boat and honk the horn -- and the Con-duck-tour (ha?) gave them a TON of stickers. So fun!

And that's it. Our summer, in four parts. We really sucked the marrow out of it, I think. I always feel the most thankful for living in this amazing city, and New England in general, in the summertime when we get out of our winter cave of hibernation and see and do so many wonderful things in such a short time. There's an incredibly huge range of stuff to see and places to go -- city, country, mountains, ocean, historic sites, forests, museums -- and all of it so very close by. We've seen and done a ton of it and have barely made a dent.

I'll have to start making a list of things to do next summer right away, but for now it's time to start thinking about apple picking and pumpkin patches. Yesterday was the first day of Autumn, and we noticed the leaves changing on the tips of some of the trees along Route 2. I'll think I'll make some tomato soup for dinner tonight!