Monday, April 6, 2020

The Mason-Dixon Line

While visiting my dad recently, I was paging through his local newspaper when I saw the headline “Surveyors Tackling Resurvey of Mason-Dixon Line.” As a native of Baltimore, Maryland who grew up hearing about the line that marks the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, I was intrigued by the article. After all, why did another survey need to occur? Had the line changed? Become confused in some way?

According to the report (and several others I used to fact check), members of both states’ surveyor societies will be involved in surveying the 196-mile border. The Maryland Department of Geological Survey is overseeing the project and has indicated the project is a reconnaissance survey and won’t lead to any changes to the border between the states.

Work has already begun and will be completed by August 2021, with the end goal getting the stone markers placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Being on the Register would allow organizations to obtain grants to maintain and preserve the stones.

Do you wonder why the line exists? Used as a demarcation between the slave and free states during the Civil War may lead you to believe the border was created in the 1800s. However, an argument between Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore and William Penn’s sons in the mid-1730s is the impetus for the line. The feud became so heated that violence erupted between settlers claiming various loyalties to the two colonies, but the British Crown didn’t intervene until 1760 when it ordered Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore to accept the 1732 agreement.

A "crownstone" 
As part of the settlement, the Penns and Calverts commissioned the English team of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to survey the established boundaries between the Province of Pennsylvania, the Province of Maryland, Delaware Colony and part of Colony and Old Dominion of Virginia.

Survey work began in 1763 and was completed in 1767, at which time the dispute was finally settled. The “Stargazer’s Stone” marks the location of the base point used by Mason and Dixon to begin their work. They marked the line by stones every mile and “crown stones” every five miles, using stone shipped from England. Crown stone markers are etched with the Calvert Coat of Arms and an M on the Maryland side, and the Penn family crest and a P on the Pennsylvania side of the border.

The “Stargazer’s Stone.” 

The line was resurveyed in 1849, 1900, and the mid-1960s (no report indicates an exact year). Eight days before his assassination, on November 14, 1963, President Kennedy opened a new section of Interstate 95 where it crossed the Maryland-Delaware border. It would be his last public appearance before the one in Dallas, Texas.
Have you ever crossed the Mason-Dixon line?

A secret mission. A fake bride. A run for their lives.

According to the OSS training manual, the life expectancy of a radio operator in Nazi-occupied France is six weeks. Partnered with Gerard Lucas, one of the agency's top spies, newly-minted agent Emily Strealer plans to beat those odds. Then their cover is blown and all bets are off. The border to neutral Switzerland is three hundred miles-a long way to run with SS soldiers on their heels. Will Emily and Gerard survive the journey? What about their hearts? Nothing in the manual prepared them for falling in love.

Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is also a trustee for her local public library. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland was born a stone's throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life, and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors. You can connect with her on her websiteFacebookTwitter, or Pinterest. You can also check out her pages on Goodreads or Bookbub. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Butchart Gardens

by Anita Mae Draper

circa 1921, The Sunken Garden, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC 
Back in March 1992, I had a job opportunity to spend a week in Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. With my workday ending at 4:30 pm, I had time to explore the sights. One of my forays was to the renowned Butchart Gardens, a National Historic site of Canada located in nearby Brentwood Bay. The site of the Butchart Gardens is a depleted limestone quarry originally owned and run by Robert Butchart who, in 1904, had moved with his wife from Ontario to start a cement business on the island. By 1909, the limestone was exhausted and Robert abandoned the scarred pit, but not Benventuo, the home which he and Jennie had built on the site. 

Jennie Butchart at Benvenuto, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
Jeannette Foster Kennedy was an adventurer who had flown in hot air balloons. She had graduated from Brantford Young Ladies' College and held a certificate in chemistry. She had won a scholarship to study art in Paris. Yet Jennie married for love and settled down with her cement manufacturer with an ugly pit for a view. Jennie was not a gardener, but it is said that one day as she stared at the ruined landscape of the scarred quarry, she envisioned it filled with a glorious array of color. 
March 1992, The Sunken Garden, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
As someone who's lived in a Zone 1 or 2 gardening region most of my life, and an enriching five years in Zone 5, I was excited to see what was happening in Zone 8 in March, which was when I took my trip in 1992. This will explain why my photos show greenery, but not the glorious color that appears in many brochures and advertising ephemera that represents the Butchart Gardens. Regardless, the image above shows the fabulous Sunken Garden with two of the iconic Pyramidal Arborvitae, originally planted over 100 years ago. If you compare this image with the 1921 photograph at the top of this post, you will see how the conical trees were set on either side of the main path, exactly where they are today. (My image doesn't show the tree on the left of the path.)

Spring 1923, The Sunken Garden Quarry Walls, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

With the help of professional gardeners, Jennie tucked plants and seedlings in every opening and crevice along quarry walls so that what looked like the above photograph in the spring of 1923, appeared in March 1992 like this...

March 1992, The Sunken Garden Quarry Walls, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
Jennie left a rocky mound in the middle of the pit area and added a stunning curved stone staircase which led up to a fabulous lookout of the Sunken Garden. 

1911-1912, The Sunken Garden Staircase, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
Although there are images that show the mound in full splendor, I was pleased to see the staircase surrounded in muted foliage rising from a sea of green when I took this image in March 1992...

Spring 1992, The Sunken Garden Staircase, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

The Sunken Garden is only one of 5 gardens which make up the Butchart Gardens, the others being the Italian Garden, the Mediterranean Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Rose Garden. I loved the Japanese Garden and the peace I felt as I toured that part, but it was the Rose Garden which made me pause.

1923, Rose Garden, Benventuo, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

The Rose Garden was the only time I wished I had been able to tour the Gardens later in the year. Although I could visualize the trellises laden with heavy-scented boughs of roses, I missed the beauty of having them in my memory. Even yet, I dawdled as I walked beneath the arches, promising myself I'd return some day to face their emblazoned bloom. 

Spring 1992, Rose Arbor, Benventuo, Butchart Gardens Rose Garden, Victoria, BC
With fear and lock downs filling our current world, we need to think about how we will use our time when we finally have the liberty to walk free outside. I've started making a list of places I really want to see or revisit...not if I get a chance, but when I make the time. First on that list is to revisit the Butchart Gardens, this time with my husband and plant-loving daughter, unlike my solitary visit years ago. Beauty after the ugliness. That's how to brighten our world.  

Have you made a list for when you regain your liberty?


Anita Mae Draper lives on the Canadian prairies where she uses her experience and love of history to enhance her stories of yesteryear's romance with realism and faith. Readers can enrich their story experience with visual references by checking Anita's Pinterest boards. All links available on her website at

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Grosse Point Lighthouse - A Light of Hope for the Future

By Pamela S. Meyers

While researching for one of my novels, I came across a beautiful lighthouse that isn't located very far from me on Lake Michigan. As I write this, nearly the entire U.S. is on shelter-in-place orders due to COVID19. However, as soon as the restrictions are lifted and it's safe to be out and about, I plan to visit Grosse Point Lighthouse in Evanston, IL.

The lighthouse has a unique history having been constructed in 1872 at about the same time as the City of Chicago, a short distance to the south, was recovering from the effects of the Great Chicago Fire. 

As the U.S. population moved westward, Chicago's lakefront became a primary port for schooners and other vessels to deliver their cargo for transport inland. 

Lady Elgin Public Domain
As ships approached Chicago's port from the north, they were unaware of shallow spots in the water just off Grosse Point that are called shoals and many ships went aground. One of the worst instances was in 1860 when a steamship called the Lady Elgin sank and an estimated 300 lives were lost.

The U.S. Government began construction of the lighthouse in 1872 and it was completed in 1873, but the light wasn't installed and lit until March of 1874. On a clear night, the beam could be seen from 21 miles away. It warned of the shallow water and guided arriving ships around Grosse Point and toward the Port of Chicago. In 1934, a photoelectric device provided a means to automatically turn the light on at night and a light keeper was no longer required to live there. In 1935, the site became the responsibility of the Lighthouse Park District. 

The lighthouse is, which is now a national landmark, open for tours and inspection on weekends during the summer months. Evanston is located a short distance north of the city of Chicago and is easily accessed by public transportation or car. 

To read a detailed history and more details about the lighthouse, go to,  

Sources in addition to the website include:
Color photos used by permission by Sam Padron

Pamela S. Meyers writes her historical fiction stories set in her home state of Wisconsin from her cozy condo in northern IL that she shares with her two rescue cats. She is currently writing the fourth book in her series set in her home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a short drive north of her home.  

Friday, April 3, 2020

German Chocolate Cake's Sweet History

Germany is known for numerous tasty desserts: lebkuchen, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake), Bienenstich (bee sting cake), Rote Grütze (Red Berry Pudding), streusels, linzers, and dozens more.

But ironically, one dessert that did not originate in Germany is German Chocolate Cake.

Image result for german chocolate cake
German Chocolate Cake is a layered chocolate cake, topped and filled with a pecan-coconut frosting. Sometimes, chocolate frosting is used on the sides, and maraschino cherries occasionally appear as a garnish.

It is named not for its country of origin, however, but to honor the man who developed the type of chocolate used.

Samuel "Sammy" German was an Englishman who came to Dorchester, Massachusetts in the mid 19th-century, and found a job at America's first chocolate factory, Baker's Chocolate Company. Baker's was started in 1764 (then known as Hannon's Best Chocolates, although John Hannon and Dr. James Baker were partners.)

For over eighty years, the company produced cakes of chocolate for use as drinking chocolate, and by the California Gold Rush in 1849, Baker's Chocolate (now under the direction of Walter Baker) was found across America.

Baker's Cocoa Advertisement, January 1919 Issue of Overland Monthly. Public Domain.
In 1852, however, Sammy German had an idea. He developed a new type of chocolate, one that contained more sugar. This sweeter chocolate could be used for baking, and it's said Walter Baker bought the recipe for a whopping $1000. From that point on, the chocolate was sold as "Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate."

Over a hundred years later, on June 3, 1957, The Dallas Morning News printed a recipe of the day: "German's Chocolate Cake" submitted by Mrs. George Clay. The cake, with the pecan-coconut frosting, became an instant hit. Some sources claim that the recipe was in wider circulation at the time, but Mrs. Clay's recipe has been credited as the one that drew Baker's attention.

General Foods owned Baker's by this time, and they shared Mrs. Clay's recipe with other American newspapers.  Sales of Baker's Chocolate increased by 73%, and the cake became an American favorite.

Still available, even on Amazon!
Along the way, the apostrophe in "German's" was lost, and the cake is now known as German Chocolate Cake. Baker's is now owned by Kraft Heinz, and the recipe is still going strong. In fact, the recipe is usually printed right on the box.

And if you're not a cake person? Don't despair. German Chocolate is available as a flavoring in beverage syrups and coffees, too. 

June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America. Are you tempted to celebrate it with a slice this year?


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's an award-winning, RWA RITA®-nominated author who's seen her work on the ECPA, Amazon, and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. To learn more, visit her website,, and sign up for her newsletter:

Her latest is novel is The Blizzard Bride.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Marriage of Charles Dickens and Catherine Hogarth

Blogger: Amber Schamel
Young Catherine Hogarth
Public Domain
April 2 happens to be the wedding anniversary of Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine Hogarth. So enjoy these tidbits about the famous author, his wife, and their marriage. 

Catherine Hogarth was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1815 to George and Georgina Hogarth. They moved to England in 1834 when her father took a job as a music critic for the Morning Chronicle. Catherine was nineteen years old at the time, and in the blushing beauty of her youth. The eldest daughter of 10 children, Catherine was both intelligent and responsible.

Charles Dickens was also working for the Morning Chronicle at the time, and he was immediately captivated by the intelligence and beauty of this young woman. Dickens invited her as a guest to his twenty third birthday party. He evidently came to adore her very much, and the sentiment seems to be reciprocated since Catherine wrote to her cousin that "Mr. Dickens improves very much upon acquaintance." 

"When the couple met, Charles put Catherine on a pedestal. His childhood was scarred by poverty and the shadow of the debtors’ prison; in contrast, Catherine came from a comfortable, happy middle-class family. I believe Dickens wanted to emulate that: he wanted a wife and mother who would give his children stability and a carefree home. Catherine became his ideal woman." Lucinda Hawksley of BBC 

The attachment progressed, and Dickens proposed in 1835. Catherine and Charles were married April 2, 1836 in London.

Young Charles Dickens
They began their married life in a small flat in London. Both seemed incredibly happy. Dickens even remarked that if he were ever to become rich and famous, he would never be as happy as he was in that little flat with Catherine. As for Mrs. Dickens, she was incredibly proud of her husband and his successes, and she even traveled with him to America in 1842. During their journey, Dickens penned a letter to a friend stating that Catherine never felt gloomy or lost courage throughout their long journey by ship, and "adapted to any circumstances without complaint".

"In addition to being a mother, Catherine was an author, a very talented actress, an excellent cook and, in her husband’s words, a superb traveling companion. But as the wife of such a famous figure, all of that has been eclipsed" ~ Lucinda Hawksley of BBC 

Charles and Catherine had 10 children during their union and enjoyed many happy years together.

For more detailed information on Catherine's life, I suggest this article from BBC written by one of the great granddaughters of the couple.


Because of the COVID-19 Stay at home order, I've discounted ALL of my ebooks to only $0.99 on Amazon. Ebooks can be read on any phone, tablet or computer by downloading the free Amazon kindle app. 

Books are a great way to pass the time while infusing your soul with uplifting and inspirational messages. My way of saying, stay safe and healthy. God bless you all!
 Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain, Pikes Peak.