Wednesday, November 14, 2018

One of the Greatest Freedoms

The original star spangled banner - on display at the
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American
History in Washington, D.C.
Recently, many of us exercised one of the greatest freedoms known to mankind - the freedom to cast a vote. We also honored Veteran's Day, where we celebrate the countless men and women who have served our country to ensure this basic freedom, knowing the great importance of maintaining a democracy.

With the tip of a pen, we possess the ability to rise to power men and women who will make decisions that not only affect us, but future generations to come. We shouldn't, for one moment, take that responsibility lightly.

When we cast our educated vote, our end goal should not be the hope of who fills the Oval Office, or a seat in the House or Senate. We should vote with the knowledge that it is but one step toward making America the kind of home we want a generation not yet created to inherit.

With the election so recently held, I think of our Founding Fathers and the nation they envisioned for us. Many of them didn't simply cast a ballot, they cast their lives for a dream - a dream of one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

"Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.... If the next centennial does not find us a great nation ... it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces."
James Garfield, the twentieth president of the United States, 1877

"Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature."
Benjamin Franklin

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
Abraham Lincoln

"We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."
Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Where, some say, is the king of America? I'll tell you, friend, He reigns above."
Thomas Paine

"Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants."
William Penn

"If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
Daniel Webster

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
Patrick Henry

What about you? Did you exercise your freedom to vote? Who did you honor on Veteran's Day?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Durham Doctors

The depot (left) and old brick stores (right) recall bygone days.
by Denise Weimer

The sleepy community of Maxeys, Georgia—in Oglethorpe County outside the university town of Athens—barely remembers its heyday. First known as Shanty, then Salmonsville, the town grew along the Athens Branch of the Georgia Rail Road Company in the 1840s. In October 1844, Dr. Milledge Spencer Durham, a young cotton planter from nearby Clarke County, was appointed postmaster. He became the first of the famed Durham doctors to practice medicine in Maxeys, in the house and apothecary shop my parents bought and restored.

Spence Durham had been trained by his father’s first cousin, Dr. Lindsey Durham of Scull Shoals, a mill village in neighboring Oconee County. Lindsey combined Creek Indian and African American plant lore and herbal studies in William Bartram’s Botanical Gardens into his traditional medical training from Philadelphia. His successful sanatorium on Rose Creek drew patients from across the Southeast.
The Durham House
Records and professional architectural assessment suggest Spence Durham built the initial part of the Durham house and apothecary in the 1840s before returning to Watkinsville in Oconee County by 1860. An avowed Unionist, Dr. Spence nevertheless served as Confederate postmaster there during the Civil War. He may have kept an irregular medical practice in Maxeys until his distant cousin, Dr. William Meigs Durham, took over.
The Durham Apothecary

Dr. William Meigs Durham, grandson of Lindsey Durham, served in Company K of the 42nd Georgia during the Civil War. During the Tennessee Campaign, he threw a bomb back into the Federal trenches, saving the lives of his companions. He was said to have been greatly altered by the war, after which he studied at Georgia Eclectic Medical College in Atlanta and graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He practiced medicine in Maxeys for eight years. In 1875, he fled from a tornado to a brick store with his wife and baby daughter. Possibly as a result of the storm damage, he enlarged and enhanced both his house and the free-standing apothecary building in the Victorian style during the 1870s.

For a time, William’s brother, John Lindsey Durham, joined him in practice at Maxeys, before becoming the leading doctor in Woodville.

Dr. William Durham sold the house to a local merchant but passed ownership of the apothecary to his cousin, Dr. Samuel Durham. Sam and his brother, Dr. William Orlando Durham (who moved to Maxeys in the 1890s), lived in the back room until William Orlando married into the merchant’s family, regaining residence at the house. “Dr. Sam,” with his five-foot-long beard, was loved as “the best of the Durham doctors.” A known bachelor, Dr. Sam raised ten children between 1886 and 1904 with his mixed-ancestry housekeeper, Sarah Fambrough Mason. He sent at least three of his children to be educated at the exclusive African American Jeruel Academy in Athens, and he managed to leave his considerable estate to the two daughters who remained with him in Maxeys.

For more info, see The People of Durham Place, 1844-1979, compiled by Nancy Bunker Bowen and The Durham property is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the apothecary is open to the public as "Coffee, Tea & History."
Medical displays behind compounding desk.
The lives and times of these doctors and the restoration my parents conducted of their house and apothecary shop inspired my Restoration Trilogy—modern romantic suspense where back stories from three different centuries are uncovered during a renovation. A preservation grad stumbles into a town with a complex and potentially dangerous history—as she works for a brooding bachelor who might harbor as many secrets as the town!

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s an editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:
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Monday, November 12, 2018

The Quilt That Started a Story

A footnote from history by Stephanie Grace Whitson

“A quilt is not just a quilt. It is not an inanimate object only to be spread on a bed or hung on a wall. It is the repository of special memories … It is a time recalled—an event of huge proportions such as a birth or death, or the hardly earthshaking memory of having the children use it as a tent over the card table. A quilt is not just a quilt.” (Judy Schroeder Tomlinson in Mennonite Quilts and Pieces)

Do old quilts speak to you? While I don’t hear actual voices, I will admit that over the years more than one quilt has suggested a question that led to a story. 

Years ago, as a docent at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, I learned about a unique group of Mennonite women who lived in Strasburg, a town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s, these women dressed just like their Victorian neighbors. But a tragedy in 1896 set off a revival that changed things. 

Young Barbara Hershey and her escort, Enos Barge, were returning home from a Saturday night party, talking with friends in a buggy behind them, when they approached a railroad crossing. A train emerged suddenly from around a sharp curve and struck the buggy. Both Barbara and Enos were killed.

At the time of the tragedy, young people held off joining the church until later in life, sometimes until they were in their thirties or forties and had a few children. In the aftermath of the deaths of Barbara and Enos, preachers began appealing to young people to "stop sowing their wild oats" and join the church. Hundreds not only responded and joined the church but they also exchanged their fancy, Victorian clothing for a distinctive Mennonite dress style. Photographs in the book pictured above illuminate that time. Young women who’ve joined the church are dressed plain, while friends who haven’t yet joined wear typical Victorian dresses. 

The book on the right includes a photograph of a trunk belonging to a Lancaster County Mennonite woman named Anna whose life was affected by the Strasburg Revival. Anna's daughter remembered being forbidden to open the trunk as a child. When Anna passed away and the daughter inherited the trunk and opened it, she found her mother's pins, beads, gold rings, and fancy clothing--and quilts. I find it intriguing that Anna kept her fancy clothing.  

 "Bleeding Heart" the exquisite quilt on the cover of the book, features over 1,000 perfectly round berries along with expertly appliqued wreaths and leaves and a lovely swag border. It also suggests a story. Made for Molly Grove’s hope chest, the quilt was never used because Molly's boyfriend rejected her before their marriage. Molly (who never married) stored the quilt away. It was eventually purchased at a public auction of Molly’s belongings many years later.

Do you sometimes wonder about the stories behind the treasures people leave behind? How would you have reacted to the drastic change in dress required of the Mennonite women in Strasburg in the 1890s? Why do you think Anna kept her fancy clothing? Would you keep an exquisite quilt that was a reminder of a lost love? 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

God often takes us through times of disappointment and brokenness before planting us where we belong. Molly Grove’s “Bleeding Heart” quilt combined with my research into the Strasburg Revival inspired my story about Rachel Ellsworth, an artistic young woman struggling, not with the idea of “plain dress,” but rather with the challenges of the “plain life” that isn’t anything like the life of her dreams. You can read about Rachel in the novella Mending Hearts, which is part of the collection Christmas Stitches recently released by Barbour Publishing. Find it here:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sullivan Brothers

WWII Sacrifice  by Martha Rogers

December of 1941 when WWII for the United States began, I was four-years-old, and when it ended, August, 1945, I had just passed my ninth birthday. I have both good and bad memories of those years, and one I will never forget is the story of the Sullivan brothers who died together on their ship. We had no instant news feed or pictures as events unfolded, but we did have newsreels at the movie theaters which brought us vivid images of what happened in the Pacific and in Europe.

Growing up, the boys were often referred to as “The Fighting Sullivans”, an apt name for five spirited boys. They also had a sister, Genevive, and Al married and had a son.

The five brothers, George Thomas, age 27; Frank Henry, age 25; Joseph Eugene, age 23; Madison Abel, age 22; and Albert Leo, age 19 were together on that Sunday when news of Pearl Harbor came over the radio.
They enjoyed Sunday dinner with their family in Waterloo, Iowa, December 7, 1941. They heard the report of Pearl Harbor and immediately thought of their friend Bill Ball stationed there. He was the boyfriend of the boys’ sister, Genevive. After learning of his death, the brothers wanted to take up the fight in his memory. They enlisted on January 3, 1942.

George and Frank had served in the navy before, but the others had not. Here they line up for their physicals.

When they enlisted in the Navy, they asked to be together wherever they were to be shipped. As George wrote in a letter to the Navy Department, “We’ve always fought for each other, and now we want to continue fighting side by side.”

The Navy did have a policy concerning siblings serving together, but it was not strictly enforced. The Navy balked at their first request, but in the end relented and assigned them to the same ship.

 That ship was the U.S.S Juneau which would serve in the Pacific Ocean. The ship fought a number of battles during the Battle of Guadalcanal. In November of 1942, a torpedo struck the ship, and it withdrew from the battle. As they were leaving the Solomon Islands area, another torpedo from a Japanese submarine caused the ship to sink. No rescue efforts were made at the time in fear of the Japanese naval presence. After eight to ten days, survivors were found. Reports said that Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly in the hit. Two made it into life rafts, but didn’t make survive for rescue. Al drowned the next day. George survived for four to five days, but died before the rescue came about.

Their parents didn’t learn of the deaths officially until January 11, 1943 when three men in naval uniforms came to the home and gave them the news. Imagine the horror of learning that all five of your sons died. Ironically, in his letter to the Navy, George had said, “If we go down, we’ll all go together.” Tragically, they did.

Their deaths lifted them from five enlisted men to national heroes. Their legacy led to changes in policy for the Navy. The Sole Survivor Policy of 1948 provide for immediate discharge of serving military personnel when there was only one surviving sibling in the family. With the new policy in effect, no other family will have to suffer the heartbreak Aleta and Thomas Sullivan faced with the deaths of their sons.

Their parents, Aleta and Thomas, became involved with War Bond Tours and spoke all over the country promoting the war effort. Aleta also worked with other at the USO Hollywood Canteen in 1944.

Al’s wife, Katherine also became involved in the war efforts. Later, his son James served on board the first USS The Sullivans. Aleta christened that ship. Al’s granddaughter, Kelly Ann Sullivan Loughren christened the second ship named in their honor. These two destroyers were the first American navy ships ever to be named after more than one person. Each ship adopted the Sullivan brothers’ motto, “We stick together.”

Hollywood made a movie about the family in 1994, and it appeared in movie theaters to packed houses during the last year of the war. The movie, Saving Private Ryan, is also said to have been inspired in part by the story of the brothers.

With the new policy in effect, no other family will have to suffer the heartbreak Aleta and Thomas Sullivan faced with the deaths of their sons.

All five boys have headstones even though their bodies were not recovered. Recent surveys and searches have uncovered the ship. 

A team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen recently discovered the wreckage of the USS Juneau 2.6 miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, near the Solomon Islands. For years, Allen’s team has been combing the Pacific for ships that sank decades ago. The team has used advanced technology such as side-scan sonar and submersible drones to locate several ships, including the Juneau.
Finding the final resting place of the USS Juneau connected their endeavor with a part of U.S. history that still reverberates today in both memory and policy.

I may have been only eight years old when the movie came out, but I saw it with my parents and sister, and I will never forget it. My mother cried, and I cried as did most of the audience on that day.

WWII lasted only about three and half years, but it brought this nation together to sacrifice whatever it took to maintain our freedoms and protect our shores.

Thanks to the website:  for the information and the pictures.

Do you have any special memories or stories you've heard about WWII? Share them with me for a chance to win a paperback or digital copy of my novella, Thanksgiving in the Valley, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Be sure to include your email address for a chance to be in the drawing for the book.

Travis fell in love with Violet when he was sixteen and she was fourteen. Now, ten years later, he returns to Ridgewood Valley as a lawman and still loves her. Violet has always loved Travis and when he returns from serving in the U.S. Cavalry, her love grows. Because she’s a preacher’s daughter, and he has less than stellar reputation while in the cavalry, he doesn’t feel worthy of Violet’s love and tries to avoid her. A few days before Thanksgiving, while he is away on a man hunt, Violet is shot during an attempted robbery of the church’s offerings. When Travis returns to town learns of Violet’s injuries, he realizes he can’t live without her. Will this Thanksgiving Day be one of great blessings for these two hearts?  

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to four, soon to be five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.
Find Martha at:, Twitter:@martharogers2           Facebook: Martha Rogers Author

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Mighty Fitz

On this date, November 10th, 1975, The Edmund Fitzgerald, an American Great Lakes Freighter, was lost in a storm on Lake Superior with 29 souls aboard.

The "Fitz" was loaded with 26 thousand tons of taconite pellets, loaded in Superior, WI, and bound down lake for the steel mills of the east. When she left the Superior harbor, the weather was mild, though a storm was brewing on the plains that swept toward the Lake. It was dubbed a 'typical November storm.'

November is the stormiest, most dangerous month for ships on Lake Superior, and the Nov. 10th, 1975 storm blew up stronger than anticipated. The Edmund Fitzgerald was in contact with another ore boat, the Arthur M. Anderson, who trailed 10-15 miles behind the Fitz as they crossed the lake.

Buffeted by winds and tossed by huge waves, the captain of the Anderson witnessed the Fitz passing what he considered way too close to a known shoal. By afternoon on the 10th, the Fitz was reporting some damage, a listing boat, and both pumps working hard.

The storm increased in fury, with winds of 58 gusting to 70 knots and 18-25 foot waves. A massive, 'super-wave' hit the Anderson, tossing the boat like a cork, and rushing down lake toward the Fitzgerald.

The radar operator on the Anderson kept in communication with the Fitzgerald, monitoring her position relative to other ships on the lake. At just after 7 pm, the last communication from the Fitzgerald came over the radio.

"We're holding our own."

Five minutes later, the radar signal lost the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Though a search and rescue attempt was launched, the vessel and all lives aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald were lost. Many theories arose as to why the mighty ship disappeared beneath the surface, including hull damage from shoaling, overloading, faulty hatch covers, and more, but though the shipwreck has been found and examined by experts, nothing definitive has arisen.

The Fitzgerald now lies, broken in two on the floor of Lake Superior, her aft section upside down, her cargo of taconite spread over acres of lake bed. At the request of the families of those lost, a moratorium has been placed on diving the wreck. The Fitz will keep her secrets forever more.

The families requested the ship's bell be salvaged. On July 4th, 1995, the last dive on the Fitz recovered the bell, which has been restored and now stands as a memorial to their loved ones at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, MI.

To commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, every year on November, 10th at Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior, all the names of the crew are read out as a ship's bell tolls, and then the lighthouse is lit for the only time in the year.

The Crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald


Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.comwhere you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at where she spends way too much time!

Friday, November 9, 2018

New York Symphony Debuts!

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I shared about the history of the telephone and the amazing transformations it has taken in just a little over 100 years. If you missed that post, you can read it here:

Now, let's go from our vocal instruments to the crafted instruments of music.

* * * * *

The New York Symphony Orchestra

The Apollo on lower Broadway
Also known as the New York Philharmonic, this orchestra is the oldest American symphony orchestra and one of the oldest in the world. When I was nine, I held my very first violin in my hands and began what would become a twelve-year career as violinist. By high school, I achieved the high honor of "first chair" and was given several solos. My violin traveled with me to college where I continued to take lessons and practice, but I never again played with an orchestra after my Junior year.

I kept my violin for another twenty years, though, and I even brought it out from its case to play a few songs for my husband and children. Last year, my beautiful violin and I finally parted ways as I sold it to a young girl just getting started with her own playing. Passing the torch, I guess it's called. The smile on that girl's face when she received the violin with the case for her birthday warmed my heart. I know that instrument is being loved and honored and still making beautiful music.

There are definite times when I miss playing, but my love of classical music has never dwindled. Those renowned performers of days gone by still inspire today, and I am sure they also treasured the instruments they played, passing them down to the next generation to keep the music alive.

Ureli Corelli Hill
The New York Philharmonic was founded in 1842 by the American conductor Ureli Corelli Hill. It was then called the Philharmonic Society of New York and existed with the purpose of, "the advancement of instrumental music." The first concert of the Philharmonic Society took place in the Apollo Rooms on lower Broadway before an audience of 600. The concert opened with Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, led by Hill himself.

Two other conductors led parts of the eclectic, three-hour program, which included chamber music and several operatic selections with a leading singer of the day. The musicians operated as a cooperative society, deciding by a majority vote such issues as who would become a member, which music would be performed and who among them would conduct. At the end of the season, the players would divide any proceeds among themselves.

Carnegie Hall
In 1878, the Symphony Society of New York became a rival to the New York Philharmonic and they both continued performances around the city for the next thirteen years. It was then that Walter Damrosch (the conductor of the Symphony Society) convinced Andrew Carnegie that New York needed a first-class concert hall. On May 5, 1891, both Walter and Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted at the inaugural concert of the city's new Music Hall, which in a few years would be renamed for its primary benefactor, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie Hall would remain the orchestra's home until 1962.

On board S.S. de Grasse / European tour
In 1909, to ensure the financial stability of the Philharmonic, a group of wealthy New Yorkers formed the Guarantors Committee and changed the Orchestra's organization from a musician-operated cooperative to a corporate management structure. The Guarantors were responsible for bringing Gustav Mahler to the Philharmonic as principal conductor and expanding the season from 18 concerts to 54, which included a tour of New England. Under Mahler, the season expanded, musicians' salaries were guaranteed, the scope of operations broadened, and the 20th-century orchestra was created.

Twenty years later, the Philharmonic merged with the Symphony Society, bringing the two biggest orchestras in the city together and consolidating extraordinary financial and musical resources. In 1930, the present conductor led the Symphony on a tour to Europe, bringing about immediate international fame. A few years later, nationwide radio broadcasts began. The orchestra was first heard on CBS direct from Carnegie Hall, and those broadcasts would continue uninterrupted for the next thirty-eight years.

Bernstein / Televised performance
Program from Bernstein's debut
In 1943, Leonard Bernstein made his spectacular and memorable debut with the Philharmonic as a substitute, but wasn't appointed Director until 1957, a position he held for the next eleven years. He is one of the most famous conductors and worked hard to continue the orchestra's recognition. From that point forward, several tours abroad occurred, and the orchestra also began appearing on television, with award-winning programming and performances that reached across the country.

On May 5, 2010, the New York Philharmonic performed its 15,000th concert, a milestone unmatched by any other symphony orchestra in the world. It is without a doubt leaving a legacy transcending multiple generations.

* * * * *


* Have you ever attended a symphony performance? Where?

* Did you play an orchestra instrument as a child or have you as an adult? What is/was it?

* Do you listen to or enjoy classical music? Who is your favorite composer?


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an author and speaker who also works as a force for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. On the side, she dabbles in the health & wellness and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and two dogs: Nova, a Shiba-Inu/Chihuahua mix and Nugget a Corgi/Chihuahua mix, in Colorado. She has sold twenty (21) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on FacebookTwitterGoodReads, and LinkedIn.