Monday, October 26, 2015

Austin History Center Donation

It's been a long time since our last meeting.  The weather has changed to a cool, crisp and breezy time  and there is something brewing at the Homestead.

On October 14, 2015, my husband Brian and I made an official Donation to the Austin History Center to increase the data on the large John McCain and Martha Gault Family.  The Gault Family file now includes:
The Well Branch Homestead current brochure,
2010 Memo of a Gault Gathering at Wells Branch Homestead with a history of Split Rail Fence Quilt; also, pictures taken by Claudia Keith and my understanding of the event,
Chapter V of Book on Gault Family from the Revolutionary War;
A file on the Gault Slaves with a Nelson Merrill Account; mention Martha Mays slave to J. M. Gault;
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame file on Manny Gault; information on James A. Sikes; 
Gault School of Archaeological Research letter, brochure, business card; 2014 Austin-American Statesman newspaper article of Gault Artifacts
J.F. Gault 1818
W.A. Gault, MD
Thomas Smith Gault Family
Sons of Benjamin Taylor Gault
1900+ or- McNeil School Picture 1940
Edward Gault, owner of Owl Club

Processing Archivist, Molly Hults shared with us a new resource for research through the Austin-American Statesman  I found my grandfather Hayward Thompson, The Blindfold Wizard who demonstrated his strange skill in 1923 of driving blindfolded through the streets of Austin.


Derrick and Cindy Gault Jewel First Visit to Homestead

On Sunday, October 25th Brian and I gave Derrick and Cindy Gault Jewel their first tour of the old Gault Homestead on a cool and rainy day with Derrick's mother, Cindy is a descendant of Benjamin Taylor Gault.  We served a delicious remembrance of traditional, pioneer food.  Here it is for the making:  Start with the ingredients for Skillet Corn Bread below:

2 Cups Buttermilk
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Cups Yellow Cornmeal
2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 Teaspoon Salt
3-4 Tablespoons melted Butter
Drop of Vanilla

Combine the buttermilk, eggs and baking soda and beat well. In a separate bowl, sift together the cornmeal, sugar, if desired, and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture, butter and vanilla and mix well.  Thin this batter with an additional 1/2 to 3/4 cup of buttermilk,milk or water to make waffles. The waffle will be real thin and crispy and a great form of corn bread. It doesn't fall apart on you and it's got the little holes to hold the butter, beans or molasses. Pour into a well-greased waffle iron and watch carefully.  Serves 8 to 10.

If you want to make the Skillet Corn Bread,
use the above listed ingredients (without thinning) and put into a greased cast-iron skillet and bake at 450 degree until golden brown. Let cool slightly and slice like a pie.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Luminary Event 2014

LUMINARY EVENT at the Homestead, December 12th and 13th

  Families began arriving around 5:00 PM to get their pictures with Santa. Some little children at the front of the line who were waiting for a long time were greeted by "Mrs. Claus" (aka Virginia Almon) and allowed into the Homestead early to write letters to Santa, draw, or color. Others on the porch were happily working on the St. Nicholas Word Search. Then around 6 PM Santa Claus arrived to cheers by all. Into the Homestead came parents carrying little ones and holding onto toddlers or pushing strollers. Mrs. Claus greeted each personally and showed participants how pioneers used corncobs to make Christmas presents.  Her corncob basket held corncob checkers, pipe, doll, and darts.  Especially beautiful cornhusks ladies holding infants dressed in pink or blue flowing gowns were shown for all to appreciate. Many tried the corncob dart throw and tasted the ginger cake or Christmas cornbread. Mrs. Almon demonstrated the hand-carved honey bear (made with love) beating the drum and getting some honey or the trapeze toys.  The beat reminded participants of music and some volunteered to play the items at hand -rattles, bells, bones, spoons, washboard, tambourine, etc. and sing Christmas carols. Still other children were focused on coloring and drawing awaiting their turn for a session with Santa.  Those in line progressed slowly to the top table to watch the spinning tops or shoot the popgun. Mr. Almon showed how three pieces of wood could make a star.  Few could duplicate how to do it though.  Mr. and Mrs. Almon also demonstrated finger string art of making a tea cup that with three extra moves turned into a star. Older kids asked for the Jacob's Ladder demo, but it was not available on Friday.  Mrs. Almon made sure she did the Jacob Ladder Story on Saturday.

Overheard: people made the comments that they liked the mantel decoration that made the backdrop for their picture with Santa.  Also, many were pleased that the line went very quickly this year.

A few little ones snuck out of line to move the figures of the Nativity and recall The Christmas Story.
One special girl worked the shadow puppets and told The Christmas Story so clearly.

Our resident buffalo Elmo whose house has been somewhat neglected in the Christmas decorating scheme over the years will be decorated the week before Christmas with a vintage-paper chain made by patient participants. Those who made the paper chain were given a copy of the prayer "Whenever I Journey by Patrick Sayles, SSC
  Whenever I Journey
Send your Spirit to accompany me,
 So that whenever I journey,
 I journey with your blessing.

Send your Spirit to protect me,
 So that however I travel,
I travel with your peace.

Send your Spirit to guide me,
So that wherever I go,
I go with your inspiration.

Send your Spirit to uplift me,
So that whatever I do,
I do for your glory.
Amen.    Fr. Patrick Sayles, SSC

Las Posadas

What is a Posada?  This is a question that a lot of people ask as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.  

The tradition of the Posadas was brought to Mexico from Spain in the 1500's by Catholic Missionaries.  The Posadas commemorate Mary and Joseph's difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a place for the Christ Child to be born.
Traditional Mexican Posada
In Spanish, the word means dwelling or lodging.  The Posadas begin on December 16 for nine evenings, culminating with the Posada on December 24 and Midnight Mass.  

The Posadas are not to be confused with a mere Christmas party.  Instead, the Posadas should be seen as a religious event.  

In many Catholic parishes and also in many Protestant churches and sometimes in neighborhoods, parishioners, neighbors  and anyone who wishes to join in meet at the church or home at a specific time during the early evening.  

The Posada often begins with the recitation of the Holy Rosary, a very beautiful prayer to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  When a part of the Rosary is prayed by all those who have gathered for the 
Posada, the group begins to proceed from the church to the local neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Campfire song and story time

Campfire Songs and Stories

Beautiful fall weather has descended upon central Texas and the Wells Branch Homestead.  The cooler weather brought back memories of campfires and fellowship.  At sundown on Saturday, October 25, 2014 Friends of the Homestead seized the moment and came together around the fire pit to enjoy traditional southern songs accompanied with three guitar players -Jackie Watkins, Stella Brittnacher and Rick Carlin.  Everyone joined the guitar music with instruments from the 1800 century including Josephina and Don Gibbs, Patrick Carlin, Brian Almon on washboards, moraccas, Indian drum, tambourine, and bones. 

Jackie Watkins tuning her guitar before sundown.

            Do you remember limericks?  A limerick is a five-­line poem written with one couplet and one triplet. If a couplet is a two-­line rhymed poem, then a triplet would be a three-­line rhymed poem. The rhyme pattern is a a b b a with lines 1, 2 and 5 containing eight syllables and rhyming, and lines 3 and 4 having six syllables and rhyming. Some people say that the limerick was invented by soldiers returning from France to the Irish town of Limerick in the 1700's. Limericks are meant to be funny. They often contain hyperbole, onomatopoeia, idioms, puns, and other figurative devices. The last line of a good limerick contains the PUNCH
LINE or "heart of the joke."

Jim Brittnacher joined in the fun with his rendition of The Flea, the Fly and the Flue

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were caught, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "Let us flee."
"Let us fly," said the flea. So they flew through a flaw in the flu

                       Virginia Almon told the wonderful story, The Apple Cake,  followed with a taste of her homemade apple cake and lemonade treat which closed out the entertainment.

More campfire song and story time will be planned.  Look for the schedule here or in the Wells Branch newsletters.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Texas Declaration of Independence, signed on a cold day, March 2, 1836

The people of Texas, under the rule of the Mexican government and before March 1, 1836, were in a position very similar to that in which the American colonists were before they severed their allegiance to the British crown. The colonies of Texas, up to this time, had recognized the supremacy of Mexican constitutional rule, but even Stephen F. Austin, the colonist most loyal to the Mexican government in Texas, declared in November, 1835, that Texas had "legal and equitable and just grounds to declare independence."  Even when the consultation met at San Felipe in November, 1835, and the first expression of opposition to Mexican rule was openly voiced, a proposition to declare independence was voted down, but a provisional state government was organized and a governor, lieutenant governor and legislative council were elected. The general council was given power to call a convention with plenary powers, and such a convention was called to be held at Old Washington on March 1, 1836.When Santa Anna and the other military chieftains overthrew the federal Constitution of Mexico and dissolved the social compact which existed between Texas and other members of the Mexican Confederacy, the Texans declared that they were no longer morally or politically bound by the compact of union.

On the second day of the convention which gave us us our Texas Declaration of Independence, March 2, 1836, Robert Potter introduced a resolution providing for the appointment of a committee, consisting of one member from each municipality represented, to prepare a Constitution for the Republic of Texas, and this resolution was adopted.

Perhaps we may get a picture of the historical setting and conditions under which the legislators worked. The town of Washington on the Brazos was a typical frontier village with a population numbering about one hundred. There was no printing press, and the accessible library consisted of books brought in by the delegation. The house in which the delegates assembled was wooden and unfurnished. The window coverings were made of cloth instead of glass, and on the day the convention assembled the thermometer stood at thirty-three. "A long table extended from near the front door to near the rear wall, and was equidistant from the side walls. On this table the public documents were laid, and the delegates were seated around it, the presiding officer sitting at the end and the secretary nearest him on his left. There was no bar around this table to prevent intrusion upon their deliberations...Spectators entered the chamber at will, but they walked gently so as not to annoy the delegates." from DEMOCRACY In ACTION by Paine L. Bush
The Texas Declaration of Independence, signed MARCH 2, 1836, stated:

"When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived...

and so far from being a guarantee for their inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression....

In such a crisis...the inherent and inalienable right of the people to... take their political affairs into their own hands... enjoins it as.... a sacred obligation to their posterity to abolish such government,

and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their welfare and happiness....

The late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who having overturned the constitution of his country...

denies us the right of worshiping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience...

It has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defense, the rightful property of freemen, and formidable only to tyrannical governments...

It has, through its emissaries, incited the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenseless frontiers.

It hath...exhibited every characteristic of a...corrupt, and tyrannical government...

We fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme Arbiter of the destinies of nations."

America's God and Counry Encyclopedia of Quotations

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

LEARN The Secret Language of the Fan with 23 gestures


In December of 2013, a dear friend Ann Clark passed away.  Ann and her husband L.E. hosted a Wednesday night card party each week with friends.  The hospitality was wonderful and the buffet marvelous.  When Ann passed away in December, the Clark family donated a fan quilt which Ann quilted to me for use at the Homestead, which will be used at the Pioneer Festival and for middle-school girls on Homestead tours.  Below, is a little history of this special language with 23 gestures... from the blog of suzannelazear.


Ann Clark's Fan Quilt

Today we welcome Victorian costume expert Karlee Etter who’s going to tell us how during the Victorian era fans were used for far more than keeping the bearer cool.
The Secret Language of the Fan
by Karlee Etter
For much of the nineteenth century and well into the early decades of the twentieth, women were expected to conduct themselves in an even-tempered manner. A woman’s deportment or behavior, especially in public was expected to be gracious, courteous, and respectable.  Any demonstration of the contrary was frowned upon not only by parents and potential suitors, but from contemporaries, as well. Vocally rejecting a suitor was deplorable, even if a woman believed him to be unacceptable. Likewise flirting with a desirable suitor was equally appalling. So, while in attendance at a Ball or other social gathering, what was a woman do to when faced with numerous men, all vying for her attention; how was she to express or communicate her “choice” or “choices” without violating those stifling rules of etiquette?  With visual clues, of course; although simply using facial expression was often too subtle.  Therefore, the secret language of the hand-fan might be employed to clarify a woman’s acceptance or rejection of potential suitors.
However, if the language of the fan was a secret, how did young women learn the various silent gestures of the fan?  If such a language really did exist and some historians will argue that it did not, others believe the language of the fan was passed down from woman to woman. Each gesture of the hand holding a fan contained a powerful hidden meaning.
If a young woman was unavailable, she might gesture in the following manner:  Fanning slowly meant, “I am married”, or, fanning quickly, “I am engaged.” Twirling her fan in the right hand meant, “I love another.”  Or, if the young man was of interest as a friend rather than a suitor, she might drop the fan, which communicated, “We will be friends.”  Then, by placing the fan behind with a finger extended meant, “Goodbye.”

Now, let’s imagine a young woman is available (not spoken for); she might begin her secret discussion with a new acquaintance and appropriate suitor in the following manner:

1)       If she holds the fan in her left hand in front of her face, “I am desirous of your acquaintance.”
2)       By touching her finger to the tip of the fan she would be gesturing, “I wish to speak to you.” Or carrying the fan in her left hand, indicates, “Come and talk to me”.
3)       Responding to a cue from her suitor, she might continue with, “Yes” by letting the fan rest on her right cheek.
4)       Or if she rests the fan against her left cheek, she is saying, “No”.
5)       A closed fan touching her right eye, “When may I be allowed to see you?” Or, a partially open fan showing the number of fan-sticks indicated the hour at which she agreed to meet her suitor.
6)       Opening the fan wide, “Wait for me.”
7)       Placing the fan behind the head, “Do not forget me.”
8)       Fan in her right hand in front of her face, “Follow me.”
9)       Of course, using the silent language of the fan didn’t always mean the two sweethearts were succeeding in their covert communication – there was always the risk that some busy-body would spy the young couple’s interaction.  With that, the young woman might twirl her fan in the left hand, which meant, “We are being watched.”
10)   Covering the left ear with an open fan, “Do not betray our secret.”
Once the couple had an established relationship, there were still rules of etiquette and spoken phrases of love that were never to be expressed aloud, unless in the privacy of one another’s company. Rarely would an unengaged couple be alone, especially within a strict New England community. So, even in such a setting, the secret language of the fan was useful – especially if the young couple was chaperoned by old, Puritanical, spinster, Aunt Bitty. Then their “secret” communication might unfold in the following manner:
11)   Drawing the fan across the eyes, “I am sorry.”
12)   Hands clasped together holding an open fan, “Forgive me.”
13)   The fan placed near the heart, “You have won my love.”
14)   Presenting the fan shut, “Do you love me?”
15)   Drawing the fan across her cheek or hiding her eyes behind an open fan, “I love you!”
16)   Half-opened fan pressed against her lips or putting the fan handle to her lips, “Kiss me” or “You may kiss me.”
17)   Shutting a fully opened fan slowly, “I promise to marry you.”
Not every form of communication with the fan was intended to encourage or continue a relationship.  The fan’s secret language might also be used to discourage or kindly reject a potential suitor, or communicate the absolute offensive nature of a young man toward a young woman.
18)   Drawing the fan across the forehead, “You have changed.”
19)   Carrying the open fan in the right hand, “You are too willing.”
20)   Fan held over left ear, “I wish to get rid of you.”
21)   Threatening movements with a closed fan “Don’t be so imprudent.”
22)   Opening and closing fan several times, “You are cruel.”
23)   Drawing the fan through her hand, “I hate you!”
Whatever the historians say, I trust that the nineteenth century language of the fan was a form of communication fundamental to the romance of America’s Victorian Era.  Not only did it afford a bond between generations of women, but it also offered a form of communication enabling young women an outlet to express sincere feelings towards suitors in an acceptable manner and within the confines of the Victorian Era’s oppressive etiquette.