Monday, September 23, 2013


K is for Kansas. My Dad grew up in and around Altoona, Kansas.  He still has lots of family in the area. Last weekend he went back to attend a cousins 50th wedding anniversary. Here he is with the group of first cousins who were in attendance.

While he was there he was given a story written by my second cousin, Toni Ehrardt. The story takes place during the Great Depression and centers around two little girls. Here is a photo of those two little girls today.

                                  IRENE AND HENRIETTA

Mother's Christmas Program
by Toni Ehrardt

My mother,Irene Dannels Woolery was born in 1925 on a small farm near Altoona, Kansas. Times weren't easy at the Dannel's Place nor most other places for that matter. I remember my mother telling me that most of the time, the family had a nice Christmas dinner of baked chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, hot rolls and pumpkin pie. Possibly, they had gingerbread, fudge and mady taff. I'm just guessing they had milk, water or home-made cider to drink.

For Christmas, the kids, (my mom and her sisters and brothers), usually got a nickel, an orange, and some gift my grandparents made for them. For example, my grandpa made little tractors out of spools and rubber bands and my grandma made rag dolls or teddy bears and made outfits for them.

The family went to cut down a Christmas tree and decorated their tree with popcorn, little ornaments they made at home, church, or school and possibly with little pieces of ribbon or bits of lace. They went to school and church programs and especially enjoyed those things as well as big family dinners with lots of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Times, of course, got even rougher in the 1930's. I remember my mother telling me that my Grandma Zenella Reeve Dannels, had one dress and one pair of overalls. Naturally, the girls didn't have many clothes either but somewhere around 1939 when my mom was about 14, my grandma promised the girls (My mom, Irene and my aunt, Henrietta, who were still in school that she would make them both a nice Christmas dress for their Christmas program at Buffville School.

My mother always loved clothes and shoes, so she was in a rush to get home from school that day to see the dresses that my grandmother, an adequate and basic seamstress, had made for her and Etta. So the two girls hurried in on that cold Winter day anxious to see their new dresses.

The girls ran to my grandmother and asked, "Where are the dresses you made for us for the School Program? My grandmother replied, "I'm sorry, girls. I simply didn't have the time to make any dresses for you. You'll just have to do with your best dress this time. I'm sorry."

My Aunt Henrietta didn't get so upset but my mother was absolutely devastated. She had imagined a new red velvet dress and she was practically sick that my grandmother hadn't made dresses for them. She was mad too, because my grandmother had definitely promised the girls new dresses for this event, which was one of the most important programs of the season.

About that time, the girls heard a car coming and a car horn honking, honking, honking. They ran to see who it was because they weren't expecting anybody and they also had to hurry to get washed up and primped for the program. They were a little surprised to see their oldest brother, Walter Dannels, and his cute young wife, Stelline (Hoobler) Dannels, coming in the door carrying boxes.

"Are you two coming to our Christmas program?" my Mom asked.  "Sure are!" Walter said, grinning. "Now you two girls better hurry and get all fixed up so I won't be so embarrassed that you're my little sisters!" "Come on," Stelline told the two younger girls. "Now get in there and I'll help you fix your hair!"

All three of the girls crowded into the girls' bedroom and my Mom asked, "Hey, Stelline, what's in the box?"  "Never you mind. Just get your school clothes off and hang them up. And you need to hurry. I've made some sandwiches and cookies for us to eat".  Then Stelline started opening the boxes. She pulled out two of the prettiest dresses my Mom and Aunt Etta had ever seen.

"Oh, Stelline, Thank you! Thank you! We had no idea you were making us Christmas dresses! Oh, they're so pretty!"  "I just love mine, too. They are so cute and stylish. Thank you!"  "Now stop blubbering and get those dresses on," Walter hollered.

The two girls got the dresses on, and they fit perfectly. Stelline also whipped a comb and brush through their hair and sprayed on a tad of Evening in Paris perfume. "You two girls will be the belles of the ball" she told them smiling at their happy excited faces.

About that time my grandparents came in with some eggs and a milk pail to leave in the cellar. "You two girls sure look nice!" my Grandma said. "Wasn't it nice of Stelline to make your Christmas dresses when I really couldn't find the time."

My Grandpa Earl Dannels said, "You girls look dandy. I'm really going to feel proud tonight!" "Oh Stelline, you've made this the best Christmas Program ever!" the two girls said, smiling widely.

Note from Toni Ehrhardt: My Aunt Stelline (Hoobler) Dannels passed away in 1968, much too young. She had a special talent of looking at a dress and the person who wanted it and sewing it up in no time. Everything she made looked like it came from Vogue. She also was a very good cook. I remember especially that she made wonderful Turkey Pie. She is sadly missed by her children and family.

Stelline Elizabeth Hoobler was born November 30, 1916 in Jasper, Alabama and died May 13, 1968. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Centro, California . She married Walter Louis Dannels December 4, 1935 in Erie, Kansas. He was born April 24, 1914 in Altoona, Kansas and died August 19, 1998. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Centro, California.

The ABC Wednesday Meme is a fun way to see some great blogs.

Reflections On Our Flooding - Victor Issa

Victor Issa is one of the top sculptors in America today and is known for his remarkable ability to make bronze appear alive.  He attended Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska at the time I was there.  His studio is in Loveland, Colorado where I lived for 8 years.

Last week, Colorado experienced terrible flooding.  The Loveland area where Victor lives and works was very hard hit as was Estes Park where he has his Living Bronze Gallery.  He wrote an article about the flooding that I found very meaningful and I want to share it with you.

Reflections On Our Flooding
by Victor Issa

In some parts of the Front Range, life is returning to semi normal. At home and at the studio, we were only affected by temporary road closures, delayed work and delayed deliveries.

Yet others were stranded, placing them in great danger, losing property, and some did lose their lives. Some reports have documented the loss or damage to over 18,000 homes, and up to 8 lives have been lost due to this enormously destructive storm. All loss brings pain and sadness, and we join our prayers with others for all those suffering at this time.

While I am deeply grateful that the flooding had little effect on us, I must admit a discomfort at the tendency to offer a blanket: "Thank God" for such outcomes. Before you become angry or dismiss my comment, please read on. I believe this is an important matter.

My knowledge of, and faith in God has never been deeper or stronger in my life. I know beyond a doubt that God is intimately interested in me, and cares about my entire being as He does about all His created beings. What concerns me is this. If I am so quick to thank God for preserving and protecting me and my property, wouldn't I become as likely to blame Him for not protecting my friends and neighbors, those who experienced great loss? If He is to be attributed credit for the good, doesn't that also leave Him open for blame? Is this where the expression "Acts of God" came from? For example, where does the credit or blame lie when we make conscious or unconscious choices regarding the risks we chose to take?

The facts are always a bit more complex and nuanced for a simple reason; they involve humans with free will. We are always making choices, taking in as many factors as possible based on our own life experiences and on what we learn from the experiences of others. Those choices bear fruit. And even then, there are events that apparently occur completely out of the realm of our choices, with blessed or harmful outcomes.

We speak of God as Love, which is completely true. But love cannot exist in the absence of free will. And when free will is involved, unlimited variables enter the picture. While this is a HUGE risk for God, it was the only way He/Love can operate.

So where do these disasters come from, and why do they affect some but not all?

The answer is multi faceted. To begin with, I believe this is a "broken" world. It is not what God created or what He intended. It "broke" when His creation exercised their free will and explored rebellion. The long term plan includes redemption and repair on all levels. But in the meantime, humans are still involved and in charge on a daily basis making billions of decisions that affect their own lives and the lives of others on this planet.

While God is all powerful, His power is limited. There are things He can never do. He cannot lie. He cannot control my will without my consent. And He cannot force me to love Him. This is the ultimate beauty of God. He makes room for me to think, to be, to chose and to love. I can see destruction caused by a broken world (including the natural world) and I can understand that He is faithful to whom He is, Loving enough to take the biggest risk of all, risking the universe over the principle of Love that cannot be stopped or changed.

There is no denying that God has and does intervene directly into events that are actually miraculous. We don't always understand what is behind the inexplicable, but I have learned that trusting in, and surrendering to God (after we have made the most informed choices) can reap great rewards even in the presence of great disasters. (All things work together for good...)

There will come a time when destruction, death and disease will end. He will say: "It is enough!" The greater purpose of vindicating the Character and Nature of God against the accusations of the fallen angel will be fulfilled. This fallen angel, who introduced the rebellion through his pride and his choices, will be convicted and destroyed along with those who chose to believe him. Then this planet will be recreated as originally intended, and never shall the universe be visited by rebellion again, for its fruit has been completely revealed to be nothing but destructive.

My part moving forward? Seek a closer, more honest walk with God, relieve suffering where it visits my world, and continue to grow in faith, grace, gratitude, compassion and love. And I chose to live daily with the hope of the complete restoration of all things, and an eternity in close relations with God, and with all who seek the same.

Wishing you peace in your hearts, and a deeper glimpse into God's heart of Love through all things.

© Victor Issa
September 21, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

What is your comfort zone? Do you like to be comfortable? I know that I sure do. Last year my leg started to really hurt. It was very uncomfortable. After several months of pain I finally went to see the doctor. After doing x-rays and other tests, he informed me that I have arthritis. The only treatment is medication to relieve the pain. I was happy that there wasn't a more serious problem, but a bit disheartened that this problem would never go away.

Going to the doctor got me to thinking about how disease parallels our human nature. We are sick spiritually, and God wants to heal us so we won't be sick with sin. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that "anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" We have all heard the term “Born Again” to describe the new life. It is probably one of the most common phrases in the Christian vocabulary. What is a "Born Again" Christian?

In 1 Peter 1:23, the Bible tells us, "you have been born again. This new life did not come from something that dies, but from something that cannot die. You were born again through God’s living message that continues forever". To be "Born Again" means to have a new life.

There is a law of life that states, "everything that is new eventually becomes old". That law has been painfully brought to my attention over the last couple of weeks as I have been going through lots of old pictures.  I recently read an appropriate quote, "youth is a disease from which we all recover". I am recovering nicely, thank you very much.

The next time you are in a big parking lot such as at the mall or at Wal-Mart take a look at the cars. There are some nice new cars. There are some that are in need of some body work. There are a number of old work vehicles. Here in rural Arkansas, there are lots of beat up pick up trucks in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Every car in the parking lot was once a new car. My Daddy has lots of antique cars. They all have something in common. Whether they are nicely restored or are nothing but a rusted out hulk, they were all once new.

1940 Buick Limited

What happens when the new wears off of our "Born Again" experience? What happens when our new life isn't so new anymore? We get in a rut. When we are in a rut, and are just going through the motions, don’t you think God notices?

All of us have a comfort zone in our life. To get out of the rut, we have to move outside of our comfort zone.

How do we get outside of our comfort zone? Here is a list of ideas that I came up with. Everything on the list may not be for you, but maybe it will help you get some ideas how to get out of your comfort zone, and get out of the rut. Maybe they will help your new life to actually be new again.

1. Expand your circle of friends
2. Study a subject you haven’t studied
3. Examine your core beliefs
4. Listen more and talk less
5. Try doing something that you have been afraid to do
6. Eat between meals - spiritually - don’t let religion be rote
7. Make your own list
8. Don’t be afraid of other religious viewpoints – truth withstands
9. Don't worry about what other Christians are doing
10. Hug somebody
11. Go on a mission trip
12. Don’t be afraid to express yourself
13. Be very gentle when you express yourself
14. Tell people you love them
15. Loosen up, don’t be rigid
16. Affirm a leader
17. Smile, be happy
18. Read a version of the Bible you haven’t read before
19. Visit another country or culture
20. Change the order you do things
21. Help somebody who isn't expecting it
22. Don’t be afraid of change – it isn't inherently evil
23. Call someone you haven’t called for a long time
24. If someone invites you to their church--- GO
25. Learn a new song. Buy a new CD
26. Be more gracious
27. Visit someone you have never visited before
28. Read a Christian book you haven’t read before
29. Take time to do something you really enjoy
30. Give a totally unexpected gift to someone
31. Ask for other peoples opinions
32. Volunteer to tell the children's story
33. Pray instead of being critical
34. Let go of resentment
35. Shake up your prayer life. Pray at different times or ways
36. Say thank you more often
37. If you see your devotions are in a rut shake them up
38. Sit somewhere different in church
39. Intentionally use different phrases when you pray
40. Never forget what Jesus has done for you

Let’s resolve to get out of our comfort zone. Ask God every day for a new life.

Monday, September 16, 2013


J is for Jewels. About a month ago Marjorie Maurine Jordan Burden passed away. She was born in 1922 on an Indian Reservation in Winnebago, Nebraska.  During World War II she was a real Rosie the riveter, working at Schrillo Aero Tool Engineering Co. in Los Angeles, California. She married in 1951 and had one child, Conrad in 1952. Her son had numerous health issues and passed away in 1956.  She spent the final years of her life at Peachtree Assisted Living in Mena, Arkansas.

I attended church with her since 1999. She was a quiet little lady who never talked about her past. She had no family in the area. When church members were going through her meager possessions while cleaning out her room they found file cabinets full of writing and family genealogy research. The following story was found in her writings and was read at her memorial service. It was a heart wrenching moment, but the story was so well written that I thought I would share it with my readers.

by Maurine Burden

"The disciples of Christ are called His jewels, His precious and peculiar treasure"

Many of us have treasure chests and in them we accumulate the treasure of our life's experience.  I have an old trunk that might well be called my treasure chest.  It is not richly carved like some old treasure chests that I've seen, but it holds my collection of treasures.

With the passing events of time, one by one these treasures are collected and placed in the chest for safe keeping. I had two dolls when I was a child that shared many of my childhood experiences. But there came a day when I washed up all of the little clothes, dressed the dolls in their best, bent over the old trunk - then for a brief moment before they were put away - I recalled the happiness we had had. As I closed the lid there wasn't the slightest wish to have those days back again, nor possible need for them in the future. Childhood was gone. Before me were other days and other experiences which would have to be met. And in the evening of those other days there would be other mementos to be put in my chest.

I said that I had "a" chest - now I have "two".  This second one holds my most precious treasure.  Well I remember the night I placed this treasure in the jewel box.

For days we had plead with God to preserve the life spark in this little body.  But now the anxious pleading had ceased.  God said that the time had come to place my precious treasure in the case for safe keeping.  As we entered the room this evening one of the first things that caught my glance was a beautiful little casket.  "Casket" means a place to put jewels.  What a beautiful little chest to put this precious jewel in - nothing so beautiful as this for my other treasures!

As with the dolls, so these little clothes had to be cleaned.  Tenderly we dressed the little body for the last time.  The little shirt, the pants, the socks, - each had a special memory.

When I lifted his cold little body to place it in the jewel box, for a brief moment I hugged him to my breast and was happy, terribly happy.  I recalled, as with the dolls, those former days.  Carefully I placed him in his resting place.  There was no wish to have those days back nor possible need for the future in this life.  As with childhood so these days too, were gone.  The time had come for this treasure to be placed in the chest.

Because I put my treasures in the old trunk doesn't say that they cease to be mine anymore; neither with my other jewel - it will always be mine.  However this chest God has placed beyond my reach, but I know it is safe for He has marked it's resting place.  We are sharers in "that blessed hope" of being united again on the resurrection morning.

Lest you should misunderstand, there were tears in this experience - lots of them - and it would not have been so easy as it was, even at that, had I not realized that he was now free from sin's power.  No wonder God says. "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints".  Polished and placed beyond the reach of sin as they wait the call of the Lifegiver.

It was as if God had said, there is much work to do and one cannot wear his jewels while he works.  I will take care of them for you but now we must hurry...  I have other jewels, some are lost. Will you ready yourself and help me find them before they are swept away? The urgency of His message impressed me.

Get ready! Get ready! Get ready!


The ABC Wednesday Meme is a fun way to see some great blogs.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Colorado Floods

Growing up, I attended school in Longmont, Colorado.  Over the last couple of days Longmont has experienced what is being called a 500 year flood. The rising water forced neighborhoods to evacuate and major streets to close.   City officials have evacuated a dozen neighborhoods totaling 7,000 homes.

It is so sad to hear of all the devastation in the area, not only in Longmont but also in Loveland, Estes Park, Boulder, and many smaller towns such as Niwot, Lyons and Jamestown.  Having grown up in this area it has brought back many memories of my childhood.

I attended school at the Longmont, SDA Elementary School from first though eighth grade. The school was a two room school with the first through fourth grades in one room and the fifth through eighth grades in another. Here is a photo of the upper grades taken during my sixth grade year. I am in the farthest corner just barely visible.

Here is my school photo from that year. It must have been taken at the beginning of the school year as I am still sporting my "summer" haircut.

We never lived in Longmont, but did our shopping there. One of the things that I remember about Longmont was the Great Western Sugar Factory. On our drive from Frederick, and later after we moved, Erie, I could always tell we were getting close to Longmont when I could see the gleaming white silos of the Sugar Factory. The factory was the first thing you would see if you were coming into Longmont from the east.

The Sugar Beet industry was a major force all along the front range of Colorado from the turn of the century up until the late 70's and early 80's. Why did beet sugar in Colorado mostly fade away? The common reasons I've read are competition from cheaper cane sugar abroad, and other sweeteners such as corn syrup. My first job out of high school was working for Dalton Truck Sales near Longmont. They specialized in taking old 2 ton trucks and refurbishing them fitting them with special made Sugar Beet Boxes to haul sugar beets to the factories. These trucks were only used for the harvest season, but were needed to haul the beets. I have painted many sugar beet trucks similar to the one in this photo.

My favorite place in Longmont was the Public Library. During the time I was in school I read just about every book in the kids section of the library. I still remember being disappointed that I was only allowed to check out three books at a time. I also didn't understand why I couldn't check out books from the adult section on my kids library card. I would take my three books home and have them read in a day or two and then begged my Mama to take me back to the library. I kept a flashlight handy for reading after I was supposed to be asleep. The Longmont Public Library was my access to knowledge.

As I got older I loved shopping at the Woolworths Store. There is just something about a Woolworths. One of my favorite singers, Nanci Griffith, wrote a song about Woolworths titled "Love at the Five and Dime". She tells the story of growing up in Austin, Texas and changing buses in front of the Woolworths store. she said that she had just enough time get a vanilla Coke, dig through the record bin, wink at the boys and get back on the bus. My favorite thing to do at Woolworths was digging through the discount record bin. As a kid Woolworths was the only place where I had access to music. I have a large and eclectic music collection and I can say that it all started at Woolworths.

There are so many memories that I have of those years of going to school in Longmont. The Dairy Queen and A&W Root Beer Stand were favorite places for a special treat. We shopped at Ranch Wholesale Supply and The Corner Pantry. Our bank was First National Bank, and they always gave a little box of gum with two Chiclets inside to each of the kids in the car.

Longmont will always hold fond memories of my childhood. The last time I was able to go back and look around was in 2009. The town is no longer the sleepy little town that it was when I was going to school there. It has grown exponentially. While we were there I went by the old school grounds. The building that I went to school in is still there, and really hasn't changes much except there is now a gymnasium attached at the back of the building. I would hate that, because I remember spending a lot of time looking out the full wall of windows that lined the back of the school and daydreaming.

My Elementary School

I will be going back to Colorado in a couple of weeks for my wife and I's 40th High School Reunion. It has been four years since we have been back for a visit.  The last time we were in Colorado, we stopped by Campion Academy where Gina and I went to High School. The campus looked pretty much the same. Our visit brought back lots of memories. I remembered the beautiful blonde that walked the halls and didn't know that I even existed. We both worked at Harris Pine Mills. I would go back to the area where she worked during break time. She thought that I liked her friend. I was so painfully shy that I never had a date during High School. I finally got up the nerve to ask her to to march with me during graduation. We started dating during the summer. This is a picture of the girl that captured my heart.

Puerto Rico Gina

Here we are once again walking the halls of Campion Academy. We found our class picture on the wall and took our picture by it.

Campion Academy Alumni

From Campion we drove into Loveland and walked the downtown streets. After we were married we lived in Loveland for six years. The downtown area still looked about the same, but the old buildings have been well maintained and the shopping is now antique stores and art gallerys. Sculptures now line the streets. From Loveland we drove up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. On July 31, 1976, while we were living in Loveland, a violent rainstorm sent a rampaging wall of water through Big Thompson Canyon. The massive flood killed 144 people. Gina and I along with my family had been picnicking along the banks of the Big Thompson River that afternoon. When it started to rain we packed up and drove home through heavy rain. We didn't know there had been a flood until the next morning. The drive up the canyon brought all those memories flooding back.

One of the areas that is flooding this year is the Big Thompson Canyon.  Once again the area has been devastated.  Here is a photo from yesterday.

My prayers are with all those affected by these floods.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Be Spicy - The Mena Star

This is my article as published in the September 12, 2013 issue of The Mena Star

Do you like your food spicy?  I know that I do.  What is spice and why does it make food taste so good?

According to the dictionary, spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance used for flavoring food.  I like my food flavorful!

When Jesus said in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth", He meant that we are the spice of this world. We’re here to add flavor, in other words; we are here to make things taste good.

Some Christians seem to pride themselves on being bland, flavorless and boring.  Anything else must be wrong.  And yet Jesus asks us to be salty, to be spicy, to be flavorful.

Job 6:6 asks “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”

I love good flavorful food. We use lots of spice at our house. If you don’t like garlic you would have a hard time at our house. We grow our own basil and rosemary so that we have fresh flavorful spices that are much tastier than the dried spices you can buy in the store. Take a quick look at our spice rack and you will find thyme, sage, paprika, oregano, curry, bay leaves, chili powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cumin, onion, coriander, turmeric, mustard, saffron, and pepper. The purpose of each of these spices is to add flavor.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on”.

Without salt or spice, many foods are very bland and tasteless. Jesus isn’t looking for bland followers. If you aren’t salty, if you aren’t spicy, if you have no flavor you aren’t good for anything.

In verses 14 and 15 Jesus continues, “You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven”.

Light has amazing qualities. One of my favorite qualities is when it passes through a prism and breaks up into the colors of the rainbow. We are to be the light that gives light to the world, but we each one are a different color. We each have different qualities, different flavors, and different spices.

God hasn’t asked us to be cookie cutter copies of each other. He has asked each one of us to spice up our corner of the world. Each one of us has a sphere of influence that no one else has. God has asked us to be a light in our sphere of influence.

When it’s dark, people notice the light. Have you ever seen a searchlight? When I was a kid growing up it seemed like we saw them quite often. Whenever I would see one it was very intriguing.

I haven’t seen a searchlight in years, but I can still vividly remember seeing them. I grew up out in the country where there were no streetlights. When I could see a searchlight it looked like it was the only thing in the sky.

Is there any way someone could hide a light like that? No way. There are some lights that just cannot be hid. So if that light is on, then we are going to see it; and if we can’t see it, there’s something wrong!

When we taste our food, if it is salty, then we’re going to taste it.  If there are spices, then we’re going to taste them.  If we taste our food and it is bland, with no salt or spice we probably won't eat it.  And if we do we won't enjoy it.  The spice in our food makes the difference between tasty and bland.

In the same way, Christians should make a difference in this world; we should be just as noticeable as salt and light. We should be the spice of the world, and the world needs more spice.  Be spicy!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 - 1857

Every year when September 11th comes again, emotions of Americans are heightened as we remember September 11, 2001. Most Americans can remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the awful news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I was at work when my wife called me to tell me what she was seeing on TV. I turned my radio on, and listened all day as the news reports came in.  I first wrote about my feelings of this terrible event in 2008 shortly after I started writing on this blog.  You can read that post by clicking here.

I revisited the topic in 2010 in a post titled 9/11 and Hope.  The post highlighted two organizations that give me hope, The American Cancer Society and The New Your Says Thank You Foundation.

Recently as my wife and I have been studying our family histories I came across a historical event that I had never heard about before.  A couple of things struck me about this event.  It happened on September 11th and was one of the worst massacres in American history.  The date was September 11, 1857 and the place was Mountain Meadows in Southern Utah.

The story starts when Alexander Fancher and John T. Baker along with 140 men, women, and children and 40 wagons left Caravan Springs in northwest Arkansas and headed west to California. Their path took them through Utah.  Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon Church and the territorial governor of Utah had forbidden the Mormons to sell anything to the wagon train.  He also declared that, "the Almighty recognized Utah as a free and independent people, no longer bound by the laws of the United States".  There was extreme distrust of any non Mormons by the Mormon people.

In early September, the wagon train made camp at a place called Mountain Meadows where there was grass and water for their horses and cattle.   On September 7, the group was attacked by Indians and the Mormon Militia disguised as Indians.  A child who survived the massacre said, "Our party was just sitting down to breakfast when a shot rang out from a nearby gully, and one of the children toppled over, hit by a bullet."   The shots came from forty to fifty Indians and Mormons.  The well-armed emigrants returned fire.  Soon the gun battle turned into a siege.

Over the next three days, Mormon reinforcements, continued to arrive at the scene of the siege.  William Dame, the head of the southern Mormon Militia,  was determined to not let the emigrants pass: "My orders are that all the emigrants, except the youngest children, must be done away with."

The siege was a standoff and continued for several days.  The commanders of the Mormon Militia came up with a treacherous plan for ending the stand-off.

On September 11, they marched across the field to the emigrants' camp waving a white flag.  When they reached the camp they promised that they could guarantee the emigrants' safety if they would agree to their terms. The desperate emigrants agreed to the terms: They would give up their arms, wagons, and cattle, in return for promise that they would would be taken past the Indians to safety in Cedar City.  They looked upon the Mormons as their saviors.  One of the wagons was loaded with the youngest children.  A woman and a few seriously injured emigrant men were loaded into a second wagon. Following the two wagons, the women and the older children walked behind.  An armed Mormon "guard" escorted each emigrant man.

When the escorted men had fallen a quarter mile or so behind the women and children, the command was given, "Halt!  Do your duty!" Each of the Mormon men shot and killed the emigrant at his side. Then they began the slaughter of the women and older children.  It was over in just a few minutes.  120 members of the wagon train were dead.  The militia did not kill some small children who were deemed too young to relate the story. None of the survivors was over seven years old.  The children were taken into Mormon homes. Once the story of the massacre got out, the relatives of the children made an attempt to get them back, but it took over two years and the help of the U. S. Army to return the children to their relatives.

Members of the militia were sworn to secrecy. A plan was set to blame the massacre on the Native Americans. This train was undoubtedly a very rich one. It is said the emigrants had nearly nine hundred head of fine cattle, many horses and mules.  They also had a great deal of money and gold besides.  Large amounts of their valuables and cattle were taken by the Mormons in Southern Utah. Some of the cattle were taken to Salt Lake City and sold or traded.The remaining personal property was taken to the tithing house at Cedar City and auctioned off to local Mormons.

Pictured here is Nancy, the only survivor of the Peter and Saleta Huff family.  The photo was taken at her wedding in January 1869.

Once news of the massacre began to trickle out, the nation was horrified.  Mark Twain wrote about it in his book "Roughing It".  "A large party of Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of emigrant wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and made an attack. But the emigrants threw up earthworks, made fortresses of their wagons, and defended themselves gallantly and successfully for five days! Your Missouri or Arkansas gentleman is not much afraid of the sort of scurvy apologies for "Indians" which the southern part of Utah affords. He would stand up and fight five hundred of them. At the end of the five days the Mormons tried military strategy. They retired to the upper end of the 'Meadows,' resumed civilized apparel, washed off their paint, and then, heavily armed, drove down in wagons to the beleaguered emigrants, bearing a flag of truce! When the emigrants saw white men coming they threw down their guns and welcomed them with cheer after cheer."

It was twenty years before anyone was convicted in the massacre. Because of Mormon control of the judicial system in Utah, no one was brought to justice. When the Federal government finally stepped in, John D. Lee was offered as a scapegoat, and was the only person convicted out of the estimated 50 to 70 Mormon participants.  He was executed at the Mountain Meadows Massacre site on March 23, 1877.

The terrible events of September 11, 1857 have a clear parallel to the terrible events of September 11, 2001.  It shows us that throughout history there have been people who believe their religion gives them the right to kill other people.  Just look back at the Salem Witch Trials, or the Inquisition, or the Crusades, or the Holocaust.  Although many times in history it has been Christian people who have been involved in these killings, true Christianity, following the teachings of Jesus, requires Christians to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you", Luke 6:27

Monday, September 9, 2013

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson

I is for Isaac's Storm.  Some time ago I read the Erik Larson book titled "Isaac's Storm", that told about the Great Storm of 1900 by telling the story of Isaac Cline. Isaac was the chief meteorologist at the Galveston, Texas office of the US Weather Bureau at the time of the 1900 Hurricane that devastated the city. The author uses Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, to tell the story of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude.

Some friends of mine from church, Dave and Fay Wiebe, heard me refer to the "Great Storm" of 1900 in a sermon. They brought me a hand typed account by a relative of theirs who survived the storm. The account was dictated and signed by Carrie M. Hughes, and copied by Irby B. Hughes August 9,1957 in Palestine, Texas.

The story tells of how 19 people took refuge in the house. As the water rose, they went to the uppermost room in the house. This is what Carrie Hughes wrote about what happened next. "The tremendous wall of broken houses and debris had struck our house, like a battering ram and crushed the underpart, letting the upper part into the water. As it settled down I felt the ceiling touching the back of my head with the water just under my chin. Instantly the roof of the house seemed to blow over from the south throwing little Mattie and me into a corner of it. The next thing I knew I felt ourselves slipping out. I clutched at the ceiling or walls but could catch hold of nothing. As we slipped into the water my hand was grabbed by Eliza Williams, a colored woman whom I knew well. She drew me partly onto the raft upon which she and her daughter Hattie Banks were floating."

Five members of this family made it through the ordeal and 2 did not. As I read the story, waves of emotion swept over me. I have read many survivor stories before, but this one seemed different, as it was a remembrance recorded so that family members would know what happened that night. Because of my friendship with the Wiebe's it seemed real, like I knew the person telling the story.

This is the way that Carrie finished telling her story. "How gladly would we have lost every dollar we possessed could we have kept dear Mattie and Stuart with us, but we do not morn them as one without hope, knowing we shall meet them again. It is such a comforting thought that they were Christians. We do not know where their beloved remains are resting. It may be in one of the numberless unknown graves that dot the whole face of beloved Galveston. It may be they are resting in the depths of the bay or gulf, or their ashes may have mixed with the earth from which they sprung. Whatever may have become of them we know they are safe in the arms of Jesus."

More than 6,000 men, women and children lost their lives during the Great Storm.   It was the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States.  It is hard to imagine what the people of Galveston went through.  Reading the story of her family as written by Carrie Hughes gave me an idea of the terror that people experienced.

I highly recommend the book, "Isaac's Storm", by Erik Larson.

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