A Day in Appanoose County

2016 Trip to Iowa Day 3

I was going along pretty well here, writing about my recent trip to Iowa. Then came the maddening, frustrating realization that I experienced a major technical failure on this particular day of my trip. It was my own un-techy fault. Unprepared. Ill equipped. Lacking knowledge. So I stopped writing mid-trip. Really, I am so bummed out about it. Nevertheless, it was a lovely day! Here goes …

2016-iowa-mystic-water-tower-copyWhen I was in Iowa four years ago, my Uncle Roy wanted to take me to Mystic, the town where he and my mom and their siblings were born and spent their early years. I ran out of time during that visit, so I made sure to reserve a day for a trip to Mystic this time.

Mystic, and the rest of Appanoose County, experienced a boom during the late 1800s and early 1900s because of coal mining in the area. Later, the mines ran out and many of the towns are now a mere shadow of what they once were. For today, we’ll just focus on the trip and I’ll hope to write more about Mystic and the lives of my family there another day.

map-of-appanoose-travelsThankfully, I had swapped out the two-door hatchback for a four-door sedan so that Uncle Roy, Aunt Joan and I could travel in relative comfort. I picked them up at their RV in Ottumwa Park and we were on our way mid morning. I was so thankful to have Uncle Roy as my navigator and tour guide.

The first stop on our trip was Elgin Cemetery in Mystic, where members of my Hoskins side of the family are buried. My great-grandmother’s stone was easy to find.

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins nee Bryan

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins nee Bryan

JAN 27, 1864
JAN 7, 1939

Prepare to meet
me in Heaven

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins, nee Bryan was my maternal grandfather’s mother.

Her daughters were buried nearby.

Edna Hoskins Martin and John

Edna Hoskins Martin and John

Ethel Hoskins Bland, Mark and Barbara

Ethel Hoskins Bland, Mark and Barbara



But where was her husband?

We looked and looked for Thomas Franklin Hoskins, but he was nowhere to be found. His death certificate confirms that he should be here, but we could not find even an indentation or tiny mark where an unmarked grave might be. Just to the left of Sarah Hoskins’ marker was a small metal marker. It is difficult to read, but I think the name is Morlan and other Morlans are nearby.

stickler-adaThere are a lot of Sticklers and Milburns buried in Elgin Cemetery – both family lines that married into my family tree, so I took pictures of their markers as well. There were a lot of old stones that were impossible, or nearly impossible, to read. Someone had taken black paint to preserve the names on the old Stickler markers. I know this is frowned upon, but I do understand the motivation. The names on those stones were not long for this world.


Taking pictures of grave markers always seems to be a challenge for me. Here is one of my photo fails. Like my big yellow bag?

I found this short video someone took at Elgin Cemetery. It doesn’t show the part of the cemetery where our family is buried, but gives a view of the landscape.

I’m just going to stop here and write about the rest of my day in Appanoose County in another post ’cause I’m still bummed about what happened next.

P.S. You can enlarge small photos by clicking on them.

To Do List:
Find the location of great-grandfather’s grave in Elgin Cemetery. Thomas Franklin Hoskins.

Related posts:
Flying Solo – Day 1 of this trip
Bonaparte Retreat – Day 2 of this trip
Puzzling Penmanship – includes pictures of Thomas F. Hoskins home and children
Sisters, But Not – Edna Hoskins

Do you have an Alias? I do now!

A few months ago I found a series of video tutorials by Ben Sayer at Genealogy Tools explaining his system for computer genealogy files. He put this series together in 2008, but they were new to me. I set up a few folders in this format and went on to something else. This week I’ve been back at it again. So far I really like this system and as I get the folders set up, I now have a designated place to put all my genealogy research and documents.

Woo hoo!

… because my filing system is a mess and there have been many times when I knew I had some thing some where, but I didn’t know where. What in the world did I name that file?

DSCN2643Unfortunately, this does not address my unorganized mess of physical files, folders, boxes, tabletops, closets, and desks. 🙁

The basic idea is to create a master folder for your family history. I created one for my family, one for my husband’s family, and one for my step-father’s family.

Within the family history master folder, create two folders: Surnames and Places. Within the Surnames folder, make a folder for each surname. Then within each surname, create folders for individuals.

screensave surname folders copy

I like his format for naming folders for individuals because it addresses individuals who share the same name – just add dates…

screensave surname duplicate names

and it addresses married/maiden names.

screensave surname folders married names

It makes sense to me.

These videos do not suggest creating folders within the individual person folders, but I am doing that for some people. I have a lot of artifacts/memorabilia from my grandmothers, so I have made an Artifacts folder for each of them within their individual folders. In fact, I have so many that within the Artifact folders, I have made folders for Recipes and Newspaper clippings and I may decide to add more. I have a lot of one grandmother’s jewelry, for example, so I’ll make a Jewelry folder and add all the pictures I have taken.

screensave Eveline copy

The other thing I learned from these videos is how to make alias files. What a concept! A document – say a census record – may be in the individual file for the head of a household. I can create alias files for the other members of the family that show in their individual folders, but they aren’t really duplicated so don’t take up any additional space on my hard drive. Who knew? Not me!

And alias folders are great for married women. She can have a folder included under her husband’s surname as well as her own.

screensave richardson copy

I haven’t done much with the Places folders yet other than set up some of them. I still need to decide how I want to use them. Maps, obviously; pictures of homes; descriptions of towns; …. I also like his suggestion of using alias files for places where the name has changed over time.

Yesterday I worked on one of my uncles. If I had the date for whatever I was adding to his individual folder, I included the year immediately following his name when I named the file. This provided a partially chronological view within his individual folder.

screensave Al copy 2

You may notice that I took a shortcut within his individual folder and did not use his full name or the years of his life. Since they were already in his folder, I thought it would be ok.

These tutorials are for Mac users, but the filing system itself makes sense for anyone. The explanations are for beginners, so you may already know everything. I did not.

Here is the link to the first video. Links to subsequent videos are at the bottom of the linked post. The comments section of the posts have additional information about his system not addressed in the videos. (Where I have just now read that he puts census records into the Places folders and creates alias files for individual folders; he addresses what he does with photographs; and more.)

Do you have an organizational system that works for you? Please share in the comments.

Our Semi-Vegan Thanksgiving

I know. Thanksgiving is over. It’s time for Christmas trees and cookies and carols and memories of Christmas past. But before I fully enter into the next holiday, I need to finish with the last one. So I’m going to preserve my Thanksgiving menu here where I can find it next year.

I had to make some adjustments this year as one of my daughters is following a vegan diet.  A vegetarian diet has never posed much of a problem – a few modifications (vegetable broth instead of chicken broth) – and simple avoidance of the turkey. But a vegan diet eliminates eggs, cheese, milk and butter – ingredients that make Thanksgiving dinner rich and decadent and so satisfying. I was doubtful.

Her birthday also falls on or near Thanksgiving, so I needed to make her a vegan-friendly birthday cake just a couple of days later.

So today, I’m recording my Thanksgiving dinner menu and recipes – and the cake. If you are interested, read on. If not, I understand. See ‘ya next time!

I’m going to begin with the cake because I took a picture of it. I didn’t take any pictures of Thanksgiving dinner. 🙁 All of the words in blue are links back to sources.

After searching the internet for a vegan cake, I realized that some of them sounded an awful lot like a cake I had made before….  a “depression” cake… the kind women of my grandmothers’ generation made during the depression and during war rationing. No eggs. No butter. No milk. …… Ah ha! Vegan!

Chocolate Depression Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 10 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup salad oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups cold water
Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix with a large spoon until smooth. Spoon into a greased and floured 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Frost with your favorite frosting.
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used almond milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the coconut oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.

Add the coconut milk, stir well, and bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat to a steady but gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. The mixture should begin to thicken.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

Beat the frosting until it thickens, about 20 strokes with a wooden spoon. Spread it over your cake layers.

Any leftover frosting can be poured in a pan, allowed to harden, and cut into squares like fudge.

We enjoyed the cake. It was chocolate. It was moist. The frosting was fudgy. I didn’t cook it long enough or it didn’t cool fast enough. Whatever – I ended up putting it in the frig for about five minutes so it would thicken. If you don’t mind having a cake that looks a little messy, just do what I did and pour a lot of the frosting on top, smooth it around and let it drip down. I tried to smooth it out, but I didn’t do a very good job. But really, that has nothing to do with taste. The taste was good – but there was a little coconut flavor from the coconut oil.
Now on to Thanksgiving:

1. Turkey – Like I said, it was a semi-vegan meal. Younger daughter said to me a day before Thanksgiving, “I’m not that into turkey.” I’m thinking, “Great. I just spent a lot of money on a fresh no-hormone turkey and hubby and I will have to eat the whole thing.” But when she took a bite of that fresh, hormone-free turkey she said, “This turkey is good!” And she ate lots of turkey sandwiches over the next few days. Cooked simply in an oven bag with a few vegetables around and poked inside. No Brining. Nothing special.

2. Dressing – I used a recipe I got from one of the ESL teachers the year we prepared a feast for our students. Instead of the cornbread called for, I used 12 cups of wheat French bread. I thought it was a little too moist and maybe needed a little more bread or a little less (vegetable) broth. But my family – who tend to like undercooked dough and bread – liked the stuffing just as it was. (Left out boiled eggs.)

3. Mashed potatoes – Mashed potatoes made with butter and milk are one of my favorite comfort foods, but this was a great substitute. I didn’t have vermouth and just did other ingredients to my liking. I did not use 20 cloves of garlic or a whole cup of olive oil! And I don’t have a food mill, just a potato masher.

Mario Batali’s Caramelized Garlic with Potatoes

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes (peeled)
  • Kosher Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 20 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Sweet Vermouth

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water by at least an inch. Bring the pot to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook the potatoes until a knife easily pierces through the potatoes. Strain.

In a small saute pan over medium heat, add about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Caramelize the garlic until the cloves reach a deep golden color. Remove the garlic from the  pan and deglaze with Vermouth.

Working in batches, add the potatoes to a food mill. Once all the potatoes are milled, toss in the garlic and the deglazed Vermouth. Stir in about 1 cup olive oil and stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning and serve while still hot.

4. Gravy – I’m terrible at making gravy, but this was easy and delicious. And it smelled so good while cooking. My only problem was that I didn’t have low-sodium soy sauce and it did taste a little too salty for me.

Portobello Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cleaned portobello mushrooms, (2 medium)
  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons tamari, or reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to release their juices, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add broth, tamari (or soy sauce), thyme and sage; simmer for 10 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir into the sauce and simmer, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes more. Season with pepper. If you prefer a smooth gravy, pass it through a fine sieve (discard mushrooms and onions). Serve hot. Can make ahead – cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. 

5. Cranberry Sauce – I try little changes each year and none ever please me exactly. This year it was cranberry sauce cooked with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. One caveat here – it’s really hard to find 6 whole cloves just thrown into the sauce fixings. Had to spend 10 minutes trying to find them and still came up one short. Hubby found it, though. When he was eating it.  I made this Spiced Cranberry Sauce from Epicurious.com.

6. Yellow Squash Casserole – I love this stuff and made no attempt to veganize it. It was one she just had to miss out on. From The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

7. Green beans – Cooked the way I usually cook them – in a skillet with a little (hardly any) water and seasoned salt. Stir around until the beans have turned bright green and the water is gone. Add olive oil and saute’ till roasted and some are brown and wrinkled.

8. Honey-kissed Carrots – Made as usual, just used vegan margarine. Also from Southern Living Cookbook.

9. Sweet Potato Casserole – I should have just stuck with what I usually make and left out the eggs. Instead, I tried Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog. It was good, but Thanksgiving is all about tradition and favorite foods – not the time to try a recipe with a new, orangey flavor.

10. Pumpkin Pie – Didn’t try a vegan version this year. Maybe next time, if we have more people to eat with us. Just used the recipe on the can.

11. Cranberry-Apple-Raisin Pie – Vegan friendly if you dot with vegan margarine. I don’t remember where I got the recipe – probably a Southern Living something or other.

So that’s it. The few tweaks to make dishes vegan friendly were not really a big deal. There were a couple of things she couldn’t eat, but there was plenty for all of us to enjoy. And everything was good.

I’ve had a few spacing issues with this post, but I’m done. Not perfect, but good enough.

Now on to Christmas!

As soon as I throw out the decorative pumpkin….