Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Summer Kitchen: Colonial Style

It's hot here this bright May morning; yesterday our high was 95° and steamy. Today looks to be the same. My oven grows cobwebs from May to September, no cookies are baked, no homemade bread. We grill a lot in the summer, if it can be flipped, skewered, or tossed in a grill pan, it's on the menu. Some folks around here have fancy (expensive) outdoor kitchens with built in sinks and fridges which make the process a little more pleasant, but a simple grill will suffice. 

The other day I was researching life in upstate New York at the time of the American Revolution and I came across a reference to a building called a 'summer kitchen.' I knew that these types of kitchens, removed from the main residence, existed in the south but not as far north as New York. My interest was piqued. So what was a summer kitchen and what did it look like. 
Summer Kitchen photo by Royalbroil

Summer kitchens were popular in the north from the 18th through the 19th century. They were usually a single room, 150-250 square feet, building that was distinct from the house. This not only kept the main building cooler but lessened the risk of fire. Often these summer kitchens were built of rock or brick, which had the benefit of making them less flammable. 

In the early versions of the summer kitchen, the fireplace and chimney usually took up an entire end wall and might also have a baking oven built into it. Unlike today's kitchens there was no built in furniture, everything was movable. If the owner could not afford two sets of cooking implements and all the accouterments that were needed for cooking then they needed to be transported back and forth. 

In 1795 the cast iron stove was introduced to America. Bulky in size, it took up a significant amount of space in the home. These were often put in the Summer Kitchen to free up square footage. The stoves  also gave off significant heat, another reason to relegate them to their own building during the summer months. See this link for a great photo. 

The building was used for more than just production of the days meals. In the north where, abundant summer fruits and vegetables were grown, there was a need for space to pickle, can, and dry the produce. The housewife or her servants made jams, jellies and fruit butters. Herbs could be hung from rafters to dry. The kitchen could also be used for the processing of meat, drying, salting, and smoking of hams and bacon and the production of meat products such as sausage. 

A loft  might cover a portion of the ceiling and used for storage or for sleeping quarters. With doors thrown open, the family might eat their meals at a table set up in the kitchen, if the breeze was right. In the south the separate kitchen was the domain of slaves, they lived, worked and slept in the kitchen. 

Wherever it was, the summer kitchen was the domain of women. The task of food processing fell to them. I can just picture my ancestor, swathed from head to toe in material, no fans, no A/C, nothing but a breeze to stir the air, standing before a hot fire, spoon in hand, stirring a pot of raspberry jam. I am thankful it's not me. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

From Asheville, North Carolina to a Resale Shop in Texas: The travels of a 1955 High School Class Ring

In a dusty box of costume jewelry sat a lovely gold class ring with a large red stone. It was in immaculate condition. Someone looked at that ring and saw a worthless object, the shop employee saw a profit, but I saw a detective story. I slipped the ring on my finger, it fit perfectly, it was a woman's ring. I knew I had to find the owner and her story.

The ring was from 1955, the school  Lee Edwards High School in Asheville, North Carolina. I've never been to Asheville, but I hear it's beautiful. Anyway, inside the ring were the owner's initials F. C. M. Thanks to I was able to find the 1955 Yearbook for Lee Edwards High, The Hillbilly. There she was, a pretty short haired blond, with a sweet smile; Frances Martin. Frances was in the Glee Club, the Latin Club, the French Club, and other activities. 

According to records found on Ancestrydotcom Frances Calvine Martin was born on 23 December 1936 to Robert James Martin and Elizabeth Howerton Babbitt in North Carolina. 

Shortly after graduation, eighteen year old Frances Calvine Martin married twenty-one year old Clyde Gilbert Tweed, also of Asheville, NC.  Clyde would become a doctor, graduating from Duke University in North Carolina and the couple lived in Florida. The marriage did not last; they were divorced in March of 1961 in Bradford, FL. Dr. Tweed would marry twice more, serve his country in the Navy, and die after a long life in Florida in the year 2012. The couple had at least two children, both sons, Jonathan and Robert. 

On the 22nd of September in 1961, Frances Martin Tweed remarried. Her second husband was Richard Phillip Caputo in Buncombe County, NC. Less than a year later, Richard Phillip Caputo Jr. was born, 29 August 1962, in Asheville. I found nothing further on the child. I believe that Richard, her husband died in 1997 and is buried in Alexandria, Virginia, but I'm not 100% sure.

On the 26th of July 1975, thirty-eight year old Frances Martin Caputo, twice divorced, married for the third time to Frank Ambrose Finnerty Jr. in Fairfax County, VA.  He was fifty-one and also divorced. According to their marriage record, she had at least two years of college and he five plus. Frank was a physician, who taught at Georgetown University. He died in 2011 at the age of 87. But, according to his obituary, he and Frances had divorced prior to his death. They had at least one son, Richard. 

Frances died on 27 February 2012 at her home in Brevard, North Carolina. She was survived by her husband  Christopher John Nuthall. She was retired from her job in hospital administration and was according to her obituary an accomplished artist. Chris Nuthall died in March of 2017, also in Brevard, NC. 

In all my searching, and it took a lot to track this lady through her interesting life, I could find no connection to Texas. The question remains, how did her 1955 class ring end up in a resale shop thousands of miles from where she was born, lived and died?  It's a mystery to me.

addendum: I contacted a family member and left a message. Probably thinks I'm a weirdo and did not return my call. 

Have a great day!