Monday, July 18, 2011

Spring House

In the days before refrigeration, settlers sought after property that had a spring or was near a spring.  A cool branch was also desirable.  A small house was built up over the spring or branch and a small pool dug where perrishable items such as cheese, butter and eggs were stored to prolong shelf life.  This was called a 'spring house' and was quite significant to household  resources.  In the absence of a spring, the cool waters of a deep well was utilized by lowering the food in an animal bladder or hide that was stitched up.  In areas where there were basements, a room was constructed and lined with mud and straw as a crude insulation where ice was stored throughout the year.  The basements of many houses  also had a cheese room, where they used their excess milk to make cheese and store it.  Butter also was coated with salt on the outside and stored in the basement.  More affluent pioneers had ice houses, insulated in the same manner.  Thomas Jefferson had an ice house.  There was quite a thriving business where northern ice was carved out in the winter, stored and delivered to warmer areas through out the year.  The era of the ice man is quite well remembered by many alive today, especially after there became ice plants where ice was made for the more common ice box of the early 1900s.  The means of making ice was discovered around 1840, but it was not in common practice until much later.  Electricty did not spread to rural areas until the 1930s and after and it was only afterwards that available markets developed for household refrigerators.  I remember, and I was born in 1948, my grandfather having an ice box in his fish camp on Lake Talquin.  He put blocks of ice in the top of the box and it cooled the goods stored below it.  Worked quite well as I remember.
    Meats, poultry and fish were another story.  They were eaten entirely when caught or killed during warmer months.  In the winter, they were kept frozen, or in warmer climates salted and/or smoked.  Hog killings were never held during the summer, only in the winter.  Jerked or dried meats were common.  Game was mostly hunted in winter with more vegetables, fish and chicken used in the warmer months.  Game, especially small game, tend to have a higher infestation of worms and bugs during warm weather that dies off during cold weather and were saved for winter fare.  Eggs were sometimes preserved by pickling with salt and vinegar water but for the most part canning was not practiced other than for pickles, jams and jellies.  Jams and jellies were sealed off with wax, about 1/4 inch thick.  Pickles were stored in crocks with heavy lids.  Cannning and the Mason jar are relics of the 1900s,as are the era of frozen foods.  Freeze dried, dehydration and other packaging have come later.
     Some vegetables, especially root vegetables, can be stored for longer periods in basements, in sand pits or straw beds; grains store also.  Better methods of storing grains have now been developed.  Mylar bags and oxygen depletion packets store grains for many years without the danger of bug infestation and is easy to accomplish with a hot iron seal at home.  I have never tried this, but I understand that a watermelon buried in the summer several feet deep in fairly dry sand can be dug up and eaten for Thanksgiving and will be perfectly ripe; certainly chilled in a spring house would taste much better.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Spanish Flu

From Weekly Newsletter of
The 1918 Influenza: No Ordinary Case of the Flu

By Mary Penner 07 July 2011

William Sanders probably wondered when the horror would end. The Carter County, Missouri resident watched his 14-year-old son, Leonard, die on October 8, 1918. Two days later, his 21-year-old son, Willie, died, followed by 7-year-old Timon, 15-year-old Simon, 3-year-old Dallas, and finally 17-year-old Maude. He lost six children in a span of nine days. Ten days later his 48-year-old wife Sarah died, leaving William a widower with three children under the age of 10.
William’s stunning tragedy wasn’t unique. Families across the United States, and around the world, grappled with a killer of unprecedented proportions - the Spanish Influenza. My grandfather, Henry Bergman, a healthy 37 year old man, fought his way back from near death when the flu struck him. He was one of the lucky ones.

It’s fairly certain that the disease didn’t originate in Spain. It was likely called the Spanish flu because Spain was one of the first countries in Western Europe that publicized significant numbers of flu-related deaths in the general population. Even today, nearly a century after the pandemic, virologists still remain fascinated by the origins of this catastrophic illness and its worldwide deadly march. Most agree that the conditions in France, the major battleground of World War I, contributed to an opportunistic perfect storm for this deadly strain of flu to strike throughout the world.

A first wave of the flu struck soldiers in Europe in the spring of 1918. Nearly 25,000 French troops reported ill with the flu in May. But, only a handful died, and the illness seemed to fade away during the summer. In late August and September, the flu re-emerged worldwide. This strain, though, proved to be lethal for millions of people. Accurate numbers aren’t known, but estimates suggest around 30 million deaths from the flu. Some assert the number was probably much higher, approaching 100 million.
In practical terms for genealogists, hardly any American family escaped the effects of the flu. More than 25 percent of the American population became ill over a span of a few months. Fortunately, many of them recovered, but it was no ordinary case of the flu. Recovery was often a long and arduous undertaking. Even if your family members avoided getting sick, they may have felt the impact of the pandemic on their daily lives. Public gatherings were strictly curtailed. Schools were closed. People on the streets wore masks. Some communities posted guards on the roads and wouldn’t allow strangers in, and some wouldn’t allow anyone to disembark from trains that rolled through town. While church services were discouraged, some congregations met outdoors thinking that would be safer than meeting inside.
For many Americans, like the Sanders family in Missouri, the entire makeup of their family changed. John Oxford, a British virologist, noted that when “one person dies … there are repercussions through the next generation.” Was your family affected by the 1918 flu?

It's hard to imagine such measures being taken in America.  Suprisingly, those treated herbally had a far greater chance of survival.  What herb?  There are two primary ones Sweet joe-pye weed and boneset.  Both are considered weeds that grow almost all over the USA.  It's not surprising then that a fear of a pandemic flu killing off millions still remains.  It is surprising that no one seems to have exploited the flu fighting properties of these two herbs.  Boneset got its nick name from its property of alleviating the bone breaking pain of flu.  Joe-pye from an old indian name Joe who is supposed to have shown the use of the weed for flu.  Don't know if Joe really existed, but it was an old American Indian cure.