07 January 2015
My appreciation for the Indiana dunes began several years ago when researching the early preservation movement in the dunes region, headed up by notable folks like Jens Jensen, and stand-out botanist Dr. Henry Cowles of Chicago who completed pioneering work in ecology in the dunes. While I haven't extensively explored the dunes area (outside of the state park), I have enjoyed a few hikes in the area. Recently a buddy and I hiked the trail through Cowles Bog, one of the most ecologically significant areas of the dunes and named for the good doctor who helped place it on the map.
The bog is estimated to be about 8,000 years old and is described as a "fen" or marsh area covered with mosses and sedges. The bog was named a National Natural Landmark in 1965, about the time the National Lakeshore was created. In 1913, Dr. Cowles headed up an international excursion to the bog, attended by scientists from around the world who came to witness one of the most ecologically-diverse areas in the United States, only behind Yellowstone Park and the giant redwoods area of California.
Yep-right here in Indiana.
31 December 2014
I had a long conversation this week with a young man who is trying to reconcile the traditions of Christmas with his Christian faith. He's taken it to heart and has pages of notes from his research on the origins of Christmas as the holiday we observe. He became very serious and asked me "what do you think of Christmas?" Not exactly sure what he was getting at, I said, "well, it's over-commercialized, and of course, it wasn't when Christ was actually born." More than a half hour later we parted and I mentioned that I had this post rolling around in my head and that our conversation encouraged me to frame it a little differently.
Now this isn't going to be a "put Christ back in Christmas" post, nor is it about the idea the holiday has been hijacked by retailers. In looking for the true spirit of the celebration, in an aspect of the Christian faith that truly should be celebrated, I wonder if we've let the hype steal what could be, and I think was, one of the most meaningful emotions of the season. Have we lost the feeling of anticipation?
From the time the angel appeared to Mary, then Joseph, the anticipation of the Christ was nurtured by these two individuals who God chose to reveal his plan of salvation and reconciliation of the fractured world. And when Mary gave birth, the angels carried that message of hope to shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem, who hurried with anticipation to see this savior-child. And some time later, having been revealed to magi, these wise men followed a star in anticipation to see who they knew had been foretold in ancient prophecies. What would be next for Jesus? His father and mother must have wondered, and then the young men He gathered to His side must have felt such great anticipation in their hearts as Christ healed the sick, made the lame to walk, and opened blind eyes. And when all hope must have seemed lost on Golgotha, imagine the anxious hearts when they learned the stone had been rolled away. What great feeling of wonder and anticipation must have filled those with whom Jesus had walked the streets of Jerusalem.
|Christmas Eve at the 'ol homestead|
Christmas Eve is my most favorite point on the calender. There seems to be an almost palatable feeling of peace that envelopes the world around us. I can walk through our house and feel warmth, hope, and peace in a way that is hard to put into words, but I am sure you understand what I am attempting to convey. And maybe it is the lights on the tree, or the traditions of family before me that pull my heart to that place. But from my late teens until now-it has been the most sacred of times as I consider the sacrifice, born in a manger, that brings hope to the world.
Frankly, I don't know that I care that the Church landed on December 25 to celebrate the birth of Christ eons ago. To me, it is less about celebrating a day than it is about celebrating what the coming of Christ as a baby means to the Christian faith. I choose to celebrate, with anticipation, what God has already prepared for me in the year ahead. So in that vein, celebrating at this point on the calender makes perfect sense. Redirecting our hearts and thoughts during this time should start with the feeling of anticipation borne out of reflecting on the blessings God has provided in this last year and looking forward to fulfilling His calling on our hearts in the year ahead.
This isn't a post about the appropriateness of Christmas trees or lights, or greenery or Santa. And it isn't about deciding how many gifts cross the line from making this Christmas commercialized or not. Maybe this is a call to re-frame our thinking at this time of the year to that of anticipation. Block out the noise and don't worry about whether or not a manger scene is on the courthouse lawn, don't try to make the story of Christ's birth more hip with clever sermon titles or cute phrases. Just share it and ask yourself the pointed question for the year ahead, "am I living in anticipation of the Savior of the world?"
24 December 2014
17 December 2014
One of the most quoted scriptures during Advent is the message the angles carried to shepherds tending their flocks outside Bethlehem: Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men."
Two thousand years later, while some still hope for peace, it seems an elusive concept in so much of the world. And where violence doesn't shadow the hope of peace, the busy-ness of life, angst, greed, and what-have-you tends to steal the peace that is ours for the asking. We must only seek it in the One whose coming was wrapped in its message. Too often, in many churches, we don't even bother with the hope for peace, much less in being peacemakers as is found in the Beatitudes, because we feel somehow the reality of sin and our disconnection with those who do not profess Christ, provides a waiver from our responsibility to this world. A world that needs to know the peace of God....I should hope that we're not so broken a vessel to carry that message.
For a few generations the words "Peace on Earth" hung near the top of my grandfather's barn. His family, who left the Amish church, did not know war until he served in the Pacific theater during World War II. Was it any wonder after his service ended that he should have that message proclaimed from on high? When the farm left the family, my mom noticed the words had disappeared from the barn, so she stopped and asked the owner if he had kept them. He did, and they found their way to our home.
About 10 years ago we used the words, and our kids, to send the message of "peace on earth" on our Christmas cards. When we arrived in the country, I think my mom thought they'd be placed on our barn. Instead, we had the perfect place for them inside our home and they stand as a constant reminder of what our responsibility is in this world: agents of peace, peacemakers, as we've been called to. I think that means giving up our rights, or the need to be right, in so many circumstances. I think it means finding ways to get people talking with each other, to work toward compromise and understanding. It means speaking less, and listening more, and being more inclusive in how we go about doing our Father's will.
So, in this week leading up to Christmas, let's determine to find an inward peace and contentment and then in the year before us, let's commit to being peacemakers, healers if you will, to the broken world around us.
10 December 2014
|1869 bird's-eye view of Michigan City, the Michigan Road is the main angled street not conforming to the grid|
|The Warren Building, under redevelopment as the new Artspace project|
|First Congregational Church, 1881, on Washington Street|
|The former Zorn Brewery complex, c. 1870, in the Elston Grove District|
This is what happens when a community rallies around its historic resources = economic development.
03 December 2014
|Levi Van Reed House, Warren County|
|Sweitzer barn on the Van Reed farm|
After Levi’s death the farming operations were carried out by his sons John and Levi, Jr. The vast estate was divided among Levi’s living children, each receiving hundreds of acres. Levi Van Reed, Jr. inherited the family farmstead which included 240 acres on either side of Old U.S. 41. Levi Van Reed, Jr. was born in 1860, likely at the farmstead. In 1895, the Levi Van Reed, Jr. family retired from farming and moved to Williamsport where they were involved in other business interests.
|Spoon mold on the farm.....just kidding, what a great splash block design!|
26 November 2014
So I'm trying to embrace by English roots now that I've learned my DNA results and I'm a great deal more English than German, and even less so-Irish. I've been running down several branches of my family tree and one that has eluded me is that of the Chapman family who moved into Marshall County during the 1840s. We've heard stories of Dr. Clarke Chapman, who graduated from LaPorte Medical School and rode horseback from his farm north of Argos to make house calls. And through research we found that his father, Ezekiel, lived in Argos as well. And the most fabled of family lore, was that Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman was a cousin who visited their farm. That never quite added up, but I had always hit a brick wall with any information earlier than Ezekiel, who lived in New York state.
But in my recent research I was able to connect a more senior Ezekiel to my Indiana pioneer, which led to a third Ezekiel in Connecticut, which led to the Chapmans of Saybrooke, Connecticut, who founded the town in 1635. Robert I came to America in 1635 from England and founded the town, his son, Robert II, and grandson, Robert III, lived and died in the New England town. The founder's grave is now unmarked, but his son's grave, my great x9 grandfather, is still marked with a stone that has one of the region's famously carved designs-a stylized primitive angel. I shared the photo with a friend and he immediately responded that it looked like the Starbuck's logo. Huh...kinda. I found that most Chapmans trace their roots to Robert I, likely Johnny Appleseed does too....but I haven't found that yet. Several more interesting stories have surfaced as well, but yet a few ancestors continue to elude me.
On this Thanksgiving eve, as I delved into the richness of our country's history reaching back to its foundations, I wonder what we are leaving in our wake. What will those who come after us say of our generation? For nearly 400 years we built, cleared, prospered and can be truly thankful for much. But for what will the generations that follow be thankful to our generation? I hope it's more than limitless Starbucks.
19 November 2014
|St. Stephens Cemetery, Dearborn County, IN|
I took my mom and her sister on a whirlwind genealogical tour across the U.S. 6 corridor in three northern Indiana counties a few weeks ago. In preparation for the trip, I plugged a few names of ancestors into findagrave.com. Yes, it is for-real. I knew that my great x3 grandfather had been born in Bavaria and came with his parents to the United States in the 1830s, first settling in Dearborn County, Indiana. Jacob Ewald followed the love of his life to northern Indiana, while his parents and several siblings remained in Dearborn County. I did not know where his parents were buried, so I plugged in their names and found that the cemetery was just off the beaten path to Madison, which is where my wife and I were planning to spend our anniversary.
|My wife capturing a moment of me paying respect to distant family|
All of the stones in this little cemetery were inscribed in German.
All of them.
|Believed to be a tintype picture of Phillip Ewald, my great x4 grandfather, immigrant from Bavaria|
12 November 2014
Inspired by the PBS program "Finding Your Roots", and trying to resolve an internal debate about some family lore, I simply asked for a DNA kit from Ancestry.com for my birthday this year. A vile full of spit and a few weeks later, my ancestral-origin profile arrived.
My grandfather, sometimes with seriousness, and other times in jest, claimed that we had Native American blood. In my genealogical research, I haven't found that native link-but some lines got blurred in Virginia, so I thought it was possible. When grandpa had us grandkids "on the hook" he'd tell us we were part Blackfoot, to which he'd take off his sock and show us the bottom of his dirty foot. That should have clued me in. More believable was his story that he knew that the first to carry our name in the New World arrived with his brothers from Ireland way back. This didn't add up to what became pretty overwhelming probability that the first of my namesake came from Germany during the Revolution, and dropped the "t" from his name so that it sounded more Anglicized.
|Plight of the Spanish Armada|
|Destruction of the Armada|
|Yup, about as Anglo as they come.|
05 November 2014
03 November 2014
|Versailles State Park, est. 1934|
|Potato Creek State Park, est. 1977|
|Kankakee State Fish & Wildlife Area, est. 1927|
|Tippecanoe River State Park, est. 1943|
|Brown County State Park, est. 1929|
|Clifty Falls State Park, est. 1920|
|Harmonie State Park, est. 1966|
29 October 2014
Bankable cigars. I'm not even sure what that means. But it's patented and belonged to the N. N. Smith Company out of Frankfort, Indiana. In a recent research project in Lebanon, just down the road from Frankfort, I came across a handsome building near its courthouse square that had the company name engraved high above its entry.
I had never heard of the company before, and so I went googling, as I often do just to see what's out there while researching and suddenly a number of photos of old cigar boxes popped up. Mr. Noah Smith's "bankable cigar" was patented in 1917. He built a cigar manufacturing facility in Frankfort in 1919, "the Bankable Building", and then expanded with a second building, remarkably similar to his Frankfort plant, in Lebanon in about 1926. The production capacity of the company reached 125,000 cigars daily. That just seems crazy.
Smith sold his interest to an intermediate manufacturer, until it was sold again to a firm known as the National Cigar Company in 1943. That company began production of a few cigar lines with names tied to Indiana including the "Lincoln Highway" and the "Hoosier Poet" which featured James Whitcomb Riley on the box. The company still exists in Frankfort, running production out of the old Bankable Building: http://www.broadleafcigars.com/tour.htm.
I can't help but think of my grandpa and the smell of cigar smoke writing this one.