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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mystery History

Where are we? And what's happening?
The first person to guess correctly will win self-applied pats on the back.
I'll have the full scoop on Thursday.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Ancestors of Old Linn Creek

For generations Linn Creek, Missouri, was a thriving town in Camden County.

Now referred to as Old Linn Creek, it had a few doctors over the years, including my great-great grandfather Dr. Joel C. Crouch (1825-1873), who was the town physician from 1860 to 1873.

He was commissioned as a Civil War surgeon on May 20, 1863, for the 47th Regiment, Missouri Militia. I'm sure he saw his share of carnage under the most dire circumstances.

I wish I had a photo of Joel. But I haven't given up!

I spent the past day and a half in "new" Linn Creek, built in the 1930s, doing research on the Crouch side of my ancestral family.

It was established shortly after the Bagnell Dam was built in 1931 and the valley below was flooded to become the Lake of the Ozarks.

At the Camden County Museum in Linn Creek, housed in a former school, there is a wonderful group of research staff and volunteers who provided additional information for me about the Crouches. They said what occasionally has become music to my ears during my genealogy research: "We have a file on that family."

They provided some additional biographical and U.S. Census information.

And then they directed me to the Old Linn Creek Memorial Cemetery, which was relocated to a bluff overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks prior to the valley being flooded.

I drove to the cemetery this morning.

The Crouch family gravesite at the cemetery (note the lake in the background). I got emotional when I found them.

Dr. Joel C. Crouch's grave is broken. I went back to the historical museum afterwards and asked if there is a monument company that might repair it and was told that it's on the list of improvements, subject to funding. I made a healthy donation.

Note the Freemasons symbol at the top of the headstone. One of the next things on my to-do list is to contact the local Masonic Lodge to ask if they have information about him.

His wife, my great-great grandmother, was Ellen V. Jarboe Crouch (1823-1878).

Their children were Charles Edward Crouch (1847-1872)

William M. Crouch (1853-1891)

Eliza Rebecca Crouch Shubert (1860-1883)

Eliza was married and had an infant son when she died at the young age of 22.

Note the sweet image of the baby's hand under the parents'. Eliza's husband Charles Hudson Shubert and their son son Lesley are not buried at this cemetery and I haven't yet figured out what happened to them (but I will!).

And May Ellen Crouch Easley (1865-1932), who was my great-grandmother.

May is not buried at the Old Linn Creek Memorial Cemetery because she married Edward Merritt Easley (she was 16, he was 34!) and moved to Lebanon, Missouri, a few counties over. She is buried at the Lebanon City Cemetery.

I'm still on the hunt for the backstories about many of the Crouches. I want to make a trip to Kentucky sometime, where Joel, Ellen, Charles and William were born. Thankfully I have the flexibility of time now that I'm retired!

Here are a couple of additional photos from today, just for fun.

I spent some time today at the Camden County Library, which has this sign on the front door (that's the Ozarks for you!):

When I hit the road for the three-hour drive back to Bella Vista, Arkansas, the sun was setting fast and the sky was full of colors to rival the changing leaves in the Ozark Mountains:

 I'll be home in Pasadena late tomorrow evening.

The photographs of the Crouches are from my own family collection.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mystery History -- Solved!

Bellis wins with her 9:21 p.m. Tuesday guess "It's the wind tunnel for testing aircraft in the Guggenheim Building at Caltech."

In the photo above, two unidentified men stand on the edge of the first wind tunnel in the four-story Guggenheim Building on the Caltech campus in 1928. The wind tunnel dominated the building, which still stands at the south end of the campus.

Here's the Guggenheim Building under construction in 1927. . .

. . .and the front doors today:

Conceived by Theodore von Kármán, famously known as the father of aeronautics, the wind tunnel was built just two years after the end of World War I and operated by what is now Caltech's Department of Aerospace.
Before it opened for aeronautics testing it was inspected by Charles Lindbergh, who was on special assignment by the federal government to inspect aeronautics research capabilities nationwide.
Here are some of the fashion-conscious scientists and engineers who worked in the wind tunnel at the time:
Eventually the wind tunnel was used to test many of the warplanes that helped the Allies win World War II. It became so important to the war effort that armed guards were posted around the building and Caltech scientists and engineers worked in shifts around the clock.

For example, the Lockheed XP-38 bomber was called the “fork-tailed devil” by the Luftwaffe. But before it ever took flight, a model was tested in the wind tunnel in 1938.

And still later the wind tunnel tested the aerodynamic capabilities of more modern aircraft. This photo was shot in 1959:
The wind tunnel continued in service until it was decommissioned in 1997 to make room for additional classroom, lab and office space.
But that wasn't the end of wind tunnels on campus; that original wind tunnel was replaced by a smaller, more modern two-story unit in the Guggenheim Building.
And the new one was preceded by a Mach 20 hypersonic wind tunnel that can emulate conditions of a spacecraft returning to Earth's atmosphere from interplanetary flight (this one's at a different campus location).
Why are wind tunnels so important the aerospace industry? See an interesting article here that includes quotes by Gerald Landry, former manager of Caltech's wind tunnel.
Many thanks to Caltech, the Pasadena Museum of History and Non Paratus.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

WitFest: An Irreverent War of Words

The first WitFest -- L.A.-area authors, writers and artistes vying for top scores in an irreverent war of words -- will feature moderator Sandra Tsing Loh and panelists Jonathan Gold, Suzanna Guzman, David Kipen, Patt Morrision, Gary Phillips and Nat Read Thursday, Oct. 25, from 7 to 10 p.m.. in the ballroom of the historic Castle Green, 99 S. Raymond Ave. in Old Pasadena.

The competition promises to be filled with snappy questions and clever repartee. Wine and passed hors d’oeuvres will be provided. The creation of the inaugural Pasadena Prizes in Poetry and Prose, awarded to local high school students to encourage literary arts, will be announced.

Gold is an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic; Guzman is an operatic mezzo-soprano and host of KCET’s “Open Call”; Kipen is a KPCC literary critic and founder of the lending library Libros Schmibros; Loh is an author, performance artist and NPR commentator; Morrison is an author and Los Angeles Times columnist; Phillips is a mystery writer; and Read is a public relations practitioner, author and stand-up comic.

“Some of the greatest wits in Southern California will be front and center for this rollicking evening,” said Larry Wilson, artistic director of LitFest Pasadena. “Anyone who loves literature and entertainment won’t want to miss it.”

Ticket prices are $75 each or two for $125; patron levels range from $250 to $5,000. Tickets may be purchased online here or by check. Checks should be made out to Pasadena Arts Council, with LitFest Pasadena in the memo field, and mailed to LitFest Pasadena, P.O. Box 93184, Pasadena CA 91109. Tickets are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Proceeds from WitFest will benefit the second annual LitFest Pasadena scheduled for Saturday, May 11, 2013, a free day of literary panel discussions, readings, theater performances, exhibitors, live music, children’s activities and more. Nearly 2,000 people attended the first LitFest Pasadena in May 2012.
For more information visit or e-mail

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mystery History

Where are we? And what's happening?
The first person to guess correctly will win a fabulous prize: a virtual gold star in perpetuity!
I'll have the full scoop on Thursday. And remember, leave your guess as a comment but don't tell the whole back story (that's my job).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Do You Want to Know a Secret?


* * *

When I was a kid we played the telephone game, AKA Chinese whispers: whisper a little story in someone's ear, then that person whispers it to the next in line, and so on, until the last person tells the story out loud for all to hear, but by then it has changed a little or a lot.

Apparently it's the same with family lore: a real event happens to a real person, who tells it to the grandchildren, who tell it to the next generation, and so on, until each retelling changes a little or a lot.

Such was the case of the story I had been told about one of my ancestors that I reported at the end of my Sept. 26 blog post:
"I'm going to try to find time to visit nearby Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park before I return home.  
"One of the family stories I grew up with was that my third great grandfather Andrew Jackson (no relation to the president), a captain in the Confederate Army, was captured during the Battle of Prairie Grove, taken as a prisoner of war to a Union prison camp in Springfield, Illinois, where he was transferred to the prison at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore. He escaped from Ft. McHenry somehow and walked home from Baltimore, Maryland, to his hometown of Cane Hill, Arkansas, where he lived a long and productive life."   
Here he is in his elder years -- the only photo I have of him. He lost his right eye during a Civil War battle (I don't know which one):

Last week my sister Charlou and I went to Prairie Grove to see if there were any records there about Andrew.

Turns out he was never at Prairie Grove!

Alan Thompson, the Arkansas state historian and registrar who works at the battlefield's interpretive center, was very helpful in hunting down the actual story, using Confederate and Union records.

Here he is showing Charlou where Roseville, Arkansas, is on a historic map (Roseville is no longer a town).

So here's the real story:

Andrew Jackson (1831-1913) was a first lieutenant, not a captain. He was attached to Company H of the 1st Regiment, Arkansas Confederate Cavalry.

The reason he was not at the Battle of Prairie Grove was that he was leading a decoy unit a few miles away at Roseville, Arkansas, with the intention of keeping the Union army away from Prairie Grove after they crossed the border from Missouri (it didn't work).

Confederate pay records show that he went five months without being paid. Here's one of his pay receipts:

Five months is a long time. So he deserted.

Before he made it home he was found by Union soldiers, taken as a prisoner of war and transported to a Union prison at Springfield, Missouri. He was 32 years old at the time, a widower with a young daughter.

From there he was taken to St. Louis and then transported all the way to City Point, Virginia, where he was taken to Fortress Monroe as part of a prisoner exchange.

From Fortress Monroe, Virginia, he was put on the steamboat Maple Leaf for transfer via the Delaware River to Fort Delaware.

When he and some other prisoners found their opportunity, they overpowered the Maple Leaf and escaped. (I found an interesting history of the Maple Leaf.)

And my great-great-great grandfather Andrew Jackson walked all the way home to Arkansas.

And now I have the full story, including historic records, to pass on to future generations.

Telephone game, anyone?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Keeper of the Plains

Monday and yesterday I was in Wichita, Kansas, visiting my cousin Alice. We had a great time at an event Monday evening (see those photos here!) and at about 10 p.m. we walked four blocks from her home to see the "Keeper of the Plains."

It's a 45-foot-tall (not including the 30-foot rock base) sculpture that I've seen during the day but never before in the evening when the fire pots are aflame. It was incredibly dramatic!

"Keeper of the Plains" was created by Blackbear Bosin who also supervised the installation. It stands where the Big Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers converge.

I went back yesterday on my way out of town to walk around the surrounding plaza with its interpretive walls...

...and visit the adjacent (and very large) Mid-America All-Indian Center:

The "Keeper of the Plains" and the surrounding area stand as an homage to the Native Americans who lived on the plains where the modern city of Wichita now exists.

If you're ever in the neighborhood, it's an important must-see.