Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson
Showing posts with label DAKIN Marion Evans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DAKIN Marion Evans. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Gaylordsville Tanner and the the Uppsala Swimming Society

Last May I received an email:

Dear Erica-
I am working on a short history article about the Uppsala Swimming Society for an upcoming issue of SWIMMER magazine, the official publication of U.S. Masters Swimming. In researching the topic, I came across your book, A Ring and a Bundle of Letters. I was intrigued by a note on page 194 that indicated that Knut Hellsten wrote a history of the Uppsala Swimming Society and I wondered whether you had a copy of that document or could you point me to where I might be able to view this history? (I’m based in Waltham, MA if that helps!) 

Many thanks for any assistance you can provide!

Well, of course there was a story and connection
surprise someone besides myself was interested.

Eric Helsten was born in Uppsala in 1822 and in Uppsala there was a swim society, Upsala Simaällskap, that was started in 1796 by the mathematician and astronomer, Jöns Svanberg. The goal was to teach swimming and water safety to the children in the local rivers until they built a swimming pool in 1841.  Eric grew up learning how to swim and 13-year-old Eric even won a wreath for his achievements in the annual competitions in 1835.

Eric must have been proud of this achievement, because when he came to the US in 1845, this laurel wreath traveled with him.  It was in his belongings after he died in 1903.  His granddaughter Marion Evans Dakin gave it to me years later, when I was on a swim team  throughout high school.

Eric was one of 13 children.  One of his younger brothers, Knut, was the "studious, intelligent" one of all the children.  Knut became a well-known and beloved educator in Uppsala.  Eric's father died leaving this large family for his wife to raise, the youngest was only a few months old when their father died.  So, it was a stretch for the family to keep sending Knut to school, and Eric was mailing money home from Gaylordsville, Connecticut to help the family in Uppsala.  Knut was the author of the history of the Uppsala Swimming Society for their 90th birthday celebration -- this booklet in Swedish is the information Elaine, my correspondent, hoped I had to share.

Elaine had a friend who read the booklet in Swedish and summarized it in English for her.
The Swedes weren't swimmers before seeing Russian prisoners who could swim, mostly "dog paddle."  The Swedish Swim society emphasized both front and back swimming, with and without clothes on, carrying someone, treading water, moving a stone under water, and more.  Much of this sounds like things I needed to learn for both my own safety in the water and maybe saving someone else-- however, I was only picking up something small on the pool bottom rather than moving a stone.

At the Society's 90th year celebration in 1886, there were honored guests, including Eric, who were given certificates.  Here is Eric's, but we have no evidence he actually made it to Uppsala for the celebration.

Four years after learning to swim in 1835, there was the pressing need to help support his family--his father died in 1839 leaving 13 children, the youngest was 7 months old.  Each of the older children worked in different jobs.  Eric as the oldest boy was apprenticed to be a tanner, just as his father and grandfather before him.  By 1844, Eric was a Journeyman tanner, traveling around the country for a year looking for work.  Then in 1845, he immigrated to Havilland Hollow, New York and went to work as a tanner.  He saved his pennies, and in 1849 he married and then, in 1852 he and his wife Mary Hearty moved to Gaylordsville, Connecticut where he had his own tannery.

Eric's tannery was on the Wimisink Brook, very near the Housatonic River.
Working hard over the years to maintain his businesses, Eric didn't forget what he learned in Sweden.  Sixty years later, Eric saved a man from drowning on 22 September 1895 and then wrote a pamphlet about how to do it.
I have not found a copy of the pamphlet.  I do have the copyright

and a letter about how to copyright and advertise and sell:

He did follow  D W Beach's advice and even got letterhead made:

And this brings us back to the Uppsala Swim Society and Elaine K. Howley's article.  She took the time to research the society and her article is in the September/October issue of SWIMMER magazine.

Right at the top of the article is Eric's ad that was run in newspapers across the country advertising the directions on how to save a man from drowning!

Isn't that part of what Eric learned in his swimming lessons back in 1835!

The link to this blog post is
©Erica Dakin Voolich, 2016.

Friday, August 12, 2016

60 Acres More or Less

Growing up, I remember my father telling the story of his Aunt Clarice buying land.  Clarice Theodora Evans (1884-1953) was a professional woman in the first half of the 1900s.  Clarice taught industrial arts when it was a new area of study in various schools around the US, advocated child-centered education, traveled to England to teach and to research for Darlington Hall, and spent her final years teaching at Jersey State Teachers College in New Jersey.

Clarice never married. Her sister Marion Evans Dakin was a widow who was raising a son, Ted.  Both were professional women, but neither woman had any extra funds -- they did not come from a wealthy family.  So purchasing land would be a luxury for Clarice.  Some land became available near the woods where their father had built a shack in Sherman, Connecticut.  Clarice wanted to purchase the land, but it was too expensive.  So, Clarice suggested to her friend Amy Herrick, that maybe they could buy the land together.  Amy had some money and she agreed. They would purchase the land together.

My father's story of the purchase:
The land was 60 acres and the farmer wanted three times what Clarice could afford. Clarice and Amy wanted the land surveyed before they bought it, but the farmer said, "It's 60 acres more or less, period."    The two women paid the going price per acre, Amy paying 2/3 and Clarice 1/3.  When they had the land surveyed to divide it afterwards, Clarice's share was 60 acres!

The story sounds a bit apocryphal, but I used to tell it in my middle school math class when we would study measurements --  an example of needing to have a sense of the size of measurements that you use each day.  In this case, the farmer would probably have some sense of what an acre actually was -- not what I would expect my students to know, but the farmer should.  Then we'd do an activity estimating the number of inches, centimeters, feet etc. something was before measuring. Then I'd end with "handy approximate" measures for the inch, and some estimating activities, for example.

Time to investigate the story:
1. Did Amy and Clarice purchase 60 acres of land in Sherman? 
2. Did they have it surveyed dividing it into 2/3 and 1/3?
3. Did Clarice end up with 60 acre of land as her 1/3?

This is a piece of a more complicated land record search in Sherman that I'm trying to sort out.
Here is the "truth" of the story about Clarice and Amy.

Amy and Clarice made two purchases of land in the northern portion  of Sherman, Connecticut on Ten Mile Hill on 13 December 1938, each with an undivided interest of 1/3 to Clarice and 2/3 to Amy.   One piece of property was for 10 acres, more or less, of woodland from Roland Mygatt [see Sherman Land Records, volume 16, pages 310-311].   The other piece was from Helen H Mygatt for 60 acres, more or less [see Sherman Land Records, volume 15, page 161].
Amy and Clarice purchased 10 + 60 acres on 13 December 1938.

1. Did Amy and Clarice purchase 60 acres of land in Sherman? 

Amy and Clarice, paid to have the land surveyed and divided, 17 months later.
On 1 June 1940, they signed a portion of the land to Amy and a portion of the land to Clarice.

Clarice Evans Quit-Claimed three pieces of property to Amy Herrick, one was 5 1/2 acres, one was 10 and one was 10 acres, a total of 75 1/2 acres [see Sherman Land Records, volume 16, pages 340-341].

Also, on 1 June 1940, 1 Amy Herrick Quit-Claimed three pieces of property to Clarice Evans, total 55 acres [volume 16, pages 341-342].

Amy got 75 1/2 acres, Clarice got 55 acres.  This doesn't sound like 2/3 and 1/3.
They did own the property together as undivided 2/3 and 1/3 each.

Looking closely at the deeds on 1 June 1940.

The land had been surveyed and divided, giving Amy all of the 10 acre piece piece purchased from Roland Mygatt -- a totally separate piece of land sold, none of which went to Clarice.  Possibly this piece of land had a higher value.

The piece of land sold by Helen Mygatt, had been surveyed and divided into three pieces, one was a 6 acre plot which Amy got.

The rest of the "60 acres" purchased from Helen Mygatt, was divided into two convoluted pieces: a west portion (55 acres) and and an east portion (60 acres).

So the "60 acres, more or less" piece was actually 60 + 55 +10 acres when a survey was done.
Clarice received the west portion.

So, back to our questions....
2. Did they have it surveyed dividing it into 2/3 and 1/3?
Well, when they owned it together, it was as an "undivided" 2/3 and 1/3.  They had it surveyed.  They probably divided it into the real estate value of 2/3 and 1/3. Not explicitly stated, since no values were given in any of the original or later transactions].

3. Did Clarice end up with 60 acre of land as her 1/3?
Close to it!  She ended up with 55 acres of land bordering on the land her father bought and built a shack on in the 1920s.

I had always assumed from my father's telling of the story:
They bought "60 acres more or less, 2/3 to Amy and 1/3 to Clarice," with Clarice getting 60 acres  would have meant that Amy got 120 acres -- not exactly the the case, but not too far from the truth, I suspect if you look at land values.

So, did Clarice enjoy her new position of land owner?
Actually, Clarice was very generous.  Not long after her purchase, she filed two Quit-Claim Deeds -- giving her sister Marion Evans Dakin a 1/3 undivided interest and her nephew, Theodore Robert Dakin a 1/3 undivided interest.   [see Sherman Land Records, volume 17, pages 519-520.]

Where is the land located?
It is actually hard to find the exact location on Ten Mile Hill by the deed descriptions because names of adjacent land owners might have been long dead and the land is not a simple rectangular shape like suburban lots. ["BEGINNING at the stonewall fence intersection marking the Northeast corner of the six acres field which is bounded on .. thence Westerly along said Northerly boundary about 375 feet to land of Marion Evans Dakin; thence Northerly along land of said Dakin and land of Emery Thorp about 1520 feet to the Northeasterly corner of land of said Thorp; thence Westerly along land of said Thorp about 600 feet to the land of Robert Hungerford; thence Northerly along land of said Hungerford about 1220 feet to the Northeasterly corner thereof; then Westerly..."]

There was a statement in the deed giving Clarice her land that a photo [Fairchild Aerial Survey] was filed with the land outlined in red ink and filed with the land records.  Unfortunately, that photo doesn't exist there now.

The Town Clerk did find a map showing the land on a map for a nearby property -- Herman Mosenthal's land (actually the land originally owned by Jonathan and Ruth Evans when they first came to Sherman in 1801)

and here is a close up of the map:

Now, Clarice, Marion and Ted are land owners!

©2016, Erica Dakin Voolich
The link to this post is

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Honoring Some Fathers in the Family

In honor of father's day....

My father with his father:
Theodore Robert Dakin (Teddy) with Robert Edward Dakin (Rob)
[Ted: 11 November 1916, New Haven, CT - 20 November 1972, Berwyn, IL]
[Rob: 2 July 1888, Gaylordsville, CT - 15 December 1918, Danbury, CT]

Rob at age 30 died in 1918, when Teddy was 2.
Rob died in the Flu Pandemic the same week as his infant son Edward Evans Dakin and his mother-in-law Caroline Matilda Holstein Evans (Carrie) also died.  Carrie's husband (Charles H Evans) moved in with Rob's wife, Marion Evans Dakin to act as "baby tender" when she went to school at the U of Chicago for a term to get more training leading to her becoming the first Extension Nutritionist for the State of Connecticut three years later.

Charles Harold Evans with Teddy in Chicago.
[Charles: 23 May 1853, Sherman, CT - 18 February 1928, Savannah, GA]

Other fathers in the family:

Edward Dakin (Teddy's other Grandfather)
[3 October 1836, Hudson, NY - 6 July 1914, Gaylordsville, CT]

Charles Evans (Teddy's Great Grandfather)
[2 August 1820, Sherman, CT - 4 December 1903, Great Barrington, MA]

Eric Helsten (Teddy's Great Grandfather)
[27 February 1822, Uppsala, Sweden - 4 January 1903, Gaylordsville, CT]

Beers Radford (Teddy's Great Great Grandfather)
[13 April 1784 Waterbury, CT - 15 February 1876 Middlebury, CT]

Ted had many other generations of fathers, but these are the only photographs that were left to me for our viewing pleasure!

Happy Fathers' Day, 2016!

The link to this page is
©2016, Erica Dakin Voolich

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Creative Sandwich Suggestions During WW2 Rationing

Marion Evans Dakin was the first Extension Nutritionist for the State of Connecticut beginning in 1921.  Her job involved traveling around Connecticut giving presentations on food preparation and nutrition and also writing bulletins -- LOTS of bulletins!

Over the twenty-five years while she was teaching the new ideas in nutrition and food preparation to the families of Connecticut, the events of the world continued unabated.  The Great Depression (29 October 1929 - 1939), and then World War 2 (1 Sept 1939 - 1945), changed everyone's focus from just preparing good healthy meals for one's family, to also managing to feed a family economically, and then once the war began, working around rationed items.

Just imagine if there were shortages of these items in your life today:
Fuel Oil & Kerosene
Solid Fuels
Rubber Footwear
Processed Foods
Meats, canned fish
Cheese, canned milk, fats

The War brought employment, but unfortunately with the new employment came a lack of goods families would want to purchase after the decade of lean years.  The rationing began in January of 1942 with tires, followed by cars in February, typewriters in March, gas and sugar in May, bicycles in July, rubber footwear, fuel oil & kerosene in October, and coffee in November.  That was just 1942.  Then in 1943:  shoes in February, processed foods, meats, canned fish, cheese, canned milk and fats in March, and solid fuels in September.

Many of these are what we would now think of as life's necessities!  If you couldn't have a car, well, use a bike -- well, I guess no bike either!  My mother talked of using "Shank's Mare" (her feet to get around) and I'm sure that is how she got to work when pregnant with me during the war when they didn't own a car.   Oh, and what you consider basic foods to prepare a meal were severely limited.  You needed to be creative.

Marion's job involved finding ways to help people feed their families, and so there were numerous bulletins in addition to her talks which would take into account various shortages and alternatives while including foods from the "Basic 7" food groups.  Most bulletins would discuss an topic and include many recipes; or might encourage planting by season and how to use what was being harvested then and,of course, have recipes.  Some issues were devoted to individual minerals or vitamins.  This September 1944 issue was different in format -- it was written "outline-style" and included much more information and hinted at preparation rather than including the details.

The September 1944 bulletin was devoted to packing lunches -- these weren't lunches for children in school, these were for the workers working the various shifts.  She starts with listing the "Basic 7" and then talks about planning for what type of person needs the meal "very active" or "moderately active" or "not so active," listing how much of each food to pack for each person.

Next Marion listed the hours of the shifts:
6 a.m. - 2 p.m.: eat a good breakfast first or add extra sandwich for 8 or 9 a.m.
2 p.m. - 10 p.m.:  noon meal is the hearty family meal for this worker
10 p.m. - 6 a.m.: lunch at 2 a.m. should be substantial, nourishing and appetizing -- worker's living habits have been turned upside down.
She goes into details of goals for the meal (nourishing, good tasting, carries well, helps morale) and then how to prepare and pack before encouraging variety in lunches with suggestions.  Then Marion has a section on Food Shortages!
     Meat - make wise use of points. Variety meats 
            high in food value.
     Cheese - use cottage and soft cheese.
     Butter - use fortified  margarine, extenders.
     Unrationed  hearty fillings - peanut butter, eggs,

Marion includes the "Do's" and "Don'ts" from a Westinghouse survey of workers for packing lunches -- some would apply today.  That is followed by sandwich fillings.  Remember that sugar, cheese, meat and processed foods are all rationed, but peanut butter isn't.

Here are the peanut butter suggestions (something for you to try instead of PB&J):
*These fillings may be made ahead of time and kept in the 
Peanut Butter
1. *Chili Sauce: 1 c. peanut butter, 1/3 c. chili sauce.
2. Bacon: 1/2 c. peanut butter, 4 strips cooked bacon,
     chopped, 2 tb. salad dressing.
3. Celery: 1/2c. peanut butter, 1/3c. celery diced,
     4 tb. salad dressing.
4. *Ham: 1/3 c. peanut butter, 1/2 c. ham paste.
5. *Honey yeast:  1/2 c. peanut butter, 1/4 c. honey,
     1 cake compressed yeast.
6. *Jelly: 1/3 c. peanut butter, 1/4 c. tart jelly. Mix.
7. Carrot: 1/2 c. peanut butter, 1/3 c. grated carrots,
     3 tbs. salad dressing.
8. Onion: 1 c. peanut butter, 1 small Spanish onion,
     1/2 c. mayonaise.

Cheese was rationed, but it seems that cottage or cream cheese or American cheese wasn't, so Marion had suggestions there too.
Cottage or Cream Cheese
1. Bacon: 1 cream cheese, 1/4 c. diced cooked
     bacon, 1 tsp. pickle or sauce, 1 tb. milk
2. *Peanut: 1 c. cheese, 1 c. finely chopped
     peanuts, 1 tbs. salad dressing, 1/2 tsp.
3. Combination: 1/2 c cheese, 1/2 c. raisins,
     1/2 c. grated raw carrots, 1 tb. salad
4.  *Chipped beef: 2/3 c. cheese, 1/3 c. ground
     chipped beef, salad dressing to moisten.
5. *Olive:  3/4 c. cheese, 3 tb. chopped stuffed 
     olives, 1/4 tsp. salt.
6. *Egg: 1/2 c. cheese, 2 hard cooked eggs chop-
     ped, 2 tb. chopped pickle, 2 tb. salad dressing.
7. Spicy: Cheese salted and mixed with any of the
     following: Chow chow, chili sauce, chopped
     dill pickle, green pepper, celery, onion, 
     parsley, carrots.
8. Onion: 1 c. cheese, 1/4 c. chopped Bermuda
     onion, 1/4 c. salad dressing.

American Cheese
1. *One-half lb. cheese, 1/2 c. canned tomato,
     1/4 c. butter or margarine, 1/4 lb. dried
     beef, flaked.  Melt cheese in double boiler,
     add tomato gradually, stir constantly.  Add
     other ingredients.  Blend well.
2. *One-half lb. cheese, 3 hard-cooked eggs,
     1 small onion, 1 pimiento, salt.  Put 
     through food chopper and then mix.  Add
     salad dressing to slightly moisten.

She then includes recipes for hard-cooked eggs, scrambled eggs and chicken which sound like something someone might suggest today.  There were two chicken recipes I might not have thought of for a sandwich filling:
2. *Peanut:  1 c. chicken, 1 c. peanuts chopped.
    Salad dressing to moisten.
3. *Giblets:   Giblets from 1 chicken (cooked and
    chopped), 1 hard cooked egg chopped, 1 tb.
    top milk, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. Works-
    tershire sauce, 1 tsp. catsup.

Apparently, variety meats were not rationed, so she included recipe suggestions here.  Remember Marion's earlier statement about food shortages:  Meat - make wise use of points. Variety meats high in food value.
Theses points are your rationing stamps that allow you to purchase different kinds of foods -- if they are available.

Variety Meats
1. Liver and bacon: 1/2 c. chopped cooked bacon,
     1/4 c. top milk, 1/2 c. cooked mashed 
     liver, salt and pepper.
2. *Liver: 2/3 lb. liver, cooked and chopped, 
     1 onion minced, 1 tb. fat, 2 hard cooked
     eggs, chopped, 1/3 c. top milk, salt.
     Brown onion lightly in butter.  Combine
     all ingredients and mix well.  Store in
     covered can in refrigerator.
3. *Liver Sausage:  Chop liverwurst and season
     with mustard.
4. Tongue:  Ground tongue and horseradish.
5. *Liver Sausage: 3/4 lb. sausage, 1/3 c.
     chopped sweet pickle, mayonnaise.

Marion even suggests you can mash baked beans and add a variety of ingredients to them. Marion includes fish sandwich fillings and meat, but not the slices of various meats you might think of today -- no sliced roast beef or chicken or turkey sandwiches listed here.  If you have some meat, chop and mix with seasonings or make meat loaves [which actually extends the quantity of food].
Marion suggests including "meat" in the lunch, not just in a sandwich:  chicken drumstick, stuffed egg, pickled egg, piece of cheese, slice of meatloaf, meat turnover or meat stew in a thermos bottle.

All of the sandwiches on the preceding pages are what she would have called "substantial sandwich" on page 1, where she recommended the number of substantial sandwiches and succulent sandwiches based on the activity level of the worker.  For example a very active worker would need 2 or more substantial sandwiches and one succulent sandwich.

Combination - moisten with salad dressing in most cases.
1. Chopped cabbage and shredded carrots.
2.        "           "          "  diced apples.
3.        "           "          "  chopped peanuts.
4.        "           "           " green pepper or pimiento.
5. Chopped celery and green pepper.
6.        "           "      "  diced tomato.
7. Sliced tomato and chopped egg.
8.        "          "     "   lettuce.
9.        "          "      "  cottage cheese.

1. Raisins with shredded carrot.
2. *Raisins and chopped nuts.
3. Slices of comb honey or a honey spread.
4. Jelly, jam or marmalade.
5. Grated carrot and honey.

Marion's suggestions of simple desserts sound like things that would be in today's lunch box: cookies, gingerbread, or tarts.  She also suggests various puddings, custards or gelatin -- except these aren't prepackaged, they are in those small jars (with tight fitting lids) she suggested saving back on page 3.

She finishes with a list of menus using the sandwich fillings for sandwiches with whole wheat, rye or enriched bread.

If you had to feed your family and the types of food which you were used to serving weren't available because first priority was the troops fighting WW2, you needed information and Google wasn't even imagined (nor were the founders even born), nor were personal computers thought about.  The State Extension Service provided a very needed role in both peacetime and war time.

All of these suggestions for Lunches were part of the regular Bulletins provided by the University of Connecticut Extension Service in Storrs, Connecticut.  In 1942, the State of Connecticut set up a State Nutrition Committee, with Marion E Dakin as the general chairman and ex-officio member of each of the promotional committees with local nutritionists taking a more active role.

This bulletin, PACKED LUNCH,  had a date of 9/18/44 at the end.  The bulletin HERBS FOR ACCENT AND FLAVOR was dated 9/13/44, just 5 days before.  Marion was a busy person, playing an important role for the families of Connecticut.

The bulletins I've found in her home after she died in 1974, might not be all that she wrote.

© Erica Dakin Voolich, 2016
The link to this post is

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Life of the Traveling Nutritionist, the Rest of the Story!

In A Life Re-Routed Thanks to the 1918 Pandemic, I was telling the remarkable story of my grandmother Marion  Evans Dakin who after she lost her husband, mother and youngest son in the 1918 flu pandemic, had to re-invent her life.   She went on the become the first Extension Nutritionist for the State of Connecticut from 1921 to 1946.
Marion lived and worked on the Storrs campus of Connecticut Agricultural College (later U Conn).  As part of her job, she was traveling around the state, giving talks and workshops.  She was also writing the Bulletins that the Extension Service distributed on nutrition and food preparation.
Bulletin No. 38, July 1924
The Connecticut Agricultural College, Extension Service,
Storrs Connecticut

I did some searching online and found the following articles:
• 1920, September, short book review of “Meats, Poultry and Game; How to Buy, Cook and Carve,” by “Marion Evans Dakin, Pratt Institute,” in The Journal of Home Economics, vol.12, p 426.
• 1921, January, “What your Child Should Eat” The Connecticut Agricultural College Extension Service, Bulletin no. 47, January 1921
• 1924, July, “Pickles: Chow Chow, Chili Sauce, Sauerkraut, etc.” Bulletin No. 38
• 1925, July, “Home Canning of Fruits and Vegetables,” by Marion Evans Dakin & Elsie Trabue, Bulletin no. 90
• 12 April 1931, “Old Connecticut Treats” article on famous New England recipes in The Charleston Daily Mail, (Charleston, West VA)
• 1933, “4-H food club, “What we can do with milk” Bulletin
• 1936, October, “Vegetables in Various Ways,” Unit 9 of the 4-H food program, Bulletin no. 234
• 1938, September, “Winter Salads”
• 1941, July, “Milk in Many Modes,”  Bulletin no. 311
• 1942, “Cakes and Cookies that save sugar,”   Bulletin no. 332, September 1942
• 1942, October, “Meat Replace”  Extension Bulletin
• 1942, “Home Canning,” Extension Bulletin
• 1943, author, "Fats for Table Use and Cooking
• 1984 & 1985, Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, 1984 &1985: Cookery: Science, Lore,” edited by Tom Jaine, talks about the history of Election Day Cake and on page 59 includes her recipe for a yeast-based election day cake

My initial thought was: that was a lot of articles, something to be proud of.  Then I remembered a box I have from when I cleaned out her house as her executrix in 1974. Looks like there might be a few more articles here.

The collection of Extension Bulletins that Marion authored and saved from
her 25 years as the first Extension Nutritionist for the State of Connecticut.

Undated, Bulletins in a Green Cover with two rings holding together a set of 4-page documents, from Marion’s collection.  All titled The Spotlight” by Marion Evans Dakin, Storrs, Conn., Vol. (Probably starting about 1934-35)
Introduction(Vol.1, no.1):
“With this issue we are starting a new leaflet
on its way.  As so much experimental work is being done
in nutrition and foods we want to focus our Spotlight
on the information which will help us in the better
feeding of our families - especially the children.  So
the plan for this leaflet is to present nutrition facts,
timely food preparation articles, helps in food purchas-
ing, and short-cuts.  If you have found something
which helps you in your job of feeding the family, will
you not send it in so it can be shared with others?
• no.1, November,  “School Lunch,” “Suggested Thanksgiving Dinner Menus,” “Market Lore”
• no. 2, December, “Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen and Farm,” “Children’s Teeth,” some recipes, “Market Lore”
• no. 3, January,  “Fit the Apple to the Job,
• no. 4, February, instead of titled articles there is a two page discussion of winter planning for spring planting  and thinking herbs, time to stock up on canned good, learning to read the label (price per pound and government grade), shelving one’s supply of canned fruits and meats by the month you’ll use it, and ending with an article on vitamins.
• no. 5, March, there is a list of mixed greens to plant  in your garden, a “vegetable budget” by the day or week, a discussion of the cost of food up 6% since September (during 1934-35, the average food cost per person was $.33, going to .35 or $7.30 per person per year)  with one suggestion to keep this down of planting a garden.
• no. 6, April, “To Make a Bouquet of Herbs,” “Amounts for 50 People,” “Grainola,” “Escarole,” “A Box and Cox Garden,” “Marketing Information”
• no. 7, May, The issue is devoted to eggs
• no. 8, June, The issue is devoted to canning and includes a recipe for Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie since Rhubarb is the fruit of the month.
• no.9, July-August, Picnics (6 pages instead of 4)
• no. 10, September, “September and Schools Open,” “A Fall Jelly,” “How to Get The Blue Ribbon,” “A Christmas Suggestion,” “Youth Learns Cooperation Rather than Competition”
• no. 11, October, The issue is devoted to the school lunch with a note to can chicken meat (non-layers are culled then), the importance of calcium and vitamin A in a Child’s diet, and materials you can send away for from the extension office.
Volume II
• no.1, November, “School Lunch Box,” “Some Suggestions for Lunch Box Menus,” Thanksgiving menus suggestions from 1911, “Market Lore,” “Consumer Protected in Potato Buying”
Note: in Vol.3, no.1, “Two years ago we started Volume 2 of the
Spotlight but the one number issued turned out to be 
Hail and Farewell instead of the first of a series.”
Volume 3
• no. 1, November, The issue is devoted to good nutrition for safe driving and Thanksgiving.
• no. 2, December, “Five-Point Children,” answering a question about Vitamin A for Five-Point Children, and recipes for “Raisin Chocolate,” “Date Sweets,” Peanut Paste,” to replace some of the Christmas candy.
• no. 3, January, “Our Daily Bread,” answering a question about Calcium for Five-Point Children
• no. 4, February, “Month of Holidays,” answering a question about Iron for Five-Point Children
• no. 5, March, “First Aid to a Good Diet- A Good Food Garden,” answering a question about Vitamin C for Five-Point Children, and “St. Patrick’s Day Refreshments”
[number 6 missing]
• no. 7, May, “Five-Point Children,” “Friends School Menu” from a school in England from 1740 (read to parents so they couldn’t complain about food) [Marion got this from Clarice, who got it when she was in England 1928-1930 and visited the Friends School, Clarice mentioned it in a letter to Marion dated 11 February 1930], “May Breakfast”

Uncovered and undated Bulletins from the Cooperative Extension Work in Agricultural and Home Economics State of Connecticut from her collection [most are 8 pages long]:
• “Winter Salads” [ink note:  Sept 1938]
• “Yeast Breads”
• “Sweet Rolls and Coffee Cake”
• “Meals for 100% Health”  [pencil note:  “Revised April 1941”]
• “ABC of Food Preparation”
• “ABC of Cooking”
• “Preparing Some Common Vegetables”
• “Pickles and Relishes”
• “Christmas Cookies”  [pencil note:  “there is a revision”]
• “Guides in Food Buying: Meats”  [there are corrections in Marion’s hand writing on the sample]
• “The ABCs of Canning”
• “Yeast Breads”  [pencil note:  “1932-3, Revised 1938”]
• “Sweet Rolls and Coffee Cake”  [pencil note: “1933”]
• “Yeast Rolls”  [pencil note: “1933”]
• “Stretching the Food Dollar”  [pencil note: 1933]
• “Soufflés”
• “Rhubarb”
• “Thanksgiving” [note: includes menu from 1887]
• “Doughnuts”
• “ABC of Food Preparation: Batters and Doughs”  [pencil note:  “1933-4”]
• “ABC of Food Preparation: Batters and Doughs II”
• “Coffee” [pencil note:  “1933-4”]
• “ABC of Food Preparation: Pastry and Salad Dressing”
• “ABC of Food Preparation: Pastry”
• “Afternoon Tea”
• “Holiday Dinner”  [pencil note:  Fairfield Co Annual Meeting 1932”]
• “Suggestions for Sunday Night Suppers”
• “Junior Short Course 1937, Lunch Box Suggestions”  [pencil note:  “July 1937”]
• “ABC of Food Preparation: Pastry”
• “Uses for Sour Cream”  [pen note:  “Aug ’33”]
• “Summer Beverages”  [pencil note:  “Out of print — has been revised 1933”]
• “Camp Cookery”  [pencil note:  “Revised 1939 — N. London Co Camp 1933”]
• “Foods for the Lunch Box”  [pencil note:  “1933”]
• “Recipes for Community Meals (Amounts for 25 Servings)”
• “Standards for Some Foods Found in the Breakfast Menu”
• “ABC of Cooking: Basic Methods of Cookery”
• “Guides in Food Buying”
• “Trays for the Sick: Unit 20 of the 4-H Food Program”  [pen note:  Feb 1940]

Nutrition Book No.2, Mrs. Dakin
Undated Bulletins from the Cooperative Extension Work in Agricultural and Home Economics State of Connecticut from her collection.  Probably most from 1937-1939.
• “Outdoor Cookery”
• “The Menu of the Month - November: A week’s Meals for  Four for $11.20”  [pen: “Nov. 1939”]
• “Supper Dishes”
• “Home Canned Foods in the Family Meal”
• March 1943, “Fats for Table Use and Cooking”
• “Lamb and Mutton”
• [chart] “One Week’s Food Record”  [pencil: “Sept 1937”]
• “How to Cook Meat”
• “Pork and Port Products”
• “Veal”
• “Evening Refreshments” [pencil: “Fairfield, Oct ’37]
• “The Menu of the Month - October: A Week’s Meals at Moderate Cost”  [pen: Oct. 1939]
• “Food for the Sick and Convalescent”  [pencil: “Sept. 1939”]
• “Refreshing and Nutritious Beverages for the Sick and Convalescent” [pencil: Sept. 1939]
• “Estimating Costs and Value of Home Canned Products” [pencil: “Sept. 1939”]
• “Some Skills in Cooking”  [pencil:  “Jr. Short Course July 1939”]
• “A Polish Dinner”  [pencil: “1933 Farm & Home Week”]
• August 18, 1937, “Notice to Growers and Shippers of Citrus Fruits” from the Department of Agriculture [included for dating and context, not written by Marion]
• “Yeast Breads and Rolls: Suggested Outline for Meetings” Unit 13 of the 4-H Food Program [pen:  “Mar ’39”]
• “The School Lunch” Unit 12 of the 4-H Food Program [pen: “Feb 1939”]
• “Daily Meal Planning” [pen: “Jan. 1939”]
• “Social Customs in Dining” [pencil:  “Nov. 1938”]
• “Table Setting”  [pencil: “Sept 1938”]
• “Yeast Breads”
• “Impromptu Refreshments”  [pencil: “June Approximate Amounts of Foods to Serve Fifty”  [pencil:  “April 1938”]
• “Summer Beverages”  [pencil: “Revised Spring 1938”]
• “What Price Deserts.”  [pencil: Jan. 1938”]
• “New and Old Ways to Serve Potatoes”  [pen: “Jan. 1938”]
• “Foods for the Lunch Box (Revised December 1937)”
• “Cost-Weight Table: Table for Determining Cost Per Pound of a Product” [not by Marion, but included in her book, prepared by NY State College of Home Economics at Cornell U]

Nutrition Book No 4, “What’s Cooking”
• “A Polish Dinner” Co-author with Mrs. Joseph Kasper
• “What's Cooking in Your Neighbor's Pot?  Polish Recipes,” September 1945
• “Feast Dishes for Easter and Other Russian Recipes” offered in “What’s Cooking in Your Neighbor’s Pot” Program over Station WTIC, April 6, 1946
• “Some Southern Favorites” offered in “What’s Cooking in Your Neighbor’s Pot” Program over Station WTIC, June 29, 1946
• “Habitat Dishes from French Canada” offered in “What’s Cooking in Your Neighbor’s Pot” Program over Station WTIC, June 1, 1946
• “It’s an Old Swedish Custom — The Smörgåsbord” offered in “What’s Cooking in Your Neighbor’s Pot” Program over Station WTIC, May 4, 1946
• “Gulyas and Other Hungarian Dishes Given to Marion Evans Dakin by Mrs. Stevan Dohanos,” March 1946
• “What’s Cooking in Your Neighbor’s Pot: Some Recipes from Italy,” February 1946
• “Cooking Fish the Finnish Way,” January 1946
• “Czechoslovakian Christmas Foods,” December 1945
• “Cakes with Little or No Sugar,”  October 1945
• “Meat Replacements,” March 1945
• “Home Preserved Foods in “Basic 7” Meals,”  January 1945
• “Home-Made Mixes,”  January 1945
• “Packed Lunches,”  September 1944
• “Herbs for Accent and Flavor,” September 1944
• “Preserving Eggs in Water Glass,”  “Preserving Eggs in Mineral Oil,”  April 1944
• “Ways to Use Cereals as Desserts,”  [undated]
• “Ways to Use Home Preserved Food: Group III — Other Vegetables and Fruits,” March 1944
• “Ways to Use Home Preserved Food: 2. Tomatoes, Greens, Fruits,”  February 1944
• “Ways to Use Home Preserved Food: 1. Snap Beans and Carrots,”  January 1944
• “What Every Cook Should Know, Unit 7 of the 4-H Food Program,” 10-25-43

Dated Bulletins from the University of Connecticut Extension Service, Storrs Conn. from her collection [professionally published quality]:
• June 1933, “Jellies, Jams and Marmalades,” Bulletin 187
• March 1935, coauthor with W. B. Young, “Home Preservation of Meat,”  Bulletin 217 (Reprint of No 177)
• October 1936, “Vegetables in Various Ways, Unit 9 of the 4-H Program,”  Bulletin 234 (Revision of No. 176)
• February 1938, “Home Canning,”  Bulletin 254 (Revision of Bulletin No.219)
• March 1941, “Home Canning,” Bulletin 304 (Revision of Bulletin No. 254)
• October 1941, “Foods to Help Keep You Fit,” Bulletin 316
• April 1942, “Home Canning,”  Bulletin 324
• March 1943, “Home Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables,” Bulletin 343
• May 1944, “Jams and Jellies,” Bulletin 355 (Revision of 335)
• May 1944, “Pickles and Relishes,” Bulletin 356

Everyone always talked about how much driving Marion Evans Dakin did as she traveled around the State of Connecticut.  She was said to have known every road, named or not.  But no one in the family talked about her as an author of nutrition and food preparation bulletins for the citizens of Connecticut.

Job well done, Nana!

©Erica Dakin Voolich, 2016
The link to this page is

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Life Re-Routed thanks to the 1918 Pandemic

Marion Evans before her marriage, 1912 in Gaylordsville Connecticut

Marion Evans was born in Sherman Connecticut 11 February 1886, the 2nd daughter of Charles Harold Evans and Caroline Matilda Helsten.  Her father Charles and her uncle Edward had built houses next door to each other, at the foot of Evans Hill Rd. where their parents, Charles Evans and Hannah Elizabeth Radford lived on the top.  On the other side of that same hill in Gaylordsville, lived Marion's maternal grandparents, Eric Adolf Helstein and Mary Hearty.

Charles and Edward had a busy house construction business in Sherman and Gaylordsville.  In 1888, they decided to move their families and their business north to Great Barrington, Massachusetts where there was a building boom going on.  Charles and Edward Evans opened the Barrington Building Co. which ended up building not only houses but also a high school their daughters attended and other large buildings around the community over the years.

Neither Charles, nor his wife Caroline had any college education.  They might have attended high school but I don't know.  It is clear that education was important to them: Caroline was involved with the Current Events Club and Charles with the Sons of the American Revolution in Great Barrington.  Charles' mother, Hannah Elizabeth Radford Evans, amazingly had one year of college back in 1844-1845.  Caroline's immigrant parents -- Eric Adolf Helsten and Mary Hearty-- came in the mid-1840s and did encourage at least one of their 4 children (Sarah) to have education beyond high school.

Both Marion (1904) and her older sister, Clarice (1902), graduated from Searles High School.  Clarice taught in local schools before going on and getting degrees and eventually teaching at Jersey City State Teachers College in New Jersey starting in 1937.

As young unmarried women in the early 1900s, they needed to have jobs.  One might live at home, but unless you had wealthy parents, you needed to support yourself.   Both Marion and Clarice were in school at the same time, each graduating in 1908 -- Marion from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn New York with a degree in Domestic Science; Clarice from Connecticut's State Normal Training School in Danbury with a teaching certificate-- each with a two-year degree.

Marion's first job out of college was teaching high school domestic science in Saginaw Michigan.  Then she came back east and took courses at Columbia Teachers College for 2 years.    Her skills caught the attention of the philanthropist Helen Gould (daughter of Jay Gould) who hired her teach nutritional cooking classes for women in Roxbury New York during the summer of 1912.  She worked for Helen Gould all year, helping with setting up a new organization's chapter, the Campfire Girls, in Irvington New York and typing a book of sermons for a minister there.  When not working, she would be back home in Gaylordsville Connecticut.  Her parents were now living in her Helsten-grandparents' former home just over the Housatonic River from Robert Edward Dakin who was back at his parents' home working on the Bulls Bridge Power Plant addition.
Wedding of Marion Evans and Robert Edward Dakin, 1913

Marion and Robert Married on 13 September 1913 in Gaylordsville.  Rob was and engineer working projects around the state.  So, they would set up house-keeping and when the job required that they move, they did.  So they had three children born in three different towns. Robert Edward Jr was born in Danbury on 15 May 1915, dying the next day.  Theodore Robert was born in New Haven on 11 November 1916.  Edward Evans was born in Derby on 28 January 1918.  In August 1918 the family had moved again, this time back to Danbury so Rob could work on the dam at Stevenson over the Housatonic River.

Marion's busy daily life with children and running the household was abruptly disrupted by the flu pandemic that was sweeping all over the world.  On Saturday 30 November, Rob got sick.  Marion had two young children -- a two year old and a 10 month old along with a sick husband.  She sends her older child to stay with Aunt Mary in Gaylordsville and her mother Carrie Helsten Evans comes down to help.  By Wednesday 4 December, her son Edward was sick, as was her mother Carrie.  On Tuesday 10 December, her mother Carrie dies, the next day, her son Edward Evans died and on Thursday there was a double funeral.  The next Monday, her husband Rob died.  So, in 5 days, Marion lost her mother, son and husband to the flu -- she was now a 32 year old widow with a two year old son -- her life had dramatically changed.

She initially moved back to her father's home to decide what to do; he had lost his wife, son-in-law and grandson with all those deaths but they had no time to grieve.  Marion needed to go back to work, she had a son to raise.  What to do next?   In 1918 there wasn't social security for a widow raising a child.  Luckily she already had some education to build upon.  Probably not true for many other families who were devastated by the Influenza Pandemic.

Marion decided to go to the University of Chicago for courses in nutrition during the 1919 spring  term with her father going along as "baby tender" -- so Marion, son Ted and her father Charles traveled from Connecticut to Chicago and moved in with her sister Clarice who was teaching industrial arts at the Laboratory School there.
Marion at Pratt Institute

After a quarter at U of C, Marion was hired at her alma mater, Pratt Institute, to teach home economics.  Off they all go to Brooklyn New York -- Marion taught at Pratt for two years before being hired by Connecticut Agricultural College (now U Connecticut) as Connecticut's first Extension Nutritionist in February 1921.  She retired from U Conn in July 1946.  Her son Ted grew up on the Storrs campus with students who would trade child care for room & board. 

In her job, she was writing extension bulletins on food preparation and also giving talks to local groups and large Expositions and State & County fairs all over the state of Connecticut.  

You already know she had taken many courses and many different schools.  She decided to take a leave of absence for a semester and enrolled as a student in the college where she was on the faculty and completed her bachelors degree in teacher training in home economics -- graduating from Connecticut Agricultural College on 9 June 1930.  

When her father Charles died in 1928 in Savannah Georgia on a train home from Florida to New York, one of the obituaries listed his three surviving children and Marion was listed as the wife of a professor at Connecticut Agricultural College!!  Her husband had died ten years earlier, SHE was on the faculty, he NEVER was!

Years after she died, in 1974, the university decided to honor the "pioneer women educators" with a plaque and garden outside Holcolm Hall.  Ion 22 October 1991, went to the dedication as did Wilma Keyes, the only survivor of the honorees.

"The women were faculty members of the  School of Home Economics who lived and taught in Holcomb Hall.  Built in  1922, Holcomb Hall replaced the first women's building, Grove Cottage,  which burned in 1919. 
Memorialized for their pioneering efforts to educate UConn women  are:  M. Estella Sprague, Marion Dakin, Gladys Hendrickson, Wilma Keyes,  Lillis Knappenberger, Marie Lundberg, Lisbeth Macdonald, Edith Mason,  Elizabeth Putnam, and Elsie Trabue.  All taught in what was then the  school of Home Economics and is now the School of Family Studies.  Keyes is the only one of the ten still living.  Her art and design courses led  to the establishment of the University's present department of Art in the School of Fine Arts. 
The Pioneer Women Educators Memorial is a gift of three UConn women... 
'These women were part of the progressive wave who were seeking to  carve out new opportunities and careers for educated women,... Home  Economics was one of the new areas and these pioneers  taught our generations of women to reach beyond the accepted roles of teacher, nurse and librarian.' 
"Martha Fowlkes, Dean of UConn's School of Family Studies, comments:  'Our School is proud and grateful beneficiary of the contributions of the  women educators in whose honor the garden is dedicated.  Through their  accomplishments in the field of Home Economics, these women represent  both the University's history of women's educational achievement and its  attention to the importance and dignity of families and the lives of  women, both inside and outside the home..."  

There was irony of the picture of Marion at the top of this page.  She is sitting in the wagon, the mode of transportation around Sherman and Gaylordsville.  Soon after the picture, she married and her husband was an engineer who needed to travel around the state.  So, by the time he died, he was driving a car.  After he died and she took the job as the first Extention Nutritionist in Connecticut, in 1921 she was driving around the state to make presentations.   By the time she died, she & Ted had not only taken a boat to England to visit her sister in 1929, and then before she died she had traveled by plane to Sweden and then Japan.  To top it all off, she even watched the landing of man on the moon in 1969. Could she have even imagined the changes in transportation in her lifetime when sitting in that family wagon.

More details on the life of Marion Evans Dakin (11 February 1886-4 July 1974) are included in my article that was published in TIARA Newsletter, 2 September 2015, vol. 32, no 3.   TIARA (The Irish Ancestral Research Association) had a focus issue on Researching the Lives of Women.

The link to this post is
©Erica Dakin  Voolich 2016

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Clarice Evans & Anna Halberg, Life and Opportunities for Women Educators in the early 20th century

Clarice, as I remember her in my childhood a couple years before she died.

In my young-child-mind, my great Aunt Clarice was an older woman who I loved to play with on the two occasions when I visited my grandmother, Marion Evans Dakin, in Connecticut.  I have such fond memories of making a "play house" in the lilac bushes and painting at an easel she had set up in the backyard.  Clarice died tragically from a fall down the stairs on 7 July 1953.  Such a wonderful aunt.  

But, was she anything more than just a fun person, a great playmate for a chid to play with?
I've been researching Aunt Clarice.  She was born Clarice Theodora Evans on 21 April 1884 in Sherman, Connecticut, the oldest daughter of Charles Harold Evans and Caroline Matilda Helsten Evans. She wasn't even a month old, when her older brother died at 14 months.  She grew up with a younger sister, and a younger brother.  She graduated from Searles High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1902.  

The career opportunities for a woman in the early 1900s were limited.  She taught in the 1st district one-room school in Sherman (and according to her sister Marion was paid $246.50/year as its first teacher).  She went to the State Normal Training School, graduating in 1908.  She went on to graduate from Columbia Teachers college with a BS in 1920 and a MA in 1926.  From what I've been able to find, she taught in a variety of schools in various states, both as a teacher and as a specialist in industrial arts and then in teachers colleges.  Documenting all she did in education surprised me, I only knew of her final job at Jersey City State Teachers College, (1934-1950) in New Jersey and I knew of her teaching at the University of Chicago Lab School for a couple of years starting in 1918.  I am still learning about her career -- filling in the gaps.  She was someone who believed in progressive educational ideas -- children learning by doing.

One treasure I found in my grandmother's desk were letters from Clarice when she traveled to England 1928-1930.  Clarice was not wealthy -- she wasn't traveling abroad for two years on a "grand tour of Europe" -- No, Clarice was traveling to work at a new school, Dartington Hall in Totnes, Devon, England who had offered her £300 plus transportation, and room & board to come for a year.  Dartington Hall was interested in her knowledge of a new area of education -- industrial arts.

Clarice used her letters to her sister (Marion Evans Dakin), her aunt (Mary Helsten Pomery) and her nephew (Theodore Robert Dakin) as her journal of her trip.   And, Marion dutifully saved most of them for Clarice.    She wrote about her joys and frustrations and observations of daily life.  

Clarice wrote about life at Dartington, schools she visited, classes she taught, museums & tourist sites she visited, plays she attended, books she read, artists & authors she met (Darlington was the "in place to be" for well known artists, authors, etc.)-- you name it, she wrote about it.  She frequently mentioned being cold in the English climate and wearing the same suit for most occasions (actually close to daily).  She would write and ask her sister Marion to check out various job opportunities for her upon return -- before extending her stay for a second year.

Clarice was a professional woman who corresponded with other women who she knew from various jobs and her time studying at Columbia Teachers College.    In her letter of 18 January 1929 to her sister Marion, she writes:
Had such a nice letter from Anna Halberg.  Her board which is a congressional committee have made her school into a Teachers College.  They told her that they had never heard of a woman head of T.C. so they planned to get a man and she could stay on as dean.  Since they haven’t the man she is to do all the work.  She is a little sore.

I can only imagine how "sore" Anna is to give up her job to a man, just because she is a woman and the job title has changed!  And, while they look for that man who can do ... well, Anna should do all the work!

I got to wondering if I could find Anna.  This must be a school in Washington D.C. -- where else could Anna be working where a Congressional Committee is the board for a school?  So I did a bit of searching online and found "Anna D. Halberg, 1927 -1931" is the principal of the Wilson Normal School and Wilson Teachers College in Washington D.C.   Looking at Wilson Normal School and Wilson Teachers College in Presidents of historically black colleges and universities 1837-2013, Robert W. Woodruff Library.
I found Anna D. Halberg and her predecessors were all female and "principals;" those who followed, were male and "presidents."

Humm, Anna is the head, doing all the work of the head, but the Congressmen have never heard of a woman as head of a teachers college, so they need to hire a man and 'she can stay on as a dean'.  

So, in the minds of male leaders, the women of the 1920s and 1930s could be teachers, principals or even teacher trainers in teacher colleges, but once the teacher training school became a "teacher college" and not just a "training school," the woman wasn't "qualified" to head the school.

Clarice at the art museum -- one of her favorite stops when visiting a city.

© Erica Dakin Voolich 2016

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Bundle of Letters: Such a Treasure!

Marion Evans Dakin
playing a game she loved,  Scrabble

When Nana, my grandmother Marion Evans Dakin, died on the 4th of July in 1974, her only son who had survived to adulthood, had already died two years before her.  As her oldest granddaughter, I found myself as her executrix ... a whole new world of responsibility added to the life of a mother juggling a couple of kids.  Commuting to Connecticut was more than I could do, so we put the crib on the top of our car and stayed in her house for eight weeks, first as she was dying from a stroke and then afterwards as we cleaned out her house and settled her estate.

My siblings joined me part of the time as we discovered we were on a treasure hunt.

An old Jacquard woven rug which was much older
than Nana that we found in her house.

I knew Nana had quilts made by her mother-in-law, Mother Dakin (Mary Alice Smith Dakin) but we had no idea how many quilts were there not just on the beds but hidden in trunks in the the attic.  We all went home with antique quilts and I documented them in my book Quilts in our Family.  When I had visited her a month before Nana died we had taken the quilts off the beds a couple of other quilts to the nursing home where she was staying so she could put on a quilt exhibit.  One of the quilts was a sampler quilt and she spent the last month of her life finding the names of each quilt square.  Ironically, the morning the quilt exhibit was to open, the nursing home called me to say she had had a stroke.  When I arrived in Connecticut, they were questioning whether to open her "show" of quilts.  I said "of course, show the quilts, that's what she wanted."  When I told her they had "opened" the show, she squeezed my hand.
Some of Mary Alice Smith's quilts
Not so dramatic in appearance, was a bundle of letters tied together with a string in the back of her desk.  I looked at them and saw that I couldn't possibly read them -- they were in Swedish.  I knew her grandfather Eric Helsten was from Sweden but I didn't know much else about him.  I assumed these must have been his.  I put them in my stuff to take home not knowing whether I would ever be able to read them.  Ten years later, I had a Swedish colleague who was willing to try to translate some of them for me -- she would read while I scribed. 
1858 letter from Eric's mother,
Lovisa Charlotta Robbert Hellsten 

 It took about 30 years before they were all translated, but what a treasure!  Eric was one of 13 children and everyone of his siblings and his mother took on personalities.  Eric's father had died unexpectedly, leaving his wife with young children including a baby.  Eric was the oldest son, a teenager, and he had older sisters.  He apprenticed as a tanner in Sweden and when there wasn't much work.  He came to the USA in 1845, settling first in Haviland Hollow NY and then moving to Gaylordsville CT when he bought his own tannery.
Eric Adolf Helsten

Back in the 1980s, we had enough letters translated that I was able to piece together a bit of Eric's family tree and when my wonderful colleague/translator traveled to Sweden for Christmas, while there she wrote the Uppsala parish vital records office and a few weeks later I had a letter from Alice, a "cousin."  Alice's grandfather and Nana's grandfather were brothers.  Years ago my grandmother visited Uppsala Sweden but didn't know about Alice, so they never met.  I had a chance to visit Alice back in 1984 before she died in 1990.  Such a treasure hidden in a bundle of letters.  It's too bad my grandmother never new the contents of what she had carefully saved.

I have taken the 86 Swedish letters and documents, had them translated and put them together in chronological order.   I researched Eric's family back in Sweden and his life in the USA.  I wrote a book for my family this year which is the story of Eric's family on both continents.  A Ring and a Bundle of Letters has been 30 years in the making with the help of three wonderful translators who not only read Swedish but also could decipher the old handwriting, structure and spelling.  

The book is available from

Such a treasure!

©2013, Erica Dakin Voolich