Tag Archives: Ohio

Foods of Home — Make Some Chili Mac

Mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, chili mac–the comfort foods of the midwestern America. Pasta has a surprisingly long history in American cooking.

Macaroni swept London in the 1770s as fashionable young men did the Grand Tour of Italy and brought back macaroni dishes. The craze for Italian, art Italian fashion, and Italian food carried across the Atlantic into the colonies as well.  British satirists had a field day with Italy-crazed young men, calling the wearers of foppish fashions “Macaronis”. A drinking song satirized the stupid Yankee Doodle dolts (as they were seen in England). The American soldiers, the British sang, didn’t know the difference between a feather and fashion.

For a detailed explanation of the phrase, “Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”, see this web site on political satire of the American Revolution period.  Just as Hillary Clinton fans gleefully took the title “Nasty Woman” and Donald Trump fans adopted “Despicables” during the 2016 presidential campaign, the American revolutionaries purloined the English song that mocked them.

Our Love Affair with Pasta Goes Way Back

Meanwhile, American housewives imported macaroni (and other pastas) and found new ways to use them.  Later, Italian immigants opened restaurants where they catered to American tastes and American Italian food strayed from the original. Mrs. Beeton‘s wonderfully thorough household guide, published in 1860, explains the differece between various pastas, the wheat used to make the best pasta, and gives numeous recipes for using pasta–in soup, in macaroni with Parmesan cheese, and in macaroni puddings. According to Paul Freedma in Ten Restaurants that Changed America, macaroni was a mainstay on restaurant menus throughout the 19th century.  Even the classiest New York Society hang-outs offered macaroni and cheese.

Chili Mac and Johnny Marzetti

Although I have been able to document the absolute origin of Chili Mac, most sources seem to think it came from Cincinnati, where the famous cinnamon-flavored chili is served on spaghetti to this day.  But there is that little nagging problem of “Why is it alled Chili MAC if it is really Chili GHETTI?” The chili part is never in question. Originally, it probably depended on canned Hormel chili, a cheap and quick way to get a filling meal into a family. As you will see in my recipe, I eschew the old familiar canned stuff and strike out on my own. Cincinnati or not, there is no doubt in my mind that Chili Mac is a typical middle western dish, as is Johnny Marzetti.

Marzetti's Restaurant

Marzetti’s Restaurant Coumbus, Ohio, home of Johnny Marzetti

Johnny Marzetti is easier to trace. Marzetti’s restaurant in Columbus Ohio near the Ohio State University campus mixed noodles with canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, ground beef and cheese and baked the mixture. (That link takes you to the original recipe).  Ms. Marzetti the restaurant’s owner, named the dish for her brother Johnny.  She popularized the comfort food in the 1920s, right when my mother was attending Ohio State University. No wonder Johnny Marzetti became a staple on our dinner table.  The nutrituous, make-ahead casserole, also starred on school lunch menus (all that government donated cheese!) and still shows up on Midwestern potluck tables. Every cook may have a different recipe–my sister and I differ on the kind of noodles to use–I prefer flat noodles for Johnny Marzetti and when I use macaroni the dish becomes chili mac.

I suspect that although both variations of noodles-beef-tomatoes may have originated early in the 20th century, they both got a big boost because of the Great Depression.

Chili Mac soothes and fills the empty tummy on a chilly MidWestern winter day. It is inexpensive, easy on the cook and a perfect comfort food.

Chili Mac

Serves 12
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Region American
Comfort food form the mid-west, Chili Mac makes an easy economical and filling meal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bag Macaroni (uncooked)
  • 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1 bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 stalk celery (diced)
  • 1 can beans (kidney beans or black beans, seasoned or unseasoned)
  • 8oz canned corn (optional)
  • 1 can tomatoes (diced)
  • chili powder or hot sauce (to taste (I use Cholula hot sauce))
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • garlic salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/2-1 cup grated parmesan/romano cheese

Optional

  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 can kchopped Hatch green chilis

Directions

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and set aside. (Under cook slightly since the noodles will be cooking for a short time in the sauce.)
2. Meanwhile, saute the bell pepper and celery and onion in a large skillet, using a small amount of olive oil.
3. Add ground beef, crumbled, to the vegetables in the skillet and cook until browned. Pour off grease if accumulated.
4. Add the canned beans, tomatoes and corn (if using) to the browned hamburger and stir in the seasonings. Stir in the macaroni. Taste and correct seasonings if needed.
5. Sprinkle cheese on top and put a lid on, turning stove down to low. Leave until cheese is melted into the rest. This dish will hold until everyone gets to the table, and can be served diretly from the skillet.
6. If you do not have a very large skillet that will hold all these ingredients, put the cooked macaroni in a casserole dish and then stir in the cooked hamburger and other ingredients. Add cheese on top, and put in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes--until cheese is melted in.

Note

Feel free to adapt and use what you have on hand. This recipe is abundantly flexible.

The Last Letter Grandma Mary Morgan Received

Perhaps my headline exaggerates just a bit. My great-great-grandmother probably did receive more letters in her lifetime. Heaven knows she handled hundreds of letters when she worked as a Postmaster at the Killbuck Post Office in the 1860s and 1870s. But to set the scene for this particularly life-changing last letter, let me take you back to Killbuck, Ohio, in October 1850 and remind you of Mary’s life up to then.

An old sewing basket

The sewing basket

Mary and Jesse’s Story Up To 1850

Mary Bassett traveled with her parents to Keene, Ohio from Keene New Hampshire, shortly after the founding of that little town near the Ohio Canal. When she arrived in 1826, at sixteen years old, she already had enough education that she shortly was teaching school–privately, at a neighboring farm.  She was only 19 when her mother died and Mary met and married the merchant Asahel Platt. Asahel came from a very religious family, perhaps even more religious than Mary’s father who descended from Pilgrims, and her mother, who came from the Puritan New England family of Stone.

Mary had brought a hand-made wooden chest with her from New Hampshire, and in it she kept precious hand-woven and embroidered cloths and clothing. She also kept important letters. (Fortunately for me, her daughter also kept the letters, and did HER daughter–my grandmother.)

Mary and Asahel had only one child, who died in infancy. They had moved to Killbuck in neighboring Holmes County, where Asahel opened a general store.  But their domestic life did not last long. Asahel died young, leaving Mary a widow at twenty-three years old.  Her father died the same year, and during the next few years, Mary returned to Coshocton County. Perhaps to save money, she moved into the home her parents left.

There she met Jesse Morgan, newly arrived from the state of New York. He was educated, lively, and must have seemed a good choice after the strait-laced family of her first husband.  They were married, and to lessen the burden on his new wife, Jesse farmed out his two oldest children–both boys.  One of the girls returned to New York, but one of the girls stayed in Killbuck, with Mary.  My great-great grandmother’s marriage had taken her back again to Killbuck.

I believe that Mary would have been happier to have Jesse be a teacher, but he was the restless sort who believed there was a fortune to be made somewhere. Jesse was determined to pursue that fortune.  Mary may not have been overjoyed by his frequent absences, but she surely adapted. He traveled through the mid-West buying and selling horses and sometimes land. He wrote to her frequently when he was “on the road,” and she stored his letters away, until this last letter.  They had a baby girl, Harriet (Hattie) Morgan who would be my great-grandmother, in addition to Malvinia, the daughter from Jesse’s first marriage.

The Last Letter Arrives

I can’t imagine the agony that ensued when Mary read this last letter. There Mary sits, in Killbuck, Ohio, with her 8-year-old daughter and Jesse’s 15-year-old daughter in the small town of Killbuck. She has not heard from her husband for many months, perhaps as much as a year. (The last letter to Mary from Jesse in the bundle she saved is dated September 1847.) Although she is accustomed to his being gone for long stretches of time and correspondence is slow, it has been long enough that she must be worrying.

Letter to Mary Morgan

Letter to Mary Morgan from Jesse Morgan’s brother-in-law. Oct.1850

 

 

Dear Madame: Haveing received a letter from Jesse Morgan when he was on the road to California, and never expecting to see him back again, and I takeing the New York Tribune a paper that is in Circulation in that Country I have watched with anxiety the Deaths that take place there, I find in the paper of Oct. 14 an account of his Death in a Skirmish between the Settlers and Officers respecting Land Titles.  He may have consiterable Property there and thinking you would want to look to it.  I therefore give you notice. I should [insert]if in your place [end insert] find out the circumstances by the Tribune.  If you should need assistance I would help you if you thought proper.  At any rate I should be glad to hear from you to know how he was Circumstanced there and why he went to California. please Write to us and oblig Your Brother and Sister.

Canaan Oct. 1850                                                      Solomon Frisbie

Now she learns that he has been dead for a full two months before she knew his fate. The pain must have been terrible.

Did Mary know that Jesse had gone to California? What my mother knew of her story and the evidence of letters saved contains no hint that she knew. Surely if she had received any letters from Jesse during his trip to California, she would have kept them, since she kept so many other letters from the road. Mr. Frisbie’s letter would have been her first indication that this time the distance traveled by Jesse was far greater. But worse, he had been killed in a riot. The painful knowledge that this time he would not return from his wandering contained the blacker feeling of disgrace. Multiple shocks contained in one letter.

It would seem to me that she would have been shocked that the brother-in-law back in Pennsylvania knew that Jesse had set out for California (even written him a letter when he was “on the road”) but had not kept in touch with her. And it strikes me as very odd that Jesse’s sister and brother-in-law knew that he had married and lived in Holmes County, but did not know his wife’s name or what town he lived in. They probably were unaware that he had a child with Mary.

Delivering the Last Letter

Solomon Frisbie gets points for trying his best to find Jesse’s widow. He sent a letter to the Postmaster at Holmesville, obviously (and erroneously) assuming that Holmesville was the county seat of Holmes County. The population of Holmes County was sparse and I imagine it did not take long for this last letter to find its way to Mary Morgan.

 

Letter from Solomon Frisbie

Solomon Frisbie to .Postmasters of Holmes County, seeking the widow of Jesse Morgan. Oct. 1850

Dear Post Masters
Not haveing any one in the County to communicate with but recently haveing a Brother in Law there by the name of Jesse Morgan which went from there to California which I see by the New York Tribune Died in Sacramento City Aug. 14 and he leaveing a Wife there, in what Township I know not but wishing to convey the intelegance to her I take this way of doing it Hoping that you Sir, will take the trouble to send it from one to the other Placing your Names on from whence it went making a Circular till it gets to the Township where he belonged. In so doing you will Oblige his Brothers and Sisters remaining here. Jesse Morgan has formaly be a Merchant and Wool Carder (illegible word) Yours Respectfully, Canaan, Oct. 1850 Solomon Frisbie

Solomon Frisbie’s Letter

Besides the fact that he did not know exactly where his brother-in-law lived and did not know the name of Jesse’s wife, I am struck by  pessimism.  He clearly expected bad things to come to anyone who dared undertake the journey to California. And Solomon, who lived all his live in his corner of Pennsylvania, must have thought Jesse was a wild man. He definitely expected Jesse to die, and thus made it a point to get a newspaper that covered California news and diligently read the obituaries, ultimately ‘rewarded’ for his diligence. The other thing he has no idea about is what Jesse does for a living.  Jesse had not been a wool carder since he left Pennsylvania, many years before.

In Solomon’s letter to Mary (the anonymous widow), the brother-in-law assumes that Jesse surely must have accrued valuable property in California. (He may have considrable property there, and thinking you would want to look to it.)Perhaps, like so many others, he had fallen for the legends of riches just waiting for the taking. At any rate, he offers his assistance to the widow–perhaps hoping there would be enough to spread around, or perhaps as the husband of the sister closest in age to Jesse, just fulfilling his familial obligation.

How Will the Widow Survive?

In fact, Jesse had not been in Sacramento long enough to amass anything, and probably left Ohio with barely enough to survive the long trip.  Poor Mary at forty years old with an eight-year-old daughter was once again a widow, and this time left without financial support.

I know that she had a small inheritance from her first husband and was a prudent manager, as she invested in properties in Killbuck.But as she worked later in life as a seamstress, I have to believe that she was earning some money with her fine needlework. We found some samples of her work in the wooden chest with a hand written note by her daughter.

lace collar

Mary Bassett Morgan collar, stitched together with a cloth made by her mother.

Also, Mary did have the support of her Bassett sisters and Stone relatives in nearby Coshocton County. And unlike many widows who moved in with family or quickly remarried, she remained single and stayed in Killbuck with her daughter.  She must have loved Jessie even after what might look like betrayal from our vantage point.

Jessie Morgan: a Scoundrel or a Hero

The best evidence of that is the fact that no ill will against her husband remained in the family. My grandmother spoke of him almost admiringly as an adventurer who was ‘done wrong.’ Despite newspaper articles that accused the rioters of being unlawful troublemakers, within the family Jesse was seen as a hero to disenfranchised people seeking their rights against greedy landowners. My great-grandmother named her middle son William Morgan Stout, which she would certainly not done if she felt animosity toward her absent father.

And Jesse’s own children  used the Morgan name with their children, so they also apparently felt no ill will against him.

*You can read the details of Jesse’s untimely end in the post written by my brother about the well documented Squatter’s Riot in Sacramento. Jesse’s name even appears on a plaque. The squatters riot was covered widely in newspapers of the time, and also is described in history books. However, at the time, the squatters were reviled and nobody bothered to record where Jesse might have been buried. (One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s anarchist.)

 

More Information About Jesse and Mary’s Lives

I will return at a later date to Jesse’s trip to California with the 49ers and some further mysteries of his life and death, but a this point so much of that story is speculation that I prefer to move on to talk about some other ancestors with less vague histories.

The information in this story comes mainly from the letters, although it also contains my speculation based on family history and the deduction based on records of Mary’s and Jesse’s life and family heirlooms.

If you have not been following the story of Mary and Jesse, here is a guide to the stories of their lives.

Mary and Godey’s Lady’s Book

Postmaster Mrs. Mary Morgan

Seeking Security with Mr. Platt

The Jesse letters

Promises and Instructions 1843

Teaching and Land Speculation 1845

Canal and Lake Travel 1846

Buying land in Illinois 1847

Letter from nearby Wooster 1847

Traveling by Steamboat 1847

A Discouraged Jesse 1847

More About Jesse

Pennsylvania to Chautauqua New York1829

Letter From Ohio Lures Jesse 1835

Jesse’s Friend, Doc Woods

Malvina Morgan: Two Lives

Of all four of Jesse Morgan’s children with his first wife, Malvina Morgan was closest in age to my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan (Stout), her half-sister. She was probably also the closest emotionally to my great-great-grandmother, Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, her father’s second wife.

Malvina Morgan 1835-1917

I had high hopes of being able to flesh out the life story of Malvina, because my mother passed on family memories of Malvina. For instance, she said that Malvina owned a store in Colorado and that she came back to Ohio to visit her step-sister Hattie (Harriet Morgan Stout). It is possible that my mother even encountered Malvina on one of her visits to Harriet (Hattie) in Ohio, but mother would have been a very young girl.  It is more likely that mother’s beloved grandmother Hattie (Harriet Morgan Stout) talked to my mother about the Morgan siblings.

But the Colorado part of Malvina’s life that my mother knew about was the second chapter. The first chapter set in the East and the second chapter set in the West. In the last half of her life she lived an independent life, far from the life of her childhood and the first chapter of her life, when she was a wife and mother.

Malvina’s Childhood

Malvina was born in Chautauqua County, New York in 1835, and would have been a toddler when her parents, Jesse and Mary Pelton Morgan moved to Ohio.  When Malvina was about three years old, her mother died.  I have no evidence of where Malvina lived as a very young child, but in 1838, her father married Mary Bassett, the widow of Asahel Platt, and they set up housekeeping in Killbuck, Ohio.

Two years later, in 1842, Jesse and Mary Bassett Morgan had a baby girl, Harriet (Hattie). Malvina was seven years old, and probably living in Killbuck with her father (when he was not ‘on the road’) and her step-mother.

In July, the 1850 census counted Malvina, now fifteen years old, living with Mary Morgan and the eight-year-old Harriet in Killbuck. The census report says the Malvina was in school that year. Although it was not common for girls to get education into their teens, it is not surprising that the well-educated former teacher, Mary, would ensure her step daughter went to school. In October of that year, Mary received word that Malvina’s father, Jesse, had been killed in Sacramento California in the month of August.

Chapter One: Malvina’s Married Life

In 1854, when Malvina was only 18 years old, she married 20-year-old Austin Grimes from Mina, Chautauqua County, New York.  Since her mother’s family still lived in Chautauqua County, I can only speculate that she met him while visiting family, or perhaps moved back there to live at some point.  The 1855 New York census shows Austin and Malvina living in Mina, next door to an Andrew Grimes, who was Austin’s older brother.  Later that year, Malvina gave birth to their first daughter, Eva.

Austin was working as a farmer and they continued to live in Chautauqua County, where their second daughter, Eva was born in 1858. The 1860 census shows the family in Ripley, New York, a town on Lake Erie and not far from their previous home in Mina.  By 1863, Austin (and probably the rest of the family) was living in Cornplanter, Pennsylvania and Austin had a new career in the oil fields.  His Civil War draft registration lists him as  “refiner”. However it also lists him as “single.”  Since the 1870 census lists the family together again, I can only assume the “single” is an error. The 1870 census again has Austin working in the oil fields in Cornplanter, this time as an “engineer.”  Emma (15) and Eva (12) are attending school, and the family has taken in two roomers to help make ends meet. One of those roomers is a 15-year-old nephew of Austin.

Austin clearly was interested in cashing in on the oil boom in Verango County, Pennsylvania, which started about 1860–the first major oil boom in the United States.  It becomes clear how important the petroleum industry was to that area when you look at some of the place names like Oil Creek, Petroleum Center and Pithole City.  The towns were rough and raw and the demand for labor must have been great for this farmer to suddenly turn into an oil refiner or engineer.  And by 1880, at the age of 46,he was a Fireman at an oil well.

If being a fireman on an oil well sounds dangerous–it was.  The job entailed removing dangerous gases building up in oil wells and putting out the sometimes explosive fires.

We know that in 1881 Austin Grimes died in Long Island, New York. The family had moved to Queens, New York, some time prior to the 1880 census. Whether it was an accident on the job or some other cause, he was just 47 years old when he died and left Malvina a widow at the age of 46. I was hoping to be able to find an obituary, or some confirmation of how he died, but it does seem probable that an accident on the oil fields caused his death.

Chapter II: Malvina Goes West as an Independent Woman

Because of the missing 1890 census reports, I do not know how long Malvina stayed in the east before moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, but it turns out that mother was right–she lived in Colorado.  The Colorado Springs City Directories for 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1910, 1912, 1914 and 1916 all list her. That means that all of the wandering Jesse Morgan’s four children from his first marriage followed in his footsteps and went west.  Carlos ended up in Montana, Charles in California, and Louise in Denver. Whether Malvina owned (or worked in) a gift shop as mother said, cannot be proven from the census reports or the City Directories, as no occupation is listed in any of them.

I did not spot any relatives near her at the addresses listed in Colorado Springs, although there are many Grimes’ in the Colorado Springs cemetery. Malvina moved at least four times, each time living in rented rooms.  She went from 837 W. Huerfano, to the Gough Hotel, spent at least one year at the YWCA in 1910 and then lived at the St. Charles Rooming House on South Tejon Street.  It seems to have been a lonely life, but perhaps she was able to travel frequently, since we know that she visited Mary Morgan in Killbuck Ohio more than once.

She outlived all three of her siblings and died in April 1917 in Colorado Springs.  She is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in that city, as Mrs. M. L. Grimes.

I have the feeling that one of the unidentified pictures in my great-grandmother’s photo album may be Malvina Morgan Grimes, but for now, I have only this sketchy information and my imagination.

I will tell the story of the fourth child of Jesse Morgan, Louisa Morgan, through the wanderings of her children.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jessie Morgan and Mary Bassett Morgan.
  • Jessie Morgan with his first wife Mary Pelton is the father of
  • Malvina Morgan Grimes

Research Notes

Federal Census Reports: 1850, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio; 1860, Ripley, Chautauqua, New York; 1870, Cornplanter, Venango, Pennsylvania; 1880, Queens, New York, New York; 1900, Colorado Springs, El Paso, Colorado

New York State Census: 1855, Mina, Chautauqua, New York (on line at Ancestry.com

James Morgan and his Descendants, North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, Ancestry.com (on line)

Colorado Springs City Directories, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, Ancestry.com (on line)1900, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916, Malvina Grimes, widow.

Find a Grave, M. L. Morgan, Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Civil War Registration, Austin Grimes, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marsha

New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948, Austin Grimes, 1881, Long Island City, New York