Tag Archives: Vera Stout Anderson

Doctor’s Daughter and the Medicine Show, a Family Letter

Imagine This

Imagine that you are a 13-year-old girl living in a town of about 800 people in rural Ohio, Holmes County. It is February, 1895, so the dirt streets usually turn to mud in winter, but this winter has been mild, and a medicine show has come to town. You sit down to write a letter to your Grandma, Emeline Stout, who lives in Guernsey County.

The Letter

Vera and Emeline

(The photo of Emeline Stout below is undated, but since I have younger and older pictures, I believe this is roughly the right time period. I previously mis-identified it as being Hattie Stout because I misread a caption that said “Grandma Stout”.  Since it was my Grandmother Vera’s handwriting, it is Emeline, not my mother’s Grandma Stout–Hattie.  The photo of Vera is approximately the time she wrote the letter, but unfortunately I do not have one that is better quality.)

The Background

Your father is a doctor and, as usual, is out in the country helping a patient.  Not a lot happens in this small town except church on Sundays and other church meetings. A medicine show with a painless dentist has replaced the interest stirred by the Methodist Church revival, which has now ended. The revivals are almost as well attended as a traveling circus, and draw nearly everybody in town.  Some of those people, not already committed to your father’s chosen place of worship, the Church of Christ,will respond to the emotional sermon of the traveling minister and walk down the tent’s aisle to join the Methodist Church. After you report on the Methodist’s success, t occurs to you a that you had better also tell Grandma about the activities of the Church of Christ. (You are writing the letter on Monday, so your church yesterday occupies your mind ).

When you announced your intention to go to the medicine show, your mother, upholding the reputation of the good doctor, lets you know in no uncertain terms that you cannot go.  One can only guess how appalled she is to think that neighbors would see Doc Stout’s youngest daughter at this charlatan’s traveling show. Additionally, although you Vera might not have known, alcoholism ranks as the biggest social problem of the time. The traveling medicine man’s main income comes from selling “medicine” that is almost totally alcohol or morphine.  It would not occur to you that Grandma Stout might disapprove as much as your mother did  of the medicine show.  Emeline Cochran Stout took an active role in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

You let it slip later in the letter that you already went to the medicine show, because you were tempted to let the painless dentist pull your teeth.  But since you report honestly on both the good and the bad, you admit that you chickened out of having the teeth extracted.

Perhaps your mother did not realize you had attended before, and when she learns about your plans to go again, you see your mother’s refusal as being contrary, and you pitch a fit.  You get so angry that you even refuse to write a thank you letter to your Grandmother Stout even though your obedient older sister, Maude, has written her letter.

But when you calm down, you write the letter to Grandma and in plain terms, confess to your contrariness.

Transcription and Notes

The 13-year-old was my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson). She wrote the letter on her father’s stationary and filled in the date February 25 1895. In three months she would celebrate her 14th birthday. The portion in italics is what Grandmother wrote. I have left her spelling, but for clarity I added periods at the end of sentences. My notes are in brackets. I will include additional notes at the end of the letter explaining things that might not be clear.    

Printed letterhead, with fancy frame around name (see picture above):

W. C. Stout, M.D.

Office days, TUESDAYS and SATURDAYS (from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M.)

Killbuck, Ohio, Feb. 25 189 5

Dear Grandma,

I will answer your letter this evening. I was to contrary to ans when Maud {Vera’s sister} did because I was mad. I received your mittens you sent me and thank you ever so much. think they are very nice.

There is a show in town & has been here for wk and is going to stay all this week. ma got a contrary spell & would not let me go & I have been crying about it for a long time. Pa is up to Stagers. Mr. Stager was down after him to go to see his wife. she has the grip. {grippe–flu}

The Methodist church broke up last night I do not know how many members they got. I think about 30 I am not sure. Are school will be out in about 2 months & Mr. Searles is going to teach a Normal school {school for teachers} this summer. I will not attend.(1) We had church last night & two came out and three were taken in.(2) Bertie Knavel and Mrs. Williams joined and the Fox girl was taken into the church. We got Uncle Tom’s little boy’s picture & he is awful sweet. they named him after Pa. William Clarence Stout. & it make it W. C. Stout like Pa name. He is awful sweet. I expect you have one of them. he is standing by the hobby horse.(3)

Well grandma I got two teeth filled the other day . Mr. Mackey from Millersburg {County Seat, and biggest town in the county}. I only have two more to have filled & 4 to have pulled & will have good teeth. will be glad of it. The show that is here is a medicine show and the Doctor pulls teeth without pain & I am to big a coward to get my pulled. I started to and set back down. backed out.

This was a lovely day. the sun shone all day & the roads are nice.(4)

When are you coming out{?}

This is all I have to say this time so good bye. From your grand daughter Vera

Tell the girls I will write to them to. {Vera’s cousins, who were close to her in age– the nieces of her father, Doc Stout. Mary (b. 1883) and Myrl ( b. 1885), daughters of “Lib” Elizabeth Stout Cunningham.}

 

(1) If May seems early for school to be out, remember that in an agricultural society, parents needed their children on the farm during planting season.

I don’t know why Vera felt it necessary to say she would not be going to the Normal School conducted by Mr. Searles, since Normal schools were for high school graduates, not pre-high school.

(2) “two came out and three were taken in”  In Evangelical churches like the Church of Christ people “come out” and confess their  belief generally at the end of a service.  After some time passes, the minister baptizes them and they are “taken in” to membership in the church.  “Taken in” could also mean people who moved from another congregation.

(3) Uncle Tom is Tom Stout who ranched near Sheridan Wyoming.  The little boy named after Doc Stout, born in 1891, grew up, married and had a child, but was killed in an automobile accident in 1919.  Unfortunately, I have not found a copy of the picture of the child with his hobby horse.

(4) “the sun shone all day and the roads are nice”  This is the most evocative line of this letter, taking us back to a town when the condition of the roads could not be counted on to be passable, particularly in winter.

What Did I Learn About Grandma’s Life?

Now if your imagination is still in tact, and you are transported back to small town Ohio in 1895, imagine what happened after Vera wrote this letter.

My first reaction focused on how wonderful it was to have such a revealing letter from my grandmother.  I can see the plain-spoken, no-nonsense woman I knew in her later years. It brought back to me that  small town life really did include things like medicine shows and painless dentists, and the westerns that I saw in the movie theater where Grandma worked in later years were not just making things up. Did you ever see Bob Hope as a painless dentist in The Paleface?  (Remember, also, that in 1891, Ohio was still considered the West.)  Excellent description of the American phenomenon of traveling medicine show in this article.

But my second reaction was to ask, “If this letter went to Emeline Stout, why was it among my great-grandmother’s papers?”  Was Vera’s Ma, Hattie Stout still being ‘contrary?; Was Vera drop the letter in the slot at the post office, or did her mother make her recopy it and leave out some offensive lines? Perhaps I am over thinking this, because when people wrote letters by hand  in an era that prized beautiful writing, it they frequently recopied a letter and mailed the “clean” copy.

Now that you know Vera as a 13-year-old, and her mother Hattie, what do you think happened? And what do you think of my grandmother?

 

“Remember Me”–Heirloom Autograph Books

Some heirlooms really bring to life their owners and their time.  I am thrilled to have three autogaph books from the 1880s and 90s that belonged to my Great-Aunt Mary Emmeline “Maude” Stout (Bartlett) 1875-1963 and to my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson) 1881-1964.  Every page is precious, but I only have space to share a few pages with you.

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books. That is NOT Maude’s photograph on the bottom left book.

Paging through the autograph books, I notice that my grandmother Vera’s is packed full, while the two by Aunt Maude have many blank pages.  Also, there are more boy’s signatures in my grandmother’s book.  This confirms my impression that grandma was always more sociable and probably more popular than her more serious sister.  The inscriptions in both range from religious in nature to silly verses.

My grandmother’s book seems to have been a Christmas gift in 1890 when she was nine years old. The first signatures in the book are from New Year’s Eve, 1890. The book is nine inches wide and six inches high. There are 34 pages in all, with signatures on both sides of all pages except the title page. The pages have become very brittle and edges are disintegrating.  Most pages are tan (presumably originally more white) but a few are pastel shades. While some pages seem as clear as the day they were written, some have faded considerably and are difficult to read.

The first entry is Vera’s invitation to her friends. She always had beautiful hand writing, but I am amazed that this was written by a nine-year-old.

Vera's Autograph Book page one.

Invitation to sign my book, written by Vera Stout

To All

My Album open! Come and see!

What! Won’t you waste a line on me?

Write but a thought– a word or two

That Memory may reverse to you.

Note:  The words in italic are added in a different hand as though someone was improving her poem.

Some of the entries are very plain, but some are quite fancy. In this case, decorated by the friend, Carrie Wood, who wrote a plainer entry later in the book.

Autograph Book fancy page

Artwork by Vera’s friend, Carrie Wood, 1892

Carrie’s embellished words say

Feb. 16, 1892, Killbuck Ohio From your true friend (___?) Dear Vera Remember me in the days of thy youth. Strive and you will win Strive + Diligence leads to Victory. From your true friend and schoolmate. Carrie Wood

Some adults signed the book, too–church and school officials.  Here are signatures by two adults with more artwork.

Autograph book adult signature

Art work by the Superintendent, S. D. Lisle and wife 1891

Dear Vera:

“A man that can tell good advice from bad advice, does not need advice.”  Mrs. S. D. Lisle

To be content with little is already a step towards greatness.”  S. B. Lisle, Supt. Schools.  Killbuck, Ohio, Jan. 12, 1891.

For those not confident of their artistic talent, the book apparently came with stickers from which the signers could choose.

Autograph book with sticker

Autograph book page with sticker 1891

Killbuck, Ohio, Jan 10, 1891

Friend Vera, “Do good deeds And You will be rewarded.”  Your friend, Lillie Wilson.

Every autograph book has to have some of these silly sayings, and the same ones might have shown up in my own autograph book fifty years later.  Boys, particularly, did not want to say anything mushy or religious.

Autograph book silly verse

Charley Lowe, silly boy May 1892

Killbuck, Ohio, May 12, 1892. Vera.  Remember me when far away If only half awake, Remember me on your wedding day, and send me a piece of cake.  Charley Lowe. (Bottom corner; “Remember”)

Most precious to me in these autograph books are the signatures of Vera’s brother Will (William Morgan Stout) and her sister Maude and other relative and friends I know.

Unfortunately, Will’s page has faded very badly, but I am delighted to say that he signed as “Bro” which is the way that my brother signs notes to me as well.

Autograph Book-Brother's signature

William Stout signature 1893

I am not absolutely certain of the year, thinking at first it was 1899, but by then he would have been in New York in School, so 1893 is more likely. He would have been 19 years old.

Feb. 9, 1893

Compliments of your Bro, W. M. Stout

Short message, but I love the sweeping hand in which he writes, full of confidence.

Maude, the 16-year-old sister, had advice to impart from her advanced age. Interestingly, she signs these pages as Maud (with no “e” on the end), but as an adult, she signed with an “e”–Maude, so that is the spelling I use.

Autograph Book -Sister

Message from Sister Maud Stout 1891

Killbuck Ohio, January 21, 1891

Dear Sister, “When the name that I write here is dim on the page and leaves of your album are yellow with age, still think of me kindly and do not forget that where ever I am I remember you yet”  Your loving Sister Maud Stout

The following year, Maud wrote another entry with an interesting P.S. at the bottom.

Maude’s autograph

Killbuck Ohio    Sister Vera

Ever keep in mind that the virtues of modesty candor and truth in woman exceed all the beauty of youth. Your sister Maud

May 20, 1892 [Grandma’s 11th birthday was May 23] Your last day of school in the old tin shop.

I have no idea what exactly that means, but apparently the town was building a new school. And this was the school in 1893. Grandma is to the left of the teacher in the front row.

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Finally, tucked away in the book is a piece of paper art with the initials of brother Will Stout, and a page from the man who made the art.

Autograph Book

Stencil W. S. (William Stout)

Autograph book Paper Art

Signed by makir of the paper art

 

J.R. Welker was a Floral Cut, Paper Artist. I imagine like penmanship teachers and photographers, Welker traveled from town to town, demonstrating and displaying his art for sale in a public place, and perhaps teaching the art while he was there.

Miss Vera  January 18th 1892/

Perhaps, some day on some far distant shore/like one bereft of friends, I’ll sadly roam,/Endearing charms of those I’ll see no more,/dictating thoughts of love, of joy, and home./Gay as the Butterfly that sips the morning dew/each graceful air shall be, my ____paints for you.

{In the white cut-out in the upper left corner} I love a little lady yes it is true/I think that little lady is one like you/ And I think no affection can ever love vain/For what one loses th eother will gain.}

Oh, my, I can just see little Vera begging her mother to buy all of Mr. Welker’s art work after reading that romantic message.

When I look at my autograph book from when I was about the same age, I can only remember a couple of those people pleading with me to remember them.  However, Killbuck, Ohio was a small town and people grew up together.  I recognize some of these names and know that they were life-long friends.

Oh, I cannot close without adding one more page–this one from Aunt Maud’s autograph book, where Vera, then 4 years old, added her signature.  The woman who would learn to write so beautifully, had not yet mastered the art. Fortunately someone, probably her mother Hattie Morgan Stout added the necessary information.

Maud's Autograph book--Vera

Vera at 4 years old New Year’s Day 1886 in Maud Stout’s book.

Grandma’s Lemon Sponge Pie or Chess Pie?

Lemon pies

Grandma Vera’s Lemon Sponge pie squares off with Joy of Cooking’s Lemon Chess pie.

When a neighbor offered to let me pick as many lemons as I wanted from his lemon tree, I went a little crazy.  As I juiced those lemons on a 55-year-old electric  juicer, I pondered how I would use these lemons. I wanted to try something other than the standard custard lemon pie with meringue. The winners were: Lemon Bars, Lemon Chess pie, and Grandma Vera Anderson’s Lemon Sponge Pie. The two pies held a competition. By the way, I would have made my favorite lemon pie with whole slices of lemon rather than a custard filling. But these lemons were small, and seed-filled.  Not appropriate for that pie. So let the Bake-Off begin.

Read below the recipes what the taste-testers had to say.

electric juicer

Proctor-Silex electric juicer 1960

 

 

I got my electric juicer for a wedding present, and other than the fact that the strainer insert melted when it dropped onto the heating element in the dishwasher, the juicer is still kicking.  It is much easier than juicing by hand, and I have no need for those enormous juicers that are all the fashion now.

I wish I could find another one of these, just like the vintage version. (Gives me pause to realize something I have used personally all its life is now vintage.)

 

Perfect Pie Crust

Both these recipes were made with my not-so-secret recipe for perfect pie crust, but with the chess pie the crust turned cumbly and more like a cookie crust. All that butter and those eggs. However, the pie dough was as easy as ever to make and manipulate. So if you haven’t tried it, take a look at the most popular recipe on this site–perfect pie crust.

 

Lemon Chess Pie

In Joy of Cooking, I found a recipe for Chess Pie, followed by a version that makes it Lemon Chess Pie. It is described as having a “sparkling translucency and a smooth, soft, and melting texture.”   That wasn’t the way I saw it. It was translucent, but so sticky sweet I could only eat two bites. Others who ate it actually loved it, though.

Basic Chess Pie (without lemon) comes from the Southern states, where it is a staple. Although I searched and searched, I could find no definitive explanation of the name. Several theories, but no one knows for sure from whence came the name for this sweet Southern treat.  The Joy of Cooking recipe diverges from traditional Chess Pie recipes I found on line, particularly in the method of dotting butter on top instead of mixing it in.

Recipe follows.

Lemon Chess Pie

Serves 10
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Cold
From book Joy of cooking.
This recipe for Chess Pie from Joy of cooking is very rich. You will want to serve it in small slices.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg (large)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pie crust, baked

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Warm pie crust in oven while you are mixing filling.
2. Mix egg, egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest in bowl and whisk (Joy of Cooking suggests setting the bowl in a skillet with simmering water as you whisk.)
3. Whisk in liquids
4. Lemon Chess Pie
Pour into pie shell and dot the butter over the top. (The dotted butter resulted in a freckled top for me. Alternately, you may follow the more traditional method of mixing softened butter into the sugar before step one.)
5. Bake at 350 degrees, until edges are firm and center quiers like Jell-o when shaken gently. ( Joy of Cooking called for 45 minutes at 250 degrees, but I don't think that is warm enough. My oven took over an hour and I raised the temperature to 350 for the last 15 minutes.)
6. Top with meringue if you wish.

Grandma Vera’s Lemon Sponge Pie

Unfortunately, I have far too few recipes from my grandmother, but I have had this recipe for lemon sponge pie in my recipe box for years, and just never got around to trying it out. In checking for other versions of this pie, I found an identical recipe on line labeled as a traditional Amish recipe. I do not know where Grandma got the recipe, but the probable Amish source did not surprise me.  Killbuck, Ohio, where Grandma lived, lies in an area of Ohio settled by German and Amish immigrants,and familiar foods there tend to come from either England or Germany.

I doubled the recipe for my larger pie pan and got a bonus of two dishes of custard. I also reduced the sugar a bit, knowing that grandma had an insatiable sweet tooth.  I prefer to emphasize the lemon in lemon desserts.

When I make a dish with egg whites folded in, I always want to call all my friends and relatives to see it the moment it comes out of the oven. Because they beautiful pillowy effect is going to disappear in a minute.

Lemon Sponge Pie

Serves 8-10
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
A vintage Lemon Sponge Pie from my grandmother's recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell, unbaked
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 heaped tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • lemon peel (from one lemon (lemon zest, grated fine))

Directions

1. Put pie shell in refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
2. Mix sugar and melted butter.
3. Whisk in egg yolks
4. .Stir in half the milk, add the flour, then stir in the rest of milk
5. In clean bowl with clean beaters on electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.
6. Mix the lemon juice and peel into the batter. Then fold in the egg whites until there are no streaks of white.
7. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Raise temperature to 375 degrees for another 15 minutes.

Note

The recipe as Grandma wrote it looked a bit small for my 9" pie pans, so I doubled the recipe. That way it yielded one large pie and two dessert dishes of custard. The only thing I did not double was the sugar. I like the lemon to shine through, so I used 1 1/2 cups of sugar instead of the full 2 cups. Your call.

Grandmother's instructions for making the pie were simply, "Cream together like cake. Add milk and fold in egg whites beaten stiff." I went into more detail than Grandma, just in case readers needed more help.

Grandma calls for "lemon peel", which we nowadays call lemon zest. That's what she meant--just the yellow part of the lemon peel, grated fine. I don't recall ever hearing the word "zest" in Ohio when I was growing up--it was always "lemon peel" and everyone knew that didn't include the bitter white lining of the peeling.

Don't be alarmed when the pie raises very high and then quickly sinks. That's the nature of the beast with puddings with so much beaten egg white.

The Votes Are In

Male #1: The sponge pie doesn’t taste lemony enough. It is not nearly as good as the other pie. The crust on the other pie was delicious. [As I mentioned above, it was actually the same crust on both pies, but  the ingredients made the Chess Pie crust more sugary.]

Female #1: The Sponge Pie sort of had the texture of a cheesecake, but lighter. But the Chess Pie was more lemony. I liked the crust of the Chess Pie–it was crispier and thinner. Definitely preferred the Chess Pie. It was like a Lemon Bar cookie.

Male #2: Definitely preferred the Chess Pie.  The crust was better and it tasted more strongly of lemons.  The texture of the Sponge Pie looked nice, but it was a let down after the Chess Pie. There really was no comparison.

Female #2: Preferred the Chess Pie.  Both were good, but I liked the calories (ha,ha) in the Chess pie. [the sweetness] The Sponge Pie had a tangy, lemony aftertaste which I enjoyed. The Sponge Pie was kind of like eating cheesecake, with a lemon flavor.

So there you have it. Sorry, Grandma Vera, I’m the only person who actually preferred your pie. I thought the Chess pie was cloyingly sweet (you would have loved it!). I would have preferred a stronger lemon flavor in the Sponge Pie but it would take some experimenting to see how to get that without messing up the texture.