Tag Archives: Maude Stout Bartlett

Cooking for the Boarding House

Discovering three instances of female ancestors running a boarding house, or at least renting rooms reminded me of staying in rooming houses when the family took road trips. And all of that made me think about how our cooking culture changes through the decades. And why boarding houses faded away with the advent of World War II.

Backyard of Maude Bartlett boarding house

Maude Stout Bartlett in garden of her Buffalo Home where she rented a room.

There was a time in American history (late 1800’s through the Great Depression) when boarding houses and rooming houses were the prevalent place of relevance for unmarried men to live.  (Less frequently women).Generally they were run by widows or single women who had no other means of supporting themselves.

Franklin Avenue House became a boarding house.

Franklin Avenue house (on the left) nearly 50 years after we lived there. You will notice the iron railing seen in picture below is missing from the front stoop.

Their life story would run like this–get married, move with their husband and children to a large house. Years pass. Husband dies, or deserts wife, or does not provide for her, perhaps older children move away, leaving her with no skills to support herself besides housekeeping and cooking (actually pretty considerable skills, but not particularly valued). It was only logical for her to turn that extra space in her house into an income-producer.

The occupation was looked upon as a last resort. Women would prefer not to have strangers in their homes. And opening a boarding house or rooming house was an admission that you had no other way of earning a living, so if the woman was previously a respected member of her community, she moved down a notch.

Boarding and rooming houses evolved into more temporary lodgings–as opposed to the semi-permanent homes of single men–the forerunners of today’s Bed and Breakfasts.  I remember my family seeking out respectable rooming houses when we took road trips. I can remember staying in spotlessly clean rooms with polished wood floors on second floors. It was just like visiting an elderly aunt. Very homey.

Aunt Maude, the Widow

In scanning census records, I came across an entry in the 1925 census that surprised me.  Aunt Maude’s husband Carlos died in 1914. She may have given piano lessons, but I don’t know of any other means she had survive other than a pension or life insurance policy from Carlos. In 1925 another person was living in her home: Arthur C. Willets, 62, an American citizen originally from England. He worked for an advertising agency.

It must have been difficult for a woman who had once entertained a Queen to have to rent out a room.  I can’t imagine her cranking out meals every day. On the other hand, I’m sure she was proud to have an Englishman to whom she could serve tea and cookies instead of some country bumpkin.

Harriette Anderson Kaser, the Reluctant Landlady.

Friend Judy, Brother Bill, Bunny (Vera Marie) at Franklin Avenue house in Columbus

Friend Judy, Brother Bill, Bunny (Vera Marie) at Franklin Avenue house in Columbus. (I think that is a girl scout uniform I’m wearing).

Although in my memory, full of rich detail of that period, it seems that we lived on Franklin Avenue in Columbus for many years, I know that in fact we only lived there for a short time, between 1947 and the end of 1948. Clues that cement the time period: toward the end of that period, Mother took my brother and me to Killbuck to be with Grandmother Vera because she was ill, and I know that Mother learned she was pregnant with my sister while we lived in that Franklin Avenue house. However we had moved to another Columbus neighborhood by the time my sister was born in March, 1949.

Sometime during the time we lived at the Franklin Avenue house, mother and dad rented out rooms to one or two men. My father was traveling for his job and money was tight. Mother was used to earning money teaching school, but renting rooms was more practical. She later told me she was very frightened to be alone in the house with these men that she didn’t know.

The house would have made a perfect boarding house, however she did not cook meals for the lodgers. The house had a large kitchen and a big walk-in pantry. Even more intriguing to a young girl, it had a pass-through –like a secret compartment–from the kitchen to the sizeable dining room, through a portion of a built in china cabinet that filled one entire wall. With its back stairs from the kitchen to the 2nd floor maid’s room, the house reflected a different way of cooking and eating forty years before we lived there.

NOTE: After publishing this post, I was re-reading some of mother’s memories and learned that she and my father also rented out two rooms in a too-large house they lived in in New Philadelphia, Ohio when I was just a toddler. She said it was her favorite of all the houses she ever lived in.

Grandma Vera Stout Anderson and the Boarding House that Became a Restaurant.

Boarding House proprietors.

Vera and Guy Anderson, 1941 in Killbuck. Grandma’s swollen legs show the mark of long years on her feet in the kitchen. Grandpa wears a pocket-sized hearing aid.

I have talked a lot about the restaurant that my grandmother and grandfather Anderson ran out of their home in Killbuck, Ohio.  However, I just learned–again thanks to a census report–that the restaurant was preceded by a boarding house. Daddy Guy bounced from business to business after he left farming, so this was just one more.

In the 1930 census lists, along with Leonard Guy Anderson (Daddy Guy) and Vera M. Anderson,  my mother (23) and their son Herbert G. Anderson(21) and his wife and one-year-old son, also five men as lodgers. This makes perfect sense.  I can see how cooking for that many people might evolve into the idea of cooking for anyone who wanted to pay for a meal. Plus, with young men enlisting at the onset of World War II, the demand for rooms would have disappeared.

The same hearty fare that made up blue plate specials in the restaurant–meat loaf, beef stew, pot roast and pies of every variety–would have filled the table at the boarding house. When I think of Grandma Vera cooking for ten people every day, I realize how difficult it must have been for her in later years to adjust to being alone.

She did not leave recipes for these hearty main dishes, because she just knew how to make them, and any housewife worth her salt should know also.

1925 Cook Book

1925 Cook Book Cover

So I perused the Buffalo Evening News Cookbook (1925) for a look at what assumptions were being made about cooking during the 1930’s. It was, after all, tough times, and you had to stretch what little meat you had, although it was assumed that there would always be meat on the table. And bread and butter. And salt and pepper. So I turned to the “One Dish Meals” chapter of the Buffalo Evening News Cookbook and found a recipe that definitely sounded like something grandma would make, the salty ham a lovely contrast with the crusty skin on top,  potatoes creamy underneath.

One more note–in another twenty years, mushroom soup would have become the standard substitution for milk or cream in recipes like this, but I never liked it as much as the plain milk in my scalloped potatoes.

Cooking for the Boarding House
Recipe Type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Author: Vera Marie Badertscher
Ham and potatoes
  • 6 potatoes
  • pepper
  • 1 lb. ham
  • 2 Cups Milk
  1. Pare potatoes and slice thin. Cut ham in pieces suitable for serving. Lay in the bottom of a casserole, season with pepper and put the sliced potato on top. Add the milk and bake slowly until the potatoes are tender. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top just before serving. (A step Grandma would probably have skipped)
I’m sure that for ten people, Grandma would have doubled or tripled this recipe. She could easily have cooked a whole ham for Sunday dinner, and then used the leftover scraps to make this dish later in the week.[br]”Cook slowly until the potatoes are tender”in modern terms translates into 350 degree oven for one hour to 1- 1/2 hour, depending on type of potato.



Great Aunt Maude Bartlett Entertains the Queen

Aunt Maude contained a universe of contradictions. By turns, I saw her as irritating, fascinating or admirable. My great-Aunt Mary Emeline Stout (Bartlett), known as Maude Bartlett (1875-1963), is the sister of  Grandmother Vera and her brother Will (William Morgan) Stout.

Maude Bartlett (Stout) and brother

Will M. Stout and Mary (Maude) Stout. Picture taken in May 23,1881, the day Vera May Stout (my grandmother) was born.

This is a rather rare photo from my collection, since it is a hand-painted tintype.  I really don’t think that Will and Maude’s hair was blonde, and I suspect the dog may have been added by the photographer. But I just love Maude’s dress and high button shoes, and her sour apple expression. And I can’t help wonder, since their mother was in labor–in the house they lived in–who got them all dressed up like that and took them to the photographer? Their grandmother, Mary Bassett Platt Morgan (1810-1890) would have still been around. I’d like to think it was her.

I try to avoid drawing too many conclusions from photographs that have been sitting in a drawer for 100 years or so. Were all our ancestors sour pusses? No, they had to stay very still because camera exposures were long. Were they fashion plates who never let their hair down? No, getting your photograph taken was a BIG DEAL and you got dressed up for it.  Nobody was snapping pictures of partying at the bar with friends–not that respectable women would be at a bar anyhow–and what was the point? There wasn’t a Facebook or Instagram where you could share your every moment.

But now I confess that I am straying from my resolve in psychoanalyzing this picture of ancestors.

Stout Family Home in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

Here we have my great-grandfather Dr. William C. Stout, my grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson), my great-uncle William Morgan Stout, my great-aunt Maude Stout (Bartlett) and my great-grandmother Harriette Morgan Stout sitting in the yet-unpaved street in front of their family home in Killbuck, Ohio toward the end of the 19th century. Perhaps an itinerant photographer came to town and set up those wooded chairs and told them how to stand and sit. Perhaps there were other versions that didn’t turn out well, and so we’ll only see this arrangement.

And yet…it is so right to have my grandmother standing close to–touching, even–her father, while her sister, Maude is packed tightly up against their mother. And brother Will is abandoned out there all alone. My mother always said that “Grandma Stout” favored “Aunt Maude”.

And no wonder, Aunt Maude was the perfect daughter for her time. Intelligent, dedicated to domestic arts, neat and proper. She played the piano, read poetry and loved the finer things in life. Vera Stout Anderson, on the other hand, was very smart but not a bookworm.  She was of a practical turn of mind and had what we would call “street smarts.”

Her marriage took place at 23 years old to Carlos Edwin Bartlett. He is listed in the census as a “traveling salesman” when they married and lived in Killbuck. By 1904, Carlos and Maude lived at 346 Fargo Avenue, Buffalo New York–if the Google map image is the same house, which it very well could be–it looks like an apartment house.

By 1910, they had purchased a house at 15 Robie Avenue (now Robie Street) in Buffalo. Carlos had become a Travel Passenger Agent with the NYC and St. Louis Railroad. There she gardened, joined literary societies and entertained.

Maude Bartlett in Buffalo

Maude Bartlett in garden of her Buffalo Home

I have a set of journals of a Shakespeare society she belonged to, and she was always a great reader until her eyesight failed her in old age. As a teenager, I was called upon to read books to her, a task I found excruciatingly boring. How I wish I had taken advantage of the time with the somewhat stiff old lady to ask her about some of her exciting days in Buffalo. My mother told me that one of Aunt Maude Bartlett’s proudest moments was when she hosted a tea to entertain the Queen of the Netherlands who was visiting Buffalo. She apparently enjoyed not only entertaining, but decorating and dressing up. Here’s a rather fuzzy picture of a tea party to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday.

Maude Bartlett --tea party

Maude Stout Bartlett in Colonial costume for tea party

Maude Bartlett with family

Aunt Maude’s caption on this picture: “Mother, Fred, Louise and Mary–Carlos, his father and me–July 4, 1915–our Dodge”

This photo, with Maude’s mother Harriette Morgan Stout on the far left (my great-grandmother), includes three people I cannot identify, despite the first names. I’m assuming they are Carlos Bartlett’s relatives. And I do not know Carlos’ father’s name. I notice that the women in this picture are dressed very conservatively in full-length dresses although hemlines were rising above ankles by 1915. This was taken at their home at 16 Robie Avenue. She dated the picture July 4, 1915, and underlined “our Dodge”–obviously a proud new possession.

Maude and Carlos’ home was (and is) near the Delaware Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The neighborhood is still well-kept and the homes have changed very little. You can see a street view by going to Google Maps and looking for 16 Robie Street, Buffalo NY.

It came as quite a shock to me to check dates in the family Bible and learn that “dear Carlos” as she always referred to him, died 15 days after this picture was taken, at the age of 42. They had been married just 17 years and had no children. She stayed in Buffalo alone for several years, probably living off  a decent pension from the railroad. But railroads fell on hard times, and her stock became worthless. Maude went back to Killbuck, Ohio at the end of the 1940’s, first living in an apartment in the old family home that had become my Grandmother’s house, and later buying a house on the other side of Killbuck.

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

One of the things I can’t help noticing in this photograph is how much the grand old Victorian House has changed in its first 60 or so years. (Compare to the family portrait nearer the top of this page).  All the Victorian scroll work and fanciness is gone, a utilitarian closed porch with storm windows substitutes for the open porch you see earlier, and the paint is a utilitarian all white instead of having colorful trim.

Aunt Maude looks quite sweet in this picture, belying some of the favorite family stories about her. She and grandmother Vera fought like cats and dogs. They never agreed on anything, and it probably was a good thing that they had lived nearly 20 years two states apart.  But after Aunt Maude moved to the other end of town, she and Grandma called each other at least once a day to check up on the other one.

Aunt Maude had lovely old antique furniture, including glass cases displaying delicate china and other treasurers. But when I visited as a teen and young adult, I was only impressed (negatively) by her rigid sense of propriety.  She cared deeply about every one of her possessions, and wanted to assure that they would be well taken care of when she was gone.  She spent the last twenty years of her life labeling every piece of china and every stick of china with notes like “This sofa is to go to Harriette [my mother]. Feet have never touched it.” or “This is for Paula [my sister]”

When Aunt Maude passed away in 1963, I received, among other things, this silver holloware coffee service, what was left of a set of delicate, translucent, porcelain teacups, and a set of heavy linen napkins with a “B” for Bartlett (and for Badertscher). For those who care about such things: The porcelain is a German Eglantine by Hermann Ohme manufactured between 1882 and 1928, and the silver coffee pot set is by Reed and Barton, pattern Sierra, manufactured between 1905-1930 .

Maude Bartlett's tea service

Aunt Maude’s tea service with Reed and Barton Pewter tea set, Hermann Ohme German porcelain cups and plates, and linen napkins

Look again at the picture of Aunt Maude in her Colonial costume above. In the background, you can see the silhouette of the silver coffee pot. And by the way, the tea and coffee sets are sitting on a Queen Anne table in my living room that belonged to my great-grandmother Stout.  Just think, if I invite you to tea, I may be serving you from the very same set that served the Queen of the Netherlands.

In retrospect, I realize how reduced Maude’s life when she had to leave the cultural stimulation of her life in Buffalo, and how lonely and out of her element she must have felt.  Since I do not intend to give a formal tea party for the Queen of anything, I remember her even more for her driving intellectual curiosity. How, when she was over eighty, she said to me one day out of the blue, “I just realized that I can only name five of the Supreme Court Justices. That is terrible.  I must look them up.” (Note: Aunt Maud did not have Google.)

Have you served tea lately? And how many Supreme Court Justices can you name?