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Category Archives: Historical

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Lizzie (and Borden ancestry)

If I had not had another commitment last night, I would have been at the Mosheim Mansion to see the performance about Lizzie Borden.  I am sure it was great fun!  The Asylum Ensemble of Texas presented “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe: The Lighter Side of Axe Murder.”

There will be another performance in November and if possible, I hope to see this show.  We are so fortunate to have businesses such as the Mosheim Mansion who give to the community in so many ways.

The Asylum Ensemble of  Texas is a group of local actors.  Its founders include Carol Hirshi (owner of the Mosheim Mansion), Griffin Darklighter and Brandi Atchley of Seguin along with Steve Zingraf of San Marcos.

Lizzie Borden and I share the same Borden ancestor: Richard Borden, born February 22, 1595 in Headcorn, England (died May 25, 1671 in Portsmouth, New Jersey) and Joane Fowle.  One of the earliest Borden ancestors I’ve researched is one Henry Borden who died 1370 in Headcorn, England.

The Bordens or Bourdens originally came to England from Normandy.

Lisbeth Borden Dies After Short Illness, Age 68 [67]

Lisbeth [sic: Lizbeth] A. Borden died this morning [in 1927]  at 306 French Street, where she had made her home for about 30 years.  She had been ill with pneumonia for about a week, although for some time she had been in failing health.

A member of one of the old Fall River families, having been the daughter of Andrew J. and Sarah Anthony [sic: Morse] Borden, she had lived here all of her life.  With her two maids, she lived a quiet retired life, paying occasional visits to out-of-town friends and receiving a few callers whose staunch friendship she valued highly.

Taking an intense pride in the surroundings in which she lived, she did much to improve the locality, purchasing adjoining property, that the same refined atmosphere might be maintained.  Greatly interested in nature, she was daily seen providing for the hundreds of birds that frequented the trees in her yard, taking care that the shallow box where they gathered with filled with crumbs, seeds and other foods that they favored.  She had miniature houses erected in her trees and, in these, frivolous squirrels made their homes.  Her figure as she visited with her wild callers, many of whom became so friendly that they never seemed to mind her approach, was a familiar one in that section.

Another pastime in which she greatly delighted was riding through the country roads and lanes.  She made frequent trips about town in her motor car, but was never so pleased as when winding through the shady country by-ways.

The death of Miss Borden recalls to many one of the most famous murder trials in the history of the state.  On the fourth of August, 1892, Andrew J. Borden and his wife, Abby D. Borden, were found murdered in their Second Street home.  After a preliminary investigation, Lisbeth Borden was arrested and formally charged with the murder of her father.  After a hearing in Fall River she was indicted by the grand jury and in November 1892 [June 1983], was tried and acquitted in new Bedford.

The trial attracted statewide interest.  No further arrests were ever made and the murder has remained an unsolved mystery since.  Following her acquittal, Miss Borden lived a rather retired life and devoted much of her time to private charities of which the public knew but little.

Gail Borden (inventor, architect, surveyor) is also in this Borden family.  If memory serves (although that isn’t a given these days!), Gail Borden also laid out the plans for Galveston, Texas.  Of course, what one most readily remembers about Gail Borden is his patent for condensed milk.


Plain folks.

Infamous folks.

Interesting folks.

We ALL  have these family stories and I find the research fascinating.

Camp Ruston – Louisiana

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During World War II, Camp Ruston was one of the largest prisoner of war camps in the United States. At its peak in October, 1943, the camp held 4,315 prisoners. The camp was built by the local T.L. James Company on 770 acres about seven miles northwest of Ruston, Louisiana in 1942. From June 1943 to June 1946, the camp served as one of more than 500 prisoner of war camps in the United States. The first 300 men, from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s elite Afrika Korps, arrived in August 1943. In 1944, the captured officers and crew of a German U-Boat were sent to the camp and kept in isolation in a restricted area in order to prevent them from communicating to the enemy that secret German naval codes had fallen into Allied hands. During 1944, French, Austrian, Italian, Czech, Polish, Yugoslav, Romanian, and Russian prisoners were also housed in the camp. During their incarceration in Camp Ruston, the prisoners benefited from food, medical care, and physical surroundings which were better than what their countrymen were experiencing at home. The prisoners engaged in athletic and crafts activities and allowed to organize an orchestra, a theater, and a library. Those prisoners who were enlisted men were required to work at the camp and for local farms and businesses. They picked cotton, felled timber, built roads, and performed other tasks to help solve the domestic labor shortage caused by the war. They were paid in scrip which they could use in the camp canteen. In 1944, the U.S. War Department began a program to educate prisoners of war throughout the United States in academic subjects. One source of books was the library of Louisiana Polytechnic Institute (now Louisiana Tech University). The Camp Ruston Collection contains the following materials: * Copies of National Archives records pertaining to Camp Ruston. * Official maps of the camp and USGS aerial surveys of the area. * Contemporary snapshots of Camp Ruston. * Books from the camp library Drawings, wood carvings, and other artwork crafted by the prisoners. * Items unearthed during Tech’s archaeology survey of the site. * Camp Ruston script, Christmas cards, dinner menus, musical concert programs, athletic equipment, and dinnerware.

[Source: POW Camps in Louisiana]

The Big Burn

One of the best books I’ve read in the last few years was Timothy Egan’s novel The Worst Hard Time, bringing the times of the Dust Bowl to life.

Thus, I’m always interested in anything he writes.

The Big Burn does not disappoint.

From the book’s jacket:

On the afternoon of August, 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in the blink of an eye.  Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men — college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps — to fight the fire.  But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the Rangers nor anyone else know how to subdue them.

Egan won the National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time, and the Big Burn proves that he can most certainly write.

A quotation from the chapter, Firestorm’s Eve:

Halm’s boss in Wallace was also fretting over an exit strategy–but for an entire town, not just a fire crew.  Bill Weigle had been working with soldiers from the 25th Infantry and the mayor on the evacuation plan for the three thousand or so residents of Wallace who remained behind.  Like Halm, his concern was the people would get trapped.  There were only two ways out of town: downriver, to the west and Spokane, or uphill, to the east and Missoula.  Each of those exits was a narrow slot in the mountains.  The passageways were funnels, and should one or both of them catch fire, they would force flame up the narrow byway like peas through a straw shooter.  It was agreed that the two trains from two different lines that came through Wallace would evacuate all the women and children.  The men would stay and fight for the town.