Sunday, December 31, 2017

Benjamin and His Brothers

Click on any photo to see it enlarged.
I first came across this photo (above) a couple years ago among the Shanower family material my cousin Burleigh J. "B.J." Shanower (1889-1985) donated to the Shanower library at the Pioneer Village in Burton, Geauga County, Ohio. Right away I recognized my great-great-grandfather Benjamin Franklin Shanower (1845-1928) standing at the center. I'd seen him only in one other photo without a beard (below left). In most photos he wears a beard. But there's no mistaking him in this photo.

Benjamin Franklin Shanower, with beard, circa 1880.
Benjamin Franklin Shanower, without beard, 1870.

I was pretty sure the figure standing on the left is Ben's brother Nathaniel E. Shanower (1853-1936), the father of B.J. Shanower, whom this photo had once belonged to.

Nathaniel E. Shanower, circa 1900.

But I wasn't sure who the other men could be. The photo has no identifications. Were the others friends? Brothers? Since Ben and Nathaniel were brothers, I thought it likely that the other men were, too. I approached my attempt to identify them with that assumption.

There were five sons in this generational unit of the Shanower family:

1. Benjamin Franklin Shanower, born August 27, 1845
2. Reuben Shanower born August 10, 1847
3. John A. Shanower born March 9, 1851
4. Nathaniel E. Shanower born April 22, 1853
5. William Zachary Shanower born August 23, 1855

But seven men appear in the photo, so they can't all be brothers. If five of them are brothers, then two of them are not. Who are those two? None of them can be their father John Abraham Shanower since he died in 1859 when Ben, the eldest brother, was fourteen years old. Ben is clearly older than fourteen here.

The two extra men are associated closely enough with the Shanower brothers to sit for a formal photograph with them. Could they be brothers-in-law? All five of the Shanower sisters were married:

1. Mary Ann Shanower married Levi Thomas Cecil on May 15, 1870
2. Lydia Shanower married Jacob M. Ebersole on September 12, 1880
3. Elemina "Ellen" Shanower married John E. Smith on January 29, 1871
4. Margaret "Molly" Shanower married Calvin A. Wise on October 26, 1890
5. Clarana "Clara" Shanower married Lester L. Butler on December 25, 1877

That's quite a spread--twenty years--for the Shanower girls' wedding days. Mary Ann and Ellen were both married by early 1871. Clara, the next sister married, was wed in 1877. So if the two extra men are brothers-in-law, the photo was likely shot between January 1871 and December 1877. Ben's lack of a beard indicates a date in the early 1870s. My best guess is that the photo was taken about 1873, give or take a year or two.

If the two extra men are the brothers-in-law of Ben, their names were Levi Cecil and John Smith. But which of the five unidentified figures might they be?

The figure seated on the right doesn't resemble the others. I doubt he was a blood relation. Could he be Levi or John?

I have an album of photos from the mid- to late nineteenth century. The album once belonged to my great-great-grandparents Benjamin Franklin Shanower and his second wife Lucy Leifer Shanower. Most of the photos are unidentified. I recognize Ben's brother Nathaniel and his family in one. I'm sure some of the photos show other siblings of Ben.

Two of them--clearly a paired set, one a portrait of a man, the other a portrait of a woman--are marked "Cecil" in pencil on their backs. Could the man be Levi Cecil? Unfortunately he doesn't resemble anyone in the photo of Ben and six other men.

But are these paired photos really of anyone named Cecil? There are notes on other photos from the mostly unidentified album that are incorrect identifications--one Leifer photo has the name "Shanower" written on it (below). So I strongly question the written "Cecil" identification.

This photo from the mostly unidentified album has a note that reads "Shanower." But it's actually Frederick Leifer, Jr.

In the pair of photos marked "Cecil" (below) the woman seems rather elderly to be Mary Ann Shanower Cecil when the styles of her dress and of the photo are taken into account. She looks suspiciously like Ben's aunt, Rebecca Shanower Kroehle. (Compare her with the 1909 Shanower reunion photo here.) I believe this pair of photos actually depicts Rebecca Shanower Kroehle and her husband Philip Oscar Kroehle, and that whoever wrote "Cecil" on the photos was wrong.

Noted as "Cecil," but it's Rebecca Shanower Kroehle.
Noted as "Cecil," but I think it's Philip Kroehle.

So I had no luck in securely identifying anyone in the original photo as Levi Cecil.

Could I identify the other brother-in-law in 1873, John Smith?

In the album of mostly unidentified photos, there's one (below) that shows a man that looks a lot like the standing figure on the right in the photo of Ben and six other men. In the upper left corner of the album photo are some remnants of writing which could easily be reconstructed as "Smith." The writing seems to be an original identification, not a later guess, since the missing portions were cut off before the photo was mounted to its backing by the photography studio. I believe the writing confirms that the album photo shows John Smith with his wife Ellen Shanower Smith and eldest child Minnie. And his resemblance in the two photos confirms that the photo of Ben and six other men shows John Smith standing on the right.

Ellen Shanower Smith, Clara Minerva "Minnie" Smith O'Donnel Engel Williams, and John E. Smith, circa 1874. Note the remnants of lettering in the upper left corner.

Probably John E. Smith in 1909.
There's a third photo that might show John Smith--the Shanower family reunion photo from 1909--which I wrote about in this previous post (detail on right). Figure 44 looks to me to be the same man as the two other photos. His presence at the Shanower reunion confirms him as a Shanower family member in some respect. I feel pretty secure in identifying him in all three photos as John E. Smith.

If that's John Smith in the photo of Ben and six others, then I'm pretty sure that the photo shows the five Shanower brothers and their two brothers-in-law. I have no way to prove or disprove that the seated man on the right is brother-in-law Levi Cecil. It seems reasonable for the two brothers-in-law to be arranged in the photo on the right side together. So I'm going with the assumption that the seated right-hand figure is Levi Cecil.

Three remaining men are still unidentified. I believe they're the three remaining Shanower brothers. In 1873 they were:

1. Reuben Shanower, age 26
2. John A. Shanower, age 22
3. William Zachary Shanower, age 18

But which is which? Is there any clue in their arrangement in the photo?

Ben, standing center, was the eldest brother. Nathaniel, standing on the left, beside Ben, was the fourth brother. So they don't seem to be arranged by age. I can't think of any other information communicated by their seating order.

Can I find any of them in another photo?

Figure 31 is Nathaniel E. Shanower in 1909. Who is figure 13?
In the 1909 Shanower family reunion photo are two figures that I believe are Ben Shanower's brothers, figures 13 and 31. I believe figure 31 is Nathaniel Shanower, who's already identified in the photo of Ben and his brothers. Since brother William Shanower died in 1903, figure 13 has to be either Reuben or John, but I don't know which. I think figure 13 most closely resembles the figure seated second from left in the photo of Ben and six others. But I can't be sure.

I have another photo (below) that I strongly suspect shows one of these Shanower brothers. The photo, from about 1920, shows Lloyd E. Shanower seated at the upper right and his two young sons, Delmer Lloyd Shanower Fentress standing on the bottom step and Wilbur J. "Mickey" Shanower Fentress sitting just below his father Lloyd.

Lloyd Shanower (upper right) with young sons Delmer and Mickey, circa 1920. And who else?

This photo shows two other people, a woman and a man, both elderly. When I first saw this photo, I thought they must be Reuben Shanower and his wife Lydia A. Karrer Shanower, Lloyd's parents and the grandparents of the two young boys. But Reuben Shanower died in 1912, so this photo can't include him. I assume by extension that the woman isn't Reuben's wife Lydia, though she was alive in 1920.

So who are they?

Lydia Karrer Shanower's sister Elizabeth E. Karrer married John A. Shanower as his second wife. That made Elizabeth the great aunt of the two young boys, Del and Mickey, in two ways--both by marriage and by blood. John Shanower was the boys' great uncle and their father Lloyd's uncle. These relationships made it perfectly reasonable for these people to appear together in a photo. So I think the old couple in this 1920 photo is wife and husband Elizabeth E. Karrer Shanower and John A. Shanower.

Figure 13 in the 1909 Shanower reunion photo is either Reuben or John Shanower. I think figure 13 is not the same as the old man in the 1920 photo of Lloyd Shanower and his two young sons. If my conclusion is correct, figure 13 is not John Shanower. That means figure 13 in the reunion photo is most likely Reuben Shanower and figure 14 is likely Lydia Karrer Shanower. I don't see much resemblance between figure 14 and the woman in the 1920 photo, who I think is Elizabeth Karrer Shanower.

I believe the figure I've identified as John Shanower in the 1920 photo most closely resembles the figure seated on the left in the photo of Ben and his brothers. That leaves Reuben and William as the two remaining brothers.

Can I identify one or the other, thus giving me the identities of both? I'm not sure.

The album of unidentified photos contains a photo (below) with a man that resembles the figure seated second from left.

Is this a Shanower brother and his wife?

There is also a woman in that photo. I assume they're husband and wife and that the photo dates from the time of their marriage, since there are no children included. That woman could be one of two wives:

Who is this?
Lydia Karrer Shanower?
1. Lydia A. Karrer married Reuben Shanower on February 15, 1880
2. Melissa A. Gerber married William Z. Shanower on February 11, 1883

I have one photo identified as Lydia Karrer Shanower (right), but in it she's elderly and the photo's extremely blurry. I'm also not confident that she's Lydia. She might be Lydia's daughter-in-law, Ethel Sheehan Shanower Fentress. In any case, she doesn't look much like the woman in the unidentified album photo.

Figure 14 in the 1909 Shanower family reunion photo might be Lydia Karrer Shanower, especially if figure 13 is Reuben Shanower. I think figure 14 looks a little like the woman in the unidentified album photo.

I have several securely identified photos of Melissa A. Gerber Shanower (below). Melissa had a pretty strong jawline. If I had to guess, I'd say the woman in the unidentified album photo doesn't look much like Melissa. If that guess is correct, then chances are that the man in the album photo is Reuben Shanower.

Three views of Melissa Gerber Shanower--circa 1887, circa 1900, and in 1909.

And I think that man most closely resembles the figure seated second from left in the photo of Ben and brothers. That leaves the figure seated second from right as the only remaining brother, William.

But I'm not sure. I keep changing my guesses.

In any case, my final identifications (for the present) of the men in the photo are:

Standing, left to right: Nathaniel E. Shanower, Benjamin Franklin Shanower, John E. Smith
Seated, left to right: John A. Shanower, Reuben Shanower, William Zachary Shanower, Levi Cecil

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Shanower Archive Surfaces

Timothy Edward Shanower (1948-1968).
Timothy Edward Shanower (1948-1968) was my second cousin once removed. Our common ancestors were my great-great-grandparents Benjamin Franklin Shanower (1845-1928) and Lucy Leifer Shanower (1856-1916). Timothy was killed in action in Da Nang, Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.

Last year in a thrift store near Bradenton, Florida, someone unrelated to the family found an archive of photos and letters from Timothy Shanower. That person was kind enough to post the material online. Here's the link:

It's kind of awful to realize Timothy Shanower was only twenty years old when he died.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Kelseys of Killingworth

Some time ago I posted here about my Fuller line and how it seems to lead back to Edward Fuller (abt 1575-1621) of the Mayflower. That line has a couple weak links, namely Loring Fuller (1797-1863) and his father, Jethro Fuller (bef 1770-1821).

More recently a distant cousin wrote to me because of that post. The cousin also believes our line goes back to the Fullers of the Mayflower and would like to prove that once and for all in order to join the Mayflower Society. I would be delighted with proof.

The cousin gave me a few pieces of information I didn't have before. I knew that Jethro Fuller's wife was named Siba Kelsey, but I had no other information about her. The cousin provided a photograph of her gravestone, here, in the Smith-Dunbar Pioneer Cemetery in Parma, Monroe County, New York.

This prompted a correction to some information I wrote about in the earlier post linked above. My research had Siba's son Loring Fuller and his family located in Nichols, Tioga County, New York, according to the 1830 US Federal Census. But there's also a Loring Fuller and family in Greece, Monroe, New York, in the 1830 census, information I hadn't found before. Greece is next to Parma, where Siba Kelsey Fuller's buried, so the Fullers in Greece, not the ones in Nichols, are clearly the ones in my direct family line.

Siba's maiden name on her gravestone is spelled Kelsy, rather than Kelsey, which is why I hadn't found her grave before. Most compelling to me was that the stone also gives her death date, April 14, 1838. And her age, 63. Simple math provides a birth date between April 14, 1774, and April 14, 1775.

From the Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records.
Using those dates I found Sibe Kelsey, born August 16, 1774, in Killingworth, Middlesex County, Connecticut, daughter of Ambrose Kelsey (1747-bef 1749) and Jemima Griswold (1747-unk). I don't have conclusive proof that this is the Siba Kelsey who married Jethro Fuller, but despite the variant spelling of her name, I'm sure she's the same person. Sibe Kelsey of Killingworth, Connecticut, is the only Siba Kelsey of the right age and geographical area who fits.

The Kelsey family of Killingworth, Connecticut, is extensive and well documented for many generations. Siba's great-great-grandfather was William Kelsey (1600-1680), who helped found Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1632; helped found Hartford, Connecticut, in 1636; and helped found Kenilworth, later Killingworth, Connecticut, in 1663.

Siba's ancestry includes Griswold, Parmele, and Hull lines. One line leads back to Robert White (abt 1558-abt 1617) and Bridget Allgar (abt 1562-aft 1605), whom I trace descent from in several additional ways. Other descendants of Robert White and Bridget Allgar include Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903), Lucille Ball (1911-1989), Joseph Smith (1771-1840), Donny Osmond (b. 1957), Marie Osmond (b. 1959), Shirley Temple (1928-2014), Wilbur Wright (1867-1912), Orville Wright (1871-1948), Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), Jodie Foster (b. 1962), David Hyde Pierce (b. 1959), Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), John Brown (1800-1859), Richard Gere (b. 1949), Gerald Ford (1913-2006), Samuel Colt (1814-1862), J. P. Morgan (1837-1914), and Ellen DeGeneres (b. 1958), to name a few. They're all my cousins. So you see I have plenty of subjects for my series of blog posts on "My Famous Relatives," several for my series on "My Gay Relatives," and a couple for my series on "My Musical Relatives." Let's see how many I actually cover.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Arnold Stuuri's Writings

I recently finished a long task. I scanned at high resolution an archive of letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, small booklets, and other ephemera from the family of my mother's mother. The items dated from about 1912 through 1971, with the greatest concentration of them being from 1942-44, during World War II. This ended up being about 1800 scans.

The majority of the items concerned my great uncle Arnold Wilhelm Mattias Stuuri (1913-1944). I think they were originally collected and saved by his mother Wilhelmina Elizabeth "Minnie" Hirvi Stuuri (1890-1946), since a few of the items are from her childhood and a few of the letters are from her brothers during World War I.

As I understand it, these letters and items were for a long time stored in the attic of the Stuuri family home at 503 Independence Street, Fairport Harbor, Ohio. My great aunt, Adela Mirjam Stuuri Bixler (1918-2003), sister of Arnold, raised her family in that house. At one point she cleaned out the attic and planned to throw this collection away. Her youngest sister, my great aunt Alberta Elizabeth "Abbie" Stuuri Peterson (1928-1995), rescued the collection. Now it resides with Aunt Abbie's husband, Jerry Mervyn Peterson.

The material gives insight into the lives of every member of this family, especially during the early 1940s. It also brings to life the small working-class town of Fairport during those years. The personalities of all the letter-writers stand revealed more or less.

My Uncle Arnold's death was for many years clouded in obscurity. Here's the newspaper report of his funeral from the January 5, 1945, issue of The Fairport Beacon:
Attending one of the most beautiful and reverent services conducted in Fairport were hundreds of people who came to pay tribute to Arnold Stuuri, son of Mr. and Mrs. Matt Stuuri of 503 Independence St., who died at the Brooklyn Naval hospital last Thursday morning. Torpedoman Stuuri had served in the US Navy for three years and had been wounded at Casablanca in January, 1943.
Note that final sentence about Arnold's being wounded. It's both incorrect and misleading. While scanning the letters exchanged between Arnold and his family, I tried to understand what exactly had happened to him--how he'd been wounded and what had led to his death. But I couldn't. The letters make the chronology clear, but are shy on details. My great uncle Jerry Peterson finally had the answer. He was already courting Arnold's sister Abbie when Arnold was in the US Navy during the war, and he went to visit Arnold in the hospital shortly before Arnold's death.

Arnold Wilhelm Mattias Stuuri US Naval idenfication card.
Arnold joined the US Navy in January 1942, shortly after the United States of America entered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Arnold served as a torpedoman on two Navy ships during the war. The first ship was the USS Davis, which primarily patrolled the Caribbean and the east coast of South America. In Montevideo, Uruguay, on March 2, 1943, a depth charge fell on Arnold's foot and injured it. That was the wound that the above newspaper article references. The wound was not received in Casablanca, nor was it in January.

It took Arnold quite a while to recover from that wound, primarily it seems because the doctor aboard the Davis didn't take it seriously enough. It wasn't until months later and a new doctor was assigned to the Davis that Arnold's wound was tended to properly in Bethesda Naval Hospital.

In May 1944 Arnold was assigned to the USS Tillman, a destroyer that took him to Casablanca and Sicily. If he was wounded at Casablanca, it wasn't a wound of much consequence and it would have been in 1944, not 1943 as the newspaper article states. I doubt he was wounded at Casablanca.

Stuuri family portrait, probably Oct. 1944. Arnold is third from right.
In October 1944 Arnold had leave and went home to Fairport. It's during that time that the photograph [right] of the family seems to have been taken. But when Arnold left Fairport on the train, he grew sick. He had a condition that had bothered him all his life, it seems, an intestinal condition that caused obstructions.

The story as I've heard it is that people on the train assumed he was drunk. He was actually in pain and needed help. He made it to Grand Central Terminal in New York City and collapsed. He was taken to Brooklyn Naval Hospital.

He was in the hospital for a couple months and died there just after Christmas 1944.

The story I'd heard from family since I was small was that Arnold's seaman's bag disappeared in Grand Central. In that bag was supposed to be the manuscript of a book he was writing. My Aunt Abbie seemed to believe that Arnold's manuscript somehow ended up in the hands of author C. S. Forester, who passed off some or all of it as his own work. The elements in Forester's work that made her suspect this were the mention of a dog and the numbers of an automobile license plate that had been tacked up in the Stuuri garage at 503 Independence Street.

I don't know why Arnold's seaman's bag disappeared. His parents had a receipt for his seaman's bag and his wallet. His sister Alice Lillian Stuuri Sinko (1915-2002) makes explicit reference to that receipt in one of her letters in the collection. Maybe whoever was storing the seaman's bag lost it before the receipt could be turned in. Or maybe his parents lost the receipt. Or maybe there was a deadline to redeem the seaman's bag with the receipt and that deadline wasn't met. I don't think anyone knows at this point.

In the letters there are no references to Arnold writing a manuscript. He appreciated good literature. He was a good public speaker, winning debate competitions in high school. So maybe he was writing a book, too. I don't know how anyone could confirm that at this point.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Welsh Rare Bits

For a long time my Evans line was a dead end. My paternal grandmother, Lucille Evans Shanower (1916-2015), was not particularly interested in her father's family. Her parents, Joseph Edward Evans (1884-1943) and Adella Cecil Grandy (1888-1974), had divorced when she was four years old. Communication between father Joseph and daughter Lucille was nearly non-existent after that. This left a bad taste in my grandmother's mouth.

Grandma had only scant Evans family history to share (although she managed not to mention some Evans history for much of her life--click here for a couple doozies). As a result, I didn't have much information about my Evans line.

Evans relatives, left to right, Dorothy Louise Olivit Uloz Normand, William R. Uloz, Evelyn Virginia Barker, Howard S. Olivit, Grace Mae Olivit Krueger, Elmer William Krueger, Elaine Grace Krueger Campbell Ricchiuto, Sarah Jane Hopton Evans (my great-great-grandmother), Jonathan Rapier Evans, Jr. (my great-great-grandfather), Lillian Evans Olivit (my great-great-aunt), and Howard Gabrielle Olivit, circa 1940.

For a long while I knew that Joseph Evans's parents were Jonathan Evans (1860-1944) and Sarah Jane Hopton (1860-1948). They'd both immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, from Wales in the late nineteenth century. But finding their forebears seemed an impossible task to me. The number of men from Wales named Jonathan Evans was overwhelming. How was I to tell which one was my great-great-grandfather?

I found mentions of what seemed to be two Jonathan Evans in Cleveland newspapers of the late 1800s. Could they be father and son? It seemed possible. They seemed to be quite involved in the Welsh ethnic community.

In the US Census I found listings of an Evans family in Cleveland that included both a father and son named Jonathan. This seemed promising, but I had no proof yet.

What confirmed the probability that these were my Evans was finding family trees of other researchers that included these Evans. On those trees both Jonathans, father and son, had the middle name Rapier. Also on those trees the younger Jonathan was married to Sarah Jane Hopton. Once I made sure the research on these other trees checked out, those clues were the keys.

The elder Jonathan Rapier Evans (1824-1907) was married to Sarah Bullock (abt 1831-1903). They and many of their children, including Jonathan, Jr., had come to the USA in the 1870s. From there it wasn't too difficult to consult the Wales census. I was able to push back not only my Evans line for a couple generations, but also my Hopton line, my Bullock line, my Cutter line, and my Welsh Williams line.

A few interesting items emerged.

Charles Albert Evans (1888-1946), brother of my great-grandfather Joseph Edward Evans, married Louise Emma Tedd (1882-1918) in Ohio in 1916. They were third cousins, both descended from Phillip Williams (1771-1857) and Elizabeth Roberts (1775-1872), who lived back in Monmouthshire, Wales. Did Charley and Louise know they were related? I have no idea.

Elizabeth Evans (1845-1925) married her first cousin Peter Bullock (1845-1926). They were both grandchildren of John Bullock (1796-1873) and Elizabeth Williams (1802-1843) and first cousins four times removed to me. They must have known they were first cousins to each other.

Elizabeth's parents were John Evans (1821-1892) and Mary Bullock (1821-1910), another instance of the Evans and Bullock lines combining.

Two of my first cousins four times removed in the Hopton line, sisters Alice Bennett McGee (1863-1928) and Eliza Ann Bennett Freeman (1859-1905), emigrated to Queensland, Australia, from the UK. They both had lots of children, which means I have quite a few Australian cousins.

I'm sure I also have a lot of distant cousins still in Wales.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Musical Cousins: Roger "Doc Bellows" McNaughton

Who doesn't like music? Not many. But musical tastes vary widely, and the musicians of my extended family are no exception. My family has so many musicians that I thought they deserved a series of their own. Ergo "My Musical Cousins."

William Malcolm McNaughton (1850-1914).
Mary Elizabeth Grant McNaughton (1856-1946) in 1934.
First up is my second cousin once removed Roger Jon McNaughton (born 1952). Roger's and my common ancestors are my great-great-grandparents William Malcolm McNaughton (1850-1914) and Mary Elizabeth Grant McNaughton (1856-1946). William and Mary were Roger's great-grandparents. I've never met Roger--the closest I've come is meeting his brother Al, who's also into family genealogy.

Roger "Doc Bellows" McNaughton
Roger's stage and recording name is Doc Bellows. He plays accordion in the band Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers, whose specialty is preserving the songs of the singing cowboys of motion picture and radio fame--Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Sons of the Pioneers. Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers perform tunes such as "Happy Trails," "Back in the Saddle," and "Streets of Laredo." Here's their website.

Two compact discs of their recordings are available. I've had both for several years now. Cowboy tunes aren't my top type of music to listen to, but I pull these out every once in a while for a change of pace. The songs are varied and tuneful, the voices and musicianship are graceful and smooth, and the production is excellent. I prefer the songs that were already old when the singing cowboys were current, songs such as "Home on the Range" and "Red River Valley," but the Sunset Pioneers' performances of more recent compositions such as "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Vaya Con Dios" are just as enjoyable. I wouldn't mind if the closing tracks on each cd, contemporary pieces written in singing cowboy style by lead singer Pioneer Pepper, had been left off--the performances are good, but the material just doesn't measure up to the authentic stuff that fills the rest of these cds. If you're into this sort of music, don't miss these recordings. If you're curious, these are a safe bet for sampling. Both cds are available to order in the store on the Sunset Pioneers website.

Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers compact disc.
The accordion playing of Doc Bellows--aka Roger McNaughton--is easily distinguished on the Sunset Pioneer recordings and his talent and versatility are obvious. As his online biography makes clear, he can play a wide variety of instruments and is also a talented vocalist and a former voice teacher in his native Ohio.

Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers are based in the Mesa, Arizona, area. They've performed internationally, but they mainly play in the south-central area of Arizona around Phoenix. Their schedule--click here--shows them performing pretty often, so if you're in the area, check them out and say hi to my cousin Doc Bellows.

Watch this YouTube video of Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers performing "Ghost Riders in the Sky" live at an outdoor venue a few years ago. Cousin Roger is wearing black with a red bandana around his neck, playing the accordion and seen mostly on the left side of the screen. (It's not a professional video, so please forgive the swaying camera and people talking in the background.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Nisu Paappas for Christmas!

In 1988 I spent my first Christmas away from my family, having been invited to spend the holidays with my new boyfriend and his family in northern California. I was very nervous but it was a very fun Christmas, I felt very accepted, and it ended with a spectacular hot-air balloon ride on the morning after Christmas.

But one aspect of that holiday visit has really stuck with me and that was my love for the Finnish holiday bread Nisu. I have made it every year since. Eric's mom is of Finnish descent and this recipe came from her mom as I understand it.

The bread has a lovely texture, quite unique in fact. Its both dense and light at the same time and has a lot of cardamom in it. It's wonderful as is, but also makes great toast that is extremely crispy on the outside, yet pull-apart tender inside. As far as that goes, if you have any leftovers it makes superb French Toast, too!

How do you make the stuff, you ask? Like so!

Nisu - Unkastukke (makes three nice-sized loaves)

2 packages of active dry yeast
2 cups of milk
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom
7 to 9 cups of all-purpose flour
3 to 4 eggs (I usually use 4 unless they are jumbo)
1/2 cup softened butter (room temperature, NOT melted!)
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in milk. The original recipe asks that the milk be scalded, a process no longer required given our pasteurized milk. However I usually do heat the milk to tepid to give the yeast a head start. Just make sure it's only warm and not hot. You don't want to kill the yeast!

Add and mix in the sugar, salt, cardamom, and four cups of the flour. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Quickly knead in the remaining flour, enough to make an easy-to-handle dough that isn't sticking to the board or your fingers.

Now while you finish kneading the dough, work in the softened butter a little at a time. Cover and set dough in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

Punch down the risen dough. Divide the dough into three equal parts. Working with one of those parts, divide it into three equal parts, too, and form each into long lengths to be braided together to form one loaf. Repeat process with other two large masses of dough until you have three braided loaves.

Place on one or two large baking sheets (depending on lengths of loaves) and let rise again until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake loaves for 25 to 30 minutes until a lovely brown. You can bake in two batches if needed. An extra 25 minutes of rise won't hurt the second batch while batch one is baking.

Once the loaves are cool, drizzle with Confectioner's Icing: One tablespoon of milk and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract mixed with a cup of powdered sugar should do the trick. This year I split the icing in thirds and made red, green, and white icings to drizzle on the loaves.

Now, there is another part of this holiday tradition. For Christmas morning, Eric's mom would always make a Nisu Paappa each for Eric and his sister (and one for me, too, when I joined the family). Pappaa means grandfather in Finnish and it is pronounced "Boppa."  A Paappa is formed by making a large ball (perhaps the size of a small apple) and adding arms, legs, and a head, a bit smaller than ping-pong balls.

Use a wet finger to help cement the pieces together or gently pinch dough on the bottom edge for a little extra security. These little fellow will bake faster than full loaves, perhaps twenty minutes, so watch them.

When cool, you can decorate them - using raisins for buttons and eyes, a red-hot for a nose, a frosting belt, etc. Just have fun!

IMHO, they are best eaten around the Christmas Tree while opening gifts on Christmas morning! With some hot chocolate and fresh orange juice.

He's half gone already!

Merry Christmas!