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Douglas County History & Folklore Thanksgiving: A Time for Families

Thanksgiving, whether we have a huge meal around the dining room table, or pizza in front of the TV watching our favorite sports event, it is a day to spend with family and friends. Much preparation of food happens in the kitchen and this work is accomplished now with modern kitchen appliances and gizmos. To better appreciate these modern conveniences, take a tour at the Douglas County Museum of our room dedicated to the days-gone-by kitchen of the home. We have a Daisy butter churn and butter mold used by Zelma Eliz Hively Hall and Benjamin Nelson Hall in the 1940’s to 1970’s, donated by Maxine Lirley. She explains: to wash the butter, after it’s churned, press all milk out, cover with fresh cold water, stir & press until no more water. A butter stamp for a little fancy design from the Williamson estate and donated by David M. Smith. Cabbage for kraut was cut on a kraut cutter just like the one donated by Mary Alice Emerson. From the kitchen of Dr. Marvin and Hortense Gentry: breakfast with waffles cooked on a cast iron waffle iron, or toast from a flip side toaster or a spoon from her spoon collection, these donated by their daughter, Phyllis Delp. Other cooking vessels on display include a sixteen-quart pressure cooker and black cast iron kettles. There is a dutch oven that belonged to Austin and Eva Howard Wright who lived near Pansy on Beaver Creek. Their daughter, Laverne Owen, remembered cooking meat & beans over the fireplace; or a handmade frying pan donated by Lucille Morlan.   Biscuits could be served in the handmade wooden serving bowl, recently donated by Edward Hesterlee. Hand-painted serving platters are used, like the one donated by L.D. Jenkins. Wash table linens in a washtub, then on the wood stove heat a sad iron donated by Rex Browning.

One Thanksgiving recollection was told by Daisy Martin Ellis, a retired school teacher who attained the century mark of age one-hundred-plus. Daisy, as a child, lived in the Ozark Hotel with her brother Vern and their mother Edith Bralley Martin. Daisy tells in an interview published in the December 1990 issue of the Historical Society Journal that the Hotel was completed in the fall of 1914 and was quite a landmark in Ava, being the ‘first modern building in Ava with all its conveniences’ such as electricity and a hand-operated water pressure pump system for piped-in water. The following article was in the December 3, 1914 issue of the Herald, “The New England turkey dinner on Thanksgiving evening, which was the formal opening of the Ozark Hotel, has gone down in history as a decided success. Covers were laid for fifty guests of the representative people of Ava who showed their appreciation of a strictly modern hotel by their cordial support on this occasion. The guests at the Ozark experienced the real New England hospitality from Mrs. Edith Martin the owner and proprietress of this hostelry.” She also reminisces that a room had been built on the north side of the hotel proper. ” This was to be used as Edith’s millinery shop. The Spring of 1915 found her in her shop with beautiful hand-made hats to sell to the ladies for Easter.” This building still stands today in the second block north of the Ava Square and serves as a private residence.

Did you know that you can predict the weather with a persimmon seed?   Local custom says that when you split a persimmon seed, if the seed is formed with the image of a knife, the winter will be icy, with cutting winds; a spoon indicates lots of snow to shovel; a fork, light snow you can swish with a broom. I have heard early reports this year that the spoon has been found. Might be sure you can find your shovel. Persimmons come in two varieties-Fuyu and Hachiya. Hachiyas need to ripen or they are sour and will make your mouth pucker if you try to eat them, you can ripen them in a brown paper bag.

After you pick the persimmons, here’s a persimmon cookie recipe you can try from the kitchen of Barbara Breshears. Brown sugar, 1 ½ cup; ½ cup butter; 1 tsp. vanilla; 2 eggs; ¾ cup persimmon pulp (remove seeds); mix well. Add 1 tsp. cinnamon; ¼ tsp. salt; 1 cup nuts; 2 ¾ cup flour; ½ tsp. baking soda; mix well. Chill at least 2 hr. Drop on light greased baking pan; bake 370 degrees for 10 minute. Cookie will spring back at light touch. Remove from pan & cool. Glaze: 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar; 2 Tbsp. milk; 1 Tbsp. persimmon pulp; 1 tsp. orange peel grated. Enjoy.

Thanksgiving Day, or any day, is a good day to tell family stories handed-down by previous generations and talk about your ancestors who settled here. We have in our research area at the museum over ninety-five compilations of family histories donated by people to help preserve their family genealogy. We have a complete list of all family histories located in the research area and you are welcome to stop by the museum and see if we have information about your family genealogy. We can help you get started on your research with family group sheets to organize your information.

The Douglas County Museum is owned and operated by the Douglas County Historical and Genealogical Society, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit charitable organization. It is of the people and for the people of Douglas County, Missouri. The museum is located at 401 East Washington Avenue, one and one/half blocks east of the Public Square on Missouri Highway 14. We are open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and tours by special arrangement, telephone 683-5799.   Join us on Facebook for the latest historical picture postings.