Sunday, December 30, 2007

Former National Park Seminary, Forest Glen, MD

After the Scottish Xmas Walk in Alexandria a few weeks ago, we went over to what my friend described as a "castle" in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington, DC. Our plan was get more mileage from our Scottish attire and take pictures of ourselves in a medieval setting. I was raised in Bethesda, Maryland, and only now am I learning of the various historical places and events of my old neighborhood.

The castle turned out to be the former campus of the National Park Seminary, and it does indeed have a formidable history. Back in the late 1870s, a developer decided that Forest Glen would be a nice place for Washingtonians to visit and perhaps move to in order to escape the muggy and buggy environs of the District of Columbia. Forest Glen is a few hundred feet higher than the drained swampland of DC. In the Glen, a cool, shaded ravine runs from Carroll Springs to Rock Creek in the National Park of the same name. The traffic from the ever-present Beltway hums somewhere over the rims of the Glen. A hotel was build first to lure potential, 19th century clients to visit and ponder the possibility of purchasing a lot in the community. When the buyers balked, casinos were added to the hotel to make it more attractive. Nevertheless, the idea of "moving out" to Forest Glen failed.

Eventually the hotel was sold to a couple of educators who were teaching at an urban school in Norfolk., VA, but wanted to start a school in the countryside to propose their unique educational philosophy. Essentially they emphasized the Social development rather than the intellectual training of young ladies, in particular rich young ladies, with family names like Boyardee, Chyrsler, Heinz, Swift, and Hershey. So, they built rich archetectual buildings to become sororities in which the girls did not reside but attended balls, dances, and festivals- and to form secret literary clubs.

Incidentally, four of the five wealthy families just mentioned made their fortunes in the food industry. I believe I would have enjoyed knowing my fellow comrades.

After this heyday, the Seminary changed hands and changed educational philosophies toward more utilitarian means during the Great Depression. They also changed its name from Seminary to College. Finally, the complex was taken over by nearby Walter Reed Army Hospital to be used as a hospice for convalescing soldiers during WW II.

The Army let the property run down after the war. Though the complex was declared an Historic Site in 1972, it continued to deteriorate. Fortunately, a grass roots organization was formed to make the public aware of the community's history and to save the buildings from being demolished.

Recently, the property was bought by another developer who will, as was the original intention a century ago, develop the property into condominiums and single family homes. Read more here. Montgomery County has restricted the contractor to preserve at least the shells of the previously elegant buildings. The picture above shows one of the future residents who came by to check on the construction. His computer room will be in one of the turrets at the end of the covered walkways in the background of the photo.

We got our pictures playing bagpipes on the premises of the former National Park Seminary, turned college, turned convalescent home for soldiers, turned condominiums. After all, it was a place to become aware of other cultures. A Japanese Pagoda was one of the first building on the campus to be renovated. By the way, Ben was standing on top of a concrete drain pipe which was ready to be installed.

A Dutch windmill, which has lost its arms, was used as the house for the Kappa Delta Pi Sorority. Across from it was the Swiss Chalet. The bag pipers were removed to show more detail.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fröhliche Weihnacht- my German heritage

The above images were sent to me by my friend and fellow genealogist, Rudolf Kerbitz, who lives in Wesel, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. They were created by his talented mother, the late Mrs. Charlotte Kerbitz, nee. Nürnberger. The artistic craft is called handschnitte or scherenschnitte. The artist cuts out a silhouette by hand with nothing other than scissors and paper. Rudolf recalls his mother did not use a pattern or template, but rather, whittled out the design immediately from her imagination. The craft is unbelievably detailed as seen in larger resolution images.

The image on left is captioned, written in Sutterlein, which means in English, "cheerful or merry Advent Season". The picture is of 7 cherubs dancing around a candle which Rudolf suggested reminded him of the 7 great grandchildren that surrounded my mother in the picture I posted earlier on my blog.

Read more, in German, in Rudolf's article on his mother's art- or go there for the images. Scherenschnitte was brought to America by German and Swiss immigrants, and you can Google many English language sites for more information, such as this one.

Another fantastic "gift" which Rudolf gave me this Christmas is information which will apparently push my pedigree back another generation. My great, great grandfather, Anton Gailliot, who was a Master Shoemaker in Wesel, the town where Rudolf Kerbitz now resides, was the son of JOHANN GAILLIOT and ELISABETH PEIRNE or Pierre. The data are from a marriage record in a just-published transcription: Marriages of St. Mariae Himmelfahrt, Wesel, 1835-1849. The Transcripton recently became available in a limited edition print in Wesel. How wonderful will this Weihnacht be remembered. Danke schön, Herr Rudolf Kerbitz.

My Scottish Heritage

One of these days I hope I can afford a Scottish kilt made from Russell Tartan material. More than likely, used ones will not appear on eBay. I might just have to be satisfied with wrapping myself in a long piece of Tartan-like material as the Scottish Highlanders did generations ago. I tried this means of dress awhile back when I participated in the festivities at Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina. Then, I marched in the Parade of Tartans and carried a banner which my friend had painted with the words, "Russell Sept"- meaning the Russell family- in other words, not a full-fledged Clan.

There is an official Russell tartan which has been approved by Lord Lyon, King of Arms. His office, or his Court actually, is a branch of the Scottish judiciary which has taken on jurisdiction over tartans (Thank you Jon vonBriesen).

And there has been several attempts to form a Russell Clan in America, but so far, these attempts have largely failed probably because, historically, there never was a Russell Clan. If you browse through some of the more popular books on Scottish clans, for instance, Scottish Tartans with Historical Sketches of the Clans and Families of Scotland, by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Emeritus Lord Lyon of Arms, you will find that the Russell's are a sept (prounounce the "p") of Clan Cummings, also spelled Cummins or Comyn. Unfortunately, you will not find much more information on even the Russell Sept of Clan Cummings. Under the clan system a sept which is a term meaning family or blood kin was often less prominent and less powerful than the clan, and therefore, would often associate itself politically, economically and defensively with the neighboring clan. Thus, the sept is bound to the clan by territory rather than by blood, or in some cases, by marriage.

About 15 years ago, I contacted a Dr. Robert Russell of Plantation, Florida, who was collecting the names of individuals who were interested in forming a Clan Russell. He told me then he had obtained permission to incorporate such a Clan in America. Professor Robert Russell's address and intentions appeared in two popular Scottish newletters, The Scottish Banner and The Clansman. However, I have not heard any updates on Clan Russell in the last decade; so, I suppose the movement lost its momentum.

But for now, I write with pride that my great grandfather, Thomas W. Russell, was indeed born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, in the parish of Bothwell, in the village of Holytown- about 10 miles east of Glasgow. It was all in his obituary. Far from being a clan chief or other sort of royalty, Thomas was a humble coal miner. But he was a proud Scotsman and enjoyed quoting by heart whole verses of Robert Burns' poetry.

My genealogical research uncovered that Thomas Russell had several siblings, some of whom immigrated to American in the 1880s, and several siblings whose whereabouts were unknown. Then, in the Spring of 2005, I received an email from a Geoffrey Parkinson in Australia who, after surfing onto my genealogical web site, suggested that we had common ancestors. Turns out Geoffrey's great grandmother was Janet Russell, younger sister of my Thomas W. Russell. We worked out several details in subsequent emails- the wonder of the Internet. Geoffrey told me that Janet Russell married a Thomas Parkinson and had a large family. Children in the first generation eventually immigrated to Australia, America, and some remained in the British Isles.

One family member of whom I became particularly enamored was Janet Russell Parkinson's youngest son Harry Parkinson. Harry migrated to Australia and died there, but early in his life, he remained loyal to England. During the First World War, he returned to northern England, CHANGED his surname to his mother's maiden surname of RUSSELL, and enlisted in the Tyneside Scottish Regiment (see picture above). He maintained the Russell surname the remainder of his life.

Now, on the left in the picture, your blogger is wearing an outfit which was quickly put together for the Alexandria Scottish Xmas Walk. I'm wearing a borrowed Glen Gerry and leisure pants with the "Black Watch" design. When you are old and on fixed income, you adjust. As my kilt-clad friend and I walked into that fine Scottish establishment- MacDonalds- for breakfast the next day, a clerk asked my friend where he found the "dress". He responded, "I'm not sure, but ask the guy in the pajamas".

Source for Harry Russell portrait: Goeffrey Parkinson, Port Macquarie, Australia.

The place where I was born, Alexandria, VA

I was happy to participate for the first time in the Scottish Christmas Walk in Alexandria this year. Because, not far from the parade route is the Stoneleigh Apartments where my parents lived when I was born in the early 1940s. The address is 409 Cameron Street. I wonder if they will put up an historical marker here someday: "Born near here was Bob Kramp who wrote extensive genealogies of nearly all his Family Lines which nobody ever read (and an unread blog too)". Oh well.

However, on the south side of old town Alexandria, at St. Mary's Cemetery, oldest Catholic Cemetery in Virgina, are buried my great grandfather, Henry Caspar Gailliot, his wife, Franceska, nee. Dumoulin, and my grandparents, Charles Anthony Gailliot and Margaret, nee. Austel, and several other members of the Gailliot family. Incidentally, our first president, George Washington, donated funds for the cemetery in honor of one of his officers, Fitzgerald. See the historical marker.

Scottish Christmas Walk, Alexandria, VA

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I participated in the Scottish Christmas Walk in Alexandria. I marched with members of the Celtic Society of Southern Maryland and also the Anthropology Club of Calvert High School (see above). It was a cold and crisp day but sunny- great for wearing wool. The sounds of Bag Pipes and drums filled the air. In front of us in the parade, a couple of ladies played their fiddles and marched at the same time. The Honorable John Warner (Rep), senior senator from Virginia marched down the same street with us in his Scottish kilt and tartan.

Afterwards, our group of marchers retired to the Fish Market for some hot clam chowder.

An ol' time tune by Uncle Mudd (sitting)

You might tell by the little cartoon character gracing my profile that I enjoy playing a tune on the banjo- old time clawhammer or frailing to be specific. The banjo playing style preceeds the 3-finger picking style of Earl Scruggs. So during Thanksgiving weekend this year, my friend invited me to play a tune called "Soldier's Joy", a.k.a. "The Kings Head" with a local band at the Royal Mile Pub, Wheaton, MD. The band, sans Uncle Mudd, is called the Gross National Product. Why the name? I don't know, but I loved their blend of bluegrass and folk music.

Tradition indicates that a condemned man was allow a last request before he was to be executed by losing his head. The man asked for his fiddle and played a tune so well and so rousing that the King spared the fiddler's head. I wished to play well enough to get a free pint, but just playing with the band turned out to be good enough. Thanks guys.

Family Recipe: Scord's Apple Cake

Well, you can tell by the picture this is a popular treat. My mother visited Mrs. Ruth Scord, nee. Strike (my father's biological sister) in the 1960s and came home with this family recipe. This particular cake was enjoyed on Thanksgiving this year at my sister's home.

2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups corn oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Table spoons Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups peeled apples, diced
1 cup Chopped pecans

Beat eggs, add next four ingredients & cinnamon. Beat in flour, salt, soda. Add apples and pecans. Bake in greased and floured tube pan at 325 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours. Let stand 15 min before removing from pan. Optional: While cake is still warm, frost with 1 cup of powdered sugar and juice of one orange.