Sunday, November 28, 2010

Aunt Leona's Spoonbread

This post, which originally appeared on my Peevish Pen blog, on June 24, 2007, isn't about one of the Naces—it's about an in-law. Leona Ruble was my grandmother's sister-in-law. She must have given her spoonbread recipe to my grandmother, who passed it to my mother. (Aunt Leona was born on March 17, 1889. My mother was born on March 17, 1913.)

When I was a kid, my great aunt Leona Ruble Davy and her husband (she called him Buddy, but his real name was Howard Kress Davy) would drive from their New Castle home to visit us around Easter. She usually brought me a fruit-and-nut chocolate-covered egg. Sometimes it had my name in icing on it.

Supposedly, Leona—one of the daughters of G. William Ruble and Margie Caldwell Ruble of Craig County—was known for the beautiful clothes she sewed. My mother said Aunt Leona once came to visit with a whole trunkful of clothes she'd made herself. She also had red hair.

Aunt Leona never had any kids. She died in 1970; I remember driving my brand new 1967 Firebird from Roanoke to New Castle
 to take my mother to visit Aunt Leona, who was up in years.

Here's her recipe:

Leona's Spoonbread
1 cup boiling water
one-half cup corn meal
1 tablespoon butter
one-half cup sweet milk
one and a half teaspoons baking powder
one-half teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well-beaten

Pour one cup boiling water over one-half cup corn meal. Beat in 1 Tbs. butter, one-half cup milk, one and a half tsp. baking powder, a half teaspoon of salt, and 2 beaten eggs. Pour into a greased baking dish. Bake until set. This would be at 400 degrees for 20 or 30 minutes in a modern stove. Serve hot with butter.

I'm not much of a cook, but I've made this spoonbread before and it's wonderful.

I wonder how much more wonderful it would be baked in a wood stove?
Update: Leona Frances Ruble Davy (1889-1970) is buried in the Huffman Memorial Cemetery in Craig County. Her mother is listed as "Margie Logan Caldwell Ruble" in Leona's information, but she was actually Margie Odell Caldwell Ruble. Her husband (1893-1968) is also buried there.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lucy Nace Mays

This post originally appeared on my Peevish Pen blog on February 24, 2008.

The oldest Nace daughter: my Great-aunt Lucy

Mary Lucy Nace Mays

My grandmother’s oldest sister, Mary Lucy Nace (b.1885) was no doubt named for her grandmother, Lucy Goff (who married Andrew F. Spence of Bedford on December 19, 1849. The Mary part might have come from her great-grandmother, Polly (Mary?) Harrison.

I knew her as Aunt Lucy (pronounced “Aint Lucy”), but I never saw her very often. When I was little, she’d sometimes come to visit my grandmother—her sister Blanche. I remember that, unlike my shy grandmother, Lucy was outgoing. She and her husband Charles Franklin Mays lived in Richmond where they raised their family. The last time I saw Aunt Lucy was at my college graduation in June 1967. She wasn’t able to stay and socialize afterwards; she had a grandson’s high school graduation to attend that evening.

Like her grandmother and namesake, Lucy Nace married in December. Here’s the clipping that Lisa, my second cousin (once removed) and Lucy's great-granddaughter, sent:

Thanks to Lisa Kuper for jpeg.
This is what it says:


On the night of Christmas Eve, the home of Mr. Wm. Nace, at Lithia, presented a gala appearance indeed, lights burned brightly, ivy and evergreens cheered from every nook. A huge bunch of mistletoe, hanging from the center of the ceiling in the parlor, together with the large crowd of friends and relatives present, indicated that something unusual was about to take place. Promptly at 8 o’clock, Miss Lucy, the eldest daughter, was led to the [hymeneal] altar by Mr. Chas. F. Mays, of Rockbridge County, where they were met by Parson Dogan, who performed the impressive ceremony which forged the chain that made them no more twain, but one flesh.

The attendants on this occasion were Mr. Tucker Campbell with Miss Julia Reid, Mr. A.M. Waskey with Miss Nora Campbell, Mr. Wm. Good with Miss Rosa Goff, Mr. O.G. Lipes with Miss Mamie Spence, Mr. Houston Spence with Miss Ollie Mays, Mr. W.A. Mays with Miss Blanch Nace.

The bride was tastefully gowned in steel gray with trimmings to match. After the ceremony the bridal party was led by the preacher into the dining room where a great table was groaning under the weight of good things, to which all did ample justice, Dr. B----- and the depot agent being conspicuous actors in the latter performance.

The bride is one of Lithia’s most charming young ladies and a member of the Lithia Baptist church in which she will be greatly missed.

May heaven’s richest blessings attend the happy young couple.

Apparently it did. They had several children and lived a long life. Here, to preserve a bit of the Nace family history, are some pictures of Lucy Nace Mays, her husband, and her children.

I'm not sure how old Charlie and Lucy were in this picture, but they look fairly young:

I think this must an earlier pictures. Lucy is three months pregnant with Hazel. I'm guessing the picture was taken in the spring at her parents' house in Lithia:

Thanks to Lisa Kuper for the photo.
(Hazel was Lisa's grandmother)

Three of their children, Rex, Thelma, and Hazel are pictured below (Elwood and Sulmana Frances weren't yet born). Thelma married Charlie Davis; Hazel married Linwood Park:

I have several pictures identified only as "Lucy's baby." This one, however, is identified as baby Elwood:

This picture of one of the daughters (Hazel? Thema?) is charming; she looks ready to garden:

In this picture, Thelma looks so sad, but she is lovely. The baby is identified on the back of the picture as "Jean."

This picture of Charlie and Lucy was taken when they were older. From the car in the background, maybe the 1930s or early 1940s?

This is how I remember Uncle Charlie and Aunt Lucy. I think this picture was taken in the late 1950s or early 1960s, but she still looked exactly like this in 1967:

All the daughters of William and Frances Nace of Lithia are now gone. Only memory remains.
I've lost Lisa's contact information. Her email address vanished with a computer crash two years ago. If she finds this post, perhaps she can contact me again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grandma's Light Bread Recipe

In the previous post, I mentioned my grandmother's cookbook. But the following bread recipe isn't from it.

One of the delights of my childhood was going to Grandma’s house on Sunday and smelling her bread baking. She always called it "light bread." Eating it hot from the oven was even more delightful. She had both a wood cookstove and a gas stove in her kitchen. She used the wood stove for baking the bread and for most of her cooking. I rarely saw her use the gas stove.

She probably got her light bread recipe from her mother. And she probably made it many, many times for her three children, pictured below.
Grandma Ruble’s Light Bread

1 cake or package of yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon shortening (Crisco works well; original probably called for lard)
6 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pint lukewarm water

Dissolve 1 cake yeast and 1 Tbs. sugar in one pint lukewarm water. Add 1 Tbs. shortening (Crisco) and 3 cups plain flour. Beat until smooth. Then add 1 tsp. salt and 3 more cups of flour—or enough to make a dough that is easily handled.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic–about 10 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and set in a moderately warm place, free from drafts, until light (about 50 minutes).

Punch down dough and form into rolls. Place rolls in greased bread pans, cover, and let rise one hour. Bake 30 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven.

I liked the rolls from the corner of the pan—crust on two sides so it held up well for buttering.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Grandma's Cookbook

This is my grandmother, Mattie Blanche Nace, when she was still young—probably in her teens. She hadn't yet gotten married.

She had many beaux, but in her early twenties she married Howard Ruble—a railroad man—and moved to Roanoke. Before long she had three children—her oldest son, Howard Lawrence; my mother Sulmena Alene; and the baby boy William Raymond. They were all called by their middle names. Grandma went by her middle name, too.

The pictures of Grandma and her children might have been taken on Hanover Avenue. I know that's one of the places they lived.


The other day I came across her cookbook, Larkin Housewives Cook Book.

She wrote her name on the fly-leaf. My mother would have been four years old then. Grandma probably got the cookbook about the time the above pictures were taken.

Apparently the Larkin Company produced lots of different kinds of foods. 

Besides recipes (sent in by "customers and friends of the Larkin Co."), the cookbook also contained helpful hints:

A lot of pages were dog-eared. Recipes that Grandma used frequently must have been there. But which recipes?

Mama had told me that they ate a lot of potato soup when she was young. I wonder if either of these recipes might have been the one.

Browsing through this well-used cookbook was like a trip into the past. You can read the cookbook online here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Annie Pearl Nace

This post originally appeared as "Family Mystery" on my Peevish Pen blog on February 26, 2008.

UPDATE: "Otha" was actually Otho Wilson Young.
Annie Pearl Nace, daughter of William Robert Nace and Sulmena (spelled Sulmenia in one entry in the family Bible, Sulmana on her tombstone) Frances Spence Nace, was born on February 9, 1890, in Lithia, Virginia. Lithia is not far from Buchanan, in Botetourt County.

At the time of her birth, Annie Pearl Nace had three living older sisters—Mary Lucy (born January 31, 1885), Mattie Blanche (born October 16, 1886), and Cora William (born December 12, 1888. And older unnamed sister was born and died on February 18, 1884. Her other living sisters Ossie and Zora would be born in years to come, as would at least one more unnamed girl who died as an infant in late 1891.
Back row: Cora, Blanche, Lucy, Pearl
Front Row: Wm. R. Nace, S. Frances Nace, Ossie

Like her sisters, Blanche and Lucy, she was known by her middle name, Pearl. Her older sisters married—Blanche to Howard Ruble, Lucy to Charlie Mays, Cora to Thomas Owen (T.O.) Hunt. The older sisters left Lithia—the Rubles to Roanoke, the Mayses to Richmond; the Hunts lived down the street, but eventually moved to Boones Mill.

Pearl never married, but she had a beau, Otha Young. Pearl and Otha must have been serious about each other to travel all the way by train to Roanoke to have  their picture made together at the Davis Photography Studio on Salem Avenue.

Pearl and her beau Otha.

Unlike her sisters, Pearl never married and left Lithia. She took sick and died suddenly on July 30, 1911. She’s buried in the Lithia Baptist Church cemetery. Her death is a mystery.

No long ago, in one of the boxes I’ve been going through, I found a yellowed fragment of her newspaper obituary, in which some of her church friends extolled her virtues. Her death was a surprise. No one expected it. Apparently she was sick for two or three days before she died. (UPDATE: She was sick less than 24 hours.)

My grandmother (Blanche) would sometimes talk about Pearl living but never about her death. My mother would never talk about it much, either. Grandma was a great believer in ghosts, having once seen one—but she never elaborated on the details. Someone—a cousin, I think—once told me Grandma had once seen the ghost of her sister. I don't know if that's true or not.

When I was a kid and asked Mama why Aunt Pearl didn’t live a long life like her sisters, she replied that Pearl’s boyfriend once said that if he couldn’t have her no one else would either. I think Mama said that he’d given her a box of candy a few days before she died. (How would Mama have known this? Mama was born two years after Pearl died. Unless her mother or her aunts. . . .) Could Otha have been responsible for Pearl's death? How?

A decade before my mother died, I asked her again about Pearl. She denied ever telling me that Pearl’s boyfriend had anything to do with her death. About that time, Mama’s cousin (Zora’s son) also wanted to know about Pearl; she wouldn’t tell him anything either. “I wish Billy would just leave it alone,” she said to me. That was the last she said of it.

Leave what alone? I wonder. Why the big secret?

A few years ago, I showed Pearl’s picture to a friend with psychic abilities. “Oh, she was poisoned,” the friend said. She didn’t elaborate.

If Otha really gave her candy, wouldn’t she have shared it with her little sisters? If the candy were poisoned, wouldn't the sisters have gotten sick, too?

On one of the pictures I have of Pearl and Otha, someone has taken a sharp object (a pin? a needle?) and scratched it across Otha’s neck. Why?

I’ve Googled the name “Otha Young” and haven’t found much. Someone by that name was married in West Virginia a few years after Pearl died. Was it the same Otha Young?

Maybe Pearl did become ill and was treated with a home remedy. (Another friend, upon studying the picture, had gotten the impression of a rash—or hives.) Morphine was legal then, and I know my great-grandmother used it for some recurring pain that she had. Laudanum was readily available—and was sometimes used to bring on menses should a female be several weeks—or even several months—late. Take a big dose and jump from the pasture fence or the high side of the porch—soon you’ll be regular again. Paregoric was a still popular home remedy when I was a kid. 
Most households had it. Among other uses, it relieved babies’ teething pain. My grandmother took it for stomach cramps.  Could an overdose of some narcotic have poisoned Pearl when it should have cured what ailed her?

I guess we’ll never know for sure. Some things remain a mystery.

 UPDATE: By the time Pearl died, Otha had been married to Annie Haymaker since Dec. 1910. 
See update here: