Spring is Here! The Coming of Spring through Betsey’s Eyes and the Opening of Lake Champlain

Spring is starting.

You might not feel it, but it’s there. The ice is clearing from Lake Champlain, and little buds are starting to appear on the trees. Geese are returning home. And it is almost time for the Kent-Delord House Museum to open its doors for the season! Time to dust off the artifacts, heat up the house, and let the sunshine in! Oh and the garden…it’s almost time to prepare a garden in the memory of the women of the house!

Back in the times of Betsey Delord, the coming of Spring did not just mean warm weather. It meant a pathway down south was opening again for the season. Lake Champlain was a major avenue of travel in the 19th century. Once it was frozen during the Winter, it prevented many travelers from as close as Albany to reconsider the journey. To come to Plattsburgh meant exposure to high winds, ice, snow, and bitter cold of the Adirondacks. It also meant a very long journey compared to sailing the Lake Champlain waters.  Once Lake Champlain was clear of ice, a new world of visitors and commerce opened up throughout the North Country community because traveling was so much easier on a boat than trying to navigate the treacherous roads leading north to Plattsburgh.

To see the ice clearing meant that Betsey would see her beloved granddaughter Fannie again. Fannie was living in Hartford with her Aunts and could not travel up to Plattsburgh during the winters because of the cold, harsh conditions. Betsey wrote to her son-in-law Henry Livingston Webb on March 26, 1844 from Plattsburgh about the coming of Spring,

 I’m glad to learn navigation is open between Albany and New York. We shall rejoice to see our lake once more clear of ice. We shall better accommodate the comeing [sic] season as to steam boats. They are to leave Whitehall in the morning and arrive here about five in the afternoon. The boats meet here. The one from the north will leave here as usual and arrive at Whitehall in the morning. So much less time will be taken in the northern jaunt and objections of stopping so long at Whitehall will be obviated. If there is a rail road from Schenectady to Whitehall, I hope I shall see you oftener. I have recently read all of Bishop Hopkins letters in one volume. Once more may I trouble you to send me one paper of Double whit stock and one of Cauliflower. Your kindness in sending me bulbs last fall has afforded me beautiful sweet flowers during the winter. The Polyanthus narcissus is now in bloom. I hope to hear soon that you have been to Hartford and seen our child.

The coming of Spring is exciting to us because it means warm weather, sunshine, flowers, and it means we are closer to Summer. But for Betsey, it meant a time of visitors and traveling. It meant it was time to prepare the house for visitors, to start on her gardens, and come out of hibernating in Plattsburgh during the cold.

So in celebration of Betsey, come out of hibernation and start preparing for Spring and warm weather and the gathering of friends and family!

What do we do in the Wintery Months?

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It’s cold. It felt like it was -16 out this morning, and let’s just say that is more than unpleasant especially in this old house. We are currently not open for tours at the moment because of the poor weather and we are rearranging some of the artifacts after the house was beautifully decorated for the Holidays. So what exactly do we do during the off season?

Besides planning for future events when the weather is tolerable, I have been busy looking through the old files at the Museum. Old files is not exactly a very descriptive term, however, that is really the best term I could muster. The old files have research on the families and local history from decades ago, and documents of some of the earlier celebrations of the Battle of Plattsburgh. The files also contain old education programs from the 80s, 90s and 2000s that tell of a time where schools had budgets to actually go on field trips. There are also files that cover old programs and events held at the Museum and old grants that helped out the Museum in the past. There is even a very detailed folder on the restoration done at the house in the early 1980s.

From these folders I have come up with quite a few ideas for future programming. I have also found some real interesting pieces of information about life in the 19th century. Here are some of the gems I found:

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Frank Hall’s last Valentine to Fannie

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Not dated but from the early days of the Museum

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Waving a fan was more than for keeping yourself cool…

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women were so weak…

I plan on writing blogs on what I have found also along with using all this information for future programming. But for now- back to the grind! I can almost see the end of the tunnel of files and I must continue on!

Editorial: House tours delightful

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On Sunday December 9th, the Kent-Delord House Museum hosted our annual Secret Holiday House Tours. There were six houses in total, and members of the community were able to visit and tour each house to view the beautiful decorations.

This year, we had three judges who toured the houses to write a review. The judges were Lois Clermont, editor of the Press Republican; Caroline Kehne, editor of the Lake Champlain Weekly; and Joshua Krester of POD studio. Here is the review as featured in the Press Republican:

December 14, 2012

Editorial: House tours delightful

Press-Republican

Ever drive by a house and wish you could take a look around inside? A few local organizations have turned that desire into fundraisers that are satisfying to their budgets and the public’s interest.

The Kent-Delord House Museum in Plattsburgh was one of the first to capitalize on the idea when it introduced Secret Garden Tours years ago. Participants paid a donation and picked up maps that took them to several area houses featuring beautiful gardens. The host homeowners stood in the yards to greet guests and talk about their backyard bounty.

It was a hit with the public right from the start and remains a popular fundraiser. So, eight years ago, the Kent-Delord House seized on that summer success and created a winter version: the Secret Holiday House Tour. The fundraiser lets you go inside homes and look at how they are spruced up for the holidays.

This year, Press-Republican Editor Lois Clermont joined Lake Champlain Weekly Editor Carolyn Kehne and Josh Kretser of Pod Studio as judges.

We share their reviews (in order of their tour stops) as an acknowledgment to the generous people who opened their homes to about 150 people that afternoon:

Clinton Community College Alumni Cottage: The cottage was cozy and warm, with a fire glowing under a decorated mantle and the large conference-room table set with blue and white Royal Copenhagen dishes and Finish and Swedish glassware. Crystal candleholders of varying heights, placed on a rectangular mirror, held white candles. A window mantle was decorated with a collection of German smokers — wooden figurines in which incense is placed.

Allene Davis, Peru: This was a homemade Christmas, with the Davis family talents on display in every room: hand-crafted Santas and dolls; a hooked holiday rug; a small, painted sled; and a tree full of handmade decorations. Topping it off, trays of delicious homemade cookies, including gluten-free.

Sharon Bell, Peru: A step into the past, with a collection of old-fashioned wax Christmas candles and snow globes, a cross-stitch nativity set and delightful bubbler decorations on the tree. A large wooden dough bowl cradled evergreen boughs.

Mark and Tracie Fountain, Plattsburgh: The two children were the highlight of this stop; the boy giving tours of the family’s thoughtfully arranged miniature village and the girl playing Christmas songs on a keyboard and singing. Also seen: a tall, decorated tree, holiday Beanie Babies and the Elf on the Shelf.

Scott Miller and John Mashtare Jr., Plattsburgh: The scents of Christmas — cinnamon, balsam — greeted guests as soon as they stepped into this exquisitely decorated home. The beautiful furnishings provided the perfect setting for eight themed trees, mostly live but including two shimmering, gold, decorative trees. Lighting was a highlight as candles glowed in holiday arrangements in each room.

The tour ended back at the holiday-bedecked Kent-Delord Museum, which holds special collections on display.

Other organizations around the North Country have sponsored similar tours. They make for a fun afternoon, and we hope the idea continues to grow.

Holidays at the Museum: Collections Old & New

Every year, the house is beautifully decorated by our Garden Club. This year, the Garden Club has truly outdone themselves thanks to the hard, dutiful work done by Melanie Waugh, Geri Rickert, Evelyn Heins, Carol Lindberg and Frank and Diane LaBombard! It truly looks amazing and you do not want to miss it!

This year, the Museum is decorated with collections old and new from throughout the North Country. The collections include many things: from lusterware to crocks, to walking sticks, to antique lace to antique lingerie, folk dolls and tin toys. There is certainly something here for everyone to enjoy!

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In the Gold Parlor is our collection of Lusterware, a pottery made with an overglaze finish containing copper and silver and other materials that affect the iridescence. Lusterware became popular because gaslights that were starting to be available for the rich, accentuated the colors of the pottery. Also in the gold parlor are lace collars, handkerchiefs, and coverlets, along with sheet music and Peignoir.

In the Winter Bedroom, are collections of antique shoes, Christening gowns, dress clips, Wedding dresses, vintage clothing and accessories, along with antique buttons displayed in holiday shapes.

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The Cumberland Bay Works Office is decorated with folk art and primitive dolls made by Diane LaBombard, along with antique toys, teddy bears and tree ornaments.

doll and toy collections

In the Small Bedroom are father Christmas figurines, undergarments and leaf collection. In the Back Hall are Arto Monaco items and bears and tree decorations.

antique undergarments

The Dining Room is decorated with a Hummel Village, demitasse cups, bells and pewter. The Kitchen as salt and pepper shakers, angels, and an Adirondack tree.

The Blue Parlor has Molas, which are handmade panels of colorful layers of fabric using a reverse applique technique made by the Cuna women – the native people who live on the coral islands in the San Blas Archipelago along the coast of Panama, along with Inuit art, Zuni bears, postcards, political campaign buttons, pins, German beer steins, cameos and dirndl dresses and lederhosen.

our German collection

our German collection

Make sure to stop by to see these magnificent collections! Click here to see more of the collections!

Holiday Cookie Contest!

Since I started working at the Museum in July, I wanted to add new exciting elements to the holiday season. One way I did this was to start a Holiday Cookie Contest.

I mean, who doesn’t love cookies? And everyone makes them around the holidays,and I am sure there are family favorites that you claim are the best. Why not submit these cookies to win a prize?!

Cooking to me is very special. It means community, family, and sharing something that you work so hard to create. I wanted to provide our community the opportunity to share something that is just as close to them.

The Holiday Cookie Contest is sponsored by Parker Chevrolet. There will be three categories for submissions: Holiday Cookies, Old Fashioned Cookies, and Young Baker’s Division.

For the Holiday Cookies category, we are asking for participants to enter cherished holiday favorites. For the Old Fashioned Cookies category we are asking for participants to submit their old family cookie recipes to find out which is the best! For the Young Bakers Division, participants must be under 18 years old to enter. Each category will have a $75 first prize.

Cookies will be due for judging on Tuesday December 11th. Judges will convene on December 12th, and the winner will be announced on Thursday December 13th. To enter the contest, the deadline for the application form is December 1st. All who wish to participate just need to call the Museum at 561-1035.

Women in the War of 1812

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Recently, I had the opportunity to give a short presentation to a group of home schooled students in the North Country about women in the War of 1812. I thought I would share with you all a brief outline of my presentation to learn more about the women who served their country.

First it is important to remember the status of women at that time. Women did not have the same rights as men- they were expected to live and work at home and care for their families, and they did not have the same access to education as men. Women were not expected to work outside the home, and if they did it was a supplemental income for their families usually doing domestic duties like sewing.

The evidence that is left behind by women is more from the upper class. These are the women whose husbands were higher up in the armed forces and held prestige. These were the women who could read and write from the upper class. Other women who were of the lower class would not be able to read and write and leave behind primary sources for us to learn from. These lower class women were the camp followers, the laundresses and servants to the soldiers.

—Women were not allowed to join the armed forces or to fight in battle.Women were only able to join the military after the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed by President Truman on June 12, 1948.
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—Women had their own roles during the War of 1812.
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Some women were on the battlefields, others at the camps. Even more women stayed at home to manage the home, and to pick up the slack of the men off at war. There are not many accounts of camp followers on the American side, but they were definitely there on the British side.
—Women would help deliver water to men in the battlefield.
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—At camp, women were laundresses, seamstresses and companions to the soldiers.
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—At forts and garrisons, women worked as servants, cooks, nursemaids, and laundresses.

Some wives accompanied the soldiers. However, there was a lottery at times to decide how many wives were able to go with their husbands during these battle campaigns. The number was even as low as 6 wives per 100 soldiers. Other women who were there were employed as laundress or servants, and still looked after their families when they worked.

—Lydia B. Bacon was the wife of Lieutenant and Quartermaster Josiah Bacon who served during the War of 1812.
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Mrs. Bacon traveled with her husband, and her journals leave an important story of women in the war that is often forgotten.
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—The journals provide another perspective of camp life,  covering the smallest details from weather to her travels. Most importantly, it highlights how many women were proud to serve their country.
—From August 2nd, 1811 Bacon writes: “…tents are pitched on the side of the river, & fires made for the Soldiers to prepare their suppers, plenty of business going on–Mrs A is making up her Husbands bed, & reprimanding Mrs. G. who being a little offended will not do the same for hers. I wish you could take a peep at us.”
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—”Altho I wish much to see you yet as my husband was obliged to come, I never have for a moment regretted accompanying him, It is a great source of happiness that we can be together, & I have the satisfaction of knowing I am performing my duty.”
Heroines of the War of 1812
Dolley Madison was the wife of President James Madison.
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In 1814, the Whitehouse was attacked by the British. President Madison was in Maryland assessing the situation, while Dolley was left at the Whitehouse with only a few faithful servants.
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—Thanks to Dolley, the portrait of George Washington, and a copy of the Declaration of Independence were saved from destruction when the British destroyed the Whitehouse.
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Laura Secord is famous in Canada as a name for chocolates, sweets and ice cream.
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—What many do not know, is that Secord was a heroine during the War of 1812.
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—Secord’s husband served in the British Army. Once Secord heard he was wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights, she left for the battlefield.
—After the Battle of Queenston Heights n 1813, Americans occupied the Canadian side of the Niagara River. All able-bodied men were sent to the American side as prisoners of war.
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—Because Secord’s husband was wounded, the Secords were spared. However, the Secords had to host American soldiers in their home.
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—When Colonel Boerstler, head of the forces at Queenston Heights, was at the Secord’s home, he revealed plans to attack the British at Beaver Dams. Secord then walked for 18 hours to warn the British troops.
—It was not until 1860, when Secord was 85, was she rewarded for heroism by the British government.
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—Here is an excerpt from her speech to the Prince of Wales,  “Here [Beaver Dam] I found all the Indians encamped; by moonlight the scene was terrifying…Upon advancing to the Indians they all rose, and, with some yells, said “Woman,” which made me tremble…I was determined to persevere. I went up to one of the chiefs, made him understand that I had great news for Capt. Fitzgibbon, and that he must let me pass to his camp, or that he and his party would be all taken. The chief at first objected to let me pass, but finally consented, after some hesitation… I then told him [Capt. Fitzgibbon] what I had come for…that the Americans intended to make an attack upon the troops under his command, and would, from their superior numbers, capture them all. Benefiting by this information Capt. Fitzgibbon formed his plan accordingly, and captured about five hundred American infantry, about fifty mounted dragoons, and a fieldpiece or two was taken from the enemy.”
Women of Plattsburgh
The Delord family moved from the Peru Quaker Union to Plattsburgh in 1811.
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The British occupied the Delord home during Murray’s Raid in 1813, and during the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814.
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Before the British arrived in Plattsburgh, Betsey buried the family silver in the backyard so it was not looted. What possession would you save if the British were coming?
Sources:
—Galafilm. “Women and War.” Accessed October 27, 2012. http://www.galafilm.com/1812/e/people/ womenatwar.html.
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—Upper Mississippi Brigade. “The Role Women Played in the War of 1812.” Accessed October 27, 2012. http://umbrigade.tripod.com/articles/women.html.

In Case You Missed It: Old Fashioned Holiday Treats

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Last Saturday on October 20th, the Kent-Delord House Museum hosted an Old Fashioned Holiday Treat event. It was a free event and guests had the opportunity to try a variety of treats that the Delords used to enjoy around the holidays. There were snowball grapes (a personal favorite, white chocolate covered grapes dipped in sprinkles, surprisingly delectable), macaroons, shortbread, different punches, jellies (including a spiced grape one made from the arbors in the Museum’s backyard!), cocoa spiced nuts, and much more! Betsey’s federal cake was a hit! It was just the right amount of sweet, dense and buttery- the way cake should taste! Some guests compared it to the Australian Tea Cake from Rambach’s Bakery!

Betsey’s Federal Cake- Delicious!

Jan McCormick also hosted a Sweet Meats workshop. Sweet Meats, despite the misleading name, is not actually meat. It is candy made from the peels of citrus fruit like lemons, oranges and limes. The peels are boiled down until they have the consistency of gumdrops. They are quite delicious and easy to make! The treats featured in the picture below are more gooey than they should be- that is a lesson to anyone attempting to make sweet meats to be careful about boiling down the peels excessively. The treats were still delicious regardless!

Sweet meats were quite popular in the Delord household. Here are two sections found in letters in Virginia Mason Burdick’s Love & Duty

Eliza Webb to Betsey Swetland, December 18, 1843

Last Friday evening Mrs. Bunce made a little party for children. Mothers and friends were invited to come with their young folks tho we are not fond of Frances visiting, this was an occasion we felt she should be indulged in. At ½ past 6 I accompanied her to the scene of enjoyment. About twenty fathers and mothers with a host of girls and boys were assembled. There was a little music & much amusing frolic until 8. We were then invited out to a table beautifully spread with delicacies proper for young folks, two long forms of ice cream, rich and plain cake, fruit, sweet meats, lemonade. You would have been gratified to have seen Frances at the table where I could notice her without appearing to. She ate what she liked but took nothing improper for a child & enjoyed it like a lady. A little before nine her uncle came for us & at one hour later than usual she was in her bed.

Letter to Fannie from Elizabeth Swetland, February 1st, 1849

We had a great wedding here last eve. Julia Bailey is now Mrs. Buel Palmer. They were married at seven o’clock at the church. The house was crowded to over flowing. Her dress was a splendid white satin with a white lace well fastened at the top with ornaments hanging down each side. Her sister, Sarah, and Sophie Moore, Doc. Moore’s daughter, were bridesmaids. William Walworth and Peter were grooms me. We old people went from the church to the house, tho most of the invited went home to change their dress. Hetty played as they entered the church. It is a solemn ceremony. They performed their parts well. There were between two and three hundred. Mr. Bailey’s rooms are large. The refreshments were abundant and splendid. Early coffee and cake were handed around. About nine we were shown into the supper rooms opened into each other. In one the Table was beautiful with Pyramids of elegant Frosted cake, Charlotte Russ, Jellies, Whips, sweet meats, ice cream, buts and Fruits. In the next room was a table of meats, chickens, Ham, oysters, celery.

Guests also enjoyed violin and cello music performed by Madison McBride

All guests had the opportunity to take recipes home with them! If interested in any of these recipes, comment below!

Come Visit the Red Store!

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Henry Delord was a businessman (with the help of Betsey of course). He died in debt because of his generosity, and patriotism for allowing soldiers to buy on credit during the War of 1812. While Henry’s store was a general store, today we still have a small gift shop in his honor. There have been some expansions to the store, but  we are attempting to keep Henry’s legacy alive.

We have postcards, mugs, fans, notecards- you name it! Perfect souvenirs.

We also have homemade cutting boards made by Sid Ward of Ward Lumber- most are made from Adirondack wood! They are quite beautiful!

 

We also have an assortment of wooden toys, some period toys, that are perfect gifts for young children. We have train whistles, yo-yos, maracas, snakes, caterpillars, ball and cup game, bird whistles, painted tops. All colorful and inexpensive!

 

We also have an assortment of books about the Delord family history along with local North Country History. There are plenty of cookbooks from the Delord collection for sale also!

Lastly, we recently have acquired puzzles for the Red Store. These puzzles are thanks to Penelope Clute and Donna Bell. Penelope donated her time to take photos for these puzzles, and they are quite beautiful. Two of the puzzles feature pictures of flowers from our bright vibrant garden that the Garden Club attends to so dutifully. Other puzzles feature images from the Apothecary room of the old medicine bottles Fannie used. The puzzles are 308 pieces, and will please any puzzle enthusiast. The puzzles also serve as a great gift during the holiday season.

Check out our store during our holiday events! There are great gifts available at the store! We have an event tomorrow October 20th from 12-3 called Old Fashioned Holiday Treats where you can learn more about sweet meats, an old fashioned candy, and other holiday treats the Delords made. On Wednesday October 24th from 4:30-5:30 we will be hosting a book signing at the Museum for Dr. David Curtis Skaggs, a Thomas Macdonough scholar. And Fall Fest is concluding on Saturday October 27th with our 1812 Costume Workshop that will be held from 11-1.

 

 

Old Fashioned Baking

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I love cooking. Baking is my favorite though, probably because I have a sweet tooth. I especially love baking from scratch. I try to never use mixes because once you get the hang of baking, it really is not difficult, just mainly time consuming. I find satisfaction from taking all these different ingredients and somehow they form together to make delicious treats. It provides a sense of accomplishment for me.

However, there was a time where baking from mixes was not even an option. This was the world the Delord women lived in. You had to bake from scratch, and it was not always easy. Today, we have technology that helps with baking, including stand up mixers and hand held mixers. When you watch the Food Network, most of the chefs do not combine ingredients by hand, but by machine. I personally do not own a stand up mixer (they are quite expensive) and hand held mixers are used more to combine cakes and frostings, so I can relate to the Delord women. Have you ever tried to mix cookie dough batter by hand? Your forearms ache. It is not easy. Women who baked during the time of the Delord women definitely had some strong arm muscles.

There were other differences too. For one, there was not a standard way to measure. Betsey Delord left a “receipt” book behind (really a recipe book) that includes measurements that are not traditionally used today. Betsey used a wineglass and a teacup to measure ingredients for recipes. A wineglass would be the equivalent of 4 ounces; a teacup would be 6 ounces. Betsey also used the terms “size of a walnut” and “size of an egg” for measurement.

During Betsey’s time, it was also common to use recipes that made an astronomical amount of food. Many of Betsey’s recipes calls for pounds of flour instead of cups, a measurement most commonly used today. The only time I really see pounds used in recipes is when I deal with butter. Another difference would be ingredients. Betsey refers to saleratus, which is baking soda. She also refers to pearleash, which was a commercial carbonate of potassium, a forerunner of baking powder. Ingredients Betsey lists are also not spelled the way we spell them today. For instance, coconut was spelled as cocoa nut. Misspellings were common because there was not always a set way to spell words, especially without the convenience of the internet and spell check that we have today.

Lastly, the biggest difference would have to be the time and temperature used for the recipes. Back in the time of the Delord women, there was no way to determine the temperature of the oven. Many used cast iron cooking stoves, and others would use brick ovens that did not have a convenient temperature nob. Women had to be experts of their own cooking device because each stove and fireplace heated up differently to determine when to start baking and when to take the finished product out. I for one am glad we have the modern technology where we know the length and temperature for baking.

Baked treats had different consistencies back then too. Most desserts had coarse and heavier texture than what you find today, along with richer flavor.

If you are interested in learning about desserts from back in the day and would like to try some, the Kent-Delord House Museum is hosting an Old Fashioned Holiday Treats event this Saturday October 20th from 12-3PM. It is free!