Masada and the Dead Sea

Old City at Night27 Jan 17Day 6: Friday January 27th was our last full day in Israel, and we went to Masada, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Because Thursday’s post ran a bit long, I have included some photos I took on Thursday in this post about Friday’s activities. This picture of the wall of Jerusalem I took after nightfall has an evocative feeling I wanted to share. The illumination of the dome struck me.

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BYU Jerusalem CenterAnn and I went to the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies on Mount Scopus (photo at right) where we got the obligatory photo overlooking Old City Jerusalem. For the entire time I was in Old City, I never got a good look at the Dome of the Rock because there were always buildings and other things in the way. But you can see it very clearly from Mount Scopus. I have mixed feelings about the golden dome. It’s very beautiful, and it’s considered the second most holy place for Muslims behind Mecca. But the absence of the Temple on the Temple Mount leaves me with a certain sadness.

Old City From BYU Center

From the BYU Center, we walked to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament Gospel writers said that Jesus often found solace in the Garden, and that this is Mount of Oliveswhere He suffered His agony of the Atonement. The olive trees there are very old and gnarled. In Earth Matters at mnn.com there is a  description of Olive trees around the Mediterranean that are 2,000 to 3,000 years old, possibly the oldest living on the Island of Crete. The trees in the Garden of Gethsemane seem really old, but apparently 500 years is the lifespan of most olive trees. It just made me wonder… were any of these trees around to witness the night when Judas Iscariot betrayed his Master to the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers?  The area is now occupied with churches (snapshot at right).

Now for Friday’s adventures. The fortress at Masada near the Dead Sea is high above the plain on what looks like buttes I’ve seen in New Mexico and Wyoming. Built by a paranoid King Herod on the easily defended heights, the restored ruins hold lots of people’s stories. Besides being a well protected place of resort

Masada Fortress Ruins

Masada Bath HouseThe work they did to build these places and stock them with food and water had to keep a lot of soldiers and slaves busy for a long time. The Masada is on a mountain, and we could see the camps of the Romans where thousands of soldiers prepared to assault the citadel during a rebellion in 73 and 74 CE.

One of the things we learned about this place was revealed after a long guessing game when Mika asked us why the Romans would erect three foot high walls around their camps. Each of the camps held large numbers of soldiers who were brought to destroy the zealots who were Israeli rebels who opposed Roman rule. We guessed that the three-foot high walls could stop boulders rolled down from the heights or floods up from the Dead Sea. Nope. Then we guessed that the low walls enabled them to get in and out very quickly if needed. Nope. There were a few other theories, but Mika finally solved the mystery for us. The acoustics are such in this area, that you can hear even small sounds from long distances. The Romans, who had been pestered by these elusive rebels for years, wanted to hear if the rebels were either coming to attack or going to escape, and higher walls would have protected fleeing rebels by masking their sounds.

The indoor spas made me wish I could try them out. The raised floors (cutaway shown in the photo below right) rested on these mini pillars so the scalding water could make Masada Saunathe spa room a sauna and the King could walk to his favorite place to meditate. We saw similar bathing rooms at Beit She’an and Caesarea.

Holes in the wall permitted the smoky fires that heated the cauldrons of water to be outside, to maximize the enjoyment of those within and leave enough oxygen for them to breathe. The slaves would pour the heated water through the holes to fill up the Spa basin.

The preservation of these evidences of the creature comforts of the ancient Romans gave us fascinating glimpses into their lives. I guess they weren’t much different than me. I like a good soak in the hot tub and a good sweat in the sauna. The amount of labor required to restore these sites is gargantuan, but surely not nearly as much as the original work to erect them.

As with many of the ancient places we toured, Masada shows the signs of the changes in tenants over time. The detail work in the walls and mosaic of the floor are the hallmarks of the Byzantine era builders, and provide insights into the changing priorities of the occupants, as this room was part of a Christian meeting place: something not even contemplated in the original design of the Masada vacation home/fortress.Perhaps we have yet another case where form follows function, and function follows changes in social and cultural priorities.

Masada Byzantine Chapel

the view of the Dead Sea from the Masada reveals it’s decline. Apparently, the Dead Sea’s water level has dropped 131 feet or 40 meters since the 1950s, and the water level drop has accelerated from 70 centimeters a year in the 1970s to 1.2 meters over the past two decades. Whether this is due to increased demands on water supplies upstream, or climate change in general, the effects are no less palpable. Further south from the picture below, the sea appears divided in rectangles. There is a slideshow online that shows this place where the healing minerals of the water are extracted for cosmetics.

Dead Sea from the Masada Fortress

Ann Afloat in the Dead Sea

Both Ann and I went out to try out the floating routine, and it worked great for both of us. When we were on the bus, and particularly when we were at the Masada, we were so cold that the idea of putting on our swimsuits, or even taking them out of our bags, seemed preposterous. Yet, an hour after we were shivering in the cold wind in our winter coats, we were stripping down and playing in the water. The name of the place was Kalia Beach, and it was near the northern end of the Dead Sea where the Jordan River flows into it.

Joe Floating Kalia ParkMost of the people on our tour went in, and many of them decided to treat themselves to the mineral-rich mudpacks, apparently restoring the fountain of youth. Of course Ann still looks a couple decades younger than she is, but she decided to try it along with the others. I caught her in the middle of playing in the mud. Or maybe she was dressing in the mud. I guess this is a common activity at the Dead Sea beaches. Some of our tour mates became certifiable mud monsters — temporarily.Dead Sea Skin Therapy

I confess, that although my skin has many wrinkles and flaws, and more arrive with each additional year of my survival (I guess I may not be THAT old), I decided to forego the treatment. Of course, by choosing not to apply the mud, I missed the benefits. Alas, a lost opportunity that may never come around again. The gift shops were completely willing to give me ongoing opportunities to apply Dead Sea minerals packaged in cosmetics and cleansing treatments. , But, again I opted out.

After spending the day in the east, we headed back to Jerusalem in the mid afternoon. The bus ride began noisy as usual, with everyone chattering about the fun we had all morning and into the afternoon. But soon a quiet settled over the bus. It wasn’t a reflective silence – many of the riders fell asleep. Weather in Jerusalem was pretty rainy and cold, and we were tired so we rested and prepared for our return journey, trying to figure out how to pack our baggage to fit the gifts we had purchased for our children and grandchildren.

I used some of the time to sort through the hundreds of pictures I had taken to select those that would best reflect our travel, the things we saw and learned, and the fun we had. It was difficult to weed out many that had special meaning to me, but may not be easy to blog about. At the end of the day, with our bags packed and our bodies exhausted, we settled in for our last night in Israel.




























Jerusalem Old City

Day 5, Thursday January 26th, 2017 was our first full day in Jerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel. Jerusalem is divided into the Old City, surrounded by the ancient walls that grew and morphed over successive periods, and the New City, marked by modern boundaries. Unlike the rest of Israel, Jerusalem is divided into four areas that are more religious than political: The Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian Quarters. Our new US President’s comments naming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel departed the path of political correctness, but reflect a deep-seated sense of familiarity for readers of the Bible and Torah.

Here are two illustrations I found showing the Old City. The one on the left is a view that shows Golgotha and the tomb outside the city walls. The one on the right shows the four quarters of the city.

Old City Jerusalem

By the way, you can click on the days below to see my post about that day of the journey. If it doesn’t work, it may mean I havent completed my post for that day yet.

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This picture of a wooden model of the ancient Hebrew Temple was in a shop in Bethlehem. I have always felt a deep awe for the Temple, and its portable predecessor, the Tabernacle. Here again, you can see the motif of paired pillars (yesterday’s post) repeated around the Holy of Holies. Besides a sacred place of worship, this was a defensible fortress. The Romans complemented it with the fortress of Antonia which was as much a military barracks as it was a command post.

Wooden Herods Temple

Jerusalem Bar MitzvahWhen we came into the city with our tour group, there was a bar mitzvah procession with horn blowers and music-making into the Old City. Mika explained that Tuesdays and Thursdays are big days in the Jewish Quarter for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. We are outside the Dung Gate in this picture, and you can see the Dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the background of the image at right. This picture of the Western Wall below shows the Dome of the Rock that commands Temple Mount peeking out in the background. The Western Wall, and some of the tunnels beneath are treated as sacred places because of their proximity to the most holy place of Judaism: the inner sanctum of the Temple.

Western Wall
Christian Church on Via DolorosaIn Old City Jerusalem, the most sacred places for most Christians are the fourteen points along the Via Dolorosa, meaning the “Way of Pain” or “Way of Distress” or “Way of Torture” which represent the path from the Judgement Hall where Jesus Christ was condemned by Pontius Pilate to the tomb in which His remains were placed after His death. The points are also remembered in the “Stations of the Cross” I saw in all the Catholic churches I attended as a child. I have, as a Catholic altar boy, followed and prayed the Stations of the Cross a couple times. But I don’t even remember the ritual, it’s been so long. The order of the Stations on the Via Dolorosa are:

  1. Jesus is Condemned to Die.
  2. Jesus is made to Bear His Cross.
  3. Jesus Falls the First Time
  4. Jesus Meets His Mother
  5. Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
  6. Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face
  7. Jesus Falls the Second Time
  8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus Falls the Third Time
  10. Jesus is Stripped.
  11. Monuments on Via DolorosaJesus is nailed to the Cross.
  12. Jesus Dies on the Cross
  13. Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross.
  14. Jesus is laid in the Tomb.

There were some people we watched as they carried crosses along the way as part of their own personal pilgrimages or penance. The crosses were, of course, much smaller and lighter than the historian’s understanding of the crosses the Romans used, but the symbolism is striking. This artwork, combining sculpture and painting, was very evocative. I looked at it for awhile, and was touched by the pathos.

Throughout this tour, I was watching people of several different religions and of none, and how they responded to each of the places we visited and the things we saw. Mika alternated between describing political context, ancient architecture, and spiritual context, making the tour very rich and rewarding.

Mika used a microphone to help the 20 to 30 of us on each of the tours hear the narrative. But there were times when she kept her voice quite low in deference to circumstances where we were in the middle of church services or other things going on around us. In contrast, she encouraged us to join in the dancing at one of the Bar Mitzvahs and several of us did. It was really fun, and taking part with the local people was remarkably intimate. Though we are of different nationalities and different religious traditions, we felt integrated, almost as if we were invited to a person’s dinner table.

Via Dolorosa MarkerThe Jerusalem Cross icon appeared over and over again. You can see it pretty well in the lower picture at left above the crossed arms. This symbol dates back to the 11th and 12 centuries CE and was actually a symbol of state for the “Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem” during the crusades. I had seldom seen it in Catholic churches I attended, but apparently the symbol persisted as the emblem of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and remains so today. Perhaps the manifestation of that Order is no more apparent than in the Christian Church at the end of the Via Dolorosa.

Holy Sepulchre ChurchFor most Christian tourists, the church of the Holy Sepulchre is a must-see landmark in Jerusalem. It adds another prominent dome to the many in the Old City, reminiscent of the multi-cultural and mixed religious heritage of the people of Jerusalem.

The exterior architecture and detail work of the Church is imposing and ornate, forming an unmistakable landmark in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. But the interior is even more ornate and richly appointed. Besides the Rotunda, there are at least ten separate chapels, each dedicated to some saint or event or the tomb itself. The murals, the ornate lighting, and the interior design could
keep me interested for weeks of study, each detail Mural and Domeunfolding a piece of history and culture worth learning about.

As it turned out, we only had about an hour to see it, and only a couple minutes to go into the reputed tomb to see where Jesus’ body was laid after His crucifixion, and where Mary Magdalene came after the Jewish Sabbath to find it empty and meet the not-yet-ressurrected Lord. To me, this seminal event in the religious canon, Christ’s passion and sacrifice for all mankind to open the doors of heaven is the key to my faith, and my hope for that cleansing power. All the beauty and majesty of this place is wonderful, but it comes down to a question of faith: can I hold onto a belief in this sanctifying power, and change my behavior toward my fellowmen, treating all with love and caring, enough to demonstrate the sincerity of my conversion.

A completely different aspect of this tour was at least as important as anything we saw: I came to love Mika and David, Dorothy and Serena, Steve and Robin, Raj and Rohit, Chuck and Lynn, Lev and Ashley, Serge and Vera, Kimberley, Mark and Barry, Tatiana and Valentina, Vivian and her husband from Equador, the Filipina women and everyone on the tour. Old Jerusalem CordoWe shared some great experiences and felt a sense of mutual understanding despite our diverse backgrounds.

Near the end of the tour, Mika walked us through the Cardo at Jerusalem shown at right, showing the influence of the Roman era. We saw the Ruin or Hurva Synagogue that had been destroyed and rebuilt more than once in this city’s turbulent history. The first destruction was about 1721, and after it was rebuilt in 1864, the second was destroyed in 1948. After it lay in ruins for another 60 years, it was rebuilt to its current state just six years ago.

When I first came to Jerusalem in 1998, this was only a ruin, but a dozen years later, it reemerged. The simple elegance of this building, and the fact of its existence after mulitple attempts to eliminate it, inspire me. The spirit of renewal is strong in this place.

Rebuilt Synagogue

Jordan River to Bethlehem

25 Jan 17We rose early on day 4 of our trip, Wednesday, January 25th, 2017. We were only on the bus for less than an hour before arriving at first of many stops.  The place we stopped on a secondary channel of the Jordan River was beautiful and peaceful. Jordan BaptismsMany Glacier LakeThere was a place where several people were baptizing and being baptized, and there were swimmers. Ann and I went further downstream and had some lovely quiet moments. It was not the place where Jesus was baptized, which is much further south from where we stopped, but it was a beautiful place. The water has a green tint similar to the Lakes in Glacier National Park, Montana, where, as a young man, I experienced spiritual awakening. In Glacier, the green tint is from mineral runoff from the glacial melt. I don’t know why the Jordan water is green, and the tint is not exactly the same, but I like the connection to one of my favorite places in the world.

This picture is of Many Glacier Lake, and I took it about 15 years ago when I brought my son, Steven, to Glacier on a backpacking trip.

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Map JerusalemBeit She’an is a city originally built by the Canaanites where the fertile Jordan River valley and Jezreel valleys meet. Egyptians took it in the 15th century BCE, It expanded in the Roman period, then again during the Byzantine period. Apparently, much of the excavation work was performed by Russian Jews soon after they returned to the Holy Land.

Just a word about the map: the dotted line marks the Palestinian territories of the West Bank of the Jordan River or simply the West Bank, and further south on the Mediterranean, Gaza. The Oslo II Accord identified Areas A, B and C administered respectively by the Palestinian Authority, both, and Israel. This is not the most hospitable agreement, and both groups still feel threatened by the other. There are many places in the West Bank, particularly Area A, where Mika, our Israeli tour guide is not permitted to bring tours, including Bethlehem. So another guide brought us there in the afternoon.

The name of the city means House of Rest or House of Tranquility. This reconstruction of ancient Beit She’an shows the same public places we saw in Caesarea: The Amphitheater (in Roman construction that was a full oval) in the center left, the theater or stadium beyond that with the cardo, or central boulevard leading to the hill on which a Temple was erected by the Greeks and later used by Romans.

This picture (below) shows the pillars that lined the cardo that leads to the Tel on which the Greek Temple stood. Mika told us that the archaeologists  found a market to the right of the cardo and a bordello to its left.

The thing I found amazing was the reconstruction of the theater (below). Mika had us stand on the stage and sing and the sound carried really well. I guess amplification without electronics may be a lost art, but they sure understood it a couple thousand years ago.

An earthquake hit the region in 749 CE. As the archaeologists did not find many human remains, they suggest that tremors warned the people and they left the city before it was destroyed: all except for one guy who was found near a large stash of gold. Ouch. I suppose this is a cautionary tale: “Leave the gold behind if you want to save your own” (behind). I also found it amazing that many of the ruins we saw on the sea coast (not Beit She’an) had columns imported from Europe. That’s a lot of effort to move heavy objects long distances. The exact opposite of my philosophy of “carry-on luggage only”. Here is a video I took from the highest point:

Anns New RideAfter touring the ruins, we headed south again toward Jericho then on to our hotel in Jerusalem. Along the way we had a lunch and camel ride stop. The camel was quite determined to get a profile shot so she could both smile and show off her lovely long eyelashes. Here again, we had falafel and shawarma and french fried potatoes. We usually drank orange or apple juice or bottled water. We didn’t stop at Jericho but Mika told us the story of its conquest, with special emphasis on the role of Rahab, the harlot.

After arriving in Jerusalem, unloading our luggage and checking into our hotel rooms, we got back on the bus and our faithful driver, David, brought us to Bethlehem. In some respects, Bethlehem is like many other towns we’ve seen on the Mediterranean coast, but it has a thriving tourist industry around the Church of the Nativity.

Life Size Nativity

Jesus Birth Place

The place where the exact location of Jesus’ birth is memorialized is shown in the picture at right. Apparently there have been some miraculous healings at this place which indicates to many that this is indeed the place. It was interesting for us to tour this place, but for me, the best place for Jesus is in the heart of His disciples, of whom I am striving to become one.

Again the artwork and iconography of the orthodox tradition are amazing, and for me, well worth the time and effort we spent getting there. Once again, even as we traveled in Palestinian territories, we never felt any sense of danger or threat from anyone.

Bethlehem Orthodox Church

Crusader StatueSome of the history we learned and the artifacts we saw pointed directly to the Crusades, none more so than this statue of a Crusader attempting to slay a dragon, or perhaps “THE DRAGON” – old Lucifer himself. This reminded me of a statue I saw of Louis the Fourteenth at the palace at Versailles or the Louvre in which he was all armored up and had his foot on his enemy’s neck.

Having been a soldier who never saw conflict directly, I have studied war and fighting, and frankly, I think it is really unpleasant, and should be avoided whenever possible. This glorification of doing violence for duty, honor and country seems overblown to me, and I think the Crusades were a classic example of unjustified fighting. Of course, looking back at the history of this area, it was pretty much a story of thousands of years of conflict interspersed with brief periods of peace. And even the peaceful periods, like right now, for example, are not entirely free of fear.

I can’t imagine living in a place where some of my neighbors have made declarations of public policy to require my country’s complete destruction. I think Israelis have a right to a homeland, as do the Palestinians, and I hope they can eventually work it out amicably. Please forgive my pessimism on this matter, but I don’t see the resolution happening any time soon. Both parties to the conflict seem rather intransigent, and, unfortunately, both have strong allies that are willing to arm them.

Dual Pillars - TreesI noticed, at several of the places we went, the motif of paired pillars . In some cases this may be for architectural strength to increase the load-bearing capacity. This explanation lacks poetic imagination. I have heard that the pairing of pillars can represent the two trees in the Garden of Eden: The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Ying and Yang of the two trees theory is very appealing to me. I am also intrigued by the contrast between the peace and paradise of the garden, and the constant struggle of living in the lone and dreary world.

The conflict between good and evil and all the other opposites are a common theme in everything I see, and in many things I can’t see. The idea that there is an unseen being advocating for good, Jesus, and one tempting toward evil, Lucifer, has a certain appeal, and even if it’s just mythology, I think it makes great poetry. I personally feel very strongly that it’s not mythology, and that both God and the Adversary are real, and play important parts in the drama of life.

There I go getting all philosophical again. Please forgive me, and please stay tuned for the next installment.








Tiberias in Galilee

24 Jan 17

From Tiberias, named after a Roman overlord from times long past, you can see across the Sea of Galilee to the Golan Heights. I can remember, as a child hearing about the Six-Day War, where, due to the threat to Israeli people from the Golan highlands and existential threats from Arab forces mobilizing around its borders, it became expedient for Israel to flex its muscle and create a buffer of protection. This changed national boundaries in ways still remembered by Israel and all its neighbors.

Map TiberiasBut even more so, I remember the Bible stories about Jesus and his fishermen disciples casting nets here and there with miraculous results. While the tour group went to the Golan heights and a winery, Ann and I had a day on our own, touring the city of Tiberias and the surrounding hills.

This beautiful city has an interesting mix of very modern buildings and roads, ancient fortress ruins and buildings that mix both modern and ancient design. The first time I came to Israel on a business trip in 1998, when I saw fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee, boats whose design appeared to be as ancient as the fortress ruins, I had a visceral reaction, and felt deeply in my heart that those fishermen were real people trying to eke out a life in difficult times. I almost felt like I knew them.

I have gone fishing before, but never with nets. Seeing the fishermen repairing their nets on the rocky shores beside their boats touched me profoundly when I came here before, and I had to give Ann the opportunity to experience the same things. She did, and there were a couple times when I could sense the emotion welling up in her, and I was glad that her experience here was impactful like mine.

Mount Hermon

I can imagine them looking north to the heights and seeing Mount Herman in the distance. This photo shows Herman shrouded in mist. There was a time during the Old Testament Israeli conquest of the Holy Land when Mount Herman was largely or entirely in Israeli hands. The ownership of territory in the history of this strategic crossroad in the near east has been so fluid over the years that it is easy to understand why so many different groups claim it as their own. Abraham was, indeed, the father of many nations.

Mosque in GallileeIt is also interesting to watch the interplay of different interest groups within Israeli politics and society, some advocating a hard line and some softer positions toward the Palestinians and Arabs who live among and around them. The existential threat to Israel seems to never go away entirely. But I can see how a love of this land is felt by different peoples. This photo shows the Great El Omri Mosque, just a few steps from our hotel, shuttered and in decline. The construction is beautiful, and even the slow burning of decay evokes a sad sense of majesty.

An overarching feeling I felt as I traveled in Israel is that the land bears the imprint of the different complexions of its owners over the centuries and millenia. Even today, as the lines of sovereignty shift before our eyes (I’m following news of the progress of Britain’s exit from the European Union) I can understand some of the turbulence felt in this place over time. Well, now I’m waxing a little too philosophical – let’s get back to the trip.

Besides an amazing history, Tiberias is a wonderful place to vacation. While I wasn’t enthralled by the Diamond cutting and setting operations, some in our group found that exciting, and came away with very good deals on elegant jewelery. Our hotel on Ron Beach was like a tropical paradise. And even though the water was too cold for any but the heartiest of swimmers, we enjoyed basking in the warmth, and I even got in a little sunbathing.

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Gallilee from Room at Tiberias

Walking in Water Sea of GallileeThis is the day Ann and I chose to get our spa treatments. Ann got a hot stone therapy with restorative massage, and I got deep tissue therapy. The place was another hotel near ours, the Scots Hotel St. Andrew, and the service was fantastic. The Russian woman, Yelena, who beat the pulp out of me (I have bruises to prove it) was very thorough, and although I didn’t scream in pain at any time during the treatment, I was really close several times.

We had to walk in the water of the Sea of Galilee, and, fortunately, there were steps from our hotel to the shore where we could wade into the tide. We didn’t go in very far, but there is something thrilling and memorable in the touch of the water.

We walked to the edge of the city and picked up a couple stones for one of Ann’s classmates. She’s back in school at Brigham Young University of Idaho, and, while most of the work is online, the students in our area meet together every Thursday evening. I used a geo-caching app on my cell phone to get the exact coordinates of the place where we picked up the stones. Then I did a circle video of the place so you could see 360 degrees from the spot. Here is the video, and the coordinates are North 32 Degrees, 46.613 Feet Latitude, and East 35 Degrees 32.662 Feet longitude.


Cemetery in Gallilee

On our way back to town I saw this cemetery. It is so well maintained, and the stones so beautifully marked that I had to take a picture. This blog is primarily focused on genealogy, and gravestones are a primary source of information about our ancestors. In this trip, neither Ann nor I did any family history work, nor do we know of any of our own ancestors who came from this area. But there were a few people in our tour group who did meet relatives, and this was thrilling for them.

The Mediterranean and the countries surrounding it are characterized by tropical foliage and lovely warm temperatures. Tiberias has some of the markings of paradise, even in its modernity. We had a lovely time visiting this historical city on Lake Kinneret, and had time to rest in preparation for a very busy upcoming day.

Streets of Tiberias




Jaffa to Caesarea

23 Jan 17Monday was our first full day in Israel, and it was a very full day. We began with a short bus ride to Yafo or Jaffa, where the influences of the Helenistic period stand out. As a teenager, I was exposed to one of the most significant outcomes of the Greek occupation of the Holy Land: Hannukah: The Festival of Lights. This was celebrated after the
Maccabean Revolt
of Judas Maccabeus, and began the Hasmonean period. Park in JaffaAs many of my friends and debate partners were Jewish, I developed an early fascination with this amazing culture.

This is a beautiful park in Jaffa that shows the color of the predominant limestone and the tropical foliage of the area. Mika, our tour guide told us of not only the history of the area, but added a lot of color about the environment and traditions of the peoples. helping us understand the succession of dynasties that came from all directions.

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Jaffa ZodiacOne of the first things I noticed in the architecture was the use of arches for doors and windows and gates. The engineering method of tapered blocks Zodiac Street Signscoming together in a keystone to support significant weights appears everywhere in the places we toured. both the pictures on the left and right show street signs with the Zodiac and mythological names. While the astrological lore originated in Egypt and was adopted by the Babylonians, the names of the Circle of Animals we use commonly today come from the Greek Jaffa Christian Churchlanguage. I was born under the sign of Aries, the Ram, though I am not one to pay attention to horoscopes.

During this part of our tour, we walked from one church to another. This Christian church has been rebuilt recently, but may date back to the Byzantine era. Constantine’s conquest marked the beginning of this period, and the influence of his mother, Empress Helena (later Saint Helena), in her erection of many church buildings in Israel, came up over and over again in our tours, including some of the most amazing places in Jerusalem Jaffa Mosque(remind me to talk about those when I get to our Wednesday and Thursday tours).

Within short walking distance of the Christian church, we encountered a Mosque. The Arab period lasted from the mid 600s CE to the early 1500s CE, with about 150 years of disruption by the Crusaders. The Crusades were bracketed by the Caliphate period before and the Mamluk period after, leaving a mark on the the region of Palestine that is still felt profoundly today. The architecture of the Mosques and the Christian churches of the period bear profound resemblances on the outside, even though the use patterns are radically different within. The Mosques are characterized by the minarets (please take a look at the “Figures” links in this URL).

The crescent moon shapes at the tops of the minarets, and the narrowness of the towers are beautiful and unique architectural conventions that we saw frequently last summer in our visit to Istanbul.

Synagogue in Tel AvivThe Synagogues are less ornate and more functional in architecture, generally. I see an interesting correlation between this phenomenon and the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) patterns of architecture. Mormon chapels are also simple and functional, where the Temples (much fewer and not used for Sabbath worship) are extremely ornate. The Temple in Jerusalem was extremely ornate and awe-inspiring. More on this in a later post.

Next, we traveled to the the city of Caesarea, erected by Herod the Great and dedicated to the Roman overlords of the era. The architectures and the layout of the city were patterned after Roman conventions: very different from the prevailing architectures of prior periods in this region. Theaters and Amphitheaters started popping up (with the help of large amounts of slave labor).

Roman Theater at Caesarea

Caesarea SarcophagusMy undergraduate minor was anthropology, including courses in archaeology, so the restoration of this site and others on our tour were historical highlights of our trip. In addition to our capable tour guide, the sites have interpretive information that helps history nerds like me understand what I’m seeing. So let’s get it out right now: I love Indiana Jones. He’s one of my favorite fictional superheroes. This sarcophagus, one of many on the site, ties together archaeology and genealogy: two hobbies of mine.

Byzantine Arched CeilingI am also fond of architecture and seeing these arches that come to more of a point reminded me of some of the things I read in a historical fiction series by Ken Follett called “Pillars of the Earth”. His novels describe innovations in cathedral construction in England, and in an architectural nerdy way, tie that in to an engaging historical fiction. I was constantly amazed by the fact that these structures have stood for over a thousand years, some two thousand. My house needs repairs all the time.

Map CaesareaAs you can see from the map, we traveled from Tel Aviv, north to Caesarea. After Caesarea, we headed for Tiberias, stopping first at a Diamond cutting factory, then on to the hotel. For me, the commercial stops on the trip were not highlights, though it was interesting to learn about how important the Israeli stone cutters are in the world context of the diamond business.

Tiberias is on Lake Kinneret or the Sea of Galilee, but I’ve saved that map for the next post. In fact, this freshwater lake is also called the Lake of Gennesaret at lease once in the Bible, or Lake Tiberias. We never swam in the lake or went out on a boat, but we were able to feel the proximity to the places where many of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles called home and work. Monday was a very busy day.

Holy Land – January 2017

He22 Jan 17llo again, friends. It’s been awhile and we decided it’s time to check in with you again and share our fun trip to Israel. Until a few months ago, we had not planned a trip to the near east again so soon after visiting Turkey last year, but the offer was unbelievably inexpensive, and the company reputable, so we had to do it.We have put together vacations ourselves, but sometimes it’s easier to let someone else do the legwork. In this case the agency was Gate1, and we would definitely use them again. Other similar reliable discount travel opportunities are available from Groupon, Affordable Asia and TripMasters, whom we used this time last year for our trip to Costa Rica to escape the frigid Minnesota winter. In Tel Aviv, we were met at the airport by our driver and our guide for the week, Mika. Mika is a Sabra woman with a four year old son living in Jerusalem. Sabra is a slang term in Hebrew for one who is both a Jew and born in Israel.

WArrival in Israelell, now we’re living in Philadelphia, so…

  1. the winters are not so cold, and
  2. we’re really close to half a dozen airports so we can take advantage of more discount travel offers.

In this case, the flight with the best discount was was on Royal Jordanian Airlines out of JFK, airport on Long Island, New York. So we just had to get ourselves there, which was pretty quick and easy on public transit, and voila — a trip to Israel for half what it would have cost us to arrange it ourselves.

January 2017 Israel Trip
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Context Map

Map Tel Aviv

I’ll include maps to show context of where we went in Israel each day. We flew into Amman, Jordan for a layover, then on to Tel Aviv. The airports were both very modern and convenient. As you can see from the curved line that goes through the middle of Europe, the flight path brought us way north over Scotland, Iceland and Greenland to save distance using the curvature of the Earth. I guess this is the normal routing.

The juxtapositions of ancient and modern we encountered every day of this journey made it fascinating and rewarding, and gave us much greater depth into things about which we were only vaguely aware before. The city of Tel Aviv is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean sea, and has a metro population of three and a half million, similar to Minneapolis and about half that of Philadelphia. For the week we visited, the weather was pleasant and mild, mostly 50s Fahrenheit, though it snowed very briefly on Friday evening.  Tel Aviv is known as a powerful center of finance and technology.

Tel Avav from Jaffa Yafo
I had been to Israel on a business trip in 1998, between the 1st and 2nd Intifadas when Israeli-Palestinian relations were so much less stable. Some people are nervous about traveling to Israel now, but, from a safety perspective, there are at least half a dozen US cities that are much more dangerous than any place in Israel or the West Bank. The news may make it seem worse than it is. From my perspective, anyone interested in learning about people, or history or religion or geo-politics, will have as much fun as Ann and I had on this trip.

Tree SculptureThe Art too! The historical art and religious icons, and the modern art we saw were fantastic. This tree sculpture in the Tel Aviv/Yafo (Jaffa) area is very evocative of the Jewish diaspora. The artist’s intent is to represent how, despite frequent mistreatment by others, the tenacious descendants of Israel have retained their identity and their ability to thrive wherever planted, and even thrive when it is not clear where they call home, or how long they can do so without being pushed elsewhere.

I have worked with a large population of Hmong, the southeast Asian montagnards from China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. They have a similar story of being forced from one area to another, of having to adjust, and a similar resilience. The ability to maintain that audacity of hope, if you’ll excuse me borrowing that wonderful phrase, characterizes many peoples throughout the world and its history.

The Jews have been dispersed in waves for millenia, with the Ashkenazi from central Europe to the Americas, Sephardic from Spain and North Africa to the Mid-East, and Yemenite, Ethiopian and Asian Jews. And yet all retain that central culture that helps them cooperate for mutual support, and makes them long for Jerusalem, their most holy place.

But it’s not just the Jews that are drawn to Jerusalem: Muslims and Christians are drawn there also, as the “Holy Land” figures prominently in all of our sacred writings. Mika Rabinovich as our guide and interpreter, did a marvelous job of describing not only the meaning behind many of the archeologicalGreen in Barren Rocksl sites we toured, but the cultural backdrop that makes each of these places important to each of these peoples, going from the stone age, through the Canaanite period, the Hebrew period, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian and Assyrian periods, then through the Roman, Greek and Byzantine eras, the Arab, Crusader and Ottoman periods up to the British Mandate and modern Israel. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, and definitely enough to account for some of the ambiguities that lead to the current tensions in the region.

I was amazed at how many plants grew out of the rocks, and this became my symbol reflecting the strength of spirit that permits people to thrive in the most hostile situations. Even the Dead Sea, which we toured on Friday, is rich in minerals that can be a source of life and rejuvenation. We saw a lot of rocks and cut stones while we visited the Holy Land. But even in this angular hardness, we saw signs of flexibility and adaptation everywhere.

I wish I had a recorder to have captured all that great information, and a video camera that could show all the places we went and things we saw. But in lieu of that, I’m hoping that this blog will give you readers a flavor of our trip, and may inspire you to seek knowledge of these ancient, wonderful and terrible things that have shaped our world and our sense of self within it.

Soaker hose IrrigationJust one coping mechanism that I saw, and have seen elsewhere, such as the island of Crete, is the drip or trickle style of irrigation, possibly invented by a Jewish person, for areas where rain is not a reliable source of water for the crops. As I post about the time we spent traveling in Israel, I’ll try to share details that I found interesting, along with links to further information, and hopefully won’t miss too many of the important items.

If you enjoy my posts, or wish to make other comments, please leave a reply below.

Back to Oslo 6.30.2015

6-29-15Back to Oslo 6.29.2015 to 6.30.2015

We had to take a bus on the first leg of our journey back to Oslo because they were repairing the rails. At Brynne we got on the train to Oslo. Another long and beautiful ride through mountains and lakes. We got into Olso about 2:45 and needed to be to the apartment by 3:30. We took our second taxi of our trip to this apartment. It was a very nice place. I got a great picture the next morning as the sun was rising. The best part of this was our host Marco told us about getting a 24 hour transportation pass. We could use it for any public transportation for 24 Hours including ferries. It cost 90 Kroner. So we picked some up for us at the 7 eleven store and started taking public transportation around Oslo.

June 2015 Norway Trip
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We took a tram to the central station. We wanted to map out our route to the airport for the next day. We also purchased a train ticket to get us to the airport. Then we went to the Opera house again. It was a beautiful day. Then we decided to go find the fish restaurant on the Wharf that we weren’t able to get into on our arrival day to see if they had room. It was a far distance to walk so we decided to hop on a tram going in the direction we wanted to go. We found one and hopped on. It’s fun to experiment with public transportation when you have no time schedule and you don’t have to pay every time you get on. We went to far so we got off and got on another going the opposite direction. We got off and walked toward the Wharf.

The Oslo Fjord comes up to Oslo from the sea and there’s a beautiful wharf called the Aker-Brygge-wharf. It’s where you catch the museums ferry and take fjord trips including cruises. There are restaurants, bars and street entertainment. Here’s a link to it. http://www.visitoslo.com/en/activities-and-attractions/attractions/?TLp=282572&Aker-BrYgge-wharf So, we made a reservation at this restaurant and then went to explore. We found this Fantastic street performer named Paul. He was from Australia. He Swallowed a balloon, which made us think of Jelly. Though she doesn’t swallow balloons, just inflates them and makes cool things. He put himself through a round hoop. This made think of Steven and putting his body through a hanger. His final feet was get out of a straight jacket and chains. Very entertaining. By the time Paul was done it was time for our reservation. We had fish once again. I had wonderful Salmon and Joe had a white fish. We had a rhubarb strawberry dessert that was absolutely delicious. We got on our bus and went back to the apartment and slept our last night in Norway.

Oslo Church

The next morning we got up and went to the airport and left. This was such a dream come true. I loved every day in Norway!

Herre Family Story

My Cousins and Aunts have assembled the story of my paternal grandmother’s mother, Anna Herre’s family. I have included maps and such for a little more background. Here’s the narrative:

The Herre family lived in Zillhausen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany for centuries. For the most part, they were farmers who lived in houses in this small town, and tended plots of land in the hills outside of the town. However, occupations of Judge and Weaver are also mentioned in the records. Zillhausen is in the southwestern part of Germany, on the edge of the Black Forest.

Zillhausen Context Map

As background, Zillhausen was a few kilometers east of the city of Balingen, about midway between Stuttgart, Germany to the north, and Zürich, Switzerland to the south.

Zillhausen Detail

Today, the berg is called Streichen (far right or east on the map), but several remnants of Zillhausen dot the landscape. The marker in the map shows what appears to be a radio station named Herre Radio. The photo and thumbnails below from Google Maps show Streichen with the radio tower in the background. The hills explain the curves and switchbacks on the maps.

Streichen from Google Maps

Now, back to the narrative:

In the 1860s and 1870s, times were especially difficult there. The government was oppressive, and the poor had to struggle to survive.

Johannes Herre (b. 1840) and Gottliebina Bizer (b. 1846) were married in Zillhausen in 1867, and in the next 13 years they had ten children, six of whom died before the age of ten years. As things grew bleaker, they heard that land and jobs were available in America, so plans were made to emigrate.

Johannes’ younger sister, Katherina (b. 1854), was engaged to Gottlieb Jack, who was the first to leave for America in about 1879. Reportedly he traveled first to Dakota (probably because so much free land was offered), and then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. As soon as he could, he sent for Katherina. When she arrived in America, he met her at La Salle, Illinois where they immediately found a minister and were married. Then they traveled together to Minneapolis where they settled.

Oceanic Steamship from Wikipedia

The manner of travel for that time was the Steamship, complete with masts and sails: vestiges of the ship design from the age of exploration. Wikipedia states: “By 1870, a number of inventions, such as the screw propeller, the compound engine,[22] and the triple-expansion engine made trans-oceanic shipping on a large scale economically viable. In 1870, the White Star Line’s RMS Oceanic set a new standard for ocean travel by having its first-class cabins amidships, with the added amenity of large portholes, electricity and running water.[23] The size of ocean liners increased from 1880 to meet the needs of immigration to the United States and Australia.”

Johannes also set out alone for the United States in March, 1880, and after working for awhile on a railroad crew, he built a small house at 1906 South 6th Street in Minneapolis. Then he sent for Gottliebina and their children, who left Germany early in December, 1880. He met them in New York and took them by train to Minneapolis where they settled in their new home. In 1884, another child, Clara Bertha was born. (Note from Joe: There is a house at that address now but it appears to be 1940s vintage, so it was probably built on the same site, maybe the original foundation, but probably completely reconstructed.)

Cemetery records indicate the burial of Gottlieb Herre in the family plot in 1893, and it is possible that he was the last child born to Johannes and Gottliebina, and either died in infancy or was stillborn, as we have no other record of a Gottlieb Herre who died in 1893 in Minneapolis.

Johannes Herre, who had dark hair and a red beard, was a strict authoritarian parent, but he was fair, honest and hard-working. He was a tool and die maker, and worked for the railroad until his death in 1899 at age 59. Gottliebina (called “Mutter” by her children and grandchildren) continued to live in her own home for several years, until her health began to fail. Then she lived with her son-in-law and daughter, Charles Franklin and Anna King until her death in 1922 at age 76. The photo below shows them, possibly at an anniversary.

Charles F King and Anna Herre

Charles F. King (b. 1856), a young carpenter and teamster, had become a good friend of the Herre family, and in 1889 he married Anna Herre (b. 1868), their eldest daughter. Charles and Anna had eight children as shown in the chart and photo below (taken after John Ira’s passing at age 2 – possibly photographed in 1911):

CF King Anna Herre Chart

The CF King Family

Back row, left to right: Clara, Bertrand, Anna King Hesketh, Charles

Middle row: Charles Franklin King, Anna Herre King, Alice King Lewis

Front row: Barbara Helen, Edith

While their children were still very young, the Kings bought a small house at 2522 16th Avenue South in Minneapolis, which Charles then remodeled to accommodate his growing family. He also built the Herre house at 3117 17th Avenue South, in Minneapolis. As the years went by, it became increasingly difficult for him to work as a carpenter, because he had much trouble with hes knees which was attributed to “tuberculosis of the knee”. He died in 1929, of a stroke, about six weeks before his 73 birthday. Anna continued to live in their home with Edith, and Alice and her husband shared an apartment upstairs for a time. In 1936, Anna Herre King died of influenza.

In the early 1900s Mary (Anna Marie) Herre (b 1872) maried Gottlieb Steller, and they settled on a farm at Excelsior, Minnesota. The Stellers had three sons, John (b.1905), George (b.1906) and Wesley (1911). On December 24.1927 Gottlieb was killed by an accident while drilling a well on the farm. Mary continued to live in Excelsior until her death in 1956, of pneumonia following a hip fracture suffered in an auto accident during the funeral procession for Bert King.

John Herre (1874), the only living male child of Johannes and Gotliebina, became a pattern maker for Minneapois Moline. in 1906 He married Loise Ripczinski and they settled in the house that Charles King built on 3117 17th Avenue South in Mineapolis. John and Louine had three children, John F. (b. 1907), Lenore (b.1913) and Myron (b.1919). John died in 1954 at age 79.

The Here family had also become friends with the Chaffee family, who had migrated from New England to establish a farm at Red Wing, Minnesota, south of Minneapolis. One their five sons, Clinton, married Clara Herre (1884) in the Spring of 1913. (Minnesota official marriage certificate website says they were married in Hennepin County on June 16th 1915. Certificate # 01830492). They settled in Minneapolis and adopted a raised two daughters, Clarabelle and Margaret. They had been married for over 40 years when Clara died in March 1956 at age 71. Clinton died in 1961.

(Eustine) Barbara herre (B. 1879) had become a seamstress and had worked her way up to the position of head seamstress for a furrier shop in Minneapolis when she and William Chaffe, Clinton’s older brother, were married later in 4 June 1913 (Certificate # 01640334) They also settled in Minneapolis, where William ran a painting contracting business. Barbara and Bill Chaffe had two children, Willam Herre Chaffee (b.1914) and Harriet Margaret (b. 1915). After Barbara’s husband, Bill died in 1943, she lived with her daughter, Harriet Hawkes until her death in 1956 at age 77, from injuries received in an automobile accident during the funeral procession for Bert King.

Gottlieb and Katherina Herre Jack, who had also settled in Minneapolis, had six children, Olga, Louise, Anna, Otto, Louis and William. Olga (1884) was married to Arthur Tessman. they had no children. Louise (b.1887) never married. Anna (b.1889) was married to Henry Dressler. they had two sons. Anna died in 1984 at age 95.

Otto Jack (b. 1891 Married Ester Ellis. They had four children, Robert (b. 1922), Elaine (b. 1925), William (b.1927) and Joanne (b.1929) Otto died in 1954 at age 63. Lois Jack (b.1894) Married Freda Gerg in 1923. They had two children, Donna (b. 1922) and Richard (b.1925). Lois died of a stroke in 1974 at age 80. His wife died in 1983 at age 89. William Jack (b.1896), the youngest of the Gottlieb and Katherina’s children, died of influenza in 1922 at age 32, without having married. Katherina died in 1936 at age 82, and Gottlieb died in 1943 at age 89.

Only a little is known of the members of the Herre family who remained in Zillhausen. Johan Martin Herre (b. 1856, d.1936), the younger brother of Katherina and Johannes, was married in 1883 to Barbara Konzelmann. They had a son, Jakob Herre, who married a woman named Mina. Rosa, Elsa, and Gottlieb were the children of this marriage. Gottlieb was killed during world War II, as were Rosa’s husband and Elsa’s fiancee. Jakob died in 1969 or 70. His wife, Mina died sometime after 1972. Elsa died of Parkinson’s disease at age 71, in 1991 and presumably, her older sister, Rosa Herre Gohring still lives in Zillhausen.


Marit Arneson: an Immigrant’s Story

Marit Arneson Phelps – AKA: Mary Phelps is Ann Haggen Roushar’s great grand aunt.

An Immigrant’s Story in the Turtle Mountain Star: Rolla North Dakota, February 11, 1960, by JFM

When I had a visit the other day with Mrs. Mary Phelps, better known as “Grandma Phelps”, of rural St. John, who celebrated her 90th birthday January 28th, it seemed like I was talking to a woman 20 or 25 years her junior. Her eyes are clear, she doesn’t wear glasses, her hearing is perfect and her mind is as active and alert as ever. She uses a cane when she goes out as she suffer slightly from rheumatism, but said she doesn’t really need it, but carried it to use in case her son-in-law C.M.Bryant III (Bill) got out of line. She has made her home with the Bryants for the past 22 years.

St John ND

She attributes her condition to a life of hard work. To live to be 90 is not particularly unusual. To be in her condition of health and to possess all her faculties to such a normal degree is unusual. She led the life of a pioneer mother, as so many others did, but I suspect had it just a little harder than most of them, perhaps not. Mrs. Phelps had 12 children of her own after coming to North Dakota and marrying, and reared another boy, Fred Messier, now of Woodland California. She never had a Doctor when any of her children were born, but more about that later.

Nine of her blood children are living, in addition to Mr. Messier. Mrs Phelps has 58 grandchildren, 88 great grandchildren and 11 great great grandchildren. It is an understatement to refer to her as a pioneer “mother”. She did not come to Turtle Mountains until 1900, so was several years behind the first of our Rolette County pioneers. Before this, however, she spent several years in other parts of Dakota Territory. But to get back to the beginning of this story.

Mrs. Arneson was born near Bruflat, Norway, January 28, 1870.

Bruflat Map

Bruflat Church and Cemetery[Note: the Bruflat Church records show her birth date as January 28, 1871 and her baptismal date as April 6, 1871. She was born at Hestekin Farm, Sor Aurdal, Norway. This information was obtained from Stasarkivet-{State Archives} – Hamar, Norway. Gordon McMann]

This [Bruflat] was about four days drive with horse and buggy from Oslo [it was Kristiana then].  Her father’s name was Sivert Arneson. Her grandparents had come to the United States, so her parents decided to leave for the new land. There seemed no future in Norway. The large farms were owned by rich landlords and the Arneson family lived as tenants on a small piece of land, although they did own their own livestock. The grandparents were at Northwood, Iowa, so Sivert, his wife and four children, including Mary and three brothers, set sail from Kristiana in the summer of 1878. The voyage from Kristiana to England was made in a small vessel, and they boarded the Allen Lines Steamship there for the two week voyage to New York, then by train to Iowa.

Allen Line Steamship

Sivert Arneson had two brothers near Portland, North Dakota and the next spring [1879} Sivert[sic] and his family, including Mary, the eldest child incidentally, started for Portland. Two young men, brothers, were making the trip in a covered wagon and Sivert[sic] paid them $10.00 to take his family along. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few personal belongings. There was no bridge across the Red River at Fargo-Moorhead, and the covered wagon, drawn by a team of horses, crossed by ferry pulled by a windlass. The river was much wider than now, or so it seemed to the little girl, who had just turned nine.

Train - Covered Wagon

The father filed on a pre-emption about 12 miles from Portland, they built a sod house and barn, and lived there a few years, then moved to the Cooperstown area and filed on a homestead in Griggs County. Lumber was used to build the one-room house, but they covered it with sod in the winter, for warmth. Twins a boy and a girl, [Milla who later became Grandma Mikkelson and Uncle Oluf] had been born to Mr and Mrs Sivert[sic] Arneson while near Portland and two more daughters [Aunt Gina and Aunt Clara] were born to them in the Cooperstown area. Six of this family of eight are still living and they had a reunion in Minneapolis last August. Most of them live in the Glenwood, Minnesota community.

Mary Arneson was working as a waitress in a hotel at Hope, North Dakota, when she met a young man who had a way with him, named Tom Phelps. He was a good baseball player and also played violin in a dance orchestra. The team and also the orchestra often came to the hotel to eat. On December 24, 1888 at Cooperstown, Mary Arneson of Griggs County and Thomas Phelps of Steele County were married. They had six children when they came to the Turtle Mountains in 1900. Hutchinson Township was not yet open for homestead filing so they squatted on the west side of Jarvis Lake in a shack which the late Tom Blixhavn had built. This was on May 9, 1900. Three days later a disastrous forest fire swept that area and Mr. and Mrs Phelps and their six children were driven out to seek refuge on the prairie. They went to Gronna and stayed in John Hunt’s cabin. Mr Hunt operated a cheese factory in Rolla.

As this photo from the US Department of Interior – Bureau of Land Management photo shows, the Turtle Mountain Wilderness has an untamed beauty, but is not exactly paradise.

BLM Photo of Turtle Mountains

A man whose name Mrs. Phelps does not remember had built a house on the island in Jarvis lake to use during the winters while cutting wood. Other woodcutters from many prairie towns had stayed there on their trips to the mountains. The Phelps family returned to the area just a few days before Christmas, when the lake was frozen over, and occupied that house. The children went out and cut a pretty birch tree, some colored ribbons were rounded up and the family had a Christmas party, meager as it was.

Then came the homestead filing on the land still occupied by a son, Floyd, the struggle for a living, the eventual clearing of 60 fertile acres [Floyd has cleared some more] and all the experiences of the typical family who came to the mountains. The area was solid timber and clearing was grueling work for them, as for all the other, Mrs Phelps remembers the first three years when the source of income was cutting and selling wood. This was the schedule: Mary and son Selmer would cut one cord a day, while the father, Thomas was hauling a load to St John about eight miles distant. Thomas would return late in the afternoon and cut another half cord, often working late into the night. The average load then was a cord and ahalf. The first winter the merchants in St. John paid them .60 cents for the load, later it was a little more. They could not get cash for the wood, only a due-bill on the store for food and merchandise.

Lumber Business

How did they survive? Well they had brought six cows and some chickens from Cooperstown and even .90 Cents bought quite a lot in those days. What about meat? Didn’t they kill some deer? There weren’t any deer, she said, and Bill Bryant explained that the deer did not come into the woods until settlement got a good start with meadows, haystacks, herds of livestock and people. there were no deer in the woods until settlement was well underway. The first two deer that Mrs. Phelps ever saw were in a cleared meadow with the cows many years after they first came into the Jarvis Lake area. There were bears but no other game animals in those first years.

Oh yes, about those babies. Mary’s mother, Mrs. Sivert[sic]Arneson, had been trained, and practiced, as a midwife in Norway. She was living near her daughter both in the Cooperstown area and at Jarvis lake, where six more children were born to Mr. and mrs.Thomas Phelps. So there was no need for a doctor and none was ever called either before or after the birth of a child. when Illinois Certificate of BirthHutchinson County was organized Mrs. Thomas [Mary] Phelps was appointed official midwife and has bought a lot of babies into the world successfully, even being called down on to the prairie in the early days. She got her training from her mother and also studied all the textbooks her mother had brought from Norway. She showed me a birth certificate she has kept, one of the supply she had when she was practicing midwifery and I was surprised to see that the heading is “Certificate of Attending Physician or Midwife”. And the births were all properly recorded in accordance with law I didn’t even know existed. In the early years Hutchinson was full of white settlers but most of the land has been sold to the government and only a handful of the original families remain. Here is an example from the period of a similar certificate used in Illinois.

Thomas Phelps died 25 years ago. Mrs. Phelps remained with her son Floyd on the home place for about three years, then came to make her home with her daughter, Mrs. Jessie Bryant.

The Surviving children are Mrs. Florence Materne, Spokane, Washington, Mrs. Laura Anderson, Nez Perce, Idaho, Mrs. Sarah Fluker, Cartwright, Manitoba, Mrs. C.W. [Evelyn] Holum, Rolla, North Dakota, Floyd, Rural St. John, Mrs. C.M. [Jessie] Bryant III, Rural St John, Mrs Felix Durocher [Annie], Kalispell Montana, Henry, Havre Montana, C..M. [Kelly, Kinsington, Minnesota and Fred Messier. All but Mrs. Durocher, Henry and Kelly were back for the bidg birthday party, January 28.

Note: When J.F.M. wrote this Grandpa Arneson’s name was spelled Sivert[sic]. I never changed it as I was unsure about the correct spelling. As it happens the correct spelling is Syver as confirmed by Grandma Mikkelson’s Birth or Baptismal Certificate.

Pioneer Trek – July 23-25

Ann and I were asked to participate in a youth group activity last week. It was a fabulous experience for us and for the young people who participated. We were “Ma and Pa” for one of a bunch of families, each with 10 or 11 kids between 14 and 18 years old from various congregations in the northwest metro area of Minneapolis. The three day activity was held at Crow Hassan Park Reserve.

Pioneer Trek - The dusty trail

Most of the kids in our “family” we didn’t know before Thursday morning when we met them. Here are some photos Angy Macfarlane took (none of the “families” had modern technology).

Pioneer Trek 2015 - Handcart

We reenacted a small portion of the Mormon pioneers’ mid-1800s journey across the Great Plains to Utah in which thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, many recent immigrants from Europe, fled persecution in the east to establish a safe home in the Rocky Mountains. Each group consisted of families pulling all they had (17 pounds limit) in a handcart. These replicas were made to the same design Brigham Young gave the Cartwrights back then.

Pioneer Trek - Team Building