A Nifty Site!

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Thursday, August, 23 2012 06:10:00 pm   , 689 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 29530 views



As one can rather readily see from this website and blog, I love to do historical research.  I sometimes contribute information and photographs to a really useful and fascinating website called Find A Grave. Thus far my involvement with the site has been mostly the provision of headstone photographs, but I have added a few items of historical interest.  The site is very useful for historical and genealogical information, and contributions from site users are an important factor in making the site one of the web's most popular.

Find A Grave is interesting in so many ways. It has a section, for example, dedicated to the truly famous and to "celebrities."  Searches of the site reveal not just information of where a particular individual of renown is buried, but usually some pretty extensive biographical information and portraits of the figure.  Details often include photographs of the grave site, as well.  The site managers generally decide who fits the term "famous" and who does not, so if you report a burial and therewith contribute a biography, you may just find that the person about whom you submitted data is not so much celebrated, even though highly estimable.  Take, for example, Lawrence Deger.

Larry Deger was the owner of a lumber yard in the newly-platted rebuilding of Velasco, Texas, four miles up the Brazos River from its older version (the Velasco of "Battle of Velasco" fame and of the "Treaties of Velasco").  Ok, a lumber yard owner, you say, interesting enough.  But this Lawrence Deger had earlier lived in Kansas and had been a marshal there. In fact, he was the first town marshal of Dodge City, Kansas.  There he became a personal and political rival of Bat Masterson, serving eventually as mayor.  But what was he doing in Velasco, Brazoria County, Texas?  Well, the building of a new Velasco was part of an ambitious plan, formulated by Kansas cattleman and eastern capitalists, such as William McDole Lee, to deepen the mouth of the Brazos and to remove its vexatious hindrance to development and commerce, its infamous sandbar.  (A blog entry elsewhere in this website concerns the "lighthouse" built as part of this grand enterprise to build a rival to Galveston.)  Deger almost certainly was lured south by the optimism and promise.  He even served  as the postmaster of the new Velasco from 1898 to 1914. Interesting, but not a claim to fame, sayeth the managers of Find A Grave. Anyhow, you can see my additions of Larry and wife Etta to the Find A Grave data.  Just go to the "Find Graves" section, click on "Search...[x#]  Million Grave Records" and type in "Deger" on the search bar.

I like the non-famous section for research, since generally the people I research are of local or state significance, and though they may have made significant accomplishments, are not regarded as of world or national renown.  You can do searches of both the famous and non-famous sections.  You can search for a cemetery or for the grave of a particular individual. (In the famous section, you can search according to someone's claim to fame, or infamy.) Considering, of course, the huge number of cemeteries, there is a pretty good chance, you won't find whom you are searching for, but you will often be surprised, at least the name and cemetery will quite often be listed, with possibly a pic or two of the cemetery, if not of the person's gravestone.

The forums section is very interesting and helpful to those interested in cemetery preservation and historical study.  One can make queries and share historical and biographical information. Cemeteries so often are the only sources extant to verify certain historical facts about an individual: when they arrived somewhere, that they arrived and lived in an area, and so on. Often, people are buried in places other than where they lived, and the reasons add to family history and often reveal relationships of which family researchers were not even aware.

Have a look at the site, read about the famous and the not so famous. This website will add to your appreciation of cemeteries and their preservation.

The Gray Man of Hatteras

 , By Caroline
on Saturday, August, 27 2011 06:03:53 pm   , 231 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 46621 views

Completed in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the world. In 1999 the lighthouse was moved further inland to protect it from beach erosion.

With Hurricane Irene battering the coast of North Carolina it brings to mind The Gray Man of Hatteras, a ghost that is said to appear foreshadowing approaching hurricanes.  The legend is that a man dressed in grey clothes walks along the Cape Hatteras shore between Cape Point and the Hatteras Lighthouse warning of approaching hurricanes.   It is uncertain of when the Gray Man made his first appearance but sightings of the Gray Man go back to the early 1900s.   Accounts of the Gray Man are sketchy; some speak only of seeing the Gray Man and upon approaching he starts to blur and dissapears.  Other accounts speak of a verbal warning from the Gray Man before he disappears.

It is uncertain of who the Gray Man was in life but past accounts speaks of a man named Gray who lived not far from Cape Point in the late 1800s.  Before modern weather statellites, hurricanes often caught people unaware.  The legend goes that Gray went out to sea not knowing that a hurricane was approaching and drown during the storm.  Since his death, Gray appears before an approaching hurricane to give out his warnings to allow others the chance to reach safe haven from the storm.


Wildflowers: Spiderworts

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Wednesday, August, 10 2011 06:37:43 pm   , 1075 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 57095 views


Though I have in years past noticed spiderworts, I have only recently been paying particular attention to these fascinating and beautiful plants. I have never really done much in the way of research on them; however, the wildflowers here in the coastal region of Texas this year* have been truly spectacular, and I have been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to capture their beauty in pictures. Likewise I have been attempting to identify these plant species from a favorite reference book I have on North American flora and fauna. I found the plant illustrated and described therein, and one fact stated about spiderwort blooms so amazed me that I just had to know more!

Despite my study, I'm still not certain if the spiderworts growing locally are specimens of Tradescantia humilis, commonly called "Texas Spiderwort," but the ones I've been seeing here in open prairie areas thriving quite well in full sunlight are all of the same species and are very pretty. While these local plants have bluer blooms than the slightly purplish-pink Texas Spiderworts depicted on internet sites, various references state that bloom color variations of certain spiderworts may be dependent upon soil ph. Texas is home to several species of spiderworts, including the widespread Tradescantia ohiensis, also known as "Bluejacket," which grows over much of the eastern United States. There are six species native to the area around Austin.

Spiderwort is a rather peculiar name for a flowering plant, and explanations for it differ from one reference to another.  The genus name (Tradescantia) is in honor of John Tradescan, Senior, head gardener for King Charles I of England. Tradescan was a renowned collector of garden plants and he and his son, John, Jr., who after his father's death in 1638 was also head gardener to King Charles I, were responsible for introducing many species of New World plants to the gardens of Europe. The latter part of the common name of spiderwort (or spider wort) comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "wyrt" meaning "herb" or "root".  The "spider"-part of the name is less definitely attributable. One explanation is that it is due to the way in which the blooms (each of which lives but one day) hang like spiders as though on a web. Another attribution states that there was a belief that certain parts of the plant would cure spider bites. (Sap of the plant can be used to soothe scrapes and scratches.) Still another explanation has it that the name comes from the spider-web-like hairs (chains of single cells) that emanate from the stamens of the blossoms of some species.

Yet another explication attributes the name to the web-like streams of mucilaginous substance that effuse from torn and separated stems or leaves. These strands dry very quickly upon exposure to air, creating threads like the strands made by a spider. This characteristic of the plant is also responsible for another common name of the plant, "cow slobber."

While a bouquet of cow slobber may not sound too appealing, consider that cow slobber plants are also edible---Yum, cow slobber!---(stems, leaves, and flowers, can be eaten raw or added, like okra, to stews as a thickening agent). One source states that spiderwort tastes like spinach. Another points out that the blossoms make a colorful garnish for salads. (There is an interesting YouTube video on the preparation of spiderwort: "EatTheWeeds: Episode 15: Spiderwort, Tradescantia.") Sources vary on the degree of edibility of different species of spiderwort, thus, I'd recommend careful research and consultation with local experts before ingesting any wild plant. One website source that gives this caution also states that Tradescantia virginiana is edible, as do many other websites, and yet another states that it is not edible but has medicinal properties.

There are 71 species of the Tradescantia genus. Representatives of this monocotyledonous plant range throughout much of the Americas from southern Canada to northern Argentina.  The first species collected for John Tradescan sometime before 1629 (when it was introduced to the gardens of England) was the Tradescantia virginiana. The first fully scientific description of the plant was made in 1898 by John Small a botanist and curator at the New York Botanical Garden.

Spiderworts hybridize easily and partly for this reason have long, since the time of Tradescan, been a garden favorite. Attribution of species in the wild is often compounded due to this tendency to hybridize. Being monocots (plants like grasses whose seeds sprout with one leaf, or cotyledon, as opposed to dicots, which have two cotyledons), spiderworts possess three pedals. (The bloom pattern of monocots is flowers of three, six, or nine petals.) The blooms in the wild are usually blue or a variant thereof.  There are six stamens, ending with a yellow or orange tip. As stated, the stamens have fine hairs that are often quite showy. There is a quality about the blooms and stamens of spiderworts that is quite amazing. Spiderworts are more sensative than most of the instruments that exist for the detection of low levels of radiation. The cells of the stamen hairs, which in most varieties are blue, change by mutation from blue to pink when exposed to even the most minute levels to ionizing radiation. Likewise they react in the same way to increased levels of environmental pollution.

Wild spiderworts are often welcomed as garden plants whenever they appear as "volunteers." Wild and domesticated varieties are often used as border plants. They can be grown from seed, from cuttings, and from transplanting of entire plants or their roots. The plants can grow in full sun with little or no shade but need plenty of water for consistent flowering. Each bloom lasts only a day, and if touched in the midday sun, a flower will wither into a sticky blue fluid, especially after the bees or other insects have fertilized it and it has begun to wither. Spiderworts will bloom for several months depending on the varety and locale. In Texas, the flowers can be seen from March to June. (In its home range Tradescantia virginiana blooms from May through August.) The flowers appear in clusters atop the stem and bloom successively over several months. There are many domesticated spectacular varieties of spiderworts and they (as well as their wild cousins) are a beautiful, suitable, and colorful addition to any garden.



Spiderwort (possibly Tradescantia humilis, Rose) in Brazoria County, Texas.

John Tradescan, Sr., head gardener to King Charles I of Great Britain.

(*This article was first published 8 April 2011.)

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