Thursday, July 22, 2021

Pieces of the Santa Fe Trail - Shoo Fly


In the words of Marian Russell...

Will and I soon fitted into the life at Albuquerque.  We played with the Mexican children.  We built make-believe forts with them and shot many an arrow at imaginary Indians.  The trail over which we had come held a fascination for us.  We played along it as far as mother would let us.  Sometimes we would find a dry land terrapin.  They loved to walk slowly along the trail that led westward.  We wondered if they had come all the way from Fort Leavenworth.  When we touched them they drew their heads back in their shells.  We sometimes stood barefooted upon them.

Our adobe house stood with its back to the street, or road I suppose you would call it.  Neither door nor window graced that long side.  One night when the scouts were all gone on reconnoitering expeditions and we were alone, Mother became frightened.  She awoke in the night to hear an oft-repeated and unusual noise.  It sounded like a pack rat working.  Mother arose and lighted a candle.  The noise stopped in a moment.  She looked around and seeing nothing amiss, went back to bed again, only to have the queer noise start over again.  This time she arose in the darkness and walking softly discovered the noise came from where a big trunk was sitting against that windowless wall.  Again she lighted a candle.  She pulled the trunk forward and discovered a yawning black hole staring at her.  Someone outside had been digging through the adobe wall seeking entrance.  The hole was not large enough to permit a man's body.  It was lucky mother had awakened.  She was frightened but courageous.  She nailed the front door and hung her silver teaspoons tied together to the latch string.  They were to be the alarm if the marauders sought entrance at the door.  She loaded a rifle and sat with it on her lap by the hole in the wall until morning.  Next morning we found in the great heap of soft earth they had dug and piled outside by the opening some footprints.  They were not the footprints of Indian.  We found tracks of a man, a large man with shoes, a barefooted man and a burro.  Who were they?  Why were they burrowing through the walls of a little adobe house?  Mother had no money, nothing of value.  We never found out who the intruders were, but mother was always fearful when our boarders were all gone at once.

I think that after mother's rather frightening experience in Albuquerque she was always a wee bit afraid.  When one of her boarders suggested that she move to Santa Fe where he was soon to be stationed, she gladly consented.  In the spring of 1854, we moved to Santa Fe and mother leased a large adobe house on the central Plaza.  That adobe house, our first home in Santa Fe was torn down later and the present New Mexico Art Museum erected in its place.  We soon had our house filled with military boarders.  They paid at the princely rate of $45.00 per month.

The Mexicans all over the territory seemed to worship Father Lamy.  His spirituality and devout faith controlled that mass of seething humanity that could, perhaps, have been controlled in no other way.  At dawn when the bell rang for early mass we would see him come to stand on the steps of the Cathedral.  From crooked alleys and narrow streets his people came.  Shambling furtive-eyed men and black-shawled women came, and he raised his hands and blessed them.  His love-inspired prayers laid hold of their simple hearts and held them at the altar of his church.  The lovely church altar meant much to the Mexicans and converted Indians - worship and adoration and mystery.

It was the year 1852 that Bishop Lamy induced six Loretta nuns to leave the mother convent in Kentucky and to establish a school for girls in illiterate Santa Fe.  The story of their pilgrimage is a story of heartache and pain.  One died of cholera and was buried in Independence.  Another became sick and had to return.

The school that the sisters established enrolled 100 girls that first year; 95 little Mexican girls and five American ones.  Of this enrollment 99 were Catholic.  The sisters called me rebukingly, albeit lovingly, "their little heretic."  Many were the stories they told me of the 99 who safely lay in the shelter of the fold.

Our uniforms at the Academy were rather varied.  For every day we wore dark purplish ones, rather long and gathered tightly to a high-waisted belt.  On feast days we had better grade black ones, and on holidays we blossomed out in rosy pink.  All were made alike, simply, ankle length, rather full and high waisted.  Even today I can see us, 100 strong, in long, high-waisted dresses. 

I have never forgotten how the sisters tried to instill into our little hearts a little bit of culture, and the hard time they had so doing.  They planned our lessons so that we might learn poise and self reliance along with readin', writin' and 'rithmetic.  Textbooks were sometimes laid aside and our lessons went on with marvelous ease and quietness.  Each day we were supposed to do something for others, to help others.  it was there that I learned how much easier it is to act than to think.  Contemplation defied me.  Unholy thoughts came pressing up, not to be denied at the hour of contemplation.  Shape after shape, grotesque and ugly, forced themselves into my child's mind.  If you think contemplation is easy, just try it.

We were taught in the Academy to do fine bead and needle work.  The material for Bishop Lamy's robes was brought all the way from Leavenworth by wagon train.  The sisters made the robes by hand.  Always they saved the little left-over fragments for use in the sewing classes.  Sometimes we made pin cushions and needle books out of them.  I made in those classes a very handsome needle book out of a fragment of Father's robe.  I marvel at the little even stitches my seven year old fingers did make.  I have given the little souvenir of school days to a grand-daughter who wears today the black robes of a Benedictine sister.  It rests today, the little souvenir, in a Catholic museum.

Sometimes, while we sewed or did our Indian bead work the sisters would tell us stories.  I think that the stories they told us were the sweetest and best ever told to the little girls and boys.  One story they told us was of the little Lord Jesus and a scarlet cactus apple.

Behind the church of San Miguel was the boy's school that Will attended.  He, too, was a "little heretic."  Many a time was he sent home by Father Lamy in disgrace for lack of reverence or respect to the Catholic creed.  While this school was across the river from the girl's Academy, it was not so far away that the boys did not come at recess and climb upon the adobe wall and call to the little girls across the river.  This was against the rules, but boys and girls have defied such rules all their lives.  In those days Will, who loved girls, said that he hated Father Lamy's school and it was not until later years that the seed Father Lamy had planted in his wayward heart took root and bore fruit.  It never did in mine.  I shall die a "little heretic."

Fronting Santa Fe's Central Plaza on the north was the Governor's Palace, a one story adobe structure surrounding an inner court.  The Governor's Palace looked as if it might have been transplanted from medieval ages.  It had been the residence of territorial governors for years.  One end strongly barred and bolted was used for a jail.  One evening a political prisoner who was being held there called to me as I passed on my way home from school.  He sat just inside the barred doorway, an unlighted cigarette in his hand.  Perhaps he was lonesome and wanted to talk to someone so badly that even a child would do.  I lingered a moment as he tried to entertain me.  He sang, I remember, "Shoo fly, don't bother I," and when I laughed at him he took out his great silver watch to show me.  He told me he had a little girl at home waiting for him.  He said that her braids were as long as mine but that hers were yellow, like gold.  When he talked of his daughter his blue eyes looked troubled.  His voice soft and gentle.

I went home to tell mother; perhaps she would give me a cookie to take back to my friend, the prisoner.  She only said to wait until morning.  

The Shoo Fly block pattern is available in my Payhip store.  It is another beginner friendly block that perhaps young Marion may have learned to sew while under the educational training of those sisters at the Academy.  

I wonder, too, what sort of cookies would Eliza have had on hand for Marion to take to "her prisoner?"  Perhaps some Molasses cookies?  Oatmeal Raisin?  Ginger Snap?  Ginger Snaps may have been a "staple" for the trail, much like hardtack.  Here's a yummy Molasses Cookie Recipe.  These were among some of my Grandpa T's favorite cookies...  slightly sweet and chewy.  Grandpa knew Marion - his sister, Viola, was married to one of Marion's sons (Richard).  

Molasses Cookies

4 cup enriched flour (sifted)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup Original Molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together first six ingredients.

Melt shortening in saucepan large enough for mixing cookies. Stir in molasses and sugar. Cool. 

Beat in egg. Gradually add flour mixture. Beat about 20 strokes.  Shape into balls (golf-ball size). Place on greased baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes or until cookies have lightly browned. Store in covered stone jar.

What's your favorite cookie? 

 Leave a comment... you know I love it when you "stop by for a visit."

P.S.  Marion's story of "her prisoner" has a very tragic ending.  This poor girl certainly had some life experiences!

It (morning) was too late then to take cookies, for during the night, someone came softly close to the bars and shot my prisoner through the heart!  It must have happened not long after darkness had fallen, for he still sat in his chair by the door, the unlighted cigarette on the floor by the tips of his fingers.  I was the one to find him when I came bearing gifts in the morning.  His head was sunken on his chest.  I could not see his face, but I saw the clotted blood on his shirt front.  We were told that often happened to political prisoners.  He was killed, they said to prevent his betrayal of State secrets.  We never knew the reason, but I have thought often of the child with the yellow hair who waited for the return of her father.  The Old Governor's Palace at Santa Fe holds many age-old secrets.

A footnote in the book states "It is possible that the prisoner was murdered by members of his own underground group to prevent his being forced to reveal the names of other members, places of rendezvous and intentions.  Secret groups were strong and both civil and military officials were forced to maintain constant vigilance."

Get your pattern, make your block and then share it!  Don't forget to use the hashtags #PiecesoftheSantaFeTrail #PiecesoftheTrail #PiecesoftheTrailSewAlong and tag me on instagram @MelvaLovesScraps or share to my fb page Melva Loves Scraps.  
Be sure to come back and link up your block for a chance to win a fat quarter too!

Linking with:

Put Your Foot Down at For the Love of Geese
Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation
Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty
Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More
Friday Foto Fun at Powered by Quilting
Finished or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts
BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts
TGIFFridays at Devoted Quilter
Scrap Happy Saturday at Super Scrappy
UFO Busting at Tish’s Wonderland
Oh Scrap! at Quilting is More Fun Than Housework
Sunday Stash at QuiltPaintCreate
Patchwork & Quilts at The Quilting Patch
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts


  1. It's hard to pick a favorite cookie. I love oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip and snickerdoodles.

  2. My hubby loves molasses. I bet he would love these! Of course, he's always been a cookie monster! LOL My favorite cookie is old fashioned tea cakes my granny and aunt used to make. I'm so glad I got Aunt Myra's recipe before she passed.

    These excerpts get more and more interesting. Thanks so much for sharing them. And the Shoo Fly block is one of my favorites!!

  3. The Old Governor's Palace has such a different impact on Santa Fe now; it's difficult to imagine such sad events that happened there in the past. I'm really enjoying the book.

  4. My favorite cookies are Coconut Macaroons and No Bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.

    I just new before reading that she wouldn't be giving him a cookie in the morning. I thought it might be that he would be hanged.

  5. Love the shoo fly block - and yum molasses cookies - those sound good

  6. Thank you for sharing these stories. Wow, Grampa was related by marriage to the storyteller! That is an interesting note! LOVE molasses cookies!

  7. I am loving these stories. I lived in Los Alamos for a while, years ago, and it's interesting to hear about the history of Santa Fe. Dot

  8. My hubby loves snickerdoodles although, he has said he has never met a cookie that he didn't like! I like oatmeal raisin cookies and my girls enjoyed chocolate chip cookies.

  9. Thanks for sharing another instalment of Marion's memories. Great to know it was considered necessary and right to educate girls from all backgrounds (even heretics!). Although the life experiences Marion describes were quite an education in themselves!

  10. I always look forward to reading about this family. Children were exposed to many more experiences in those days than today!
    My favorite cookie is a plain sugar cookie made with butter. Yummy!

  11. I’m sort of like TerryKnott’s husband. There aren’t many cookies I don’t like! Not real fond of a coconut macaroon, but that may be the only one! Molasses cookies are favorites! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  12. Those chronicles are fascinating reading and told with such understated drama. Children were not protected from the sad and scary parts of life like they are now! I love following this
    Favorite cookies are my Granny Mitchell's sugar cookies and a nutmeg teacake Mom and I used to make in the early 1960s.

  13. I remembered to link up this time - yay!

  14. My favorite cookie, hands down, is a homemade chocolate chip cookie with slightly less sugar than the traditional Toll House recipe. No nuts!!! :) How sad, thinking of her finding her prisoner killed the next morning!

  15. My daughter made some Lemon Cookie this week and they taste good :-)

  16. Great and sad story...
    I love all sort of cookies 😉