More than just Spring Water… in that wagon

More than just Spring Water… in that Wagon


Source: Geological survey of Georgia Report on the Mineral Springs of Georgia

I’ve always heard the stories of how my great-grandfather, William Clark Bryan drove his wagon around Union Point (Georgia) selling spring water from Daniel Mineral Spring – just outside of town on the old Washington Road, Hwy 44; pretty much dried up and overgrown with shrubbery now. After a recent visit with my cousin, Charles Bryan of Union Point, well it seems there may have been more than just spring water in those jugs jostling around in the back of that wagon.

William C. Bryan (1876-1954) moved to the Union Point area in the late 1920’s with his first wife, Sara Turner Bryan (1881-1939); remarried Evie Edwards Cochran in 1944, after Sara’s death in 1939. Besides the small amount of farming he did in supporting the family and driving his wagon up and down the streets of Union Point selling those vegetables… he also sold spring water… but was it really spring water?

There was also cornmeal in bags amongst the jugs in the back of his wagon… the women bought to make cornbread, while the men bought to make corn licquor; and if they wanted their own corn ground, old man Bryan could take care of that too…. taking half for his profit.Charles said his grandfather had a small grist mill on his small farm, which worked off electricity. He knew about this because as a small boy he shucked corn for him…. thinking it was fun. Once he grew older, and realized how what was once fun, is really now work… well he stopped helping, as it wasn’t  fun any longer.


Source: Geological survey of Georgia – Report on the Mineral Springs of Georgia

Before I divulge more of Charles’ moonshine tales….. let’s return back to mama’s remembered stories…

Mama says… “The only “shine” I knew was the watermelon rind whiskey W.C. Bryan made. I knew that because my father grew large fields of watermelons to feed his hogs and he saved the rinds for ‘old man Bryan; how he most often was referred to at that time.” I googled watermelon rind whiskey, and while I did find recipes, they seemed to pretty much include the inside of the watermelon as well, not just the rind…. so what did he make? Could he have made rind pickles? But, at this point, all I know is he indeed made something with those rinds, and I bet it wasn’t pickles!

Another tale by mama… “I remember daddy telling me that one time ‘old man Bryan asked him if he wanted some of the whiskey” and he replied...”I don’t want no damn rind whiskey!” Mama often spoke of W.C. Bryan as a character…. and so was her father!

My mother’s father, granddaddy McKinley, wasn’t one who did partake in a swig or two, and on one occasion mama remembers him quite soused! He only drank bonded liquor, he didn’t want any moonshine – never trusted it. Frank, one of the tenants who sharecropped on his farm, actually died from poisoned moonshine. The local bootleggers, tired of their stash being stolen, actually poisoned a still and waited. Whether Frank stole it or bought from someone who did, he died after drinking it.

Greene County, Georgia was a well-known moonshine county… and their moonshine even made its way, just a few counties over, to arrive in the state capitol of Atlanta. Until I began researching moonshine in Greene County… I never knew it had been so populated with bootleggers. Another name Charles mentioned was Sheriff Wyatt, and while mama has mentioned him through the years, I never realized his popularity.

In hearing Sheriff Wyatt’s name from Charles, I asked mama again and she had a couple of stories …. “Yes I remember Wyatt and Tuggle; his deputy who went everywhere with him. Sheriff Wyatt even pulled me over late one night on the road to Siloam from Greensboro; I was driving “old flizzy – daddy’s 1955 flat-head green Ford. He strolled up to my window and said, “girl do you know how fast you were going.” I replied, “now Sheriff Wyatt you know this old car can’t go that fast.” He slightly smiled, telling me to just slow it down; “I bet he chuckled as he slid back behind the wheel of his police car. Daddy’s car, “old fliz” as I always called it, could most certainly fly and I often pushed it to its limit late at night on the back roads. One night, Willie Mae (my girlfriend) and I lost one of his deputies on the back roads down from the farm. I knew those roads better than anyone and we left him out at Flat Rock area – him…wondering where the heck he was! We went back to the farm, shut all the lights and watched for headlights coming down the road – no one came! Later it was told around town that he had gotten lost in chasing someone out there and he thought he’d never find his way out. It wasn’t the first time this specific cop had threatened to pull me over, but eventually on the night I let him pull me over… I had state trooper friends following, and they pulled right over behind his car – had words with him and sent him on his way; he never bothered me again.”

While my father would have nothing to do with actually making moonshine, he didn’t have a problem with buying bonded liquor in a wet county to resell in the dry county of Greene; which was also an illegal activity. Granddaddy McKinley sold anything and everything to make a buck… banking his money slow and continuously. Whenever granddaddy visited his brother in Milledgeville, he always made a stop first at the liquor store to buy bottles for resale; ‘old fliz never came home with an empty trunk. If he paid $2 a bottle, he sold it for $4! One night after arriving at Uncle Lewis and Aunt Annie’s home late, I proceeded to tell them that granddaddy bought ‘friskey – after they asked why we were late! Never do or say anything in front of children – if you don’t want it told!

By this time, if you’re wondering did Sheriff Wyatt ever visit granddaddy McKinley’s farm in search of that bonded liquor – well YES he did – and on more than one occasion; but he always left empty handed! I can just picture that smile/smirk on granddaddy’s face after he left! Mama remembers how upset her mother became in the middle of the night when they knocked on the door – she stood in the house crying and wringing her hands, fearful that “daddy”, as she always called him, would be arrested.

Mama says… “I never did think to ask daddy years later exactly where his secret hiding spot for his whiskey had been, but I’m betting it was under the corn crib. What makes me think that is because anytime we had family over for Sunday dinner, the men always went up to the barn where the corn was stored; that was their gathering place after dinner. They never returned being able to walk a straight line!”

I’m told that Siloam, where granddaddy McKinley lived, didn’t turn wet until around 1979 – he didn’t live to see the change. In further googling, I discovered that there were 446 dry counties in the southeastern United States… Georgia alone had 116 dry “vs” 43 wet ones. Those rural counties didn’t begin changing until the 1970’s, and then the change to go wet actually went city by city, not county wide.

Now let’s return to my cousin Charles’ well remembered stories along these lines…


William Clark Bryan

Charles… “My grandfather drove his old wagon all around Union Point, up and down the side streets peddling jugs of spring water he filled daily at Daniel’s Spring.” Back in its day, the Daniel Spring area was filled with people travelling there by wagon to picnic and enjoy a weekend stay at the hotel. Through the years, times changed, the hotel became no more, and the spring eventually followed; today, most people no longer even recognize the name when asked. If you are lucky enough to remember where it was, and you look hard enough, you’ll probably find a trickle of water underneath the now overgrown area.

Charles… “I learned quickly as a young boy that it really wasn’t spring water in those jugs rattling around in the back of my grandfather’s wagon. Instead, what he really peddled was… his home-made corn-fed moonshine; a recipe most likely learned from his father, William Madison Bryan.” Hopefully he had some legit jugs of spring water in the wagon for the ladies, imagine selling the wrong jug… well someone would have been happy all day!

Charles… “Another beverage I remember him making was Cinnamon Beer and it was brewed in a barrel stuffed with broom straw in the bottom. He added cinnamon, black locust pods, ripe persimmons and sugar on top. – covered and waited.” I googled cinnamon beer and discovered that indeed persimmons were used in making beer, but they stressed the use of ripe persimmons, definitely not green; if you’ve ever eaten a green persimmon, you know what I mean as your mouth will feel like it’s just been turned inside out. The seeds, which are used to brew beer and wine, actually give a cinnamon taste when dried. I think I’m going to have to get myself a persimmon and check out that taste, but I’ll definitely make sure it’s ripe as I remember mama talking about that; they had a persimmon tree on the farm and as stubborn as she was, I’m thinking she learned the hard way. It would be so like her to bite into a green one… thick headed and never listening.

Making moonshine was the drink of the North Georgia mountains; the men grew up learning how to brew and sell.

Charles: “Remember how I told you that William Madison Bryan moved around many times, your great-great grandfather; he moved often from county to county, and there was a reason for that. Whenever the law got after him for selling moonshine, he’d moved on to another county. He also was one of the Bryan men who added the “t” at the end of his name – off and on. If he was in trouble in one county, he moved and changed his name from Bryan to Bryant.” I often wondered why I found him in the census records as Bryan in one county and then Bryant in the next county, never thinking of that reason.

Charles father (Leon Bryan) didn’t follow in his dad’s (William Clark Bryan) footsteps of making bootleg moonshine, but he did make beer. “I think I found my dad’s beer on more than one occasion. The saddest thing was when we’d hear “pop” “pop” “pop” on a hot summer day… we knew the bottles had become over -heated and the beer was lost as the exploded bottle caps allowed the liquid to flow out.”

Charles… “I also remember daddy’s brother Gordon selling moonshine. Daddy often told the tale of when Gordon and his wife moved back to his father’s farm in Union Point. While standing on the back porch one evening, he saw something move down by the hog pens. He sensed that someone was down there so he went inside and told his father (W.C. Bryan), who walked down there and threw slop out to the pigs. He looked over to where Wyatt stood and said, “if I’d known you were down here, I wouldn’t have thrown the slop.” Hiding and spying down there was Sheriff Wyatt, well known in Greene County for catching moonshiners; I guess the Bryan men were on his list!

Charles… “After my grandmother, Sara (Turner) Bryan, died in 1939, ‘old man Bryan moved in with his son Gordon, and while Gordon didn’t actually make whiskey, he did buy moonshine and bonded liquor in a wet county to bring back into the dry county of Greene – which was also against the law. It was also illegal to bring it over the borders for consumption or resell, but that didn’t often stop anyone; Sheriff Wyatt looked to sniff you out on those back door sales as well as the moonshiners. I remember Gordon keeping his bottles hidden on the back porch, high above under a loose plank. One night Sheriff Wyatt lay in wait…watching and waiting, he was good at that. Gordon walked out on the back porch and before he took down a bottle, suddenly Wyatt appeared, telling him, “If you stay here I’m going to catch you. Gordon was another one of the Bryan men who used the “T” on their name.”

Gordon packed up all he owned in one suitcase, and with his pregnant wife, they left on the bus for High Point, N.C. – never leaving that area again. One thing about Wyatt, he often gave you warning, but if you didn’t heed that warning, then eventually he caught you.”

Like to read more…. just click Family Stories

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: My Favorite Dress

Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories:    My Favorite Dress

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.

My Favorite Dress

Family pic in color (800x717)


If I was lucky to enough to have this very dress I”m wearing, it surely would be a treasured heirloom, but I only have a photograph to remember it by.

My mother sewed this dress for me as she did all my clothes in growing up. She often sat up half the night , determined to finish once she started. I’m told she survived all night on black coffee and a cigarette; I awakened in the morning to find on a hanger, all pressed!

All my clothes were homemade until I was about twelve years old and begged for store bought – she said it broke her heart as she so enjoyed sewing my dresses. And not only did she sew the dresses, she also embroidered them. What patience and skills she had! I can understand how she wanted to stay up all night to finish, as when I knit for my grandchildren, I so wish I could finish right away… instead of weeks.

Even today, mama often mentions this specific dress and how proud of it she was… and wishing she had kept just this one. Most all my clothes were passed down to her girlfriend for her daughters, so at least they were used. I even have a photo of one of them in this same very dress.


My homemade Easter dress – I believe the purse was bought, but she may have made the hat. Mama liked to make bows on my dresses when I was young. If only I hadn’t closed my eyes!

Jeanne Easter_0001

They did a retake – eyes open and smiling!

There wasn’t anything my mother couldn’t sew and all without bought patterns; she never liked having to follow directions. She made her own patterns on newspaper measuring against other clothes and cutting them as she wanted. And if she didn’t have material, she’d reuse what she did have. I think the reason I never saw my father’s “whites” from the Navy is because she wanted white slacks… need I saw more!

When mama took Home Ec in high school, she made a mess of the dress she sewed and had to model. She tried telling the teacher that she could sew it her own way, but the teacher insisted she follow directions. The dress came out hiked up on one side and the teacher made her model it anyway. Being the “scootch” my mother is, she modeled it swishing and swaying across the stage and the boys all hooted! Of course the teacher wasn’t happy with her performance but mama was mad at how the teacher wouldn’t listen to her… so she decided to model it her way! Once home her mother took the dress apart and redid it; grandmama sewed the same way – no pattern.

During my Barbie phase, mama became her seamstress. My girlfriends and I took turns going into mama,  pretending to order new clothes for Barbie. While we played… mama sewed – later we returned to pick up Barbie’s new clothes.

While living in Perry, she fell in love with the jumpsuits the Air Force guys wore; there were no patterns for them to fit women at the time. Mama took a shirt and pants pattern of hers, meshing them together to create her own jumpsuit. I think she made herself one in every color pattern of fabric she had, wearing  them for a long time. Several women asked mama where she bought them, as they all wanted one; she’d laugh saying “they can’t be bought.” Now she says, “if I was smart, I would have patented that pattern.

Later when she and daddy took square dance lessons, mama sewed herself several of those fancy square dance outfits with a shirt for daddy to match each one. Recently she told me how she sat up all night sewing hundreds and hundreds of tiny sequins all over those skirts. If you’ve ever sewed sequins, you know she must have had very sore fingers by morning. I do remember seeing her and daddy all dressed up in those matching outfits, and I often tagged along to watch; they let me dance on the “Last Call” dance of the night.

Even though I have no actual “heirloom” – I have many “heirloom memories” that I’ve preserved here with my story.

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to  read more stories…

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with, has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.

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Day 3:Vacation / Genealogy Trip -October 16, 2016

Vacation / Genealogy Trip

Day 3 – October 16, 2016


We missed celebrating our daughter’s birthday today – Happy Birthday Melissa! I promise to make you your favorite “carrot cake” when I return! It’s just not her birthday without the carrot cake. (This year I suggested/begged hubby to make it for me as I was working, but I did offer to make the frosting. And I have to say he did an awesome job on the cake… tasted just like mine! It was so good that I didn’t even get a photo – oops!

Day 3:

Today we decided to stay close to home and do a little antique shopping… there are two awesome antique malls where mama lives – and both are located inside cotton mill factories that once operated during the cotton boom. Each one is better than the other and we seldom leave without a few cast iron goodies, although our finds are getting harder and harder each year. I guess everyone wants a cast iron pan now – and the dealers often think they are worth way more than they are.

Whether we buy anything or not, we discover awesome ideas and hubby always remarks how clever people are in what they re-create from odds and ends. You’re often reminded of your childhood when you discover the toys you grew up with, but sad when you realize how people think they’re so collectible now. I’m feeling old… much older now!


Love the water tanks in the South!

Once in awhile mama accompanies us to antique shops…. trailing behind pointing out “all” the things her parents had at the farm. You are listening to… “look at this, daddy had this… mama had one of these…. or they want how much for this…. or I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for that.” Now what exactly is a plug nickle…. and if you know, well please leave me a comment!


Monroe Cotton Mill

Today was a good day for a grocery store run to buy a few local Southern things like “sweet ice tea”, Sunbeams BBQ bread and why can’t I find Pillsbury orange cinnamon rolls at home anymore, but I can here…. so they were a “must buy” for breakfast. We finally lucked out that there is now a real Dunkin Donuts in town – Yoohoo! In years past, if I ran out of coffee, I’d have to go over to Athens, to the one DD there. Don’t people drink coffee down South, like we do up North? I sometimes think not!

Finally we returned to mama’s and hear, “I thought you’d never get back”.... usually she calls while we’re out, worrying as to why we haven’t come back yet. A mother never stops worrying! Today I think she took a nap and forgot about us?

I pulled the laptop out to continue working on my 31 Days to Better Genealogy – why is it that I’m always getting myself involved in yet another monthly challenge while on vacation! I seem to be a glutton for punishment, but somehow I seem to manage in pulling it off, never missing a day. Hubby can’t sit as still as I can, so he decided to trim mama’s shrubbery outside and  wash the car… or cars, before coming in for the night… and trying to watch or rather trying to find something to watch on TV.

Today is Day 16 of the 31 Days to Better Genealogy and the topic is…. “Use the FamilySearch Word Lists“. I have never looked at those lists before so I quickly headed over to check out what I had been missing…. and learned several new Italian words while browsing. It’s definitely going on my saved searches to check again. If you have never checked it out, well what are you waiting for…. get on over there and learn something new!

While hubby “tried” to find something on TV to watch, which often takes awhile…. I pulled out mama’s photo books I discovered by my chair and went down memory lane looking at my kids early photos. Back in the day, I actually had photos developed and extras made. Today, I have lots of digital photos… but very few prints. It’s a terrible thing as I have boxes of actual real photos of my children. And as if I don’t have enough, I scoffed a few of her photo books… Shh, mums the word!  I’ve brought her in the digital age now with a new digital frame that I load new photos in when I come home. She seems to really enjoy it as everytime she walks by, on the way to the kitchen….she stops to look and sometime “talk” to the girls as they roll by. I think it makes her feel like she sees the girls more.  She laughs at the older photos I slipped in of her with her parents; on one of her photos, she actually asked me, “who is that”? I guess we all forget some of our oldest photos at times, or maybe we want to.

And no matter what she says, she walks to the kitchen quite often looking for something to eat, and that comes from a person who tells me she’s never hungry. Well of course she’s never hungry…she constantly picks!

Well hubby has finally found us something to watch on TV, so I’ll close for now…

Like to read more… click on Vacation – Genealogy Road Trip

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Day 2: Vacation / Genealogy Trip October 15, 2016

Vacation / Genealogy Trip

Day 2 – October 15, 2016


Day 2:

As we neared Charlotte toward the end of Day 1, my mind flashed to Steele Creek Cemetery, near Charlotte in Mecklenburg County… I quickly googled the address in maps to see how close we were and discovered that the exit was actually on our way. Don’t ask me why I didn’t have this planned already or why I never planned it… I have no answer other than I guess I thought it might be too hard to find, but after going there today.. well it couldn’t have been easier to find. So at the end of Day 1, I planned our morning genealogy road trip to search out my McKinley ancestors final resting place in Charlotte, Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina.


Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, N. C.

I woke up early, anxious to get on the road for my quick side-trip to visit Steele Creek Church and Cemetery. In this cemetery are my first “found” McKinley lines in the United States; I know they came from somewhere, but everyone who has searched this line has not found of from where they came… before setting in North Carolina.

In needing coffee first, we pulled off at the first Dunkin Donuts for coffee and… We were quite entertained while enjoying breakfast as we watched two cars pull up, guy exits and walks back to the second car while the girls are pulling out boxes and boxes of shoes and then out came a couple of suitcases he loaded into his open truck. He’s pulling off his shoes to try on new sneakers, while pants falling down… I did take a couple of photos but you’ll just have to imagine… I was hoping for a police cruiser to come for coffee – now that could have gotten more interesting. I could have used a new pair of sneakers, maybe I should have walked over. Sitting in your car having coffee… well you never know what you will see. Maybe that will be my next blog!

We arrived at the cemetery within about 10 minutes after exiting I-485 just outside of Charlotte. I couldn’t believe how close I had been to this cemetery all these years and never thought to stop. My cousin in North Carolina visited and took photos for me many years ago, so now I felt like I was walking in his footsteps – finally seeing it for myself.


Steele Creek Church

Please visit the link for a more detailed story on Steele Creek Church and cemetery.

It was a surreal moment for me as we pulled into the church driveway and I was constantly telling hubby, stop… stop… stop for photos! I wanted to document everything, but I know from this trip – I will be back!

After spending a couple of our morning hours walking and riding through Steele Creek cemetery, we were back on I-485 headed toward Charlotte. As we left the cemetery I popped online to see what Amy’s topic was for my 31 Days to Better Genealogy – Day 15. Today’s ideas is “Use City and Court Directories”. I quickly began scribbling my outline for today’s post as hubby drove. My plan was to write in my notebook while in the car… gathering all my ideas, and at night in the hotel I’d type and post. So far it seemed to work for me unless the research  was too time consuming. Click on the highlighted link above to read Day 15.

 Another one of my planned photos was of the Mecklenburg County sign, and while I knew where it was… my head was buried in travel directions and looked up just in time to see it pass me by… I was bummed, and once again I missed it! Hubby would have gladly turned around for a “do-over” but I hate backtracking, so we kept going as I wanted to make Georgia and mama’s by nightfall.

North Carolina isn’t a long ride thru on the Western side and South Carolina is even shorter, so we made S.C. by lunchtime and stopped at a fleamarket in Greer. I browsed while hubby was looking for something specific. I was happy to find my favorite paper item – notebooks! Even though I had brought a couple extra blank ones, a girl can never have enough and at 2 for $1.00 – a bargain…stock up time!


Barnyard Flea Market seems to be a chain franchise as when I searched for directions, I found them located also in other states. They aren’t our regular type flea market with antiques, more on the new side, but a good place to stock up on things needed.

I love the antique cast iron coffee roaster they roast their peanuts in… and once you get a whiff!!! Next time I’ll have to ask how many peanuts they go through daily… people constantly walked up to buy.

As my nose guided me over to the peanut stand….. from the whiff of both roasted and boiled peanuts – well I couldn’t wait to dive into that warm hot cup I was handed. I quickly handed hubby the cup as I was intrigued with the antique roaster behind the counter roasting peanuts, and wanted to snap a few photos; I bought a bag of them too. I’ve learned in the past, don’t just buy one, buy them both… as you know down the road you’re going to really want the one you didn’t buy! I could now finish the ride to mama’s…. I had my peanuts! They were still steaming when we got back in the car. Have you learned yet – never give me a choice!

Scuppernongs and Gravestones…. Oh My!

On our way out I passed by another favorite, Scuppernongs, a member of the Muscadine grape family. Granddaddy Bryan had an arbor of them by the car shed – loved hanging under there when they were ripe. There was also wild ones at Granddaddy McKinley’s farm, just by the road. You can smell the sweetness when they are ripe, and so good! I passed on them today and also passed on the gravestones for sale. I see gravestones at several flea markets down South – haven’t seen any up North yet, but probably will soon. I’ve noticed that things are tried down South, if it works, then it moves elsewhere.


I always feel like I’m home when I see “Welcome to Georgia”

We hit Georgia around 2 o’clock and took a detour off I-85 in Commerce, home of Lodge Cast Iron; outlets are far and few between…. never pass one up. It also felt good to stretch our legs, and what better way than to walk around the Lodge store! Trivia: Did you know there is actually a town in GA called “Between”? It’s in the same county as where mama lives – note to self – look that up!

lodgeThe Lodge Outlet is always a fun place to browse, and we never leave without a few odds and ends. We don’t often buy our pans there as we favor the older cast iron pieces, but I did find Steve a leather cast iron handle holder, a new item for us. (The leather handle cover works great) The staff in Commerce are always so friendly and they will ship items for you, so you don’t even have to carry them home!

While stopping at Lodge and a few more antique stores around town, mama called a few times… “when you gonna get here“?


“Junkyard Cow”


Junkyard guarded by cows!

Heading out of Commerce we passed a few interesting sites like the junkyard guarded by “junkyard cows.” They mow and guard all at the same time! The Bulldog Inn looked right out of the 1950’s – and still open. I really wanted to peek inside the rooms but we were too close to mama’s for a night on the road.

Bulldog INN – Looks right out of 1950!

Finally around 5 o’clock, we pulled into mama’s, sneaking in on her napping – while waiting for us all day. Now to bring in all our stuff…. we don’t travel lightly! Mama stood guard at the door – opening and closing – while we came in and out – making sure Boo didn’t make his great escape; no one wanted to chase him down at that point! I need to take photos of all our “stuff” we bring, before we find places for it. Mama constantly looks  and shakes her head at all we travel with; we have a few “must haves” when traveling.

Before we could get settled, I had to pick up the royal cat Boo’s special pillows on the floor by our chairs. While I moved them, he sat and looked at me, as if to say….”that’s my spot.” He truly rules the roost there, we’re often awakened at night by mama feeding him at all hours when he cries and he only drinks water from the bathroom sink… oh, and it must be trickling. Did I say spoiled!

After settling in, our choice for dinner was BBQ and Brunswick Stew; mama had went to Holcomb’s on Friday to stockpile our favorite food! Sorry for no photo of my plate, it looked so good, and I was so hungry, not even a thought of a photo!

Watching TV there is a real challenge – we are used to having a remote with an info button that tells us what station we are on, what is playing, and info on the show. It’s definitely not that way with mama’s cable system; they give you no info…. they make you guess where you are, and if you find a movie – well good luck in ever finding out what the name is! I keep a list handy of where my favorite channels are on her TV or we end up surfing all night, while actually watching nothing. Another challenge there is “internet”… which really drives me crazy. Last year my phone tethering hardly worked at all, but I had found certain times of the day was better than others – strange. On this trip, with a new phone, I didn’t have problems tethering internet to my laptop, but I was eating up data! Luckily a neighbor let me use her wifi across the street – it was often a hit or miss, but it helped when I could grab it.

Like to read more… click on Vacation – Genealogy Road Trip!

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved



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Road Trip: Steele Creek Church – Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, N.C.

Steele Creek Church: Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, N.C.



Road Trip: October 15, 2016

Steele Creek Church is one of the first seven churches established in Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina by the Scotch-Irish settlers and where my McKinley ancestors worshipped and buried. This present day Presbyterian church, a Gothic Revival structure, was established in 1889. As you approach it off Hwy 160, your first view of the front lawn are the  mature oak trees covering the front land – they are quite impressive.


Steele Creek Road leads you to the church and cemetery and I’ve since discovered that this winding historical road was actually the stage coach route linking Salisbury, N.C. with Camden S.C; that might possibly be a clue to where my McKinley’s lived before coming to North Carolina. Hmm…. could that be a possible area to research now on my McKinley line?

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The History of Steele Creek Church

Steele Creek Church derived its name from the tract of land designated for their first church, which was located alongside the headwaters of a small stream known as Steele Creek. The original 1858 wooden structure they first used for worship burned in 1888… the following year in 1889 they built the present one that I saw today. The actual bricks used to build this church was made by the congregational members from the abundance of clay found alongside the banks of Steele Creek. I did not have a chance to venture inside the church as they were setting up for a festival, but I have plans on making another trip there; going inside the church will be on my “to do list.”

I couldn’t resist a photo of the Beaty gravestones as I do have Beaty ancestors buried there but didn’t check them out on this trip; this ensures me another trip.

There are approximately 1700 headstones in this cemetery to present, with about 200 of them dating between 1763-1820. Local artists are who we have to thank for the early carved gravestones I found, and most were crafted by the Bigham family members – the local headstone carvers. It’s said that the best of their work is actually found in this cemetery.The Bigham families lived nearby and actually donated the land which they built Steele Creek Church on; The Bigham’s operated in the area between 1765-1820.

The gravestones in their cemetery are arranged in parallel rows, all facing East. The early stones, where my ancestors are located, are in the Southern half of the cemetery and made from soapstone, granite and marble.


The stone wall encircles the entire cemetery

The stone wall, built during the antebellum period, was actually built with stones gathered by the members of the church and surrounds the cemetery; the wrought iron gates on the South and East entrances are believed to be original. This cemetery has some of the oldest graves in Mecklenburg County, N.C. – the pioneering families from the area.


Entrance to Steele Creek Cemetery


The early immigrant families of Steele Creek

It’s been written that a church was established in Steele Creek as early as 1760, and suggested that a church was active as early as 1745. The Scotch-Irish were the original parishioners, mostly farmers and the likely ones who helped to clear the land, cut the logs  and build the church.


My William McKinley is one among thirteen Revolutionary soldiers buried in Steele Creek Cemetery. William McKinley died May 29, 1815.

Steele Creek Church and Cemetery is located about two miles off I-485; my first thoughts were why had I not stopped here before? I never knew that I was so close to this church in all the years we have driven by on our way to Georgia. Within ten minutes I was turning on Steele Creek Road and as I rounded the corner… there it was. I was quickly telling my husband to stop as we turned in so I could take photos of the church and cemetery from the street view.

I was anxious to find the McKinley gravestones, as my time was limited this morning for research; I wasn’t fully prepared in knowing exactly where their gravestones were when we arrived – what was I thinking… I wasn’t! Thankfully though, I knew that they were identified on the find-a-grave site, so I quickly pulled them up as we rode through looking at old names like Cathey, Whitesides and Beatty. In seeing those names, I thought that they must be nearby so we both got out and walked, but soon ended up back in the car – me feeling frustrated. My husband suggested to continue driving around… and what really helped was what I found on the side wall of the cemetery.


Cemetery Map Board!  WHAT A FIND!

As we drove by the outside of the side wall, I noticed a wood covered stand with a large map under plexiglass! I quickly got out to take a closer look at that map – but still not seeing my “McKinley” names. But what I did see when I looked up was a cemetery listing book carefully placed in a covered box. I pulled the book out and went, ran back to the car to look for my McKinley’s. There they were, right in that very area we walked, and if we had gone up the hill just a little more, I would have found them. They are buried in the oldest part of the cemetery, exactly where I thought they would be. A sign on the box which held that book read… “please do not remove“…. and I was happy that everyone had complied or it would have taken me much longer to find their graves this morning. I sure wanted that book and would have gladly bought one right on the spot to take with me, but I sadly returned it back to its original location. I was so excited in finding my McKinley’s that I forgot to look for my Beaty/Beatty gravesites, but I plan on calling the church and inquiring on the purchase of that cemetery book.

Steele Creek Church Cemetery Book – Page opened to my McKinley’s

It saddened me that my William and Margaret McKinley’s gravestones are in such bad condition with moss covering their gravestones – making them very hard to read. But I was able to make out the McKinley name to identify them. I’ve since learned that if you place a thin layer of tin foil over the stone  engraved area, and press firmly in, smoothing with a sponge, you will be able to read all the words completely. I know what I’ll be packing on my next trip!

Margaret (unk) McKinley 1740 – 1806

Margaret’s Tombstone Reads

Her life was without reproach.
And death we believe to her was Gain,
And she left to her children the richest of all legacies
A good name
Why should we mourn departed friends
Or shake at death’s alarms.
It’s but the voice that Jesus sends to call us to his arms
The Graves of all the Saints he blessed
And softened every bed.
Where should the dying members rest
But with the dying Head
Here she shall slumber in the ground
Til the last trumpets joyful sound, then
Burst the chains with sweet surprise
And in her Savior’s image rise.


William McKinley 1743 – 1815

William’s Tombstone Reads

He was a true Patriot and a kind husband. A tender parent.

He died in hopes of a Glorious Resurrection.



It saddens me how the info on their gravestones can hardly be read now, so I added names and dates on my photo. Brothers John and James died within 15 days of each other – why?


John McKinley  1776-1797              James McKinley  1783-1797

After taking several photos of their graves and the surrounding area, it was time to go, but I know I’ll be back and I’ll have no trouble walking directly to their graves on that hilltop. I’ll also be armed with a list of other ancestor graves to look for, and hopefully locate. I plan on buying that cemetery book soon so I can find and photograph my other ancestors buried here, and I’ll focus more on the church… I think a peek inside is calling out to me.

In 2014 I joined the 2014: 52 Week 52 Ancestor challenge and wrote on my McKinley line coming into Georgia, if you’d like to read and see more, please click on the highlighted challenge link above. I wrote 52 stories on my ancestors during that year; those stories are on a seperate blog.

There are many researching this same McKinley line of mine from Mecklenburg County North Carolina and not one yet has found where our McKinley line came… before finding them there. The Scots-Irish settled heavily in North Carolina around the time of Margaret and William’s birth, so were they actually born there or travelled there with their parents? We have William’s parents as Robert ( 1710-1775) and Elizabeth McKinley, but we have no exact burial records on either. I haven’t looked at my McKinley’s in awhile, so I foresee a more in depth blog post soon.

If you are reading this and researching McKinley’s, please leave me a comment so we can connect, share… and work on further research together.

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved




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Day 1: 2016 Vacation – Genealogy Road Trip

Vacation – Genealogy Road Trip

Day 1 – October 14, 2016


Day 1:    No trip to visit mom in my home state of Georgia is without a hint of genealogy, but this trip was just a few pinches more. I have many day trips planned involving family history!

Hubby and I  were so anxious to head out of Connecticut, finally heading to Georgia… that we were up by 2:00 a.m. – after only going to bed at 10 p.m. I know I laid there contemplating our trip – what I wanted to see (genealogy side-trips), my visit with mom, did I have everything packed, and what was I going to eat for breakfast at 2 a.m! Breakfast foods are alway import and coffee as soon as we find a Dunkin Donuts on the Merritt!

Hubby packed the car the night before…. still the Boy Scout – Always Prepared! The only bags I was concerned about was my genealogy bag of notebooks and my portable scanner. I need notebooks for my scribblings, stories and ideas! Flea Markets are great for those… and I can never resist paper! (I wasn’t prepared in taking a photo of our packed car though!)

One of my planned activities with mama was to show her all the old photos that she gave me many years ago. I scanned my album of all those photos just hoping… thinking it would make a nice trip down memory lane, and I was planning to record a few of her memories on some of those photos. On the night I mentioned it to her, I could tell that wasn’t going to happen…well maybe next time. As soon as I said I wanted to record her voice, she immediately made a face… “Oh I don’t like my voice.” She did enjoy watching the photos on a loop on my laptop though. On my next visit, I’m going to demand…. maybe!

While I hate driving in the dark… with one reason being “deer” – we were on our way in the early morning hours… in the dark. Before we exited the Merritt parkway in Connecticut, headed into New York, what did we see grazing on the side of the road, yep…mom and pop enjoying a morning breakfast of grasses.

The first bridge we cross after leaving our home state, if we haven’t missed our exit, is the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York. It’s an awesome sight to see at night, looking spectacular all lit against the dark sky; and it appears lighted from quite a distance. It was worth leaving so early just to view it at nighttime, it’s such a different experience viewing it at night vs the daytime view. A little trivia... The Tappan Zee is the longest bridge in New York and crosses the Hudson River at its widest point; it was built in 1952-55. At the moment they are building a new Tappan Zee alongside the old, so the Hudson is speckled with cranes. Before our trip in October, one of the cranes fell across the bridge during traffic, but thankfully no one was hurt; I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that traffic jam! (I’m not good at taking photos at night, so sorry for no nighttime photograph of the Tappan Zee – but I promise to work on that –  below is a daytime view)


A daytime view of The Tappan Zee Bridge

When we travel, hubby drives and I navigate using my saved directions from previous trips – complete with notes like “stay in right lane” or “left lane for I-85, then move quickly to right.” Those extra notes help to keep us from having to backtrack….to get back on track!

I couldn’t wait for sunrise so I could check online for Amy’s Day 14 topic on the 31 Days to Better Genealogy group challenge that I joined for the month of October. My topic to research and write on today is  “Plan a Research Road Trip.” What a great idea…for today I was on a road trip, and planning to research. If you’d like to read my post, head over to 31 Days to Better Genealogy: Day 14. 

In passing certain recognizable sites along the way, we always know we’re on the right course… like the Clinton Station Diner in New Jersey. Everytime we go by we always say we’re going to stop for breakfast, but then we just keep going – wanting to be on our way.


I’m definitely stopping next time we pass by on I-78,  as it’s open 24-7 I’ve discovered’ It’s located on I-78 in Clinton, N.J. If you’re a favorite of trains their website boasts of a suspended track from the ceiling with trains running and a unique fish tank; I will have to report back on them! If you have stopped at this diner, please leave me a comment on your favorite foods there!

Another marker is the Mason-Dixon line, and no matter how well I think I remember where the sign is – I miss it more than I see it. Although sometimes it’s the drivers fault as he likes to drive in the left “fast” lane and the trucks on the right obstruct my view. He strives to pass every truck – but they never end! Another job I delegated to myself is “speedometer watcher” and I constantly remind him that the speed limit is only 70, not the 85 he’s doing. We haven’t had a speeding ticket yet – and I’m very thankful! He’s gently  reminded him that if he gets a ticket – it’s definitely going to ruin “his” vacation!

On one of these trips, I’m planning to exit off and find all the neat Mason-Dixon signs I found on the internet; that would make an awesome side “road trip.” There’s many interesting signs in the Mason-Dixon area.


It seems all the businesses use Mason Dixon in their names!

It’s amazing how long and short some states are – and it also depends on which part of the state you’re crossing through. When we start, we are usually out of Connecticut within a good hour, passing into New York and within the next hour we are in New Jersey; which seems to be about 20 minutes or so and soon seeing a Welcome to Maryland sign.


As soon as we hit Maryland, that’s when I start thinking about the Mason-Dixon sign as it’s on the border going into Pennsylvania. Once arriving in that state, I know it’s going to be awhile, so I keep my camera out as the scenery is awesome. I often see sites I want to visit, like the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle one one of the many Virginia Civil War Museums. The one in Carlisle sits just alongside the highway where you see helicopters and tanks situated right alongside the highway. One day when we finally arrive in that area during the early morning, we’ll make that detour off and visit.


As soon as I snapped this sign hubby began telling me how he began the program…. I feel a blog post coming on!

While I’d like to add more photos of my trip, it eats up my storage here… but if you are friends with me on Facebook… you will find them over there.

Once we exit Pennsylvania, it’s a short 15-20 minute drive through West Virginia, but it’s not short through Virginia, that’s another few hours… and that’s where I become my mother saying…”When will we be out?” Virginia is the state that never ends, especially when you’ve been driving/riding for almost 13 hours at this point and thinking… when are we stopping? As we finally inched into North Carolina…. finally….we stopped just before Charlotte. I have a road trip planned for tomorrow!

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I felt just a bit guilty not leaving you with a few photos of our first day, so….

We love the rolling hills of Virginia and often laugh at the cows as they walk on the hills – I keep waiting for one to roll down, but they seem to be pretty sure-footed. Hay bales and barns are favorites of mine and if hubby stopped for all the photos I wanted, well we would never get to Georgia. In October all the fields have been harvested, but even the bare fields are beautiful to me. Hitting the Shenandoah Mountains in the early morning is awesome as you can see the smoke rising – I’m always wishing there was a pull-off for better views, but hubby says no pullovers. The scenery is just so different in the Southern states, and the painted water towers… always catch my eye – especially love this apple one! Now why don’t we have these in the North? Believe it or not, most all my photos on these trips are taken from the car using my sports mode feature on my Nikon – I think they came pretty good! Hope you’ve enjoyed my slide show!

I’ll keep you in suspense until Day 2, but here’s a clue… the stop will be somewhere in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina! So don’t forget to check out Day 2!

Like to read more… click on Vacation – Genealogy Road Trip!

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Weekend Weathervanes: The Mystical Mermaid

Weekend Weathervanes

The Mystical Mermaid

Driving along the West Haven, CT. beach I happened to spot this a few weeks ago behind a house. I first thought it was a whale with its tail flipped up, but it was only when I actually took a drive closer… that this mystical mermaid appeared in my camera. I was pleasantly surprised!


The Mystical Mermaid!

I can only imagine that the owner has an infatuation with mermaids, and also being near the beach definitely comes into play. As I drive the beach quite often, this is my first mermaid… now I’m hoping to find more.


Remember, there are interesting things  “UP” – so look up once in awhile – just don’t trip!

Want more – click…. Weekend Weathervanes:

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Bessie’s Cow Bell

Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Bessie’s Cow Bell

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.


You can tell the bell was used often by the repair on the top loop where the rope hung – it took a beating from the years of dangling under Bessie’s neck.

It was Bessie, the lead cow, who wore this cowbell on a daily basis. She led the cows to the barn for milking and the others followed the sound of the cowbell. I’ve always hoped to find a photo of Bessie wearing this cowbell, but so far one… it has eluded me.

Mama’s favorite activity at milking time, was to ride Bessie up to the barn. She often ran ahead and climbed up in the persimmon tree which sat alongside the path. On one of the low limbs, mama waited for Bessie to walk under and quickly slid off onto her back.

To bring the cows to the barn for milking, granddaddy often yelled for Bessie, but somehow she knew when it was milking time and he’d look out to see her already going up the lane toward the barn, with the other four cows following behind her. Sometimes he knew Bessie was already heading to the barn if he faintly heard the clanking of the bell around her neck.

Milking was done twice a day… morning and evening. Leroy, her brother, often went alone for the early morning, but mama tagged along for the evening milking chore. Mama wasn’t the only one who tagged along for the milkings… Leroy’s big yellow cat, Clark Gable, always followed Bessie to the barn. Her objective was the free squirts of milk that Leroy sent her way, against granddaddy yelling, “that damn cat is getting more milk than what’s going in the bucket!” Leroy just smiled and continued to squirt milk at Clark Gable as he sat perched on the ledge of the stall next to mama. Can’t you just picture that yellow cat sitting up there?

The cows supplied milk, cream, buttermilk and eventually butter for the family. I haven’t heard that he actually sold any, but I know that grandmamma saved extra cream in a bucket and there was someone called the “cream man”  who came around to buy leftovers; if it wasn’t refrigerated, what did they do with it?  One day mama decided that it would be such fun to take a “cream” bath in that bucket… just sitting in the corner of the kitchen. When grandmama discovered her, I think she received a whipping for ruining the cream. The cream money was always saved for things not really needed, but wanted; when Leroy was in high school grandmamma bought his high school ring out of that cream money saved.

After talking with mama, I learned that the leftover cream saved was used to make cheese. Granddaddy never sold milk, but he did sell butter – keeping enough for them and selling the rest; I also have grandmama’s two butter molds.

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to  read more stories…

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with, has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.

Posted in Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Friday Night Family Heirlooms | 4 Comments

Family Recipes: Mama’s Southern Dressing

Family Recipes: Mama’s Southern Dressing

Growing up in the South, I never heard the word “stuffing”…. it was probably a taboo word amongst Southerners. Mama only knew of one bread dish that went with the holiday meat and that was “dressing.” Today when I mention stuffing, she still wrinkles her nose and tells me, “I don’t want no stuffing.” Then she’ll rattle off what she does want, “some good old fashion dressing like my mama made along with the pink stuff I like and some potato salad, now that would make me happy.”


A page from a cookbook I created with a mixture of recipes of my Southern heritage and my husband’s Italian foods!

Dressing Recipe

  • 1 chicken (save stock for dressing)
  • 3 cups cornbread (crumbled) about 4-5 cornbread muffins
  • 3 cups biscuits (crumbled) about 4-5 biscuits
  • 2-3 large eggs (depends on how much you’re making; I use 3)
  • 1-2 eggs (boil for gravy and dressing)
  • 3 cups chicken stock (may need more: I used 4-5)
  • 2 small onions or 1 med. (chopped small: I use 1 med.)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used more pepper than salt)

In mama’s words… “when I make Chicken and Dressing, I boil two fryers and then I pluck all the meat off and put in a covered dish. The small pieces I use in the dressing. Now to make the dressing, I use half cornbread and half biscuits. I put salt and pepper, add 2 or  3 eggs (beaten), add the chopped onions, and then I pour the broth over it that I cooked the chicken in and stir it up real good. Put the small pieces of chicken in too. I save some of the broth to make a gravy with.” (I added onions in written directions as she had forgotten)

I usually use a medium onion in my dressing, but it depends on what size pan you are baking in. Remember I learned this from someone that never went by a recipe – and never had any recipes. After the dressing is mixed well, pour in a greased pan and bake 350 until it’s lightly golden brown on top. Then it’s done! I baked mine abt. 45-50 minutes.

Now about the eggs I use in the gravy, I boil and chop them up small to put in my gravy. Mama says, “if you like, you can use a little milk in your gravy, it will make it taste better. I even used to cut up the chicken livers and some of the small pieces of chicken too. I use some flour mixed up good in a small amount of water to make it creamy.”

Mama wrote this recipe for me a long time ago – I still have the actual yellow notepad paper she wrote it on.

Turkey was never served at our holidays, as it was just the three of us. Mama told me later that she never really liked turkey so it was just a big chicken that she served. I never thought too much about it, as it was what I was used to.

Mama cooking a rare breakfast for us in Georgia – and her famous biscuits. Note they are upside down – mama says  “as soon as they come out of the oven, flip them over and the tops stay softer”… and it works! There was never any leftover biscuits… we usually fought for the last one!

A few photo additions after baking Mama’s “Dressing” today.


Cornbread and Biscuits are the main bread of “Dressing”


The two breads crumbled with other ingredients added – it’s ready to bake!


The “dressing” is ready – sweet potato souffle in background!

I followed mama’s directions for the most part; think I added more chicken stock then she told me but she was guessing her judgements for the most part. I added 4-5 cups of stock, letting it sit in between the 4th and 5th, and maybe not all of the last one; it’s a judge thing! The batter should be thick and soupy but not too loose. This recipe made two dishes in my 8×8 pans. Next time I’ll cut this recipe in half and make just one pan, but now I have extra’s to freeze. Sure wish I could blink some down to mama! She’s waiting for me to call her back and tell her how it came; next year I’ll make a pan to bring.

Happy Thanksgiving Mama – hope you get your “pink stuff” – Stay tuned for a recipe!

Want to read more…. Foods: Family Recipes and Memories

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories, Foods: Family Recipes and Memories | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Family Recipes: Cherry Winks

Cherry Winks


My favorite cookie, Cherry Winks, is from my Christmas collection, and even though it’s my favorite,  I only make it once a year – maybe because I just associate it with Christmas.

It’s not a cookie I grew up eating as I have no memory of my mother baking cookies. She was not a sweet baker except for her famous Lemon Pie; I am craving one now that it’s popped in my mind. Her expertise was just plain old fashioned Southern cooking. There is no better fried chicken and home-made biscuits than my mama’s anywhere! But back to cookies…

When I married and moved to Connecticut, quite a change after growing up in Georgia, I discovered all about baking cookies from my mother-in-law. Every occasion she baked cookies and I soon acquired an overflowing box of recipes.

Weddings and showers required everyone to bake and the women brought trays of their favorite cookies all tied with pretty ribbons. The cookie tables were always the favorite place to check out when you arrived… and where you lingered before leaving. The one piece of advice my mother-in-law gave me was, “don’t wait too long as all the good ones will disappear fast, and if you see pignoli cookies, grab them first.” She was right too as I watched the ladies leave with piled-high plates.

Christmas Eve is the next best place for cookies besides weddings and showers, but often different type of cookies. Last December (2015) I participated in Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories… Day 14 was Christmas Cookies. Hope you check it out!


They sure make a pretty site!

Through the years there has been one cookie that always stuck with me, and as I bake less and less, it is still my one favorite to bake at Christmas – for myself; sometimes I share with my daughter, as it’s her favorite also! Nothing better than a cup of coffee and a few Cherry Winks to dunk; Yes I’m a Dunker!. That was always my favorite activity on Christmas morning as I watched my children rip through their presents.

One night my husband brought home a small cookbook found in his mother’s basement and thought I’d enjoy looking through it as it was produced by the Kellogg company; one of those send-a-way cookbooks. Years ago companies offered free cookbooks in return for saved box tops or UPC’s from their products; I don’t seem to see those type of offers as much anymore. Today we just turn to the Internet or Facebook.

As I flipped through the pages of that little cookbook I began noticing how smooth and glossy the paper was. I even sat there and laughed at some of the recipe names like Martha Washington Pie and the side-bar perforated coupons for 7 cents that was offered for their Kellogg products. By the way, all the coupons were still intact so that told me my mother-in-law had not been a coupon clipper! I do know that my father-in-law clipped coupons as I got him hooked years ago, and he became quite good at it!

I caught myself talking out loud as I continued flipping through the book, wondering if she had baked any of these recipes, but the smooth touch of the pages told me she probably hadn’t. I soon answered my question on one of the last few pages I turned to. My eyes quickly caught the name – Cherry Winks – on the top of page 55. I now know from where her recipe actually came from. The book showed wear and creases of being folded several times – and you know the feel of your cookbook page when you have it too close to your mixing bowl! My personal cookbook, that my daughter has laid claim to, wears lots of cooking DNA … it adds character; Cherry Wink DNA is definitely all over that page! Hmm, if I sent that page to Ancestry, do you think they could analyze the DNA.


If you decide to try baking my favorite Christmas cookie, I would love to have you please come back and comment; I want to hear from you after eating or dunking one! Oh, and if you’d like to send me a care package, I’ll gladly give you my address, as I’m really wanting one right now!


Cherry Wink recipe wins $5000 as top prize!

After reading a comment on my Facebook blogger group…. asking me what the “wink” meant” – well that had me thinking and of course I had to do a little more sleuthing. I’m not sure if I agree with the idea that they can be made in the quick of a “wink”, as I’ve found it a timely process in preparing the batter, but they certainly are a colorful cookie when you add both red and green cherries; I always forget to buy the green so mine are often just red. I soon found an Ad for the Pillsbury’s National Bake Off – dated June of 1951. The winner, Ruth Derousseau of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, entered her creation, “Cherry Winks” in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest of 1950  – where she walked away a lucky “Junior Winner” of $5000!


Note that I wrote walnuts over my original nuts in recipe!

The original recipe seems to have called for pecans instead of walnuts, which we find today on most recipes.  I wonder why the change, but I have recipes that I’ve note on the recipe, walnuts or pecans only; for whatever reason, different nuts taste better than others in certain recipes. In my Butter Ball cookie recipe, pecans give the better taste to me. I’ve tasted ones with walnuts and they just don’t have as good a taste, well in my opinion. Just like in my Cherry Wink recipe, it’s the walnut that gives a better taste than pecans – so go figure! The recipe above that was in the book my mother-in-law had only listed nuts – I guess they were allowing the baker to decide on their choice. After making them with walnuts one year because I only had nuts written on my recipe, forgetting which nut….I quickly crossed off nuts and wrote “use walnuts only.”


Recipe found in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) on December 21, 1950. I found many requests written to several newspapers looking for just this specific recipe.

Besides the change of pecans to just “nuts” in later recipes, they also changed  shortening to now butter/margarine. I do have a few older recipes that I still use the original shortening in and I just might have to remake this one with shortening to see if I taste a difference.

But whatever nut you choose to use, just be forewarned, these cookies will quickly disappear in the “wink” of an eye!  Stay tuned for more recipes as we head into the holidays….. Feel free to share yours with me in the comments below.

Want to read more…. Foods: Family Recipes and Memories

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