www.thegrove-jefferson.com                                April 2015                                 ISSN 1558-3252

We aren't Ghostbusters. Though one of those backpacks would be cool. - Kate McClure

Scenes from Jefferson's Historic Pilgrimage 2015 at The Grove

     The first weekend in May every year (sometimes starting the last day or so in April, depending on how the calendar falls) is Jefferson's Historic Pilgrimage, which has become quite the destination weekend in our fair little city. Along with the annual tour of homes, there are two Civil War Re-enactments (one land battle, one water battle), a quilt show, the Pilgrimage parade, an heirloom plant sale, the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial play, and a number of other things to see and do in town. It's become one of Jefferson's busiest weekends!
     The Grove was one of the four tour homes at this year's Pilgrimage, so for that weekend the house was filled with docents in period costume and decorated with natural flowers in every single room. We were hosts to about five hundred people that weekend, and had a great time sharing the history of the place.
     Behind the scenes, it has been a busy few months. We painted a couple of rooms, touched up most everything in sight, painted the front porch as well, added some additional landscaping to the yard and garden, and well, it's hard to find something on the property that we didn't touch. Add to that the job of lining up and scheduling docents, and we were meeting ourselves coming and going! I can't tell you how far behind we are on our regular lives. It was a fun time, though, and we heard so many compliments on the house that it really made us proud.
     But things are slowly getting back to normal and calming back down, so on with this month's GroveZine...

     April 9th marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, and to commemorate this, bells pealed across the country as a way to celebrate the end of slavery and pay tribute to the lives lost. A number of Jefferson's churches participated in this event, as bells rang out at exactly 2:15 p.m., the time that Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. The Chicago Tribune noted this: "It is wholly fitting that as we mark the 150th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities that brought an end to slavery, we should ask all citizens to ring the bell of freedom so that we can reaffirm our nationís commitment to upholding the highest standards of fairness, equality and opportunity under the law for all people." Shown in the photo is Weldon Nash in uniform, and Elizabeth Puckett ringing the bell of the Christ Episcopal Church in Jefferson.

     I mentioned the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial play earlier, and I'm delighted to say that I portrayed Sheriff John Vines for the seventh year now. I started as a juror over ten years ago, and the play is always something that I enjoy. It's a Jefferson tradition, put on for the 61st season this year. It is truly amazing that the play has been going on for longer than I've been alive, yet for the last several years I've been able to play the part of the sheriff. Coincidentally, my latest book that will be coming out very shortly is a factual account of Diamond Bessie and her alleged murderer Abe Rothschild (although trust me... I'm convinced that he killed her). Watch for it in the very near future - it's proving to be a very interesting book.

     I realize that this is the GroveZine and not Consumer Reports, but every now and then I run across a book, movie, or product that I'm so impressed with that I just have to mention it. For this GroveZine, it's the latter - a product that I never thought that I'd be trying, much less even talking about. Now first of all, I should say that I don't own stock in this product, or in the place that you buy it, and I get zero, zippo, nada from them. No compensation of any kind. I simply bought it on a whim I saw it in a store. It's just that something that worked so surprisingly well for me that I had to pass the word on. So here's what happened... at Pilgrimage I was starting our outdoor fountains before the tour, and discovered that the "drinking dog" fountain wasn't working. I quickly took it apart and found that it had a hole in the water reservoir. Fast forward a couple of days and I was at Lowe's, and saw a spray can of "Flex Seal." I recognized it as the product from the commercial where they put a screen door on the bottom of a rowboat, spray it with Flex Seal, and then take it out onto the lake where it floats. Now I'm not one to order things from TV commercials, but when I saw it at Lowe's, I figured that there must be something to it. I grabbed it, headed to the register, and bought it in the hopes that it would fix our fountain. I glued a coffee-can lid down over the hole, then put three coats of Flex Seal on it. Sure enough, it works exactly as advertised; the drinking dog fountain is once again flowing. Just like you see on the TV commercial, you spray Flex Seal onto a surface, and it creates a rubber-like seal that fills cracks and holds water. This is sounding very much like an advertisement, but I guess that I was so blown away by the fact that in today's world, something actually works like it says it does. I have most of the can left - maybe I'll try that rowboat thing next!

     Now that my schedule is getting back to normal, the Irving Public Library has invited me to come speak in a few weeks, and I'm really looking forward to it. The evening is part of their "Summer Nights at the Library" program, and I'll be speaking on "Haunted Texas," telling stories and sharing photos from a number of haunted locations around the Lone Star State. It is Friday, June 5th, and the evening goes from 7:30pm until 9:00pm, so come and join us for a ghostly good time! You can find all the information by clicking here. Please put it on your calendar, because I hope to see you at the library that evening!

     I'm not saying that this is something supernatural, but it's unusual to say the least. We probably have more wind-up clocks at The Grove than your average household, many of which I inherited from my father, so they're very special to me. One of them is a clock that a family member gave to us because it acts... well... weird. If you've been reading the GroveZine for a while, you probably remember reading a few stories about that particular clock. The door on the face opens by itself, it makes strange noises for no apparent reason, and it was freaking people out at its last residence. Anyway, as we were getting The Grove ready for Pilgrimage, one by one all the wind-up clocks stopped working. Not all at once, and in no discernible order, but when it was time to open our door to the Pilgrimage visitors, only one wind-up clock in the house was still operational at all - the weird one. The others still aren't working for some reason, and we're going to have to take them to the repair shop to try to get them operational again; but the weird clock, the one that seems to have a mind of its own, just keeps going, and going, and going...

     A hobby that I've enjoyed since the 1980s is the time-honored tradition of homebrewing. The practice goes back to the birth of our nation, when our founding fathers made their own beer in their homes; even Thomas Jefferson brewed at Monticello. Today, the White House chefs make beer to be served to visiting dignitaries - and since their recipes are public record, I've duplicated the Presidential Honey Porter with delicious results. Looking even further back, scientists have performed chemical tests on ancient pottery jars that revealed that beer was produced about 7,000 years ago in what is today the country of Iran. In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is believed to be a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl. A 3,900-year-old Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing, contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley. In those days there were no commercial breweries, so beer was produced in the home. With this long and illustrious history of homebrewing, I have to wonder WHY OUR MISCHIEVOUS SPIRIT IS HIDING MY EQUIPMENT!!! I kid you not. There is a piece of equipment called a "racking cane" (racking means siphoning). This hollow cane is used to transfer homebrew from one brewing vessel to another, and is a very important item. I keep all of my homebrewing equipment in my office on one particular shelf, just so that it is out of the way. I've kept it in that place - that one place - for I don't know how long. A while back I needed one of my racking canes (I have two different sizes), and the shorter one was missing. I turned the office upside down, and of course we detail the house every weekend for the tour, so I quickly came to the conclusion that it had simply vanished. No problem - I used the longer racking cane instead. The next time that I needed it, that one was gone as well. This was before Pilgrimage, and believe me, for Pilgrimage we moved every piece of furniture, vacuuming and dusting every inch of the house - but both racking canes were missing. I really felt like the mischievous guy had hidden them for some reason. My suspicions were confirmed a week or so after Pilgrimage, when I went into the office and there in front of me was the larger racking cane - looking in every nook & crannie of the office I hadn't found it, but now there it was, right in front of me. This sort of thing has happened since we first purchased The Grove, however. If you've read Ghosts of East Texas and the Pineywoods, you may remember the story about a candle-lighting wand being hidden from us, as have other objects over the years. My short racking can is still missing, but I have no doubt that it will show up in some strange place at any time.

     I'm not sure whether or not the same mischievous guy had anything to do with this, but it's certainly right up his alley. Before Pilgrimage weekend, we were walking through the dining room where the table was set, but one of the place settings had been moved. Taking a closer look, the salt cellar for that place setting, the delicate little individual salt bowl, was upside down on the dining room floor. If it had fallen it would have surely shattered, but it appeared like someone had simply taken it off the table and set it down there. The place setting was in disarray, but not like one of our cats had simply knocked things around - no, someone had purposefully moved things around for us to find. Every time I walked through that room during the Pilgrimage tours I glanced around the table, but whoever had pulled that prank on us apparently respected the fact that we had a lot of guests coming through the house.

     And finally, our "lady in white" made an appearance on one of our recent tours. At the start of the tour, I always tell people that my wife is just a room or so ahead of us putting the finishing touches on things. I caution them that if they hear anyone making noise in the next room it's probably not a ghost, it's probably her. On a particular tour we were just wrapping up in the kitchen, when my wife went by. A few people got really excited and started whispering, but since they didn't say anything to me I just kept going. When we walked back up front, one of the guys asked me if there was anyone else in the house other than my wife. When I said that there wasn't, he went on to explain that at the first of the tour he looked through the spindles of the staircase into the next room, and a lady walked by. She was wearing something white, and had her light hair up in a bun. A couple of other people saw it at the same time. They assumed that it was my wife, and thought nothing else about it. When we encountered my wife at the back of the house he saw that she had dark brown hair that was down, and she was wearing a gray tee-shirt and shorts. Standing in the parlor and looking through the staircase, you could easily see the path that the lady in white takes when she walks through the house - at least the last part of it. It's been a while since I've seen her, so I hate that I didn't catch a glimpse this time. It makes me wonder, though... does she walk through when no one's there to see her? Is it really - as I've always suspected - a "right place, right time" kind of thing to see her? I guess that's one of those questions that there can't be an answer to, like the old, "If a tree falls in the forest..."

Thanks for reading the GroveZine, and for putting up with this issue being a little late. We just got SO far behind with everything associated with Jefferson's Historic Pilgrimage, as much fun as it was this year, that we're still playing catch up... and, of course, relaxing now that things are done. I look forward to visiting with you again next month!

Here's what's coming up around Jefferson...

6/5-6/6/2015 - Jefferson Corvette Show
7/4/2015 - Jefferson Salutes America
7/30-8/9/2015 - Country Music Concerts... Texas Sounds International
8/15/2015 - Jefferson 4th Annual Civil War Symposium
8/22/2015 - Jefferson Gun & Knife Show
9/12/2015 - Classic Car Show
10/9-10/11/2015 - Burn Run Benefit Bike Rally
11/7/2015 - History, Haunts & Legends Fall Paranormal Conference
12/3-12/5/2015 - Jefferson's Candlelight Tour of Homes
1/22-1/24/2015 - Quilts on the Bayou annual quilt show
...and much more throughout the coming year!

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