No one knew the date the wrought iron fence was installed on the east side of the Stephens City United Methodist Church (SCUMC) cemetery grounds. It is believed the iron gate served the third church as the entrance to the SCUMC cemetery. Eighty feet of the iron fence remains today and church elders wanted to ascertain when it was manufactured. We do know that an American wire fence bordered most of the cemetery in the 1930s through the 60s and still exists on the north side.
On this site, construction of a log meeting house began in 1788 and was completed in 1789. The cemetery was established in 1790 and the oldest tombstone dates to 1809 and the newest to 1906. The log meeting house served until 1827 when it was torn down and replaced with a brick one on the same site. During the Civil War, the church suffered considerable damage as the sanctuary was used as a hospital to treat both federal and confederate wounded soldiers. The 1827 church sanctuary was repaired after the war, but eventually the church was considered “unsafe” and “uncomfortable” for worship. In 1882, the congregation replaced the 1827 building with a more spacious facility on the same site. It was noted at the time that the foundation of the old log church could be seen when the 1827 building was demolished.
I discovered two ornate old wrought iron corner fence posts (in the photo above) buried near the 120-year-old elm tree that was cut down in February 2020 to make way for an expanded children’s play area. Fences around cemeteries, especially wrought iron fences, served both practical and otherworldly purposes. In terms of practicality, wrought iron fences were placed around a cemetery to prevent wild animals from entering the grounds and digging up recently buried human remains. Our Colonial ancestors wanted to be assured that the remains of their loved ones would be well intact for their resurrection on Judgment Day, so they erected sturdy and gated wrought iron fences with spear tipped bars.
Wrought iron fences were also placed around cemeteries to protect the living from the spirits of the dead. People believed that the ghosts of their dead loved ones could follow them from the cemetery if preventative measures were not made. Iron was believed to ward off both benign and evil spirits. Just as it was believed that spirits could not cross water, so it was believed that they could not move through or past iron. If you have ever seen an iron fence that has the upper portion of its bars pointed in towards the cemetery — rather than away from the grounds — you can be assured it was constructed that way to ward off spirits.
Wrought iron (sometimes called puddled or charcoal iron) is the traditional material of the blacksmith. It is a mixture of nearly pure iron and can resist corrosion, is not brittle and seldom breaks. It is soft, relatively malleable and easily worked. As a result, it is often found as delicate artwork.
According to Sandra Bosley, executive director of Preservation of Historic Winchester, the gate decoration appeared to be similar to the 1880 “Buckeye” wrought iron fence. Bosley virtually visited the remnants of the wrought iron fence for some historical investigation. The eighty feet of fence fortunately retained the gate, which is one of the most likely places to find a manufacturer’s mark or other distinguishing maker characteristics. This gate was by far the most distinctive Bosley had the pleasure of examining, with an elaborate crest on the top with crossed halberds, heraldic sea snakes, and scroll-like decorative flourishes around the central finial. Although the label where the maker’s mark should be was long worn away by time, the gate design alone was unique enough that Bosley could say with relative certainty it was a “Buckeye” wrought iron fence from the 1880s.
Naturally, having found such a distinctive architectural piece but never having heard of it before, it seemed like a good time for Bosley to do a little more investigation into the parent company. Buckeye fences were just one of the products produced by Mast, Foos & Company. Although founding dates have been contradictory, Bosley was inclined to believe the company was founded in 1876 by Phineas P. Mast and John Foos in Springfield, Ohio, after Mast had undertaken earlier ventures in buggy and farm implements. In addition to the Buckeye fence, the company also produced wind engines, force pumps, lawn mowers, and lawn sprinklers. The company existed for almost 100 years after various acquisitions and remains well-known in Springfield, Ohio, particularly as Phineas P. Mast helped to found the local historical society.
The late historian Mildred Lee Grove’s grandfather, Milton Boyd Steele was a Stephens City resident and a devout Methodist and Sunday School teacher. I am speculating that Mr. Steele, who was in the mercantile trade, had a long-time business relationship with Mast & Foos and recommended that the Methodist church purchase their fence from that company in 1882.
In 2022, spirits are the rage – but do not drink and drive
Whether served neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, spirits are becoming increasingly popular for both winter and summer. Here’s a guide to the standard choices.
• Vodka. Many people appreciate this neutral-flavored spirit that’s typically made from grains, vegetables, or fruit. Vodka is an essential ingredient in many cocktails, including the bloody mary and cosmopolitan. It’s often assumed vodka comes from Russia and is made from potatoes. However, depending on where you are, you may find unique vodkas from local distilleries made with surprising ingredients like maple sap or quinoa.
• Gin. This spirit is a definitive ingredient in G&Ts and other cocktails. It results from the combination of macerated and distilled juniper berries with aromatic ingredients like herbs, citrus fruits, and flowers in neutral grain-based alcohol. London dry is a well-known gin variety whose name represents a distilling style and is not exclusive to England. Genever has Dutch and Belgian origins and is now also produced in Canada.
• Whiskey. Made from cereal grains such as corn and oats, whiskey has distinct identities according to the country where it’s distilled. Whiskey brewed in the United States is mainly bourbon, while the Canadian version is rye. Scotch refers to the variety produced in Scotland.
• Rum. Made from molasses or fermented cane syrup, this spirit drink is typically available in light, gold, and black varieties, depending on their filtering and aging processes. Spiced rum is usually aged for the same duration as black rum. Among the must-try cocktails that use rum are the mojito and the piña colada.
Visit licensed retailers in your area to stock up on these essential spirits for your collection or visit a bar or distillery to discover new ways to enjoy them.
Please DO NOT drink and drive.
Dog Days of summer
It’s hot. It’s humid. The Dog Days are here.
The term Dog Days dates back to ancient times when people studied the sky and relied on the heavens and the stars for navigation and spiritual sustenance.
These ancients looked into the night sky, before modern lights obscured the stars, and imagined that the constellations formed images of bears (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), a bull (Taurus), and dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor).
Sirius, called the dog star, was the brightest star in the night sky. It was so bright that the Romans thought it added heat to the earth.
In late summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun, furthering the notion that the heat of the combined stars created the muggy, sultry weather. They called the 20-day alignment of the sun and Sirius the Dog Days.
This alignment can vary in exact dates with the latitude of the observer and by the annual variances in the equinoxes.
Most of us know only that this period is too hot for a good disposition and look for ways to stay cool during those 20 days. We could go for a swim, take a vacation to a cooler climate, go to an air-conditioned theater or spend a few leisurely hours shopping at the air-conditioned mall. Dress in cool clothes and don’t overexert.
But if you are still uncomfortable, you can blame it on the big dog and that familiar old star, the sun.
July Celebrity Birthdays!
Do you share a birthday with a celebrity?
1 – Liv Tyler, 45, actress (Lord of the Rings), Portland, ME, 1977.
2 – Margot Robbie, 32, actress, Dalby, Australia, 1990.
3 – Montel Williams, 66, talk show host, Baltimore, MD, 1956.
4 – Post Malone, 27, singer, rapper, born Austin Richard Post, Syracuse, NY, 1995.
5 – Francois Arnaud, 37, actor, Montreal, QC, Canada, 1985.
6 – Kevin Hart, 42, comedian, actor, Philadelphia, PA, 1980.
7 – Ringo Starr, 82, musician (The Beatles), born Richard Starkey, Liverpool, England, 1940.
8 – Raffi Cavoukian, 74, children’s singer, Cairo, Egypt, 1948.
9 – Richard Roundtree, 80, actor (Shaft), New Rochelle, NY, 1942.
10 – Jessica Simpson, 42, singer, actress (The Dukes of Hazzard), Abilene, TX, 1980.
11 – Joan Smalls, 34, model, born Joan Smalls Rodriguez, Hatillo, Puerto Rico, 1988.
12 – Erik Per Sullivan, 31, actor (Malcolm in the Middle), Worcester, MA, 1991.
13 – Roger McGuinn, 80, musician (The Byrds), born James Joseph McGuinn, Chicago, IL, 1942.
14 – Conor McGregor, 34, former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, Dublin, Ireland, 1988.
15 – Taylor Kinney, 41, actor (Chicago Fire), Lancaster, PA, 1981.
16 – Mark Indelicato, 28, actor, Philadelphia, PA, 1994.
17 – Lucie Arnaz, 71, actress (The Jazz Singer), Los Angeles, CA, 1951.
18 – Kristen Bell, 42, actress (The Good Place), Detroit, MI, 1980.
19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 46, actor (Sherlock), London, England, 1976.
20 – John Daley, 37, actor (Freaks and Geeks), born New York, NY, 1985.
21 – Anya Chalotra, 26, actress (The Witcher), Wolverhampton, England, 1996.
22 – Selena Gomez, 30, singer, actress (Wizards of Waverly Place), Grand Prairie, TX, 1992.
23 – Daniel Radcliffe, 33, actor (Harry Potter films), London, England, 1989.
24 – Anna Paquin, 40, actress (True Blood), Winnipeg, MB, Canada, 1982.
25 – Miriam Shor, 51, actress (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Minneapolis, MN, 1971.
26 – Taylor Momsen, 29, actress (Gossip Girl), St. Louis, MO, 1993.
27 – Taylor Schilling, 38, actress (Orange Is the New Black), Boston, MA, 1984.
28 – John David Washington, 38, actor (Ballers), Los Angeles, CA, 1984.
29 – Josh Radnor, 48, actor (Mercy Street), Columbus, OH, 1974.
30 – Lisa Kudrow, 59, actress (Friends), Encino, CA, 1963.
31 – Gary Lewis, 76, singer, born New York, NY, July 31, 1946.
A close-shaven history of the beard
The beard: It’s gone in and out of fashion over the millennia and alternately been associated with kings and commoners, criminals and scholars, soldiers and hippies. It can be close-trimmed or bushy, carefully waxed into impossible configurations, or left wild and uncombed. Throughout the history of beards, only one thing was ever consistent: People have always had strong opinions about them.
Hair removal has been around a long time, and our collective mental image of a hairy, unkempt caveman isn’t necessarily accurate. According to Almanac.com, cave paintings from more than 30,000 years ago depict men without beards, and archaeologists have uncovered artifacts that suggest hair was tweezed with shells or shaved with blades made from flint.
Fast forward to 3,000 BC, when purpose-made metal razors were all the rage in Egypt. In the Egyptian heat, most Egyptian men opted to remain clean-shaven, but pharaohs distinguished themselves from commoners with long false beards, usually sculpted from metal. Even Queen Hatshepsut adopted the practice after she assumed the throne, and many contemporary depictions show her in women’s clothing and with a long false beard.
Ancient illustrations of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC) commonly show him with a flowing beard and mustache to match. According to PBS, Confucius insisted that the body was a gift from one’s parents, and should never be modified, whether by shaving, cutting hair, tattooing skin, or trimming fingernails.
For Norse Vikings, beards were a source of pride, expected of all men and maintained through meticulous daily grooming. Viking hygiene routines were famous throughout medieval Europe, earning the indignation of contemporary chroniclers who worried (often not unreasonably) that the bearded and soap-obsessed Vikings would seduce Christian women.
During the late 17th century, beards fell dramatically out of fashion in Europe, thanks to Peter the Great’s “beard tax” in Russia. While mustaches remained acceptable, beards didn’t stage a return until the end of the Crimean War in 1854, when returning war heroes all sported beards.
Wind speed and fuses cause many firework injuries
It was a windy Independence Day in 2015 when Jason Pierre-Paul, the star defensive end for the New York Giants, attempted to light one last rocket for the entertainment of friends and family.
He tried once to light the fuse, but the wind blew it out. Then again, and again, after seven tries the fuse lit. And it blew. He can’t recall whether the firework was still in his right hand, but when the explosion cleared, his hand was profoundly disfigured, nearly blown off.
Among all the dangers of lighting fireworks, two are notable. First, a fuse that burns faster than expected, and, second, wind.
Each firework has a fuse that ideally burns slowly enough for the person to get away. This fuse is linked to the lifting charge, made of choppy gun powder, also called black powder. You light it, you get away. The experience of Jason Pierre-Paul tells why you never light it a second time.
In many instances, the fuse actually could be burning. A smoldering fuse might be not immediately obvious, especially in windy conditions. But if you approach the charge a second time, you are risking grave injury or death. That’s why you should never try to light a firework twice. Instead, wet it thoroughly with a hose or bucket of water.
Many fireworks accidents occur because a fuse burns faster than expected.
Windy conditions are not safe for fireworks. Wind speed and direction can severely affect not just the fuse lighting, but where the shell and debris end up. A 2004 study found that a three-inch shell could end up 197 feet downwind if launched in 20 mph winds, according to the Washington Post.
Professional pyrotechnicians take wind speed into consideration, as well as fuse burn time. But amateurs rarely have the knowledge to do this.
Leave the fireworks to the pros. It just isn’t worth losing a hand, your sight, or your life.
Outdoor workers at risk for lightning strikes
If you work at height or outdoors, you are at the greatest risk for lightning strikes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those in construction, farming, field labor, heavy equipment operation, logging, pipefitting, telecommunications, or power pole work are especially at risk.
A lightning strike has extraordinary power. According to Safety and Health magazine, your household current is about 120 volts and 15 amps. The average lightning strike is around 300 million volts and 30,000 amps. With that much power, you don’t have to be directly struck to be injured. Even a sideflash can cause injuries to the nervous system and brain. These include burns, hearing loss, light sensitivity, even memory loss, and personality shifts.
The weather report is the best first step to preventing injuries from lightning. If storms are in the area, stay inside a building until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard. The strength of the rain is not relevant. Lightning can strike even if there is no rain or even a drizzle.
According to the National Weather Service, an average of 43 people die from lightning strikes every year. In 2021, the National Lightning Safety Council reported just 11 deaths from lightning, among them a construction worker and a lifeguard.