Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Aunt Hattie's Hermits

As a child, one of my favorite dessert treats was "Aunt Hattie's Hermits," a raisin-filled spice cookie in bar form. But all those years, I never knew who Aunt Hattie was. Later, as the family historian, I had collected all the impersonal, cold hard facts about Henrietta Josephine Wenz. It was many years before I ever saw her photograph. Now she seems like an old friend! She was born in Acquackanouk, Passaic, New Jersey in 1878, lived with her older brother, my great-grandfather, in 1930, never married, and worked as a housekeeper until she died in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1943. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Mountain View Cemetery in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

I believe the recipe came from her father, Philip Henry Wenz, a German immigrant to New York and New Jersey, who was listed as a confectioner, baker or cook in various censuses and city directories from 1875 to 1902. The photo below is believed to be of Philip’s bakery wagon in Passaic.

Here is her recipe for Hermits:
Cream together:
¾ cup shortening or butter        ½ cup molasses
1 ½ cups granulated sugar        2 eggs
 Combine and add to mix:
¼ cup warm water                    1 teaspoon baking soda
 Combine and add to mix:
3 ½ cups flour                          ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon    ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger         ½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup raisins                            ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

 Spread in greased shallow baking pan or jelly-roll pan and bake at 375° for about 35-45 minutes.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Uncle Benno

I never met Uncle Benno, but my husband Howard seems to hold very fond memories of him. He married Howard’s grandmother’s next older sister, Jane Elizabeth McDonald on 26 Oct 1922 in Huron County,  Michigan.
Benno Frederick Christian Hahn was the son of German immigrants, August R. and Fredericka (Boettcher) Hahn. When the United States declared war in April of 1917, Benno was already 26, elderly by military standards, but he ended up in the Army anyway. Because of his German parentage, he was not allowed to serve in the infantry, so he was assigned to the Ambulance Corps.

As Howard remembers it, Uncle Benno had Parkinson’s disease, because he had an arm with a serious tremor, so severe he would sit on it to keep it still, and wore a spot in his recliner from the vibrations. 

It wasn't until a few years ago that we learned it was not Parkinson’s – Uncle Benno had been wounded in the war, hit in the head by shrapnel in the land of his ancestry and carried his badge of courage throughout his life.
Evidence of his struggle is poignantly shown in his signature on his draft card in 1942 – the “Old Man’s Draft” as it became known because men between the ages of 45 to 64 years of age were required to register.
 Below are Mr. & Mrs. Benno Hahn and Mr. & Mrs. Howard Keillor, probably about the late 1920s.