Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dr. Pierce Barn in jeopardy

3/10/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Dr. Pierce Barn in jeopardy

Hold on to your hats, folks! Last month we learned that the Village Green Resort was for sale. This month it’s the Dr. Pierce Barn. Twenty years after the Cottage Grove community rallied to save the deteriorating barn from collapsing, it is once again in peril.

For 20 years, the Historical Society has had an easement to maintain the picturesque old barn. That agreement expires in May. The (new) current owner has restored the property’s home and put it all up for sale. Unfortunately for us, he feels that the barn’s listing on the National Register of Historic Sites is a hindrance and not a help. He says there are too many hoops to jump through and the taxes are a liability. It’s got to go.

Sometimes charm comes at a cost. And much of Cottage Grove’s mystique and charm lies in its past: old advertising murals, acres of big timber, covered bridges, hidden gold mines, ancient Indian settlements and a mysterious fairy princess. Keeping history alive can be costly but the rewards are great.

The 1912 Dr. Pierce Barn is the most prominent of our advertising murals. The weathered old barn welcomes residents and visitors as they drop down over the bridge to hwy 99N into town. It is a fitting vintage entrance as to our historical city.

The story has been told many times of how, in 1989, the barns then property owner planned to tear it down. A group of citizens and the Historical Society learned of the pending demolition and sprang into action. First, they negotiated a deal with the owner for an easement to the barn. He graciously agreed not to tear it down and in return, they agreed to maintain the structure.

A “Help Save The Barn” drive was begun to raise the funds necessary to stabilize the structure, re-build the south wall, paint and replace the roof. There were garage sales, benefit dinners, a 7-hour Marathon Bingo Benefit and private donations to raise the $10,500 so that work could be begin. On May 19, 1990, several hundred people gathered in the parking lot across the street to officially dedicate the barn. The dedication date coincided with National Historical Preservation Week.

So, who was this Dr. Pierce? What were his Pleasant Pellets? How did he end up advertising in Cottage Grove? And why should we save his barn? Well, in 1990, I bought a copy of the “Dr. Pierce’s First Aid Book” to help save the barn. So I have answers.

Dr. Pierce was an actual medical doctor who specialized in diseases of the nose and throat. As a young man he practiced medicine in the oil fields near Titusville, Penn. and became well known for his success in treating chronic diseases. He soon became a consultant in ‘desperate cases.’

However, when I read his book I thought, “This man is a quack!” I mean, please. Who else would send people around the countryside putting his name on barns to advertise laxatives? Yep. His Pleasant Pellets were basically recommended, “to keep your system running smoothly.” And if you had a poor or sallow complexion, they’d beautify that too! Cost? 60 pellets for 30-cents.

But let’s face it. The year was 1867. Modern medicine was primitive. Physicians didn’t have much to work with. So evidently our good Dr. Pierce decided to package his most popular remedies and sell them to the general population. A cynic might say that he was selling snake oil to the gullible. Others would say that he was selling hope.

The popular doctor was successful and moved on. Pictures of Dr. Pierce’s Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute at Buffalo, NY show a magnificent edifice staffed by skilled surgeons, physicians, chemists and graduate nurses. If anyone in the country needed good medical advice, all they had to do was purchase a bottle of Dr. Pierce’s principal medicines, write down their symptoms on the wrapper and send it to his clinic. All of this was at no charge.

At the clinic, the faculty, “after careful deliberation,” would receive the request, prepare an opinion and submit it to the patient. If the case was one for which the clinic had a prepared medicine they would direct the patient to purchase it at a nearby drug store. In special cases, they would prepare special medications; if the condition could only be treated at the clinic, arrangements would be made.

His book is replete with First Aid instructions and testimonials. Its advice is largely directed to women: “Why suffer every month?” “Advice to Young Women and Girls.” “Why dread motherhood?” And my favorite: “Dangerous Age for Women: menopause.” Men got the “Backache” and “Put your house in order” section.

Dr. Pierce died in 1914. His sons and a grandson carried on the company until 1960, using barn advertising to reach rural areas. But we still have a Dr. Pierce Barn from 1912. A salesman paid a farmer to advertise his wares; the barn got a coat of protective paint and the painter got a job. It was free enterprise at its best. A win-win situation.

So why should we keep this old relic? Why not? It gives the town character. It sets us apart from other places. And then, there’s the bragging rights. Dr. Pierce’s Barn was the first barn to be nominated for, accepted by and listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The acceptance of Dr. Pierce’s advertising signage set a precedent for the future. Because of him, Cottage Grove is a trendsetting All-American city!

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say it again; Cottage Grove is a charming and quirky place to live. Let’s keep it that way and respectfully maintain our historical past as we build for the future.

The question now is this: Who will provide a new home in the city for our country barn? And even more important, who will pay the $40-50,000 to have it moved!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
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Magnificent Muffins

3/3/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Magnificent Muffins

Oh, yum. Who doesn’t like a fresh, warm muffin for breakfast on a cold winter’s day? In the Bed and Breakfast business, I learned that our guests appreciated almost any variety of muffin with their breakfast entrĂ©e, as long as it was homemade and hot out of the oven.

The origin of muffins is a little murky but it seems that English muffins go way back to the 10th or 11th century in Wales. They were a yeast raised dough cooked on a hot griddle in hooplike rings. The result was a soft, round product with nooks and crannies to hold butter and honey or jam. Sort of like today’s “Thomas’ English Muffins.”

Colonial Americans changed things up a bit. Whereas the English muffin was yeast dough, the Americans came up with a batter that they cooked in individual molds. The plain, basic batter was leavened with potash, a pre-curser to baking powder. Fruit and nuts were added a couple of centuries later!

It’s hard to make a bad muffin. They’re quick, simple and tasty. But they do need to be eaten fresh. It’s best to wrap and freeze any leftovers. Then, you can pop them in the microwave with a sprinkle of water and they’ll be edible (but still day-old).

Muffin batter is very flexible. So if you decide that the fat content is too high, you can reduce it by half and add an equal amount of applesauce. Those worried about cholesterol from the eggs can use egg whites or a commercial egg substitute. Another good substitute is golden raisins instead of the usual black variety. The goldens are softer and prettier in the finished product.

I also like to add a streusel topping or a bit of frosting to some muffins. Instead of flour, I often pour 1/4 cup melted butter over a mixture of 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Another citrusy topping is to boil the juice of 1-2 oranges with 1 powdered cup sugar. Let it cool slightly and spoon 1 tablespoon over the top of still warm muffins.

One of my favorite muffin recipes comes from a girl in my 5th grade church youth group. I had 45 girls in this group and one quarter we were studying cooking. One evening Su-z brought me this great (and now well-known) recipe for All Bran muffins. She told me to mix up a huge batch of batter and it would be good for weeks. She was right.

I recently searched through my recipe files and Su-z’s recipe was still there after 35 years. I’m offering it just as she wrote it. The “Goodbye Applesauce Muffins” I served one morning for a B & B couple. The Morning Glorious recipe is an offshoot of the famous Morning Glory muffins but I substituted dates for the raisins. All cooking times are approximate depending on the size of your muffin tins. Don’t over-bake but test with a toothpick to be sure they’re done. Enjoy!

All Bran Muffins
Su-z Searer

Mix in a BIG bowl!!
Pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 cups All Bran Cereal. Cool slightly.
Add to cooled cereal and mix well:
3 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
4 beaten eggs
Sift together and set aside
5 cups flour
5 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt

Add flour mixture to cereal mixture alternately with 1 quart buttermilk. Then stir in one cup each of raisins and chopped walnuts.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake in greased muffin tins or paper muffin cups 20-25 minutes.
Note: Refrigerate unused batter in covered container. It will keep for 6 weeks. This really is a large recipe.

Good-Bye Applesauce Muffins

Mix together and set aside:
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each allspice and cloves
In another bowl, mix together and let stand 5 minutes:
2 beaten eggs
1 grated carrot
1-1/2 cups bran flakes
1-1/2 cups applesauce
Cream together in mixer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Alternately add applesauce mixture and flour mixture to butter and sugar in mixer. Mix until all ingredients are evenly moist. Spoon into greased muffin pans. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Morning Glorious Muffins

2 beaten eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups carrot, shredded
1-1/2 cups apple, shredded
3/4 cup coconut
1/2 cup dates, snipped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Spray 12 large (3-inch) muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine fruits and nuts (carrot, apple, coconut, dates and pecan). Set aside. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon). In mixer bowl, combine beaten eggs, oil and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until moist. Lightly stir in fruit and nut mixture. Bake 18-20 min.

Cranberry Nut Muffins

1/-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon orange peel
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven 2o 400° F.
Spray 12 (2-1/2 inch) muffin cups with cooking spray.

In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In large bowl, blend eggs, corn syrup, milk, oil and orange peel; stir in flour mixture just until moistened. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to touch. Cool in pan 5 minutes; remove from pan. Serve warm.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal with Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner