After the farm

Final part of Marji Smock Stewart’s Finding the Rivers.

The years on the farm (1960-1969), the academic years (1968-1982), seven years in Henderson (1985-1992, then ten years moving from place to place. They meld together before me today, in 2002. These were forty-two years of good times, hard work, heartbreak and joys.

Elizabeth and Monroe Smock 1971In 1971 when my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, they lived in Florida. Their sixteen years there were really the second golden years for them. But my sister Betty was terminally ill with cancer. I had a few days leave from the University of Kentucky. Throughout Betty’s illness, my chairman had been generous with short leave breaks for me.

Loss

So, in Florida for the 50th anniversary dinner at home, Betty directed me to buy a prime rib roast and all the proper trimmings betty-smock-ca-1940and told me exactly how to cook it to perfection. This I did with the help of her young children. We had a lovely meal and toasted Monroe and Elizabeth Smock on December 1, 1971. It was sad for all of us but we tried to make it a happy occasion. I flew back to Lexington the next day. Two weeks later, I received the call that Betty was gone. That was a traumatic time for my parents, for all of us.

Nearly nine years later, my Daddy died suddenly May 18, 1980 leaving Mother feeling lost after 59 years of marriage. Mother chose “Precious Memories” to be played at his service. I chose “Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” There were a few old river pilots at the funeral, and many teary eyes.

Daddy wasn’t an outwardly religious man but, as my daddy, he taught me more about the love of a heavenly father than I could ever have learned in church. Mother adjusted but never ceased missing him. I too was devastated but thought I had to keep a stuff upper lip to help her and to continue to function myself. I regret now that I didn’t just spent time holding her hand and reminiscing instead of constantly trying to take care of business. I realize now that what she really needed was just me and her link with Monroe, not so much my projects and caregiving efforts!

Leaving Kentucky

Bill and Marji Stewart Henderson KY 1988 photo R AngerI took early retirement at the end of 1982 as Dean of the College of Home Economics at the University of Kentucky. Bill and I drove out West searching for an ideal place to relocate.

But we couldn’t leave my mother alone in Kentucky and we couldn’t ask her to go with us, away from her memories. So we stayed in Kentucky. In 1985 we built a duplex in Henderson to take her close to her roots, the rivers and those remaining family members she loved.

Mother died in 1991. Bill and I then spent ten years moving here and yon. Fun times such as rafting down the Colorado River, exploring archeological sites in Utah, Israel and Jordan, rock hounding and trout fishing in Utah, feasting our eyes on natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon. Visits from nephews, nieces, and our son and grandsons.

bill-marji-river-1992-photo-j-stewartWe kept looking for our Shangri-La to settle in. Finally, in the spring of 2002, we realized there is no perfect place. Bill wrote his thoughts out late one night the previous December:

Midnight Meditations

When shadows fall and trees whisper “day is ending,”
My thought are ever wending – home.
When crickets call and birds hurry to their bowers,
Dew slips in, and kisses all the flowers.

When the hills conceal the setting sun,
Stars begin their peeping, one by one.
Night covers all; and though fortune may forsake me,
Sweet dreams will ever take me – home.

Back to Kentucky

I knew then he was longing to be home. In Kentucky. June 17, 1992 we had left Henderson KY for Utah. June 17, 2002 we arrived back from Texas to make our home in Kentucky again. Ten years to the day and almost to the hour. In between, all over the west and even in Ontario for a few wonderful years.

Now we’ve come full circle. We’ve grown old and somehow the spark is missing that ignited our early adventures and restlessness. But we have peace.

Bill Stewart with pup 1988 photo M StewartLastly, I wish to make a tribute to Bill. I am grateful to God for that first meeting in July 1944 when I looked out the second story window of the business college on Frederica Street in Owensboro KY. Bill stood there, in khaki uniform with silver wings pinned over his heart, and looked up and smiled.

It hasn’t always been a smooth life and we have disagreed about many things. But we always agreed on the important things and we worked through our problems. We had good role models and trust that we too will pass that 59 year mark together enjoyed by both our Stewart and Smock parents.

Strength

Proverbs 31:10 always intimidated me because it was translated as “Who can find a virtuous woman…?” I knew I could never be virtuous or worthy. But in learning Hebrew I realized that the word is not virtuous or worthy, but strong. Strong as in army. In fact, it is the same Hebrew word as “army”.

This thrills me because I can be strong. Strength isn’t simply a physical trait; it is elusive, a choice one makes. Strength is in my marjorie-smock-stewartgenes. My Daddy was very strong. Betty was strong and Mother too was strong. Bill and my son both are strong. I bless God for all of them.

Marji Stewart was probably the strongest woman I’ve ever met. Virtuous and elegant too. Bill died in 2005 in Owensboro KY. They had celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary the previous November. Marji returned to Ontario to live near us. She died there in 2009.

Lady Ashburnham Pickle

A mustard relish, Lady Ashburnham pickle originated in New Brunswick. It is also called Lady Ashburn or Lady A relish. Whatever you call it, it’s the best mustard pickle that I have ever eaten.

lady ashburnham pickle photo d-stewartI have, however, never made it. Fortunately, I know people who do and they keep me supplied. I’m especially proud of the relish pictured here because those are our cucumbers in it.

You want large cucumbers, I was told, preferably when they’ve gone yellow. So the good news is that you can leave this until you’ve finished your other pickles. The bad news is that you can leave this until you’ve finished your other pickles. By the time I’ve done bread and butters, dills and relish, I don’t want to see another cucumber! Thankfully, others have more stamina.

I fell in love with Lady Ashburnham relish when I bought a jar from the lady who ran the Cowtown Market on Main Street in Sussex. She had made it, and was surprised that I had never heard of it or of Lady Ashburnham. So she told me about her, then I googled for more.

yellow-cucumber-photo-d-stewartFrom My New Brunswick, here is how to make the relish. Equally delicious is the story of the Ashburnhams of Fredericton, which follows here.

Lady Ashburnham Pickle: Ingredients

6 large cucumbers (peeled with seeds removed and chopped into a ¼ to ½ inch dice)
¼ cup [pickling] salt
4 cups onions, chopped fine
2½ cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
3 Tbsps. flour
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. celery seed

Instructions

Cut your cucumbers and onions into small pieces and mix together in a large pot; I use a food processor for the onions but cut the cucumber by hand. (I find the cucumbers are much too delicate to chop in a processor and they may very quickly turn to mush).

Add salt to cucumbers and onions, and let sit overnight.

Next day, drain and rinse salt. Add the remaining ingredients.

Cook over low heat for 45 mins, making sure to stir the pickles often.

Carefully pack into hot sterilized jars. Wait for the “pop”, store and enjoy!

Lady Ashburnham of Fredericton

lady ashburnham fredericton-region-museum-fbLady Ashburnham was born Maria Elizabeth Anderson in 1858 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her parents were William Henry Anderson and Lucy Ann Stephenson.

Rye, as she was called, worked as a night telephone operator in Fredericton. Thomas Ashburnham was one of her frequent callers. She’d put him through to the livery stable so he could get a ride home. They began talking more during his calls, eventually met, fell in love and married in June 1903.

Capt. Ashburnham was the 5th son of the Earl of Ashburnham in Sussex, England. Retired from the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, he emigrated to New Brunswick in 1901.

lady ashburnham chart d stewart
Earls of Ashburnham and Anderson Family Tree (tap to enlarge)

But in 1913, his eldest brother Bertram died. The 5h Earl had a daughter but his only son died soon after birth. And of his six brothers, only Thomas was still alive. So Thomas found himself the 6th Earl of Ashburnham and Viscount St Asaph.

Finding Freedom, 1914 style

The new earl and countess moved to the family estate in Sussex. It didn’t work out so well. Rye did not feel comfortable with his family. So they did a Harry and Meghan. They soon returned to Fredericton, but they kept the titles. Over the next few years he sold his properties in England and Wales except for Ashburnham Place.

Ashburnham Place Sussex UK
Ashburnham Place in the late 1800s (tap to enlarge) from Landed Families of Britain.

In Fredericton they moved back into their Ashburnham House on Brunswick Ave. It was two houses they had knocked together into one quite grand house. There they entertained. Rye’s younger sister Lucy was their housekeeper. One of her specialties was a mustard pickle. It proved very popular at dinner parties. “I hope Lady A has some of her lovely pickle with dinner tonight,” I imagine was said by more than one guest.

In 1924 Lord and Lady Ashburnham sailed to England for a visit. He caught pneumonia on the way and died soon after their arrival. He is buried at Ashburnham Place. Lady Ashburnham returned to Fredericton.

163-165-brunswick-st-google-2019
Brunswick Street houses from Google street view (tap to enlarge)

The Ashburnhams had no children. With no male heirs in the family, the peerages became extinct. The family estate went to his niece Catherine, Bertram’s daughter. She died in 1953, leaving no children, so it passed to her cousin’s son, Rev. John David Bickerstheth. He donated most of it to the Ashburnham Christian Trust.

Lady Ashburnham kept Ashburnham House in Fredericton where she remained until her death in 1938. Her sister Lucy died in 1943 at the age of 79. Titles and houses may be gone, but the pickle remains. A treasured legacy from the Anderson sisters.

There is a lovely painting of the house in Fredericton in its heyday in a book by Fernando Poyatos (Amazon link below).