Search This Blog

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1946 : A Very Special Family Day

Listen, people.  It's that holiday that we all enjoy....for various reasons.  Some like it for the vast selection of foods that some people display before their guests...what to try first?  And others love it because it means family, functional or dysfunctional, gathering and spending time conversing about a bunch of topics.  Politics, sports, one-ups-manship, health name it.  And hopefully there are no loud disagreements.  Everyone is glad it's here, and afterwards, some are glad it's over.

In our family, Thanksgiving meant all of the above, plus, it meant that Mom and Dad celebrated another wedding anniversary.  Yes, Mom and Dad were married on November 28, 1946.  I guess it was a good way to get the family together, and celebrate a wedding at the same time.

Anna Marie and Frank Bognar, Jr.
They were married at St. Leo's Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
They looked so happy on that special day.

My guess is that Thanksgiving Day has had a very  special meaning to them ever since that wonderful day.  I have never know a greater love between two people.  I wish that I had experienced that kind of love in my life.  It was so very special.  You could tell it was there, each time you looked at them together.

Mom had two sisters, a sister-in-law and a cousin in her wedding party.  Her brother stepped in and gave her away at her wedding, since her father had passed away when she was 3 years old.

Dad had a brother, brother-in-law and two Navy buddies in his wedding party.  They were so very much ready to start their lives together, after the years of war that kept Dad away from Mom for some time.  

St. Leo's Church, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri,
St. Leo's Catholic Church was build in 1888, and located on the corner of 23rd Street and Mullanphy Streets. Mom and her siblings lived just down the street from the church on Mullanphy Street.  It was originally an Irish church, but Italian families, like Mom's, began to move into the neighborhood, and the parish membership was thoroughly integrated after several years. In 1963, the parish was merged with St. Bridget's Church, and in 1978 the church building was razed.

How I wished that I could have been there to see these two wonderful people begin their lives together.  Of course, I did not come along until ten years later.  But still, I saw what wonderful people they were during my lifetime.  It just would have been so nice to be there all those years before to witness more years of their love for each other, and the love that they spread all over the world.

My parents are both deceased now.  Dad passed in 2002.  Mom passed in 2011. They are celebrating their special time together once again. And how wonderful it must be in witness the two of them in each others arms, sharing their love and compassion for everyone, and celebrating their wedding anniversary this Thanksgiving weekend. Imagine the happiness up there in the Lord's house.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Remember to celebrate the special relationships that you have.  They will be with you now and forever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holidays Approaching : Time to Give and Give More...

Have you started shopping for the approaching holidays?  What? No!!!

I have a few deals for you and your history and genealogy buffs.

Our new website, All For Schools, at have enlisted four of the biggest Genealogy and History retailers to donate to the school of YOUR choice, when you purchase a membership to their websites, and/or make a purchase from their website for their services and products.

Archives, at, will donate 5% of their sales to registered user of All For Schools.

Order a certificate, request a court record, order a living person search report, subscribe to NewspaperArchive, subscribe to One Great Family, or just purchase a subscription to

Ancestry, at, will donate 5.75% of their sales....

Purchase Family Tree Maker for Mac or PC, order Companion books for Family Tree Maker and Ancestry with loads of search tips, order a DNA test kit, order photo books and posters, or just a subscription to on several record coverage levels.

Fold3, at, will donate 10% of their sales...

order an all-access subscription to the world's best military database....

Newspapers, at, will donate 10% of their sales...

order a annual subscription to a very large database of national archives newspapers and start a collection of historical data in your clippings file

All For Schools is a FREE new fundraising platform where you save money and support schools.  This online school fundraising portal makes it easy to earn money for your school through everyday online shopping  Over 5000 retailers have aligned with All For Schools to donate an average of 1% to 10% of their sales from registered users to our schools.  How cool is that?

Remember, your neighborhood schools can't continue to operate without your support.  Their operational costs are continuing to spiral upwards.  That means there is less money for what is needed in the classroom.  Support your neighborhood school.  Sign up for FREE at All For Schools, Purchase a gift of membership or products as mentioned above for yourself, or your family historian.

Tis the Season to Give, and Give Some Your Schools.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Phillip Becker : Last Surviving Musician of the Lincoln Funeral Ceremony in Springfield

With the upcoming Veterans Day, I thought I'd  focus on someone who served his country in a way that very few did.  Philip Becker, the last surviving member of the band that played at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in 1865, died on May 7 in 1926.  He was 92 years old. He was laid to rest in Diamond Grove Cemetery in Jacksonville.  An obituary has been written for him in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. XIX  April-July 1926 Nos. 1-2.

 Mr. Becker had lived in the same house in Jacksonville, Illinois for the last 60 years of his life. Being born in Germany in 1834, Phillip arrived in Jacksonville in 1855. He was a cabinet maker by trade.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, raised their son, Phillip, and daughter, Kate, in Jacksonville.  His silver cornet band assembled in Springfield for the slain president's funeral.  He had formed the first band of Jacksonville with sixteen musicians, all of German descent. Philip would have been about 31 years of age at the time of the assassination of President Lincoln.

My thoughts began to focus on the funeral of President Lincoln, and what it must have been like for Phillip Becker and his fellow musicians to play their instruments. It must have been hard to control their emotions during that sorrowful event.  Yet, what an honor to be allowed to perform for the public during that time when the entire nation was in mourning.

http://thelincolncollection .org

The 150th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln Funeral will be celebrated in Springfield in 2015.
The informative website,, tells of the large scope of events planned for April-May 2015.

2015 Lincoln Coalition Logo

A Chicago area man is building a precise replica of the steam engine that pulled the funeral car of Abraham Lincoln.  You can watch a short film about this at . This site also contains a slide show of the construction of the funeral car, and a map of the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train Route.

There appears to be so much planned for the commemoration of this historic event.  I am sure that there will  be many visitors to the Springfield area, and people standing along the railroad tracks to catch a glimpse of the reenactment.

But what of Phillip Becker?  The last surviving musician of the band that played at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln was survived by one son, Phillip Becker, Jr. of Jacksonville, and one daughter, Mrs. Kate Werghwein of Henry, Illinois.  His funeral was held on May 9, 1926, in Jacksonville.
I know that his spirit will be there at the anniversary celebration of the President's funeral.  Mr. Becker will be standing tall, instrument in hand, alongside the other musicians who  played at the funeral 150 years ago.

Well done, Mr. Becker.  Your nation is grateful for your service at one of the most poignant events in this country's history.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Piasa Bird : Fact or Fiction?

When I was a little girl, my Dad would take me on boat rides on the waters of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, in the area just north of St. Louis, Missouri.  One day, Dad pointed out an interesting primitive painting on the side of a bluff, which jutted high above the waterways.  He said, "look up there at that picture on the side of the bluff...they say it was painted by the Indians a long time ago".  When I gazed at the image, I saw what appeared to be a bird-like image, with sharp talons, large teeth and a set of wings.  As I recall, it may have had a set of horns, too.  It was a bit scary looking to me.  It's been a while since I've taken a look at it.  One day, I'll have to drive by that part of the area near Alton, Illinois, and take another look at what may be left of the image.
Department of Natural Resources, State of Illinois

What I was shown was the image of the Piasa Bird, There are many articles written about it.  I was surprised to find that even in this age of technology and historical research, there are so many different theories about the Piasa Bird.  According to many website writings, Father Jacques Marquette wrote about seeing the painting in his hand written records of his famous exploration with Louis Joliet.  Father Marquette wrote that it had horns like a deer, a beard, red eyes, a body covered in scales and a long tail, although not quite in those words.

Some say that the bird was given it's name by the Illini Indians, Piasa, which translates to a bird that feeds on man.  It sounds like it was thought of as a monster, with a taste for human flesh.  In other words, they had visions of a blood-thirsty creature that they evidently feared as much as some of us fear all the ghouls and goblins at this time of year.  Some say that this creature is responsible for the deaths of many Indians of the area. However, there are contradictions to this school of thought. I read somewhere that certain authors thought that the original image was not painted at all, but merely etched into the side of the bluff, and nature had made the colors of the rocks into various hues.
Piasa Bird and Cave Tourist Spot, near Alton, Illinois,

It has also been said that the name, Piasa, came from the Miami-Illinois tribe, which meant "little peoples", and had a relation to the thought of little dwarfs that attack travelers in the area of the bluffs along the river ways.  So, where does the flying monster come into this story? Another story version states that Piasa, the name of the monster, means "the Destroyer".  Who is correct?  I don't know.

There are also stories about the bird-monster living in a cave in the bluffs.  It would hide there, and swoop down on unsuspecting area intruders.  The Indian legend, which may have been embellished by non-Indians, tells that the creature was killed by a chief who stood out on a ledge by the bluffs to entice the creature out of his cave.  When the monster made a move to attack the chief, his warriors shot their poison arrows at it, and killed the creature. The story goes on to say that the villagers painted the picture on the bluff to commemorate the killing of the creature, and in honor of their brave Indian chief.  Is it true, or not?
Workers touching up the paint on the Piasa bird, Illinois Tourism Department

An early account of the painting was told by John Russell, who was said to be an imaginative professor from a college in the area.  His version, which he supposedly published in a newspaper article, said that the creature was given the name of a nearby stream, the Piasa. His story was similar to the one above about the Indians who killed the creature, but, he admitted to others that he embellished his story.

Lastly, there was a article written in the Illinois State Historical Society Journal, Vol. XVIII, No. 3 by Dr. H. W. Long, regarding his take on the Piasa bird.  He was in France during WWI, and was able to visit a museum while there.  He observed a display of "Le Grande Geule", a bird of prey.  After studying it carefully, he realized that he had seen the likeness somewhere before then.  He was given permission to photograph the display of the creature.  After his service, he began to review the photo and compare it to the photos that he had seen of the Piasa bird in Alton.  In his article, he write about the similarities and differences in the two creatures.  He notes that there is a possibility that in the description that Father Marquette gives about the image that he saw, he also was familiar with the French "Le Grande Geule", which had an effect on his memories as he wrote his description of the painting on the bluffs along the Mississippi.  His theory is that early French explorers of the region placed that painting on the bluffs, and not the Indians of the region. He further explains that he feels the early explorers would have knowledge of building rigging for holding the painters, and also knowledge about longer lasting pigment paints to use on the painting on the bluffs.
Illinois State Historical Society

Who knows what the truth is?  There are only stories told ages ago, photographs of the bluffs before and after the painting was retouched by modern techniques, and, of course, the diary of Father Marquette.  But, it is fun to think that such an evil creature with four taloned feet, wings and a long tail lept through the air to scare anyone who dared to impose on  this monster's territory.