Filson Family Farm

Filson Family Farm

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marriage of Grace Coplen to Russell Filson (Filson/Coplen lineage)

Bourbon [Indiana] News Mirror, December 27, 1923


Sunday, December 16, 1923, Russell Filson of near Inwood, son of J. T. and Mrs. Filson[1] took unto himself a wife in the person of Miss Grace Coplen, daughter of Elmer and Mrs. Coplen[2], of near Argos. The wedding ceremony was performed by Rev. Montgomery, formerly of the Methodist Church of Inwood, in the presence of only the immediate family. Following the ceremony the couple was given an elaborate dinner for their guests, by the parents of the bride.

Mr. Filson is a farmer, but for the present has not decided just what place he will occupy, but expects to be able to settle on the place by the first of the year. He is an excellent young man, inherits thrift and energy from his excellent parents and will undoubtedly make a success of life.

The bride is reputed a delightful woman, charming in a social and physical way, and a fit companion and home maker for the young husband. Their interests, likes and desires are mutual, so a good home should and will be the result. May they be happy, prosperous, and live long is our wish.”

1) John Thomas Filson and Catherine Manuwal Filson

2) Mrs. Florence Rodabaugh Coplen

Above is the marriage announcement for Russell Filson and Grace Coplen. I find it interesting to encounter personality traits other people bestow on my ancestors. My guess would be this announcement was written by Russell’s mother Catherine. She sees Russell as thrifty and energetic, traits he likely inherited from her. I make the assumption it was written by Catherine because she uses the word “reputed” when describing Grace. This is not a word a mother would use, but one a new mother-in-law would use. She says Grace is delightful and charming and my favorite part is, she is “a fit companion and home maker for the young husband.” In the 1920s, this sort of companionship is what most women aspired to. They are indeed a beautiful couple.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lesson from Grandma Grace (Filson/Coplen lineage)

One very blistering snowy day in 1972 I had to walk from school to grandma's house. I know what you are saying, but my snow story is real, not made up. The snow was coming down hard and the wind was so strong it stung my face. My spine hurt from the tightness of my body. I walked as fast as I could for about 20 minutes for I was not prepared for snow that day and had no gloves. I made it to Grandma's house and ran to the sink to run hot water over my hands. As the hot water started to run, the pain in my hands escalated to horrifying pain. Luckily grandma was in the kitchen and she quickly turned off the hot water tap and ran cold water over my hands, explaining to me that when anything is frozen it has to be thawed slowly, heat would make it crack. I envisioned my fingers falling off my hands. She filled the sink up with cold water, added a few ice cubes and then gradually brought warm water into the sink. My eyes were filled with tears from pain, but comforted that Grandma knew how to fix it.

In 1971 we moved away from Plymouth, Indiana for two years to another Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, but then returned to the family farm in 1973 when my father retired from military service.

At that time Grandma Grace had bought a mobile home and put it on a cement slab next to the crib on the Filson farm. I enjoyed going over there to play gin rummy and eat her butterscotch hard candy. She had a little Chihuahua that would jump all over and annoy me. She would make rhubarb pie with the wild rhubarb that grew in the field and dandelion green patties with the wild dandelions that grew all over the yard. Looking back on it, I see it was one of my first lessons on how to live off the land. The thought that if I could find nothing else in the world to eat I could go out in my yard and pick the dandelion weeds, the weeds that most people hate and spend an exhaustive amount of time trying to kill, then mix them with egg and flour and fry them in a pan with butter. It makes me feel as if I have some secret knowledge of survival that my city friends do not.  She also taught me how to make gravy, it would take me another 10 years to remember her gravy lesson and implement it into cooking routine, but it eventually stuck. She said to make good gravy; you had to slowly brown butter and flour to a toasty color and then slowly add hot stock to keep the gravy at a slow bubble. “You can’t rush the gravy” she would say. It makes for perfect gravy every time.

I soon got busy with school and with my life and moved away from Indiana. Grandma Grace went to live with her oldest daughter on another farm a few miles from the family farm where she raised her children. Her oldest daughter died in 1993 and due to her poor health Grandma Grace went to live in Miller's Merry Manor Nursing Home in Plymouth. We would write to each other, but I regret I was not as attentive as I should have been. She lived there another 10 years, to the age of 97, and by that time she said she was tired of living. She was in a wheelchair and she did not like the fact that she was lasting so long.

She died on August 25, 2003, which is the same day I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary. She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Indiana next to her husband Russell.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cooking With Grandma (Filson/Coplen lineage)

We would visit Grandma Grace from time to time, as we were transferred by the Air Force all over the country, but it was not until 1970 when my father was transferred to Korea that he decided to put us on the family farm close to Inwood Indiana. Grandma at that time was living in the town of Plymouth, Indiana with her friend Irene Hendricks. They shared a cute little three bedroom house on the corner of this small town. They lived next to a car wash that had candy vending machines. I would scavenge for empty coke bottles to redeem for a few pennies to use in them. It was close enough to the middle school for me to walk the twenty minutes to her house after school, where I would often stay the night instead of going back to the farm.

I loved the smell of her house. I loved the little telephone table she had in the small foyer. At the time we had moved onto push button phones, but she still had a rotary phone. I would admire her knitting bag that she kept neatly organized next to her chair. She had made a cover for her footstool which was always placed in front of her chair. It was of a country farm scene that was perfectly needle-pointed in shades of brown. She and Irene would spend the evenings knitting and watching television. She tried to teach me to knit, but I was not interested, as I thought it was something only old people did. I regret that decision. I did help her needle point once and I remembered the lesson 10 years later as I cross-stitched teddy bear pictures for my daughter's nursery. My grandma and I would watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, The Andy Griffith Show, along with other shows. We would play Gin Rummy and put together puzzles. I would go there after school and arrive to the smell of Irene making Mashed Potatoes Donut Holes, which I thought were so amazing because they would stay fresh for a week. She would let me help fry them in a small deep fryer, I loved to push them down into the oil and watch them pop up and then when they are still hot, sprinkle them with sugar and watch the sugar melt to a glaze. Yummy!

But of course, the best treats were my grandma’s sugar cookies, that is one of those tastes I will never forget and just the thought of them brings back the taste to the tip of my tongue. My great grandma Katherine also made them, so I am not sure who would claim fame to the recipe. I am sure this is the same recipe millions of grandmas’ claim, but to me it is my grandma's recipe.

She would roll them out on a floured cutting board and with the lid of a Ball canning jar, cut out perfect circles that she would then bake to a perfect golden color. They were soft but crispy and the perfect combination of sweet and buttery.

My grandma was also known for her green beans cooked with bacon and her chicken and biscuits, which comprised of a layer of mashed potatoes, topped with a layer of freshly made thick egg noodles, topped with a gravy which contained large pieces of chicken, carrots and peas, carbohydrate heaven. I would eat then want to take a nap.

In later years I would find my Grandma’s recipe in a church cookbook compiled by our church in Inwood, Indiana. It reads:

Source: Country Cookbook, Inwood United Methodist Church Youth Fellowship,
Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies by Grace Filson

 3 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp lemon extract

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 c shortening

Shift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut shortening into it as pie dough. Sprinkle on the lemon extract. In another bowl mix:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

4 Tbsp milk

Beat eggs and add the sugar and the milk while beating. Pour this mixture over the dry mixture. Mix just until it holds together good, put out on floured board; roll without working anymore than necessary. They should be 1/4 inch in diameter. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 400 degrees until done. These will rise nice and are delicious for children to dunk in milk (will not crumble).

Note: I retyped this recipe the way it is in the book, but I feel there is an error in the original printing. Instead of the cookies being 1/4 in diameter, I know she meant 1/4 inch thick. I know these were not cookies where the dough was put into a ball, as I remember her letting me roll the dough and use the lid of a Ball jar to cut the cookies. Also, not mentioned in the recipe was the sugar we sprinkled over the top before baking. Church cookbooks are not well edited and have many errors in them, but they are a great resource for family recipes!

I will also include here the recipe for Irene’s Mashed Potatoes Donut Holes, I hope you enjoy.
A picture of Grace Coplen Filson and Irene Hendricks

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Grandma Grace Coplen Filson (Filson/Coplen lineage)

Today I write about the only person in my linage I have firsthand knowledge of. My Grandma Grace Genevan Coplen Filson, was born on December 5th, 1905 to Elmer R Coplen and Frances A Rodabough, in Talma, New Castle, Fulton Co, Indiana.

Grace was one of seven children. She attended school in Talma until she was 16 and then moved to Argos, Indiana and attended Inwood High School. She stopped short of graduating by one class; she said she felt she was wasting her time getting a diploma, because she could start working without one. Her mother Frances died in 1924 when Grace was 19 years old. At this point she was a newlywed and had her first of 5 children on the way.

She married Russell Filson at the age of 18, whom she had met at the Inwood Methodist Church. They lived on the Filson family farm near Inwood, Indiana which was built by Russell's Great Grandfather, Taylor Silver Filson.

There they raised a family of 5 children. Grandma would teach her children to grow vegetables and can and freeze summer fruits so they would have enough to take them through the hard winters. They were six miles from the main town of Plymouth, Indiana so any resources they needed for the winter had to be carefully planned out.

Grandma Grace was a very kind and gentle soul. A woman with deep religious beliefs and a slight judgmental streak, although not so much that you would be put off by her. I often sought out her opinion and cared about what she thought. I did not live by her for any extended period of time until I was in the 8th grade. There was a short time we lived with her in 1960 before the Air Force transferred us to Lakenheath, England, it was then we stayed on the Filson family farm for about 4 months. I was three years old and my memories of that time are vague. I do remember watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time that year and being terrified and running to Grandma for comfort.
My mom, Me and Grandma Grace Coplen Filson