Recreating recipes of old Union on a the Clarion wood stove, and celebrating 19th Century cooks
UNION – The Union Historical Society hosted its first Come Spring Tea, at the Robbins House, which serves as home to the historical society, at 343 Common Road, on the Union Common. Featured with the tea were baked goods from the original recipes found in a collection and handwritten from the 1800s by Union resident Lena Grinnell.
Marion Gray, curator of the Union Historical Society, said the purpose was to celebrate the beginning of spring and to welcome the community into the building.
“The society was established in 1972,” she said. “We hold monthly programs at the old townhouse here in Union, April though November. We do a Founder’s Day every July, which represents the founding of our town. We have a booth at the Union Fair every year and sometimes we do presentations for the Union Elementary School.”
Wanda Garland said they had a wonderful surprise when they found a ledger in the archives.
The historical society plans on publishing a cookbook of the recipes.
“There were recipes written in it from 1896,” she said. “The woman who wrote them wrote her name several times. I have been transcribing the recipes, updating them and cooking them, so everything we are going to eat today is from 1896 recipes.”
Lena Marsh Grinnell, who wrote the recipes, grew up and was a resident of Union. She was 15 when she wrote the recipes.
“We have ginger snaps,” said Garland. “We have favorite cookies, as she called them. We have little cupcakes that were listed as cup-bake and miniature lemon pies.”
Garland said she is cooking all the recipes from the ledger and updating them.
“We’ll include copies of all the recipes from the ledger in the cookbook,” she said. “We have to update it for modern cooks because she would say a dessert spoon of this, a soup spoon of that, or a large half tea cup of something. Then she would say flour, and that’s all she would say, no measurements. And then the next entry might just say add spices.”
Garland said because they did everything on a wood stove, she’s recreating everything on a wood stove.
“I have a 1906 Clarion Wood Stove and I’ve been cooking on wood all my life,” she said. “We have a picture of the cooks and the house. We know the house and the location, but we don’t know the cooks, so sadly we can’t honor these women of Union.”
Garland said they hope to publish the cookbook come summer and she hopes to have all the recipes and test cooking done sometime in April.
The title for the Come Spring Tea come from the book by the same name by Ben Ames Williams, who lived from 1889 to 1943, and wrote the popular historical novel Come Spring, about the settling of the area.
Jeff Nims, vice president of the Union Historical Society, said the book was published in 1939.
“It tells the story of the first settlers in Union,” he said. “He based the story on a number of diaries he used to write the story. He wrote many other books too and was one of the more popular novelists of his time.”
Nims said the society has been able to continue a relationship with William’s grand daughter.
“We now are the only ones who publish two of his books,” he said. “Come Spring and Fraternity Village. The book Come Spring essentially tells the story of the Robbins family and this is the Robbins house. We’re really happy that we’ve been able to publish his book and I think the family is, too.”
Up next for the Union Historical Society is an informal event at Mill Farm’s nano-brewery. There will be brief talks about the use of alcohol in Union’s early days.