Wednesday, December 11, 2013

13 Slices of Pie

Martha Stewart was recently interviewed and had this to say...

“Who are these bloggers? They're not trained editors at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren't tested, that aren't necessarily very good, or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. So bloggers create kind of a popularity, but they are not the experts. And we have to understand that.”  (Emphasis added)

She took a lot of heat for her comments from the blogging community.  Someone is out of touch with reality. Generations have thrived without chefs in white hats and food labs in New York City.  You haven't really cooked until you've made Whoopie Pies with a baby attached to your leg, kneaded bread to relieve the stress of the day or GASP...let you kids lick the brownie batter off the spatula. 
Before the "experts" told us how to birth our babies, raise our children and feed our husbands there were Mothers, Aunts and Grandmothers.  Both my maternal and paternal Grandmothers left this world before I entered it.  All I can cling to are pictures, old recipes and the memories of those who knew them.  But it recently occurred to me that I didn't have any of those things for my paternal grandparents.  So for the past few months I've been accumulating treasures and tidbits about Anna Elizabeth Devonshire (born 1908) and her husband Theodore Roosevelt Dunfee (born 1904).  I originally thought this would be a simple post with some pictures and a recipe.  However, searching for a pumpkin pie recipe and confirming some dates led to more information than I expected.

I'll do my best to paint an accurate picture of the Dunfee family in this post.  The canvas may look like it came from the easel of Norman Rockwell.  The painting clearly depicts some interesting characters but their motivations, the sounds of the scene and what lies beyond the edge of the frame is left to your imagination.

Before the Duggars there were the Dunfees.  Thirteen children in all, with nine boys and four girls.  My dear Grandmother had six sons before her first daughter - oh sigh.   No one turned their head when a Mom had a dozen children or more back in those days.  Pictured below you'll see...(listed in birth order)

Thirteen children of Theodore & Anna Dunfee.
Photo courtesy of Ruth Dunfee Taylor.











I am the daughter of David (1931), his fifth child from his second marriage (my half sister Joy used to joke that I was from his second litter).  He is pictured at the far left in a suit and tie.  He has always taken great care and pride in his appearance.  Now that I see these old pictures of my Grandfather (below), I'm guessing he learned that from his Dad.

This Pennsylvania family lived in the Oxford and Cochranville areas before moving to Delaware in 1950.  They weren't rich but they always had plenty to eat.  Mom Mom Dunfee baked her own bread, made Squirrel Pot Pie and cooked up turnips and poke for supper.  (I know all about the turnips and poke because my Dad brought those things to our dinner table too.) 
My Dad managed to stay warm at night by wrapping up a cast iron clothes iron (handles were removable) in newspaper and taking it to bed with him.  Not in his own bed and certainly not in his own room.  Their house had three bedrooms - one for the parents, one for the boys and one for the girls. 

Bare feet were fashionable in the summertime for the Dunfee clan.   That is...they didn't have the money to shoe the children until school started.  One school that the children attended was the Highland Township Consolidated School in the village of Gum Tree just outside of Cochranville, better known today as the Highland Township Building.  At one time this was also where the congregation of Highland Baptist Church met.  My parents are charter members of that church and I recall my Dad being so tickled that he got to return to his school to attend Sunday Services.  Before our church could call the building home it would need a lot of renovations.  I spent many chilly Saturdays in that old building while my Dad did things like construct a stage and install Double Dutch doors for the nurseries.  
Like my Grandfather, all the Dunfee boys became carpenters.  All but one worked for The Carpenter's Union Local 626 of New Castle, Delaware.  The Delaware Memorial Bridge, Concord Mall and Interstate 95 were made with Dunfee hands.  Some of my earliest memories are of "going down to the Local" with my Dad when he was out of work.  In a back room full of cigarette smoke the brothers and other carpenters would play cards - probably Rummy.  One day while they were in the middle of a game I went behind a freestanding chalkboard to cut some paper with my new red scissors and eventually my hair.  Dad never noticed but Mom sure did when we got home.

Anna & Theodore at Brandywine Park (year unknown). 
Photo courtesy of Ruth Dunfee Taylor.
Mothers do notice everything.  I wonder what my grandmother noticed as she raised her thirteen children.  Did she have the time and energy to act upon all she noticed? When the boys required discipline, the girls wanted affection or the husband longed for admiration, did she push forward and continually give of herself or did she at times grow weary of all that was demanded of her?

Anna Dunfee with her half brother Warren Smith.
Photo courtesy of Ruth Dunfee Taylor. 
I don't have answers to these questions.  Mom Mom Dunfee died of heart failure on Thanksgiving Day in 1960.  Long before I was born and when many of my cousins were just learning to walk, she was gone.  Tombstones and genealogies don't tell the personal stories of those that have gone before us.  So besides these few pictures and a pumpkin pie recipe you'll see at the bottom of this post...this is all I have of her.
On several occasions I recall my father talking about Aunt Jennie and how she was so kind to him and the rest of the family.  All these years I assumed she was an Aunt, but her name is not found in the Dunfee Family Tree.  After a little digging I unearthed some stories that shed some light on why Jennie McDonald  was apart of the family and how the actions of her and some other kind souls forever changed the life of Theodore and his little brother James.

My Grandfather, Theodore Roosevelt Dunfee was born to Harry Henry & Jennie Lilley Dunfee in 1904.  He was welcomed by five older siblings - Edwin (1894), Mary (1896), Ruth (1897), Chester (1898) and Henrietta (1902).  No doubt he was named after the man of the same name who was nominated by the Republican Party to run for President that same year.  

In 1906 my Great-Grandmother Jennie gave birth to a seventh child named James.  Sadly, she was only able to celebrate one birthday with her son before Tuberculosis took her life on September 28, 1907.  Just over a year later on October 1, 1908 Harry remarried Clara Thawley and they had six more children together.  

I am puzzled by what took place in that year between losing one wife and marrying another.  Harry gave up the children from his first marriage to foster care (or to the orphanage, where Mary was sent) because he could not care for them properly.  Only Henrietta "Etta" remained with him. 
Theodore and James stayed together but were separated from their four older siblings and moved from the Philadelphia area to the Oxford area.  There they were raised as foster children by Dr. Donald & Jennie McDonald, who had two daughters Emily and Jenny and one son named Clyde. (Sources also say that their names were Dr. David & Isabella McDonald, with five children.  Nicknames make family research very difficult) Theodore and James retained the Dunfee last name because at that time no one over the age of 40 was permitted to adopt children.

The Reed family were close friends with the McDonalds and had some involvement in the upbringing of the Dunfee brothers.  Both families attended Oxford Presbyterian Church.  Sarah Reed and her friend Mabel Cummings, lived with Sarah's father.  They were all "society" families in Oxford.  Jennie McDonald even wrote for the society column for the Oxford paper.  Sarah Reed has been credited with designing the "new" Navy uniform which was created between World War I and World War II.       
Over the years searches were made by the older siblings to locate Theodore and James, but they were unsuccessful.  But in 1950 a connection was made.  These orphans now had children and grandchildren of their own and they were finally able to be reunited with their childhood.  The event was recorded in the Coatesville Record newspaper on March 30, 1950. 

I made a copy of the original newspaper clipping at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  According to my Aunt Mary, the reunion was actually held at the Dunfee farm in Cochranville and the middle name of James was Harvey, not Darlymple (which is a last name associated with the Dunfees, but I'm not sure why is showed up here). 

Left to Right: Mary, Theodore, Ruth, & Henrietta
Photo Courtesy of Ruth Dunfee Taylor

Oxford, March 30 - After a separation of 42 years, a family of eight was finally united on Sunday, March 26, during a family reunion held at Camden, N.J.  Theodore Roosevelt Dunfee , of Cochranville, and James Darlymple Dunfee, of Oxford, were two of the seven sisters and brothers who met for the occasion.  Their father, Henry Dunfee, of Stony Creek, N.J., is still living, but all the members of the family were split up following the death of the mother while all were quite young.  This reunion marked the first occasion the entire family had been together since that time. 

Uncle Art & Aunt Doris in 1958 with
(left to right)
Ruth, Howard, Marie and Arthur Jr.
As promised, here is Mom Mom Dunfee's recipe for Pumpkin Pie.  It has been tested by generations and as far as I'm concerned, if you give birth to 13 children you are an expert at many things.  I had a hard time tracking it down, but my cousin Ruth (Arthur's daughter) graciously passed it along to me.  It was originally preserved by Aunt Ruth (Dunfee Berry) who went to heaven just a few years ago. (Yes, we have a lot of Ruths in the family)   A big thanks to my cousins Ruth and Arthur Jr. "Bubby" who were the backbone of this blog post.  Bubby especially has devoted a lot of time to Dunfee Family History.  My Aunt Mary (Elizabeth Dunfee Nickloy and known as "Peg") of Overland Park, Kansas and Aunt Mabel (Mrs. Willard Dunfee) of Elsmere, Delaware were also a huge help in piecing this story together.

If you're one of the many Dunfee cousins (and there must be hundreds), I would love to hear your own stories about our family before they are lost.  Any clarifications or corrections are also welcomed.  It would be fun to write a Part II with more information about our Grandmother Anna Elizabeth. 

A gooseneck pumpkin growing in my garden.
Dunfee Pumpkin Pie
2 cups of steamed pumpkin
    (1 gooseneck pumpkin)
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
Slice, remove seeds, bake at
350° for 1 hour, then puree.
1/8 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt

1 slightly beaten egg (or 2 egg yolks)
1 cup milk

1.  Get gooseneck pumpkin.  Peel and cut in to squares.
2.  Cook until done.  Add about 1½ cups of water to steam pumpkin.  Cook and put through ricer or food processor. 
3.  Blend until smooth - puree.
4.  Add ingredients and bake in pie shell at 450° for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350° and bake for 45 minutes.
 Serves 12 (or 13 if that's how many kids you have)

(As you can see in the pictures, I process 
my pumpkins a little differently because 
I find it impossible to peel pumpkins.)
Pie Shell
2 cups of sifted flour
2/3 cup Crisco
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Blend, then add 6 Tablespoons of cold water.
I put foil around my crust just until the last ten minutes of baking.
I tested this recipe three times to perfect the directions.  It melted in my mouth (especially with a scoop of Turkey Hill Vanilla Ice Cream) every time, but the pie spilt when I pulled it out of the oven.  While I did use fresh pumpkin, I drain mine to the consistency of canned pumpkin, so I found it necessary to reduce the cooking time by 20 minutes or more to prevent splitting.  If you're using fresh pumpkin that's a little runny, then this cook time will work great.   

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  1. Your lines here are FABULOUS: "Someone is out of touch with reality. Generations have thrived without chefs in white hats and food labs in New York City. You haven't really cooked until you've made Whoopie Pies with a baby attached to your leg, kneaded bread to relieve the stress of the day or GASP...let you kids lick the brownie batter off the spatula. " SPOT ON, sister! :)

    And what a fascinating story! I'm always so intrigued with family histories, and often it is difficult to research. What a story you have to tell your children!

    1. Thanks. I'm actually a big fan of Martha and was quite surprised by her comment.
      This was difficult to research because so many family members are already gone. If you ever want to research your own family don't delay. I don't think this blog post would have been possible if I decided to do it one day when I actually had the time.