From the Vatican to Skaneateles

A rare facsimile of commentary on trials of the Knights Templar — known as the Processus Contra Templarios (Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars) — was on public display on February 3, 2011, at the Skaneateles Masonic Lodge. The facsimile was published in 2007 by Italy’s Scrinium society, which releases works from the Vatican Library, the Vatican Secret Archives and the Vatican Museums. “This is a milestone because it is the first time that these documents are being released by the Vatican,” said Professor Barbara Frale, a medievalist scholar.

One of the most fascinating parts of the Processus is the Chinon Parchment, in which Pope Clement V absolved the Knights Templar of charges of heresy. The parchment was “misplaced” in the Vatican archives until 2001, when Frale found  it. “The parchment was cataloged incorrectly at some point in history. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was incredulous,” she said.

The Knights Templar were founded in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, after Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099. The Templars amassed wealth and helped to finance some European monarchs, including King Philip of France, who later saw getting rid of the Templars as a convenient way of canceling his debts. To enlist the sympathies of the Vatican, he accused the Knights Templar of heresy, and burnt the leaders, including the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, at the stake. The Vatican inquiry documented in the Processus exonerated the Knights Templar, but the organization was absorbed into another order, their assets taken and their history brought to an end.

The manuscript is of special interest to Masons because many scholars maintain that the Knights Templar, driven underground, surfaced centuries later as the Masonic order. A wider public has followed legends of the order’s hidden treasures, secret rituals and guardianship of the Holy Grail in films and bestsellers such as The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure and Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.

Each set of the Processus is priced at approximately $8,000. This set was “on tour” from the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, in New York City. The library’s director, Thomas M. Savini, accompanied the set and spoke on the history of the Knights Templar, the lessons of their history, and their relevance today. His talk was well worth the time spent, and it’s always a pleasure to be in the Masonic lodge, built by Freeborn Jewett and once the home of William Marvin, whose garden occupied the space now paved over for the municipal parking lot.

Book Update

Skaneateles: The Character and Characters of a Lakeside Village is now available at the Onondaga Historical Society in Syracuse, as well as Creekside Books & Coffee and The Creamery in Skaneateles, and The second printing is down to its last few copies, and the third printing is expected to arrive the first week in February. The author spoke at the Creamery on Tuesday evening, January 25th, and thanks everyone who attended.

Shotwell Park

While I am not a big fan of “linen era” postcards, in some instances the tinting is so overdone that it takes on a charm of its own. One can scarcely see the two little girls at the fountain here for the glowing green lawn that surrounds them. And that could be a dog seen through the archway. From the cars parked back on Genesee Street, I’d guess this is 1930s.

A Festive Dinner at Glen Haven

“The memorable 12th was one of the loveliest of June’s lovely daughters. A fresh breeze swept caressingly over the fair bosom of the ‘Beautiful Maiden;’* the gently sloping hills, clothed from base to summit with luxuriant foliage that circle her brow like a coronet of emeralds, flashed back the rays of the sun from myriads of rain-drops left by the showers of yesterday; and the grand old forest-trees, majestic in their beauty, bent lightly to the breeze, in order that they might–with a pardonable vanity–catch a glimpse of their graceful forms in the clear depths of the Skaneateles.

“The birds–Glen Haven birds they are, and therefore like the living beings in ‘the Glen,’–more free than others of their tribe to act in perfect accordance with the laws of their beautiful natures–for here no ‘fowler spreads his net’–poured forth wild gushes of melody, which the ‘Queen of Song’ herself could hardly hope to rival. The smiling aspect of the skies above–the beauty of the green earth around–the friendly greetings of more than a hundred guests, combined to render more inviting the dinner, which needed not to send forth ‘aromatic odors’ to tempt the appetite of those who assembled in the leafy bower to partake of the feast which the incomparable skill of Mrs. Jackson had provided.

“Delicate baked meats, not floating in rich gravies–for at Glen Haven it is not the custom to oil the wheels of life, to keep them in motion–Skaneateles trout–choice tidbits for an epicure–halibut, white as the snows of the Himalaya, with sweet cream sauce–the favorite tomato–homely bean, and mealy potato–asparagus heads, green and tender, smothered in cream, formed–without the usual condiments by which perverted appetites are pampered–a ‘first course‘ fit for a king.

“Then followed pyramids of Graham pudding–that prince of puddings to a water-cure patient–and its cousin-german, nice cracked wheat–aristocratic corn-starch, and its humble relatives, boiled and baked Indian–simple baked rice, and delicate boiled custards; and for sauce to all, an abundance of sugar and cream. Then came pies of apple, pie-plant, and pumpkin, with blackberry tarts, Dutch cheese, stewed apples, quinces, and blackberries, and fresh figs; and–can you credit it dear lady?–in the preparation of the entire dinner, there was used no lard, no butter, no wine, no spices of any kind, and yet a hundred and fifty people–high authority, too–pronounced it ‘VERY good.’

“Dinner being ended, ladies and gentlemen withdrew together; and it would seem, from what followed, that the latter needed no stimulus than bright eyes and sunny smiles to enable them to furnish an intellectual feast worthy of the gods. When such men as William H. Burleigh and Charles A. Wheaton, of Syracuse; Sireno French and J.C. Hathaway, of Ontario county; H.T. Brooks, of Wyoming; T.W. Brown of Auburn; and the inimitable O.E. Dodge, of Boston, are the guests of such a host as Dr. J.C. Jackson, one can never look in vain for a ‘feast of reason and a flow of soul.’

* Lake Skaneateles–an Indian name, signifying Beautiful Maiden.”

— Excerpted from an article entitled “Glen Haven Festival,” signed ‘Undine’ (the name of a water nymph in mythology) in The Water-Cure Journal (July 1851)

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Note: The author perpetuates the myth regarding the lake’s name; in the Iroquois Confederacy languages, Skaneateles meant “long lake.” To romantically inclined writers of the nineteenth century, however, the “beautiful maiden” myth was irresistible. Also, the “feast of reason and flow of soul” quote is an allusion to Alexander Pope; “pie-plant” is more commonly known as rhubarb; “cousin-german” is a term for first cousin.

Further, it strikes me that this piece really isn’t complete without the recipe for Graham pudding, “that prince of puddings.” And so, from The Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1918) by Frannie Merritt Farmer, here it is: 1/4 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups Graham flour, 1/2 cup molasses, 1/2 teaspoon soda, 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon, 1 egg, 1 cup raisins, seeded and cut in pieces. Melt the butter, add molasses, milk, the egg well beaten; sift and mix the dry ingredients and stir in; add the raisins; turn into a buttered mould, cover and steam for two and one-half hours.

Graham flour is a whole wheat flour named for the Rev. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an advocate of dietary reform who believed white flour was the source of many ills, and bran the cure. His flour combined all of the whole wheat kernel; today, we know the Rev. Graham primarily through Graham crackers.

There’s One in Every Family

“Frank Smith, of Skaneateles, was married to Miss Della Stock, at the home of the bride’s parents. A large company was present. Among the wedding presents was a fine pig, alive, in a nice little box, and when the dance was in progress the music was reinforced by the pig, which would sing every time its tail was pulled, which was quite frequently. The pig was presented by the brother of the groom.”

— “A Skaneateles Wedding Gift” From the Utica-Observer, March 31. The New York Times, April 2, 1883

Borodino Honey

In 1897, R.B. Leahy of Higginsville, Missouri, traveled across the U.S. by rail, passing through Washington D.C. and New York City, to visit with Gilbert M. Doolittle in Borodino. Mr. Leahy was the editor of The Progressive Bee-Keeper, and Mr. Doolittle was perhaps the most learned bee-keeper in the country. In New York, the traveler met his first challenge, writing “On arriving at the New York Central depot, I had but five minutes in which to purchase my ticket for Skaneateles. All the morning I had had some apprehension as to whether or not I would be able to pronounce the word so the ticket agent would understand me.”

Happily, Mr. Leahy survived this first test, and after transferring to “a little slow-poke railroad” at Skaneateles Junction, he found himself in Skaneateles proper. He had missed the coach to Borodino, but was told he could take the steamer to the Borodino landing, climb a considerable hill and then walk a mile to Borodino itself. And so he did.

In Borodino, Mr. Leahy had the good fortune to find Mrs. Doolittle, just come into the village for her mail, and she told him to “get right in the buggy” and drove him to his destination, “a beautiful place ornamented with hives of bees, trees, flowers, and all else that adds beauty and comfort to a home.”  Remembering his arrival, Leahy wrote, “Bro. Doolittle came out from among the bee hives, and extended me such a welcome that it made me feel thrice glad that I had come so far to see him.”

Gilbert M. Doolittle was the author of Scientific Queen-Rearing and a world-respected authority on bee culture. Leahy’s visit was as much a pilgrimage as an interview opportunity. The two men compared notes, including the trials of answering letters from would-be bee keepers. “It makes me very tired sometimes, but I try to answer all such letters,” Doolittle said. “We are here for the good we can do, and if we know something that will be useful to our fellow-men, we should impart that knowledge to them as long as health and strength will permit.”

“At a late hour,” Leahy writes, “Bro. Doolittle, lamp in hand, showed me up to bed. The room was a pleasant one, overlooking the bee yard, and through the open windows the fragrant air and the musical song of the bees came stealing in. I blew out the light, and sat down on the floor by one of the windows. Perhaps I sat there for an hour, enjoying the peaceful presence, and watching the stars twinkling between the leaves of the trees as the gentle wind swayed the branches to and fro.”

The following day was devoted to the bees, but before leaving, Leahy learned a bit more about his host. Three squirrels on the farm, who Doolittle referred to as “Daisy,” “Fawn” and “Gladstone,” came to the farm house each morning for breakfast, and were so gentle they would sit on Doolittle’s lap as he fed them. The afternoon of his departure, Leahy was given another ride in the Doolittle buggy, and caught the steamer at the Borodino landing. In closing, he wrote, “When the boat came along, I boarded her, and went back over the lake, while Doolittle went back over the hill. May we live to meet again by that beautiful lake — if not for his benefit, for mine.”

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— From the April, May and June 1898 issues of The Progressive Bee-Keeper, written and edited by R.B. Leahy.