Tomato Soup Cake

Some New Years Tomato Soup Cake.

I have heard it said that recipes and the wonderful food dishes they create are a real and concrete way to connect past generations of ancestors to the current generation. The one dish that does that for me is Tomato Soup Cake. A quick check of the internet places the origin of this cake in the late 1920s into the early 1930s. Campbell Soup came out with a recipe in the 1940s using, of course, its own can of tomato soup. However, as far as I am concerned, it came out of the kitchen of my Grandmother Pauline Bonnett Deloria. Even today the first taste of Tomato Soup Cake transports me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in the 1960s. That alone would be enough to eat this cake, except it also tastes so good.

After I moved away from my hometown of Plattsburgh, New York my grandmother would bake the cake every time I returned for a visit. One of the best reasons for these visits home would be time spent sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen eating Tomato Soup Cake and talking away the time. How I miss that. The recipe was given to my wife, and she has carried on the tradition  of making Tomato Soup Cake. Our children have all enjoyed the cake. It has been baked for holiday celebrations and even was the cake of preference for some birthdays. I have four grandchildren two which like the cake and two who have thus far refused to try it. I still hold out hope for them. The last few years we have baked the cake for the New Year celebration both as a treat and a way for me to remember my grandmother and the sadly growing list of people who have gone. The best part is the sweet taste of the cake, just like the memories.


Original Recipe from Grandmother Deloria

2                     cups of flour

1 1/3              cups granulated sugar

4tsp               baking powder

11/2tsp            ground allspice

1tsp                 baking soda

1tsp                 ground cinnamon

1/2tsp             ground cloves

1 10 3/4 oz     tomato soup

½ cup              lard

2                      eggs

¼ cup             water

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch baking pan. Add the baking soda to the soup and stir and let bubble. Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice cloves, and cinnamon in a large bowl to mix. Add the soup mixture, eggs, and water and beat with an electric mixer on low to blend. Increase to high speed and beat for four minuets. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes and check with a toothpick and let cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Revised Recipe from Sandra Lyon Moore

1                         spice cake mix

1 10 ¾ oz           can of tomato soup

½ cup                 milk

3                        eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.Mix per cake mix directions add soup with the wet ingredients. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes and check if done with a toothpick.

Also, you can add raisins and or chopped nuts to either recipe. However, it has been our preference not to add these ingredients.






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The Little Book

This was the green well used birthday book that was kept by my wife’s mother.


While my wife Sandy, and I were going through boxes of old pictures that her parents had collected during their lifetime, we found a little green book. The cover title was simply Birthdays. Inside was a wealth of information concerning relatives and friends. We found most if not all the birthdays of relatives that were alive during my wife’s parents lifetime. Also listed were many family friends whose birthdays were to be remembered and noted. The genealogy information contained in this book was plentiful. I found birth dates that ranged from the 1800s and was a little startled to see my birthday listed.

Pages of family records and notes can be found in this book. Parts of some names have been edited out for privacy reasons.

The above image shows some of the information shown throughout this book. You will see under April 16 is listed Sandy’s father with the birth year of 1924. This year will be part of a story I will reveal shortly. Other information found is that cousin Thomas was born at 12:04 AM and weighed seven pounds and 14 ounces. Also listed is Sandy’s cousin Denise who was the person that introduced Sandy and me at a school dance. These pages are typical of what is found throughout the book.

This image shows a funny family story hidden and waiting to be told.

In the image above you will see under May 16 Sandy’s mother Doris Monty Lyon listed. Her name is written in ink and can be read easily. Next to the name faintly written with a pencil is the number 21 which is for the year 1921. For many years Doris had taken off a few years by saying she was born in 1924. She did this because she did not want her husband to know that she was older than him. This deception came to a crashing end when Sandy found her mother’s driver license with the correct date of birth. With this information in her hand, little Sandy went running to her father in the living room with her mother trying to stop her. The secret was out so when I saw the date written in the book obviously well after the original entry I could not help but chuckle.

We all should keep an eye out for these types of finds. Address books, newspaper clippings, baby books, yearbooks, recipe files, funeral cards, greeting cards, letters, school reports, and so many other items that could shed light on our family’s history. Perhaps in this digital age, we all should get a book like this and fill it with as much information as we can. Unlike what we have today that becomes outdated and discarded or erased a book can last many even hundreds of years. Most of us should take a little time away from our screens to make permanent entries in this type of book. Better yet give these as gifts at Christmas and encourage our friends and family to use them. By doing this, we may be laying the groundwork for genealogy finds in the future. Keep in mind the internet will never have everything and most of what it has is just cold records with a few stand-alone facts. The personal and true family history is what we will find in those old boxes of photographs and records. They will in many cases be written by the hands of our parents and grandparents and will show us what to them was important and worth keeping.

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A Picture’s Story

Sandra Lyon Moore, Lake Placid, New York 1971. Note the large white purse.


Where’s my purse? Over the years I have heard that question countless times from my wife. I am amazed at how quickly and often she can forget where she has placed her purse. The above picture is a reminder of a misplaced purse. The image is of my wife taken when we had not been married a full 24 hours yet. She is standing outside the Charcoal Pit a restaurant in Lake Placid of which we are about to dine. I would ask you to note the rather hefty white purse she is carrying. The purse was stuffed with gift envelopes of cash we received at our wedding reception which we had just departed a few hours earlier. We had well over a thousand dollars in the purse, which in 1971 was a fair amount of money. To have the same value today, you would need about $6000 to equal the value of that purse in 1971. It was after a delicious meal and after we were back at our hotel room that perhaps I heard the statement, “Where’s my purse?” for the first time in our marriage. A frantic search was made of our room with me running outside to search the car, but we did not locate the missing purse. It was then we realized we must have left it in the restaurant. With thoughts of the possibility that all of our wedding money would be gone, we drove back to the restaurant. However, we were fortunate the purse which my wife had left on the back of her chair had been turned in with all the contents intact.

The above picture which sparked my memory of this adventure was found in a box of photographs that I am trying to organize. Somehow it was the only picture from that time period that was in the box, and I have no idea how it found itself there. It had no names or dates on the back. So you see even with all my preaching I still have much organization ahead of me. The fact is that is if someone was going through all my pictures say 50 years from now they may have no idea who was in the photograph and most likely no idea of the date or the story behind it. As genealogist and family historians we spend countless hours researching our past and too little time making sure our current family stories are not lost. Take some time to organize a few pictures write up a story or two; our descendants will be thankful.


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Telling Their Story

Standing left to right; Edward Monty and his son Oreon Monty. Sitting left to right; Ida Monty, Joyce (Jicey) Monty, Etta Monty Smith. Picture from the collection of Carl Gonya.

Here is another example of what I call a front porch picture. Pictured is the Edward L Monty family of Beekmantown New York. The picture is taken on their farm. A quick look at the picture shows a family dressed in their finest clothes in a proud pose. Edward Lafayette Monty (1818 – 1904) my wife’s 2nd Great Grandfather is shown standing at a table with a saw in his hand. A horse and wagon are in the background. Flowers in the flower boxes can be seen on the front porch. One of the windows is slightly open to let in fresh air. Ida Bell Monty (1861 – 1879) is next. Since Ida died in 1879, I believe the picture was taken on or before 1879. Joyce (Jicey) Murphy Monty (1817 – 1904) is seated next; she is my wife’s 2nd Great Grandmother. Seated on the end is Etta Monty Smith (1857 – 1942). Standing with his hand on his mother’s shoulder is Oreon Monty (1850 – 1930) who is my wife’s great-grandfather.

Edward was a farmer in the Chazy and Beekmantown area. He married Joyce or Jicey Murphy of Cohoes New York in 1846. The family story is that Joyce made her trip to Beekmantown from Cohoes on horseback with her trunk strapped on. This was no easy journey of over 150 miles over a large sparsely unsettled part of the state. Pictured below is the trunk that Joyce packed her belongings in. They were to be married well over fifty years until death took them just months apart in 1904.

My wife Sandy with her 2nd Great Grandmother Joyce Murphy Monty’s trunk.

Great Grandfather Oreon Monty worked in a sawmill and was also a farmer. He was to work his farm until his death in 1930. Oreon did not marry until he was 41 years old. His bride Emma Craft was fifteen years younger. They formed a marriage that was to last 39 years ending with Oreon’s death. Emma was to live for eight more years. Below is their wedding announcement.

From the Plattsburgh Sentinel; November 6, 1891.

While we may not have pictures of all our great-grandparents, we may have family stories or information that we have found because of our research efforts. It is up to us to tell their story because if we don’t, we can be sure that all or most will be lost within one or two generations. We can make it as simple or complex as we like. I hope the above helps some of you to get started on your family history project. The way I see it is you could have a one-page story about an ancestor or a blank page. Which one do you want to pass down to future generations?



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Letters are Windows to the Past

Smithsonian Institution. Repository: National Postal Museum

My Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair was trying to make a new start in 1918. She had divorced her first husband Abner Bonnett and had just married William LeClair. The envelope shown below housed a letter from her husband Abner pleading for one more chance as he promised to “change his Ways.” They did get back together long enough to have one more child, their sixth before they finally divorced in 1914.


Envelope for letter from Abner to his wife Bessie. Note the simple address used.

In the partially illustrated letter below written October 6, 1918, Bessie seems happy with her new marriage and baby son. In the letter written to her oldest daughter Florence Bonnett Tromblee, who also had a young baby Bessie says in part,

Sunday, Oct. 6th

Dear Florence, baby 

I have just laid baby down, he has been napping _ _ _ _ aches. He is getting fat he will be seven weeks old Wed. I got your letter and was oh so glad to hear you were all well.

Letter written by my Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair.

Bessie also in this letter talks about fixing up their new place with wallpaper and painting the ceilings. She also varnished the icebox and a writing desk. I would guess this letter was written on that newly varnished desk. However, a happy life was to elude Bessie as just fifteen days after writing this letter she was to become a casualty of the Influenza epidemic of 1918 at the young age of 36. This may be the last letter Bessie ever wrote; it is certainly one of the last. This letter was one of a collection of letters I received from Julia Tromblee, the daughter-in-law of the letter’s recipient Florence Tromblee. Julia and I never knew of each other and met when we noticed each others family trees on

Letter concerning Samuel Dakin and his newspaper.

The letter shown above was not written by a relative but was written about a relative. The letter is dated 1825 and concerns Samuel Dakin, a cousin of mine. Samuel and his partner William J Bacon purchased the newspapers the “Utica Sentinel” and the “Columbian Gazette” and combined them into one newspaper. In part the letter says;

“… We feel confident that the paper under their direction will be ably & successfully conducted. The public are deeply interested that the respectability of their public journal should be sustained, and we feel gratified at the prospect, that the varied talents of the editors of the present paper will give to it a character which will entitle it to the most liberal encouragement, and in that belief, we earnestly write to it the patronage support of your friends.”

The letter was signed by many of the leading citizens of Utica, New York at the time. The signatures continue onto another sheet of paper. Many buildings and streets are today named after some of the people who put their names to this letter of endorsement. I was able to get copies of this letter and many others from the Dakin family from the archives at Hamilton College where many from that branch of the family attended.


World War Two letter from Robert Lyon to his mother Alice Slinn Lyon.

The partial letter above is from an extensive collection of letters written mostly by my wife’s father Robert Lyon to his mother during his military service in World War Two. At the time this letter was written he was still stationed stateside. In part the letter says;

“I was going to hi myself to Denver to-night, but as it came out I’m on the litter detail. You see they select a few of the students every night to stay on the post for the next twenty-four hours, to carry wounded soldiers from the train to the hospital. We all hope they don’t appear, but anyway none of the fellows here have ever experienced such a thing yet.”

Robert was to experience such a thing when he found himself in combat in Italy. His letters give great insight as to what he was going through and of his thoughts at the time.

You do not need letters to give you a peep into the past. I have old school report cards, driver licenses, pay stubs, postcards, certificates of achievements, greeting cards, and many other types of written records. Shown below is a birthday card and envelope from my wife’s grandmother to her great-grandmother. Many of these greeting cards have a short message and for many perhaps the only signature they will have of a relative. Besides looking at these old cards is fun.

Birthday card from Ruby Gonya Monty to her mother Lottie.

The next letter illustrated below is part of a four-page letter. This copy of the letter was sent to me by a person that I met due to a DNA match. The letter was written by Page Cole and concerned the family of his wife, Mary Bushey Cole. Mary’s mother Mary Deloria Vincent Bushey Lajoy was my great aunt the sister of my grandfather Willis Deloria. As you can see from Mary’s many different last names she was married many times. Page was writing to a great-granddaughter of Mary who was trying to make sense of the family relationships. In the letter Page is assuring the great-granddaughter that all of Mary’s children were from her first marriage. The letter reads in part;

“Now Mary was the youngest. Mary was born on the 27th of April and was baptized in St. Peters Church in Plattsburgh on the 19th of May 1900. We have the original certificate of baptism, so the three children had to have the same father.” 

Letter written by Page Cole regarding his wife’s Mary’s mother Mary Deloria and family history


From this letter, I learned about Mary Deloria’s first husband, Edward Vincent. I had never heard of him until I read this letter. This was a four-page letter that was full of family history that I knew nothing about. I learned about name changes (not just from marriages) dates of death, and births also ages being lied about and why.

These letters have allowed me to understand better and tell the story of my family. With the exception of the birthday card which came from my wife’s parents papers all the letters shown were from other people and places. Even the collection of war letters from my wife’s father were from other people freely sharing and giving what they had. My wife had no idea that these letters existed until her cousin handed her a large archive box containing these letters. We all must search for and reach out to family and share what we have. By doing this, we will build a better family history.

For Better or for Worse comic strip. Used with permission.


How frail and ephemeral is the material substance of letters, which makes their very survival so hazardous. Print has a permanence of its own, though it may not be much worth preserving, but a letter! Conveyed by uncertain transportation, over which the sender has no control; committed to a single individual who may be careless or inappreciative; left to the mercy of future generations, of families maybe anxious to suppress the past, of the accidents of removals and house-cleanings, or of mere ignorance. How often it has been by the veriest chance that they have survived at all.

Elizabeth Drew





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The Dance

This well worn picture was taken about 1968.

When we go through an old box or album of pictures they can give us reason to laugh or sigh, and even feel a little sad. We get the most out of these pictures when they are of us or were taken by us. We know the background and story that the picture represents. The picture helps to capture the moment so we can recall the events that were taking place all around while the photograph was taken. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes we have to tell its story.

The above picture was taken at a Valentine semi-formal dance at my girlfriend Sandy’s (now my long time wife) high school in Beekmantown, New York. It was what we called a semi-formal dance. I know it was a semi-formal because I am wearing a coat and tie and Sandy is wearing a dress. The area high schools held many dances throughout the year. It was not uncommon that if two schools had an athletic contest, the school that was not hosting the athletic event would host a dance. Students and athletes from both schools would attend the dance. The cost to get into the dance was nominal, and the music was always a live band. Most of the bands were high school students who had gotten together and formed a group. We also had bands from students from the local colleges and from people who did it part time from their regular jobs. Below is news clipping from a 1967 Plattsburgh Press-Republican news article, about a newly formed band.

News article about just one of the many area bands.


It was at a school dance Where I met my wife. We did not go to the same high school as she went to Beekmantown High School and I went to Plattsburgh High School. We were to meet at a dance at a third school called Mount Assumption Institute (MAI). The night we meet I had no intention of going to the dance. I was at home watching television when a good friend came knocking on my door. He had a major crush on a girl at school and he wanted to go to the dance being held at MAI to try and meet up with her. I will admit it took some effort to talk me into going, as the last thing I wanted to do was go out that night. We walked to the dance where he went off to find the girl of his dreams (he had no luck) and I was thinking I would just go home. That’s when a girl who had her school locker next to mine came up and said she had someone she wanted me to meet. That’s when she introduced me to her cousin Sandy. She was cute with freckles and red hair and while I did not know it then I had found my dance partner.

Below is MAI the school where I met my wife. The school closed down a few years ago but has been remodeled into apartments. Funny I can still hear the music.

This was where my wife and I had our first dance.


 Could I Have This Dance

I’ll always remember that magic moment

When I held you close to me

As we moved together, I knew forever

You’re all I’ll ever need

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Would you be my partner every night?

When we’re together it feels so right

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Released 1980

Songwriters; Wayland Holyfield and Bob House


 Happy Valentines Day


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A Box Full of Surprises

This was the box that was full of surprises.


All that it cost me was twenty dollars. For those twenty dollars, I received hours of fun and entertainment. So as far as I am concerned I obtained more than my money’s worth. All this was found in a box of pictures and documents at an estate sale. When I started looking through the box, the dealer informed me that that I would not find anything local since she brought the box up from Florida (I live in New York State) from the estate sales she did while living down there. The box contained well over a hundred pictures and documents, so I started to group items that had names in common. Eventually, I had four groups that drew my interest. After a little negotiation, the dealer and I settled on the price. Now all I had to do was to research the people staring at me from those photographs. I needed to see if I could find them a home to which they belong

John F Rollins


The above picture is of John F Rollins who was born in Springfield, N.H. in the year 1835. The Rollins family was easy to find as they have several family trees on I did discover that John Rollins had moved to Florida by the time of the 1880 census where his occupation was listed as receiving U.S. money. That sounds like a job I would like. He was still in Florida for the 1900 census where his occupation is simply listed as a Capitalist. He must have moved back up to N.H. after 1900 because death records show that he died there. However, his time in Florida may explain how these pictures ended up there. I have five pictures from this family, John in the picture above, Gertrude Rollins, John H Rollins, Nora Rollins, and one which is written on the back as Great Grandmother Rollins. I received two quick responses to my inquiries regarding the pictures. One person only wanted digital copies but the second person wanted the photographs. I was pleased to send the photographs and not have to destroy them as I have a limited amount of room.


The family of Oscar A Rexer Sr.

The picture above is of the Rexer family. On the back of the picture is written Aunt Erma, Grandpa Rexer, Uncle Bill, Dad, Grandma Rexer, and Aunt Gertie. With a little research, I was able to put complete names to these people. They are left to right Erma Rexer, Oscar A Rexer Sr., William O Rexer, Oscar A Rexer Jr., Frieda Spiehs Rexer, and Gertrude M Rexer. I also have a picture of Oscar Rexer Jr. taken for his high school graduation and a picture of his wife to be Helene Nietmann. However, they also had many documents and such mixed in with the photographs. Someone had taken great care to keep these items together as a group as many were placed in Sheet protectors of the type that would be placed in a three-ring binder. Some of the items were a death certificate, a letter written in German, a map highlighting a city in Germany, and among other things, a statement of personal history filled out by Oscar Rexer Jr.

This is one of the many paper documents that I have for the Rexer Family.

From these papers, I was able to start putting some of the facts needed to research this family. Also, I was able to get some records from ancestry that was of great help. The Rexer family immigrated to America in December of 1910 from Germany. Oscar Rexer Jr. was about six years of age. They arrived at a difficult time since hostilities were soon to break out between Germany and the U.S. World War One broke out in Europe in 1914, and the American public became apprehensive toward people of German heritage. Then with Germany, increasing submarine warfare life for German immigrants became much harder. When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917 the lives of all German-Americans were to become very difficult. Most German-language publication ceased to exist; German music was no longer played, streets, buildings, and even some cities were renamed. German language instruction in schools was stopped. Many German immigrants and German-Americans were subject to mistreatment, and some were killed by mobs that got out of hand. Many were jailed without charges and released after a day or so. On an application that Oscar Rexer Jr. filled out is an interesting tidbit. To the question “Have you ever been arrested” Oscar gave the following answer. “May 1924 Port Arthur Texas. While on a weekend trip to Texas was picked up on suspicion, held overnight on open charge. Released without charges being preferred.” While this was after World War One it was during a period in our history of negative reaction against immigration, and also perhaps there were some ill feelings toward people of German heritage.

One of the many articles found by looking at online newspapers.

I also was able to make good use of digital newspapers on the internet. I found many news articles like the obituary shown above that allowed me to learn more about the family but also to locate living relatives that may be interested in having these items returned to the family. This was very useful since the Rexer family had very little in the way of family trees on ancestry. I was able to reach out with social media and by phone to well over six family members. Only one was to return my messages. However, she is currently living outside the country and said she would have me mail the papers and photographs to her when she comes back for a visit. She should be back in the country now per the dates she has given me, but so far I have not heard from her or anyone else from the Rexer family. I will keep these items for a little while longer.

J. Silver Hill

The happy smiling man shown above is a sad story. It is the only item I have for him, and his smiling picture was what drew me toward keeping it and seeing what I could learn. On the back of the picture was written J. Silver Hill, Nov.1905 Dixon, Calif. I did some checking on ancestry and soon found what I believed to be the right family. Also once again online newspapers proved to be very valuable in the search for Mr. Hill. I was to learn that his full name was Joseph Silver Hill and that his father was James Hill. However, it seems that everyone called Joseph by his father’s name of James and sometimes even put a Jr. after his name. This was a little confusing when I first started to do my research on Joseph. As you can read in the newspaper article below Mr. Hill committed suicide as he perceived that he had not won the love of his new wife.

One of the many news articles I found regarding the Hill family.

This took place in 1915 just ten years after the picture was taken. Mr. Hill was well off finically leaving his new bride $35,000 which would be in today’s value about $861,000. I was able to very quickly contact Susan, a relative of Mr. Hill who very much wanted the photograph. I had asked her about Lillian, the young bride and she was able to tell me some more of her story. This is what she wrote. “You inquired about Silver’s wife, Lillian. I did a bit of checking and found she did not remarry. She was a librarian prior to her marriage in 1914. She returned to her profession, wrote a number of children’s books, became “chief” of the California State Department of Education in the 1930’s & 40’s. She died in Los Angeles in 1973. She’s buried just south of San Francisco in Colma.” I was also able to find some of Lillian’s children’s books for sale online. I cannot guess as to the reason she did not remarry, but it seems she was able to carry on and have a full and very meaningful life. I find it very sad the Joseph Hill was not able to do the same.

The pictures below I believe are all from the same family. This last group proved to be too difficult for me to gather any information on. The people have the following names, Haynes, Sue, Kate, Jimmy and not shown in the pictures below Evelyn. Several pictures are stamped Florida, and I believe that is where they were taken.

On the back of this picture is written “Kate”

Some pictures of Kate, Sue, and Haynes.

On the back of this picture is written “Auntie Sue, Jimmie used your $5 on monthly payments on his scooter. This was taken Sunday August 19, 56.”

I will keep these photographs for a while in the slim hope that a family member may come across my blog and would want them. This was a pleasant diversion from working on my family lines and helps to keep my research skills sharp. Also, I think that this is something that all of us that work on genealogy should do. Just imagine if each of us did this just once a year the number of family heirlooms that could be returned. Besides, it is fun to do, and when it all works out; it gives you a nice feeling of accomplishment.




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