Making Jam For Mollie

My husband Scott and I have served as docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse, setting for The Light Keeper’s Legacy (the third Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mystery), for five years now. There are lots of stories to tell. I wove some of my favorites into the book—especially those concerning the Betts family, occupants in the late 1800s.

Visitors touring the lighthouse, however, see the structure as it appeared in about 1910. Charles Boshka was head keeper then.

Charlie Boshka

Charlie Boshka at an earlier posting.

I knew the basic facts of his time there, but until recently, all I knew about his wife Mollie was how lovely she was.

Charles and Mollie Boshka

This was Charlie and Mollie’s wedding photo.

That changed when I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting two of the Boshkas’ descendants. Thanks to the generosity of Connie Sena and Kari Gordon, the handsome couple in the portrait displayed at the lighthouse are a little more real to me now.

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Some sheet music was among the family treasures. Charlie played the violin, and even composed at least a few tunes.

The couple had two children.

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Charlie and Mollie with their son, Lucien Nels, and daughter, Ella Josephine.

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I adore this photograph! It gives a hint of life beyond the daily requirements for lighthouse families.

I was particularly pleased to get glimpses of Mollie. She grew roses.

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Some of Mollie’s roses still bloom at the couple’s home on Washington Island.

And she was a knitter.

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Mollie’s needles…

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…and a closer view of her handiwork.

I hoped to find a lace pattern similar to these, practice over the winter, and knit during my stay at Pottawatomie this year. Time got away from me, so—maybe next year.

However, Connie shared another treasure with me:  Mollie’s recipe for rhubarb jam.

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The week Scott and I traditionally stay as docents at Pottawatomie Lighthouse comes right at the peak of rhubarb season. Perfect.

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That’s me, harvesting from the lighthouse garden.

Other than rhubarb, I brought the fixings for Mollie’s jam. I made a batch the day we arrived at Pottawatomie, and wrote the recipe out on brown paper.

rhubarb jam

Scott said the simmering jam made the whole house smell wonderful!

An added bonus?  The jam was delicious. I kept one jar for display, and we enjoyed the rest on our morning toast all week.

Mollie Boshka’s Rhubarb Jam
1 qt. rhubarb cut up fine
1 qt. sugar
2 oranges – grind rind and all
Let sit on back of stove until juices form.  Then let it boil good for 20 minutes.

Just before you take it off stove put in 1/4 lb. of walnuts, cut up fine
Also grind half a cup of raisins and put in the mixture.

*Note:  I omitted the sugar and added a splash of maple syrup instead. Also, I didn’t have a grinder, so I minced the oranges, walnuts, and raisins with a sharp knife.  Mollie’s reference to letting the rhubarb sit on the back of the stove harkens back to the days when the back burners of a wood-fired cookstove stayed warm; I stirred the rhubarb, oranges, and sweetener over low heat until it began to simmer.  I did not actually can the jam, but I plan to make another batch and freeze it in small containers.

It made me happy to bring a little something of Mollie back to the lighthouse.  And on chilly evenings, I could almost hear Charlie playing violin in the parlor—just as he did a century ago.

Pottawatomie lighthouse parlor

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6 Responses to “Making Jam For Mollie”

  1. Kari Gordon Says:

    Wonderful, beautiful….tears in my eyes. You are bringing them to life for others, not just our family. Thank you!!

  2. Liz V. Says:

    Rhubarb pie was a favorite of a cousin, but only an Amish store still made the pie, and it was not in season when I asked. Glad you’ve revitalized the jam recipe.

  3. Arletta Dawdy's Blog Says:

    A delightful glimpse of the past through your present day rendering of magic. Thanks, Kathleen

  4. Beth Hoffman Says:

    I am the great granddaughter of Mildred Gallagher who was the sister of Charles and Joseph Boshka. I am trying to find out more of their parents. My mother passed away 7 years ago and she was Elmer Gallagher’s daughter Helen. She did not find out much about her dad’s family as he passed away when she was 4 years old. Any information you have I would appreciate.

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