Monday, February 10, 2014

The Gordons of White Sulphur Springs, Part I

Mary Gordon of White Sulphur Springs was born a slave in Kentucky in 1853. Her husband John was a free person of color who came from Scotland to the United States with his employer. A trained chef, he worked as chef and baker in White Sulphur Springs’ Higgins House, the town’s main hotel. In 1895, he took a job as chef for a Canadian railway and died in a train accident just before the birth of the Gordons’ fifth child, Taylor. Mary took in laundry, provided nursing care for the community, and cooked fine dinners for parties given by the town’s elite.

Mary Gordon. Montana Historical Society Research Center vertical file
Daughter Rose did the serving. The tables were always set with an array of knives and forks, and miners and cattlemen were often at a loss as to what to do with all this silverware. They would ask Mrs. Gordon and she would always tell them to watch the host and do what he or she did. Mrs. Gordon loved to tell how once an old miner, who was a dinner guest at a fancy banquet, drank from his finger bowl. Rose, one of the five Gordon children, wanted desperately to be a doctor. She graduated valedictorian from the local high school in 1903, and had great potential, but never had enough money to go to medical school. Instead she became a physical therapist and practical nurse. She also owned a cafĂ© and was a great cook.  She had a great sense of humor, too, as the back of one of her business cards reveals.
Montana Historical Society Research Center vertical file

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