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Oklahoma Pioneers
& Settlers

Excerpt from 1905 Cookbook—
Food for Body and Soul

Published by Judy Steiger Howard

George Chalmer (G.C.) Forster was born in 1858, the son of a Presbyterian minister. George ran commercial boats on Lake St. Claire in Michigan and later opened a mercantile store. He farmed in the Dakotos before opening a drug store in Hope, Kansas where he met the love of his life, Jennie, at a Presbyterian Church social. They married in July, 1888.

Enamored with the news of the April 22, 1889, opening of Unassigned Indian Territory and the rumors of good water in Edmond, George ordered groceries to be shipped to Edmond to stock a store. He saddled his fastest steed, taking only an umbrella and a bag of food his tearful bride packed to make the run, along with 50,000 other hopeful settlers.

Here’s Jennie recipe for George’s favorite Graham Bread she packed for him:

½ cup melted butter

1 cup molasses

1 cup sweet milk or cream

2 beaten eggs

spices to suit taste

1 teaspoon soda dissolved in little hot water

1 cup raisins

3 cups sifted graham

Steam 2 ½ hours

When the gun resounded at noon on April 22nd, 1889, George kicked his horse and hung on for the ride of his life, determined to claim two of the free lots on Second and Broadway. With only an umbrella for shelter, G. C. and partner George Angerman opened Pioneer Grocery the next day. Dan Lights let the men sleep under his duck sheet several nights until they erected a tent for the new store.

Jennie arrived a month later in a covered wagon overflowing with pots, pans, flour, lard, sugar, sewing machine, portable cook stove and a few pieces of furniture. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in the tiny Edmond railroad station, sharing space with the bachelor stationmaster. Two months after arriving, Jennie and G. C. moved their home to the second floor of their newly erected Forster’s Pioneer Grocery and Dry Goods Store. Jenny immediately opened a millenary shop and woman’s furnishing department.

The newlyweds envisioned Edmond becoming the cultural mecca of the Territories and immediately took action to make their dream a reality. Within months, Jennie set up a library in their store and became the first librarian. In 1889, she raised the money almost single-handedly to build the first school, roads, parks and churches in Edmond. She founded and served as the first president of the Ladies Aid Society and School Aid Society and obtained lumber to build the first public school. They charged the students $1/month tuition and held Saturday night socials in the school.

Spunky 89ers that they were, Jennie and G.C influenced the destiny of Oklahoma, giving rise to civilization in the barbarian wilderness frontier. Within two months after the Land Run, they organized the first Sunday school for the community with seventy members joining. G.C. instructed the City Clerk to issue certificates for three lots each for the Methodist, Christian and Presbyterian Churches. Spearheading the organization and construction of the First Presbyterian Church, which opened its doors for services Easter morning of 1890, G.C. served on the church’s first board of trustees. He also served on the City Council in 1889-90 and as City Treasurer in 1892-93 and on the board of directors of the Bank of Edmond during the 1890s.

Jennie organized the first annual Game Supper and Ball to pay the $30 monthly salary of the first teacher Ollie McCormick. Emma and Frank Dawson hosted that first community Thanksgiving dinner in their unfinished livery stable. The men’s hunt provided seven wild turkeys, 132 quail, eleven prairie chickens, two squirrels, twenty-two rabbits, one opossum, two raccoons and many ducks and geese. Jennie enlisted women to weave rag carpets on their home looms to pay the school debt in 1889. She also spearheaded the efforts of the Ladies Aid Societies in the churches to hold weekly quilting bees to provide the less fortunate with warm bedding and food.

Jennie was so aggressive in her fund-raising efforts that the businessmen fled out the back door when they saw her coming. Her fiery upbeat personality could light a fire under anyone for the advancement of the community’s welfare. She worked with Edmond’s first tailor to design and sew the first school band uniforms. To raise the necessary funds for the uniforms, Jennie held a fashion show and tea.

Jennie also made available through her millinery and furnishings department at the Forster Dry Goods Store the latest children’s, ladies’ and gents’ fashions from Kansas City. Often described as “just stepping out of the bandbox,” Jennie set the trends in clothing and home furnishing style. She dressed her two children, Chalmers and Dorothy, in the latest couture.

Judy HowardJudy Howard - Since 1976, Judy Howard has owned and operated Buckboard Quilts in Oklahoma City.  Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman are celebrity clients. Read heart-warming stories from Judy's five award-winning books, 'Heavenly Patchwork I and II', 'Centennial Stitches', 'Thanking Our Troops—God Bless America Touring Quilts' and '1905 Cookbook--Food for Body and Soul' on  

Oklahoma Pioneers Oklahoma Pioneers

Judy Howard was interviewed by Big Blend Radio about her cookbook and Oklahoma settlers. To listen, please click here.

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