A century of change in compound words

I hadn’t noticed until I checked the manuscript with Grammarly that many words we write as compounds are separated in these old letters.  Perhaps it was one of Uncle Charley’s quirks, but I have found similar instances in other writers. 

Language changes over time. We now compound word pairs like “state room,” “light house,” “to day,” “up stairs,” “worth while,” “every thing,” “dug out” (canoe), “bow sprit,” “center board” and many others.

The Grammarly program, which goes beyond ordinary spellcheck (that word is both new and compound) flags those now-compounded combinations for me. I make the corrections if it’s my writing, but leave the words as is if I’m quoting an antique letter.

I Lost Volcano Soconusco!

My grandfather thought he saw the volcano  “Soconusco” erupting in 1914 when the San Juan steamed by that Central American coast:

Judging from my map that we should pass the volcano of So-co-nus-co some 30 miles inland during the night, I decided to see it if the haze permitted. Several times I came out and scanned the horizon, and at last was rewarded by sight of its red glare. Then called several others. … From midnight to early dawn we sailed in sight of it, when mist obscured it, though for a time gleams shot through like sunbeams through rifted clouds. Then the coming sun claimed attention as it gilded the mountain tops and shot up a halo like the pictured head of a medieval saint. …

It is somewhat depressing to be obliged to add as an appendix that there is a difference of opinion among the officers as to whether we saw the volcano last night, some claiming what we saw was only a fire on the mountains. But the weight of evidence seems to be in our favor so we are “hugging the delusion,” if such it was.

When I first looked up “Volcano Soconusco” I confirmed that the boundary between Guatemala and Mexico runs over it, and sailors called it “The lighthouse of the sea” because of its frequent eruptions, or at least lava flows.

I wanted a photograph to go with Grandpa’s journal, and that’s when Soconusco disappeared.  Pictures of Guatemalan volcanos:  No Soconusco.  Mexican volcanos:  No Soconusco.

Grandpa’s ship was still passing Guatemala, so I looked up “Soconusco” in Guatemala.  Not there.  Meanwhile I discovered that Mexico has States but Guatemala has Departments and neither has one named Soconusco.

Wikipedia: “Soconusco is a region in the southwest corner of the state of Chiapas in Mexico.”

Back to the site I first found,  several paragraphs down:  “Tacana is known as the Soconusco Volcano in some regions of Mexico.”

Found!  The “Volcano of Soconusco” is the volcano Tacana, partly in the Guatemalan municipality of Tacana, Department of San Marcos, and partly in the Soconusco region in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Photograph of Volcano Tacana, or Soconusco, on the border of Mexico and Guatemala.
Volcano Tacana–also called Soconusco.

Unsolved Mystery: Who is Belle?

Perhaps, more accurately, who WAS Belle? She was in Panama, probably married to an American worker, and must have been a special friend of Grandma Hobby because I have two photos of Belle with Linnie Hobby.

This one is labeled, “The Hobbys at Paraiso with Belle.”  It’s not clear enough to positively identify anyone, but I think Linnie is wearing white.
This one is labeled “Belle & Linnea Eleanor Hobby, Taboga Island, Bay of Panama, 1912.”  I’m quite sure Linnie is on the left as you look at the photo.

Both photos were taken in 1912, but Linnie does not appear pregnant, so they were probably taken early in the year.  Linnie’s first child, my mother, was born September 5 that year.

The second photo does tell me that Will and Linnie took some excursions in Panama.  A large hotel-style building on Taboga Island was a rest-and-recuperation center for canal workers–white American workers–and became a vacation resort known as Hotel Aspinwall. I assume the Hobbys could have taken a one-day excursion and did not necessarily stay in the hotel, which may not have been on a junior engineer’s budget.

For an informative and personal reminiscence of Hotel Aspinwall and Taboga Island, see Panama History Bits: Taboga, for the island’s history and personal reminiscence of one who’s been there.

Unless some other mention of Belle turns up in my boxes of family letters, I’ll never know whether Linnie and Belle corresponded, or met, after their canal days.

Research is a Chain Reaction

Sometimes research is easy:  What’s the population of Springfield, Missouri?  Or the average high temperature of Mesa, Arizona in October?  One question, one answer.

More often, at least for me, research is a chain reaction.

Question:  Where is the Rosario Mine in Honduras?  I’m curious because my grandfather, on a steamer from Panama to San Francisco, wrote about ta “Secretary of the Rosario Mining Company 5000 ft. up in the Honduras Mountains, who came four days on mule back and twenty miles in an open boat to take our steamer.”  So exactly where is the mine?

I found Rosario Mine–Internet research is great!–but where there used to be the mine, there is La Tigra National Park, so I search that.  Do they have tigers there?  Not exactly.   It is named after the female puma, which is called la tigra, and yes, las tigras do live there–at least a few of them.  Also, the mountain where the mine, and now the park, are located, is called La Tigra.

Now I want a photo of that animal.  I search “puma, Honduras” and discover that “The Puma Energy brand is the leading oil products brand in Honduras.”  Scratch that.  Add “animal” to search.

Pumas are called, according to that site, “cougars, panthers, and mountain lions.”  Not tigers.  Are there tigers in Central America?

  1.  There is a “Tigers” soccer team:  “While many fans in Nuevo Leon are dreaming of a 2017 Liga MX Apertura final between Tigres and local-rival Monterrey, each side still has semifinal series to navigate.”
  2. There is El Tigre Island, on the Pacific side of Central America, which my grandfather sailed past in 1914 and mentioned in his journal.

True tigers live only in Asia

That last site, All about Wildlife, seems like an excellent reference and the photographs distract me from the gold and silver mined at Rosario where you would now take a hike instead of digging a tunnel in La Tigra Mountain.  I’ll take a break from my Panama book writing and learn about exotic animals for a while.

You see what I mean by a chain reaction?