The Rough Writer

News for and about the Volunteers at Sagamore Hill
Volume 23, Issue 6
December 2021
The Rough Writer is a volunteer newsletter, not an official National Park Service publication. It should not be used for historic research. 

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"Believe you can and you are halfway there."
Theodore Roosevelt
New Life in the Old House, Thomas Nast, 1901
Christmas, 1901 – Just a little over three months since he took the oath of office, President Theodore Roosevelt and his family celebrated their first Christmas in the White House. While Americans were generally used to seeing the Roosevelts in our nation’s capital, the prospect of a tribe of rambunctious children living in the Executive Mansion (not yet called the White House) energized a nation worn out by the recent tragedy of President McKinley’s assassination (and for those of us old enough to remember, a similar excitement was felt by the public in 1960, when John Kennedy’s young family moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).
In the spirit of the season, famed cartoonist, Thomas Nast, recently jobless and nearly broke, presented TR and his family with this now iconic drawing of St. Nicholas in return for Roosevelt’s having appointed him Consul General of Ecuador. (It seems that St. Nick was not the only giver of gifts that year.) A close look at this famous depiction of jolly, old St. Nick shows the names of the Roosevelt children on each of the stockings, portraits of TR and Edith on the mantle, and a twinkling Santa whose face bears a striking resemblance to the president himself who says, “I’ve never felt so much at home here.”
Back to the present, although we remain under COVID restrictions after almost two years, planning continues for the eventual return to wider public access to the TRH and for volunteer retraining. Sagamore Hill staff are anticipating meetings with both the Volunteer Advisory Board and the wider volunteer corps in early February. And just to show that volunteers continue to hold together as we wait for new opportunities to serve visitors to Sagamore Hill, the Friends of Sagamore Hill hosted our annual holiday party on December 8, at Café al Dente. The party this year was smaller than those of the past several years, but given the restraints on capacity, concerns for some about indoor dining, and a threatening weather forecast, enough volunteers and FOSH members gathered to share a meal and to enjoy talking and sharing TR stories with fellow volunteers, many of whom we had not seen in several months. Many thanks to Ginny and Jay Perrell for once again organizing this annual event. 
FOSH Members: Lou Vespoli, Jay Perrell, Diana Vespoli, Ginny Perrell, Patrick Teubner
Alexis Barr, Valerie Kamin, Peter Cherry, Eileen Anders, Brenda Cherry, Pinky Feakes, Robin Wexler
The Diglios
Br. Lawrence, Lou Gottfried, Jay Perrell
As we close out 2021, we remember Adrian Bogart, Jr., long-time volunteer and resident of Locust Valley, who died on November 25 at the age of 94. Park Ranger Scott Gurney, who spoke at Adrian’s memorial service, remembered that before Adrian became a volunteer, he would take long walks around the property of Sagamore Hill, enjoying its peace during a difficult time in his life when his first wife was dying. After her death, he decided to become a volunteer and did so with gusto for many years. Visitors often thanked Adrian for his enthusiastic presentations and his ability to convey an obvious love of history, but he told Scott that it wasn’t what he gave to visitors that was so important; it was what serving at Sagamore Hill gave back to him. Even after he retired from volunteering, Adrian would sometimes visit the back office of the TRH for a quiet moment, gazing out the windows at the changing seasons in the woods and the meadow. Our condolences to Adrian’s family, his wife Emma and his children and grandchildren.
And finally, our very best wishes for a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season to each of you and to your families. And if you are feeling ambitious and hungry and want to bring a little bit of history to your holiday table, check out the recipes we have included in this issue of the Rough Writer: Walt Whitman’s “Coffee Coffee Cake” and Edith Roosevelt’s Spice Cake.
Stay in touch,
Nancy and Charlotte
by Jonathan Parker
Christmas is less than a week away and the New Year less than two weeks away as I sit down to compose this note for the holiday edition of the Rough Writer. I’m going to keep the business portion of this message brief, as I want to keep the focus on reflections of the season.
Last Friday, December 17, the National Park Service’s Washington Office issued updated COVID-19 safety guidance for all volunteers. This new guidance requires all volunteers to show proof of full vaccination (or a negative test within the previous 72-hours) in order to perform volunteer work inside park buildings or vehicleseffective January 10, 2022. Park staff are reaching out to currently scheduled volunteers to provide additional information about this new requirement. These safety measures are essential components to ultimately resuming additional volunteer activities in 2022.
Now, I’d like to tell you about a recent walk I had in the park.
Last night featured an almost full moon cresting up and over the eastern horizon here at Sagamore Hill. The broad, looming sphere illuminated the forests and fields in a silver iridescence that reflected off almost every surface. It created an effect as if you were magically strolling within a historic photograph. As I walked through the pastures and along the fences I felt a sense of timelessness. The silhouetted historic views outnumbered any modernity within the viewshed and made it easy to believe the year was closer to 1921 than 2021. This was (another) one of those singular moments at Sagamore Hill that elicits gratitude for, and appreciation of, this remarkable place. The moment was a gift.
This holiday I hope that each of you and your families have ample time to enjoy moments of giving and receiving, of reflecting upon the last year, and demonstrating gratitude for all the facets of our lives that bring joy and inspiration. I know that Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt family, as well as the days, months, or years you’ve spent here also have a special significance to you and your families.
To know of and be a part of Sagamore Hill is a gift. I wish each of you the opportunity to connect with this gift over the holidays, whether that be reading your favorite Roosevelt history, taking a First Day walk in the park on January 1, sharing a Sagamore Hill story with a loved one, or reflecting on your contributions and service as a volunteer.
Thank you for your ongoing support and dedication to Sagamore Hill.

Erin "Whitt" Whittaker started her job as Chief of Interpretation on December 14, 2021.

I am truly honored to join this team at Sagamore Hill NHS. I count myself lucky to have worked out west the last 11 years in geological cathedrals like Grand Canyon NP and Zion NP. I grew up in north central Florida, but after a couple years in college I enlisted in the Marine Corps serving four years in places like Okinawa, Japan and Camp Pendleton, CA. One thing that did stick from those military days was my nickname, Whitt, which you are welcome to use. Eventually, I went back to school to get my bachelors degree in Outdoor Education and Recreation from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Needing an internship to complete my degree, I somewhat stumbled into the park service on the Freedom Trail interpreting rich American history at Boston NHP and was immediately hooked. I served four years between Boston NHP and Boston African American NHS before working at other parks like Grand Canyon NP, Mount Rainier NP, and Governors Island NM. For the last six years I've served as Operations Supervisor for Zion National Park. 
I look forward to getting to know the Sagamore Hill community and working with you to explore new ways we can connect this special site to its visitors. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or suggestions. You can reach me at
The Friends of Sagamore Hill is please to announce a virtual event that is certain to be worth putting February 2, 2022, on your calendar – Making History On-Screen, featuring Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward, two of the most respected documentarians in recent memory. Acclaimed scholar Harold Holzer will moderate the discussion. Details on how to register for this exciting event will be posted on the FOSH website in early January.
Ken Burns
Geoffrey Ward
Harold Holzer
by Charlotte Miska
George F. Root (1820-1895) was an American songwriter famous for writing martial songs during the Civil War. The Battle Cry of Freedom and Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! are two of his most popular. However, he also wrote hymns and carols. His Christmas on the Sea (also known as Christmas by the Bay and It is Christmas Day) has a long history in Oyster Bay. According to a 2012 exhibition at the Oyster Bay Historical Society, “the singing of this lilting song in the hamlet of Oyster Bay is a Christmas tradition that goes back over a century. Mary Fanny Youngs, who lived in the old Youngs Homestead in Cove Neck, felt that the song was as much a part of Christmas as the ride through the snow to church on Christmas Eve. Theodore Roosevelt declared it one of his favorite carols, singing it with his family on Christmas Day at Oyster Bay's Christ Church.” To hear Burl Ives sing this carol, visit It is not quite the same as singing it in the beautiful Christ Church on Christmas, but you will get the idea.
by Nancy Hall and Charlotte Miska
Students of Theodore Roosevelt’s domestic pleasures are fully aware of TR’s enjoyment of a good cup of coffee. And, we know, he drank lots of it – so much, in fact, that his wife, Edith, made sure he had his own coffee pot and grinder on hand so that his frequent requests for coffee during the day did not over-task the cook. Perhaps in awe of its size, one of his children compared TR’s coffee cup to a “bathtub”. And the President also enjoyed a rich, strong brew when traveling. At the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, in 1909, he was asked if he enjoyed the coffee served there. It was just to his taste, apparently, because he replied, “This is the kind of stuff I like to drink, by George, when I hunt bears!” (DeFranco, Rough Writer, September 2020) Walt Whitman, a contemporary of TR’s father, and whose framed picture sits atop the mantle in the Library at Sagamore Hill next to the “Ting Tang” clock, also liked coffee (hence the connection to TR), especially cooking with it. Among the many photos, old clippings of news reports about himself, classified ads, and weather reports, two specific recipes were uncovered among Whitman’s papers: a recipe for doughnuts and one for coffee cake made with coffee. According to the blog, Paper and Salt, Whitman frequently gave coffee cakes as gifts to friends. During the three years he spent as a hospital orderly, transporting the sick, and as a hospital visitor, comforting the dying and wounded Union soldiers, he would also bring them or their families cakes as treats as well as other foods difficult for them to purchase.
In the December 2020 issue of the Rough Writer, Charlotte and I inserted a couple of holiday recipes from TR’s era to share during that first “Covid Christmas”. While things are not quite as bad this season as last, as they say, “It ain’t over yet”. So we will keep that tradition one more issue and offer two more holiday recipes from the late 1800s and early 1900s that are easy to make and even better to eat.

Walt Whitman’s Coffee Coffee Cake
The recipe below includes dried cranberries, something not in Whitman’s original. I (Nancy) tried it with the cranberries, and they added to the moist texture and slightly fruity taste. Like Whitman, I shared the cake with friends, and once the weather gets really cold, I look forward to making this coffee coffee cake again, maybe while reading a few pages of Leaves of Grass, drinking a really strong cup of coffee, and thinking about TR and bears!
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsps room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup cold coffee
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup milk
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
1. Soak cranberries in hot water for 20 minutes (then drain). Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
3. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the egg, coffee, and molasses. Stir until smooth (no lumps).
4. Add dry ingredients and milk, alternatingly to butter mixture. Stir in the drained cranberries.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes. (NOTE: my own cake took an additional 15 minutes, so keep checking for doneness, especially in the middle of the cake. Walt Whitman advised baking this cake in a “slow oven” for an hour and a half. It is a dense cake so keep a watch.)
6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or just add a dollop of whipped cream to each slice.
Walt Whitman’s ORIGINAL Coffee Coffee Recipe
(Good only for those who do not need specific instructions and who know what a "sheet iron pan" is.)

Pour one cup of boiling hot, strong coffee on one cup of lard or pork fat; add one cup of molasses, one cup of brown sugar, three well-beaten eggs, one teaspoon of soda dissolved in a little warm water, flour enough to make a stiff batter. Bake in a sheet-iron pan for one hour and a half in a slow oven.
 _ _ _ _
Sources:, 03/28/2012.
Commonplace Books, 1876-1891, Walt Whitman Papers, Charles E. Feinberg Collection (Library of Congress).
Mrs. Roosevelt’s Receipt for Spice Cake

Edith contributed this recipe for Famous Old Receipts a compilation of recipes “used a hundred years and more in the kitchens of the north and the south.” “Receipt” is not a typo. “Receipt” has been used alongside “recipe” since the 18th century in cookery instructions, with “recipe” gradually replacing it. As with many “old” recipes, step-by-step directions are not provided, nor is the pan size or oven temperature. Based on modern recipes I (Charlotte) opted to use a 10-cup Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. I also added a pinch of salt. The spice flavor was a bit light for my taste, so next time I will increase the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg and add allspice and clove.
1 cupful of butter
2 cups of sugar
1 cupful of milk
4 eggs, well beaten
4 cupfuls flour
2 heaping teaspoonfuls baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Beat to a cream one cupful butter and two cups sugar. Add one cupful milk, four well beaten eggs, four cupful flour sifted with two heaping teaspoonful baking powder, a teaspoonful ground cinnamon and a half teaspoonful nutmeg. Bake in a loaf.
Through the magic of the internet, you can view the book Famous Old Receipts. Edith’s "receipt" appears on page 285. Click this button to access the book:
December 1880 – TR enters Columbia to study law (he later drops out).
December 1884 – TR organizes the Little Missouri River Stockmen’s Association.
December 1886 – The Dakota Territory experiences the worst winter in recorded history; TR’s cattle ranch suffers huge losses.
December 2, 1886 – TR and Edith Carow marry in London.
December 1902 – President Roosevelt threatens to take action against Germany if it invades Venezuela.
December 1904 – The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine is articulated. It states that the nations of the Western Hemisphere are not open to colonization by European powers and that “the United States ha[s] the responsibility to preserve order and protect life and property in those countries.”
December 1906 – The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Roosevelt for his role in helping to end the conflict between Russia and Japan. He is the first American to win a Nobel of any kind. He does not formally accept the prize until December 1910, when he travels to Oslo.
Cartoon by Charles Lewis Bartholomew showing the Norwegian Parliament dressed as Santa Claus delivering the Nobel Peace Prize in a Christmas stocking to Theodore Roosevelt in a child's body; with "big stick," sword, and rifle in the background.
by Charlotte Miska, Tyler Kuliberda, and Lois Lindberg
The Northern Nassau Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on December 18, 2021. The CBC is an annual Audubon event and the world’s longest-running citizen science project. Data collected during the count is used to track the general health of bird populations which informs management decisions and scientific studies. The Northern Nassau count is one of over 2,100 circles (count areas) across the US, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The CBC originated in 1900 when Frank Chapman, an ornithologist at the Museum of Natural History and friend of TR, replaced the Christmas Side Hunt where people would go out and shoot birds, with a bird census. National Parks and other public lands play an important role in providing essential habitat for many bird species to winter, breed, and/or stop to rest while migrating. The count is now in its 122nd year.
Despite all-day rain, Park Rangers Tyler Kuliberda and Scott Gurney with the help of members of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society had a very good day and tallied 28 species. Robins were out in large numbers near the fields adjacent to the parking lot. A few birds that did not make the previous count made this year’s list, including Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Red-throated Loon.
Volunteer Al Lindberg’s noteworthy 49th Christmas Count (with volunteer Lois Lindberg only a few years behind!) was notable also because they were all at the same site – Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich. A little background – Al started as a volunteer, taking part in those early counts even before being hired as a Naturalist and much later as the Supervisor of Nassau County’s North Shore open space preserves. Also remarkable is the fact that Al just had knee surgery 10 days prior, but wasn’t going to let that deter him from the goal of his 50th next year! So, with Lois as the driver and hiker, and the assistance of three other observers, Muttontown Preserve tallied a total of 29 species. A cold, rainy day and shorter time commitments limited the day’s efforts, and there were no real rarities to report this time. The best sighting was an excellent look at several Rusty Blackbirds.
Muttontown Preserve was always listed as a separate count area, serving as kind of a “control,” its 500 acres of varied habitats covered almost exclusively on foot. The numbers were down from past counts, and with 49+ years of Preserve records, we note several changes. Some early species not seen recently include Long-eared Owl, Red-shouldered and Rough-legged Hawks, Ring-necked Pheasants, and Bobwhite Quail. But the numbers of Red-bellied Woodpecker and Carolina Wren have increased dramatically. 

Volunteer Charlotte Miska and her team, covered the Oyster Bay waterfront and parts of Cove Neck where they counted 40 species and 1,290 individuals. Highlights included Eurasian Widgeon on the Mill Pond, a flyover Bald Eagle, and five Great Blue Herons.
American Black Ducks
photo by Tyler Kuliberda
White-breasted Nuthatch
photo by Tyler Kuliberda
Here is the Sagamore Hill list:
Common Loon – 1
Red-throated Loon – 4
Canada Goose – 26
Mallard – 6
American Black Duck – 22
Long-tailed Duck – 2
Bufflehead – 14
Coopers Hawk – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 5
Herring Gull – 23
Great Black-backed Gull – 2
Eastern Screech Owl – 2
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 3
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Blue Jay – 4
American Crow – 5
Tufted Titmouse – 4
White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
Carolina Wren – 1
Robin – 130
Cedar Waxwing – 9
European Starling – 8
Song Sparrow – 4
Dark-eyed Junco – 13
House Finch – 3
by Charlotte Miska
The Buffles are Back!

Long Island offers wonderful opportunities for winter birding because of the large number of waterfowl that migrate here for the winter. On a good day, you can see 20 or more different species by visiting the local ponds and bays. One of my favorites is the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola). I am always excited when I can declare – the buffles are back! This normally occurs in October. Their name is a combination of “buffalo” and “head”. This becomes apparent when the male puffs out the feathers on his head. It is hard to miss their striking bright white plumage. They are fun to watch as they dive for crustaceans and mollusks and bob up back to the surface. Buffleheads are among the smallest ducks, averaging 13 to 16 inches in length. (Mallards are 20 – 26 inches.) In flight, you can identify Buffleheads by noting their small size, fast wingbeats, and pattern of rocking side-to-side as they fly. Next time you visit Sagamore Hill be sure to take the nature trail down to the waterfront and look for these delightful winter visitors.
Male Bufflehead
photo by Liron Gertsman | Macaulay Library
Female Bufflehead
photo by Tony Varela | Macaulay Library
by Ginny Perrell
The major event for December was our annual Holiday Party for volunteers, Friends members, and staff, held at Café al Dente in Oyster Bay on December 8th. Although we were small in number, we all enjoyed the delicious dinner and excellent company. Brother Lawrence read aloud a note from Jonathan, thanking us for our involvement with Sagamore Hill and our continued patience during the last year and a half that has been so impacted by the pandemic.
The highlight of our December 14th monthly meeting was a presentation by Laura Cinturati, Acting Museum Curator. There are two beautiful silver candelabras on the sideboard in the TRH dining room that are in dire need of conservation treatment. Laura provided detailed photographs of the pieces as well as their history. They were wedding gifts to Edith and TR, thought to have been given to them by Bamie, TR’s sister. The last time they were treated was 1973. Treating them now will restore them to their original look and will help to preserve them for decades to come. The board unanimously agreed to fund this project.
Silver candelabras in need of restoration; thought to be a wedding gift from TR's sister Bamie.
Work continues for our upcoming Zoom event to be held on February 2, 2022, Making History On-Screen, featuring Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward. Harold Holzer, award winning author, Lincoln scholar, and director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute has agreed to be moderator for this most interesting evening. More details will be forthcoming regarding time and how to register.
Thanks to Brian Tadler, you will soon be able to access FOSH Instagram posts on Facebook. If you have not had the chance to see them, you will be impressed. They are above all informative, fun to read, and often will provide information you might not know about the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a Bully New Year!
You can find the Rough Writer on the Friends of Sagamore Hill website ( Simply select the More about TR menu and click Rough Writer Newsletter. You will go to a page that lists the Rough Writer issues going back to January 2020. Back issues are now readily available for your reading pleasure. Thank you Patrick Teubner for making this happen.
This newsletter is produced by members of the Volunteer Advisory Board for the volunteers of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. 
About Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, located in Oyster Bay, New York, is a unit of the National Park Service. The Site was established by Congress in 1962 to preserve and interpret the structures, landscape, collections and other cultural resources associated with Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay, New York, and to ensure that future generations understand the life and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, his family and the significant events associated with him.

For more information please check out our website at or call
(516) 922-4788.