Recipes with a pinch of history

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 26, 2007

DENDRON—People who purchase the Dendron Historical Society cookbook get more than they bargained for.

The 400-page book not only has old-fashioned recipes, but it contains almost an equal amount of history and remembrances of the small town back to its beginning,

“The recipes are mostly from the people who live in this area,” said Gayle Lanier, chairman of the cookbook committee.

“When we started asking for them, we suggested the contributors give as much information surrounding the recipe as they could.

“Well, most of the people who came up with a recipe, submitted a little bit of history, as well.

“We were elated,” she said. “The response was better than we had ever anticipated.”

Lanier said the cookbook, entitled “A Taste of Dendron — Cooking with Memories,” has been in the works for three years.

“It was a mammoth undertaking,” she said. ”We’d work on it awhile, then slow down a bit.

“But when I retired last February, we moved the operation here to my house where Donna Slade, another committee member, and I have worked pretty diligently since.

“We finally put it out for sale about two weeks ago and again, the response has been tremendous.”

She said the committee already has sold more than 400 of the $25 books.

Lanier said the sale of the cookbook is to secure funds to maintain the Dendron Museum on Main Street.

Built by the historical society, it has been open just over a year and is

already filled to capacity.

“We have so many artifacts from the town and the surrounding area, we just need more space.”

Dendron was the town that emerged after the Surry Lumber Company acquired the Mussell Fork Plantation and established several large sawmills there. Starting as several homes for the sawmill employees, it soon became a full-fledged town, with a church, stores and schools.

By the 1920s, there were numerous flourishing businesses in a town that had grown to as many as 2,000.

But in 1927,

with the supply of available timber depleted, the lumber company shut down.

By 1930, Dendron had lost about 75 percent of its residents.

Today, the small town has become a smaller, quieter place to live.

It does, however, have an up-to-date volunteer fire department and a town water and sewer system.

Currently there are five churches in town.

Lanier said many people had a hand in compiling the cookbook.

“We asked people who had ties to Dendron to do the divider pages. For instance, Jim Pittman, formerly of Wakefield, and whose grandparents lived here, did the artwork for the first divider page. It is a drawing of the Mussell Fork Plantation, the land on which Dendron was built.

“When we received so many recipes that included the names of past residents of Dendron, we decided to include their birth and death dates,” she added.

Local genealogist Thomas Huber was invaluable in helping secure these dates, Lanier said.

To ensure that recipes and information were accurate, the committee made countless phone calls, sent numerous e-mails and letters.

“We even visited cemeteries, read obituaries and newspaper articles to make sure names and dates were correct.”

To further enhance the book, the committee copied and included ads from old Dendron High School yearbooks, old Surry County picnic programs and other publications as early as 1913.

“We have tried very hard to make all the information in this book appealing and accurate,” she said.

“But if the reader knows of any discrepancies, we ask that they notify the Dendron Historical Society in writing.

We will maintain a copy of the cookbook at the museum along with a notebook for corrections or additional information.”

Cookbooks may be purchased from Dale Brittle, 804-633-6575, Gayle Lanier, 757-899-6451, Donna Slade, 757-294-9098, Nancy Slope, 757-267-2358, or Jean Stewart, 757-267-2555.

They are also on sale at the Museum, the Dendron Town Hall, the Wakefield Pharmacy and Jen’s Cut and Curl in Wakefield. In addition to the $25 cost, there will be a $5 shipping fee.