My Arkansas, Then And Now

My Arkansas, Then And Now

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Artie's Kitchen

The wonderful aroma of homemade cornbread is unforgettable. It instantly evokes—for me—images of the small 12’ x 12’ space that was my grandfather Artie’s kitchen. It is a memory I’ll never forget.

My brother and I spent hours there.

A red and white-checked oil cloth covered the small table that rested on the bare wood floor that creaked and moved under your feet. The table, nestled against the back wall under one of two sets of windows in the small room, would seat two or maybe three—four if pulled away from the window. Although, I don’t recall Artie having four straight-back chairs to use, not in those later years. A brown paper bag full of gingerbread cookies (grandfather’s favorite), two old salt-and-pepper shakers and (when he made them) a bowl of hard-boiled eggs took up their place on the table. Everything illuminated by a single bare ceiling bulb with a dangling chain for the on/off switch.

This small eating nook shared the space with a refrigerator, gas stove, a well-used white porcelain sink, a few mostly-bare cabinets and an ancient baker's cabinet, all basic white in color. Other items may have resided in that room, I can’t recall at the moment. But the d├ęcor wasn’t tops in my memory, it was the cornbread, cracklin’ corn bread to be exact.

Cracklin’ Corn bread was made in that kitchen by my grandfather. It was the basic, hearty, firm, hot and delicious variety, cooked to perfection (well, close, anyway) in his large, black cast-iron skillet. To this very day, I’ve been unable to duplicate it, nor have I found a recipe that could bring back those flavors, that aroma. This one comes close. Close, mind you. Only close.

Old Cotner-Style Arkansas Cracklin’ Cornbread

¼ cup of bacon or pork slab drippings
2 cups of yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups of buttermilk
¾ to 1 cup of cracklin’s (that’s “cracklings” in most areas outside of Arkansas, I guess)

Heat a large cast-iron skillet until it is hot. (A 10” to 12” skillet should do just fine.)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the eggs and buttermilk.
Add the cracklin’s and hot drippings.
Pour the batter into your hot skillet.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. (May vary depending upon altitude and oven, although I don’t know this for a fact, just saying.)

Should serve about 5 or 6 very hungry folks. Could yield up to 8 or 10 servings for not-so hungry ones. Give it a try.

Serve as-is, hot from the pan, with butter, with butter and honey, with beans. Enjoy it however you prefer.

If you have a cracklin’ cornbread recipe you’d like to share, please post it here or drop me an email. I can keep it a secret if you like, or post it here for all to share. Your choice. I would like to hear from you.

Now, off to the kitchen. I’ve made myself hungry.

Cotner Forums

Additional information on many Cotner family members and those searching/researching the history and genealogy of the Cotner family can be found at This link will take you directly to the Cotner Forums. Visit their site. Who knows? You may find a long-lost relative or two. Give it a try.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Origin of the name 'Cotner'

According to Neal N. Cotner in his book, “A Window to the Past, A History of Peter Gortner-Cotner 1704 – 1753 His Descendents and Associated Families”, the name ‘Cotner’ is of German/Swiss origin possibly with its earliest written European reference in the Germanic/Swiss spelling ‘Gertner’ from Nurnberg in 1566 and roots in the earliest (as far as can be determined as of this writing) documented North American ancestry names, ‘Gertner’ and ‘Gortner’. These North American references are based on information from passenger ship lists for German/Swiss immigrants to the Port of Philadelphia.

Jerick Gertner arrived in Philidelphia on the ship, ‘Albany’, on September 4th, 1728 and Peter Gortner, age 30 years old, arrived in Philadelphia on September 23, 1734 aboard the ship, ‘Hope Galley’.

Poor education and ineffective communications skills always hurt. Some things never change.

Due to miscommunication/misunderstanding based on ignorance, carelessness and language differences between Immigration/Port authorities of the time and those arriving from Germany and Switzerland, often the names were recorded very differently on paper from the spoken word even though the original family name seems to have been the same. Thus, we have ‘Gortner’ or ‘Gertner’ transcribed as many variations on the original—Gortner, Cotner, Cortner, Curtner, Costner, Catner, Kotner, Katner, Kertner, Kettner, Kortner, Kurtner, Gortner, Gotner, Gurtner, Gertner, Cartner, Cortner, Cothner, Cottoner, Cottner, Cottonor, Cottenor, Cotenor and Cotoner.

Other World Events of 1728:
John Stark, American Revolutionary War general was born.
James Cook, British naval captain and explorer was born.
Voltaire ends his exile in England.
Cotton Mather, New England Puritan minister dies.

Other World Events of 1734:
Daniel Boone, American frontiersman was born.
Thomas Conway, American Revolutionary War general was born.
Thomas McKean, American lawyer, signer of the Declaration of Independence was born.

Hope to add more information as it comes available, time permitting.

My Arkansas Adventure Begins

Winter cold, freezing temperatures, snow falling, my adventures in Arkansas in February 1947 get off to a rousing start.

Newspaper headlines read: “Another Great Cotner Is Born”

Actually, I admit I can’t quite recall what the weather was like when I was born but I remember Dad telling me that’s the way it was. And, that really wasn’t the headlines screaming across any of the pages of the Booneville Democrat in 1947.

It was more like a small notice in the ‘Birth Announcement’ section tucked away under advertisements for a gallon of gas for 15 cents, a loaf of bread for 13 cents and the Post Office reminder that a stamp was still 3 cents. Not important enough for the front page, buried behind the printed words extolling the virtues, prices and whereabouts of chicken feed, fishing bait, shotgun shells, a good hunting dog and ladies unmentionables, behind all that resided the little gem concerning me that probably read something like this:

Artie ‘Jack’ Cotner and his wife, Audrey, are pleased to announce the arrival of their son, Jack…”

No screaming headlines and probably with good reason. However, I’m sure the event was at least that important to me, after all, I was screaming when I arrived.

And, so, began my life in Arkansas and my journey as part of the Cotner family.