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Helen Little Stark & Her Fish Chowder

Helen Little Stark

 

The life of Helen Little spanned Saginaw’s rise as a lumbering center and reinvention as a manufacturing hub. At the time of her death, The Saginaw News published an article outlining her life and achievements:

 

Daughter of East Saginaw Founders, Mrs. Stark, Patron of the Arts, Dies

 

Mrs. Gilbert Montague Stark member of East Saginaw’s founding Little family and long a patron of the arts here, died Sunday at her home, 1027 North Michigan. She was the widow of Gilbert Montague Stark, prominent lumberman and attorney here.

 

Mrs. Stark, whose maiden name was Helen Louise Little was born in Saginaw, a daughter of the late Charles David and Pamela Webster Little, who were early settlers in Saginaw. Her father, an attorney, was a brother of Norman Little, who was known as the founder of East Saginaw, and with his brother was closely identified with the development of the community in the latter half of the last century.

 

Always interested in music, Mrs. Stark had a part in organizing early literary organizations in Saginaw, and continued her interest in the arts through the years. She was charter member of the Euterpean club and the Saginaw Art club [and] was a patron of Saginaw Community Concerts and Rotary lecture courses.

 

Giving Freely of her time and means to charitable and community affairs, Mrs. Stark took great interest in the Red Cross and during World War 1 [sic] was among the Saginaw women who devoted most of their time to Red Cross work.

 

Helen Louise Little was married June 17, 1884, to Gilbert Montague Stark, Saginaw attorney. Mr. Stark was active in the lumbering industry, being a member of the Wright-Blodgett lumbering firm and later became interested in other industries as the community entered the manufacturing era. He died Jan. 31, 1938.

 

Mrs. Stark was a lifelong member of the First Presbyterian church and was deeply devoted to its work. For more than 33 years she taught in the church Sunday school. She was a past regent of Saginaw DAR chapter, and was a member of the Colonial Dames and the Saginaw Branch of the National Farm and Garden Association. Her husband was founder of the Saginaw County club, and Mrs. Stark always was active in Country club activities and the East Saginaw Club.

 

Mrs. Stark was the last child of a family which probably more than any other influenced and encouraged the early development of Saginaw. Her father was a member of the school of pioneers who, in addition to caring tirelessly for their personal business interests, found time to devote their abilities to civic affairs. From 1864 to 1870 he was chairman of the county board of supervisors, and for 10 years served in the state legislature, being noted as a parliamentarian. He died Jan. 27, 1903.

 

Mrs. Stark leaves two daughters, Mrs. Howard Freeman Smith of Grosse Pointe and Mrs. George M. Humphrey of Cleveland, and six grandchildren, Mrs. David Lapham of Corpus Christi, Tex., whose husband is a lieutenant-commander in the navy; Mrs. Arthur Buhl, Jr., of Lawerence, Kas., whose husband is lieutenant-commander in the navy; Mrs. Royale Firman, who is the wife of a captain serving overseas with the 8th Airforce, and who herself is overseas with the Red Cross, serving as director of an airforce rest home in England; Lt. Gilbert Humphrey, assistant gunnery officer on a destroyer in the Pacific; Lt. Howard Smith, jr., a fighter plane pilot in the marine corps, and Mrs. John Grier Butler, wife of an army artillery liaison pilot in France; and 10 great-grandchildren.

 

A son, Gilbert L. Stark, died in India, March 26, 1908, during a round-the-world trip after his graduation from Yale university in the summer of 1907. In memory of their son, Mr. and Mrs. Stark presented a library to Yale university.  (The Saginaw News, December 4, 1944.)

 

The article continues detailing funeral arrangements – the service was held inside 1027 North Michigan, the home where she had lived since the mid-1890s.

 

Above: The Stark Home at 1027 N. Michigan.

The Recipe: Helen Little Stark’s Fish Chowder

 

White fish or Halibut can be used for this. Place in a deep kettle four slices of salt pork and fry until there are about three teaspoons of fat. Add a layer of sliced raw potatoes, a layer of sliced onions, a layer of shredded fish, a layer of crackers (coarsely crumbed) salt, pepper, and repeat in same order until all the fish is used having the last layer of crackers. Add boiling water to cover and cook until the potatoes are done. (At least an hour.) Add a pint of cream and serve very hot.

 

-Mrs. Gilbert W. [sic] Stark,* From The Saginaw Cookbook, published by the First Congregational Church.

 

 

The Castle Test Kitchen Interpretation

 

As you may have noted, the original recipe lacks quantities. We intended to make what we thought would be half batch. However, we ended up making a full batch - kind of. We don’t have the proportions correct. You will need to experiment. However, what we made was surprisingly wonderful.

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 4 Slices of salt pork 

  • 1/2 lb. Halibut, shredded (We would recommend using more; Originally, we were going to suggest two to three times that amount; however, after tasting what we made we suggest more restraint.)

  • 6 Medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 

  • 6 Medium-sized yellow onions, sliced (four might be a more appropriate quantity.)

  • 1/3 lb. Crackers, coarsely crumbled (increase to 1/2 lb.)

  • Salt and pepper 

  • Boiling water to cover dry ingredients

  • 1 pint heavy cream 

 

For the procedure - we simply followed Mrs. Stark’s directions.

 

Place in a deep kettle four slices of salt pork and fry until there are about three teaspoons of fat. Add a layer of sliced raw potatoes, a layer of sliced onions, a layer of shredded fish, a layer of crackers (coarsely crumbed) salt, pepper, and repeat in same order until all the fish is used having the last layer of crackers.

 



Add boiling water to cover and cook until the potatoes are done. (At least an hour.) Add a pint of cream and serve very hot.

 


 

Notes:


-While you are waiting for the chowder to cook; please make certain you read yesterday’s artifact post. If you read the history portions of this post, you will recognize the signature on the script.

 

-This simple preparation of limited ingredients reminded the CTK staff and researchers of how profoundly Saginaw and the types of food available changed during Helen Little Stark’s lifetime. You may have noted that her birthdate is not included in this post. And it is not included on her monument in Oakwood Mausoleum.

 

*Almost without doubt the “W” is a typographical error and should be an “M.” 

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