How Lester Rink's "Bean Pot" Got Saved
It stands just 7-1/2 inches tall. A simple, ordinary cream and brown glazed crock c. 1900 that was just the type of utilitarian kitchenware worth its weight in gold to the early settlers. Prized for its multiple uses from cold storage in the root cellar to an oven-proof baking pot, it is probably best known for its slow oven preparation of the uncomplicated and inexpensive, but highly nutritious, satisfying meal of baked beans . If you were lucky enough to have a bit of strap molasses on hand to “candy” the beans, well, so much the better!
Whatever Lester Rink used this pot for, one can be sure it was used, and used over and over again. Everything that was packed and brought here in the early 1900’s had to serve multiple purposes and be completely necessary. There was generally no room, not to mention extra money, for frills and “pretties”. And this pot, like other possessions, would have been carefully taken care of. If it was broken beyond repair, there would most likely be no “back-ups” and one would be quite hindered and have to do without.
H. Lester Rink, though a bachelor, was renowned in the little homesteading community of Gustavus for having excellent and creative culinary skills, and presided over major community events (as small as they were) as “chief cook and bottle washer”.
For example, Gustavus Historical Archives and Antiquities has an original, early invitation to a 1936 St. Valentines Dinner Party upon which Lester writes a poem descriptive of the planned menu he will cook for the attendees at his cabin. The evening of the dinner, all the lucky party-goers autographed the invitations---including H. Lester Rink. As there were no roads (only Sam Buoy's half-way shack to rest or store goods in transit), it would have been a major event, having to transverse the difficult beach trail, just to attend. One can only imagine how delicious the special meal he put together would have tasted---topped off with hand-cranked ice cream that would have been made by the usual method of “snagging” some ice floating in Icy Passage or chopped from a frozen river or creek tributary.
The question is---how did Lester Rinks "bean pot" survive the many years and an abandoned cabin (without so much as a crack or chip), to get added over a half a century later to the Gustavus Historical Archives and Antiquities collection in September, 2006?
Here’s what we know. Sometime in the mid to late 1960’s Sally Lesh went on a “tramp” with Gustavus resident Jessie Buoy (who along with husband Tom moved toAlaska and bought Uncle Sam Buoys original homestead in 1955) and ended up at the ruins of Lester Rinks cabin located close to his namesake “Rink” creek.
What at first appeared to be nothing more than a pile of weathered, pick-up-sticks jumble of rotting logs and boards, yielded up this once loved and oft-used treasure. Out of the earth beneath the ruins, a small piece of the rim of the pot was just visible. Sally’s eyes lit up, I’m sure, much as they did when she was telling me this story, and her hands got busy. When the pot was oh-so-carefully uncovered and the dirt brushed away, Sally asked Jesse “Do you think I could take this home with me?”
“Of course!” Jessie responded and “home” it went where it was carefully tended for over 40 years.
And that’s exactly how it came to be that Sally Lesh rescued and preserved Lester Rinks "Bean Pot"—an early piece of Gustavus history, used in his log cabin kitchen from the mid to late 1910s to late 1930s when he reportedly moved to Hoonah, married a woman with 5 children, and opened a bakery. Perhaps he was expecting to get back and forth to Gustavus occasionally, but as of now, we have no evidence that he ever did.
Now, if only the pot could speak, the stories it could tell would be simply priceless!
GHAA Note: To date, this pot and the 1936 Valentine invitation are the only known, verifiable pieces of original antiquities to be directly linked to H. Lester Rink that has survived through the ages.
Thank You to Sally Lesh for her generous donation of an important historical artifact!
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