America’s Hazardous Waste Ghost Town – Times Beach

Superfund site Warning sign outside Times Beach, Missouri
Superfund site Warning sign outside Times Beach, Missouri 1985

Along famed ROUTE 66 just outside St. Louis, is one of Missouri’s newer state parks. But one with a very checkered past, as it’s the former location of the town of Times Beach and an infamous hazardous waste site.

In the 1970s, the lower-middle class town couldn’t afford to pave its miles of dirt streets and was plagued with constant dust clouds kicked up by cars and trucks. To solve the problem, the city hired waste hauler Russell Bliss to spray what was supposed to be just used engine oil on the streets, at a cheap cost of 6 cents a gallon.

Bliss said it would do the trick, cause he’d successfully sprayed his horse stables and other ranches in the area. He also knew he’d make a profit, as he got the materials from the companies that paid him to haul their wastes away. Bliss mixed 1 tank load of used engine oil with 6 tanks of waste liquid from a nearby chemical plant. It was one that manufacturing the notorious defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The liquid waste was tainted with toxic levels of Dioxin.

For 4 years, he was regular sight in Times Beach.  Bliss sprayed his carcinogenic cocktail on the dirt streets of Times Beach. Kids loved sliding around in Bliss’ slippery purplish goo. And it worked too, gluing the dirt to the road for up to 10 months. No one gave the foul-smelling substance a second thought, that is, until horses at the ranches he had sprayed started dropping dead. Soon town’s people began to get sick as well.

What the city didn’t know is that Bliss hauled waste for the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO). The waste liquid contained levels of Dioxin (at the time the most potent cancer-causing agent made by man) that were  2,000 time higher than the Agent Orange used in Vietnam!

When 62 horses died in stables Bliss had sprayed, the owners contacted the Dept. of Agriculture and CDC who began an investigation in 1979. The US EPA then began to visit Times Beach in 1982, taking soil samples and identified dangerously high levels of Dioxin. Bliss was vilified by the press, town and state, and claimed he was completelyt unaware the waste contained any toxic chemicals.

Soon, panic spread as every illness and pet death in town was attributed to the toxic spraying.

The controversy over what to do next pitted townsfolk against one another. Residents felt betrayed and publicly criticized the US EPA for not informing them of the danger sooner! Why did it take two years?  The half-life of dioxin is 11 years, so the problem wasn’t going away anytime soon.

In December 1982, the Meramec River on the edge of town flooded 14 feet during heavy winter rains, spreading the contamination throughout ALL the homes and buildings in the entire town. Shortly after Christmas Day, US EPA men in white body suits and respirators showed up on people’s lawns, telling them to evacuate immediately.

Marilyn Leistner, the last Times Beach mayor said the message from the government was clear:

If you live in the community, you need to get out. And do not take anything with you. If you are outside of the community, do not come back!

US EPA warning to residents

The media painted Times Beach, Missouri and the similar Love Canal in New York as the poster children of toxic pollution in America. President Reagan formed a Dioxin Task Force to study the effects of the chemical. In early 1983, the US EPA announced the entire town’s buyout at a cost of $36 million dollars!

Within 2 years, the entire population of 2,242 residents had been moved, with the exception of 1 elderly couple, life-long residents who refused to leave their life-long home. The ghost town was dis-incorporated by the Missouri Governor, calling it sad but necessary, and the entire empty town was blockaded behind chain link fencing.

One US EPA official said to visit the silent, abandoned town was heart-wrenching.

Walking the vacant streets and into the empty houses, it was like people had just dashed out and never came back. There were still Christmas trees inside and decorations hanging outside.  Food was in rotting in refrigerators and clothes still hung in closets.

Abandoned church in Times Beach Missouri
Abandoned church in Times Beach, Missouri

For the residents who moved, the ordeal was far from over. They continued to worry about the long-term effects on their children’s health. Among Vietnam Vets, Dioxin used in Agent Orange has caused cancer, skin diseases, immune disorders, and birth defects. Some of the 800 families were shunned by neighboring Missouri communities, who wrongly feared contamination from contagious residents.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Bliss and NEPACCO. Though Bliss’ spraying was undoubtedly the source, his pleas of ignorance were believed and he was never convicted of any crime. As for NEPACCO, no laws were yet in effect that regulated the disposal of hazardous waste, so they too were cleared of guilt.

For a more than a decade, the buildings and houses sat deserted behind barricades and black & yellow warning signs, while Washington politicians decided what to do with Times Beach, Missouri. The massive clean-up operation first demolished all the houses and buried the rubble, including the foundations under a huge mound of dirt.

In 1997, the government removed 265,000 tons of contaminated soil at a cost of $110 million.

An incinerator was built on the site. After all the contaminated dirt was incinerated, the site was turned over to the State. Thankfully an American Medical Association study could find no long-term health effects in the evacuated families … yet.  Survivors are still monitored annually to this day.

Times Beach and Love Canal brought hazardous waste dumping and toxic pollution to national attention and the US EPA cleaned up hundreds of other toxic waste sites for the next 20 years. Congress passed the Superfund Act in 1980 to address the clean-up of the worst of the worst hazardous waste sites in America.

The cleaned-up, former town was turned over to the state and Missouri built the ROUTE 66 STATE PARK. The 419-acre park opened in 1999 and includes a historical museum of the town’s infamous past. Few visitors of the park realize that under a huge grassy mound of earth 4 football fields long lies the sad remains of Times Beach homes. If you care to visit Times Beach and the Route 66 State Park to check it out yourself, it located right off I-44 at exit 266.

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The Mother of all Inclined Railroads, for over Half a Century

Mahanoy Plane bottom
Mahanoy Plane,, Frackville, PA

In the Coal Mining Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania,  Appalachian valleys from Harrisburg to Scranton contain prized veins of hard, black Anthracite coal.  Anthracite burns hotter and cleaner than the softer bituminous coal from western PA, but it’s harder to mine.  From the Civil War to the 1940’s, coal was the undisputed King of Fuels in the United States and the world.  Cheap immigrant labor (including my Polish grandfather) toiled and died in the hundreds of deep mines that dotted the Appalachian valleys.  It was an exhausting, thankless, often dangerous life, long before the days of organized labor unions.  Men would come out of the mines each day with black faces and black lungs.

For Schuylkill County where I grew up, there was only one big problem, getting all that precious black coal, from 48 separate mines, up and over the long Broad Mountain that separated it from the southern state. From there it would feed hungry steel mills and factories in places like Allentown, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  I grew up in a town atop that long, steep mountain that contained the solution.  A little place called Frackville.

What was the Coal Barons’ solution?  To construct a massive Inclined Railroad to the top.

Clearing the forest and laying tracks up the mountain was the easy part.  Tons of power would be needed to hoist the heavy, laden coal cars up the steep mountainside, too steep for a locomotive to pull.  The vertical rise was a daunting 525 feet to the top of the ridge, 28 degrees at its steepest.  So the most powerful steam engines in the world (at the time) were installed at the summit, at the edge of my small hometown. The 500 ton engines were part of a massive complex that would be known as The Mahanoy Plane after the valley below.

The Plane was constructed during the Civil War in 1861, primarily by Italian immigrants, and paid for by the READING RAILROAD of Monopoly fame.   It was a true Engineering Marvel with two 6,000 horsepower steam engines hoisting coal cars 2,500 feet up from the Mahanoy valley to Frackville at the top.  The engines held that “most powerful engine” distinction for over 50 years, until surpassed by the large steam engines that moved the locks of the Panama Canal.  During its heyday, the Mahanoy Plane hoisted over 1.4 Billion, that’s with a B, tons of coal up the steep slope of Broad Mountain.  Up to 900 railroad cars passed up and down the steep plane every single day, a trip that took a little over four minutes.  The main hoisting cables alone were made of 3 inch thick cast-steel that could pull 3 coal cars as once.  A team of over 60 men was required to work the Plane.

Sadly, the Mahanoy Plane finally shut it engines in 1932, due to a decline in demand for coal and other easier routes out of the valley.

Mahanoy Place Engine Room, Frackville, PA
Mahanoy Place Engine Room, Frackville, PA

The mighty steam engines were dismantled, the long cables sold for scrap, and the historic buildings demolished in the 1950s – what a loss.  Today, the famous site is all but forgotten … except for a few loyal locals (or former locals like myself) who refuse to let its memory die.  Eventually, Mother Nature overtook the full length of the Plane site with a forest of slender white birch trees growing around and among the crumbling ruins. Currently, hikers like myself can visit the heavily overgrown site at the north end of Frackville.  You can inspect its thick, deep foundations, massive, three-story high stone trestles, and creepy undergound rooms.

In 2007, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission installed a tiny Historical Marker along nearby highway 924, just outside of Frackville.  It gives a brief, 3 sentence description, stating at the end that ‘partial ruins remain nearby.‘  But that hardly seems sufficient for such a once legendary site. The Mahanoy Plane provided coal for the westward expansion of the United States, fueling railroads from the Mississippi to California.  Polish, Russian, Italian, German and Irish immigrants mined the coal that powered factories, steel mills and locomotives across the entire nation.  For 50 years, this Plane, in a small Pennsylvania town, contained the largest steam engines in the world!

Sadly, there are no Pennsylvania state plans to restore or even preserve the once famous site.  The forest has completely taken over and reclaimed the land.  To visit there in summertime, when the leaves are thick, you might trudge right past and miss the ruins it completely.  Only in the cold of winter, with the trees bare of leaves, is the site fully revealed to the curious, along with a spectacular view of the valley below.  The mighty Mahanoy Plane deserves far more remembrance than an overgrown plot of ruins and a forgotten place in American history.

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The Donora ‘Death Fog’ of 1948

Donora, Pennsylvania Death Fog of 1948
Donora, Pennsylvania Death Fog of 1948

In 1948, a little-remembered environmental disaster occurred in the U.S. that shocked the entire world.  It may sound like something from a Steven King horror novel, but it’s the real thing. It began innocently enough.

On Tuesday, October 26th, 1948 the people of Donora, Pennsylvania woke to a blanket of smoke and fog filling their streets.  Fog was common there when cold Allegheny Mountain air hit the warm water from the Monongahela River that ran around the town.  Plus the town’s steel mill and zinc works factories ran three solid shifts. They belched out endless pillars of smoke, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

People went off to work that morning, kids off to school.  But the smog on the morning of Oct. 26th turned out to be different somehow. As the day wore on, the fog didn’t lift, as it usually did when the sun rose.  All the streetlights were still blazing at Noon!  Plus the smog became slowly thicker as the day progressed. Townsfolk began to gag and cough, tasting the pollution in their mouths.

The smog burned your throat, eyes and nose, but we thought it was just another day in Donora.’

Donora Death Fog survivor

Donora is a small U.S. town, about 27 miles south of Pittsburgh. It sits on a tight, horseshoe bend in the Monongahela River, in a deep mountain valley surrounded by steep Appalachian hillsides.  It was also the home of the US Steel Zinc Works AND American Steel & Wire Mill. A combined 30 smoke stacks lining the riverfront like a steampunk forest. The 2 factories employed most of the men in town and laborers.  Everyone else in one way or another supported, or profited off, the 2 large mills.

Folks in Pennsylvania and Ohio steel towns were used to smog. This was 3 years after World War II and the GIs were home and back to work in the mills and factories.  But memories of the Great Depression still lingered, and smog, for better or worse, meant prosperity and jobs. Smog meant men were working, bills were being paid, and families were fed. Sure it was a daily nuisance. It stunted the growth of trees in the valley, mothers washed their curtains as frequently as towels, and it caused hacking coughs amongst the workers. But, that was the price you paid for a part of the American Dream, right?

The Donora smog continued to worsen as the week went one, getting thicker and thicker and thicker for 5 straight days. Most residents hid in their homes except to go to work. It darkening the valley like an industrial solar eclipse. That didn’t stop the Halloween parade on Friday though, when little kids in costumes walked the streets like real specters, coughing and hacking in the foggy gloom.  Or the high school football game on Saturday, when no passes were thrown because receivers couldn’t see the ball in the air!

The smog was so thick the fans could barely see the football players on the field!

What the town didn’t know was that a layer of cold autumn air had trapped the 2 mills’ toxic soup of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and zinc/lead dust in their mountain valley.  It was a rare Atmospheric Inversion that stopped the air from circulating out of the town.  The dangerous combination of toxic smoke and weather would yield deadly effects. The thickening, poisonous air began causing uncontrollable hacking coughs and asthma-like symptoms.

Donora’s 8 family doctors rushed from house to house and case to case. They ordered those having trouble breathing to abandon the town and head in any direction. This became harder and harder as driving visibility was reduced to just a few feet, even with headlights on. Firefighters carried O2 tanks through the dark streets to help children and elderly citizens get from place to place. The police was deluged with desperate phone calls for oxygen masks.

The ambulances could only creep through the smog at 5 mph, with one paramedic walking in front to check if the road was clear of stuck cards, shouting back to the driver.  Driving soon became out of the question.  Firefighters were forced to abandon attempts to help their suffering citizens when they were unable to navigate their fire trucks IN MIDDAY!

“The smog was so bad I couldn’t see my own two feet!”

Donora Death Fog survivor

The mayor and town leaders begged the mills’ owners to shut down … but they refused! It would cost too much money to halt production. The first deaths began to occur four days in on Friday. The doctors had made the small Donora Hotel an emergency clinic because the small local hospital couldn’t handle all the sick, coughing and gasping patients.

By Saturday, the 3 funeral homes quickly had more corpses than they could handle. The Community Center basement became a spare morgue when the undertakers were overwhelmed. Towns people listening to the local radio station were shocked to learn the toxic smog had now turned lethal!  20 of their fellow Donorans had died!  And half the town was getting sicker.

On Sunday morning October 30th, the mills’ owners finally ceased operation, arguably because most of their workers wereout sick and the mills were half empty. The next day, on Halloween no less, wind and rain finally came and the smog finally began to dissipate, but not before leaving many Donorians with permanent lung damage.

Twenty-six townspeople would die in all.

All the dead had been 50 or over, some with heart or lung problems. 7,000 people had become violently ill, half the town’s population. While expressing sympathy for the victims, the mill owners disclaimed responsibility!  After all, they couldn’t control the weather, could they?

Over the next months, state and federal investigators descended on small Donora. They set up air monitoring sites and medical clinics in the valley.  US Steel and American Wire insisted the weather was to blame, certainly not the mills that had been operating for decades. The 2 influential and powerful companies made sure the official report exonerated the plants. Most residents were outraged when investigators failed to blame the mills.  Much like the nearby Johnstown, PA Flood victims, lawsuits were filed and later settled, but without naming blame.

‘It was murder! The owners of US Steel should have gone to jail.’

Donora Death Fog survivor

Humans were not the only victims – all of the crops in the surrounding valley withered as well as many backyard gardens.  Family pets would suffer the same fate as their owners. It became the worst air pollution disaster in US history and let the public know that smog was more than just a nuisance, it could kill!

Donora, PA - US Steel Zinc Works, 1948
Donora, PA – US Steel Zinc Works, 1948

The 2 mills reopened the very next week. But the “Donora Death Fog,” was in all the national newspapers and made air pollution a new national concern. The next year, President Harry Truman called for the 1st national Air Pollution Conference, citing Donora, PA by name. A similar, larger disaster occurred in London, England in 1952, called The Great Smog killing thousands. The US Steel Zinc Works closed in 1957, the American Steel and Wire Mill a few years later.  Other industries came to town over the years and Donora became a classic Rust Belt, working class community.

President Richard Nixon created the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, leading to The Clean Air Act.  Nonetheless, air pollution in industrial Pennsylvania cities and towns like Pittsburgh remained a problem for decades more.  Add the mills of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana and air pollution precipitated down upon the northeastern states as Acid Rain, killing lake and river fish populations all the way to New England.

Once the mills closed, the population of Donora dwindled to less than 6,000, with over one-third retirees. Some residents blame the government regulators for destroying jobs in their town, though arguably saving their family’s lives. The Donora Death Fog is the pivotal moment leading to the slow adoption of air quality regulations in the US years later.  Today, it almost sounds like a 1950’s science fiction movie.   But if you have never heard of Donora, PA you owe the victims and their families a debt of gratitude.  The Donora dead gave their lives, so many others would later live.

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Both Germany and the Allies used Poison Gas in World War I

British troops with gas masks in the World War I trenches
British troops with gas masks in the World War I trenches

The horrors that man is capable of unleashing upon his enemy during warfare reached its pinnacle during World War I, when BOTH slides liberally used Poison Gas against each other. World War I was the first conflict to devolve into trench warfare. They happened when equally matched armies had literally dug thousands of miles of trenches into the French and Belgian countryside. In between the trenches lay a “No Man’s Land,” obliterated by heavy artillery. After numerous high casualty battles that did nothing to move the front in either direction, both sides, the Germany and Allies, looked for any way to win campaigns.

New poison gas technology appeared to be the answer to their prayers!

Chlorine gas was first deployed by the German military at the Second Battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915. French, British and Canadian troops lined a 10 mile long front against the German army.  At 17.00 hours, when the day’s shelling ceased, and with the winds favorably blowing toward the enemy in the west, German troops opened pressurized tanks of chlorine gas hidden at the front line trenches.

French sentries first noticed a strange, greenish-yellow cloud moving towards them. Thinking it was a smoke screen to cover a German advance, all troops were ordered to the ladders of their trenches. The gas’s impact was immediate and horrifying, destroying a man’s ability to breath in a matter of seconds. causing death by asphyxiation. The surviving French troops fled in terror. Even the Germans were so shocked by the deadly effect of their gas, they never followed through with a full assault.

Germany’s use of poison gas provoked immediate and widespread condemnation around the globe. Nevertheless, the poison gas ‘cat was out of the bag,’ so to speak, and its use escalated for the remainder of the Great War to End all Wars, by Both Sides.

The first Allies to respond was Britain in 25 September 1915. Newly formed Special Gas Divisions attacked German lines at Loos, France around 5 am with their new “Accessory.” They were forbidden, to use the word ‘Poison Gas,’ else they be as guilty as the ‘Jerries.’ Unfortunately, along parts of the British front lines, the wind changed direction unexpectedly! The chlorine gas was blown back onto the British troops, causing over 2,000 casualties, more than inflicted on the Germans.

A better means of delivery was needed, so both sides began firing poison gas in artillery shells instead.

After chlorine came phosgene, a gas that induced less coughing, so more would be inhaled by the enemy, increasing the kill rate. But what was the average trench soldier to do? At first, they were instructed to hold a urine soaked kerchief over their face to protect against the effects! Needless to say, this failed miserably. Gas mask production lagged behind gas production and it took several ineffective versions before the troops were finally provided with a reliable full face model. Uncomfortable masks with round goggles and a single filter cartridge were effective if applied fast enough.

German chemists were a step ahead of the Allies and switched to Mustard Gas in 1917.

Made of sulphur dichloride, the oily, brown liquid gave off what survivors described as a garlicy, horseradish or mustard stench. Mustard gas was nearly invisible, and rather that immediately choking the victim, it caused large, severe and painful blisters, both in the mouth, lungs, and on the skin. Temporary blindness and pulmonary edema were induced. Mustard gas also remained potent in clothing and the soil for weeks, making infected trenches impossible to live in.

To the thousands of souls fighting in Flanders, it was hard to imagine how the hell of trench warfare could get any worse. On 12 July 1917, German gunners fired more than 50,000 artillery shells of mustard gas into the British and Canadian lines. Hospital tents up and down the front were soon bursting with more than 2,000 victims, suffering from excruciating blisters across their bodies. Most were blinded, others slowly suffocating, leaving the rest disfigured and writhing in agony.

Despite the outrage that followed Germany’s usage, the Allies immediately engineered their own stockpiles of mustard gas.

By autumn, mustard gas was in use up and down the Western Front from Belgium to Switzerland, once again by both sides. By year’s end, the British were dropping mustard gas shells onto German trenches as well.  When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, America’s Dow Chemical manufactured the poison for the troops.

British soldier with gas mask in World War I
British soldier with gas mask in World War I

Mustard gas so terrified soldiers because unlike phosgene, victims were initially unaware they were being gassed. Gas masks only protected the lungs; everything else burned and blistered, even skin beneath clothing. Since it was heavier than air, clouds would settle into bomb craters and trenches, remaining there for hours if there was no breeze.

The Germany military continued to develop a deadly array of delivery methods including artillery shells, mortar rounds, free falling bombs from bi-wing airplanes and even in land mines. The British army alone suffered 20,000 mustard gas casualties in just the last year of the war.

The use of Mustard Gas would continue right up until the Paris Armistice at 11 pm on 11 November 1918.

Although the use of poison gas was banned by the 1925 Geneva Convention, armies around the world continued to use it up through the 1930s. For example when the Japanese Empire gassed both Chinese armies and civilians in its invasion of Manchuria. During World War II, the Allies stockpiled millions of tons of mustard gas behind frontlines just in case the Nazis and Japanese decided to use it.

In modern times, mustard gas was used most recently in the 1980s Iran-Iraq War by Saddam Hussein against the Iranian army, and even against Iraq’s own Kurdish population, where more than 5,000 civilians died.

Today we have much more modern Nerve Agent Gases, like sarin, and of course nuclear weapons to deploy if needed. They remain unused and stockpiled by both sides, kept as a deterrent only of course, … or, until our enemies decides to use them against us first. Then the deadly cycle of escalation seen during World War I might just begin again.

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10 Reasons ‘Saint Germain’ Sounds so Darn Familiar

The Count of Saint Germain was a real life, never-aging adventurer of the 18th.  If you prefer the French, he was le Comte de St-Germain, in German, der Wunderman. Alchemist, spy, composer, diplomat, and general enigma, the mysterious Count was an actual historic figure, with adventures across 18th century Europe and beyond. Throughout all this time, he never appeared to age. He is also the main character of “The Man Who Would Not Die,” my historical novel. 

The Count is but one of the many instances of this familiar French-sounding name.  Here are some of the others you may or may not recognize:

Saint Germain-des-Prés

Paris street sign for Boulevard Saint Germain
Paris street sign for Boulevard Saint Germain

My absolute favorite place in Paris. A popular and historic Left Bank Faubourg, known for its cafes, shops, and wide, tree-lined Boulevard Saint Germain.  It sits across the River Siene from the Louvre Museum and surrounds the church of the former Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris, named for … well, I am getting ahead of myself.  Read on.

Saint Germain-en-Laye

An affluent French commune located in the northwest suburbs of Paris, on the banks of a hairpin loop in the River Seine.  Prior to the French Revolution, its fabulous Chateau Neuf, was the residence of numerous French kings, including Henry II and a young and future Sun King, Louis XIV.  Today, it houses the Museum of Archeology. The area surrounding the town contains the National Forest Saint German-en-Laye.

Paris Saint-Germain

Logo for Paris Saint Germain football (soccer) team
Logo for Paris Saint Germain football (soccer) club

Known simply as PSG to its many fans, a HUGELY popular professional football (soccer) club based in Paris.  Also known as the Red and the Blue, they compete in the top League 1 and have won 9 League titles.  They are the most successful football club in all of France, and the second most popular after its arch-rivals Olympique de Marseille. They play at the Parc des Princes.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

American novelist who has penned a long series of historical romance novels with none other than Count Saint-Germain as her tortured protagonist.  She portrays the Count as an immortal vampire, who has lived since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, with numerous beautiful and tragic lovers throughout the centuries.  Each book in her extensive series (27 and counting) is based on the Count in a different time period.

St. Germain, the liqueur

A bottle of St. Germain liquor
A bottle of St. Germain liquor

A delicious and expensive French liqueur in a classy and distinctive art deco bottle.  Started in 2007, it is delicately flavored with European elder flowers picked each Spring, and currently owned by none other than Bacardi.  Sip it as a liquor; or a shot goes quite well in a glass of dry white wine, French champagne or any number of mixed drinks, including the highly recommended French Martini or Green Margarita.  Sante! Cheers!

Saint-Germain’s Tea

Both a hot beverage and a remedy all in one.  Created by Count Saint Germain himself for the Russian Navy during its long wars with the Ottoman/Turkish Empire in the late 18th century.  A blended tea of equal parts crushed senna pods, elder flowers, and ground fennel seeds [Recipe].   Careful, physicians used it as an 18th century purge!  Similar blends are still sold today as an herbal remedy for mild irregularity.

Potage Saint-Germain
Potage Saint Germain

A delicious, creamy French soup of pureed peas, spinach and leeks [Recipe].  Originally served to French King Louis XIV and available today in many Left Bank French restaurants. Garnish each bowl with freshly grated parmesan cheese or a dollop of sour cream.  Best served with a hot loaf of crusty French bread and a glass of dry Sherry in a Parisian sidewalk cafe.  Bon Appetit mon amie!

Treaty of Saint Germain

One of several treaties which ended World War I, the so called ‘War to End All Wars.’  It was signed by British, French, American Allies and Austria on 10 September 1919 in the aforementioned Chateau Neuf in St. Germain-en-Laye.  The treaty declared that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved, and war reparations were to be paid to the Allies. The more famous World War I Treaty of Versailles was signed between the three Allies and Germany just a few months earlier.

Saint Germain Foundation®

Logo of the I AM Activity
Logo of the I AM Activity

A religious organization based on the principles of Theosophy, founded by Madame Helena Blavatsky.  It bases its doctrines on the teaching of Guy Ballard in the 1930’s.  The organization’s philosophy is known as the “I Am” Activity® and has spawned numerous spiritual splinter groups over time including the Summit Lighthouse the Church Universal and Triumphant.  They consider Count Saint Germain to be one of their Ascended Masters, living on in an astral plane.

St. Germain, the US town

A charming town in the heart of America’s Wisconsin Northwoods, settled by French fur traders in the 1600s and surrounded by over 1300 small lakes and streams.  For the outdoor lover, St. Germain boasts year round activities including fishing, hunting, boating, and kayaking.  During their famously cold and robust winters throw in snowmobiling, and of course cross-country skiing.

St. Germanus

Saint Germanus statue
Saint Germanus statue

And last but not least, the original Catholic Saint, known as the ‘Father of the Poor.’  As a priest, he was first the abbot of an abbey, later ordained Bishop of Paris in the year 555 by French King Childebert.  He was canonized after his death in 754.  St. Germain was well known for his overly generous alms-giving to the French poor.  For centuries his relics were carried through the streets in times of plaque and war.  He is buried in the crypt of the Left Bank abbey church in Paris that bears his now familiar name.  His Catholic Feast Day is May 28th.

So there you have it, ten familiar instances of ‘Saint Germain’ scattered around the world.  But let us not forget the mysterious Count of Saint Germain, where our journey first began.

Click here for the Count Saint Germain historical novel: The Man Who Would Not Die.