Shown in the photo are James Worth and Sarah Ann Gossett with their eight children, standing from left, Ira, Minnie, Addie and Orland, seated from left, Lavina, Pearl, Laverne and Clara.
Shown in the photo are James Worth and Sarah Ann Gossett with their eight children, standing from left, Ira, Minnie, Addie and Orland, seated from left, Lavina, Pearl, Laverne and Clara.
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

– From “O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam (1803-56)

Ladies and gentlemen, Christmas was indeed a glorious time for my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Ann Roberts Gossett, and her family.

“Grandma” Gossett was born in 1843 down in the hills of Highland County, where she lived practically all of her life.

If she were still alive today, she would turn 175 in June of next year. Of course, she has flown away, along with her husband, James Worth Gossett, and the 10 children she bore him (two of whom died as babies), but the echoes of her life remain to this very day.

She was a leader in her community and it has been said that she kept her home at Fort Salem as a meeting place for not only her family, but for others in the area.

Youngsters from miles around adopted her as “Granny” Gossett. She looked forward to Christmastime, when children would come from far and near to be with her, for she always had a smile, a friendly word and a song in her heart.

Closing my eyes, I can imagine Worth and Sarah Gossett with their eight children, Ira, Addie, Orland, Minnie, Pearl, Laverne, Clara and Lavina, seated at the table at Christmastime, ready for a repast. I can see Grandpa Gossett at the end of the table with the family Bible, reading from the Good Book before offering up a fervent prayer. It warms my heart.

Yet, as awe-inspiring as that picture is to me, the preparing of the feast had to have been even more impressive. You see, back in the 1800s, they didn’t have the supermarkets, stores and restaurants that we have today.

Sure, there were places where the Gossett family and families of that era could hitch up their horses and wagons and travel to purchase various edibles and sundries, but in the 1800s in rural Highland County, the spread on the table wasn’t bought at a store. No, for the old Gossett family, the food that sat before them was raised, grown on the farm or caught.

One of the stories passed down through the years is how Grandma Gossett and her daughters would make sparrow pie. If you’ve ever partaken of a slice of sparrow pie, please advise on how it tastes.

Now, how did the Gossett girls catch the sparrows? Glad you asked.

When they threshed the wheat at the old Gossett farm near Pricetown, they blew most of the straw into the barn for bedding for the animals. But what was left over they piled outside. As the story goes, sparrows would build burrows in these piles, and the Gossett girls would take colanders or nets and put them over the burrow openings and catch the sparrows when they flew out.

After that, it was pie time at the old homestead.

The youngest of the Gossett children was Lavina, born in 1887, who married my great-grandfather, Ted Roush, in 1906. My great-grandmother Lavina, who was known as “Mom” to our family, was the only one of the aforementioned Gossett family I ever had a chance to meet.

The recipe for her famous chicken and noodles has been handed down to younger generations, and it’s been said that great-grandma Lavina could dress a chicken in less than five minutes. It’s also been said that she would on occasion use squirrel instead of chicken – and sometimes would shoot the squirrel herself!

Well, we’ve talked about Christmas, squirrels and the special pie, so as promised in the headline, let’s wrap up this yuletide offering with some cookies – Sarah Ann Gossett’s sour cream cookies.

Consider this recipe a gift from Grandma Gossett:

1 cup sour cream to which has been added 1 teaspoon soda (heaping)
2 cups sugar
1 cup lard (or Crisco)
2 eggs (large ones)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Flour – approximately 2 quarts.

Make a nest of flour. Add sugar, shortening, eggs, vanilla. Stir sour cream and soda and let it rise before adding it to the first mixture. Add enough flour from the nest to make proper consistency. Roll out on floured area and cut with cutter of choice.

As Grandma Gossett’s sour cream cookies bake, let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next week. Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at