- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 6, 2015

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Don Lougeay, one of the founders of the Belleville Holzschnitzers and a longtime woodworker, is used to finding surprises in the wood he carves.

But Lougeay, 89, of Belleville, found one of his biggest surprises while repairing a family heirloom.

He was making a new handle for an old wooden cookie roller when he uncovered a surprising lost message.

The cylinder of the rolling pin, used for pressing designs into cookie dough for baking, is about 5.5 inches long with 12 elaborate carvings arranged in four rows. It has two wooden handles and one of them needed repair.

“I had to make a new handle for it,” Don said. “When I took the handles off, I found this writing hidden under one of them. I had never seen it before.”

“Carved by woodcarver to the kaiser,” it said.

That is kaiser, as in Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, probably. He ruled from 1888 to 1918, the end of World War I.

Don has no idea where the written information came from or who the carver might have been. The family has been unable to find any more stuff about woodcarvers for the kaiser.

Other writing on the end of the roller proclaimed, “Elsie Weingaertner from her mother or grandmother.”

Elsie is Don’s mother. Weingaertner was her maiden name.

Jim Lougeay, Don’s nephew, said, “My grandmother (Don’s mother) was the primary user. She always bragged on it because the carvings are so deep. It made for good impressions.”

Another, larger family cookie dough roller, with five rows of 20 carvings, also had writing, but it didn’t have any mention of the kaiser. The other cookie roller had this written on it: “Louisa Miller’s probably Christine Karlskind or Caroline Obert,”

As a woodcarver himself, Don knows some things about German woodcarvers. He said the woodcarvers in the German guild would hire apprentices but only teach them to carve one of the figures on a rolling pin as a way to control knowledge in the field. Then there would be an assembly line sort of procedure to produce all the carvings on one rolling pin.

He said recipes had hartshorn, a common leavening agent back then, which made the dough hold a better impression so the deep carvings would make nice looking cookies.

As for how a rolling pin apparently from Germany somewhere around the turn of the 20th century got to Belleville, Don had one idea.

“My grandmother was a traveler. She probably went there and bought this for my mom,” he said.

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Source: Belleville News-Democrat, http://bit.ly/1JERzRw

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com

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