Monday, July 27, 2020

Super Mega Summer 2020 Tucked Away Inside Post (old York Bible)

This post has been a very long time coming. My apologies for that.

Way back in December 2018, I received a mystery package in the mail that contained a small Bible. It was addressed to "Christopher A. Otto," and the return address label was St. Louis Catholic Youth Ministry in Clarksville, Maryland. An unsigned cursive note in the package stated: "Hoping you may be able to find some family member to give this to — or a good home for it. Showed up in a donation box."

So it's time to accomplish this mission of finding this Bible and its contents a proper home. Toward that goal, I'll document everything that is tucked away inside.

This Bible was published in 1899 by the American Bible Society. It is 4 inches wide, 5½ inches tall, and 1½ inches thick. We'll go through it from front to back and see what we can learn.

On the waterstained first page, there is name and a location written in neat cursive: Harry Morrow, Airville Penna.

Airville is an unincorporated community in rural southeastern York County. I've been there a few times, and you have to actively want to go there to find it; it's not a place you'd ever go through as part of everyday travels. According to 1886's History of York County, Pennsylvania, Airville was first called McSherrysville. Its residents included Aquila Montgomery, a Black man who built the town's second house. There is also this fascinating but not politically correct passage: "The mail for many years was carried on horse back by a dwarf called 'Little Philie Cole,' over a route extending from York to Bel Air, Md. It took him one week to make the trip. 'Little Philie' was a brave boy, and was afraid of nothing but thunder. If he saw an approaching storm, he would go into the nearest house and at once conceal himself in a feather bed, till it subsided."

So, Harry Morrow of Airville is one starting point...

In the pages of Genesis, there is an obituary clipped from a newspaper.

Thanks to, we learn that this obituary is from the November 16, 1943, edition of The Gazette and Daily of York, Pennsylvania. I also determined that William Lee's date of death was November 12, 1943. He died at the hospital and was "aged 53 years, 6 months and 12 days." It's not immediately clear if there are any connections between Harry Morrow and anyone from the group of William Lee, Flora Lee, Russell Stewart, Robert Loomis, William Grandstaff, Frank G. Whitmore, Edgar Morgan and Clarence Lauer.

The plot thickens at 1 Kings. Tucked into the same page are two items: A remembrance card and a mystery snapshot.

It has long been common practice to tuck remembrance cards away inside Bibles after attending services. It's possible that T. Bernard Elsesser (1876-1944) was just an acquaintance of whoever owned this Bible in 1944. What's really interesting is that Elsesser was a major figure in York journalism. The front page of the June 2, 1944 edition of The Gazette and Daily notes:
"T. Bernard Elsesser, managing editor The Gazette and Daily and an employe of this newspaper for 54 years, died at 4:20 o'clock this morning at the York hospital. He was 67. Mr. Elsesser, a widely known newspaperman who rose from 'printer's devil' to the position of managing editor which he still held at the time of his death, had undergone a major operation May 24."

It's likely that, given his prominent position, Elsesser was known by many in the York community and that his funeral service has well-attended. So I'm guessing he was just an acquaintance and not a relative of the Bible owner.

And what's to make of this photograph? it's 2⅝ inches by 4⅝ inches. Frustratingly, nothing is written on the back. We just have a woman holding a small dog that doesn't look terribly pleased to be posing. Here's a closer look...

She looks about as grumpy as the dog about the whole situation. Who is she? Why is her picture in this Bible?

Moving along to Nehemiah, we find another mystery snapshot.

A blurry pier. Old people. Pelicans. No information written on the back. This does nothing to help us solve the mystery of this Bible.

Tucked between pages in Psalms, we find a trio of items. There are two newspaper clippings. One is another that's related to the death of William Lee. (Is it significant that he has two clippings in the same Bible?) It lists some of his relatives, including his daughter, Florence Lee.

And then there's a clipped obituary for Fern Eugina Husson, the infant daughter of Charles R. Husson (1891-1959) and Anna K. Worley Husson (1892-1961). Fern was 11 weeks old when she died in January 1923. She is buried with her mother and father in York's Prospect Hill Cemetery. (Minor spelling note: The clipped obituary states "Fern Eugina Husson" and Find A Grave states "Fern Eugenia Husson.")

The third item tucked away in this spot in another mystery photo from down the shore. Nothing is written on the back. Who is the well-dressed old woman posing with a pelican in the background?

A few pages later, still in Psalms, is perhaps the most intriguing item in the Bible — a very personal four-page note...

The full note states:
18 Sept.
Darling "Tiny"
I could not come and give you good-Bye in person as it would be too hard for me to do and also hard on you. Honey be good and I'll see in you in a year or two. As soon as I have an address I'll mail it to you. I leave today at 3:38 standard time from York and will be in Pittsburgh, California, Sat night the 21st at 8:00 PM. Don't know how far the Camp is from here.

When the Kiltie-band plays and if my Honey is down you may give him a kiss for me. He is a darling and how. Saw him Sat night. Don't tell anyone but I can trust you. He is Bill Paterson but he has asked me to call him "Pat," and is from Clearfield, Pa.

Well Honey you understand why I could not see you.

Love always
I have a lot of questions about this note! What is the relationship/situation with Tiny, Fairy and Bill/Pat? "Pittsburgh" in California is most likely this Pittsburg in central California. The "Camp" referred to in the letter is probably Camp Stoneman, which was a major staging area for the Army in World War II and the Korean War. It was decommissioned in 1954, so that helps us tremendously in dating this note. (Also very helpful: September 21 was a Saturday in 1940 and 1946.)

Kiltie-band might refer to The Kiltie Band of York, which, according to its website, "was founded in 1928 and is still based in York, Pennsylvania with members from the surrounding region including York and Lancaster Counties and beyond."

The only full name we have is Bill Paterson of Clearfield, Pennsylvania. The name is very common, but Clearfield is relatively small. And so I found an obituary that's almost certainly his. William (Bill) Logie Paterson lived from 1921 to 2008. In World War II he co-piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress. But here's the part that caught my eye: "As a young boy, Bill learned to play the bagpipes and he took them every place he went, even into the service. He was certified to teach bagpipes by the College of Piping out of Glasgow, Scotland. He frequently taught at summer piping schools in California. Bill also made a trip to Japan to teach members of the Tokyo Pipe Band. He taught the original members of the Bellingham Pipe Band and for many years taught individual students in the fine art of piping."

I don't think it's a coincidence that the note mentions The Kiltie Band of York. This is definitely the Bill Paterson we're looking for. But who is Fairy?? And how does Fairy fit in with the people whose hands this Bible passed through?

Still in Psalms, there's a little bookmark that might or might not have been original to the 1899 Bible...

Finally, in Song of Solomon, we discover the fate of the man whose name is written on the first page of this Bible: Harry E. Morrow. It's a clipping from the January 4, 1941, edition of the York Daily Record, and it indicates that Morrow "was instantly killed ... when struck by a car as he was crossing the Belair road."

An article in the December 31, 1940, Gazette and Daily adds that Morrow was 46 when he died and gives a little more detail about his tragic death: "According to reports from Baltimore, Mr. Morrow had alighted from his auto to see how it had been damaged after it had struck a guard rail when he was hit by an oncoming car. ... Mr. Morrow, a son of Mrs. Martha Lee Morrow, 46 East Philadelphia street, and the late Russell Morrow, left York about two years ago for Baltimore where he was employed as a sheet metal worker. While in this city he worked as an automobile mechanic. ... Mr. Morrow was a veteran of the first World war, having seen service overseas. Surviving are his widow, Mr. Marian Thompson Morrow; two daughters, Dorothy and Evelyn..."

1940 was an incredibly sad year for Martha Lee Morrow. In late February, Russell Morrow (her husband) was arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct in York and placed in a cell. It allegedly wasn't until 15 hours after his arrest that police, unable to arouse Morrow, ordered his transfer to York hospital for medical attention. He died at the hospital several days later. Then, in December, Martha lost her son Harry in the aforementioned traffic accident.

An obvious thing to note is that Harry E. Morrow died in December 1940, yet some of the items we have encountered tucked away inside this Bible are clearly from after that date. So at least one person other than Morrow used it. My guess is that it was his mother, Martha Lee Morrow. It took some nosing around, but I was able to confirm that William Lee (whose 1943 obituary clippings are among the items tucked away inside) is Martha's brother (and thus Harry's uncle).

Is Martha the well-dressed woman at the shore and/or the woman holding the dog?

Martha J. Lee Morrow died on August 29, 1964, at age 90, nearly a quarter-century after the double tragedy of losing her husband and son in the same year. According to her obituary in The Gazette and Daily, she was survived by a daughter (Mrs. Earl T. Stein), five grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and a brother, John Y. Lee. Those might be the best jumping-off points to get this Bible back to someone who's related to Martha, so it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

Reach me with tips at chrisottopa (at)

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