Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book cover: "Little Pilgrim to Penn's Woods"

In 2015 and 2018, I wrote about old postcards in my possession that concern Edna Albert, who had lifetime connections across southcentral Pennsylvania. She was a graduate of Millersville State Normal School, a member of the Adams County Historical Society and the Women's Christian Temperance Union ... and an author. I'm featuring one of her books today.

  • Title: Little Pilgrim to Penn's Woods
  • Author: Edna Albert (1878-1960)
  • Illustrator: Esther Brann (1899-1998)
  • Publisher: Longmans, Green and Co. (New York and Toronto)
  • Year: Originally published in 1930. This is the January 1952 reprint.
  • Pages: 300
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket description: "This is the story of an eighteenth-century migration to the woods of William Penn told against a background that is historically notable. Selinda, the little pilgrim, is a real girl who with high courage and a singing heart traded old worlds for new. There is interwoven with the very atmosphere of the Rhineland and of Holland all the color and reality of pioneer life: an epic in homespun. The hardships of the journey are not minimized and yet are kept in the background as they would be in the mind of a child. And it is a joy to have the clear cut snapshots of the little towns, of the young Goethe, of the little Dutch Neltje, of the English sailors, of the Indian in his native forests, of eighteenth-century manners, without losing the sense of the idyllic unity of Selinda's story which the author has told with rare sympathy and surpassing interest."
  • Provenance: This copy was withdrawn from the Hamburg Junior High School Library Media Center.
  • Dedication: To my father who gave me in my childhood many a book of golden tales (Her father was Franklin Albert, 1838-1931)
  • Foreword: Written by Martin Grove Brumbaugh, who served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1915 to 1919, on March 8, 1930. He writes, "One cannot, in reading this narrative, fail to reach the conclusion that the author is really giving a type-story of a people who have so worthily aided in building this Commonwealth and, indeed, really a picture of her own ancestors. ... The volume merits and should have wide acceptance."
  • Some chapter titles: "The Silver Horn," "The Trumpeting Cherub," "Völker the Fiddler," "The Dam School," "Selinda's Indian Name," and "Wastela Visits the Boiling Springs."
  • First sentence: "Selinda perched on the end of the bench in her father's shop, playing with the shavings that rolled up before his plane."
  • Last sentence: "Her Story Finished October 16, 1764."
  • Random sentence from the middle: "The travelers stopped the whole day in York, for they had business also at the Land Office, but according to their custom they were off early on Tuesday, and evening found them camped near Dover, whence one road led out toward the mountain and on to Carlisle."
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.5 stars out of 5 (2 ratings)
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.7 stars out of 5 (2 ratings)1
  • Amazon review: In 2019, Edith Dunn wrote: "I bought this because it was about the time in history that my ancestors left Germany to come to Pennsylvania. It gave me insight into the journey they took and difficulties encountered on their arduous trip. I also recognized many locations mentioned in Pennsylvania that I had visited in my childhood. It was a well written, descriptive book that helped me understand my ancestors. Although I'm in my 70's and have read this book twice, I feel it would be valuable to anyone wishing to know about pilgrims who came to America during colonial times."
  • More about Edna Albert: On the Ye Olde Sulphur Spa Historical Society Facebook page, this was written in 2016: "For her twentieth reunion, at Dickinson College, information provided by Miss Albert shows her pride in having been given suffrage under the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution as she noted, 'Republican. Votes.' She also noted that she had a Ford [automobile] named Peter." The page also indicates that Albert followed Little Pilgrim to Penn's Woods with two other books, The Shawl with the Yellow Bells and Peter of Smithfield, which was about her car.
  • More about her car: On Albert's Find A Grave page, this story was added by Roger Trostle earlier this year: "My mother told me this story. Edna Albert was driving to the Chestnut Grove Lutheran Church in Latimore one Sunday morning when she accidentally drove off the road in front of the Irvin Harbold Farm home. Her car narrowly missed a chicken house, rolling over completely and coming to rest on its four wheels. Not missing a beat, Edna drove her car back onto the road and on to Church. Other than her hat being a bit crooked, she was no worse for the wear and attended the worship service just as she set out to do."
  • And another story: Elmira Stambaugh adds this tale (which I have lightly edited) on the aforementioned Ye Olde Sulphur Spa Historical Society Facebook page in 2016: "My parents rented from her and she was a fascinating and kind lady. Sometimes when our parents were working and there was a thunderstorm, she would let us stay with her till our parents got home. She had this one room where she had an old typewriter and lots of books. I remember she had lots of National Geographics. We would spend a lot of time in that room looking at her books and playing with her typewriter. She would also take us to church at Chestnut Grove every Sunday. If I remember right, her car was a white coupe she called Peter!"

But wait, there's more!
Here is a look at the front endpapers designed by Esther Brann...

1. You might be asking yourself, "How can a book with two ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 have an average rating of 4.7?" Good question. Amazon explains it this way: "Amazon calculates a product’s star ratings based on a machine learned model instead of a raw data average. The model takes into account factors including the age of a rating, whether the ratings are from verified purchasers, and factors that establish reviewer trustworthiness."

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 Newspapers.com, 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) gmail.com.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Unused postcard: Silbury Hill

This postcard — which will finally fulfill its destiny and get mailed somewhere this week — is Crown copyright 1968 and was published by the Ministry of Public Building and Works. It was printed in England by George Putnam & Sons Ltd. It shows Silbury Hill, which dates to about 2400 BC and is located near Avebury in county Wiltshire, southcentral England.

There is much speculation, both scientific and daft, about what this chalk mound was originally used for 4,400 years ago. Even the scientific speculation is just a smart guess (while the daft ideas are purely daft). The thoughtful ideas imagine the mound as a symbol of that time's power elite (possibly involving a priesthood) and/or as a central location for seasonal rituals.

While Silbury Hill's original purpose will never be known, we know it was refitted for other purposes by the Romans and later in medieval times, over the millennia. (It served, for example, as a superb defensive position.) Archaelogical tunnels dug into the mound from the 1770s to as recently as the 1970s were poorly managed, causing permanent damage to the mound and its stability.

There's much folklore, surrounding this ancient mound. The wonderful 1973 book Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain notes that the mound "is said to be the burial place of an otherwise forgotten King Sil; of a knight in golden armour; and even of a solid gold horse and rider. Alternatively, the Devil was going to empty a huge sack of earth of Marlborough, but was forced to drop it here by the magic of the priests from nearby Avebury."

Some of the mystery and inspiration circling Silbury Hill is examined in the 2014 book On Silbury Hill, by Adam Thorpe.

* * *

What Silbury Hills we will leave behind for future civilizations to ponder in 4,000 years, 40,000 years, or longer? After we're long gone, what will remain?1

Mount Rushmore's granite is only eroding at a rate of one inch per 10,000 years, though the National Park Service notes that "frost wedging" is the more significant concern for the monument's conservation. In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman estimates Mount Rushmore will still be somewhat discernible seven million years from now. Beyond that, Weisman notes sadly that some of our civilization's longest-lasting legacies for future Earthlings to ponder over and deal with will include radioactive waste and plastics.

1. Related to that sentiment, here are some of today's cheery headlines:
  • Dilemma of Covid's Second Wave...
  • USA: More than 1,000 deaths for 5th day in row...
  • CNN: Experts urge country shut down...
  • Miami, Houston face care worker shortages...
  • 2020's first hurricane roars ashore in virus-hit Texas...
  • Putin says Russian Navy to get hypersonic nuke strike weapons...