Sunday, October 23, 2011

Genealogy, Family History, and Censorship

As a volunteer for Genealogy Trails, and as a person trying to be a “good neighbor” in the genealogy world, I spend a fair amount of time transcribing public domain materials that might be of help to someone else researching their family history.  While traveling, I oftentimes make unexpected stops at small rural cemeteries and snap a few headstone shots for Find-a-grave.  I’ve been helped immensely by others doing the same thing, and want to pay back as much as I can.  One never knows when some little nugget they’ve put online might be just the thing to put a chip in someone else’s brick wall.
I started a blog, Sharing Genealogy, for making available oddball items I run across, or find sitting on my office bookshelves.  Awhile back, I found a book on the history of St. Paul, Minnesota, which I picked up at a library book sale.  I personally have no ties to St. Paul, but someone, somewhere does, and thumbing through it, I found some interesting stories, and some old photos.  So I decided to start scanning and transcribing it – all 222 pages.  All was going well, until September 30, when Chapter XIII was posted – “Chippewas and Sioux.”  The next thing you know, I have an ugly, anonymous comment posted questioning my motives and calling this post “bigoted and ethocentric white man crap.”
I answered as politely as I could, but that wasn’t the end of it.  Thanks to comment moderation, no more hateful venom is online.  But it does bring up the point of censorship – is it right?  Should we, as sharers of the past, be held responsible for editing another’s work?  If yes, whose standards do we use?  Our own?  Or the standards of the most sensitive persons that might read our blogs?  If the latter, will we offend someone who resents our editing?  Is there a “happy medium”, and if so, how do we define it?   Only one thing is clear – this is muddy water. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Voorhees Hall–There and Gone


I’m not sure of the exact date on the above postcard of Huron College (Huron, South Dakota), but would guess it to be ~1910.  I grew up looking at this wonderful old building, Voorhees Hall, and during a few times in my childhood, had occasion to enter this grand structure, always captivated by the beautiful architecture.  Eventually, I went to school there myself.  Within those old walls you could almost feel the history, and going up to the huge lecture room on the third floor you could feel the presence of one hundred years’ worth of scholars, filling their minds with worldly knowledge.

So this was a particularly sad time for me when a friend sent the photo below.  Voorhees Hall is no more – razed to make way for a swimming pool.  

It’s going to take a very long time before seeing this sight doesn’t hurt…

Photo courtesy of Michael Bonnes

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

She Banged the Banker

A newspaper article too good not to share.  If only they wrote articles like this these days…

This article appears to be from the Peoria Star, Peoria, Illinois, and is in a scrapbook created by the Princeville Heritage Museum, Princeville, Illinois.

Susannah was the younger sister of my ancestress Rebecca DeBolt Lair, and Peter Auten was a local banker referred to by Rebecca in her will as “my good friend.”


Old Maid of 85 Years Vigorously Demands Her Rights
Sunday, May 24, 1903

Unwedded and unloved Miss Susannah Debolt has lived in this vale of  tears for 85 long years, but not for (---)  is this vale a tearful one. Far from it, good Gonzago.

This antique spinster is still a woman with a vigorous constitution and a strong mind, although it runs on an eccentric.  Fourscore and five years have not debilitated her spirit though they may have somewhat warped her mentality.  She lives alone in Princeville, chiefly in communion with the spirits of those whom she knew in her youth and mature womanhood, and so intimately has she become associated with them that she has very little respect for those who still inhabit this tenement of clay.

In the exercise of his judicial duties, it devolved upon Judge Slemmons to journey to Princeville yesterday and formally adjudge her incapable of caring for her estate, which is valued at about $4,000.  The judge found her another Meg Merrilies, her eyes, undimmed with the rime of years, still flashing in anger and her tongue fluent in invective.  She has a particular aversion to Banker Auten, the Princeville capitalist and by a peculiar circumstance he was appointed her conservator.  During the judicial proceedings she created a dramatic scene by rising suddenly in her seat and after overwhelming the luckless banker with a torrent of abuse she seized a yardstick and brought it down on his venerable head with a resounding whack.  It was a yardstick made in the good old days when articles of that sort were substantial and a ridge immediate arose on the banker's bald head to indicate the point of contact and to render its interior works incapable of striking a balance for the remainder of the day. 

Through the rest of the examination the old lady sat erect in her chair and with the yardstick by her side, as a queen might sit upon her throne grasping her imperial sceptre.  From that time on the judge and examiners were studiously respectful in their demeanor toward her and felt relieved when the ordeal was over.

The old lady has outlived all her near relatives and the proceedings of yesterday were taken in order to give her proper care and attention for the remnant of her days.