A journey from 1891

Discovering a treasure

What are the chances?

When one considers more than time, when we think about the journey–this book began in Stevens Pt., Wisconsin and now resides in Oregon–not simply the hands it passed through, the eyes that read its pages, or the thoughts that went into its making, but the risk of damage or loss–it is a miracle this book survived and in such great shape.

Two pages inside are hard to read (but they are readable). It appears there was some sort of wording or attachment on the front, since fallen away, now mere remnants of aged glue. One page only inside has loosened from the binding; all the others are intact. The paper used is strong, far from crumbling as might be expected. The cover corners front and back are worn like scuffed shoes. The velvety fabric on the binding and cover remain soft. One stained corner makes me think of spilled coffee, perhaps as someone lovingly wrote their message?

It is an autograph book once belonging to my great, great, great grandparents, the Reverend Charles Smith and his wife Maria Polly Bixby Smith, below. They are the grandparents of our malevolent matriarch, Orah Smith.

smith charles and maria bixby smith_daphne purchase

Photo credit: Daphne Purchase

The book was buried among other genealogical treasures and last week was handed to me by my mother.

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Can you make out the cherubs on the cover? The weathered binding gives me goosebumps. I’ve been drooling so perhaps I should keep a hankie close by.

Deserving a place of its own on this blog, I’ve created the tag AUTOGRAPH which will help you find the pages devoted to the book. Use the drop down menu in CATEGORIES to find Autograph, or go to the SEARCH box on the far right side of any page and type in AUTOGRAPH (or Smith). The articles about the book will appear in the blog. As I post the pages, I will type out each entry as it can be hard to read on the computer. I invite you to help me decipher; some words are difficult to read.

I am very excited to share this book with all of you! There are over 50 signatures inside, most are family but a few friends signed. I found the following noteworthy:

  • signatures appear on only six years: 1891, 1894, 1902, 1903, 1904, and 1913
  • some people wrote to “Father,” or “grandpa,” leading me to think it was also used as a guest book
  • some people signed their relationship with Maria incorrectly. My great granduncle Forrest Smith signed as “your nephew,” but he was Maria’s grandson.  Forrest and two others signed incorrectly. Perhaps you can help me figure out why.
  • a couple of people signed in grandma’s memory, after Maria died

Starting from the beginning, here is the first entry. Enjoy, and please leave comments below! If you have information about the author I’ve highlighted, please share.

velma lytle“Prayer makes the darker clouds withdraw

Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;

Give exercise to faith and love:

Brings every blessing from above.” 

23 Aug. 1902  Your friend  Velma Lytle

  1. This is fabulous. Susan

    On Sun, Aug 12, 2018 at 12:35 PM The Malevolent Matriarch wrote:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. We’ll have fun with this one. 🙂


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