Friday, December 03, 2010

Creeping artifacts

Nolan D. and Mary (Stephens) Myers and their eldest children, Martha Ann and Neil.

So there I was after lunch Wednesday walking down the biggest hill in the Chariton Cemetery intensely focused, trying to figure out how to frame the tombstone I was stalking through the lower branches of a spruce tree just across the valley, unaware that very large truck was tailing me.

"Where's your hat?" my cousin, Mary Lou, asked out the blue --- causing me to jump a short distance (when I was younger I could jump farther). Her husband, Hubert, was at the wheel. And it was cold. But I usually don't wear a hat and now, badly in need of a haircut, my head has sufficient natural insulation anyway.

Then she handed me, through the pickup window, an announcement of the 1921 marriage of our mutual great-aunt and great-uncle, Mary (Stephens) and Nolan D. Myers, that had been sent to her grandparents (Mary Lou's grandmother, Harriet Myers Reynolds, was a sister of my grandfather, Irwin Myers) at the time.

The moral to this story is that you never know when an artifact is going to sneak up on you --- so be prepared.

This one goes a little beyond family interest, however, since Aunt Mary was a daughter of Andrew J. Stephens, who built the Stephens House, centerpiece of the Lucas County Historical Society museum campus. So I'll pass the announcement, as Mary Lou intended, on to Marilyn today and it will become part of the Stephens family-related display there.

Nolan, born 26 January 1902, was the youngest of the seven children of Daniel and Mary Belle (Redlingshafer) Myers. His parents built a small house for the newlyweds in the side yard of their home in Benton Township and Nolan joined what was, until the Great Depression did a good job of substantially reducing it, a large family farming operation.

After that, Nolan and Mary and their children moved to a farm north of the small town of Weldon, southwest of here, where they were living when he was killed on 31 March 1962 in a highway crash --- inadvertently turning off Highway 65 in front of a semi while returning home late at night after taking Aunt Mary to the Des Moines Airport to catch a flight to Oklahoma, where daughter Martha Ann then lived.

After that, Aunt Mary moved to Oklahoma to live nearer Martha Ann. Martha Ann and her youngest brother, Danny, now live in a desert hotspot favored by many former Iowans --- Green Valley, Arizona. Their brother, Neil, last I heard was somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Uncle Nolan is buried at Smyrna Friends Cemetery, just over the Clarke County line west of here.


Yesterday, my cousin Ilene, also an LCHS board member, called a small family meeting in the museum commons, allowing another cousin of hers and myself to examine some of her recent personal accessions. Ilene (she and I are part of the vast Redlingshafer conspiracy; her other cousin, from Bondurant, part of the Burley horde with substantial doses of Tuttle thrown in for good measure) is our hero these days --- single-handedly rescuing scrapbooks that might otherwise have been tossed out or passed beyond our reach.

As an aside, the alternate Frank, Redlingshafer cousin to both Ilene and myself, also is an LCHS board member. And then there's the current mayor of Chariton, also Redlingshafer kin. This conspiracy business is no joke. Be very afraid.

There were 10 fairly recenet scrapbooks (50 or so years old) related primarily to Freedom, a ghost community just southwest of Chariton where only the Freedom Cemetery and Freedom Bible Camp survive. That's Burley and Tuttle territory, so I had only a passing interest in those.

What I was fascinated by were two scrapbooks Ilene had purchased quite recently at Dean Boozell's estate auction, crammed with an assortment of obituaries, wedding announcements and general interest articles that dated from the 1890s at the earliest to perhaps the early 1940s at the latest. These are not exactly what we would think of nowadays as scrapbooks in an era when scrapbooking has gotten kind of uppity (and expensive). Instead, they're very old books --- both stitched together as bindings have worn out --- in which newspaper clippings have been pasted densely over the original type.

I've been speculating about their origin since Ilene first showed them to me several weeks ago. They could have been assembled by someone in Dean's family, or perhaps he had acquired them elsewhere because of his intense interest in local history.

I became suspicious, looking at them carefully and mostly because of the considerable volume of Redlingshafer and Hupp-related material, that these had been assembled by the Hupp sisters. That was confirmed when I found Maggie Hupp's signature on the back endpages of one volume. And doubly-confirmed when I found later hand-written notes in one volume by Minnie (Hupp) Relph, one of their nieces.

Dean was married (until her untimely death) to Susie Relph, Minnie's youngest daughter, so that is most likely how the scrapbooks came into his possession.

The moral to this story is --- never give up. Although much family-related material falls by the wayside as the centuries pass (or is destroyed by disasters natural or otherwise), there's a good chance what you're looking for is out there somewhere --- it just requires patience. And a little detective work helps, too.

The Hupps remain one of my favorite family. Aaron and Margaret Ann (Redlingshafer) Hupp, had 14 children, 12 of whom lived to be adults. Only two of the twelve married, however --- Jacob, who married Paulena Schreck and produced among others Minnie (Hupp) Relph; and Elizabeth, who married James Van Gilder. (OK --- Otto married late in life but that turned out to be a dreadful mistake and didn't last long).

The other 10 children lived together in the big Hupp farmhouse just north of my grandparents' farm, dying out gradually until finally Otto, the youngest, passed in 1962. All are buried in rows at Salem Cemetery. The sisters involved in this scrapbooking operation, bless their hearts, were Lucinda, Hannah, Susie, Sarah and Maggie Belle.

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