Thursday, December 29, 2005

Little Surprises

It's funny how you can live with stuff for years and then suddenly come across something you've never seen and find something to add to the family archives as a result.

I knew the story behind the item. Grandmother Lucy had written about it in her memoirs:

"When old Highway 20 came through [Horace] worked helping build the road bed. They were still using mules and scapers to move the dirt. When I met him in March of 1928 he was working on the railroad. Section Hand. Laying cross ties and rales for $2.08 a 10 hour day. He never knew what it was to have any money to spend. He had to bring his pay check in and give it to his mother. He gave me a wrist watch for Christmas before we married. He told me after we married how he managed to pay for it. He worked on the railroad all day and then walked to town and cleaned and swept up a cafe at night for 50 cents a night. "

One day recently I was looking for something in my mother's dresser and came across a box with a watch inside. I had never seen it before, that I could remember, and when I asked Mother about it, she told me it was the watch her father had bought for her mother when they were courting. I have no idea when she gained possession of the watch and had no idea that that particular family treasure had been located for some time in the house with me. Needless to say, it has been moved to the china cabinet where other heirlooms reside.

The second surprise was a tiny newspaper clipping that was tucked inside the box. It was brittle with age and the full text was missing, but it was enough to tell me that at some point there had been a notice in the paper announcing the marriage of Lucy Mason and Horace Hodge.

So, yesterday, with a little time on my hands, I wandered down to the Bastrop Public Library and started reading the late 1930 editions of the Bastrop Advertiser on microfilm. I found what I was looking for in the November 20th issue, located in the middle of a column of personal notes from McDade:

"Same old 'Doxology' -- Dan Cupid 'stept' into McDade last Thursday evening, stealing from her midst one of her favorite sons, H. G. Hodge, wafting him on 'Love's wings' across to Red Rock and there was joined in the holy bonds of matrimony to Miss Lucy Mason, one of Red Rock's attractive daughters. Congratulations."

How much of these small bits of history we miss because we don't know to look for them. I have spent many hours cranking that old microfilm reader at the library. My family has lived in Bastrop County for generations and I can be assured that any time I start browsing the Advertiser, I will find mention of relatives in the personals columns. Indeed, in the brief two hours I spent yesterday looking for this particular item and for a couple of obituaries, I found several passing mentions of family members.

On January 18, 1918, for instance, I found the only printed mention of my great-great grandmother Mason's death:

"Deaths. Mrs. Mary Smith, died at Cedar Creek, December 18."

Thanks to the personals column of February 9, 1917, I found a printed mention of the death of Mary Brock McAfee, my great great step-grandmother:

"Mrs. Charles Weber of Carmine returned to her home Monday after attending the funeral of her mother, Mrs. McAfee, who died out at "the Lake" last week."

These three finds were enough to justify to me the time spent getting a backache yesterday. (Bastrop Public Library has a lot to learn about ergonomic work areas.) Such small finds, you might say. To me, they are buried treasure. That's the fine line that separates us genealogists from normal folk. Only genealogists can hyperventilate at the sight of familiar family names that leap out at us from blurry images in a darkened room.

Little surprises. They keep me digging.


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