Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Family Political Bible

A few years ago my paternal Grandmother (as seen in the previous post) gave me the glorious task of cleaning out some of my great great Grandfather's book collection. Since there are probably about 200+ books, and since my own space is limited, I only take home a few at a time when I visit. My plan is to review the subject matter and pass on a few copies to the rest of the grandchildren, possibly with titles of subject interest to their chosen career, but that is a work in progress. The reason this plan might work is due to the original owner's system of labeling his collection, which should result in the new recipients always being able to remember where the books came from.

This illustrious collector of books, our great great Grandfather, was Horace Schilling. In order to describe where Grandpa Horace was from I would need to list a few places. He was born in Pennsylvania, to John and Elizabeth Schilling, also of Pennsylvania. However, he settled with his new family, wife Paulina Strawderman and children, in Chili Indiana and Columbus Ohio. It appears that while in Chili Indiana he acquired one book that has shed a bright light on Grandpa Horace and his children, in a very intriguing way.

The first time I picked up this book, The Life and Public Services of James G. Blaine by Russell H. Conwell, I was surprised to see that it had two nearly identical embossed covers. When I mean nearly, I mean that the titles and images were entirely the same, but the colors were different. One side was on a green faux leather with faded gold embossing, while the other side consisted of a brown faux leather, embossed in black or dark brown. On the inside cover, there was a spine portion of what would normally be on the outside of the book, but much thicker than would normally be on this size of book. Upon further exploration, I found an advertisement for the sale of this book, as well as the writing from my great great Grandfather inside the front cover: The property of Horace Schilling, Chili Ind. The loose advertisement gave me even more information. On the outside of this folded ephemera was the writing: August 1884, Life of Blaine & Logan, Horace Schilling, Agent.
So evidently, Grandpa Horace was an agent for the publishers of this book. In 1884, he went around the nearby towns to sell this new publication, in one of the two possible covers. The choice was a hard one to make....either the "best English Terra Cotta cloth" for $1.50, or the "best English Gold Cloth" for $1.75. In the back of the book was a series of lined pages for the purpose of recording the customers and their choice of cover, plus the money paid, of course. Judging from the list, I don't think Grandpa Horace was very successful at this new venture. He had a total of 14 "subscribers" from the towns of Chili, Pettysville, Ambury?, and North Grove.

To put this book in family context, it could mean a couple of different things. Was Grandpa Horace so politically active that he felt passionate enough to go door to door to sell the life story of candidate Blaine who would hopefully become the next President? Or, was he simply taking on an odd job for some extra cash? According to census records, he would have been 25 years old at the time, and only married for two years. Horace and Paulina already had one baby, by this time, Sarah Emma, and would have Harry Anthony by the following year. One other thing the census records have told me about Grandpa Horace: he was a man of many trades.
Each census has him listed with a different occupation. From Ice Cream Manufacturer to Teamster, Grandpa Horace was a man willing to try anything, or so it would seem. This actually fits some family oral history. Just before he died, Horace's grandson, my Grandfather, Charles Daniels Sr, remembered his Grandpa Schilling as an electrician with the Pennsylvania Railroad. He noted that someone accidentally fired a torpedo inside the area that he was stationed for work and ended up with metal stuck in his legs which created a limp for his remaining years. To compensate for work after retirement, he was something of a local veterinarian. According to Grandpa, this new profession did not sit well with Grandma Schilling because "he wouldn't take payment for his services."

In the hopes of learning another tidbit about Grandpa Horace I examined this book thoroughly for any other notes, etc. To my great surprise, after a few pages of the blank lined order sheets, I found more entries. What I read was the very LAST thing I ever expected to find! Each line for several pages held a family record of sorts. The first entry was written by my great Grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Schilling at the age of 12 years old. She lists her birth date and the location of her birth with the words "is now 12 years, 7 months, and 18 days old." She entered another duplicate record at the age 13, followed by an entry by her brother Alfred.

After many more blank pages, Ruth Elizabeth must have entered the rest of the family once her handwriting got better......or perhaps these clean entries were placed there by someone else, and Ruth Elizabeth was merely using the other pages to create her own entries as a mimic? We will never know, but the writing is that of a much more mature person. Basically, the entries are the complete family unit history: birth date and place of the parents, their marriage date and location, and the birth of each child within the a couple of deaths. In short, what a person would traditionally find in the family record pages at the beginning of a Bible had been recorded in the publisher's example of a political candidate biography! (To view the rest of the family record pages, see the Bible Records main page.)

I truly have no explanation. I have not researched this family sufficiently to learn more about their religious leanings, although I do know that great Grandma Ruth attended a spiritualist church in the early part of the century in an attempts to talk to her dead children, but that is the sum total of religious mention for that family. Does this mean there was no Bible in the house to record these special events, and so the publisher's copy was the only thing they found with enough pages to preserve their lineage? The one thing I do know is that this proves without a doubt, the necessity of examining EVERY item or book in your family before ever thinking of disposing of them. I know it is very tempting to sell off estates or disperse fairly quickly after a loved one dies. It is not conceivable to keep everything they owned.....but take this as an example to take the time to look through never know what you may find!!

Here's to happy hunting!


Angela said...

Great blog post. We'll be sorting through an estate this summer, so it was a particularly good reminder for me. Welcome to GeneaBloggers!

Cheri Daniels said...

Just an FYI folks, the link to my old web site is broken. I hope to have a replacement site up soon. Sorry!


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