(The below a letter to my cousin David for sending contents of materials on the life of my grandfather he found in storage).
My box arrived today and so appreciative of your effort to send out the materials you discovered. I was expecting to find some old company things and stuff I’ve seen before but instead found an amazing collection of pieces from granddad’s personal young life!
As you know, I’ve been writing a biography of granddad. The later years of great success are pretty well documented by people (that reporter for the Dayton Daily News I heard wrote some manuscript on his life?).
Yet his early years in Wabash are lost mostly in hearsay, apart what has been cobbled together by the collective memory of family members. (Thanks so much Stu as well as the current Historian for the Wabash Library and some other great historians in Wabash.)
So, the early years of his life (from his birth in 1888 until 1910 when he started the LM Berry Company in Dayton) are not much known but buried in second-hand reports handed down to others, by others, until things in these years have wandered further and further away into the distance, seen only through the strong impessionistic haze of an Edward Church painting of the early morning harbor of London. Or something like this image.
There are photos of the house he grew up in. Certain other pictures but none tend to reveal too much about him. They catch him in various poses for the camera with few candid photos. But candid photos were not popular at the time. It’s the reason we don’t have many of them. We’ve all seen some of them I’m sure. Heard some of the rag pieces of mythology about these early years. His business selling radishes and then timetable ads for the interurban trains of those years. His father dying when he was only a few years old and his mother raising him.
I started the biography about him with a short history of the land he grew up in before he was born. The 1820s in the Wabash part of Indiana. I then pick up events in history and the famous court lighting in Wabash one night when he met his future wife. I mix non-fiction with fiction. I put down all the dates and events of the time I have researched into an outline. Then, I write the story from there speculating about the night he met his wife.
Apart from cousin Stu’s incredible help in this project, the County Historian in Wabash has supplied an amazing day to day list of events happening in the town of Wabash when granddad was growing up in the town. Although I could obviously not know what granddad was doing, I had to create a world using the events of the time supplied by Stu and the Wabash Historian and then put this world around granddad and guess what type of person he was like and then write about this person.
But today, in the smaller top box of the two green boxes I received, the first thing I picked out of the box is the below journal of granddad written probably around 1900. I put it in my coat as I was running out for lunch and thought I’d take a look at it.
The small journal, the size of a paperback book, printed around 1900 or a little after. Of particular note on the cover of the paperback-sized notebook, at the bottom of the cover: “Opens back to back without injury.” The serious-looking, no nonesense, “Student’s Every Day Notebook For Pen or Pencil. Belonging to.”
And inside, the absolute jackpot so far of information on granddad from this period of time. In his own hand. It is a journal (written in his beatiful penmenship) about many things and goals and sayings he was writing down at this time in his life. His feelings about books and poems and art. I haven’t read through all of the notebook yet. And this is just at the top of the small box of two boxes with much more information in them. Perhaps more first-hand “evidence” of these early years in his life. Something only he could give me. In his own handwriting. How much more of this particular treasure waits for me in all my materials? And what of the materials you sent to all grandchildren of granddad. What amount of information has David really uncovered?
To me it would be ashame if information wasn’t shared by family members at this time.
The Bio (so far) attached via Word but can PDF to you if you can’t open Word. Let me know.
David, can’t thank you enough for sending the stuff my way.