I’ve had a ton of free time this past week while sitting out in the field. Well it isn’t exactly free but it does lend itself to lots of reading and I’ve finished three books this week that have been cluttering my kitchen table in the “read me pile”. One of the things I stumbled across while on the internet on my phone is that the Stuart library now has all of the Stuart newspapers available digitally and by doing a simple word search you can sort through to find information from any year.
Not only was I able to read through articles about my great great grandparents who lived in the Lincoln township area in Adair County, but also have discovered what brought them here in the first place. Another fun family fact I stumbled across came from something that used to make me nuts when I was reading the local papers growing up. In those areas of the paper that were social happenings it used to drive me crazy with all those notes about who went where and who came to visit, but now over one hundred years later looking through them it is interesting to see the conclusions that can be drawn from what was printed in those pages.
Also as important are the stories that are long forgotten from those days and what was indeed reported. I had been looking for information on the building of Dexter’s Community House and the Normal School, and in those days neighboring newspapers tended to carry a few lines about what was going on in towns around the area. I learned that not only was the brick in the “Roundhouse” made at the brick plant in Adel, but that they placed 50,000 pounds on the roof of the building for a week to “test its strength”. The mystery behind what happened to the Normal School in Dexter was solved when it was reported that the building had been torn down and the materials that were suitable for use were used on the new Dexter school.
Those were just a few of the gems that I found by simply browsing those digital images and it made me wish that someone locally had a scanner large enough to scan documents such as newspapers that are in collections locally. Of course, the majority of what has been saved over the years is on microfilm at the State Historical Society, taking the time to go down and wade through those film rolls takes up valuable time and resources and honestly unless you have done research at the library there before it can seem like quite a daunting task. Having those papers available digitally via the internet opens up the ability of more people to access those documents.
Maybe someday that will be a reality, but until then I’ll continue to dig around and look for those tidbits of information that completes the stories that have long ago been forgotten. See you next week…remember, we’re all in this together.