Thursday, February 23, 2012

Collection Highlight : Gliddenburg Ladies Aid Society

First you ask, "Where in the world is Gliddenburg?"  It is, or was, a small community formed around the rural school of the same name, Paw Paw Township fractional district #8, located on the southeast corner of the intersection of 48th Avenue & 45th Street, the border of Paw Paw and Waverly Townships.

The name doesn't appear on the historical plats of the area although may have used for the Glidden family who resided there.  Gliddenburg also doesn't appear in Michigan Place Names, by Walter Romig, a standard reference for the location of the state's places, past and present. But, Gliddenburg is referenced in historical accounts and records, most notably the long-running school which was torn down in 1961.

Further testimony to the community's existence is Records of the Gliddenburg Ladies Aid Society, 1887-1967, a two-reel microfilm set acquired by the Local History department from the Archives & Regional History Collection, Western Michigan University.

The group was initially organized  November 30, 1887, as the Gliddenburg Reading Circle, and among the membership was:
  1. Milton Pugsley
  2. Burt Whipple
  3. Myra Shepard
  4. Luman Dunham
  5. Will Prater
  6. Jennie Buskirk
  7. Jennie Pugsley
  8. Frank Cash
  9. Frank Gleason
  10. Linnie Shepard
  11. Nellie Martin
  12. Mulford Buskirk
  13. Hettie Dunham
  14. Dora Cole
  15. Sadie Prater
  16. Samuel Buskirk
  17. Andrew Shepard
  18. Matie Whipple
  19. Addie Rider
  20. Harry Martin
  21. Eva Sheldon
  22. Charlie Lake
  23. Vira Shepard
  24. Ruth Gleason
  25. Florence Harris
  26. Sarah Hulbert
  27. Eva Hulbert
  28. Mrs. Almira Whipple
  29. Mrs. S. M. Tweed
On April 6, 1892, the group was re-organized as the Ladies Christian Union Aid Society, assigning officers for the posts of president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, chaplain, and christer.  This organization came with 13 rules, some of which were:
  • Meeting to be held once in two weeks or "oftener" if required for work
  • Pay the sum of ten cents to join... the sum of 5 cents or fifteen cents a quarter to be paid April, July, October, January
  • Work for 50 cents a day or 25 cents for 1/2 day...when work all day, take some provision along for dinner
  • New officers elected every quarter
  • Upon roll call, members respond by a quotation
  • 1/10 of funds be appropriated for Missionary work
  • All members rise to their feet and address President before making any remarks; also rise before responding to Roll Call
  • No business shall be transacted unless quorum is present, to consist of 5
  • When a member is absent for six months and dues go unpaid, such member shall be dropped from the roll
Reading through some of the minutes, it seems that "Ladies Aid" was taken literally as members of the group are noted as "working" for Mrs. such & such, or quilting, cooking, etc.  Some of those receiving aid were members, some apparently weren't.

These records do not necessarily offer a motherload of genealogical data, but it definitely could flesh out your family history.  Finding names in organizational minutes like these tells you something about an individual and makes them more of a person than just dry facts.  And, there is the potential for helpful information just as the above example of a memorial for Delilah Marks, one of the group's passing members...very useful for those pre-1900 Michigan deaths that were never recorded in the form of an official death certificate.  For more information regarding the Gliddenburg Ladies Aid Society records, contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown nurse
Photographer - Slocum Brothers, Kalamazoo
acquaintance of Rex Earl

Can you identify the nurse in this circa 1920 photograph?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Preserving Michigan's Rural School Heritage - Part 3

So, now you know of the existence of a statewide rural school collection and its founder, and that there are several online indexes and finding aids to it available.  Here we will address some Frequently Asked Questions:
  1. How may I view information in the collection pertaining to a specific school?
Visit the Local History department of the Van Buren District Library during its regular business hours.  Sign in at the circulation desk and fill out a schoolhouse Request Form, and a staff/volunteer member will retrieve the file(s) for you.
     2.  I live too far away to visit the library.  May I obtain copies of file material?

Select copies may be made from the collection for a retrieval fee.  Contact us with your request and you will be provided a quote.  Extensive copy requests will be reviewed on an individual basis as per library policy.

     3.  May I request that information be sent to me by email attachment?

At this time, the Local History department does not provide digital copies from its collection.  Certain exceptions may apply.

     4.  There is an incorrect or incomplete listing in the online database of schools.  How may I submit corrected information?

One of the goals of the rural school collection is to solicit input from those who may have personal knowledge of the schools and their history.  We encourage individuals to contact us with this information so that we may review it and make appropriate updates.  To submit corrections, follow the instructions listed in #5 next.

     5.  My school, or others for which I have personal knowledge, is not listed in the online database.  How may I submit information to be added?

At the VBRGS website under Schools, select the "Add to the Collection" link and fill out the Michigan Schoolhouse Survey Form.  When finished filling out the form, simply click the "Submit" button and it will be sent to the library e-mail.

     6.  I know of a school that existed but am uncertain of its name.  Should I submit what little information I have even if incomplete?

Yes.  Dozens of entries in the collection database represent schools for which there is as yet no name.  Plus, we may be able to match your information with that of an existing school and identify it.  Simply put, partial knowledge is better than no knowledge.

     7.  Do you accept the donation of documents, photographs or school records to the collection?  If so, how should I send it?

Definitely, yes.  Anything in print that pertains to the history of a Michigan rural school will be welcomed, but not three-dimensional artifacts.  Please contact us if you are contemplating such a donation.

     8.  I don't want to donate my original documents and photographs, but would be willing to make copies available.  How can this be accomplished?

Quality copies are just as good as originals.  In the case of documents, legible photocopies are fine.  With photographs, we ask that the copies either be made from a color copier (for better copy detail) or by computer scan.  Photographs should be scanned at 300 dpi or higher, and documents may be scanned into any format including jpg, pdf or tiff.  Single scanned items may be sent via e-mail attachment.  Larger collections may be submitted on a CD or flash drive. 

Another option is to loan the material to the library for a short period and allow us to duplicate it with our own resources.

     9.  What type of information is being collected for the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection?

Just some examples:
  • Photographs of students, teachers, school buildings & grounds
  • Records - school census, board proceedings, financial disbursements, teacher contracts, annual statements (usually in ledger form)
  • Report cards, certificates of award, graduation programs & announcements
  • Lists, biographies, and obituaries of teachers & students
  • Building history & description
  • Descriptions of curriculum, textbooks, games & activities, picnics, pageants & plays
  • Souvenir cards
  • Drawings & schoolwork
      9.  My personal knowledge and memories from school are probably not very important or unique.  Why is it important to share or preserve them?

This is something I hear a great deal.  We always stress that everyone's school experience was unique, and it is very likely that any memories, documents or photographs that you may have in your possession are rare and precious.

It is important to remember that the Michigan rural school experience is nearly extinct.  There are less than 10 active schools remaining in the entire state.  Rural school life was also community life, and everything about school then is different than it is now...and for many of us, it's a reflection on a simpler, happier time.  Help us to insure that this singular part of Michigan's history will survive.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - Northup, Bangor
original owned by Judith (Brown) Grime

Can you identify the woman in this cabinet card?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Upcoming Event : Put Your Family History to the Test, February 27

If you’ve been working on your family history for a while and you’ve assembled a family line, perhaps it’s time to put it to the test, the genealogical test.
As the kick off to the 2012 program season, the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) will sponsor “Putting Your Genealogy to the Test,” Monday, February 27, 2012, 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the Webster Memorial Library, Decatur.
The presentation will be made by Toni Benson, area genealogist and local history librarian for the Van Buren District Library.  “In October, we issued a winter challenge, urging individuals to compile a family line of at least five generations and bring it back to us for review,” indicated Benson.  “We will take examples from those in attendance and test their findings using genealogical proof standards.”
Audience participation will be encouraged as Benson will analyze sections of family lines, focusing on completeness of information and documentation, and offering alternatives to research challenges.  
Guaranteed to be a learning opportunity; plan to attend this free public lecture.  Those who would like to provide lineages for review are encouraged to do so in advance of the program.  For more information about the program or to submit a family line, email VBRGS or visit the Local History Collection at the library.
As an added bonus, any family lines of five generations or more will be considered for a complimentary Southwest Michigan Pioneer Certificate to be awarded by VBRGS.
Prior to the society’s meeting the Local History Department will be open for research assistance provided by society members from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  You are welcome to attend both sessions.  For more information you may contact Ann Flora, program chair, at 269-684-1353 or  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Preserving Michigan's Rural School Heritage - Part 2

Last time we talked about the origins of the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection and its founder, Bess Britton (1913-2003).  Since the acquisition of the collection in 2000, the Local History Collection has experienced continuous interest in the project.  Those who visit enjoy looking at pictures and reading through notes and articles regarding their rural school alma mater.  Those who are unable to visit in person, contact the library to inquire and to donate additional information.

During 2011, the entire collection was migrated from the many large three-ring binders into individual files, organized by the name of the school.  A five-drawer lateral file cabinet to help house the files was purchased and donated to Local History by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society, added to the existing three-drawer cabinet. 

This change allowed for easier retrieval of specific school information and also provided added security, a developing concern due to the content of rare and irreplaceable material.

Visitors to the Local History Collection, upon registration, may view school files one at a time after filling out a Request Form, after which library staff or volunteers will retrieve the requested files.  Requests for black & white or color photocopies may be made directly on the Form, at a cost of 15 or 40 cents per copy respectively.  Digital cameras and scanners are prohibited.

As of this post, there are 4,770 schools represented in the collection database.  Not all of these schools have individual files, and the database may simply identify the school by name & location when known.  The database, organized by name of school, is available to view in pdf format from the VBRGS website and includes the following categories of information:  name of school, township/village, county, district number, section number, physical address, and brief notes. 

The database will also indicate if there is a file, and if there is additional information in the form of books or manuscripts.  There is also an indicator if an article about the school has been published in the Van Buren Echoes, quarterly publication of VBRGS.

For those who may know the location of a school, but not the name, a partial geographic index is available at the Van Buren County GenWeb site.

Just this last week, an every-name index (almost 60,000 entries) to the entire Bess Britton collection was added to the Members and Institutional Records portion of  Ancestry subscribers will see results from this collection in their search hit list.  Those who don't subscribe may still access this collection through the Members and Institutional Records link here or the link provided on the VBRGS website.

In addition to individual names, the every-name index notes the name of school, county & township, district, and provides the page number within the school file. 

We are pleased to have the opportunity to make this  and other indexes from the department available to researchers for free through a partnership with

In Part 3, we will outline the process for obtaining copies from the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection, how to contribute information, and how to register your school with us online.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - Schaefer, Paw Paw
original owned by Judith (Brown) Grime

Can you identify the woman in this cabinet card?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Preserving Michigan's Rural School Heritage - Part 1

With only a handful still in operation, Michigan has nearly seen the end of its active rural schools.  In its heyday, however, there were an estimated 7,000 active one-room (and some two-room) schools in the state.  Most of us Michiganders either attended one ourselves or know that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents received their early education in those schoolrooms of the past.  What of their history and those who taught, learned, and governed in those schools?

Bess (Cook) Britton, formerly of rural Decatur was one of those students, as were her parents and grandparents before her.  She and several members of her family attended East Valley School, Decatur Township, Van Buren County, comprising generations of history, photographs, and memories.

Bess knew that country school life was also community life, and by her 70's she saw this culture was disappearing.  Most of the rural school districts had consolidated and the buildings were being destroyed or converted to other uses.  It was then that Bess embarked on a mission to collect and preserve Michigan's rural school history.

She definitely had a vision...a lofty goal of identifying all Michigan rural schools by name & location, and then compile as much information as possible about students, teachers, administrators, history, and the buildings themselves.  This was accomplished by any means at her disposal, which was limited since she had been confined to a wheel-chair for several years.  Some of the methods included:
  • Letter-writing campaign, writing to anyone she knew or heard of with connections to a rural school (no e-mail then)
  • Conducted telephone interviews
  • Subscribed to and clipped articles from countless Michigan newspapers, magazines & periodicals
  • Patrolled the countryside by car, with the assistance of her husband Edgar, searching for & photographing rural school structures
Bess (Cook) Britton
All of the notes were typed on her home typewriter (no help from computers), and those along with the support material that she collected were organized by the name of each school.  This she placed inside sheet protectors and stored in large three-ring binders.

It didn't take long for word to get out about Bess' project, and others shared her excitement.  Soon individuals were writing and calling her, volunteering photographs, written memoirs, and all kinds of other information.

On several occasions Bess was interviewed by area newspapers, including the Kalamazoo Gazette and the Herald-Palladium, and large feature articles were published about her "collection."  This, of course, led to more contacts and more information, and so on...

Bess soon fondly became known as the schoolhouse lady and she loved it.  For about 12 years, she devoted much of her time to data gathering and her notes blossomed into 19 large binders.  By this time she was 86 years old and the project had become more than she could handle.  She knew that her work had formed an important piece of history and to insure its survival, it was time to consider a permanent home for it.

The Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library had formed in 1995 and was fast becoming one of the research centers for the area.  For this reason and because I had the honor of being not only an extended member of Bess' family but a good friend, she made the decision to deposit the collection here.  We happily accepted what was then formerly named "The Bess Britton Michigan-One Room Schoolhouse Collection."

Bess passed away in 2003, and that same year the Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Association posthumously awarded her their first annual award of excellence in schoolhouse history preservation.  It was my honor to present this award, on their behalf, to her family at her memorial service.

With this tremendous gift, came our commitment to not only preserve the collection but continue to encourage its growth.  We have honored this request.  In 2000, there were over 700 schools represented in Bess' notebooks.  Today, there are over 4,700 school listings.

Next time we'll talk more what can be found in the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection, online indexes, and access information.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown woman
Photographer - Dawes, Dowagiac
original owned by Judith (Brown) Grime

Can you identify the woman in this cabinet card?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The People's Alliance : Hartford's 'Other' Newspaper

Those with roots in Hartford, Michigan, may have used the Hartford Day Spring newspaper in their research, a wonderful hometown treasure published for just over 100 years.  Just this last year, the digital archives of that paper was launched online by the Hartford Public Library, as announced in our June 24 blog posting.

As with most long-running newspapers, there are gaps of days, months or years in the microfilmed collection.  This could be because no paper was published for those dates, or that the issues did not survive long enough for filming.  The Day Spring is fairly complete, but there is one large gap which includes 1895 thru June 1898, a disappointment for anyone searching for an obituary of an ancestor during those missing years.

Enter The People's Alliance, another competing newspaper that was published in Hartford from 1891 through 1905.  This publication has been unknown to most historians and until now microfilm have been housed only at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, and the Library of Michigan.  This week, the Van Buren District Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of this newspaper to its Southwest Michigan microfilm collection in the form of five reels.

Van Buren County, Michigan : a pictorial history
The Alliance was founded in 1891 by Sullivan Cook as an organ for the People's Party.  Cook's daughter, May (Cook) Deane, inherited the business from her father upon his death.  She and her husband, Frank, continued operation until his death in 1901.  May hung on to the business for six more years alone at which time she sold the business to Louis Volk who moved the equipment to Eau Claire.  [Van Buren County : a pictorial history, published by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society, page 39]

Issues typically are four pages in length and include most of the things typical of hometown papers of the era.  The microfilm collection begins with Volume 2 Number 3, so apparently not all of the earliest issues have survived.  The front page has the local news and correspondence from surrounding communities some of which were Bangor, Corwin, Watervliet, Decatur, Benton Harbor and Paw Paw.  Included on the front page of the June 23, 1893 issue are typical death notices and one very large marriage announcement for Lottie Northrup & Dennie Armstrong.  The other three pages are mostly state, national & political news, with local advertisements sprinkled throughout.

The very first thing I did when we received the Alliance microfilm, is go fishing for an obituary for my ancestor, John Marvin Clark, who died in the Hartford area February 8, 1895.  I had been one of those disappointed souls who fell victim to the "missing issue" problem with the Day Spring.  If my readers can extract jubilation from the written word, you'll know that there was in fact an obituary for my Mr. Clark in The Alliance.  Also in the Locals column, there was mention of John's brother coming from Lake Odessa for the funeral.

Upon reading this brother item, imagine my hand slapping to my mouth and the utterance of "Oh my..."  Prior to this little item in the paper, I had no clue about John's siblings or his parents.  You can bet that by the weekend work will begin on tracking down that brother who may lead me to their parents.  You can imagine how exciting this is, especially since the last time I found a one-liner in the newspaper about a sibling, it led not only to parents' names but to a trip for my parents to our English homeland.

This is not the only instance in Van Buren County of more than one newspaper being published in one town at a time.  It has also occurred with South Haven and Paw Paw.  So, keep in mind that there may be an alternative to your "missing issue" problem... 

The People's Alliance may be viewed in the Local History Collection anytime during regular business hours.  Contact the library with any questions.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown first name Van Hise (left) and unknown woman
Photographer - McCollum & Cunningham, Dowagiac
original photograph owned by Judith (Brown) Grime

Can you identify the two women in this carte-de-visite?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.