Thursday, August 23, 2012

Featured Manuscript : The Gayle Draper Pickering Collection

The word "manuscript" is defined as a hand-written, unpublished book or document.  These items are usually one-of-a-kind or rare in nature, thus making them more difficult to locate than their published counterparts.   Often manuscripts are uncatalogued and tucked away in boxes or shelves in an out-of-the way room or closet, dust collecting on the top, or tragically, being overtaken by poor environmental conditions.

Ironically, its these manuscript collections that we should be seeking out the most.  Here may lie the answers to our toughest genealogical questions, photographic images of long ago, or the history that puts the flesh on the bones of our ancestors.

My colleagues of the Southwest Michigan Local History Librarians Consortium agree that manuscripts are the future of our collections.  As more and more things "go digital," it will be the rare and unique that keeps patrons coming through the door to use our genealogical & local history collections.

The Van Buren District Library (VBDL) and the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) collectively house a sizable manuscript collection.  In an attempt to "dust off" these items, we will be highlighting some of them in future blog postings, starting with a large VBRGS collection, the Gayle Draper Pickering Collection.

Gayle was born in 1915 and passed away in 1993, a resident of Centreville, St. Joseph County, Michigan.  She actually grew up in and spent her youth in Lawrence, Van Buren County.  She had been active in the St. Joseph County Historical Society up until her death, and her treasure of family history was deposited with them.  Due to Gayle's deep ties to Van Buren County, the historical society decided to turn her collection over to VBRGS, who happily accepted the gift.

Marriage Certificate - Fernando Rhodes & Abbie Nordbergh, July 8, 1866
This collection has all of the goodies over which historians salivate, such as diaries, deeds, photographs, military records, personal letters, postcards, school records, just to name some.  Well represented in the papers is Fernando Rhodes, a Civil War veteran who lived out his life in the Arlington Township area.  We find leather wallets literally stuffed with documents including his marriage certificate and Civil War discharge.

There are hundreds of photographs, and although a large percentage are unidentified, quite a few are.  Some of the names on the pictures include:

  1. Joseph DerKenderen
  2. Robert Louis Harwick
  3. Curtis O. Green
  4. Isabelle & Ruby Klesner
  5. James Sydney Northrup
  6. Ted Schafer
  7. Mary Frances VanLoo
  8. Harvey Roger Wyant
  9. Verda Powers Draper
  10. Dale Hammen
  11. George Nodland
  12. Glenn & Lucille Phillips
  13. Richard Harland Powers
  14. Hazel & Mildred Talbot
  15. Fie & Peter Buckler
  16. Eileen Jardine
  17. Frank Haywood
  18. Mahitable Northrup
  19. Richard & Ruby Staley
  20. Maude Starbuck
...and many more.  Fernando Rhodes apparently belonged to the Wadsworth Post No. 49, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post in Lawrence as we also find a little undated booklet of that organization's Constitution and Bylaws. 

One of the downfalls of manuscript collections such as the Gayle Draper Pickering Collection, is that there usually isn't time to construct an every-name index to them.  Instead, cataloging consists of a rough generalization of the contents.  Our library takes the time to index all identified photographs, but not much beyond that.  Every now and then, however, someone will take a special interest in a group of records and work to create an index for us...something we encourage. 

Manuscript items in the Local History Collection are housed in storage, and require advance notice to be retrieved for viewing.  The photograph index appears on the VBRGS website as well as in the library's Local History Master Index. The catalog database for manuscripts is maintained in the library and will soon become searchable at the LH computers.  Anyone with questions regarding the Pickering or other collections may contact us

Nameless Picture of the Day
 Unknown young woman
Photographer - Conklins Studio, Dowagiac

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