Revisiting old friends in the Archives

I got to revisit some “old friends” in the Archives at work today. These were old friends from the Dayton Metro Library, but they found me at my new job as an archivist at Wright State.

They weren’t living people or current friends; not really friends at all, if I’m being honest. But in a way, they felt like friends at the time, so I consider them that, still.

I’m talking about (long-dead) people whose papers I arranged & described. People who never knew me; who might not have even liked me (or I them) if we’d known each other in real life; but whom I hold in a special regard since I handled, (to some extent) read, and lovingly organized some of their most personal thoughts, little pieces of themselves committed preserved paper, and thereby history.

The first of the day today was David W. Schaeffer (whom you can learn more about in this biographical sketch I wrote about him in July 2012). A researcher, and relative of his, came to visit us today in the Archives from the Los Angeles area. She had found my blog post about him (the one linked above) last year, and we emailed back and forth a bit. I’m not sure how much help I could be, since basically all that I knew, I had poured into the biographical sketch already. But she wanted to meet me and see what we might have at the Wright State Archives that could help her during her research trip to Ohio. We talked about a few things, and I think she told me more about David than what I told her—for instance, that his middle name was Winters. The Schaeffers and Winters families were both early settlers of Germantown, so there seems to have been some connection there. After she left WSU, I believe she was on her way to Germantown. I’m not sure if that was the plan before she stopped in to see me, but I told her she really needed to check it out before she left the area (tomorrow being her last day in Ohio, she said). If nothing else, it would be a nice drive to Germantown at this time of year… (She had already visited the Dayton Metro Library and looked at David’s papers there.)

The second “old friend” that I ran into today at work was Horton Howard (read my biographical sketch of him from Aug 2012 on this blog), an early Quaker settler of Ohio—and sometimes doctor—whose daughter Sarah was married to Dayton canal engineer Samuel Forrer; all of these people (and many others) have papers in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection at Dayton Metro Library, which I processed in 2011-2012.

Anyway. I ran into Horton while hunting around one of our storage locations for some Sanborn Maps. I did eventually find the map books, and nearby was part of our collection of rare medical books. A large book with the name “Howard” stamped on the spine caught my eye:

Howard's rare medical books at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

Howard’s rare medical books at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

And I thought, Oh that can’t be the same guy; that has to be a really common name, and I’m sure any number of “Howard”s have written medical books. Then I saw the book right next to it—about botanic medicine—and, recognizing it was a subject that Horton had in fact studied and written about, I pulled it off the shelf to look.

Sure enough, the title page said Horton Howard:

Horton Howard's Botanic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

Horton Howard’s Botanic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

So I checked the other one. Yep, Horton Howard:

Horton Howard's Domestic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

Horton Howard’s Domestic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

The publication dates through me for just a minute, knowing as I did that Horton died during the 1833 cholera epidemic in Columbus (as did his wife, a daughter, a son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren). But it turned out these were just reprints. One of them (I forget which one, sorry!) was like the seventh printing since 1832.

Now, I wasn’t QUITE as giddy about these finds as I might have been, since I had found the full text of the botanic medicine book online already and gleaned what I wanted to from it—-mostly from the fantastic preface that gives tons of info [block-quotes in the blog post] about Horton’s early life and medical knowledge (most of which was self-taught). But it was still pretty darn cool to see real life, 3-D copies of the works, complete with old school leather covers (which were in much better condition than I would have expected for 150+ year old books), hold them in my hands, and, I don’t know…..just remember good old Horton.

Just as an aside… I could visit Horton Howard and his family in one collection at the Wright State Archives anytime, but I already knew about that so it wasn’t a surprise: There are a few letters from Horton, his daughters Sarah and Mary, and a few other related people, in the Dustin/Dana Papers (MS-207). I have so far refused myself the indulgence of sitting down with them and just reading them all (even though there are only 10- just goes to show how busy I am)…but maybe one of these days! I’ve read so many pieces of that family’s story; it’s like found treasure when I stumble across pieces I didn’t even know where “missing” and are now found…

So, that’s my story for today. Hope you enjoyed it. Just goes to show, you never know when history will find you.


8 responses to “Revisiting old friends in the Archives

  1. David L. Gunckel

    Hello Lisa. Thanks so much for creating and maintaining this site. I am a retired public library director who is getting a kick out of catching up on the history of Germantown and surrounding area. I’m especially interested in the public libraries there. My great-great-great grandfather was Phillip Gunckel who helped establish the town. If I can arrange a trip to Germantown it would be wonderful just nosing around and checking into the archives. Thanks again.

    David L. Gunckel
    Retired Director
    Sierra Vista Public Library
    Sierra Vista, AZ
    (Now living in Bisbee)

    • Thank you for your comments, David! Yes, Germantown is a great little historic town! If you do make that trip, let me know, and I’d be happy to suggest some archives and other places you might want to visit while you’re in town. I’ve also sent you some additional info in an email.

  2. I have known that feeling that you experienced and it is wonderful! It is evident you really enjoy your profession, and that is wonderful. Thanks for the story.

  3. Lisa,
    I just discovered your blog and love it. My husband and my two children are descended from Horton Howard’s younger brother, John, and John’s son James Raley Howard. If you ever find anything about them please share it! The explanation of the Howard family move from NC to Ohio that you wrote was great. We’ve also got Ashbrooks and Brandts in the family history (my husband is Gregg Ashbrook Howard, his brother is Wesley Brandt Howard) — and i believe they all were in Ohio for awhile on their way to Iowa and Nebraska. Hope you are staying warm. Mary Ann Ehlers

    • Hi, Mary Ann – thanks for your comments! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog posts about Horton Howard! He must have been a very interesting man when he was alive. I don’t really know anything about Horton’s brother John, but if I ever happen to come across anything, I’ll try to let you know!

  4. hi,
    am just starting to research more deeply Horton Howard as we are descended from him. My family does have copies of his botanic books, and the story is fascinating. Is most of the info you have of him posted on this blog? thank you!!

    • Hi, Shawna, thanks for your message! I’m glad to hear you have copies of his books, because one of them has quite a long autobiography at the front of it (a small part of which is quoted in the blog post above). I don’t personally have any additional information about Horton in my possession, but there are more letters and materials at the Dayton Metro Library in Dayton, Ohio, in their Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection. Horton was married 3 times, and particularly if you happen to be descended from his third wife Sarah, there are many more documents you will want to see in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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