My second day away was split between the Local History Collection at the Krause Memorial Branch of the Kent District Library and the Rockford Historical Museum. Both are places I used to all but live, but it’s been years since I’ve spent much time at either.

At the library I worked exclusively with Microfilm of the Rockford Register which, though a substantial amount is indexed through the Western Michigan Genealogical Newspaper Society’s Index, is housed solely at the Rockford Library. It’s been forever since I’ve been able to even visit the branch so I was thrilled to see the improvements that have been made. My old shared office is now a wireless lounge on one side and the local history collection and microfilm reader/printer on the other. And even though this is a long narrow room in the middle of one wing of the building, it was more comfortable than it’s ever been—at least for me. The other occupants of the lounge might not have approved of the sound of the microfilm reader.

It was a very successful trip though, further cementing a series of family connections through obits. I had been on the fence about Sarah Deer Helsel being related to Hannah Deer Reinshagen. But I was able to find their obituaries–right in a row (they died 24 hours apart). Hannah’s plainly names her sister, Sarah Helsel and mentioned her death the day before. With the remainder of my time I worked through a few different family names in the index and filled in gaps.

I only had a brief time at the Museum—I really want to go back soon—and so I spent it entirely looking for updates in the Surname Files. As I’ve mentioned before, Rockford is a community that has been home for my family for almost 170 years. And while not all my family has made it into the files—most have. The Laphams, Gilberts, Porters, and Holden’s have a tremendous amount of coverage in the archives but the Helsels, Morningstars, Groves, and Baileys have interesting files as well. And it’s totally worth going back and checking for updates. In this case, someone had reproduces the vital record pages from Dr. Charles Holden’s Family Bible. Someone had tucked a tintype of Seth Porter’s daughters Melissa Emeline and Minnie Isabel in the Porter file. And in the Bailey file I found a handwritten letter from Lizzie Bailey to her younger sister, Bertha Groner.

The Rockford Historical Museum is a goldmine of information. It’s also in the process of raising money to fund a renovation and move into the old city courthouse. If you have any family in the area consider looking into ways to help support the new museum!

Progress made!

Happy hunting, all!

Jess

Earlier this week I had a lovely conversation with a retired co-worker who has taken on a newspaper indexing project and she expressed how much she has enjoyed reading the detailed and fascinating articles that went into old weekly newspapers—from local gossip, to thoughtful discussions of current events, to poetry. I have had similar experiences over the years pouring over the oldest editions of The Rockford Register, held at the Krause Memorial Library in Rockford, Michigan. And while many of my family members have had important moments covered in The Register, none made such amazing use or were followed so closely as the Lapham family, credited as pioneers of Rockford (once Laphamville).

My co-worker, I think, was surprised by the poetry which is so very different from our modern sense of newspapers but the Lapham’s took time out for poetry and prose. Their contributions included a very long poem from the occasion of my 5th Great Grandparent’s (Smith and Katherine Lapham’s) Golden Wedding Anniversary by Smith, a tear-jerker on the death of one of their grandchildren at the age of 12 by her father (their youngest son, Judge Embree B. Lapham), or this short poem on the occasion of Embree’s 83rd Birthday:

Our Birthdays—My Eighty-third

Our birthdays come and quickly go
Exactly on the date.
We’re on year older—this we know
‘Tis ordered so by fate.

Time lingers not for youth or age
Nor does it favor me.
I turn and scan another page
To find I’m eighty-three.

Life’s river flows with restless face
On toward the unknown sea
Where all must end their earthly race
And make Heaven their plea.

If we can show our record clear
Or nearly free from flaws
There’s nothing then we need to fear.
For Christ will plead our cause.

He’ll say to us you’re welcome here,
You’ve done your very best
So banish every doubt and fear—
You’ve gained eternal rest.

Printed in the Rockford Register 23 March 1933. Judge Embree B. Lapham ran a confectionary, managed hotels, was co-creator and served as editor of The Belding Banner, among other endeavors. He also served as Mayor of Belding and served for more than 25 years consecutively as Justice of the Peace for Rockford, Kalkaska, and Belding—with two of those positions held simultaneously. He was born in 1850 and lived to the ripe old age of 94.

The photograph was printed in the Belding Banner on the occasion of his death in 1944.

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