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Archive for May, 2017


What was it about May 9, 1917, that made Zenith Wilson tuck the day’s copy of The Lenoir Topic away in a box and keep it for the rest of his life?

There are too many A1 headlines to list, but the ones at the top of the page:

Mr. Cilley Volunteers

The Tunnel Method of Keeping Sweet Potatoes

Give the Children Some Patches of Their Own This Year

STRONG EVIDENCE / Is the Statement of This Lenoir Woman (this was on an ad for kidney pills)

TAX LISTING

Notice of Sale

Perusing the local items, presumably written by editor W.M. Moore, because none carry a byline but are written in a personal style, again nothing much stands out. Perhaps this one, which has some history:

“Mr. Frank Osborn, of Mortimer, visited our home the other night. He made the trip in a very short time as it was the first automobile that ever visited this section.”

But it’s not circled, and it’s on an inside page. If that’s all he wanted, he could have just cut it out, or saved just the page.

Other local news is more pedestrian:

“The bond issue for road improvement in Caldwell lost yesterday by a small majority. Watauga is reported to have voted for good roads by a majority of about 400. All the counties adjoining Caldwell have either already built good roads or have arranged for their construction at an early date. This leaves our good county temporarily alone in the mud.”

Under the all-capital-letters headline “FREE TYPHOID VACCINATION”:

“A matter of very great importance to the people of Caldwell was passed upon Monday by our board of county commissioners when they decided to wage a campaign this summer against typhoid, offering free vaccination to everyone for thirty days. The date of the campaign will be announced later. In the meantime, every one is asked to co-operate heartily with the authorities in their efforts to prevent the ravages of this terrible disease which costs many lives and much sickness every year.”

Maybe it was page 6, which was entirely wire service stories about preparations for World War I, including the new military draft. One of the stories described “the first war army organized under the selective draft bill,” more than 528,000 men.

Another dealt with Congress’ war preparations, including the U.S. House passing “an omnibus emergency war bill carrying nearly $3,000,000,000” that doubled the pay for enlisted men from $15 a month to $30.

Or maybe it was nothing at all, just a personal aversion to throwing anything away. There’s evidence for the latter – Mr. Wilson folded the paper over to one-sixth its full, open size and tucked it inside an old wooden box containing many other kinds of papers. Over time more and more accumulated – an 1854 property deed, receipts for over 30 years of subscriptions to the Lenoir Topic (one year’s subscription in 1904 cost $1), a century-old sheriff’s office burglary report, the user’s manual for a circa-1920 water pump, an 1898 copy of North Carolina road rules, a 1918 car registration, and the minutes from 1888 to 1950 of the Caldwell Baptist Association, to name a few.

That box of accumulation was but one small part of a lifetime of accumulation, and all of it came up for sale last May. That’s when Gary Wieland came across it at an estate sale.

Wieland, who moved to Lenoir in late 2015 after retiring from a job in Texas, bought the old wooden box almost on a lark. It was $50.

The box turned out to be a field desk from the Civil War era. Wieland has since sold it.

He has also sold other items. Now he’s going through what’s left and giving them away to people who might appreciate them, such as the burglary report, which he took to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, and the May 9, 1917, newspaper, still fairly supple and not nearly as yellow as you would expect, which has been in my drawer the past two weeks but soon will make its way to the Caldwell Heritage Museum. So too may the plastic bag of Lenoir Topic receipts, the oldest of which is dated April 16, 1904, for a subscription sold to Monroe Wilson by George Kincaid of the Topic.

Wieland said it has been entertaining to look through all the old papers that were in that box. But Wieland lacks Mr. Wilson’s instinct to hold on to things.

“I figured all they’re doing is sitting in a drawer now,” he said.

He bought them, he read them, and then he felt he had an obligation to share them.

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