Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2001

A corner on Baldwin history

History’s alive at library

June 27, 2001

According to her obituary she was 26 years old when she died in Baldwin in the early 1900s.

She was thought to have had an abdominal hernia, but upon further examination, her large colon had ruptured.

So the veterinarian decided it was best to have the Counts family horse, Pet, put to sleep.

Pet's obituary is only one of more than 3,000 on record in the local history corner in the Baldwin City Public Library. But Katharine Kelley said it is the only obituary for an animal.

"That is our most interesting obituary, the one about the horse," Kelley said. "I had never seen one for a horse before."

The obituaries, which have been placed on index cards with the names of the people and the years they died, are just one small section of the library history corner.

Kelley has spent countless hours researching, organizing and shelving photos, newspaper clippings, books, maps and other pieces of historical information pertaining to Baldwin City and the Santa Fe Trail.

"I suppose the idea for this happened when people began donating things to us," she said. "These things just accumulated and we needed some place to put them."

When the library opened at its new location in 1992, the history corner began to take shape.

Kelley, who is a 92-year-old former school teacher, said she volunteered to organize the Baldwin history items because she still wanted to be active.

"I had retired and I needed something to keep me out of mischief," she said. "So they gave me this little corner in the library and its been increasing all the time."

She started with a donated set of scrapbooks full of photos and clippings dating back to the turn of the century.

Then when Baldwin resident Caine Steele, a former seventh grade teacher, died, Kelley said she received several boxes full of photos of students and teachers.

"She had been really interested in history," she said. "But the problem was she had the scrapbooks, she had the scraps, but she hadn't put them together."

So Kelley took the time to put every photo in a scrapbook and identify the people she could.

"There are some people I don't know. So I'm looking for somebody to help me and tell me who they are," she said.

Since then, she said all sorts of items have been pouring in.

"People are continually bringing in things that are really of historic value," Kelley said. "There's just so much good stuff people had that shouldn't be thrown away, but they didn't know what to do with it."

Included are family histories, old photos of people and buildings and maps of early Baldwin, cemetery plots and the route of the Santa Fe Trail.

One of the more unusual items in the corner is a bronze handle of a Chinese ceremonial altar vessel that dates back to the late 18th or early 19th centuries.

Kelley said the handle was plowed up more than 100 years ago in a field west of Baldwin.

"I figure it got there because it was plowed up only about a mile from the railroad track that ran from Lawrence to Ottawa," she said. "That track was built by Chinese laborers."

As the corner has grown, Kelley said the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society has donated a lot of items. Besides donating a majority of the furnishings, the historical society bought a microfilm projector and had local newspapers dating back to 1883 put on microfilm.

"A lot of times, when people are looking for something that happened a long time ago, these have come in handy," she said.

John Jackson, president of SFTHS, said the historical society chose to donate the microfilms and other cabinets because of the importance of the history corner to Baldwin.

"We want to try to preserve the history of the Santa Fe Trail and the Baldwin area, to give someone an understanding of the past," Jackson said. "We can do all that in one corner."

Many people have taken advantage of the local history because its located in a convenient place, Kelley said.

"There's a lot of good stuff from the past. It's stuff that might be of interest to somebody," she said. "And to have a place to house them and have a place for people to enjoy them is just great."

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