With the addition of so many newspapers to online databases, it’s been illuminating to page back through time to see so much of our ancestors’ everyday lives. For me, one of the more curious people encountered ‘in the news’ has been my maternal great-great-grandfather Jacob Ginder (1837–1901). Jacob’s roots are unusual in my standard array of westward migrating New Englanders. Jacob’s origins are from mid-Atlantic Quaker stock, the kind you can follow backwards from Iowa to Virginia in the 1700s.
While it isn’t in the newspapers, I know that Jacob Ginder wasn’t one to sit still. After his first wife Martha died in 1885 he ventured west from Iowa to Oregon with two of his adult children.[i] I like to think that he might have stopped to visit his daughter Martha Bragg in Nebraska, or his granddaughter Martha Sage in Wyoming, but one can’t ever know for certain. Once in Oregon Jacob remarried the widow Mrs. Hazel Norwood in Multnomah County in 1896.[ii] By the year 1900 he was living in Marion County, Oregon, and working as a “wheelwright” – a job to which he brought a lot of experience from his time crossing the plains. He is also listed in the newspapers as receiving county subsistence aid of $2.00 per month.[iii]
Whatever the circumstances, Jacob Ginder is deceased by 1903 when his county aid is transferred to his widow.[iv] By 1908 city directories list only “Mrs. Hazel Ginder,” and by 1915, Hazel is listed in the directories as “widow of Jacob.” In 1920 Mrs. Hazel Ginder is 71 years old and living alone. Shortly before she passed away in 1922 she placed the ad at right.[v]
Jacob Ginder married Hazel Norwood later in life so they had no issue. Because of this Hazel has remained almost a footnote in my family tree. However lately, I’ve been concentrating on Jacob’s generation, that of my great-great-grandparents, and while researching in Oregon’s Historical Newspapers, I stumbled upon an article about Hazel and a book that Jacob had left behind for her.
The book is called “Some of the Psalms of the Prophet King David” and was published in 1597. At the time the newspaper article was written in 1911 the book was 314 years old. [vi]
So whatever became of this book? Part of me likes to think that maybe Hazel sold it – that she had to sell it to support herself after Jacob died, and that even as sad a notion as the sale of this family heirloom is, that it was a good thing, since it was all Jacob had left in the world to leave his wife.
The other part of me says, “Where is that darn book?” Now I know that Jacob couldn’t ‘over night deliver’ it back to any one of the many girls in the family named Martha in 1901, but surely he could have left word? After all, his family had carried this book over the sea and across America since 1753 – with the book being nearly 200 years old then! It just doesn’t seem right somehow. I am going to err on the side of hope – a hope that the book didn’t just get thrown away when ‘they’ cleaned out Hazel’s lodgings; though more than likely this is exactly what happened.
Indeed, it is very sad that a book which had traveled with my family since the year 1597 might have ended up being nothing more than early-twentieth-century Oregon land fill.
In any event, in thinking about the many newspaper resources available now, I was reminded of “Jacob’s Book” – a book that was always given to the next “Jake.” I guess after 300-plus years my family just ran out of Jacobs. I am going to cross my fingers that Jacob’s book is sitting in a museum showcase right now, perhaps in some small Oregon town, and if books could wonder, perhaps it’s thinking, “What the heck happened to my family?”
[i] Oregon Gen Web, submitted by Dorothy Keefe, from a compendium of biographies hand-typed and distributed by the East Multnomah Pioneer Association in about 1972, pp. 129–31 for a discussion of the life of Frances Ginder Neely, daughter of Jacob and Martha Lacey Ginder; U.S. Federal Census Records 1800–1900, Iowa and Oregon, for the residence of George A. Ginder, son of Jacob.
[ii] Multnomah County, Oregon Marriage Index, 1855–1911, Ancestry.com.
[iii] Newspapers.com, Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon), 31 March 1899, p. 3.
[iv] Newspapers.com, Statesman Journal , 31 May 1903, p. 8.
[v] Historic Oregon Newspapers, Capitol Journal (Salem) 1919–1980, 25 January 1922, Image 7.
[vi] Historic Oregon Newspapers, Polk County Observer (Monmouth, Oregon), 26 May 1911, Image 4; Newspapers.com, Albany Evening Herald (Albany, Oregon), 24 May 1911, p. 6.