Civil War Soldier and Wife Reunite After 28 Years

Life on the American frontier presented unique challenges, and it was not uncommon for loved ones to lose track of one another as they moved from place to place. In 1889, an unbelievable story made headlines when a Civil War soldier who thought his wife was dead learned that she was alive – and they reunited after 28 years.

Abilene Weekly Reflector 2.7.1889

Frank H. Hall was born in 1837 in the Netherlands. He immigrated to America and settled in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he got a job in a flour mill. There he met a young woman named Annie Rivers. Frank and Annie fell in love and married in 1860. Shortly after came the Civil War, and Frank was among the first to volunteer for his newly adopted country. He enlisted in the Illinois 42nd Infantry Regiment in 1861.

Annie accompanied Frank to the train station and wept as he boarded the rail car that would take him to his Illinois regiment. At first, Frank and Annie wrote letters regularly. In one letter, Annie informed Frank that she had given birth to their son. The Illinois 42nd fought in several battles including the Siege of Corinth, and the battles of Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Annie’s letters became less frequent, and one day, Frank received a letter from a friend in Wisconsin informing him that Annie died.

Darke County Democratic Advocate 1.24.1889

Frank continued to serve, and in 1863, received a discharge in Atlanta for disablement. After recuperating, he reenlisted, serving in the Thirteenth Ohio. For an unknown reason, he served under an alias, Benjamin F. Berkley (possibly because Berkley paid him a bounty to serve in his place). When the war ended, Frank continued to serve in the Sixth Cavalry in Texas. When he finally left military service in 1869, he moved from Kansas to the Washington Territory, to Michigan, and then later Iowa. Along the way, Frank met and married a second wife named Julia Nelson in 1869. Frank and Julia later divorced.

In 1889, Frank decided to return to Waukesha and visit old friends. He hardly recognized the town, but after searching, he found Annie’s brother, Joe. He asked his shocked brother-in-law to take him to Annie’s grave. It was then that Frank learned that Annie was alive and living in the poor house. Joe and Frank immediately went to find Annie. Along the way, Frank learned that the letter he received about Annie’s death was a mistake. It was Annie’s brother who died – not Annie.

Public Ledger 1.19.1889

When Annie saw Frank for the first time in nearly three decades, she didn’t recognize him. Frank called out to her saying, “Don’t you know Frank, your husband?” Annie rushed into his arms. Frank told Annie that better times were coming, and the next day he collected her things and they moved to Iowa.

Annie didn’t live long after their reunion. She died sometime before Frank remarried for the third time in 1894. Frank spent the last years of his life in the Milwaukee Soldier’s Home. He died in 1916 at age 79.

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April 2, 1863: The Richmond Bread Riot

During the Civil War, lack of food, money, and supplies created unbearable conditions for women living in the southern United States. Inflation and the lack of supplies left families reeling. Women especially felt the financial pinch and had difficulty providing food for their families. The situation was further exacerbated when the drought of 1862 impacted the harvest. Meager food supplies became even scarcer. The salt needed for preserving meat was also hard to come by. It was imported from the North and generally unavailable, or too expensive to purchase.

The Lancaster Examiner 4.15.1863

Tensions reached a boiling point in the spring of 1863 when civil unrest broke out in cities across the South. The unrest was organized by women, enraged by the exorbitant price of bread. They attacked stores and warehouses, stealing food, clothing, and supplies. The largest of these riots took place in Richmond, Virginia, on April 2, 1863.

In March 1863, a Richmond woman named Mary Jackson began recruiting women to participate in an organized protest. She was the mother of a Confederate soldier and frustrated with the government’s inability to provide aid for her and other women whose men were away fighting. She garnered the support of about 300 women. On the morning of April 2, 1863, Jackson arrived at the market in Richmond. She was a peddler, but that day she brought nothing to sell. Instead, she increased recruitment efforts and began warning men that trouble was brewing. The growing crowd of women began marching towards the governor’s office in Capitol Square, where they were turned away. There are varying reports of what happened next, with some claiming the governor eventually came and met with the women. The angry crowd began marching towards Ninth Street. As the women marched, hundreds began to follow, and the crowd ballooned. 

Liverpool Mercury 4.20.1863

Armed with guns, hatchets, and household implements, the women began to chant “Bread or Blood!” They attacked grocery stores, warehouses, and other businesses, stealing food, supplies, and even fine jewelry.

Soon, Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo arrived and read the Riot Act aloud to the mob. They ignored him. Governor John L. Letcher sent for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He begged the women to disperse, warning that an artillery unit would open fire on the mob. Davis then emptied his pockets, throwing his money to the women. Tensions finally eased, and the crowd disbursed.

Rioters take more than bread – The Chanute Times 5.29.1889

Confederate secretary of war James A. Seddon asked the local press to refrain from publishing news of the incident, fearing it would fuel Union propaganda. Confederate deserters, along with Union prisoners who watched the scene unfold from their cell windows, leaked the story. The New York Times published a front-page account of the riot on April 8th.

Following the riot, more than 60 demonstrators were arrested, including Jackson. The women received varying degrees of punishment. Jackson’s punishment was merely nominal. The City of Richmond increased efforts to provide aid to the poor, restoring a measure of calm. The 1863 bread riots showed just how difficult life had become for women on the home front. If you would like to learn more about the Richmond Bread Riot, search Newspapers.com™ today.

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March 18, 1889: The First Carnegie Library Opens in America

On March 18, 1889, the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock opened in a suburb of Pittsburgh. It was the first library donated by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in America. From 1886-1919, Carnegie donated more than $40 million to open 1,679 libraries across the country. He also built additional libraries around the world. These libraries were in communities both small and large and opened up a world of learning, entertainment, and possibilities to millions of patrons. Carnegie was a Scottish-American immigrant who made his fortune in the railroad and steel industries. Before the end of his life, he donated nearly 90% of his fortune ($350 million) to various causes.

During the second half of the 19th century, the idea of “free” libraries began to spread. Carnegie, who was born in Scotland in 1835, immigrated to America as a boy after industrialization forced his father out of the textile business. The Carnegie family settled in the suburbs of Pittsburgh where young Andrew got a job as a messenger boy. There he met Colonel James Anderson. Each Saturday, Anderson opened his personal library and allowed young workers like Carnegie to borrow books. The books opened up a new world for Andrew who vowed that if he ever became wealthy, he would provide this generosity to others.

Carnegie spent the next 50 years building his fortune, though occasionally his methods were scrutinized. He faced criticism in 1892 when workers at his Homestead Steel Mill decided to strike over low wages and better working conditions. The strike spiraled into a violent gun battle requiring a militia to restore peace. One editorial complained, “Ten thousand Carnegie public libraries would not compensate…for the evils resulting from the Homestead lockout.” Some argued that Carnegie built his fortune on the backs of poor workers. Carnegie however, believed that a library was one way that workers could improve themselves. He wanted libraries housed in beautiful buildings, with big windows and ample light. This was a change for many towns that housed makeshift libraries in churches, stables, or at the back of shops.

Carnegie Library in Perry, Oklahoma – 1909

Carnegie devised a plan to award grants for library construction for communities in need. Grants were conditional upon three conditions. First, municipalities had to own the property where the library would be built. Second, the property had to be large enough for future expansion if demand arose, and third, grant recipients had to pay 10% of the gift for building maintenance.  

Initially, when an application was approved, a community could build any type of building they wanted. Carnegie felt some of the buildings were not an efficient use of space and later insisted on approving plans before construction began. He even wrote a book, Notes on Library Building, and sent it to each community that received a grant. The standards outlined in the book meant that many Carnegie libraries looked similar. They had high ceilings and spacious interiors. The exterior was often stone or brick. The high ceilings meant that access to the library from street level usually included a flight of stairs. These stairs became a hallmark of Carnegie libraries, and some claimed they represented climbing towards wisdom or working towards knowledge. The stairs, however, proved a hindrance to older or disabled patrons.

Carnegie Libraries in Iowa – 1917

By the time Carnegie issued the last library grant in 1919, most states had at least one Carnegie library, while other states had many (California had 142)! Some Carnegie libraries are still in use today. Others are no longer standing or have been converted into civic centers or commercial businesses.  Do you have a Carnegie library in your community? To learn more about Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie libraries, search Newspapers.com today!

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New Papers from Missouri and Kansas!

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added new papers from Missouri and Kansas to our archives!

Kansas City Star: The Kansas City Star is one of the Midwest’s most influential papers. The first issue of this Pulitzer Prize-winning paper was published in 1880 and our archives contain nearly 150 years of history from Kansas City, Missouri. The city’s population was just 55,000 when the Kansas City Star began publication. Future president Harry S. Truman worked in the paper’s mailroom in 1902, and American novelist Ernest Hemingway worked as a reporter for the paper in 1917-1918. As one of America’s great newspapers, The Kansas City Star has exceptional coverage of local, national, and international news.

You can learn about the 1887 construction of the Crystal Palace. Built to house the annual industrial exposition, the Crystal Palace contained 80,000 square feet of glass roofing and was among the most amazing buildings in the Midwest. After the expo, the Crystal palace stood vacant until it burned down in 1901. Researchers will find a treasure trove of both historical events and local family history in the Kansas City Star. One news story that gripped the nation was the Kansas City massacre in 1933. Gang members murdered four law enforcement officers and a criminal fugitive they were trying to help escape. The incident took place outside of Union Station and shocked residents. It also led to dramatic changes at the FBI, including new laws that allowed FBI agents to carry guns and make arrests. The Kansas City Star chronicled developments as officials tracked down the perpetrators.

The Wichita Eagle: The Eagle debuted in Kansas in 1884 and aimed to help Wichita become a major commercial center. At the time, Wichita was a busy cattle-shipping point (the city’s early development came from the Texas cattle trade along the Chisholm Trail), and the paper encouraged the diversification of industry. By 1890, Wichita had become the third-largest city in Kansas and the area was experiencing rapid growth.

The discovery of the Mid-Continent Oil Field brought an oil and gas boom to Wichita and The Eagle reported on locals like T. P. Hayes who discovered a gas field under his home in 1912. He used the gas to cook with and heat his home. In 1915, The Eagle reported that a buildup of gas under Hayes’s property led to an explosion in sewers around the neighborhood, and in 1916, his well began spewing oil. By 1918, The Eagle reported that Carter Oil Company had taken control of the Hayes property and drilled a well. In 1960, The Eagle bought the competing Beacon Newspaper Corp. and began publishing the morning Wichita Eagle and the Sunday Eagle and Beacon. In 1980, the two papers merged to form The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, later the name was simplified to The Wichita Eagle. Our archives contain a century of local, national, and international news. If you have ancestors from Wichita, you may find them mentioned in obituaries or stories like this one about a local family reunion.  

To explore these new papers from Missouri and Kansas, and other new and updated papers, search Newspapers.com today!

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February 8, 1968: Orangeburg Massacre

On February 8, 1968, police opened fire on a group of unarmed Black student protestors on the South Carolina State University campus. The students were protesting segregation at a local business. When the smoke cleared, three students were dead and 27 wounded. Nine officers were charged with excessive force and later acquitted as the Governor called the killings, “One of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina.”  

The violence was the culmination of events that began earlier that week when Black students organized a protest at the nearby All-Star Bowling Lanes on Monday, February 5th. Some 200 students gathered to protest the establishment’s policy of segregating black and white patrons. Harry F. Floyd, the operator of the bowling alley, appealed to the City Council. He asserted that his private business did not fall under civil rights laws.  

The next two evenings brought more protests, escalating tensions, and some arrests. National Guard troops were called in as protestors threw rocks and bricks at passing automobiles, including police cars. There were reports of broken windows, shots fired, and injuries. The bowling alley closed down, and rumors that protestors were burning buildings circulated throughout the community.  

By the evening of the 8th, Orangeburg was a tinderbox. Once again, Black students gathered on the campus of South Carolina State University. Angry protestors, many of whom had been beaten by police in the previous days, started a bonfire on campus. Firefighters arrived to douse the flames, and highway patrolmen moved in to protect the fireman. Students responded by throwing sticks and rocks at the highway patrolmen. One protestor grabbed a heavy piece of a wooden banister, taken from a nearby unoccupied house, and threw it at the police. It hit an officer in the head, who fell to the ground injured and bleeding. Fellow officers feared he’d been shot, prompting one to fire a warning shot into the air. Hearing the noise, the other highway patrolmen thought they were being fired upon and began shooting into the crowd. Some students were hit in the back as they tried to flee. Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton were killed and at least 27 others wounded. Cleveland Sellers was among the injured. He was an activist and state coordinator for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The police considered him dangerous, and he was arrested and convicted of inciting a riot.

The killings came to be known as the Orangeburg Massacre, and Governor Robert E. McNair called it, “One of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina.” Prosecutors leveled charges of excessive force against nine officers, all of whom were acquitted. Meanwhile, Cleveland Sellers was sent to prison but later pardoned. The government charged the owners of the bowling alley that triggered the massacre with an anti-discrimination suit.

To learn more about the Orangeburg Massacre, start searching Newspapers.com today.

Interested in other posts related to the Civil Rights Movement? Try one of these:

Greensboro Sit-In Protests

The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The March on Washington  

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New Papers from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin!

We are starting 2021 with a bang! We’ve already added nearly three million new pages to our archives! In addition to new content from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, we’ve added papers from Missouri, California, and almost one million new pages to our Nebraska archives! It’s a great time to dive in and make new personal discoveries!

Ellwood City Ledger: Ellwood City is located in Western Pennsylvania, primarily in Lawrence County, with a small portion in Beaver County. The city was named after Isaac Ellwood, one of the inventors of barbed wire. The Ellwood City Ledger dates back to 1921 and joins The Ellwood Citizen and The Evening Ledger providing news from Ellwood City that dates back to 1894. The Ellwood City Ledger chronicles light-hearted tidbits in history – like the time city officials confiscated an illegal still during Prohibition and locked it up in the Municipal jail. The paper also covered more somber news, like when the first local soldier from Ellwood City died during WWII. Ellwood City is near the Ohio border, so if you have ancestors from Ohio cities like Youngstown, or nearby Pennsylvania towns like Butler or Washington, you may find them mentioned in this paper. You’ll also find articles about some of the families that helped settle this area. Birth, death, and marriage announcements, anniversary celebrations, birthday announcements, and family reunions also provide wonderful content for genealogical research.

Portage Daily Register: Portage is located in the Wisconsin River Valley between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. The Daily Register was the first daily paper in Portage and began publication in 1886. The paper reported on the people and industries that helped fuel growth in this town. One example is the local brickyards that produced distinctive Portage yellow brick. In the 1800s, settlers discovered that the white clay lying beneath the area’s river sands proved particularly well suited for making strong bricks. Several brickyards opened, and brickmaking helped Portage become an important commercial and trading center. Many homes and businesses are built from this brick, including homes in an area known as the Society Hill Historic District. This district, with its elegant, historic mansions, reflects the life of Portage’s elite. If you have ancestors from Portage, the Daily Register reported on national and world news but is particularly rich in local detail. You will find stories on those that were sick, visiting town, births, deaths, or changes in local business – like when a new store opened or another closed.

Check out these and other new papers on Newspapers.com today!

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January 15, 1919: The Great Molasses Flood

Does the scent of molasses linger in your home long after the holidays? The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 left residents from one city claiming they could smell molasses for decades. On January 15, 1919, a giant tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst open in Boston’s North End neighborhood. It flooded the streets creating a 15-foot wave of molasses that carved a path of destruction. The sticky quagmire killed 21 people and injured 150, paving the way for more stringent safety standards across the country.

During WWI, molasses was distilled into industrial alcohol and used to produce military explosives. The Purity Distilling Company set up shop in the densely populated North End neighborhood in Boston. The area was home to many immigrants, and the company encountered little opposition when they constructed a 50-foot tall, 90-foot diameter molasses tank, just three feet from the street in 1915.

Days before the deadly explosion, a ship delivered a fresh load of warm molasses. It was mixed with cold molasses already in the tank, causing gasses to form. With the tank filled to near-capacity, a later structural engineering analysis revealed that the walls were too thin to support the weight, and there was too much stress on the rivet holes.  

Around 12:30 p.m. on January 15, 1919, workers stopped for lunch and a group of firefighters in a nearby firehouse sat down for a game of cards. Suddenly firefighters heard a strange staccato sound. It was the rivets on the molasses tank popping off. Other witnesses described a low rumbling sound. Before anyone could react, the tank of molasses burst, sending a rush of air that hurled people off their feet. A tsunami of sticky syrup poured over bystanders and horses, and knocked buildings off their foundations. The resulting river of molasses ran through streets and passageways, filling cellars and basements. A one-ton piece of steel from the vat flew into a trestle of elevated railroad tracks, causing the tracks to buckle.

First responders rushed to help but were slowed down by knee-deep sticky molasses that had become thicker in the cold air. They labored to find survivors and recover the dead. Initially, there were concerns that the bursting tank was caused by sabotage or an outside explosion (a claim that Purity Distilling Company clung to). Officials later determined that faulty tank construction was the cause. Workers spent months cleaning the molasses mess by sprinkling sand and hosing down the streets with saltwater.

The tragedy led to many lawsuits and more than 100 damage awards. It also spurred changes in building codes with more stringent building regulations, first in Boston, then in Massachusetts, and then across the country.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Molasses Food, search Newspapers.com today!

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Letters to Santa Found in the Newspapers

Nothing is more magical than seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child. For nearly 150 years, letters to Santa have appeared in newspapers. Some are sweet, some are funny, and some tug at your heartstrings. We searched our archives to share just a few examples:

Daily Press: Newport News, Virginia – 1932: “Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl eight years old. Mother told me that I had been very good, so please bring me a bicycle, pair of shoes for dolly. Please don’t forget the oranges, nuts, apples and candy. Don’t forget my little cousins, Billy and Norman. Your little friend, Lauretta Crockett.”  

Davenport Weekly Republican: Davenport, Iowa – 1901: “My name is Ray Sindt, and don’t forget our house number; it is 1222 Gaines street corner Thirteenth, for Irene’s letter did not have it. And no date, dear Santa Claus, on it, either, then we won’t get our presents. I would like very much to have a live pony and a cart to go with it; then I can take Irene and our kittens out next summer. I would like to have a gun—but well, I’m not big enough, then I’ll take a sled and skates, and a few nuts and candy, if it is just the same to you. And if you have candy canes, Irene would like to have one, too—red and white striped ones. Please don’t forget Irene’s letter, for she felt very sad when she read it. We will hang up our stockings. Be sure and don’t forget our number this time, and don’t forget the pony. I can take good care of it. Good-bye Santa. I am 7 years old. Merry Christmas. Ray Hamilton Sindt. Don’t forget ma and grandma.”

Tampa Day Times: St. Petersburg, Florida – 1925: “My Dear Mr. Santa Claus: I take the liberty of writing you at this seemingly early date to remind you that I have changed my address from Boston Mass., to St. Petersburg, Florida, and should be quite up set, Mr. Claus if you by some error, perhaps not of your own, but of one of your many assistants, took my gifts to our old address. I hope you will not think me greedy for I am told you dislike that in all small boys, when I ask you to leave in or rather around my stocking or stocking’s a complete addition of the “Book of Knowledge,” and “in Tune With the Infinite.” My parents whom you have probably encountered in their youth have been for the past ten years connected with Harvard college, and I feel sure that they would be charmed to have you make your annual visit to us here in St. Petersburg. I will be twelve my next birthday, and while I have never mingled with other small boys my age, I am sure that I shall not feel the lack of any young companions if you accede to my request. Hoping you and Mrs. Claus are in the best of health and that you will enjoy your trip south. I remain, Horace Percy Greenapple.”

In 1992, a letter was dropped in a mailbox outside the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles, Washington. The heartbreaking contents prompted a desperate search for its author, a boy named Thad. Newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Tribune, reprinted Thad’s letter. The young writer was never identified and donations, which poured in from the U.S. and Canada, were eventually turned over to the United Way. Thad’s letter read:

“Dear Santa Clas, Please help my mom and dad this Christmas. My dad is not working anymore. We don’t get many food now. My mom gives us the food she would eat. Please help my mom an dad. I want to go to Heven too be with the angels. Can you bring me to Heven? My mom an dad woud not have too by things for me no more. That would make them happy. Plese bring my dad a job an some food. I live in my house like last year. We got candils. A city man took the lights a way. It looks like we don’t live heer no more. We do. I will wate for you too come in my room. I will not slep. Wen you give my dad a job and some food too my mom I will go with you and the rain deer. Merry Christmas too you Mrs. Clas too the elfs too. Thad.”

Fortunately, most letters to Santa are filled with child-like anticipation and thoughts of toys and sweets. They also offer a historical snapshot of what was happening in America at the time. Many letters from the 1930s included a request for a Shirley Temple doll. In the 1950s children wanted a Slinky or Play-Doh, and G.I. Joe topped many lists in the 1960s.

Journal Gazette: Mattoon, Illinois – 1966: “Dear Santa—I’m a little boy, five years old, so my mother is writing this for me. I’ve been a pretty good boy all this year. I would like to find under the tree, a GI Joe space capsule and space suit, a GI Joe crash crew set, and a GI Joe flagman set. A green Beret doll. A Johhny Eagle Red River set. A Hands Down and Tip it game A table and chair set for my room. Thank you for all the presents you left me last year. There will be cookies and milk under the tree for you! Your friend Robbie Metcalf, 808 S. 9th St.”

Wouldn’t it be fun to find a letter that one of your family members wrote to Santa in our archives? To see more Letters to Santa from across the decades, search Newspapers.com today!  

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December 6, 1917: The Halifax Explosion

On the morning of December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor of the Canadian province of Halifax in Nova Scotia resulting in a massive explosion that ultimately killed 2,000 people and injured thousands more. The blast was the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic age.

During WWI, the port at Halifax was a beehive of activity. Ships loaded with troops, munitions, and supplies sailed in and out of Halifax harbor to support Allied war efforts. The morning of December 6th, the French freighter Mont Blanc prepared to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic. The ship was filled with tons of highly explosive materials including TNT, gasoline, picric acid, and gun cotton.

At the same time, another ship, the Norwegian relief vessel SS Imo, left its mooring headed for the open sea, and eventually New York. In an area known as the Narrows, the two ships collided, sparking a fire on the Mont Blanc. Realizing the danger, the crew of the Mont Blanc evacuated into lifeboats and began to row furiously toward the shore. Their burning ship drifted until it eventually brushed up against a pier, setting the pier on fire.

The flames attracted curious onlookers who came down to the shore or watched the tragedy unfold from their windows. At 9:04 a.m., the flames ignited the Mont Blanc‘s cargo resulting in a massive explosion. The ship was instantly obliterated and a super-heated shock wave flattened 300 acres, including most of the north end of Halifax. The detonation also caused a tsunami to roll over the waterfront.

One survivor described a scene worse than any battlefield. “I saw people lying around under timbers, stones, and other debris; some battered beyond recognition and others groaning in their last agonies…I groped about assisting some of the poor mothers and little ones who were running about screaming and searching vainly for lost ones, in many instances never to be seen by them again.”

The explosion blew down doors and shattered windows, sending shards of glass flying. Nearly 1000 people were blinded when exploding windows turned glass slivers into projectiles as they watched the fire from their homes. The disaster led to medical innovations to treat eye injuries and resulted in the formation of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind the following year. Reconstruction of the devastated area took more than a year, but urban planners replaced the ruins with a design consisting of homes, businesses, and green space.

Investigations into the cause of the collision and subsequent explosion determined that both vessels were to blame. If you would like to learn more about the Halifax Explosion of 1917, or read more first-hand accounts, search Newspapers.com today!

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New Michigan Paper!

Do you have ancestors from Michigan or an interest in Michigan history? We’ve added the Homer Index to our archives of Michigan papers bringing the total number of digitized Michigan papers to 93! Homer is about 30 miles southeast of Battle Creek, and the Index covers news in Calhoun and Hillsdale counties.

The Index is a weekly that has been in publication since 1872 when the first issue promised an independent paper that would “further the interests of the community.” The Index reported on Homer pioneers that settled this Michigan township established in 1862. 

The Homer Index May 31, 1876

In 1876, the Index reported on the Centennial International Exhibition. It was the first World’s Fair held on the nation’s 100th birthday in Philadelphia. Some Homer locals traveled to attend the Exhibition and described pavilions filled with wonders like machines to wash clothing and dishes. The Declaration of Independence was transported back to Independence Hall for the event, and many of the nearly 10 million visitors got to see it.

In the late 1800s, the Index reported on a bird problem. Flocks of English sparrows had arrived in town, damaging crops, eating all the chicken feed, and chasing away other songbirds. The birds were introduced to the United States in the mid-1800s to eat harmful insects. They multiplied and were quickly spreading across the continent. Michigan enacted laws to get rid of the birds. Killing sparrows became a pastime for many young boys in Homer. They could bring sparrow heads to the county clerk and receive a bounty for each one. The Index reported on payouts for young men like James Lane, who brought the heads of 1200 sparrows to the clerk’s office in 1900, and received $24 (the equivalent of $750 today)!

The Homer Index September 3, 1890

In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and America entered WWII. A few weeks later, Homer residents learned that one of their own died in the attack. Over the next several years, many soldiers from Homer and surrounding towns stepped up to serve. The Index published their letters home and reported on additional local casualties.

You’ll find lighter topics covered in the Index over the years. For instance, this 1951 front-page story complaining about a driver’s poor parking skills made us giggle. But you’ll also find sweet stories of neighbors helping neighbors. In 1976, a group of farmers set aside their chores to help an Eckford neighbor during a time of crisis. Carl Harris was at the hospital with his seriously ill son, but it was time to plow his 350-acre farm. Several dozen local farmers showed up to get the job done. After they finished at the Harris farm, they moved to another farm and did the same thing.

If you have ancestors from Homer, or surrounding areas like Clarendon, Albion, and Tekonsha, search the pages of the Index for things like obituaries and local news. Start searching the Index today on Newspapers.com!

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