July 3, 2013

Old scrapbook unearths family information

By SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — Recently, within a week’s time, my family experienced quite the transition, seasons of life that leave a mark on your heart and your spirit.

I was privileged to attend my great-granddaughter’s kindergarten graduation. Gabrielle’s eyes sparkled with pride as she looked for her family.

A day later, my granddaughter, Carly, ascended the stage to receive her GED, the result of hard work and dedication to improve her life. She starts college this fall.

Two days later, I attended my 90-year-old uncle’s funeral. Lyle McGibbon was my father’s older brother by 15 months. Dad died in 1974 at age 50. Uncle Lyle shared his memories of growing up with Dad and his siblings on the five-generation family farm. I will miss our walks down memory lane.

How quickly we go from kindergarten, to high school, to adult life, and then we leave, some sooner than others. I thank God every day that he has allowed me to be here to see my family grow up.

I have an old scrapbook that belonged to my grandmother’s great-aunt Angeline Spencer Parker Meade. It contains newspaper clippings from 1880 to 1919 when she died, including many poems and obituaries. I wonder if she imagined someone would cherish it like I do 100 years later?

Many clippings tugged at me to dig deeper into my genealogy research, asking the question, “Why is that person’s marriage or obit included?” only to find out we are related by marriage.

One obit titled “Oldest Man Pioneer in Akron’s History” gave details of Daniel S. Foote, who died in Ohio at 92. I knew my great-great-great-grandmother was Mercy Fidelia Foote (1816-1909), who married Mason Spencer (1811-1874) in Malone. Angeline was their daughter.

Months later, I confirmed that Daniel was Mercy Fidelia’s brother. The obit says Daniel was born in North Bangor in 1823 and spent his younger years working his father’s farm. The slogan “Go West, young man” must have convinced Daniel to leave New York for Ohio, settling in Braceville, then pressing further west in 1844 to Akron, marrying in 1849.

Daniel followed his trade of carpentry, had a contracting business, then “assumed charge of all lock gate and boat repairs on the Ohio canal in the Akron district.” He was a member of the Akron Volunteer Fire Department when “the hand pump and bucket brigade was the accepted method of firefighting.”

The obit states his grandfather died at 101 and a sister at 94. Good genes, wouldn’t you say?

There are some very funny writings, too. This poem, “A Postponed Tragedy” from the Boston Traveler, makes me laugh:

“You have appendicitis,” said the doctor man to Jim.

“And I must operate at once, or else your chance is slim.”

“You shall not touch a knife to me,” was Jim’s firm reply;

“I’ll have no operation, and I ain’t a-gonna die.”

“Unless I cut,” the doctor said, “You’ll surely pass away;

You will be dead, believe me, sir, by 2 o’clock today.”

So Jim was scared and yielded. The carving was a shock.

But Jim was very thankful that he lived at 2 o’clock.

For doctors know their business and it’s very plain to see,

That this one saved Jim’s life because he didn’t die till 3! 

Another clipping is headlined “Hot Onions for Pneumonia/Simple Remedy said to be Sure Cure for Dread Disease.” New Jersey health boards adopted this cure:

“Take six to ten onions, chop fine, put in a large spider over a hot fire then add the same quantity of rye meal and vinegar enough to form a thick paste. In the meanwhile stir it thoroughly, letting it simmer five or ten minutes. Then put in a cotton bag large enough to cover the lungs and apply to chest as hot as patient can bear. In about ten minutes apply another and thus continue reheating the poultices, and in a few hours the patient will be out of danger. This simple remedy has never failed to cure this too-often fatal malady. Usually three or four applications will be sufficient but continue always until the perspiration starts freely from the chest.” 

And the blisters? How far we have come.

One last thought. As always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at