Category Archives: Staff Topics

Blog posts that are staff favorites, chosen topics, or updates abut what goes on behind-the-scenes.

All from one Letter


William Tracy Gould and Anne McKinne Gardiner Gould

It’s hard to convey to people exactly how connected the nation was in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  No telephone, no Internet, no wi-fi. And yet, when we begin to do research on nearly any artifact or document with a relationship to one of the students, we inevitably find that they were acquainted or related with so many others. We recently purchased a letter on e-bay written by William Tracy Gould’s sister-in-law to his wife who was visiting Litchfield. As you may know, William Tracy Gould was the son of James Gould, who taught at the Litchfield Law School with Tapping Reeve. Following his studies, the younger Gould moved to Georgia where he opened a law school of his own. He married Anna Gardiner of Augusta, with whom he had three children.

I began research to locate life dates of the author, Elizabeth G. Rose, and from basic searches of a few genealogy sites, was able to determine that this was Anna Gardiner’s sister. Several sources indicated that Gould’s wife was a widow upon their marriage, but I believe they had confused her with another Anna McKinne, and that McKinne was his wife’s given middle name, as it was her mother’s maiden name. According to the genealogy sites I checked, the Anna McKinne who was a widow of Joseph McKinne did not have a sister named Elizabeth.

I would like to say that what happened next is unusual, but I fear it is not. I fell down the rabbit hole of the LLS social network. I happened upon an article about James Gardiner, who had the same parents listed as Elizabeth. I began to read it in the hopes of finding further genealogical information. What I found was far more interesting. James was the editor of a newspaper in Augusta. In 1861, he wrote a series of editorials endorsing Eugenius Aristides Nisbet (LLS 1823) for the governorship of Georgia. He went on to publish a literary journal, and one of its contributors was Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (LLS 1813). He later endorsed Horace Greeley in his bid for the Presidency. Greeley’s wife had  attended the Female Academy in 1827.

As if that isn’t enough to convince you it’s a small world, it turns out that Elizabeth’s husband, Arthur Gordon Rose, had been married previously to Elizabeth Wigg Barnwell whose brother, William Wigg Barnwell attended the Litchfield Law School in 1817. Having found the information I was seeking, I stopped, though I’m sure this is only a snippet of who was on their list of friends. Now to update all of those Ledger pages!

Additional Information:

In addition to the Ledger pages linked to above, these are resources that helped me in my research:

Find-A-Grave: Arthur Gordon Rose

Yale Obituary Record

Biographies of Richmond County, GA

Augusta’s Other Voice: James Gardner and the Constitutionalist
Russell K. Brown
The Georgia Historical Quarterly
Vol. 85, No. 4 (WINTER 2001), pp. 592-607

Professor Lyon’s Trick Oxen

The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded a grant of $24,750 to the Litchfield Historical Society for a one-year project, Improving Access: CollectionSpace and ArchiveSpace to enhance public access to the Society’s collections through modifications to its databases. You may wonder what that has to do with Professor Lyon’s Trick Oxen. Currently, users who want to find what we have on the topic have to know where to look. The first stop might be a search of Archon, our database of finding aids (tools to help locate information within a collection of documents), followed by a search of CollectionSpace, our database for museum objects.

Assuming the researcher knew to look in both places, s/he would find a ribbon printed for the Columbian Exposition, and a finding aid for a small collection of papers. Upon the completion of the grant project, users will be able to retrieve all related materials in one fell swoop. In addition, they will be able to “tag” photographs, artifacts, and documents using a new social tagging feature. Finally, rather than seeing the archivist’s biography of the creator (here, Professor Lyon) in the finding aid, and the curator’s biography in the collectionspace record, users will see only one biographical note, and staff will only need to create one. While you await this amazing enhancement, please enjoy a few selections from the collection.

According to other documents in the collection, Lyon’s cattle won four first prizes at the World’s Fair. They were said to, “march, waltz, stand cross-legged, kiss, walk on their knees, perform on pedestals, roll a turntable, roll a ball, perform on a barrel, sit, lie down, jump over, walk backwards, ride the turntable, etc.”





Halloween in Litchfield

This morning I started to wonder when door-to-door trick-or-treating became a custom. After a quick Internet search, it seemed likely that it was sometime in the 1950s. I turned to the Litchfield Enquirer to see what was going on in town mid-century. While I did not find mention of door-to-door candy collecting, I did find that townspeople were definitely celebrating Halloween.

I started my search in 1954, and found the article to the left about the Lion’s Club’s annual party which began in 1953.  I also found this mention of a party at the East Litchfield Volunteer Fire House: 

And this great advertisement for the Litchfield Food & Bakery Co.  Aren’t those prices amazing!











I then forwarded the film reel to 1955 (yep, we’re kickin’ it old school with a working microfilm reader) and found that the Lion’s Club event was even bigger. The article above gives all the details for those who wanted to participate. The one to follow reports on the actual event.








How long did the Lion’s Club continue this tradition? And were children trick-or-treating at houses during these years?  Please share your recollections of Litchfield’s Halloween traditions!

Another gem for National Poetry Month

The following are excerpts from a poem by a Grace Stone Field, the pen name of Mrs. Charles I. Page. It was printed along with the Historical Society’s annual report from August 9, 1912. The recording secretary of the time, Elizabeth C. Barney Buel, believed this tribute to Harriet Beecher Stowe to be Grace Stone Field’s “masterpiece”…”very beautiful–a true artistic gem.”

In the first few stanzas Field tackles Stowe’s impact on the fight against slavery, but also pays tribute to her writings on New England and its “quaint or queer” citizens in a later stanza (Poganuc People, anyone?).

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Tribute

Shall we twine a greener tendril in the laurel crown she wears?
Shall we add a fresher flower to the garland that she bears?
Shall we say, of one long silent, that she speaks again today?
Shall we prate of her and praise her in some trite, perfunctory way?

Nay, she heeds nor praise nor blaming, dwelling with the immortals now;
We can add no glint of glory to the nimbus round her brow–
But her own achievements land her, speaking with a certain voice
Through the lips of dusky thousands who but name her to rejoice.

Let us rather say God put her in the time and place he planned,
Set a task that men might shrink from her slender woman’s hand;
Made her mighty among women, made her strong to dare and do–
Closed her fingers round her weapon, small and trenchant, too;

And with sympathy diviner than the sympathy of men
She made plain the bondsman’s sorrows with her tiny, potent pen;
Stirred the feeble, laggard impulse, set the northern heart on fire!
Woke the wavering, sluggard conscience to a splendid brave desire.

Thus she wrote, yet lighter fancies wove and wrought within her brain
And she sketched our fair New England, lovely valley, pleasant plain;
Wrote of tender hearts that fluttered under manners more austere
Of the Puritan descendants, stern and solemn, quaint or queer.