By Parthenia Culver - 2001
In the early 1960s my father's sister, Jane Gorham, vacationed in Florida. While there, she visited the Orlando home of a relative, Helen Hoffman. Helen Crewdson Hoffman must have been quite a remarkable woman. Although my Grandmother Pope had spoken often of Aunt Helen, a half-sister to her mother, I never knew this distant relative for she had lived in Florida for many years.
By the time of Jane's visit, Aunt Helen, a tiny woman who weighed less than 100 pounds, was nearly 90 and had recovered from a broken hip a few years earlier, even though doctors had said she might never walk again.
Helen lived just a few miles from Cape Kennedy (then Cape Canaveral), and she seemed to have made a graceful transition from Kentucky's buggy days to the space age in Florida.
During Jane's visit, Helen expressed a keen desire to travel to the moon.
"I know I can never go there, but I would love to," she said.
Later, they talked of Helen's father, James W. Crewdson, who had been Jane's great-grandfather. Jane showed deep interest in Crewdson's life and work.
"Do you know about my father?" Helen asked.
"Yes, indeed. Everyone in the family knows about Grandfather Crewd-son," Jane replied.
"I have something to show you," Helen said.
She walked over to a corner of the room and opened a small round-top trunk. Then she removed an aged ledger-type notebook and handed it to her guest.
"What is this?" Jane asked.
"That's my father's journal. I want you to have it," Helen replied.
Handwriting on the front of his journal stated that he had purchased it in Smithland, Kentucky, on May 8, 1876.
Rev. J. W. Crewdson was born in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1828, and died in Livingston County, Kentucky, near Burna, in 1898. A Baptist minister who pastored (and helped organize many of them) the majority of Baptist churches in Livingston County during the 1870s and 1880s had resided in three states, serving his Lord and fellow man in a variety of ways. His old notebook contained not only a diary with family history, items about the weather, and illnesses and their treatment, but school financial accounts of his son, Billy, and his stepson, Oliver J. Wylie.
In addition, the diary contained a complete list of marriages he had performed in the state of Kentucky, and it even contained a tribute to his faithful horse, "Charley."
Aunt Jane, hardly believing her good fortune, returned to her home in Alexandria, Virginia, with the journal. In the early 1970s, following her retirement from the U. S. State Department in Washington, D. C., she and her husband, a native Virginian, moved back to Kentucky. Some time after that, she acquired an incomplete copy of Crewdson's memoirs, Reminiscences of My Life. Although this title is not very original, the story is rich in firsthand information.
Jane now had one original diary and a copy of another. My cousin, Jan Brandstetter, mimeographed the material. The two handwritten journals that I have are copies of those first copies.
After the death of my father, Reginald M. Pope, Sr., in 1980, I found in his attic portraits of J. W. Crewdson and a woman believed to be his first wife, Amanda Jackson Crewdson. Years before, in an old cigar box of papers which had belonged to my Grandfather Pope, I had found Crewdson's church letter from Big Creek Baptist Church in Hardin County, Illinois. Later, my mother had acquired Crewdson's handwritten History of Good Hope Church, which she added to my collection of Crewdson papers.
Rev. J. W. Crewdson realized the importance of members of each generation, knowing their heritage, for he stated many times that he was writing for the benefit of his children and grandchildren. His manuscripts have drawn me since I first learned of them. However, the yellowed, brittle paper and faded ink, missing pages, Victorian speech patterns, and some of his writing habits, including entire pages without paragraph indention, caused the copies to be extremely difficult to read.
Even so, I occasionally dug into their gold mine of wisdom and history. As the years passed, it became clear that if these writings were to live on and be of benefit to later generations, they must appear in a more easily accessible format.
I visited Aunt Jane one day in 1986 and used the original journal to fill in some gaps in my material. By this time, the proud old notebook was in a pitiful condition. Age had loosened its pages from the binding in places, and brittle paper had broken around the edges. In some passages, the ink had faded to nearly nothing.
I very carefully opened the old book and was able to clarify my copies in several places. As I did this, I tape recorded a number of pages from the original journal. I later used this tape to further clarify my material.
A few years after my initial work on the journal, another Crewdson descendant used copies of the J. W. Crewdson writings for publication. As far as I know, she was the first person to type all the Crewdson material which she had gathered, including some that I had shared with her, and I commend her courage.
Some time had passed since I had last delved into his writings, though, and I discovered that I had inadvertently omitted some corrections to my copies. I realize now that the copies used for the first published journal may have been of even lesser quality than mine. However, in several instances, she was able to recognize words in the faded old script that had eluded my eyes. Using all the resources mentioned above, I decided to edit these manuscripts.
Some years ago, Jane Gorham realized she must do something to prevent further deterioration of the original Crewdson journal. She had already placed a copy with the Kentucky Archives in Frankfort. To preserve the original, she gave it to James Crewdson Turner, with the assurance that he would care for it in the best way possible. In turn, Mr. Turner placed the journal in the Library of the University of North Carolina. An abstract of the Crewdson journal is now available via Internet through the Manuscript Department of the University Library at Chapel Hill.
Nellie Jane Pope Gorham died October 12, 1999, and although she and her husband, Alton Gorham, never had children of their own, she had many. She considered her 15 nieces and nephews and their families her children.
The J. W. Crewdson journal is just a small part of Jane Gorham's legacy. My love of genealogy is another, and her gift of encouragement was a special blessing.
The following materials come from the Crewdson journal:
In Memoriam of "Charley". This faithful and venerable animal has paid the debt of nature. He's gone the way of all the earth. He deceased on the 12th day of October 1881, at the advanced age of 26. I purchased him from Mr. John Jackson, a brother of my first wife, in Hardin County, Illinois; in the fall, after he was four years old in the spring, for $100. I had owned him 22 years. He was a faithful, devoted, and trustworthy servant. He would work anywhere, or any way that he was required. He was a noble saddle horse, a most excellent roadster, and as safe and tame to a buggy as I ever drove. He was not breachy or roguish, nor would he break loose when hitched. He was a noble animal. But alas! He was not faultless. Like all others of this sinful world, he had his failings and imperfections. Being compactly built, strong and active, and of impetuous and irritable temper, he was constantly being led into broils and fights with his fellow horses, rarely coming off second best, but most generally victorious. He reigned without rival in the barnyard and was a terror to all the weaker beasts of the stalls, watering troughs, and pastures. The scars and wounds of his associates attested to his pugilistic feats. But he is gone. We will cast the veil of charity over his failings and imperfections, holding in memory only his good qualities and noble deeds. December 28, 1884.
The intensely cold weather of the past 12 days has subsided into a cold rain. At this writing, it has been raining almost without interruption for 36 hours. I returned the day before yesterday from Birdsville. I was at Bro. Hibbs' on Christmas Eve night, the coldest of the season, and performed a marriage service for James Fleming and Emma Hibbs. This was after having performed the same service that day at 12:00 in the Methodist Church in Smithland for Henry Hibbs and Susie Adams. I had a fine time, excepting the cold. These make five of the family of Brother and Sister Hibbs whom I have performed marriage for, four daughters and one son.
I now close writing in this book and bequeath it to my children, who may survive me. If they can derive from it any benefit whatever, I shall be thankful that I have written it.
A List Of The Persons Whom I Have Married, Since I Have Resided In Kentucky. I married persons in Illinois for 15 years, but did not keep an account of the numbers: