It has been a few weeks since my last post so I wanted to touch base with you, dear readers, to assure you that I have neither forgotten nor abandoned this blog. In fact, several rather exciting things have happened of late that directly pertain to my ongoing research project.
Firstly, this is the weekend that the Leviathan is visiting Wellington. You may recall that the Leviathan is a reproduction of the steam engine that pulled President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train across the nation–and right through Wellington–in 1865. My family rode the train yesterday and had a wonderful time. There are four trips scheduled for tomorrow (Easter Sunday) and a limited number of tickets are available for purchase trackside. If you are in the area, I highly recommend making time in your holiday schedule. All proceeds go toward the larger Lincoln Funeral Train replication and cross-country commemorative trip next year.
I have also been privileged recently to join the Wellington Genealogy Group. This is a dedicated, hard-working body of individuals who are committed to preserving the primary documents of Wellington’s past. The project we embarked on just this week is to digitize the Council Journals and Ordinance Records of the village dating back to 1855, the year of incorporation. The very first volume I picked up contained the records of council business in 1872, when the mayor of the town was one Noah Huckins. You can imagine how excited I am to read more.At the same time, the genealogy group is preparing transcriptions of the records of Wellington’s Congregational Church for publication. (They have already issued a similar volume for First United Methodist Church records dating back to the 1850s.) The documentary history of the Congregational Church is particularly rich, beginning more than three decades before the village was incorporated, in 1824. It provides a unique window into the lives of some of Wellington’s earliest settlers.
The focus of my own research has been slowly shifting further back in time, and I’m currently investigating some families who lived in town as early as the 1820s. One of the people I am interested in is a man named John Reed, a merchant who was very active in the Congregational Church. Reed drowned in the Black River in 1855. While looking at his probate documents, I came across a twenty-page inventory of his belongings, most likely including the contents of his store. (His building stood at what is today the intersection of North Main Street and West Herrick Avenue, occupied since 1873 by Benedict’s Block–named, incidentally, for Ethel Benedict. He was John Reed’s brother-in-law, and took charge of his business affairs and real estate, after Reed’s tragic death.) The inventory has pages of personal and business accounts being settled with Reed’s estate, thousands of dollars in credit presumably extended for the purchase of goods. Teasing apart the networks of connectedness and examining the material culture contained within this single document could fill a doctoral dissertation.
At present, I am pursuing eight different topics that I hope will each result in a post. After that, who knows? I wrote back in October that I thought I was nearing the end of the line (Leviathan pun intended) and seven months later, I am still finding things to be curious about. I will say that now that spring is finally here, I will have less time for weekend library excursions, as grass must be mown and weeds pulled. I hope you all will be enjoying the warm weather so much you won’t even notice my absences. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions of topics.