A public library is the place to go for books, as well as a place that goes to great lengths to preserve local history.
About six months ago, the Tippecanoe County Historical Society gave some letters dated from 1890 to 1910 to the Crawfordsville District Public Library. Someone had bought them at a storage facility sale in California about 30 years ago. They later donated them to the TCHA, but some of the addresses were Crawfordsville, so TCHA representatives contacted the local library to see if the library would take them.
It turns out the letters were sent to Evangeline Binford. She was the daughter of Joseph Binford, the coal and lumber store proprietor in the 1890s. The letters cover the time period around her wedding in 1895.
CDPL employee Jodie Wilson decided to do some research and made a blind call to a man in California. The call struck pay dirt as he was a descendent of Evangeline’s grandson. The grandson sent the library various documents and photos of the family which were copied and sent back. That call also led Wilson to Myra Gray, another descendent who had a great deal of family information, including Evangeline’s wedding dress. The dress is from 1895 and was made in Paris.
“Through a little bit of detective work, we have made a great discovery of information about a pretty significant family,” Wilson said. “We have received plenty of photos and documents and it is a wealth of information.”
Gray, who will soon turn 71, packed her Winnebago and drove 1,800 miles from Tucson, Ariz., to Crawfordsville to hand-deliver the dress and much more.
Upon her arrival here Friday she turned over Binford family photographs, ledgers, assorted papers, furniture and other items for the library’s Local History Collection, the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Historical Society.
Gray was more than happy to turn over the documents to someone who can get some use from them.
“I don’t have any children and if I had not gotten the call from Jodie when I die this stuff probably would have found its way to the trash. That would have been a shame.”
Wilson said this is just another example of the library looking for first account documentation.
“You never know what value something will have,” she said. “It might not only help the family involved, but letter and ledgers often times names other people who people not even associated with one family might be looking for. You never know what can be used to fill in the blanks.”
While the library obviously can’t keep everything, Wilson and Gray urge people to think about contacting the library before throwing away old photos, newspaper article and letter.
In fact, while Gray was at the library Friday, there was another woman doing research on the Binford family. Some of the items Gray brought with her helped to fill in some of the information she needed.
“Now, what was the chance of that happening,” Gray said.
Wilson said things like that do happen more often than people would believe.
“We have a nice collection of local history items and we have people coming in from all over to use it,” she said. “It makes us all feel good when we can help out and the more things we have the more people we can help. We need to get the message out that old, historically-significant information is very much desired, and will find a good home at the library, the museum, the historical society, the Lew Wallace Study or at the Rotary Jail.”