Monday, January 24, 2011

Amenuensis Monday - Post Card Baby

by Bill Miller. Originally published in Southern Oregon Heritage Today. Sept. 2002, Vol4, No.9

Glenn SIMPSON cried so loudly that one could easily believe he was trying to wake the entire town of Ashland. Nevertheless the city continued to sleep and his grandma, daddy, and mama were the only ones to witness his birth. Later that day, Baby Glenn wrote a postcard to his grandfather, with a printing style suspiciously like his mother's.

"Ashland, Or. August 11, 1895
Dear Grandpa [sic]
I arrived this morning at two o'clock. I weigh eight pounds. Mama is feeling real well considering, but Dad and grandma don't know whether they will stand it or not.
Good bye.... "

The card was signed by Glenn's mother, Ellen, and addressed to Ellen's father, Daniel GLENN, a building contractor temporarily working in Etna, California. Daniel had brought his wife and daughter to Ashland in 1893. In just over a year, Ellen met and married Thomas SIMPSON, who had also accompanied his family to the Granite City in 1893. Thomas was part owner of the Ashland Manufacturing Company, a sawmill and lumber-retailing business. He sold his share in the company in 1902 and opened a hardware store on the Plaza. Glenn grew up in this store and, after his father died in 1953, kept it open until retiring in 1966.

Glenn Elwyn SIMPSON graduated from Ashland High School in 1915 and subsequently attended Oregon Agricultural College, now Oregon State University, in Corvallis. His plan to work in the store with his father was postponed when he enlisted during World War I and joined the United States forces in France.

Simpson's Hardware was a comfortable center of friendly conversation. For a penny, visitors could weigh themselves on a scale near the front entrance, before pursuing "important" discussions just inside the door on a large, comfortable chair. Simpson began to collect early photographs and documents about Ashland and stored them in a case near the chair, proudly unveiling them whenever he could find an interested pair of eyes. As the collection grew larger, it piqued Glenn's interest in local history. Before he retired from business, he had been elected to a term as president of the Southern Oregon Historical Society's Board of Trustees and spent a number of years actively supporting the Society.

The postcard announcing Glenn SIMPSON's birth eventually became part of Simpson's history collection. The addressee, his grandfather, Daniel Glenn, remained in Ashland until he died in November 1939. At the time, the elder Glenn was the last surviving Civil War veteran of Ashland's "Burside Post" of the G.A.R. The author of the card, Simpson's mother, was in charge of the hardware store's window displays until shortly before she died in 1948. The baby of the postcard, Glenn Simpson, died on Oct 2, 1969.

His only survivors, a niece and nephew, donated Simpson's collection of photographs and documents to the Society, where they are preserved in the Research Library archives. The Simpson Hardware cash register was also donated for use in the Children's Museum in Jacksonville.

Simpson's passion for history lives on and as long as you have an interested pair of eyes, you can catch the passion too. Some people think that history is only about big things like wars, but Glenn Simpson knew better. All history is local, and some of it starts from the smallest of things - sometimes, as small as a postcard.

Bill Miller is a historian with the Southern Oregon Historical Society

(maybe cheating on my the meme here.... it's not difficult to transcribe a postcard of two sentences. But could consider that I am re-typing the entire article! that counts as "amenuensis", yes?)

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