Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (KJV)
While in Philadelphia, the teachers were encouraged to use primary sources in their classroom. As they teach American History facts, they can interweave the stories of the people who made history as well as the ones who lived it but who didn’t make it into the history books. It is such fun to let the documents tell the tale whether you are using diaries, photographs, newspapers, census records, deed books, marriage licenses or the myriad of other imprints that we as humans leave behind. One of the lesson plans they received used colonial household inventories. We have something similar in our county in our probate files. When a person died, his assets were listed in order to determine estate tax as well as distribute his property to his heirs. Since I have been back from Philly, in my spare time, I have been typing pioneer inventories and creating lesson plans to go with them. Here is a sample from the file of David Osborn who died in 1877. He may have been a fairly recent arrival to our community as he is not listed in the 1860 or 1870 census records. This is what he left behind and their values:
4 Boxes Rubbish 1.00, 3 jugs, 1.00, 1 oxbell .50, 1 Smoothing Iron .50, 3 old axes .50, 1 lot pot ware 6.00, 1 suspenders .50, 1 pr shoes 1.50, 5 buckets 1.50, 4 tin pans1 pitchers 2 bowls 1.00, 1 breadtray 1 sieve .50, 6 chairs 4.50, 1 bed and bed clothes 12.00, 1 old bedsted .75, 1 Rifle gun 5.00, 1 new table 2.00, 1 box morphine 1.25, 2 sleighs 1.00, 1 syrup barrel and gate 1.50, 1 bark salt 1.00, 1 cart, harness and traces 10.00, 1 mare and colt 50.00, 1 note on L.D. Dupress due Jan. 16. 66 116.66 2/3, 1 note L.D. Dupree due Jan 1, 1879, 1 note L.D. Dupree due 116.66 2/3, 1 note L.D. Dupree due Jan 1, 1880 116.66 2/3, 60 Head cattle @ 4.00 240.00, 1 Note J.N. Driggers 13.00, I Note on W.J. Wiggins, 12.00. Total value of estate: $ 722.98
I can identify with that list, can’t you? “Four boxes of Rubbish, $1.00”. It makes me think about how we work so hard to accumulate things that we think are precious, but after we are gone, they will have little or no meaning to those we leave behind. I say I would rather invest my energy into the lives of those around me and accumulating memories of time spent with them, but does my household really show that? I heard someone on the radio say this week that when we spend time with our children, grandchildren or anyone from the next generation, we are actually impacting our world hundreds of years beyond our time on this planet. What an impetus to carefully choose what I say and do! Those boxes of rubbish will be long gone to the landfill, but my words and deeds can live forever.