Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Old treasures

On Thursday November 15, 2012, a California man named Thomas Kaska walked into Yesterday's Books, a bookstore in Modesto, CA, and purchased a two-volume set of Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1852.  He was delighted at last to acquire this valuable first edition, which he'd spotted there some years before (when the price had been too high).  As a schoolboy he had once written a paper about Harriet Beecher Stowe, and his father's second wife was a descendent of Harriet Beecher Stowe, so he had long been interested in that author.

Inside the books he found various newspaper clippings now fragile and darkened with age. He noted that the volumes had once belonged to "E. Stanley, Salem, MA" and became curious about the original owner. Some of the clippings mentioned Nichols relatives in Danvers. Thomas searched on the internet, found this blog, and sent me an email that included this surprising information:
"I have a news clipping of a Miss Mary Ellen Stanley. She was born July 14,1839 and died just short of 100 years old by a few months. Apparently she was a school teacher for over 55 years until a new law forced her to retire. The obituary... said she was survived by two nieces a Mary and Margaret Nichols, and two nephews a Dr. John H. Nichols and Rev. William Nichols. Through Google I found you and hope you recognize these people.  Looks like from your blog you also enjoy history and retelling of memories past..."
Thomas asked whether I might be a descendant, or if not, whether I could help him find descendants to whom he could give these clippings.

Well!  What a surprise!  I wrote back, "Yes, I recognize the Stanley name and her nieces and nephews.  Rev. William Stanley Nichols was my grandfather. Coincidently I'm in CA this week for Thanksgiving with my daughter and 2 grandsons. I would be interested in reading those newspaper clippings. Thanks for your offer."  Within days I had met Thomas and acquired the clippings. I also took some photos of the books to share with other family members.

Mrs. E. Stanley, Salem, MA
Note the chemical transfer from the acidic newspaper clipping and the ink on opposing page (see below)
This 1908 clipping (about book prices) is glued into the book.
Undated newspaper clipping, probably 1938.

Undated clipping, probably late April or early May1938.  Click here for larger PDF.
"passed away yesterday at 20 Andrew St, where she had resided for 96 years." "She was 99 years, nine months and 18 days old." "Born in Salem July 14, 1839..."  
Since the discovery of these clippings and the old books, I have been begun to learn more about the Stanleys. I'm interviewing various family members and collecting stories. I have also begun to READ Uncle Tom's Cabin, a classic piece of American literature that I had never read.  The night before meeting with Mr. Kaska, I downloaded a free copy onto my Kindle and read the first chapter. At his house we compared the text of the first page of the first chapter, and they matched. By now I have read hundreds of pages and am caught up in the action of this remarkable book.  

Original edition and Kindle edition, compared!


Heather Rojo said...

I loved this story, Sandy! What a great coincidence, and a great reason to have a blog!

Marian Pierre-Louis said...

Yes, just shows how important blogging can be to uncovering history! Wonderful!

Sandy said...

I now think that this edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin was originally owned by my great-great grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth (Hunt) Stanley. The newspaper clippings are about one of her daughters, Mary Ellen Stanley. I am descended from another daughter, Elizabeth Perkins Stanley, known as "Lizzie," who in 1861 married Andrew Nichols of Danvers.
I recall my grandfather (the youngest son of Lizzie and Andrew) telling stories about riding in a horse-drawn carriage from Danvers to Salem to visit Grandmother Stanley's home at 20 Andrew Street.

Heidi Cogdill said...

This is such a wonderful story! What a gift he gave in sharing these with you. Amazing what a genealogy blog can do.