Introduction to the Index of the Mark Twain Scrapbook

On to the Scrapbook

"An Important Scrapbook"

          First of all, it must be understood that Mark Twain, the famous American author, had nothing to do with this document, unless it was in some way connected to one of his attempts to recover his lost fortune in his later years.  It measures by inches, has a red cover, and has shiny, glue-like spaces on each page. There is instruction to moisten these spaces so that the items will adhere to the pages. 

          Many scrapbooks are of little value to a genealogist or a historian.  But when some members of the Thomas Mitchell Historical Society in Mitchellville, Iowa brought to light this large red curious crumbling scrapbook, I discovered a reservoir of information valuable to both historians and genealogists, and particularly to descendants of settlers in eastern Polk County.  Although the pages were about to fall apart, it was possible to make copies.  From the copies I charted the index which you see below. 

          The makers and keepers of the scrapbook were apparently members of the Universalist Church in Mitchellville, now home to the Thomas Mitchell Historical Society.  As a denomination, the Universalist Church no longer exists, but the people who pasted the hundreds of items into the pages were obviously aware of the importance of preserving the record.  

          Two caretakers of the scrapbook and other valuable records in recent years were Mary Starks Marmon and Virginia Tornquist Meador, both now deceased.  Current members of the Historical Society continue their work. 

          Most of the items in the scrapbook are obituaries which cover the years 1891 to 1945.  There are other articles covering such stories as weddings, reunions, parties; and there are letters from people who had moved to California.  Evidently most of the items were taken from the Mitchellville Index. 

          Of significance to historians are the many obituaries of pioneers who settled in Mitchellville and in the wooded areas nearby as early as the 1840s and 1850s.  Some are chronicles of their westward movement: from Ohio, Indiana, New York, New Hampshire, the British Isles and points in between.  Local ministers seem to have written most of them.  One of them, Rev. Henry C. Rosenberger, felt obligated to point out the bravery of  the deceased and the significance of their lives at that time.  Following is an example: 

          In the flowery language of that day he elaborated in the obituary of Jonathan Holmes Crawford (1822-1908):-- I have very high veneration for people who like the hero of this sketch are willing to leave a good home and many good neighbors and locate in a new country, and endure the hardships incident to the lives of the first settlers in a new country. The later comers are under everlasting obligations to these noble forerunners of civilization.  They have fought many hard battles and have conquered.  In a previous paragraph he laid out the details of the Crawford family's journey from Ohio to Trullinger Grove, northwest of Mitchellville, in 1854. 

          Thus we see an example of valuable information for those interested in family history and in the story of the expanding frontier before the Civil War. 

          It is hoped that the index to the scrapbook will be helpful to many family historians.

--Lois Craig
Ft. Dodge, IA
(Formerly of Mitchellville)
December, 2004

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