Labor Day Weekend 2012.Â September 1 at 2pm exactly I finished transcribing Volume II of Randall Wadeâs travel journals from 1870-1871.Â This is a labor of love accomplished during my spare time over the past two years, and in spare time for the foreseeable future.Â There is still one more volume to transcribe.
Done with the task setÂ for the day, from 2-3pm I allowed myself some time in the Western Reserve Historical Society Library to do a little research for another project I’m working on for which I needed some information about farming in the mid-19th century.Â I asked, Ann Sindelar, the doughty archivist if she had any thoughts about manuscripts or collections of letters that might help me.Â She returned with descriptions for three manuscript collectionsânone of them were large, either brief journals or small collections of letters.
The first one I called down (had them retrieve from the stacks) was MS.Â 4975 Worthy McClintock and family papers (1862-64).Â Â I pulled the first folder out and realized it was letters and sighed a little inwardly because 19th century letters require some hard work.Â It isn’t always easy to readÂ the handwriting of someone (Worthy and family) I donât know from a time period with which I am mostly unfamiliar (1850s/60s)Â about a topic (farming) I know nothing about .Â It didn’t take me long to discover that Worthy McClintock was a young man who had gone off to fight for the Union Army in the Civil War in 1862âprobably 18 or 19 years old.Â [Note: This is something I would have known had I read the description of the collection that Ann provided for me rather than just writing down the call number and having the box of letters brought to the table] The letters were his letters to his family and his parentâs letters in return.
Worthy McClintock’s letters are mostly about his activities and the conditions in the field, growing increasingly graphic and indicating the hardships faced by the soldiers once he left the training camp in Cincinnati.Â Â Â His parentâs letters to him talked about life on the farm, how the animals were doing, what the harvest was going to be like, etc. etc.Â Â His mom was a dab hand at cheese-making and there was a lot of back-and-forthing about whether it would be possible to get a cheese to him by Christmas 1862.
At that point I looked back at the description of the manuscript collection Ann had provided and realized that this correspondence wasnât going to end well.Â Â Sure enough.Â Worthy McClintock died (either in battle or of wounds or illness) in 1864.Â I put the collection away.
The wonder and the magic of archives for me is that as I read documents people come alive for me.Â I understand that Randall and all the members of his family in the photograph above are gone.Â In two years I’ve had time to come to terms with that. In fact my shortcut on the way home from the library takes me through Cleveland’s majestic Lakeview Cemetery and Wade Family mausoleum with it’s beautiful Tiffany windows.Â See photograph at left.
Still it came as a shock when I realized that I didnât want to get any closer to Worthy McClintock or his parents.Â I didn’t want to know that his mother was exactly my age when the letters from her son stopped coming. Â I stopped reading the letters but I will remember Worthy McClintock–just a boy, from a farm in Ohio’s Western Reserve–and now you will too.