Thursday, November 24, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Autograph Book Tells a Tale

The standard records told the life story of Joseph Norman Gorrell.  Census records said he lived in Blackwater, Cooper County, Missouri as a child and Webb City, Jasper County, Missouri as an adult where he raised his four children. A marriage record indicated he lived in Kansas City, Missouri because he married his wife, Matilda Pearl “Tillie” Davey there in 1900. City directories confirmed some other locations in Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa, where he worked in the telephone industry as a lineman.

However, an autograph book that I scanned this week, told of another tale of his life before his marriage. I have a couple of these books in my collection, where friends and family signed pages with little poems, scripture, or hopes for their future. What is so precious about these pages is having the actual handwriting of your ancestors and their friends.



Joe’s autograph book is missing the first page. I can see where it had been torn our. This might have been a page that described his receiving the book for a particular occasion. As I read the pages, it seems like a “going away” book. It is full of advice for a young man about to go out on his own.

The entries were not placed in any order. One must look at every page to find the earliest entry which appears to be in early January 1893. These entries from 1893 are from friends and family members who lived in or near Blackwater, Missouri, where Joe was born.

Jan 9, 1893 entry by Maud Hill. The torn page is seen on the left.

Entries from his family included his parents, Amos and Catherine Gorrell, his sisters, Linnie, Ada, and Lou. Missing was one from his brother, Arthur.  His father had great advice.

Sept 6, 1893 entry by his father, Amos Gorrell

Be kind to all they fellows
Be intimate only with a well chosen few
Always save up a portion of your earnings
No telling what may hapen to you
Shun evry temptation to do evil
Improve evry opotunity to do good
Don't be led astray by the Dveil
But always honor thy God
Your Pa Pa  A. Gorrell
"Be Thou strong therefore"
"And show thyself a man"
1st Kings 2nd v 2
His mother, also wrote advice in the form of a prayer:

August 30 entry by his mother, Catherine Elizabeth Gorrell

It is the later entries that tell a tale that other records  not yet found would have told. The entries in 1896, 1897, and 1898 were from Los Angeles and Pasadena. The entries from 1894 were from The Dalles in Oregon. And there was one entry from a person in Oak Lake, Manitoba!

In The Dalles, Oregon lived his step-brother, May Mansfield Sayre. It appeared that was Joe’s first trip west. It was likely that May got him a job there.

Jan 6 1894 entry of May Mansfield Sayre at  The Dalles, Oregon

Later, he was working in Los Angeles and other cities in California. The story heard by family was he worked building telephone line where ever there was work. 

Nov 7 1896 entry of Chas Spangler in Los Angeles

By 1900 he was back in Missouri, working as a lineman for the Missouri & Kansas Telephone Company in St. Joseph.

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, My Trails into the Past. All Rights Reserved.

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