While researching my family history on the Internet, I often discover websites with transcriptions of amazing little articles that were originally published in small-town newspapers, mostly in the 19th century. Some make me laugh, some make me cry, some just make me wonder.  All contain invaluable information about how our uncelebrated ancestors lived their ordinary lives - their struggles, their triumphs, their courage. 
I included some of them in Gig at the Amtrak, my poetry book, because these little stories are similar to many of my poems, which are partly based on the lives of real people I have interviewed for my books about North Adams.
One of those articles, called "Dauphin School," was written in 1901, by Fon Gentry, a young student in Texas. It's posted on this site. I was so moved by Fon's unaffected, charming prose, and by her matter-of-fact accounts of the day-to-day struggles of life in a rural town, that I knew I had to find out more about Miss Gentry. 
My brief, but fruitful search turned up many nuggets of information, one very sad, and culminated in finding a great-grandson of one of Fon's sisters, who has posted the Gentry family history on a genealogy website. I sent him the article, which he had never seen before, and his family was thrilled to receive it. He sent me some pictures and information about the family, and then I interviewed him over the phone. Such are the rewards awaiting those who are obsessively curious.
Please check out the old newspaper articles I have posted on these pages, especially "Dauphin School," where you will learn about Fon Gentry. I will add more articles from time to time, and perhaps a few more accounts of successful searches for the stories about the people in the articles.

Dauphin School

"Our teacher has appointed me to write the news item of the school and community to you this week. Our school has not been very full for more than a week owing to the bad weather and so much sickness. We have about forty pupils..."

Letter From An Old Settler

"I was born in Tinmouth, Vermont, on October 16th, 1827. At that time there was not a rod of railroad in the United States, the first being built in 1828. When I was five years of age, my parents moved to..."

Seventeen Brought To Dubuque

Mr. Robert Curran, accompanied by Mrs. E. Higgins, the matron in charge, arrived over the Milwaukee at 8:06 yesterday morning with a flock of orphans from the Catholic foundling asylum in New York. There were seventeen of them who alighted from one of the coaches and marched in twos...


The names of emigrants who left Schuyler county in 1849 for California, as furnished by Jonathan D. Manlove, Esq., leader of the company. The company left Rushville on the first of April and reached...

Saw Their Old Bones

Dr. Rae Felt gave an electrical seance with his new electrical apparatus brought with him from San Francisco. In the fluid generated by it, those present were afforded the novelty of bathing without undressing...

Rural Mail Delivery Experiment

Within two years a man standing in Indianapolis will be able to put his finger on every farmhouse in Indiana - that is, on the map, says the Indianapolis News. This is one of the details of the rural mail delivery experiment that...

Poor All Her Life

There died at the county home a few days ago a woman remarkable in one respect, and that is that she in all probability held the world record as to successive days spent in the almshouse. Her name is Lynn Anderson and she was....

Fight In Corkedale's Row

That pack of two-legged livestock known as the McDermotts had a field day on Thursday. The fight commenced at 1 o'clock and continued until seven in the evening. It was the greatest female "scrap" ever known in Corkedale's row...

Eloped With Tifton Girl

Miss Hattie Squires, a most beautiful and modest maiden of sixteen summers, living three miles east of Tifton, was married to Mr. Cecil E. Bower, a worthy young business man of our city, last Sunday afternoon at the Methodist Parsonage, Rev. E.M. Whiting officiating, and the strength of the matrimonial tie has been tested by the court...

An Elopement

Last week Mr. James Tuttle and a Mrs. Chapman, living about seven miles north of Louisville, eloped. Mr. Tuttle was a married man and Mrs. Chapman a married woman, each having a family. They were close neighbors, and rumors of improper intimacy between the two have been going the rounds of the neighborhood...

The Iceless Refrigerator

The iceless refrigerator, which is the very latest refinement of the electrical industry, threatens to dethrone the ice man so effectually that it may be but a short time before...

The Real Dr. Frankenstein

Dr. Franckinstein showed us Tuesday, pieces of a frog or snake which he removed from one of his lady patients' stomachs. The head, like that of a small snake, was lost through carelessness. The doctor thinks there are more such living creatures in the woman's body, caused by drinking pond water some years ago, when she swallowed...

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