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Museum book contains old obituaries
By ANNA BROWN
Those who helped put together “Obituaries and Reports of Death” say it is both an entertaining read and an excellent source of Union County history and genealogy.
The book, an extract of all the obituaries published in The Progress newspaper from 1915-25, is a publication of the Union County Musuem. Museum director Ola Jean Kelly and assistant Rozelle Bramlett said purchasing a book is a good way to help the museum financially. Copies are $20 each. The museum will make around $14 per book.
“The book is selling well,” Kelly said. “I have mailed out many of them (to people ordering from areas outside of Union County.) And when we sell out we can re-order and have more in four or five days.”
A signing for the book is planned soon. Many people, including museum interns, helped work on the book and Kelly said she hopes as many of those who can will participate in the signing.
The book has been eight years in the making. Those compiling the book went through The Progress issues seven times collecting the obituaries. One challenge was the obituaries were not in a set place in the paper in every edition. According to the acknowledgement, the book is the result of much research by many individuals and includes not only obituaries, but also reports of death in the paper, accidental and otherwise.
Kelly said Bramlett had been a big help, including an extensive editing of the index of names as the project came to a close. Local historian Robert Grady, who published “Busted Until Christmas” with Dr. Dan O'Shields, provided valuable advice about the book publishing process.
The book is dedicated to the late Allan Nicholson, editor of the Progress, and his staff. They are pictured in the book.
Some of the obituaries are almost humorous. Many are tragic. Some death accounts are lurid. One death account of a 70-year-old man said he drank “a lot of carbolic acid, one of the most painful ways of self destruction.” His family being dead, “he apparently while in a state of despondency committed this awful act.”
“They went into detail about how someone died,” Bramlett said. “Now, everything is so sanitized.”
Kelly said she was amused by one obituary that said, “He was in perfect health until he dropped dead.”
“They didn't say someone had heart trouble; he had indigestion,” she said. “They had many different names for heart attacks.”
The forward, written by Grady, asks the reader to remember the times in which the book was written and that the articles and obituaries don't reflect the thoughts, opinions or beliefs of the museum's staff and volunteers.
If someone finds an error in the book, it can be corrected before the next printing. The obituaries are printed exactly as they were in The Progress; they will not be changed from the way they were printed in the newspaper.
(Posted February 20, 2017)