Friday, May 20, 2016

Serendipity Day

Had a delightful lunch rendezvous with Doris Woodward, long-long time member of EWGS. She was the editor/compiler of the EWGS publication, The Bulletin, for years and years. Nearing 90, she’s not coming to meeting much anymore but it was still a delight to see her and find that she’s still as sharp and funny as ever.


This was Sue Kreikemeier’s President’s Message in the lastest issue of the Newsletter of the Whitman County Genealogical Society (Pullman). It was titled “Hidden Gems.”

In my professional life, I do a fair amount of driving around Whitman County, and enjoy exploring along the way. I am drawn to small cemeteries and dirt roads, and, when my schedule allows, will take a short detour to explore those. (A favorite reference is “Reflections on the Road: A Journey Through Whitman County Past and Present” by Martha Mullen.)

For years, while driving through Oakesdale, the McCoy Museum located right downtown, just a stone’s throw from the old Barron Flour Mill, has intrigued me. However, it wasn’t until unexpected business took me to Oakesdale on a Sunday afternoon that I was able to explore the Museum. What a trove of little gems I discovered! Now, maybe you are already aware of the contents of the museum. But at the risk of delivering old news, I thought I’d share some of my “discoveries”.

As I entered the museum Gail Parsons, a longtime volunteer and supporter of the McCoy Museum, greeted me. Following introductions I was quickly drawn to a shelf containing several stacks of old, leather-bound record books. When he saw my eyes light up with interest he proceeded to pull volumes off the shelves and spread them out on tables for my perusal.

Here’s a brief sampling of some of the treasures I found:
1920 Oakesdale Census
Justice Dockets 1894-1940
Record of Licenses 1891-1938 (dog licenses, peddler licenses, pool room and card table licenses were common entries)
Town Accounts 1893-1915
Various election records, poll books, and tally sheets
Improvement Bonds records 1920-1991, including purchasers of bonds

What a plethora of names, dates, and details painting a picture of a small, vital community! One of the more intriguing entries I noted was a justice docket entry regarding a case of forgery…that might make for some interesting embellishment to one’s family tree!

Whether you have roots in Oakesdale or not, I recommend a stroll through the museum as a reminder of small town life, local history, and the many ways records can illuminate our family stories.

Happy Trails! Sue Rogers Kreikemeier, President, Whitman County Genealogical Society


Kim Morgan’s last class in her series, Finding Your Ancestors, offers a wrap-up day on Saturday, June 11th, 11:00, at the Hayden Library (8385 N. Government Way, Hayden Lake….just north of Coeur d’Alene). Guest speaker will be Darwin Kellicut explaining how he found his “Genealogical Holy Grail in Tralee, Ireland.” This is also a Resource Day “to share books on Irish, Ulster-Irish, German, England and reference and history books as well as other great research aids.”


The headline read: “Insect Bite Ends Billings’ Life.”

On Thursday, May 19, 2016, Jim Kershner’s This Day in History column in our paper, The Spokesman, recounted  the sad story from back on May 18, 1916:  “A.C. Billings, 54, former mayor of Harrington, Washington, died from a most unusual cause: a tick bite. Billings was fishing on Crab Creek two weeks earlier when he was bitten by a tick. He did not discover the tick until a week later, after it had burrowed into his navel. He removed the tick, but the head remained embedded. He became seriously ill and went to a Spokane doctor, who discovered that gangrene had set in. The head of the tick was found and removed, “but the poison could not be checked.” His condition worsened and at least 20 doctors were called into observe and advise. None of them could do anything for Billings, and he died several days later at Sacred Heart Hospital. The doctors declared that it was one of the first tick deaths recorded west of the Rocky Mountains. They remained baffled by the case….”

Poor fellow was Arthur Clarence Billings, born in July 1862 in New Hampshire, son of Henry Billings and Emma Hatch. According to the 1900 and 1910 census, he was a wheat farmer near Harrington in Lincoln County with wife Emma.  According to the history of Harrington website, he was the first mayor of Harrington in 1901. No children were listed on either census.

A.C. Billings lies resting in Greenwood Cemetery, in the upper/older part. I found no tombstone for him (or Emma) but the office map pointed to this area.


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