The Jeffers Engine sits in the basement of Station 2 of the Woonsocket Fire Department, covered in dust and surrounded by workout equipment. Built by William Jeffers of Pawtucket, pulled first by hand, then by horse, and now missing its pump, the first steam fire engine the department purchased in 1872 is a far cry from the massive engines in the garage above. Something in the large red wheels and the big dull water drum shares their spirit, though. It too once raced through the streets of Woonsocket towards scenes of danger, carrying fire fighters just as determined to save lives and livelihoods as those who serve today. Continue reading The Jeffers Engine
The recent news that a leak at the National Archives in Boston damaged about 300 hundred cubic feet of records during the government shutdown was hard to hear for many of us who work with records collections as caretakers and researchers. While I immediately thought about the loss of the 1890 census in 1921 and the fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in 1973, I was relieved to hear that most of the damaged records only need to be air dried and rehoused in new folders and boxes. This reminded me of a fascinating tool created by Suzanne Morgan, a conservator at Arizona State University to help archivists and conservators find the perfect container for any item they might encounter. Continue reading A gift for archivists
I recently passed my first anniversary here at NEHGS, a year during which I spent a lot of time reflecting on my own ancestry as I researched the forebears of people with deep colonial roots in the United States. My mother emigrated from Ireland in the ‘80s and my father’s ancestors are almost entirely nineteenth-century immigrants. The Gaggiolis and Mordinis from Italy, the Beires and Umdenstocks from Germany, and the Sages from England all made their way to the Midwest, and by the beginning of the twentieth century they had coalesced in Libertyville, Illinois, where my grandparents, Richard Gaggioli and Anita Sage, married. These immigrant ancestors shaped my life: the food I eat, the religion I practice, the countries where I travel. The colonists were people I only studied in school; they weren’t my ancestors. Continue reading Finding my Connecticut roots
There is a family story that is slowly becoming legend as the generations pass. When the mood turns nostalgic and sentimental at family gatherings, someone will inevitably tell the story of the Sages and the train.
The story tells how my great-great-great-grandparents, James Sage and Sally Hastings, died at the same moment on 8 March 1914, when they were struck by a train in Libertyville, Illinois. They were returning home from visiting their son, who had just dropped them off at the station. As the train arrived, they attempted to cross the tracks to the far platform, but did not succeed. It is not surprising that they were unable to make it quickly across the tracks, for they were elderly, 79 and 77. It is also not surprising that they attempted it, too, as James Sage had been foolish around a train at least once before, losing a foot some years earlier, also in a train accident. Continue reading Even unto death