Bits and Pieces

When I took on this task over a year ago, I thought I might have two or three dozen of these minuscule essays in me before I completely ran out of fuel and had to switch off the light.  That was 150 postings ago, and I can still think of two or three dozen subjects that I meant to cover and haven’t gotten around to.  I did not know back then that Dave Lovewell, Dawn Gabel, Chris Lovewell, Kathy Knight, Edward Mahler, Robin Lovewell and her husband Thomas, would all come to my rescue, emailing me stories and pictures and ideas that have seen me through the year.  

I deliberately did not include Phil Thornton in that list, because Phil got tired of sending me emails that went unanswered, looked up my phone number and gave me a call.  I was delighted but confused, because I even sort through my junk email basket from time to time.  Where were Phil's emails going?  My web hosting company has only recently admitted that it was using a defunct filtering system on my account, which it removed earlier this month.  So, if anyone has tried to make contact with me and received stony silence in return, please try again.

Unless they shoot me an email or otherwise track me down, the only information I have about people who stop by the website is what city they’re in, or at least what city their service provider is in.  Whenever I learn that someone from Michigan has thumbed through a few pages, I hold out hope that a descendant of Lyman Lovewell will make contact.  This month there was a visitor from Romulus, which is about thirty miles from Lyman’s old home at New Hudson, although there hasn’t been a nibble yet.  I’m grateful that has at last put his “Sermon on American Slavery” on its site.  Perhaps someday Lyman’s correspondence with his hometown newspaper will come online, and we’ll get his firsthand description of the bloody battleground he witnessed in “Bleeding Kansas” in 1856.

I keep going back to to find little bits and pieces of news items that help to flesh out the lives of the Turnbull family of Carbondale and Topeka.  Thomas Lovewell’s first wife Nancy became the second wife of Michael Turnbull, an English immigrant who settled in Carbondale in the 1870’s, later migrating a few miles north to Topeka.  I wrote about their extended family in an item called “Real Housewives of Carbondale,” doing what I considered a decent job of explaining a bewildering set of relationships, until I heard from Dave Lovewell, who wrote, “Very interesting.  I have no idea who’s on first.”  He’s right.  Perhaps an animated vector diagram would do them justice, but this fractured family, which would soon include my own grandmother as a little girl, is much too full of head-spinning twists and turns to follow without an illustrated program.  Animation may be just the ticket.

What I’ve learned since writing that piece is that when Michael Turnbull, a miner who was already known around Carbondale as “Uncle Mike,” broke a leg in the mines in 1874, the town took up a collection to help him “start a kind of huxter stand.”  The stand may have been the start of his career as a baker.  The economic downturn of the early 1880’s must have cost Turnbull his bakery by 1885, when he was listed in the Kansas census as a laborer, but he evidently hung on to the stand.  In 1887 the Topeka Daily Commonwealth reported that the city council was discussing a request “asking that Michael Turnbull be allowed to keep a stand without taking out a license.”  Michael was doing more than playing cards in the Odd Fellows Lodge when his wife, the former Nancy Lovewell, died in 1888.

Kathy Knight, the granddaughter of Marguerite Lovewell Grigg and daughter of Harry Grigg, Jr., sent a sweet note letting me know that some things I wrote about her mom Inge “The Two Ingeborgs” and Inge’s late husband Harry “Collecting the Summer Clothes," went online just in time to brighten her mother’s 84th birthday (Happy birthday, Inge!).  Kathy had been wondering why her grandparents, Marguerite and Harry, Sr., who were neighbors in Mt. Vernon, New York, would have gone to Pasadena to be married in 1921.  I stumbled across the reason only a few days ago.  Marguerite’s older half-sister Bertha Ellen lived there with her husband George L. Dickinson, the former business manager of the country’s oldest newspaper the Hartford Courant.  Bertha Ellen Lovewell was the author of “The Life of St. Cecilia,” published in 1923.  I’ve read quite a few volumes simply because they had something to do with Lovewell history, but this is one I may skip.  

Who am I kidding?  I’ll probably order a cheap paperback copy and read most of it.  As I told Kathy, I’m nothing if not dogged.      

© Dale Switzer 2023