Monday, March 26, 2012

"Rare" "Unique" Historical Book Surfaces at Methodist Church

The Methodist Church in Greenville learned last week of an historical book that the church made in 1861.  The ladies of Greenville Methodist Church formed a Georgia Relief Society to aid in the war effort.  The ladies formed the organization, chose as President Mrs. E. A. Harris, two vice presidents and Mrs. Park, secretary.  It is Mrs. Park’s beautiful floral script that records throughout the handmade book.
   The book itself is in remarkable shape.  The thick quality paper is yellowed but not in damaged or brittle shape. The ink is the bronzed brown color of an aged handwritten document.  The middle section of the book is blank as the secretary recorded minutes of each meeting, bereavement notices and thoughts of each local soldier killed or wounded in the war, and a list of what each of the ladies brought to that meeting to be donated to the soldiers away at war at the front of the book and at the end the book contains a simpler list of the dated and itemized donations.
   When told about the book and its price tag, members of the historical society researched how to go about making sure of its authenticity. Comparing the names to the church rolls and the 1860 census was the method suggested by Kay Minchew from the museum in LaGrange and she also suggested verifying with signatures from deeds, letters, and family Bibles; however, as one secretary inscribed all the information that method was unnecessary.  Also numerous local folk with an interest in genealogy and history appeared and recognized family names immediately.
   Charles Roth, Marietta antiques dealer, purchased the book at a private estate sale between Newnan and Atlanta.  His specialty is rare books and the Civil War period specifically. Inside the cover of the book the name “Mrs. Albert Herring, Greenville, GA” is inscribed and done at an obvious later period.  Roth said he always contacts people connected to the originator of an item to see if they want that item first. If the present day church does not make the purchase he will exhibit the book at shows and probably it will be sold at auction in New York later this year.
   Roth said he did not know the full extent of the book’s worth, but he knew it is rare with few of this type known to exist-especially in Georgia.
   The ladies’ society began July 15th, 1861 and set up a constitution and by laws, elected officers, and listed its members. Some well known names from the area are Martin, Harris, McClendon, Hall, Blaylock, Westbrook, Lovejoy, Garrison, Williams, Robertson, Banning, Peevy, Render, Freeman, Callaway, Ector, Mala, Park, and Lee.
   The lists of items donated are fairly repetitious: shirts, drawers, and dollar amounts.  One can only imagine the ladies going home after such society meetings inspired to do more for the war effort and their loved ones and so they stitched long into the night making shirts and flannel drawers.
   Of local interest to church secretary Sally Estes and Sally Neal were those recordings of their ancestors Sallie Render, grandmother of Mary Ellen Hill and the late Render and Pinson Hill, who donated numerous shirts.  Mrs. Abner Callaway, who was the mother of Fuller E. Callaway, regularly donated handmade items of clothing. 
   While Mr. Roth was in Greenville with the book, numerous people came in to examine the piece.  There was a remarkable energy and noticeable excitement as each person found and touched their ancestor’s name and noted their church donations.
   All agreed that ideally the book should be purchased, copies made of it to protect the original, and it should be placed in the local archives so that scholars can have access to it.
   For more information, contact Sally Estes at the Methodist Church or Sally Neal at the Meriwether Historical Society.