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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dad's "Magic Box"

Dad passed away on March 1, 2002.  I dearly miss him and everything about him.  But, I have a few things that belonged to him, and I cherish each one.  Dad had a "magic box".  He took it with him every time that he went fishing or hunting.  A friend of his called it the "magic box", as it contained whatever one might need to survive in an emergency situation.  It even came in handy when the game warden stopped by to make sure that every sportsman had the proper safety equipment with him.  It saved many a citation from being delivered to Dad and his sporting buddies.

Recently, I had decided to clean our garage to get ready for the coming winter season.  So many things had be sent to the garbage as I no longer had use for them.  When I came the shelf unit just to the left of the garage door, all things came to a halt.  I spotted the wooden box that had belonged to my Dad.  I had forgotten that I stored it on those shelves.

 Last year, I needed something to cut through a tree root.  Divine intervention guided me to this box, and as I opened it, I found a hatchet sitting right on the top of everything in the box.  It was just the tool that I needed to cut that root, and I have used it many times since then.
I realized that I had not opened the box since I found the hatchet, and I was curious as to what else was in this box. Here's a photo of the box, just having been opened :


The wooden box, haven been painted green some time ago, was now marked and gashed from years of being loaded on boats and into duck blinds on the Missouri River.  The first item on top of the contents was a blanket, green and waterproof, with one side being a silver reflective material designed to keep someone warm and dry.  As I removed the blanket, the rest of the "magic" was revealed.

I picked through each item and placed them on the floor beside the box.  Each piece had a special use, and I could see where Dad had carefully thought about what to add to the box.  Being a Mechanical Engineer, I could see how he planned, methodically, the usefulness of each item as he added them to the box.

A photo of the contents:

The contents were:

two pair of gloves, one being leather, the other being rubber insulated
a small iron skillet, with one set of tongs and one pancake flipper
Three can openers with cork screws, and a vegetable peeler
a limb saw that folds
a pair of shooting glasses in a waterproof case
binoculars in a carry case
a fire extinguisher
four table forks in a leather case
a bag full of nails of various sizes
a roll of electrical tape
a pliers, a crescent wrench and a sharp 7 inch knife
a roll of heavy wire and a spool of thick twine
three compasses, and two small cans of WD40 lubricant
bandaids and Tylenol
four large eye hooks with screw hooks to attach
Four large red rubber screw hooks
matches, matches and more matches
Three plastic rain capes
a shotgun shell, and a small light bulb (for a boat light)
four spark plugs
three pencils and a straw
Salt and Pepper shakers, filled
oh, yes, and the hatchet, not shown in the photo because I had been using it this week.

The "magic box" was repacked and carefully placed back on the shelf, dusted off a bit.  I feel a bit more fulfilled now that I know exactly what is in that box.  If I ever am in an emergency situation, I know that box just might come in handy.

Yes, my Dad was prepared for just about anything out there in the wilds of the woods while hunting deer, rabbits, quail and ducks, and also on the river or the lake trying to catch that big bass. He DID carry the usual items, like flashlights.  But the things in this "magic box" of his must have been trinkets that he thought even the most experienced eagle scout might have use for in the event he found himself in a precarious situation.  Maybe that's why I always felt safe in the company of my Dad.  I knew he would keep me safe, and he always did.  Thanks Dad.  Sure do miss you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

More Clues for Corpl. Thomas Nelson

Saturday, January 21, 1911, Hinsdale Doings, page 1, vol. XVI no.16

"Well Known Character Dies

Thomas Nelson, a much respected and well known colored citizen of Hinsdale passed away, Tuesday, January 17, at his home, corner of Vine and 3rd Streets.  Mr. Nelson was born in Mississippi and at the time of the Civil War believed himself to be about 30 years old.  He served as army nurse in a small pox hospital during the conflict, and later entered a colored regiment where his strict attention to duty soon caused him to be raised to the rank of Corporal.
While in the Army he received much praise also for bravery.  At the close of the war he came North and had been a resident of Hinsdale 33 years last April.  Soon after coming here he married Eliza, his wife, a woman who has done more for her race, in proportion to her means than many a millionaire whose gifts have received world wide fame.  Mr. Nelson was an honored member of the GAR and marched with their ranks on each recurring memorial day celebration.  For the last five years he has been in the express business and has always been held in high regard by all in Hinsdale.
He was buried from his late residence on Friday afternoon.  He leaves a widow and many who find comfort in his many high qualities and kindly deeds."

Wow.  This obit is chocked full of information about our Thomas Nelson.
Let's go comb through the obit for each tidbit:

1.  Confirmation of his date of death : January 17, 1911.  Also given, the day of the week : Tuesday.

2.  Confirmation of his place of residence, at the corner of Vine and 3rd Streets, which is 307 South Vine Street as recorded on other documents.

3.  Mentions his place of birth as Mississippi.  This matches the information on half of our previous documentation.  Other places mentioned in census records and pension records have recorded his place of birth as Alabama.  Hmmm.

4.  He believed himself to be about 30 years old at the time of the Civil War.  Well, his death record states he was about 85 years in 1911.  Other records state various other ages that could pin his birth anywhere between 1827 and 1839.  Hmmm.

5.  He served as an Army nurse in a small pox hospital.  Really?  A search for military hospital records might bring some new information.

6. He joined a Colored Regiment and was promoted to the rank of Corporal.  This is documented in his compiled service record, which I was able to obtain through www.fold3.com.

7. He was a resident of Hinsdale for 33 years.  This would mean that he first came to Hinsdale about 1878.  According to census records he lived outside Janesville, Wisconsin in 1870, and indeed he was a resident of Hinsdale in the the census of 1880.

8.  Marriage is mentioned, to Eliza, soon after he arrives in Hinsdale.  Well, partially true.  He was living in the same household with Eliza in 1880, in Hinsdale. She is mentioned as being his wife.  However, their marriage is not recorded in the county of DuPage until 1886.

9.  Eliza was obviously involved in some organization (s) that would have been of benefit to the African Americans of the time.  This is another avenue to research in the future.

10.  Thomas Nelson was a member of the GAR and marched with the ranks each Memorial Day.  He should be mentioned in the local GAR membership publications of that time, and perhaps in the newspaper articles written around the time of each annual celebration.  More research on the horizon.

11.  Thomas was in the express business during the last five years of this life.  Looking in to the business directories, advertisements, etc. in the early 1900s, along with any business records might prove to be interesting.  The Hinsdale Historical Society may have these in their files and records.

12.  The day of burial was on a Friday, and he left a widow, Eliza.  It does not mention the two children that were living with them in the census records of 1900 and 1910.  Magnolia and Henry were two children that I had assumed were the offspring of Thomas and Eliza.  Time to look into birth records and announcements.

Just look at all of the things that came from one, very well written, obituary on the front page of a local newspaper.  And the research goes on.