Saturday, June 18, 2016

Meet Sarah – Storyteller, Visionary, Keeper of Family Scrapbooks

Sarah Eva “Sallie” Howe was my husband’s paternal grandmother. I never knew her in person, but I know the stories she left behind. Through her writings, I feel a kinship with her. Before we start exploring her 72 scrapbooks, I’ll introduce Sarah.

Sarah was born 10 August 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio, likely at the home of her maternal grandparents. She was the first-born child of Robert James Howe and Alice Ada Cost Howe. Robert, son of Irish immigrants John Howe and Sarah Brown, co-owned and operated Howe Brothers store, which sold fashionable clothing he selected with care during his annual buying trips to New York. Alice was the daughter of Cincinnati businessman and civic leader Richard Henry Cost and Sarah Evaline Arnet.

Sarah learned from her family to appreciate family history and the preservation of family stories. In her earliest scrapbooks, she carefully pasted an assortment of family treasures: essays written by her mother and father in the 1870s; handwritten family chronologies; certificates for church attendance; courtship notes; a receipt for Alice’s wedding band; at-home cards; letters; photographs; newspaper clippings; and other bits of paper so often lost but saved and treasured by the Cost and Howe families as mementos of events both mundane and grand.

Those early scrapbooks also include many of Sarah’s own writings: letters to and from cousins and friends; school work; essays she wrote just because she loved to write! Most of Sarah’s essays are what you might find in a diary. They reveal the daily life of a girl growing up in Carrollton, Kentucky, a thriving town at the confluence of the Ohio and Kentucky rivers. She was part of a respected upper-middle-class family during the industrial-revolution 1880s, the full-of-optimism 1890s, and the early years of a new century.

Sarah’s musings touch on major events happening not only in her household and her community but throughout the world: the sinking of the Maine, the declaration of the Spanish-American War,  struggles in an increasingly unsettled Chile and in the Philippines. World events were in the headlines, and the ripples they caused reached all the way to Carrollton, making them important topics of everyday discussion in the Howe household.

Through her scrapbooks, Sarah kept family facts and stories alive for the future. She enchanted her four children with tales about their immigrant ancestors, including four who came to this continent aboard the Mayflower.

The 72 Howe-Salyers scrapbooks, the latest ones continued by Sarah’s daughter Mary Alice Salyers Hays, are crumbling. I am working to find a permanent repository that will accept them and protect them for future generations. In the meantime, this blog honors Sarah and saves her memories for my grandsons and all who have connections with these family lines. Now that you have met Sarah, I hope you will join me in exploring her scrapbooks, her thoughts, her history.

Even if you are not related to this family, Sarah’s writings may offer insight into the daily lives of your own ancestors who lived in Sarah's time and place.

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