It’s finally spring!  That time of year when you start wondering what your ancestors were planting!  No?  That’s just me?  Well, anyway, if you WERE curious, you’re in luck!

A number of Peter Henderson & Co. catalogs, like the one below, are available through Internet Archive.

Peter Henderson & Co 1875
Peter Henderson & Co’s Seed Catalogue (New York: Munroe & Metz, 1875); Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/peterhendersonco18pete_0 : accessed 7 May 2018).

These catalogs were advertised in newspapers across the country.  One could write away for a free copy or, for the low price of 50 cents, the company would throw in five “beautiful colored plates.”  This was likely an appealing option for the young housewife looking to spruce up her home.

Everything for the Garden
Hancock Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 4 Feb 1875, p. 2, col. 7.

For the family historian, seed catalogs can serve a multitude of purposes.  Want to know why great-grandpa planted timothy?  Check out page 79 of the 1875 catalog.  Timothy was also known as “herd grass.”  According to Peter Henderson & Co., it would “produce a larger crop” and “more nutriment” than other grasses planted for feeding farm animals.

Your third great-grandpa’s estate inventory lists a “Wethersfield seed drill” and “two English bill hooks.”  Won’t the drawings on page 88 help bring history to life?

Was someone a passionate gardener who prided herself on growing plants no one else in town had seen yet?  The newest varieties of flowers for the year are listed on page 5.

Perhaps you’ll use the illustrations to help identify those flowers by your family’s doorstep in the reunion photo.

Keep an open mind.  Any tiny detail might add value to your family history!


Indexing: Wills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1860

If you need help navigating to the Pennsylvania probate records on FamilySearch, click here for guidance.

Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image.

Image No. Name Township Date Proved
384 Susanna Steinberger Borough of Youngstown 14 Jan 1860
385 John Hohenshell South Huntingdon 16 Jan 1860
386 George Shrum Ligonier 14 Feb 1860
Mary Galbreath 14 Feb 1860
Barney Cole Borough of Latrobe 18 Feb 1860
387 Fr Richard Weidinger 12 Mar 1860
Adam Erritt Hempfield 26 Mar 1860
388 Abraham Brant Sr Ligonier 4 Apr 1860
Robert Elwood Franklin 7 Apr 1860
Clark Brant South Huntingdon 12 Apr 1860
389 Elizabeth Newill Mt Pleasant 12 Apr 1860
Andrew Arnold Burrell 13 Apr 1860
391 James Mitcheltree Allegheny 14 May 1860
David Stoops Salem 26 May 1860
392 John Craig Unity 28 May 1860
John Steel Salem 28 May 1860
393 John Watt Franklin 5 Jun 1860
394 Philip Long Sr Franklin 14 Jun 1860
Elijah Newlon Sewickley 15 Jun 1860
395 Abraham Rumbaugh Mt Pleasant 20 Jun 1860
396 John Parke Cook 27 Jun 1860
Elizabeth Davis Village of Murrysville 9 Jul 1860
397 Peter Keslar Donegal 23 Jul 1860
398 Robert Hamilton Ligonier 30 Jul 1860
Samuel Temple Salem 9 Aug 1860
399 John Goodman 14 Aug 1860
400 Benjamin Hill Salem 1 Sep 1860
Joseph Eisaman Hempfield 8 Sep 1860
Otho Brown Donegal 12 Sep 1860
401 Margaret McCreary Fairfield 18 Sep 1860
Nimrod A Gregg West Newton 24 Sep 1860
402 George Pifer Salem 28 Sep 1860
Mary Pool Hempfield 6 Oct 1860
403 David Lowe East Huntingdon 11 Oct 1860
Justin Loomis Greensburg 12 Oct 1860
404 Michael Miller Hempfield 19 Oct 1860
405 Elizabeth Reynolds Sewickley 24 Oct 1860
Robert McConnaughey Ligonier 2 Nov 1860
406 Nancy Patterson 19 Nov 1860
James Loughrey or Loughey Brookville, Jefferson Co., PA 21 Nov 1860
407 Sarah Jane Hall 15 Dec 1860
Joseph Byerly North Huntingdon 27 Dec 1860

Indexing: Wills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1859

If you need help navigating to the Pennsylvania probate records on FamilySearch, click here for guidance.

Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image.

Image No. Name Township Date Proved
358 William Barnes North Huntingdon 15 Jan 1859
Robert Gant Sewickley 8 Feb 1859
359 Susan Kuhns Greensburg 10 Jan 1859
Jacob Kiehl Sr Hempfield 13 Jan 1859
360 John Bennett Rostraver 13 Jan 1859
Joseph Barkley Donegal 14 Jan 1859
Adam Snyder Hempfield 5 Feb 1859
361 James Hewet Allegheny 7 Feb 1859
George W Painter 11 Feb 1859
362 Christena Horrell Fairfield 14 Feb 1859
Elizabeth Hunter Mt Pleasant 14 Feb 1859
John Stahl Sr Cook 22 Feb 1859
363 Jesse Walton 28 Feb 1859
Andrew Graham Fairfield 4 Mar 1859
John Feighlner Hempfield 7 Mar 1859
364 George McDivit or McDevett Bell 9 Mar 1859
365 William Sterling Sr Derry 15 Mar 1859
John Lobingier Borough of Mt Pleasant 22 Mar 1859
366 Hannah Ogden Fairfield 28 Mar 1859
367 Henry Rhodes South Huntingdon 2 Apr 1859
Nancy Pore Mt Pleasant 6 Apr 1859
368 Mary Thomas Unity 6 Apr 1859
George Kelley South Huntingdon 12 Apr 1859
369 Bela B Smith Rostraver 2 May 1859
David G Logan North Huntingdon 7 May 1859
370 William Gelson Town of New Florence 12 May 1859
John Neal or Neel Mt Pleasant 12 May 1859
Daniel Court West Newton 16 May 1859
371 John Woods Loyalhanna 17 May 1859
Michael France Unity 19 May 1859
372 Mary Henry Sewickley 20 May 1859
William Chambers Washington 24 May 1859
373 Richard Henry Smith 30 May 1859
Michael Moyer East Huntingdon 2 Jun 1859
374 Mary Huston Fairfield 14 Jun 1859
John Snyder Hempfield 18 Jun 1859
375 Nicholas Snyder Rostraver 16 Jul 1859
Joseph McKee Allegheny 29 Jul 1859
376 Alexander Pool Hempfield 30 Jul 1859
James Thompson Unity 8 Aug 1859
377 James McKillup Borough of Salem 11 Aug 1859
Michael Keener Salem 29 Aug 1859
Christopher Hepler South Huntingdon 30 Aug 1859
378 William Aspey South Huntingdon 30 Aug 1859
David Klingensmith Penn 1 Sep 1859
379 Magdalene Smith Franklin 15 Sep 1859
Jonathan Rosentell Hempfield 4 Oct 1859
380 Catharine Snyder Hempfield 11 Oct 1859
Cooper Marsh Sewickley 25 Oct 1859
Ann Elizabeth Markle Unity 4 Nov 1859
381 Maria Crisman Randolph 15 Nov 1859
William Thompson Sr 15 Nov 1859
Philip Waughaman Salem 15 Nov 1859
382 Andrew Hoffer Donegal 24 Nov 1859
383 Andrew Fry Salem 6 Dec 1859
Susanna Muma 13 Dec 1859
384 Peter Tash Ligonier 19 Dec 1859
George Pore Mt Pleasant 24 Dec 1859


The Family Photo Album: Lincoln School, 1930-1931

Below is a photo of Lucia Arras’s second grade class at Lincoln School in Findlay, Ohio.  It was taken in early spring, 1931.


Lucia is visible just over her teacher’s shoulder in the light-colored dress.

The boys are wearing the typical outfit of the day: dress shirt, sweater and tie, knickerbockers and long woolen socks.  It wasn’t until they were older that most boys would graduate to long pants.

Of particular interest are the shoes worn by two young men in the front row:

1930-31 shoes

Look familiar?  They’re early Converse athletic shoes!  Within the next year or so, the Chuck Taylor name was added to the badge visible on the inner ankle.

converse ad 1931
Marion Star (Marion, Ohio), 9 Sep 1931, p 6 col 7.

At the time, a pair of these shoes cost about $1.101.  A loaf of bread cost roughly 7 cents and a pound of cheese, 20 cents2.

Several other children in Lucia’s class are recognizable when compared with her 6th grade photo.

Jeanne Anne Athey:

jeanne anne athey 1941
Jeanne Anne Athey in the Findlay High School yearbook, Class of 1941

James Quinlan:

james quinlan 1941
James Quinlan in the Findlay High School yearbook, Class of 1941

Twins, Marian and Mildred Saller.


mildred and marian saller 1941
Marian Saller in the Findlay High School yearbook, Class of 1941


mildred and marian saller 1941
Mildred Saller in the Findlay High School yearbook, Class of 1941

Oddly, when the Arras family sold their home on Joy Avenue to move to 519 W. Lincoln, it was the Saller family that moved in!  Lucia always remembered the neighbors there at Joy Avenue, George and Minnie Gayer, with great fondness.  It was they who gave her her first (and only) doll.

1 Evening Independent (Massillon, OH), p 1, col 2
2 Brazil Daily Times (Brazil, IN), p 6, col 1 & col 6.

Stanley Robert Smith: Who Knew?

As much as I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, it seems unlikely that certain portions of the family were oblivious of Stanley’s actions leading up to his arrest for violations of the Dyer Act.

The barn on Park Street that Stanley and his cohorts used to store and work on their stolen vehicles was most likely on the property of his wife’s parents, the Foremans.  How else would the police have known to look there first?  The lot was not a particularly large one as the Foremans lived in town.

I’ve never removed and replaced a car’s engine before, but I would guess it is neither a quiet nor a clean job.  It is hard to imagine that no one in the family ever heard metallic clanging from the barn or saw people move cars and car parts in and out.

My own great-grandparents, Oliver Arras and Clara Viola Smith, also likely suspected that something was going on.  Suddenly, during the Great Depression, two of their college-aged sons had cars of their own.  From the stories told within the family, money was tight enough that meat was not often on the table during this time period.  A lot of our favorite family recipes–noodles and mashed potatoes, potato soup with rivels–have their source in the Arrases’ lean times.  My grandma would not eat milk gravy as an adult because her family had had to rely on it so many times when she was a child.

Even today, when these financial considerations don’t apply, I cannot imagine my children suddenly appearing with cars of their own.  I’d probably worry that they were selling drugs.

Perhaps, then, the question is not, “Did the family know?”, but “Why did they stay quiet?”

Maybe the money that Stanley and his nephew brought in was helping to support their families.  Both families had young children at home.

Perhaps they just couldn’t bring themselves to report their own relatives to the police.

What do you think?


Stanley Robert Smith: “Horse Laugh”

It seems that Stanley was lucky the county prosecutor, Marcus C. Downing, had such an interesting sense of humor:

Former Prosecutor Admits One on Him

Even an astute prosecuting attorney gets it “hung over” on him occasionally as Former Prosecuting Attorney Downing will tell you–if you ask him.

Some months ago Stanley Smith Findlay young man who pleaded guilty in Toledo Thursday to automobile thefts, told this one on the former prosecutor:

Smith returned from Ft. Wayne, Ind., with a stolen car.  In order to get in touch with his companion in crime, George Foster who pleaded guilty yesterday also, Smith drove onto Beech avenue and parked in front of a lighted home to use the phone.  When he rapped at the door the then prosecutor came to the door.  (Downing had twice sent Smith to jail on offenses and recognized him.)

“Hello Mr. Downing,” Smith said when he recognized his adversary in court.  “Ah, er — can I use your phone?”

“Sure, come in,” said Downing.  Whereupon Smith said he called up Foster, though the prosecutor knew nothing of the conversation.

“How are you getting along?” asked the prosecutor, when Smith was about to leave.

“Oh, just fine,” Smith replied.

“That’s good, keep it up,” was Downing’s God-speed to him.

Whereupon Smith drove away in his stolen car.

“Yep, that’s right.  He did,” was Downing’s good-natured comment when the reporter asked his corroboration of the story.1

1 “Horse Laugh,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 17 Mar 1933, p 9 col 2.

Chance Finds: A Story With A-Peel

From the Boston Daily Globe, 26 Sep 1917, p1:


Overripe Cargo Arrives in Fruit Steamer

Company Required to Distribute Under Appeal to Hoover

Boston and vicinity never saw such a banana craze as prevailed yesterday and it probably never will again, for the United Fruit Company gave away, to all who were willing to receive, the entire cargo of one of its steamships that arrived Monday from Central America laden with 27,000 bunches, approximating 3,000,000 bananas.

All the afternoon and the greater part of the night men, women and children of the North End, to say nothing of thousands from more or less distant sections of Greater Boston, crowded the freight shed on Long Wharf, in many cases wallowed in slush composed of rotten bananas, up to their ankles.

They fought and struggled for the possession of tempting looking bunches of the yellow fruit, which in a majority of cases, after they had been obtained fell all to pieces within half a minute, leaving only a bare stem to be mourned over.  The fruit was over-ripe, and that was why it was given away.

Boiler Breaks Down

It all came about through one of the boilers of the steamship having become inoperative for awhile during her last trip to Central America, so disarranging the refrigerating plant that the temperature in her hold on the way to Boston with her banana cargo ranged from 80 to 90 degrees instead of about 55, the needed temperature for delaying the ripening of bananas.

When the hold was opened Monday, at Long Wharf, the cargo was found apparently dead ripe instead of green, as it should have been, in order to be saleable, for that fruit is always ripened artificially after it has reached the dealer’s hands.  Not only was it nearly all ripe, but much of the cargo in the lower hold had been reduced to a state comparable with thick pea soup.

Vice Pres Eugene W. Ong of the United Fruit Company said last evening that the fruit was so soft and its tendency to rot so rapid, after it is once started, that he appealed to the Board of Health for its opinion as to dumping the whole cargo overboard, feeling sure that none of it would last long enough to be of practical use to any one.

Some Called Fit for Food

“For many years,” said he, “we have given strict orders to all our managers throughout the country never to destroy any fruit until the local health officials have declared it unfit for food.  So we followed that rule in the present case.

“An inspector from the Boston Board of Health after looking over the cargo gave it as his opinion that much of the cargo was fit for food.  Ripening bananas generate a great deal of gas, which it is necessary to constantly release from a ship’s hold, and as our defective refrigerating plant had not allowed the release of that gas in this case, we were afraid the edibility of the fruit might have been seriously affected by the gas.  We had no desire to poison anybody.

“For that reason we asked W. W. Paine of the Boston branch of the Agricultural Department at Washington to test the fruit which was not entirely spoiled, which he did, giving the opinion that it was not injured.

“Thereupon we called up the city authorities and notified them that the municipal institutions could have all the bananas they chose to take away from the wharf.  A general invitation to the public to the same effect was also issued.

Fruit Sent to the Camps

“We sent eight carloads of the fruit to different military camps in this State today and notified the Navy Yard and harbor forts to come and get all they wanted.

If they do not arrive there in a condition fit to eat, it will not be our fault, as we have made no pretense of being able to guarantee their quality.”

On hearing of the company’s proposition to the Board of Health that it be permitted to dump the entire cargo overboard, Mayor Curley telegraphed to Food Administrator Hoover at Washington that the fruit company had asked the Board of Health to condemn its entire cargo and allow it to be dumped into the sea, whereas the Board of Health claimed the fruit was fit for the market. The Mayor added: “I believe this an attempt to destroy food in order that high prices may be maintained. What do you advise?”

Vice Pres Ong of the fruit company last evening characterized the Mayor’s telegram as “a political play,” entirely unwarranted by facts. The cargo if marketable was worth about $30,000 and it cost about $2500 to unload and distribute the fruit even if given away. The latter sum would have been saved if the dumping was at sea.

Could Have Dumped Outside

“If our intention in seeking to dump the fruit overboard had been to maintain prices,” said Mr. Ong, “we cold have dumped it before coming into port, or we could have kept it on board the steamer till Thursday, when she sailed again, and have dumped it as soon as she got outside the harbor. Our good intentions are manifested in our asking the judgment of the local Board of Health.”

The extent to which average humanity will go for the sake of getting something for nothing was never better illustrated than by the thousands of people who fought and scrambled in mud and slush for many hours to get a bunch of bananas, which if in marketable condition, was worth about $1.50 at wholesale.

The early comers, about noontime, had an easy time, as hundreds of bunches were stacked within the freight shed. Those early callers fared best, for the fruit they obtained had been on the upper deck and parts of the bunches were still green, making it possible to ripen them naturally at home.

But the farther down in the ship the stevedores went, the worse the condition of the cargo, the lower strata being reduced to absolute slush. About one bunch in 10 of the upper cargo would be green or partly so, and for their possession natives of sunny Italy who were experts, fought vigorously.

Came With Trucks

At no time was there much less than 1000 persons scrambling about the open ports of the steamship, where the incessant shouting and yelling made a pandemonium. Moreover, wagons, automobiles and auto trucks were backed up in a long row close to the steamer, loading up in some cases for the benefit of municipal or suburban charitable institutions, though some drivers frankly confessed that they were there from no such altruistic motive.

One Italian had a load that must have aggregated about 10,000 bananas, which took him hours to solicit from the distributers. Even the familiar Fish-Pier jitney buss called for a load which was said to be destined for the poor children of Somerville. Another big load was taken away in an undertaker’s auto.

At nearby street corners all the evening automobiles, occupied by well-dressed persons, waited while one of the number spent an hour or more getting one, two or three bunches of the yellow fruit to take home as proud trophies.

Other bunches were wheeled homeward in baby carriages, toy carts or wheelbarrows or hand carts, while hundreds were satisfied with a quantity of the fruit tied up in a large bandana handkerchief, a newspaper, a school book strap, a meal bag or a leather handbag.

May Be Dangerous Eating

Officials of the Fruit Company last evening expressed some fear as to the effect of a free indulgence in that particular cargo of bananas on the stomachs of the recipients. Even such of the fruit as looked inviting had never properly ripened, but rotted while still green, owing to the intense heat of the ship’s hold.

Vice Pres. Ong telegraphed to Food Administrator Hoover, [anent?] an earlier telegram of Mayor Curley, last night, reciting the foregoing facts and denying any attempt to maintain high prices by du[m]ping a cargo overboard.