Autograph Books were an ideal gift for a female in one’s life during the 19th
century. Highly decorated or plain, expensive or not, the books were to be filled by
friends or acquaintances of the owner who avidly sought signatures as do the high school
seniors today with their yearbooks.
One album in the Historical Society’s collection was written in the 1830’s. Its
colored pages for messages and signatures are interspersed with rather somber
lithographs but its pages are lightened with original flower paintings by the writers. The
messages are usually a page long and in a religious or sentimental family vein. This book
belonged to the great parents of Dorothy M. Parker.
Another book was filled by one Cornelia L. Payne during the years 1879-1889. She
attended Troy Business School and the signatures are from students in that school from
the surrounding communities. It is in the collection because of Sarah Lovinia Dennis of
Whitehall, who wrote: Nell, Though lost to sight, to memory dear, your friend.”
Autographs became set often, as did the inscriptions on cemetery stones and one
reads over and over the same verses like the ones in Maggie Jones’ book. She was from
Granville but many of the entries are from Whitehall. Her daughter Blodwen Williams
wrote: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Candy is sweet, And so are you, while Ella
Williams wrote: When you are married and live upstairs, don’t get proud and put on airs.”
Her father wrote his greeting in Welsh as did many of her friends.
Autographs are found in other places and in the collection are some school books
whose leaves are used for friendly greetings and sentiments. In Cora Mylotte’s arithmetic
book is this When this you see, Remember me and all my faults forget erase them from
thy memory if they remain there yet. Yours respectfully, Chas. E. McFarren; while
Carrie McFarren said: Cora, What people write in albums seems to me all the same, and
all I have to give you is my friendship and my name”. Others had no signature but show
the verse used. My pen is poor, My ink is pale, My love for you shall never fail. Forget
me not, forget me never, strawberry face won’t last forever. When this you see,
remember me a bare mind a constant friend is hard to find but when you find one just as
true change not the old one for the new.
And Cora had this one for a friend: Always remember And never forget, Leibbie
and Cora are good friends yet. Plow deep when the sluggards sleep And you will have
corn to sell and to keep.
Do you have Grandma’s or Mother’s old album? Get it out and spend some happy
moments with it. You’ll be surprised to find what a great person she was through other’s
eyes and what kind of people she knew through their own choice of greetings.
In July 1872 Rev. D. Lull came to stay in Whitehall for a time with Mr. and Mrs.
Anson Parks, as he said “Away from the heated, dusty, noisy streets of the great
metropolis, among the glorious lakes and hills of the Champlain region.” With the present
heat wave we might agree with her when she told the guest she would sooner live in a
hovel on Skene Mountain and pick whortleberries for a living than be in the noise-smitten
brown stone and brick imprisoned city.
Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 27, 1972