History at Hand


In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons . . . .

So begins Elizabeth Gaskell’s delightful Cranford (1853).  My little copy is from 1906, and belonged to:

Isabella Huffsmith
Isabella Huffsmith

Because of this book, I discovered that there is a whole world out there devoted to handwriting research and genealogy.  Well, of course — perfect sense if I had ever thought about it.  What does Isabella Huffsmith’s handwriting say about her?  That she lived during a time when people used ink pots, and schools actually taught handwriting according to systems — I’m guessing the Palmer method, in her case.  That she read this book as a schoolgirl: the book was published by Ginn & Company as part of their Standard English Classics series of inexpensive school texts.  That she kept this book but perhaps did not read it again — the pages are crisp, the binding tight.  A memento of her girlhood?  Frugality? Or just because?

I picked this book up a few years ago from a used bookstore in northern Colorado, and on the off-chance that there might be information on the internet about Isabella Huffsmith, I started searching last night.  And there was in fact a Isabella Huffsmith born in Weld County in 1898!  If this is the same Isabella — and the dates and region do match — she too came from Colorado pioneer stock and married Charles Ovid Plumb (1895 – 1997) in 1918.  C. O.’s grandfather Plumb had been a wealthy Union Colonist, and maternal grandfather White had settled in Greeley in 1871 and had been a farmer, mason, postmaster, and mayor.  Isabella and C. O. moved to the White-Plumb Farm in 1923 and spent the rest of their lives there, farming and raising six girls.  Isabella died in 1991, but before her death, she and C. O. decided  to deed the property to the City of Greeley to be used as an agricultural heritage center after their deaths.

The Plumb Farm Learning Center was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

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