Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Family's Poetic Missives

Among the pieces of family history ephemera that I found after my grandmother passed away was a small pocket-sized autograph book that belonged to my second great-grandfather Ernest Benedick.

Ernest likely received it as a Christmas gift in 1899 when he was eleven years old. The inside cover page has a date lightly inscribed in the upper right-hand corner: Dec 23 '99.

The book's pages include witty notes and forget-me-nots from friends and cousins. The inscriptions are dated between January and June 1900 with a couple sporadic additions in 1901 and 1905. Over two decades of silence followed.

The cover page to Ernest Benedick's autograph book.

The contributions suddenly picked up again on June 2, 1928 with a short, witty verse from his wife of 18 years - Bessie (Bair) Benedick.

Bessie, my second great-grandmother, wrote:

Dear Ernest
I've turned these pages ore and ore,
To see what others have wrote before,
But in this lonely spot,
I'll write these words Forget-me-not.
Yours Bessie

Bessie (Bair) Benedick

Following her mother's example, another page included a poetic missive from my great-grandmother Nevella (Benedick) Lumpkins. At eleven years old (the same age Ernest was when he received the autograph book), Nevella wrote her father a verse on their family's physical characteristics.

Nevella, my great-grandmother, wrote:

Dear daddy! -
Mama's hair is wavy;
Della's is nicely curled
Mine is strait as a twine string;
And this is the only world.
-Your daughter
Nevella Benedick

Nevella (Benedick) Lumpkins

I remember my great-grandmother Nevella as a bit of a poet. She would string lines together for witty notes in birthday cards and had a reputation for using rhyming verse to convey her sense of humor.

In a brief oral history interview, my Aunt Diane remembered her poetic habits just in time for National Poetry Day.


  1. Love these little poems! How wonderful they're still arround after all this time!

    1. It really was a surprise when I came across the autograph book and then to see handwritten notes from my 2nd and 1st great-grandmothers. A treasure for sure. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Wow!! What a wonderful heirloom.

    1. It's pretty special for sure! Thanks for your comment, Stephanie. I appreciate it.

  3. I love how she dressed her dog up. I did that to my cats when I was young.

    1. It makes me think of the fun my great-grandmother imagined and created growing up in a pre-TV, internet, iPhone world.