What’s in the Trunk?

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I have good progress to report about Emmett and his six month sojourn in Sterling, Illinois, in 1906.

First, I finished the microfilm from the Abraham LIncoln Presidential Library in record time. I had no choice; the loan window on this set of film was small. I think I gave myself a neck cramp from reading three reels (or two years’ worth of newspapers) in three days. There wasn’t a lot (quantity), but what I did find was good.

The one month I really wanted to see (July, 1906, the last month Emmett lived in Sterling) was missing from the collection. The ALPL may have it. I don’t have that confirmed yet. So, I contacted the Sterling, Illinois Public Library to see if they had anything in their holdings.

Sterling Public Library's Digital Archives

Sterling Public Library’s Digital Archives

The head librarian got back to me the same day: They do not loan film via InterLIbrary Loan. But, most of their historic newspaper holdings are digital and online, and as luck would have it, she pointed out that the year I wanted is available. YEAH!

She sent me the direct link. There’s no need to subscribe to newspapers.com, or genealogybank.com. FREE.

Let me take a station break here to remind everyone that librarians are some of the most incredibly helpful, wonderful people you can get to know. The head librarian at the Sterling Public Library saved me a ton of time by sharing that link with me — and I had no idea it existed. I never would have found this source without asking a librarian. These folks, minimally, will have a mention on the acknowledgements page of the book!

You gotta love librarians. I’ve come to respect and admire them so much over the past two years in doing this research.


The next great find has to do with a trunk. Not Emmett’s, unfortunately, but one belonging to Nicholas Van Sant.

I reached out to the curator at the Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society yesterday. I have to admit, I had been batting 0 for 3 yesterday with regard to finding papers, artifacts, or perhaps personal belongings of Van Sant’s. Several other historical groups I contacted weren’t able to help me.

Banner from the Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Webpage.

Banner from the Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Webpage.

But luckily, Curator Terence Buckaloo had heard of Van Sant, confirming his importance to the community. Alas, there isn’t much about Van Sant in terms of a biography in existence; that’s good from my perspective, because I do think Van Sant will take up a lot of room in an early chapter of Emmett’s book.

Interestingly, Buckaboo added (in his message) that he has a small trunk that belonged to Van Sant. I couldn’t resist, so in a return email message, I asked: “What’s in the trunk?”

Letters from Emmett? A journal? I hope! I can’t wait to find out!

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