Caswell County Genealogy

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Graham, Ella Gertrude

Female 1862 - 1931  (69 years)

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  • Name Graham, Ella Gertrude  [1
    Birth 14 May 1862 
    Gender Female 
    Reference Number 24092 
    Death 28 Jun 1931 
    Person ID I23630  Caswell County
    Last Modified 29 Mar 2024 

    Family McDowell, John Hardy,   b. 16 Mar 1853   d. 4 Apr 1926 (Age 73 years) 
    Marriage 3 Oct 1883  [1
    Reference Number 11711 
    Family ID F775  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 29 Mar 2024 

  • Notes 
    • "A Lost Art" by John Turk

      While few would find fault with the ease of communication afforded by e-mail, texting, and twittering, those of us who study history understand that there are other aspects of communication that have been lost. Letter-writing seems to be becoming a thing of the past. Even handwriting (as once aught in public schools) is quickly becoming a lost art. In WNCHA's collections are several autograph books once owned by the descendants or in-laws of William Wallace McDowell and his wife, Sarah Lucinda McDowell--former owners of the Smith-McDowell House.

      We docents at the museum like to show school children on tours examples from these books. "This, my young friends," we say, "is what handwriting looks like." They are always amazed. And we explain that what they are seeing was done with ink purchased at a local store and with a pen that was not all that different from the pen used to sign the Declaration of Independence. In addition, there was no such thing as erasing a mistake. As you were working with ink, there were no "do overs."

      One of the autograph books was once the pride and joy of Ella Gertrude Graham (1862-1931). She was the wife of John Hardy McDowell and daughter-in-law of William and Sarah. It is what was known as a floral album. Every other page contains a color rendering of a different flower. The title page offers a guide to flowers and their meaning: geraniums stand for confidence, lilacs for first love.

      Ella's book is not filled with the autographs of famous people. Rather it is simply a collection of signatures of friends and acquaintances. Many are dated, and most are accompanied by poems or words of wisdom. Some are true works of art--or, perhaps, examples of Victorian excess. M. M. Lemmond surrounded his signature with an enchanting bird on a nest with a ribbon in its beak. It shows exquisite changes in pen pressure and speed. G. N. Smithdeal of Salisbury, N.C.'s autograph, dated August 28, 1882, features scrolling branches and two birds, one atop a quill-tipped pen. The inscription reads: "May angels crown the with immortal flowers."

      With today's emphasis on speed and its loss of concern regarding spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, or general neatness--not to mention its fascination with texting, shorthand (such as LOL for "laughing out loud) it is difficult to imagine a world where one could take half an hour or more simply to sign one's name.

      Several of the autograph books are on display in the front parlor and the 1870s bedroom of the [Smith-McDowell House] museum. Ella McDowell's, because of its delicate condition, is housed in the museum's archives, but may be viewed upon request.

      Source: WNCHA News: Newsletter of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, September/October 2011, Page 3.

  • Sources 
    1. Details: The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Richard W. Iobst (1977), Western North Carolina Historical Association Republication (2006)
      at 36.