I'm lucky enough to have possession of a book that belonged to my Grandpa Derr. It was given to him by my Great, Great Grandfather Green. I remember it being in excellent condition when I was young. It had a padded cloth cover that was was stamped with an ornate design and embossed in gold. The lighter area toward the top was once a gold colored front plate with the name Longfellow embellished across it. It also had gilded pages edged in gold. Unfortunately it was damaged by an area flood in 1972, just before it was handed down to me. Though not as beautiful and much more delicate now, it still has all it's pages and is still very readable.
James and Effie Green
James P. Green was born in 1850, and was in his forties when this book was published. His Grandson, Thomas Herald Derr was born in 1895. On the corner of the front page of the book, a price of fifty cents is marked in pencil and below that is a record of the book's passage down to me. I think the second installment in pencil must have been written by my Grandpa Derr when he was a boy. Though I never met him, I feel a connection through the few stories I've heard, a couple of photos, keepsakes... and this book that I knew he must have cherished since it was so well taken care of through his childhood and up until his untimely death at 22 years of age. I suppose that he cherished it because it was given to him by someone he cherished as well. That love, in some small way has been passed down through the generations with this book. As I read it, I know that their hands once held it, their eyes once read the words printed there and their minds contemplated the meanings of the poems. Just as I do now.
My Great, Great Grandfather obtained a common school education, and began working as a Carpenter like his father when he was sixteen. He soon began working around the machinery at the coal mines and eventually was employed as an Engineer in the mining industry where he worked for many years. He was the eldest of his siblings and married at the age of 25, raising 5 children. He and his wife were members of the Free-Will Baptist Church, and he was a member of the P.O.S. of A. and was known politically as a Republican.
When my Grandmother passed this book down to my Mother, I was in grade-school. I spent many hours reading the poems and thinking about my ancestors that we never knew. When a school assignment called for the reading of a poem soon after, I knew exactly what poem I wanted to read to the class. I was allowed to take the book to school with me, and I was so proud to tell them about the history of the book and how old it was. I also took a picture of my Grandpa Derr and told them what I knew of him. At that time, all I knew of his Grandfather was his name, and that his daughter Jennie was Grandpa's Mother. As I recall, my presentation was a great success and even as shy as I was, I enjoyed speaking out that day.
If I had only known then, that those who could answer my questions about our family history would too soon be gone, I would have asked many more questions than I did. Now my hobby of genealogy is helping me to find the facts, but as for the kind of person they were, that is in great part left to my imagination...