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Old autograph book or love story?
By Barry Schrader.................................Feburary
Then there were several relatives who signed it, and
even though the ink has faded, one can still tell that penmanship
was taught at an early age and most of the entries are very nicely
This column could just be about a long-ago autograph book,
or it could turn into a love story.
some family files while looking for a particular photograph last
week, I came across a small autograph book with the inscription
inside: To Emma, a Christmas present from your mother
Knowing the familys history,
I can imagine it was the only gift aside from maybe an
orange or apple that my grandmother received that year
when she was 11 years old.
By perusing the autographs
that filled 64 pages I learned the names of many of her schoolmates
in that small, country school in Afton Township that she attended,
as well as her teachers name.
Emma Potter and Orval Stryker
Something else I discovered, to my surprise,
was the following message written by a boy who signed his name
Orval Stryker: When this you see, please think of me, and
think of a friend that think(s) of the(e) dated February
1881. Then, 46 pages later, he made another entry in her book,
this time writing: Whats in your mind, let no one know,
nor to your friend your secrets know; for when that friend becomes
your foe, then all the world your secrets know. Orval Stryker.
Doesnt sound very romantic, but the fact he
was the only boy who wrote in it twice must indicate something.
Maybe puppy love at her age of 11 and him just 13? Sorry to say,
I have never found any other note or letters written between
But seven years later, in December 1888,
Emma Potter and Orval Stryker were married in Waterman. They
celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1938, and he passed
away in 1941. Grandma Stryker lived until 1963, passing away
the same week I graduated from Northern Illinois University.
She had told me how proud she was to see her grandson finish
It is easy to conclude that young Emma
and Orval crossed paths many times outside that one-room school,
since their parents farmed along Waterman Road a couple of miles
apart, and the two families worshiped at Waterman Methodist Church.
But I like to think that their first up close
personal encounter might have been when she walked up to him
at school and asked that he write something to her.
teacher at the Afton school also made an entry that said: May
the white hands of the Angels, Guide you to that land of light;
Strew your pathway there with roses; To that land where there
is no night. Your loving teacher, Ella Sawyer.
think the best place for that little book would be the Waterman
Area Heritage Societys museum. It is full of early day
family names such as Minnihan, Ferguson, Woods, Wiltberger, Kauffman,
Phelps, Baxter, Burr, Rollins, Tuttle, Tallman and Sawyer.
I wish I had asked grandma when she was still alive
how she met grandpa and when they first dated. It would have
made a nice Valentines Day memory.
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DeKalb, Ill 60115