BY MIKE JAMES
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
John Blevins and social studies teacher Holly Ross with the documents he found.
PHOTOS BY MIKE JAMES | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL A curious child who couldn’t resist opening a dusty wooden box is responsible, with a little help from his teacher, for reuniting a collection of vintage pictures and letters with a member of the family that left it behind.
The cedar box, about the size of a lunchbox, contained photos dating to World War I, letters from two generations, postcards sent from Europe a century ago and documents including a birth certificate.
John Blevins, a sixthgrader at Russell Middle School, remembers rooting around in a kitchen cabinet last year and seeing the box in the back corner of the middle shelf.
It was the cabinet where his mother stores items like plastic spoons and cups, so the box seemed out of place. Also, he spied the corner of an envelope sticking out and wanted to get a closer look at the cool air-mail stamp on it.
He rummaged through the letters and pictures, wondering if they pertained to his family. His mother checked the names and said nope.
So John put everything back in the box. He could see they were delicate and didn’t want to damage them. “They needed to be preserved in their original shape,” he said.
The next day he took the box to school and showed his social studies teacher, Chris Holbrook. After a while, he took the box back home and went on with his life until a week or so ago when, after this year’s social studies class started a unit on World War II, he remembered some of the documents dated from that era.
He had misplaced the box, but eventually found it in the basement. He took it to school and showed it to this year’s social studies teacher, Holly Ross, who was intrigued enough to pore through the materials and jot down some notes — including the names of the family.
A web search turned up clues, including an obituary that led her to a descendant of the family, a woman living in Tennessee.
She and John are making arrangements to return the materials.
John isn’t sure how the documents came into his family’s possession. They were in the cabinet because his mother put them there after retrieving them, along with other items, from his late greatgrandfather’s house while cleaning up after a flood.
But how did they get there? John knows his great-grandfather had helped clean out another house in the area — he doesn’t know when — and theorizes maybe he kept the box for safekeeping and never got around to finding its rightful owners.
He and Ross know the family had not lived in the area for a long time, but the documents show they’d lived in the Ashland and Ironton areas. Some of the letters are addressed to Wilgus, which is in rural Lawrence County, Ohio.
The letters span two generations, and include love letters from a soldier to his wife.
One envelope contains finance documents showing that in 1927 they paid off a $570.72 loan on a Chandler automobile.
There are pictures of entire families, laughing babies, World War I soldiers and serious looking children with dirty faces.
Postcards from a soldier in Belgium to his wife are illustrated in hand-crafted embroidery, a bit frayed but the colors almost as fresh as when they were mailed in 1918 — just under a century ago.
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