A Hardy Honeymoon

I finally tracked down a news item reporting the marriage of Josephine Lovewell to Walt Poole, and found it by not being so darned fussy.  The result might turn out to be a valuable lesson in dealing with optical character recognition software.  An online archive containing pages from a vintage newspaper is usually accompanied by an OCR text database which is searchable by so-called keywords.  It might be helpful to think about newspaper archives less as treasure vaults waiting to be opened with specific keys, than as stubborn windows that need to be jimmied open with whatever’s handy.

Looking for Josephine + Lovewell + Poole + marriage seemed a promising combination, but turned up nothing.  Neither did searches for Josephine + Poole or Lovewell + Poole.  The trick was to whittle down the scope even further to Jo + Poole, and limit the span of the search from 1884 to 1890, which includes 1885, the year of their marriage according to Josephine’s obituary, and 1889, the nuptial year given in  the entry on Walt Poole in the "New Encyclopedia of Texas."  The result of this latest search was the following little reprint in the November 5, 1885 Belleville Telescope.

Miss Josephine Lovewell, daughter of Thomas Lovewell, and Mr. Walter Poole, were united in the bonds of matrimony last Monday, by Justice George Johnson.  The happy couple spent several days visiting relatives in Hardy before settling down to housekeeping on their farm in Jewell County. - White Rock item in Scandia Journal.

The original story in the Scandia Journal hadn’t shown up in the search results, but I now had a new pry-bar to try, Hardy.  Jo + Hardy finally yielded the original column of White Rock news from the Scandia paper, which, though it offered no more details about the Lovewell/Poole wedding, did include the date when the White Rock correspondent had submitted his or her items - October 23.  Since the write-up on the happy event says it occurred “last Monday,” the information in Josephine Poole's obituary turned out to be correct.  Josephine and Walt were married on October 19, 1885.

Did it really need checking?  Well, when two early sources for the date of an event are four years apart, it can’t hurt to look for a third to settle the matter.  There’s also that business about Josephine Poole’s headstone being mistaken in both the year of her birth and the year of her death.  The Poole family seems to have been prone to careless records-keeping.  

Getting the wrong birth year on the headstone of an 80-year-old might be understandable, but the wrong year of death - how does that happen?  In Jo Poole’s case, it may have been the result of a clerical error on her death certificate.  She died on Christmas Eve of 1946, and in the bustle of holiday work schedules someone must have put off filling out the paperwork until writing “1947” had become second nature.  In any case, in 1985 one of Jo's grandchildren petitioned the State of Texas to set the record straight.

Mistakes.  We all make ‘em: clerks, bloggers, family historians - everybody.  Still, for really screwing things up, nothing compares to the work of an optical character recognition algorithm. 

In an apparent effort to be helpful, the Belleville Newspaper Archive gives users a frightening look at the actual text string where its search engine has uncovered a possible match.  My query Jo + Poole returned the following:  “on lhc the work ling (Jo to lv, it A A ( Johnson’s mr everything iii  ii ll, daughter of Thonins r Poole, vvere units ii line last Monday, by Tin happy couple.”  Close enough.  Swimming in a sea of gibberish, Jo and Poole had somehow survived in a recognizable form.  I also got lucky with the combination Jo + Hardy:  “Miss JoffBphine daughter of ThomBw nnd Walter were nmted in the of matrimony last by Justice George Tho happy couple spent several dfCys visil in Hardy.”  It’s a small wonder we get any useful hits from  newspaper archives.  And yet, we do.

On a hopeful note, most of the dozens of useful bits of information on Thomas Lovewell and his family that I’ve culled from online newspaper files come from a single source: the newspaper archives of the Belleville Public Library, representing about four dozen titles from Republic County.  As yet there seems to be no source on the Internet for historical newspapers from Jewell, Cloud, Washington or Marshall counties.  When all those titles come online, the possibility for search matches will at least quintuple.

That’ll happen someday, don’t you think? 

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com