Messages in a Bottle

Bottle Message small

Occasionally, I get a nice note letting me know that these messages in a bottle aren’t sinking without a trace, or that I’m not just politely howling into the wind.  This is my twenty-first posting since I started doing this about a month ago, and the encouraging words have been greatly appreciated.

It’s been seven years since I started looking into the life and times of Thomas Lovewell, and 2013 has been an fruitful year.  Among other things, I wrapped up an electronic book about him, and attended a family reunion at Lovewell State Park, where I caught my first-ever glimpse of a photo of Thomas’s daughter Juliana, who was my great-grandmother.  Another result of that trip was making the acquaintance of Florence.

Florence is a lady who lives in Hebron, Nebraska, and I got a surprise phone call from her after an article appeared in the Superior Express about my presentation on Thomas’s life at that family reunion in June.  She called to find out how much I knew about Thomas Lovewell.  “A lot,” I assured her.  She said that she needed to know all about him, and needed to know it soon.  Then she told me that Tom Lovewell had been a friend of her father’s.  When she was little, she said, her dad used to tell her about some of their adventures together, like the times they went skunk-hunting.  I spent a delightful half-hour on the phone, printed out a few chapters of my book and made copies of some documents to send her, and in return she promised to send me a packet of information she was assembling.

Among the items she had gathered was a series of photocopies from back issues of the Superior Express, including what seems to be every story Max Bixby ever wrote about Thomas Lovewell and the settlement of White Rock.  I already had a few of the pages of those 1960’s articles, thanks to my Aunt Ruth, but I had never seen the complete set, and did not realize how extensive Bixby’s reporting was, until I opened that packet from Florence.  Even better, I realized that there are other people who, like me, have always wanted to learn more about those early days along the White Rock.

When I searched the Internet for “Thomas Lovewell” the very first time, I got one blurb from a heritage website containing a few sentences or sentence fragments that seemed to have been drawn at random from a book of family history.  A search for images turned up nothing recognizable.  I cast my line into the Internet for him again last Sunday afternoon, and of the seven pictures on the top row of the results page, there were four connected with the Kansas pioneer:  a photographic portrait, the well-known drawing of the same likeness, a picture of his monument at Lovewell State Park, and a photo of his granddaughter Rhoda presenting family memorabilia to the Republic County Museum.

I am not responsible for the excellent photograph of Rhoda, but I did have something to do with making the other three available to passersby surfing the web.  While I would like to congratulate myself for advancing the ball, Thomas’s story gets retold about once every decade with or without me, and the information age was going to catch up to him sooner or later.  What I hoped to contribute when it did, is an accurate and reasonably thorough version of his life, and the history that was taking shape around him.  

Messages in a bottle are not a bad way to start, and I will keep on hurling them into the drink, at least for the time being. 

© Dale Switzer 2023