Wealth of Aurora’s History Delivered in a “Mystery Box”
Last week the Aurora Historical Society received delivery of what is being referred to as a ‘Mystery Box” packed with a wealth of items pertaining to Aurora’s history. The “mystery box” was shipped to the museum without a letter of information as to who had sent the items. The clue was the shipping label from “Mailman Joey’s” out of Melbourne, Florida. Museum director John Kudley contacted the shipper and was able to get a number and name, C. Harris, of the individual who shipped the items. To date, calls to the number have not gotten a response.
The box contained the following: three pair of baby shoes from the 1880s, copies of the 1974 Aurora Sesquicentennial from the Advocate, copy of 1894 insurance policy on the original Ebenezer Sheldon property, Aurora High School 1900 diploma of Edith Straight, two hand written minutes of the “Aurora Reading Club” dated 1873, a rare tintype photo of the C.R. Harmon & Sons store (most recently Chet Edwards), photo of the “Aurora Brass & Reed Band” (1920), a template for a contract for the “Harmon Roofing Company,” and letterhead of the “C.R. Harmon’s Sons, General Merchandise, Butter & Cheese, Aurora, O.”, among other items.
What may be the most important item in the “mystery box” was a leather bound journal of the “Records of Reunions of the Descendants of Ebenezer & Mary Harmon,” covering the reunions from 1910 through 1923. The Harmons arrived in 1806 and settled near Aurora Pond (Sunny Lake). Mary was the 21 year old daughter of Ebenezer & Lovee Sheldon (Aurora’s first settlers). Tucked in the pages of the journal was a letter from A.B. Russell which contained the minutes of the 1st reunion held in July, 1895 at the home of C.R. Harmon, later the home of Alanson Baldwin (60 E. Pioneer Trl.). Another letter was written by Israel Harmon of Springfield, Massachusetts and read at the 1910 reunion relating much of the Harmon’s early history.
Another daily journal contained countless articles from newspapers date from 1844 through the 1970’s. Among the clippings were articles about the Aurora boys who fought and died in World War II, obituaries of prominent Aurora citizens, and tales about events in Aurora’s history. One article listed the “relics” that were placed on display at Aurora’s Centennial celebration in 1899 (until now only a partial listing of items was known to the society). Another article from the September 7, 1844 Plain Dealer related Henry Clays’ support of the annexation of Texas to the Union. The murder of Alanson Baldwin under the elm tree in his front lawn by an intoxicated shoemaker he had employed was described in another clipping.
Probably the most interesting articles was that describing the “late draft” of young men from Aurora to fight for the Union in 1862. Eleven men were drafted and all had families except three. Of the eleven, six procured substitutes (one could hire someone to take his place in the army), two “skedaddled,” one was exempted, one denied that Aurora was his home, and one actually went to camp for service. The article also describe how an “old Aurora family” had left for “parts unknown,” perhaps Tennessee and had “doubtless gone to cast in their lot with Jeff Davis.” The article states that if their departure had been known there was no doubt that “creditors might have blocked their wheels.” But the “chief thing an indignant and outraged community” about was the fact that they left behind “their poor mother….to be cared for by the community, when she ought to have had enough to give her a comfortable support in her declining years.”
All of the items are currently being transcribed and catalogued, and until discovered will be listed as having been donated by an anonymous donor.