March 4, 2009


Most of my “simple farmer” ancestors rarely had anything written about them. They never even got in enough trouble to be mentioned in court documents. I imagine they did most of their business with a handshake and not on paper. So, an obituary is about the only thing I’m able to find on them.

I was very excited to find this obituary of my paternal 3x Great Grandfather, Moses Baker in the December 18th 1884 edition of the Bolivar Bulletin Times. I had hoped that it would include information on where he is buried but unfortunately, it’s vague on that point. (Note the story above it mentioning a Dr. Neely, a prominent citizen who I’ve theorized is the source of my paternal grandfather, Neely’s first name.)

I read that Moses’ wife, Sophia had died in a house fire years earlier. So, I was excited to confirm this with this news story and her obituary in the same newspaper issue (Bolivar Bulletin Times ,October 10, 1878).

I’ve heard that the low man on the newspaper totem pole is given the grim task of writing the obituaries. Ironic since obituaries are probably read by a wide range of people and provide valuable historical information. I think about this when sitting at a microfilm machine in the Tennessee State Archives, scrolling through an old edition of a local newspaper, past important news stories of the day to find an obituary. I wonder who the little lackey was that grumbled over having to write this obit when, over a century later, someone is more eager to read their work than that of their superiors.

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