A Scrapbook Gem

The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.

If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or information@fentonhistorycenter.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.

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While moving items around during the Fenton History Center Research Center’s move to the Hall House this month, a couple of small scrapbooks surfaced again. The scrapbooks are small – only about 9 inches high. The scrapbooks, like so many scrapbooks, contain many newspaper clippings that are mostly poetry, anecdotes and miscellaneous sayings that the creator of the scrapbook found interesting or meaningful.

The two scrapbooks are inscribed in the front “Willie Osmer from Grandma Proudfit.” One was dated 1885, and the other was dated 1886. The contents that have dates are from that time period. Willie Osmer was born in 1871, so he was a teenager when the scrapbooks were given to him. His father was Richard Alden Osmer of Jamestown, who had married Mary Proudfit, the daughter of Dr. William and Maria (Freeman) Proudfit. Mary was a sister to William Proudfit, the clothing store owner. Richard A. Osmer was a partner in the Proudfit clothing store in Jamestown. Thus Grandma Proudfit would be Maria (Freeman) Proudfit. She and her children had moved back to Jamestown from Wisconsin after her husband died. There are included in the scrapbooks a few clippings about Proudfit family members and an occasional clipping concerning Jamestown.

The real surprise, while turning the pages of the second scrapbook, was the picture in the above photograph. This is a drawing/watercolor of a flower. It is not a printed page from a book. It is very detailed, and the colors are still vivid. From the discoloration on the heavy paper on which it is drawn, one can see that at one time it was matted with an oval cut-out mat and framed. At a later time it was removed from the mat and pasted into the scrapbook. Because there are newspaper clippings on the facing page, the areas that contacted the newspaper are also discolored from the acid in the newspaper. Despite the discolorations the picture is still exquisite.

In the lower right-hand corner of the paper on which the picture was painted is a name. The name is Miss Hannah Freeman. Hannah was the younger sister of Maria (Freeman) Proudfit. So in the scrapbook that belonged to Willie Osmer is saved a picture painted by his great Aunt Hannah Freeman who was born in 1824. In scrapbooks are often the mundane and the “Why was that saved?” items but every once in a while a gem has been saved.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.

If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.