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By Linda Emley
I love antiques. I don’t care if it’s a $2 postcard or a $5,000 diamond ring because every antique has a story.
Everyone has a story, and that is what makes the story of an antique so interesting. Anyone who has ever watched Antique Roadshow knows it makes a big difference if you know the history behind the antique. They call it “province,” but I prefer to call it “where has this antique been for the past 100 years?”
When I walk the halls of the Ray County Museum, I look at all the things on display and try to imagine who bought it, who used it and who donated it. Many items are marked with a name and sometimes a short story.
One day I was with a group of ladies touring the museum and we were in the World War II room, which is usually a “guys’ ” room, but they were having a great time. There are many uniforms that are labeled with the names of the people who wore them and the ladies were having fun reading the labels because they knew many of the soldiers.
One of the most loved rooms in the museum is “grandmother’s kitchen.” It’s an old fashioned kitchen with floral linoleum that reminds you of someone you knew in the past.
This room has a wood cookstove, a piesafe, an ice chest, and many other old kitchen items. One day I was in this room with some young girls and they were asking all kinds of questions.
There was one tin box that they saw sitting on the stove and they asked if that was the microwave. I got a good laugh out of that one. As we were leaving the room, one of them spotted a food grinder. I turned the crank and tried to explained how it worked, but we soon moved on to the next room.
I have been in “grandmother’s kitchen“ many times and I never considered that food grinder to be anything special, but that changed when I heard the rest of the story about this one simple everyday item.
David Blyth is the president of the Ray County Historical Society and he comes up to the museum every Thursday to work.
He was making videos of all the rooms in the museum and he showed me the video he made in “Grandmother’s kitchen.” He mentioned the food grinder and told me it was donated by Mrs. Ralph Whipple. She was a relative of his and the food grinder had belonged to Leanna Riffe Blyth, who was David’s great-great-great- grandmother.
I may not have enough “greats,” but you get the idea. She was the wife of William Riley Blyth. This food grinder came from the kitchen of the lady who fixed the last supper for Capt. Bill Anderson Tuesday evening Oct. 26 in 1864.
William T. Anderson ate at their house and family lore says he gave them a $20 gold piece for their services. The gold piece may still be with a family member in Arizona, but that is OK with me because we have the food grinder at our museum.
If only that grinder could talk. What was the conversation like at the dinner table that night? Did everyone talk or did most of the dinner guests just listen?
Did Bill Anderson need a bath or did he pay for a shower and a shave before dinner? Mrs. Blyth was 39 years in 1864, so she would have been a good cook by that age. Did Mr. Anderson compliment her on the meal?
These are things that we will never know because we were not in that farm house on that Tuesday evening, but that food grinder might have been.
Another cool side note about this whole story is that David was just as excited about this news as I was. He has been coming to the museum for many years and it was the first time that he had noticed the tag on the food grinder and connected it to his family’s history. That is why the museum is so much fun, you never know what you are going to find around the next corner.
In October of 2014, we’re going to relive the final days of Capt. William Anderson by sharing the story about the Battle of Albany. I’ll be telling more stories about this time in our local history over the next 20 months, so please let me know if you have a Civil War story hanging in your family tree that you would like to share.
If you have a Bloody Bill Anderson story that’s been passed down through the family, Linda Emley would love to know about it. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her in person at Ray County Museum Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.