It’s cover is gone, and the binding gave out long ago.
The photo album – in contrast – is new, but it contained photos dating back generations for the McQuirt and McWhirt families.
The question for Bettye Hale is how these, along with several other pieces, arrived in the donation box outside of the Beeville Vineyard about a month ago.
“Our weekend security team put it on my desk with a note that it came in with a donation,” said Hale, executive director at the Vineyard.
Thankfully, Karen Conder noticed the significance of the items.
“Some people would have chucked it,” she said. “I am just thankful Karen was here to realize it was something important.”
“I was thinking, why would anybody donate these,” Conder said. “They were just in a box with all kinds of books.”
Conder said that she knows the amount of work that goes into this type of genealogy – she is doing it for her husband’s side of their family.
“It takes a long time,” she said. “You have to do a lot of searching on the Internet.”
It took her two years to get the family tree back to 1825.
As she thought back to seeing the McWhirt history, she paused.
“These are really precious,” she said.
Among the items found was a Bible carefully stored inside a gold covered box. The label though reads, “Elmer’s Mastercraft Chocolates.”
Hale is careful as she turns each page of the book, not wanting to cause more damage.
“I am looking for a middle page that might have a print date,” she said.
Tucked inside is a small, folded piece of white paper. In script is written the names of children along with their birthdates.
A back page of the Bible contains a list also of children with birthdate 1830 to 1848.
Finally though, Hale found the opening page for the New Testament.
At the bottom, the date 1843 is printed.
“Wow,” Hale said enthusiastically.
Sitting on her desk beside the Bible is a binder that contained numerous old document copies, including typed obituaries.
“Returning from the war he was yet but a youth,” the obituary of Silas Albert McWhirt reads. “He settled down to the commonplace task of farming. It will always be a notable fact of history that the soldiers who composed the armies both the North and the South so easily and so naturally returned to the pursuits of peace when the war was over.”
This obituary highlighted this man’s military service to the 178th Regiment Ohio Infantry saying, “He remained three years in the army taking an active part in the many hard-fought engagements of that always-to-be-remembered conflict which freed a race and preserved to us our country and our liberties.”
Hale speculated that someone was cleaning out a relative’s home and inadvertently donated these items.
“It is probably from an estate,” he said. “Probably someone passed away, and a relative brought in the things.”
Hale said they placed a classified advertisement in this newspaper hoping to find a relative to return the books, but as of yet, none has been found. She has also asked around, but no one so far has claimed ownership of the books.
A red bound book an inch thick also details this family’s history. Inscribed in gold letters on the front is the last name: McWhirt.
The book, according to the cover page, was compiled by Cynthia Christine McWhirt.
Inside are numerous names, chronicling his family’s history dating back to 1789.
“There are lot of surnames of Beeville families, but I don’t know if they are descendants,” she said as she thumbed through the book.
Anyone with information about the items is asked to call the Vineyard at 361-358-2075.
This isn’t the first item that has likely been mistakenly donated to the Vineyard.
The most bizarre – a set of false teeth.
The most unusual – the ashes of a family dog.
“We have been trying for three years to track down the owner or a relative of the owner,” she said.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.