In the Family Bible

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It is always fun to surprise your family with information found on relatives that they knew growing up. My mother’s great grandmother Elizabeth S. “Lily” McKim Davis, that she knew as Grandma Davis was a singer and relatively well known at the time in Bradford. Mom told me that the one thing she always remembered about Grandma Davis was her tendency to want to put hard candy in mom’s pocket after mom had just returned from the dentist. Unlike the way today’s candy is cellophane and paper wrapped, this hard sticky candy would pick up the fuzz from inside your pocket. She would push her hand into mom’s pocket dropping the candy in and tell mom to “save it for later!”

Mom said she can remember her being a short little round lady. Lily had grown up an orphan, her mother having died when she was 5 and her father was killed in the Civil War when she was 9. Her maternal grandparents, the Kilgore’s, would raise her and she and her Aunt Elizabeth Agnes “Lill” Kilgore Breckenridge would become best of friends, separated only by 8 years by birth. She would experience personally what it was like to be a part of the Underground Railroad as slaves were hidden in her grandfather’s basement for the trip north from Mercer Pennsylvania.

Lily would be the one to save information in the family bible. Snippets of newspaper clippings, handwritten notes and telegrams would help tell the earlier years before great grandchildren and smuggled hard candy.

Lily had slipped into the bible her mother’s college class schedule for what I assume was Oberlin College in Loraine County, Ohio. Her schedule ended August of 1853. She was scheduled to take Etymology in N. E. O. Hall, Stoddard’s Arithmetic in Chapel R. R., Geography in Chapel and Composition in N. E. Y. Hall. Sidney Isabella Kilgore would marry William R McKim that August of 1853; they were married in Oberlin, Ohio. William was an artist and I believe that he also was a student at Oberlin.

Oberlin would have been a perfect place for a young woman growing up in a family that would take part in the Underground Railroad. “The town was conceived as an integrated community, and blacks had attended Oberlin College from its early years. Many Oberlin College graduates were dedicated abolitionists who traveled throughout the South working to help slaves escape to the north.” (Wikipedia) Elizabeth Kilgore Breckenridge’s son William Kilgore Breckenridge would teach at the college from 1890 to 1934.

Newspaper clippings tucked in the bible would tell other stories of Lily’s life. A clipping from Jamestown, Pennsylvania, near Mercer, would tell how Miss L. McKimm had been presented a beautiful gold finger ring as a token of their appreciation for her being their organist for the previous year.

A concert bill from August 19th some time in the 1880’s would announce that Lillie Davis and the Little Folks would be giving a concert in Bradford. The playbill had reviews from the Jamestown Sun, Petroleum World and the Bradford Star, sing her praises as a vocalist. A hand written note dated March 3, 1883 from Mrs. Hotchkins requested that Mrs. Davis sing a song at the N. C. Y. U. Social on Thursday Eve. The requested song was “The Banner of Temperance” or “The Coming of the Lord.”

Joe Harvey would write to Lily on June 4, 1885 and request that she join the newly forming Opera Club of Bradford. They were going to be performing the Opera of Pinafore and wanted her to join in.

Her temperance card was also found in the bible. It states “ I do herby solemnly and unreservedly promise, Looking unto Jesus for Strength, That I will never use any Intoxicating Liquors as a Beverage, and that I will, in all reasonable ways, exert my influence against the Liquor Traffic.”

The note to her Aunt Lill concerning the failing health of Elizabeth Kilgore, Lily’s grandmother is kept along with other sad events. Clippings of the death notices for her father-in-law, Daniel Davis and a telegram informing her of her grandfather Kilgore’s death were kept tucked in the pages.

She would live to be 90, out lasting her husband William by 23 years. She would be born shortly before the Civil War and die before the end of World War II. During her life she would see electricity become available to common people, horses replaced with cars and airplanes not only flown but used in combat. During her lifetime Lincoln was president and at her death Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. Microwave ovens and the first vinyl record would be invented just 2 years following her death.


1 comment

  1. Cat,
    What a wonderful story about your great-great-grandmother.  She lived quite an eventful life and you know so much about it, thanks to the papers that she kept and the family preserved over decades.
    Thanks for the story – it was a treat to read it.
    Cheers — Randy Seaver

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