Thursday, July 21, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday - Howard B Matthews

I have two New Testaments to share with you this week. Both belonged to my paternal grandfather, Howard B. Matthews. And this post just happens to fall on his birthday, he was born on July 21, 1901 in Pittson, PA.

I have previously posted my grandfather's story in his own words, but to summarize, he was the youngest of eight children and only fourteen when his father died in 1915. Almost two years later he left school after his sophomore year to help support the family. After two near-death experiences as a miner, he found a mining job above ground but ultimately he wanted more for himself and knew that a good education was the key. In 1922, three years after the death of his mother, he talked himself into a scholarship at Wyoming Seminary, a Pennsylvania prep school.

And as he prepared for this new challenge he received these two Bibles, presumably as tokens of well wishes. This one, from a friend named Billy, is a Scofield Reference New Testament, unfortunately in very bad condition.

Wikipedia has a full article on Scofield Reference Bibles which you can read here. Apparently they were very influential and are still printed today although altered, since the Scofield Bible is now in the public domain. The verses referenced in the center column seen below were related to the verses on each page, allowing the reader to follow threads through books and chapters.

The second New Testament, "New Testament in Modern Speech" was more of a surprise.

A very unassuming looking plain brown book with the cover missing at the spine, little did I know the surprise it held for me clipped in the back. First were some short, personal prayers.

Behind these were notes that puzzled me because of their more political content until I remembered something else from my grandfather's story. "All students were required to take a once-a-week course in public speaking. Preparation consisted of reading a short article in a magazine and then using it as a topic for a speech. No notes were permitted. One you were called upon, you were on your feet and on your own. Some of the speeches on the outlawry of war (remember, WWI had just ended) interested me so that I joined a group of students who spoke on that subject in churches up and down the Valley."

I believe these notes were either his reference materials for these speaking engagements or they were the way that he worked through his thoughts before going out with his fellow students. A real gem of a family find for sure, but another reason they were so fascinating to me is that we are still (hotly) debating these topics today; nationalism, immigration, international aid, our role in the world and more. It has been very interesting for me to see him sort of working out his feelings and beliefs.

To be honest, I have held back a couple of pages. Some of the views that my grandfather expressed were a bit too negative for me to share here. I am not trying to hide who he was or censor his beliefs because I disagree with them, but this is the internet and it can be an ugly place when people disagree, especially in the current climate. I would never expect that from any of my fellow genealogists of course, but once something is online it is out there forever and I would have no control over the audience.

Many of the Bibles and prayer books that I found last year represent a milestone of some sort, a birthday, a first communion, a confirmation. Next week I'll share some of my dad's journey through Bibles and prayer books that he received and that he gave.


Wendy said...

Better than the Bibles are the notes. I wish I knew what my grandfathers thought about things.

Beth Gatlin said...

What a treasure!