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Clues from an 1880s Autograph Album

Updated on December 28, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published family memoirs and learned a lot about different eras.

The 1880 autograph book in my collection.
The 1880 autograph book in my collection. | Source

Did Your Ancestors Come from Milford, Connecticut?

Years ago, I bought this autograph album at an antiques flea market in Pennsylvania. For a long time, it was tucked away in a box with the old diaries that I collect. Now I've brought it out and want to discover who these people were that signed this book.

The first name was Georgie A. Smith. I'm not sure if Georgie was a man or woman even. Smith is such a common name, so it will be hard to track this one down. At first I thought the album belonged to Georgie. Later I saw several verses inscribed to Anna or Annie, so Georgie merely signed inside the front cover and was not the owner.

I'll include in this article sample pages from the book and lists of the names that I could decipher. Maybe someone out there is looking for these people. I hope they find this information.

Photo Credit: vallain

Gallery of Pages in the Album

hand drawn artwork in the old autograph book
hand drawn artwork in the old autograph book
Victorian die-cut art (similar a sticker) from the autograph book
Victorian die-cut art (similar a sticker) from the autograph book

Here's the e-mail that I'm sending out whenever I find a lead with an e-mail address with it:

"I have an old autograph book signed by many people from Milford, CT. I'd like to find the family or a historical society that this would be meaningful to.

The dates in the book range from 1880 to 1902 with most of the signers putting Milford for their town. You can see more details about the book on my web page, Clues from an 1880s Autograph Book.

Virginia Allain

retired librarian"

Sending out Inquiries

Connecticut Towns Inscribed in the Autograph Book


New Milford


East Hartford


Besides the Connecticut towns, the autograph signers also came from these places:

Stouffville, Ontario (?)

New Milford, Connecticut - Quite a few of the signers were from New Milford


Flora A. Estes Signature in the Autograph Book

Flora A. Estes Signature in the Autograph Book
Flora A. Estes Signature in the Autograph Book

Signatures in the Autograph Book - in order by pages

The dates jump around, so people apparently did not sign just the first blank page, but selected a page at random to sign. I've put the signatures in the order they were in the autograph book.

I'll leave out the verses and mostly just put the signatures.

When I'm not sure of a letter or can't decipher the handwriting, I'll put a question mark.

More will be added as I have time. This is incomplete at the moment.

  1. Your sincere friend, Florence E. Smith

    Milford, Conn.

    Sept. 15, 1902

  2. When the golden sun is setting,

    And your mind from care is free,

    When of others you are thinking,

    Will you sometimes think of me?

    Sincerely your friend

    Edna W. Swift (or Sinft)

    Milford, Ct.

    Sept. 14 - 1902

  3. Cordially Yours -

    M (?) Ellen Clarke


    May 28, 1883

  4. Christina McLaughlin

    May 9 - 1902

    Milford Conn

  5. Annie E. Knott

    Milford Conn

    June 26th 1902

  6. May your path be strewn with roses,

    Bright and thornless to the end

    And when your head in death reposes,

    May your Maker be your friend.

    Etta G. Clarke

    Milford, Conn.

    Mar. 22, 1880

  7. Martha B. Tibbals

    July 13, 1902

  8. Mame J. Hurk (Hurbe?)

    Milford, Conn.

    May 19, 1902

  9. Carolyn E. Stowe

    Milford, Connecticut

    Nov. 2, 1902

  10. Yours very Truly

    Nellie B. Wilcox


    Jan. 24, 1881

  11. Albina L. Addis

    New Milford

    May 30th 1880

  12. Anna is your name,

    Single is your station,

    Happy be the little man

    That makes the alteration

    Mrs. A.M. Wilcox

    Feb 4th 1881

    (this inscription makes it sound like the autograph book belonged to Anna, so perhaps Georgie A. Smith just happened to sign inside the front cover)

  13. Lizzie McCarroll

    Milford, Conn

    June 15, 1902

  14. Virlinda Milton Warren

    East Hartford, Conn


    May 19, 1902

  15. Straight is the path of duty;

    Curved is the path of beauty,

    Follow the one and thou shalt see

    The other following after thee.

    Your Cousin,

    Mary E. Addis

    New Milford, Conn

    May 24th, 1881

Is This the Right Martha Tibbals?

If this is the right Martha Tibbals, it sounds like she had a long life with children and grandchildren in plenty. This is the obituary of her husband.  The Bridgeport Post  (Bridgeport, Connecticut) 18 Mar 1958, Tue  • Page 49
If this is the right Martha Tibbals, it sounds like she had a long life with children and grandchildren in plenty. This is the obituary of her husband. The Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut) 18 Mar 1958, Tue • Page 49 | Source

Second Batch of Signatures in the Album

The first list was getting too long, so I'm breaking it up into segments.

  1. Your sincere friend

    Alice W. Stowe

    Milford, Conn.

    Dec 8th 1902

  2. Remember, unless you choose to forget.

    Your Friend

    Evie Durand

    Milford, Conn.

    Sept. 25, 1880

  3. Your Friend,

    Sadie E. Hickey

    Milford, Conn.

    May 29, 1902

  4. Ever, your, friend,

    Cornelia E. Knowles

    Bowie, Maryland

    May 24th 1881

  5. Frank A. Smith,

    Milford, Conn.

    Sept. 7, 1902

  6. It may be glorious to write

    Thoughts that shall glad the two or three (there are 6 more lines to the inscription)

    Yours very truly

    Gev. H. Griffin (could this be Genevieve H. Griffin?)


    June 25 1889 (curiously, instead of "th" after the 25, it looks like a dollar sign $ with two vertical lines through it)

  7. "Kind words cost nothing,

    but are worth much."

    Carol Stow Tibbals

    Milford, Connecticut

    July the thirteenth, Nineteen hundred two.

  8. Mary Downing

    Wilbraham, Mass.

    May 25th 1880

  9. May your joys be as deep as the ocean

    Your sorrows as light as its foam

    May the billows be safe that you ride on

    Till anchored at last safe at home

    Your friend

    Ruth E. Wills

    New Milford, Conn.

    May 28, 1881

  10. Friendship has a power

    To sooth affliction in her darkest hour.

    Your true friend,

    Minnie E. Smith

    Milford, Conn.

    Sept. 7th, 1902

  11. Your friend,

    Katie E. Wells

    New Milford, Conn.

    May 27th, 1881

  12. Yours Very Truly

    R. Sherman Platt

    Milford, Conn.

    August 27th 1880

  13. Feb 23 1880

    Lizzie M Feltis

    Milford Conn



    (I found a mention of Elizabeth Feltis, daughter of Patrick and Ellen Feltis of Milford. It's in a book called A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County, Volume 2 By Everett Gleason Hill. page 879)

  14. Very truly

    John L. Higgins

    Milford Conn

    June 27th 1902

  15. Yours Truly,

    A.V. Merwin

    Milford, Ct.

    Mar. 5th 1880

    (I discovered online a mention of "In 1857, oystering became a major industry when Wm. M. Merwin & Sons successfully planted seed oysters in the harbor." This is on the Milford Chamber of Commerce site.)

Scroll Down to See More Names from the Book

Signatures from Places Other Than Connecticut

I couldn't find some of the place names on the map, so the villages may have disappeared or changed the name since the time of the signatures in the autograph album.

Centre Village, NY

Mary Downing - Wilbraham, Massachussets

Cornelia E. Knowles - Bowie, Maryland

Madison, Maine

W.E. Smith 1883 - Richford Vermont

Atchison, KS

New Haven County North around 1893


Further Reading And Information About Milford

Learn More about Milford and the Area

After I finish some of my current projects, I'd like to get some of these books to research further on the names included in this autograph book. Here are some of the histories I've found so far.

Milford (CT) (Postcard History Series)
Milford (CT) (Postcard History Series)
The postcards showing vintage scenes of Milford lets you see it the way the signers of this autograph book would have seen it.

Third Batch of Signatures in the Album

  1. I count these things to be grandly true,

    That a noble deed is a step towards God,

    Lifting the soul from the common sod,

    To a purer air and a broader view. (J.G. Holland)

    Susie D. Smith

    Milford, Conn.

    April 1883

    (I checked on the internet and found this poem on page 333 of Hill's manual of social and business forms: a guide to correct writing By Thomas Edie Hill. The book has a great section on penmanship lessons too.)

  2. Your friend

    Frankie Turrill

    New Milford

    May 25 1881

    (There's a Frank W. Turrell in the 1880 census with the following information:

    Birth Year 1863, Birthplace: MA, Age 17, Occupation: Express Man, Marital Status Single, Race White, Head of Household Charles W. TURRELL, Relation Son, Father's Birthplace MA, Mother's Birthplace MA

    It seems likely that it might be Frankie.)

  3. Annie

    March 24th 1880


    Sincerely your friend

    Libbie J. Bohan (this one is very faint, so it could be Bahan)

  4. W.E. Smith

    Richford, Vermont

    Milford, Ct

    Dec. 29, 1883

  5. Milford

    June 24 - 1902

    G.S. Kilpatrick (the G could be another letter)

  6. When you choose, from this world a companion for life

    May your lives both in harmony flow

    To battle together in this broad field of strife

    And win laurels where ever you go.

    R.A. Burns

    Milford, Conn

    March 4th 1880

  7. Your Friend

    Stella L.C. Stowe

    December the Eighth

    Nineteen hundred two

  8. "In the book of life "God's Album,"

    May your name be penned with care;

    And may all who here have written,

    Find their names recorded there."

    Is the wish of your Friend,

    Matie M. Benjamin

    Milford, Conn.

    Feb. 11, 1880

    (She is listed online on page 46 of Life and Light for Woman, Volume 14 By Woman's Board of Missions. It is a listing of the officers for the Milford "Ivy Vine" Mission Circle. Matie is vice president.)

  9. Your Pastor and Friend.

    J. A. Biddle

    June 2, 1880

    (He gets three mentions in the book, Proceedings at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the First Church of Christ Milford, Conn. pages 9, 50, 124.)

  10. Your Friend,

    Anna Light Biddle.


    June 2, 1880

    (I'm guessing that she is J.A. Biddle's wife. Note they signed on the same day.)

  11. J. F. Addis

    New Milford, Conn.

    May 30, 1881

    (He is listed in Public documents of the State of Connecticut, Volume 3 By Connecticut. General Assembly. page 72 about fingerling brook trout plants, Fall of 1914 in a report by the State Board of Fisheries.)

  12. Mrs. Nancy Leach

    March 23, 1883

  13. E. C. Mallory

    Milford, Conn.

    Mar. 15, 1880

  14. Your Friend and Pastor,

    Seneca M. Keeler, (At first, I thought it was McKeeler)

    Milford, Conn.

    Feb. 19, 1881

    (Seneca M. Keeler was pastor of the First Congregational Church in Smyrna from June 1866, to September 1870. His middle name is McNeill. There's a brief paragraph on page 339 about his career in The Ministerial Directory: of the ministers in the Presbyterian Church 1898. It states he was in Milford in 1880.)

  15. Alice B. Culis (I'm fairly sure the first letter is a C)

    Milford Conn.

    Feb 12, 1881

Signature of Pastor Seneca M. Keeler in 1881

Signature of Pastor Seneca M. Keeler in 1881
Signature of Pastor Seneca M. Keeler in 1881 | Source

Fourth Batch of Names in the Autograph Book

  1. Your sincere friend,

    Laura F. Keeler

    Milford, TC

    Feb 12, 1881

    (Rev. Keeler's daughter, according to Genealogy of the Families of John Rockwell, of Stamford, Connecticut 1641 ...

    by James Boughton, page 219. Her middle name was Frances and her mother was Alice B. Smith Keeler. Laura was born Oct. 2, 1858 and married Robert M. Canfield on July 29, 1892.)

  2. W.A. Augur

    Milford, Conn.

    March 10, 1880

  3. Your Friend,

    Flora A. Estes

    Centre Village

    Broome Co


    March 28th 1881

    (see the photo of this one above)

  4. So live that you each year may be,

    While time glides swiftly by;

    A little farther from the earth,

    And nearer to the sky.

    Your Friend,

    Emma L. Clark

    Milford, Conn., Oct. 18, 1880

  5. Minta G Martin

    Milford Conn

    Feby 22nd 1880

    (There is a Minta G. Martin listed in Polk's Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County Directory in 1915 and 1917 at 403 State N. It's hard to tell if it might be the same person.)

  6. "Though distant lands should us divide

    And we no more each other see

    Should friends more dear with thee abide

    I pray thee still remember me"

    Your True Friend

    Julia E. Prindle

    Roxbury Centre

    May 6th 1881

  7. May happiness be e'er thy lot,

    Where ever thou shalt be,

    And love and sunshine light the spot,

    That may be home to thee.

    Your friend,

    Hattie A. Turrill

    New Milford, Conn.

    May 28th, 1881

  8. Remember well and bear in mind,

    A faithful friend is hard to find

    And when you find one good and true

    Change not the old one for the new

    Mary A. Burns

    Milford Conn

    March 4th 1880

    (There's a Mary A. Burns listed on the 1890 tax list in The History of Milford by George Allen Ramsdell, William P. Colburn. Possibly she is the daughter of Capt. Peter Burns and married James M. Burns. page 449 )

  9. Dear Cousin Annie,

    Other skies may bend above thee,

    Other hearts may seek thy shrine,

    But no other Soul will ever love thee

    With the constancy of mine

    Go where thy joy awaits thee,

    And may God your life attend,

    But when parting I would ask thee,

    To remember thy Cousin,

    Remember me dear Annie,

    When on these lines you look,

    Remember it was Mary who wrote this in your book,

    Tender memories around thee twine,

    like the ivy green around the vine,

    Remember I say, when you look on these pages,

    that writing in albums is like working for wages.

    Your Cousin

    Mary Stuart

    Atchison, Kan's

    June 23rd 1885

    Milford, Conn.

    June 22, 1885 - 22, 1895

    (I'm not sure why this entry has multiple dates and places)

  10. There are no friends like the old friends

    Keep all that you can get

    And when you turn these pages

    This one do not forget

    Clark Wilcox


    Jan 26th/81

    (Clark Wilcox gave the land for Wilcox Park, affectionately known as "Harbor Woods" to the town of Milford in 1909. Historical Sketches of the Town of Milford by George Hare Ford)

  11. Your little friend

    Grace A. Prindle

    Roxbury, Ct.

  12. May your life be ever bright

    as this lovely spring afternoon

    is the wish of your true friend

    M.M. Prindle

    Roxbury Centre

    May 7th 1881

  13. "Stone walls do not a prison make

    Nor iron bars a cage;

    Minds innocent and quiet take

    That for an hermitage

    Mrs. L.A. Nettleton

    Milford, Conn.

    Oct. 9. 1880.

    (The poem is by Richard Lovelace.)

  14. It is the secret sympathy,

    The silver link, the silken tie,

    Which heart to heart, and mind to mind

    In body and in soul can bind.

    Your friends,

    Angie B. Smith

    Milford, Conn

    Sept. 7, 1902.

  15. Heaven but tried our virtue by affliction;

    As oft the cloud that waxs ? the present hour

    Serves but to lighten all our future days.

    Your Friend

    Mrs. C.W. Miles


    June 16 - 1880

Fifth Batch of Names in the Autograph Book

  1. Remember your Friend

    Mrs H. Thomas

    Roxbury Centre

    May 14th 1881

  2. Place no confidence in man

    Not even in a brother

    So girls if we must love

    Let's love one another

    Katie Oneil

    New Haven, Conn

    Feb 22 1880

  3. May earth give all its joys to thee

    May summer winds blow lightly -

    May all the blessings life bestows

    Adorn thy head so brightly

    truly yours

    Lizzie S. Allen

    New Milford, Conn -

    May 20th 1881

  4. We have met in peace together,

    Here upon this earthly shore,

    May we meet in joy forever,

    Meet in Heaven to part no more.

    Carrie D. Clark

    Milford Conn.

    Feb. 7, 1880

  5. Nellie Nettleton (there's a middle initial, but it could be an I or a J or ??)

    Milford, Conn

    Oct. 9, 1880

  6. Your true friend

    Emma J. Munson

    Milford, Conn.

  7. compliments of

    F. E. Baldwin

    (this name is in the center of an elaborate scrollwork with a bird in the design)

  8. Anna S. Phelan

    Milford, Conn

    June 20th, 1902

  9. Ida Morris
  10. Lillian A. Smith

    Bridgeport, Conn.

    April 12th '84

  11. "The deeds we do, the words we say,

    Into still air they seem to fleet;

    We count them ever past,

    But they shall last;

    In the dread judgement, theyAnd we shall meet."

    Emma A. Nettleton

    Milford, Conn.

    Oct. 9 1880

    (the verse is from "Early Warnings," from Keble's poem: Lyra innocentium according to Wikiquote)

  12. Your Friend

    W.R. Smith

    Milford, Conn.

    Jan. 27th 1880 (though it could be 1883 or 1888)

  13. Lucy Turrill

    New Milford, Conn.

    May 22, 1881

  14. "We must not hope to be mowers

    And to gather the ripe gold ears,

    Until we have first been sowers

    And watered the furrows with tears.

    It is not just as we take it,

    This mystical world of ours;

    Life's field will yield, as we make it,

    A harvest of thorns or of flowers."

    Truly Yours,

    Julia E. Benjamin

    Milford, Conn. Feb. 11, 1880

    (I found the verse attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

  15. July 5th 1880

    Greatest bliss have they in living,

    Who receiving join with giving,

    Of all good thy life shall measure

    Scat'ring shall increase they treasure

    With kindly regard, yours,

    M M. R. Clarke

    Endorsing the above Sentiment of my Better-Half

    Commending its application to Georgie; I remain with

    great respect and the kindest wishes

    Truly Yours

    Owen T. Clarke

    (The first signature could be Martha Miles, born June 20, 1830 who is listed as marrying an Owen T. Clarke in A GENEALOGY of the Descendants of WIDOW MARTHA BEARD)

I Found Nellie Nettleton

A search of old newspapers turned up a clipping about her wedding plans with Frank Burns. The Morning Journal-Courier  (New Haven, Connecticut) 25 Dec 1883, Tue  • Page 4
A search of old newspapers turned up a clipping about her wedding plans with Frank Burns. The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) 25 Dec 1883, Tue • Page 4 | Source

Another Name in the Autograph Book

The fairest view of earth is given

To those, who climb the nearest heaven!

Your Sincere Friend

Mrs. R.N. Smith

Milford May 26th 1883

(There were more names after this one, but the small book has gone to a new owner, so no more will be added here.)

This One-of-a-Kind Book Has Now Returned to Family

A distant relative of the original autograph book owner contacted me and I sent her the book. It gives me great satisfaction that it is now in the hands of someone who will treasure it and pass it down to the next generation.

More about Antique Autograph Books

The lovely handwriting seen in autograph books of the late 1800s is called Spencerian penmanship.

Where Do Visitors to This Page Come from? - Flag Counter added on 05/12/2012


© 2010 Virginia Allain


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