Thursday, November 11, 2004

A Look Back at Family History

I'll give some credit this evening to Microsoft and the beta version of their new MSN Search. Though it looks for all the world like an imitation of Google, it did turn up something of great interest to me when I tried the obligatory vanity search on "Mahaffie." The regular search returned the usual plethora of Mahaffie House and Stagecoach Shop hits, so I tried an Image Search on "Mahaffie."

The search returns gave top ranking to a JPEG copy of an old (and unfortunately undated, but likely from 1958) newspaper obituary of Ella Mahaffie, my great-great-aunt (I think). To be fair, this image also turned up in a Google image search, but lower down the page.

The obituary features this photo of the Mahaffie House in Olathe, Kansas, apparently taken before the house became a managed historic site. Posted by Hello

I was already, of course, aware of the Mahaffie House and of its status as public property in Olathe. I had also heard mention in the family of "Aunt Ella". I'm not sure I'd seen this clipping, however -- at least not as an adult -- and it has been a pleasure to read through it.

Ella Mae Mahaffie was born in 1869, on the Mahaffie farm at Olathe, one of eight children of J.B. and Lucinda Mahaffie. She apparently grew to be a well-rounded woman and served as an educator all of her professional life. She taught in a "country" school in the last part of the 19th century (one-room schoolhouse?), she taught 3rd and 7th grades in the public schools and served from 1913 until her retirement in 1939 as principal of Park Elementary School, in Kansas City. She also served on the Kansas State Board of Education.

The obituary mentions no college degrees, but notes that Ella Mahaffie continued studying at various universities throughout her career and traveled extensively in the US and Canada and somewhat in Europe as well.

One of Ella's brothers left the farm and took his family, including Charles D. Mahaffie (my grandfather), to Oklahoma. Charles grew up in Oklahoma, studied there and in England and became a lawyer out west. He came to Washington DC for a government job in the early part of the 20th century and eventually gave the world a son, Charles Jr., my Dad. I'm damn glad he did too!

The clipping is part of an on-line collection, History of the Public Schools of Wyandotte County, Kansas - 160 Years Enriching the Minds of Children. There's plenty of good stuff in there, including a set of images of Park School that includes the Plot Plan of the school. Note the careful separate of the girl's and boy's out-houses.

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