Sunday, January 6, 2008

Her trash, his treasure

Telegram Staff Writer

These are the files of Bell County lives - the records that sit in the home of Michael and Nancy Kelsey in Belton.
Folders and binders fill the storage boxes and filing cabinets that crowd the couple's foyer.
'If it sheds light on the history of Bell County, we save it,' Mrs. Kelsey said.
There are estate records, diaries, ledgers, photos, high school yearbooks, letters and newspaper clippings.
'We collect,' Mrs. Kelsey said. 'That's how we find the information for our books.'
She and her husband are the authors of the series 'Notes on Bell County.' The second volume, 'Hillcrest Cemetery,' was published Dec. 7. It joins the first volume, 'South Belton Cemetery,' in what will soon be a trilogy. 'We hope to have the third volume completed this spring,' Mrs. Kelsey said. 'We want to look at the growth of the community and town in that one.'
Both the first and second volumes focus on the family histories of the people buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Temple and South Belton Cemetery. The earliest death recorded at South Belton Cemetery is 1851, the earliest at Hillcrest is 1874.
'Traditionally, credit for the oldest marked burial at Hillcrest Cemetery is given to Mary 'Molly' W.H. Williams who died July 31, 1877,' the Kelseys explain on page 7 of their new book. 'However, death dates for T.M. Sloan, Minerva Hicks, Mrs. M.A. Williams, Calvin Shipp and Louisa Bonds are earlier than Mary's.'
Getting things right is a passion for the couple, especially Mr. Kelsey - a reference librarian at Temple Public Library.
With the third volume, the Kelseys said they want to provide specific details about early Temple businesses, from biographical information about the business owner to details of daily production.
'For bakers,' Mrs. Kelsey said, 'We want to say how many loaves of bread each baker baked.'
One of the earliest Temple bakers on record is Frank Butler. He settled here in 1925, taking charge of Bell Bakery. With an oven he brought with him, he could bake 8,000 loaves in 24 hours.
It's taken the Kelseys 12 years of research and 'collecting' for them to publish their 'Notes on Bell County.'
'Just take a look around the house, and you'll see how long we've been at it,' Mrs. Kelsey said. '(Michael) says it's treasure; I say it's junk.'
An antique display case decorates the main hallway that leads from the foyer to the kitchen and living room. Toys, ticket stubs, consumer products and advertising paraphernalia - all from the early to mid-1900s - sit inside the display case.
There's some furniture from the late 1800s in the living room, but there's no TV.
'We have one in the bedroom,' Mrs. Kelsey said. 'In our spare time, we're more likely to be reading and researching.'
They have a variety of ways to organize their research.
'We have a file for each business,' Mrs. Kelsey said. 'And files for main families.'
She opened a cabinet and pointed to several rows of portfolios, each three-inches thick.
'There's the Roses of Salado, the Thomases out of Huntsville, the Scotts of Bastrop ...,' Mrs. Kelsey said, reciting the names from memory. 'We keep paper work and book references about each family. If there is a family Bible, it goes in the family file too.'
The couple routinely shares their findings with the Bell County Historical Commission and the Bell County Museum.
Ron Gates, chairman of the Bell County Historical Commission, said the Kelseys are quick to help people with history questions and genealogical projects.
'They're both very involved,' Gates said. 'They're very knowledgeable on so many topics.'
History questions get to the Kelseys by way of the Temple Public Library as well.
'Sometimes the library will get a question, and we won't have the answer,' said Mr. Kelsey. 'I have to come home and look it up.'

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