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JIM: A big coincidence - Weldon-Grenfell posters same day, different sources

CM Daily News for April 30, 2012 carried two old photos, The Ford Garage, Columbia, KY from the collection of Ann Heskamp Curtis, and T.E. Waggener operated store at 200 Public Square from a family collection. Only JIM would notice that the coincidence of the posters in the windows of old businesses reappearing 95 years later on CM, on the World Wide Web


What are the odds that two photographs taken days apart fourscore and fifteen years ago and each displaying (albeit it indistinctly) the same bit of ephemera would show up on ColumbiaMagazine on the same day?

The point in common of the two pictures is the Weldon / Grenfell poster prominently displayed in the window of each building, an item which dates the photos to the summer of 1917, or more specifically, to some time between the latter part of July and the middle of September. During that era, posters frequently appeared in local businesses weeks in advance to promote coming events, such as circuses, chautauquas, and revivals.

The latter was the case here. The August 1, 1917 News carried this brief article:

Posters are up announcing a revival which will begin at the Methodist church, this place, on Monday, September 3. Rev. J.W. Weldon will be the evangelist and B.C. Grenfell will conduct the song service. They have been having great success at their meetings.

The August 29th edition reminded readers that the arrival of Rev. Weldon & Co. in town was imminent. Apparently, Columbia had fallen into the clutches of religious malaise, as the article also noted that "A general revival of church members is sadly needed in this community."

A followup in the September 12 paper seemed to indicate that the malaise continued:

The meeting at the Methodist church is still in progress and will continue through this week. Large audiences are attending the evening services, but outside of the attendance there has been but little outward interest manifested.

Bro. Weldon is preaching plain gospel sermons, and the song service is splendid, led by Mr. Grenfell. They have two pianos, Mrs. C.M. Russell plays one, and the other, different players. There is perhaps personal work going on and it is hoped that much good will be accomplished before the services close.

The following week, a retraction of sorts appeared, stating that the News had been misinformed -- that at the time the paper had gone to press the previous week (on the 11th), "we are correctly informed that there had been eight or ten conversions" and that by Friday (Sept. 14th), "there had been twenty or twenty-five professions. The meeting is still in progress..."

(No mention was found of when the meeting broke up.)

Rev. Weldon had served as minister of the Columbia Methodist church some years earlier. In the summer of 1910, he and Hardin County native Miss Ethel Sutzer were wed, and she was carrying their first child when they arrived in Columbia in the fall of 1911. She passed in early March, 1912, age 22, from complications of childbirth. In the fall of 1911, Rev. Weldon was reassigned to a church in Louisville.

Mr. Grenfell was (is) a ghost -- this not-quite-intrepid researcher can find no mention of him other than in the articles mentioned above, and only the first one refers to him by anything other than "Mr. Grenfell."

(My thanks to Ann Heskamp Curtis and to whomever contributed the Waggener & Gill photo for sharing such wonderful glimpses of Columbia's past.)

Brought to you by JIM, who undoubtedly has some kind of paraphysic powers. -EW

This story was posted on 2012-05-13 11:56:42
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