I recently learned of a scrapbook at the Tioga Point Museum in Athens that contained a newspaper article about the Athens Universalist church.  The origin of this scrapbook was a bit of a mystery; the museum has no record of who donated it.  The clippings in its almost 200 pages appear to be from local newspapers, and the few articles that are dated are from around 1900.

As a museum volunteer, I offered to catalog the individual articles in the scrapbook for the museum’s database.  But that simple data entry project quickly turned into a quest to solve the mystery.

The first clue was the book that was used as the base of the scrapbook.  A hundred years ago, before there were malls and craft stores, it was not unusual for people to paste newspaper clippings and other memorabilia onto the pages of an old book.  In this case, the book was the 1866 annual report of the Pennsylvania State School Superintendent.

The second clue was the large number of clippings about Universalists – mostly Athens and Sheshequin people but also some folks in other cities.  It seemed likely that the scrapbooker was a Universalist.

The third clue was the time period represented by the clippings.  As I researched the dates of the weddings and funerals in the scrapbook, I found that these articles would have been published between 1890 and 1910.

What local Universalist, alive between 1890 and 1910, would have owned a copy of the 1866 Pennsylvania school report?  After some digging on-line, I found a Pennsylvania state school journal from the 1860s which listed the names of local school officials.  Dr. John Lollis Corbin, a physician and member of the Athens Universalist church, was the treasurer of the Athens borough school district from 1861 to 1866.  Bingo!

The Corbin family – John, his wife Mary Ann Tozer Corbin, and their children, Julius T. Corbin and Ida Winifred Corbin – was active in the Athens Universalist church in the late 1800s.

Dr. Corbin died in 1899 and Mary Ann died in January, 1910.  One of the articles in the scrapbook is about a talk given to the young people’s organization at the Athens church by “Miss Maysie Green.”  The Athens church record book notes that, in August, 1910, the trustees granted a request by “Miss Mazie Green” to use the church to give a lecture.  This date would have ruled out Mary Ann Corbin as the creator of the scrapbook. However, according to the clipping, Miss Green began her talk by saying, “We are closing one of the years of the last decade of a remarkable century.” This statement suggests that this particular talk was given in the 1890s.

As far as I have been able to determine, there are no articles in the scrapbook from later than 1908. The creator of the scrapbook therefore could have been Mary Ann Tozer Corbin or her daughter Ida (I don’t think it was Julius).  The Tioga Point Museum has a few other items that came from Ida Corbin’s home, so it is likely that Ida was the donor of the scrapbook.

Ida Winifred Corbin was born in 1872 in Athens.  Along with her parents, she was active in the Athens Universalist church through the 1890s.  She graduated from Mrs. Park’s school in Athens in 1890 and went on to Elmira College, where she studied music.  Ida, who never married, lived in the family home at 202 South Main St. until her death in 1949.  She directed the choirs at the Sayre and Athens Presbyterian churches, as well as the Church of Christ in Sayre and Trinity Episcopal in Athens.  She also played piano and organ in a variety of venues.

Besides the articles about Universalists, there are other articles which link the scrapbook to the Corbins, specifically Ida, including:

  • articles about the minister of the Athens Presbyterian church and his family
  • articles about some of Ida’s classmates from Mrs. Park’s school
  • articles about other local musicians with whom Ida performed
  • an obituary for Ida’s cousin, J. LeRoy Corbin

Is the mystery of the scrapbook owner solved?  Until I find evidence to the contrary, I’m sticking with the Corbins.

In my next post, I will share some interesting items from the scrapbook.