Two little leather-bound volumes came into the collections of the Missouri History Museum by a circuitous – and a fortuitous – route. Oscar Lyle wrote one of these personal journals in 1901 and the other in 1906. By that time he was in his sixties and long removed from the St. Louis where he had been born. But many of his entries are recollections of his childhood in the St. Louis area. He also jotted notes on other topics - memories of a trip to Havana thirty-two years before and of a boyhood summer on the prairie in Illinois, stories of a recent vacation in Virginia and of a bout with yellow fever in New Orleans when he was a young man.
A man from Florida sent Mr. Lyle’s journals to us. He had had the journals for years, ever since he and his late wife found them in a Massachusetts country store. He knew nothing of the person whose journals he rescued, except what he discovered in reading them. But he decided that "after lo' these many years of wandering" Oscar Lyle’s notes should go back home. And so we have a portrait of the past, intriguingly incomplete but conveying far more than a map, a photograph, or a census roll.
How did the journals get to that Massachusetts country store? We don't know but we appreciate their arrival "home."
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Bob Archibald is the President of the Missouri Historical Society