The 19th century discoveries in the genizah (storage place, preservation) of a Cairo synagogue expanded research vistas in medieval Jewish studies, including the text and tradition of the Hebrew Bible. Protocol for the disposal of worn-out scrolls and like documents was burial; until then they were stored in the genizah at the synagogue. A close parallel for Christian congregants is the cubby hole under the pulpit or the rooms adjacent to the baptistery or the closet in the church office or any like place that attracts wonderful clutter. The genizah at Cairo held nearly 300,000 fragments spanning the thousand years from 800-1800. Quite a find.
Upon the death of McGarvey C. Ice in January 1999 my Ice clan cleaned out the farm at 5775 Refugee Road, Columbus, O. When the Ice’s moved in, in the 1930’s, they were nine miles out from Columbus city limits. The forty-acre farm was in the village of Brice, which was close to the town of Reynoldsburg, which was close to the city of Columbus. For the next sixty-five years the city accumulated around them as three generations of stuff accumulated throughout the home and outbuildings.
Great-grandad, K. C. Ice, was a poor doctor. Well check that, all indications are that he was a good physician, but he never was wealthy. Born in a log cabin in West Virginia, he put himself through high school and three colleges, medical school included. He served poor rural farmers in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and across Ohio. He also preached some, wrote an occasional letter to the editor, and took the church papers. I know he subscribed to the major periodicals across the Stone-Campbell spectrum: Christian-Evangelist on the left, Octographic Review and Firm Foundation on the right, with Christian Standard, Christian Leader, Word and Work, Restoration Herald and Gospel Advocate in the broad middle…at least I know of these…knowing him there were likely others. He graduated from Hiram and Bethany Colleges, and sent his children to Christian Normal Institute in Grayson, Ky, to Harding College in Morrilton, Arkansas, and to Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee. He read Blue and White from Johnson Bible College and occasionally items from Harding College and David Lipscomb College.
Grandad was a college professor. He taught high school, coached some, worked for the WPA during the war, and even spent a Great Depression summer as a circus clown when teachers were not paid in the summer months. For thirty-three years of his career he taught at Franklin University in downtown Columbus. By retirement as Head of the Dept of Engineering Drawing, he taught courses in everything from chemistry and physics to engineering drawing and drafting to radio, televsion and even refrigeration. As scientific and analytical as he was, he was an artist (drawing), sculptor (clay) and musician (coronet and violin). He also preached some for a small congregation in Reynoldsburg. And he, too, read the church papers…a few here and there, but always, every time, cover to cover, did he read Christian Standard and Word and Work. He published an occasional article in the Ohio Valley regional paper the Bible Herald. Frugal, he and Grandma grew vegetables and canned them, repaired what broke, then repaired it again, and, of course, didn’t throw anything away. At least not anything worth anything and most certainly nary a thing that down the road might have some use sometime, somewhere, for some reason.
All that to say, cleaning out the home was obviously bittersweet. But what a treasure trove of paper. Laura and I filled a steamer trunk full of paper from the barn and home. Sermon manuscripts and outlines, all handwritten by my great-grandfather and grandfather. Back issues of Christian Standard, Gospel Advocate, Apostolic Times (the one in Nashville) and Firm Foundation. Shoe boxes of tracts and leaflets. Pounds of clippings from all of the above. The mice got to quite a bit of K. C. Ice’s clippings from the church papers. Of course, they were put out in the loft in the barn. Not thrown away or buried, not burned, just put aside in the genizah. I sifted pounds of paper fragments no larger than a nickel or quarter. Most all of it highly acidic, much of it nearly pulverized upon my touch. I went through it all and saved all I could possibly reconstruct. The rest may still sit in that loft for all I know.
My discovery of a cache of Restoration paper in the Reynoldsburg genizah opened new vistas for understanding of my family history. When Grandad died, and Grandma moved in with an aunt and uncle, I was in my first year of graduate school at Lipscomb. Just 23 years old. Over the last dozen years I have sorted, read, re-read, re-read and tried to absorb them. I knew then that they were special; but their worth grows on me. In the course of five years’ archival work I corresponded weekly with people who knew nothing, or next to nothing, about their ancestors or their congregation. I spent my days trying to fill in the gaps for them. Professionally and personally, I found it tremendously rewarding. It broadened and deepened my appreciation of what I have available to me; in a pointed way, helped me realize how fortunate I am to simply have something that belonged to an ancestor. However, like any collection, it raises some questions as it answers others. I have a small, dark foggy window into KC Ice’s mind. I am so thankful for what I have; I am even thankful for the questions, the mysteries, the unknowns.
So, I’d like to scan some of these papers, post them to this blog, and think out loud about them. It is really an exercise for me to work through my family history. An online platform such as this will make my work accessible to genealogists and other researchers. It will also make my collection available to my Ice relatives; perhaps it might help them as well. If you will indulge my forays into the genizah, I will occasionally post items from it to this blog.