Kingsport: Breakthroughs

This week in the archives, Brianne and I experienced a lot of breakthroughs: solutions to mysteries that we had been pursuing. Remember this mystery photo album? It had great pictures, but only an occasional date and even fewer labeled locations, but not one single name was labeled on, below, or behind the photos. Until now, we thought it belonged to the creator of the Spoden Collection and that the photographs depicted her relatives.Monday, Brianne recognized a building in the background of a photo that looked like downtown Kingsport. She’s kind of the resident expert, these days. That meant that this album could not have represented the Spoden or Clark family, but must have been collected by Muriel Spoden. I thought I recognized the Holston River in another photograh. So, we asked George, the treasurer of The Friends of the Archives, to come in and take a stab at identifying the people in the album. The first words out of his mouth, no kidding, on page no. 1 were “There’s granddaddy and there’s Red Cloud.”

George’s visit is an example of just how vital a good Friends organization can be to the Archives.

Page 1: Staff photo of the Dobyns Taylor Department Store

When I looked to see who George was pointing at when he said, “Red Cloud,” I realized it was the man who was pictured in over half of the pictures in both albums. Red, or V.L. Cloud, is married to the woman who kept 10 or 11 scrapbooks that I blogged about earlier. Remember these? Now, we can tie the albums and the scrapbooks to a family that has ties to Netherland Inn and modern Kingsport. It was hard to even let George go, but apparently he had some errands to do. Whatever.

Mrs. Cloud’s scrapbooks are mostly newspaper clippings of current events, organizations of interest to her, and articles about her hobbies and passions. One of the clippings helped us identify a painting in the archives. You go, Mrs. Cloud.

Ross N. Robinson

Another breakthrough came when I was working on Series IV of the Spoden Collection; Journals, Ledgers, and Recipts. We’ve known for a year that this box contained receipts and orders for a store. They all have the tell-tale hole in the center where the clerk would stack up the requests on a spike.

But this time, we read enough of them to notice they were addressed to one man. So, now we know the proprietor of the store was James P. Henderson. And, because of Muriel’s book, Kingsport Heritage: The Early Years, we understand why some were orders, and some were requests to pay goods or money to other customers.

We've decided this book will remain out on the work table, permanently.

It was all part of a complicated barter system, that she writes about, in which customers were allowed to pay off their debts to other people by leaving money for them in their account or by paying for their merchandise. Thanks, Muriel Spoden!

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