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Gilbert, Helen Josephine White

(From the scrapbook of Eddy C. [1857-1944] & Helen White Gilbert [1855-1929].  Clippings may not be dated and newspaper may be unknown, unless noted. Most dates supplied were handwritten and initialed by the collectors.)  In most cases, these clippings were from Rushford Spectator/The Spectator.

Transcribed by Gina Cappello.



MRS. GILBERT DIES AFTER SHORT ILLNESS

Helen White GilbertHelen Josephine White was born February 3, 1855, the year of the dedication of the present Methodist Church. Her early life was spent on Upper Street, in the house now occupied by her sister, Mrs. D. W. Woods, and built by her father, Henry Kirk White. She looked back on him and his father, Samuel White, with deep affection. Many of her early recollections were associated with the store of Captain W. W. Woodworth, which stood on the site now occupied by the house of Mrs. Gaddis. One of her reminiscences was of the celebration of the taking of Richmond, when there were bonfires at the head of Main St., in front of the Globe Hotel. Her early schooling was in the building—now vanished—near Charles Beaumont’s house, where the multiplication table was written on the wall in red chalk. Her parents also lived for a time on their farm on the hill just west of the old mill pond at East Rushford.

After study at the Rushford Academy and teaching at East Rushford, she entered the Normal School at Geneseo as one of the first pupils from Rushford. Her work was somewhat interrupted by the necessity of stopping to teach to earn money for the continuance of her course; in 1878 she graduated. The next few years were spent in teaching in Belfast, Canaseraga and Rushford.

On September 9, 1886, she was married to Eddy Clifton Gilbert of Rushford by the Rev. Asa H. Johnson. The remainder of her life was passed in Rushford.

The largest part of her interest outside her home was given to the Methodist Church, which she joined at twelve years of age. For many years she was the leading spirit in the Epworth League, which held crowded meetings under her direction. Her effort was to train the younger people to independent activity in meetings, rather than to be satisfied with reading from the Epworth Herald. She steadily favored the union of the League meeting with the Sunday evening class meeting. As a teacher in the Sunday school, she encouraged her pupils to commit to memory consecutive sections of Scripture and used her influence to raise the quality of the hymns that were sung. Many programs for Children’s Day were prepared by her and the children carefully trained. For this she had prepared herself by taking private lessons in elocution. She was never satisfied to use the stereotyped program prepared for such occasions, but found for the children recitations of higher quality and more interesting. The office of class-leader she also held and exercised. Her chief interest in the church was studious rather than socially; she did the work for which she felt suited and left the rest to others. The study of the Bible was one of her chief occupations. The Rev. Mark Kelly aroused her interest in commentaries on the Bible and influenced her to begin a Biblical library to which she kept adding until it comprised many volumes. She was alive to and able to assimilate the views of Biblical interpretation held by recent scholars. At prayer meeting she was a regular attendant. Indeed her fidelity in attending the meeting of the church was remarkable; in the depth of winter she waded through the snow-drifts in the streets, before they were lighted, without any thought that she was doing more than her plain duty. Fidelity was part of her being.

With equal steadiness she worked in the literary societies of the village; the Historical Society, the Cynthian Club, the Sesame Club, the Afternoon Study Club. For considerable periods she acted as leader, having prepared herself by purchasing books and spending hours over them.

One of her dreams was a public library for Rushford. As president of the Rushford Free Library Association she gave herself to raising money. At the close of her administration there was about $3500 in the treasury. Most of the amount raised by subscription had been pledged on her solicitation.

Her unquenchable devotion to Rushford was best expressed in her historical work. When the town celebrated its Centennial the historical part of the program was put in her hands. After the celebration she labored to prepare the material for publication. Her desire for a properly edited volume and her inability to bow in flattery before wealth caused her to be deprived of the results of her long labors and ejected from the enterprise. Uncrushed by the blow, she set to work anew. In 1910, she published at her own expense a volume entitled ‘Rushford and Rushford People; this sold at a price which, it was hoped, would ultimately repay the initial investment of a thousand dollars. About three hundred and fifty copies have up to the present been sold. This history stands out among comparable works in its attempt to preserve the individuality of writers and teller of reminiscences by careful editing and in its retention of the details in which interest lies. It is readable, and yet full of solid facts. After the book appeared she continued to add to her stores of historical information and published many items in the Spectator.

Her interest in history outside Rushford appeared in the award to her by the Empire State Society of Chicago of first prize in a historical contest entered by a thousand contestants. She also won first prize a second time.

Her chief private interest was in the furnishings of her house, which she wished to have in the best taste and in immaculate condition. Paintings and other objects of art were a great satisfaction to her; the most striking which she purchased were a large painting in oils by Mrs. Helen Dolan Judd and a copy of Canova’s Reading Boy in Carrara marble. Throughout her life she did her housework unassisted, with the utmost scrupulousness and with extraordinary avoidance of waste.

After a short illness she died on January 25, 1929 of failure of hear brought about by influenza. She is survived by her husband, Eddy C. Gilbert, and her son, Allan H Gilbert of Durham, North Carolina.

 

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