In the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library, volunteers provide invaluable assistance in helping us organize and process collections. After we received a donation of approximately 14 boxes of papers, letters, photos and other memorabilia of the Clements family of Owensboro, the task of sorting, arranging and foldering some of this material was taken up by one of our longtime volunteers, Louise Sauerland.
When LaVega Clements, the patriarch of the family, died in 1938, he had practiced law in Owensboro for almost 50 years and was a respected public office holder and real estate investor. Remembered by all as a “larger-than-life” figure, he furnished his spacious mansion, “Highland,” with hand-carved furniture, china and silver. He and his wife Maggie, who he married in 1890, became the parents of nine children. Although three of them died young and one fell victim to the World War I influenza epidemic, the Clements name was certain to live on through LaVega and Maggie’s descendants.
And the family’s history, through both good times and bad, has been preserved in the documents Louise is now sorting. Not only are letters from all surviving children represented in the collection, Louise reports, but it includes love letters LaVega and Maggie wrote each other in the 1880s. A detailed genealogy and history prepared by a granddaughter helps her keep track of the members of this devoutly Catholic family, and the lengthy date span of the correspondence has allowed her to experience the march of time–in the aging penmanship, for example, of two aunts as they progress from young women to centenarians.
When the Clements family papers are fully organized and processed and made available to researchers, it will be in no small part due to Louise’s patient efforts. The Special Collections Library appreciates the contributions of all of our volunteers!