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AURORA -- Last week, the Aurora Historical Society received delivery of what its officials are referring to as a "mystery box," packed with a wealth of items pertaining to Aurora's history. It was shipped to the museum without information as to who sent it.
According to historical society president and museum curator John Kudley, the clue was the shipping label from "Mailman Joey's" out of Melbourne, Fla. He contacted the shipper and obtained a telephone number and name of the individual who shipped the items -- a C. Harris. But calls to the number have not produced a response.
The box contained the following: three pairs of baby shoes from the 1880s, copies of the 1974 "Aurora Sesquicentennial" from the Advocate, copy of an 1894 insurance policy for the original Ebenezer Sheldon (Aurora's first settler) property, the Aurora High 1900 diploma of Edith Straight, hand-written minutes of the Aurora Reading Club dated 1873, a rare tintype photo of the C.R. Harmon & Sons store (most recently Chet Edwards), photo of the Aurora Brass & Reed Band (1920), a template for a contract for the Harmon Roofing Co. and letterhead from C.R. Harmon's Sons General Merchandise, Butter & Cheese, among others.
What may be the most important item in the mystery box, according to Kudley, is a leather-bound journal of the "Records of Reunions of the Descendants of Ebenezer & Mary Harmon" from 1910 to 1923. The Harmons arrived in 1806 and settled near Aurora Pond (Sunny Lake). Mary was the 21-year-old daughter of Ebenezer and Lovee Sheldon.
Tucked in the pages of the journal is a letter from A.B. Russell, which contained the minutes of the first reunion held in July, 1895 at the East Pioneer Trail home of C.R. Harmon, later the home of Alanson Baldwin and now the home of Jeff and Michelle Clark.
Another letter was written by Israel Harmon of Springfield, Mass. and read at the 1910 reunion. It told much of the Harmons' early history.
Another daily journal contains countless newpaper articles from 1844 to the 1970s. Among the clippings are articles about the Aurorans who fought and died in World War II, obituaries of prominent Aurorans and tales about events in the town's history.
One article listed the "relics" that were placed on display at Aurora's centennial celebration in 1899 (until now only a partial listing of items was known to the society).
Another article from the Sept. 7, 1844 Plain Dealer related Henry Clay's support of the annexation of Texas to the Union, while the murder of Alanson Baldwin under the elm tree in his front lawn by an intoxicated shoemaker he had employed is described in another clipping.
According to Kudley, possibly the most interesting articles are those describing the "late draft" of young men from Aurora to fight for the Union in 1862. Eleven men were drafted and all had families except three.
Of the 11, six procured substitutes -- one could hire someone to take his place in the army -- two "skedaddled," one was exempted, one denied that Aurora was his hometown and one went to camp for service.
The article also describes how an "old Aurora family" had left for "parts unknown" -- perhaps Tennessee -- and had "doubtless gone to cast in their lot with Jeff Davis." The article states that if their departure had been known, there was no doubt"creditors might have blocked their wheels."
But the "chief thing an indignant and outraged community" wondered was why they left behind "their poor mother to be cared for by the community, when she ought to have had enough to give her a comfortable support in her declining years."
Kudley said all of the items are currently being transcribed and catalogued. Until the donor is confirmed -- if that ever happens -- the items will be listed as having been donated anonymously.