Family early 1900s

The Power of a Good Story

Stories. We all have them – good, bad, happy, and sad. Each day as I search through and read hundreds of newspapers in our collection at NewspaperArchive, I am never without a story. No matter what I search for, something different always catches my eye. And I read it. Sometimes I save it. Not because it’s connected to me or my search for ancestors, but because it’s an incredible story worth sharing.

April 27th is Tell a Story Day. To honor the day, I want to share a few of the thousands upon thousands of life stories captured in newspapers from long ago. Some are old enough that no one living remembers the tale. 

To fully immerse yourself in the story experience, each article is linked to a clipping that allows access to the complete article at

Freeborn County Standard, Albert Lea, MN – 20 Aug 1902
Remarkable Experience – War History of an Illinois Veteran Who Carries a Bullet in His Brain
After being left for dead on the battlefield at Chickamauga, Jacob Miller went on to live decades after the Civil War with a musket ball lodged in his forehead. This incredible story of survival against all odds tells of the day it happened and the nine months it took Jacob to make his way back home.

Sunday Times Globe Journal, Dubuque, IA – 5 Jan 1902
Most Remarkable Family in the World; Quadruplets, Triplets, 2 Pairs of Twins
Image childbirth more than 100 years ago – typically at home with little or no pain relief. Large families were not uncommon, but Josephine Ormsby’s story is definitely one that made headlines. By the age of 30, Josephine had 14 children. These children were a result of 7 pregnancies which included two sets of twins, triplets, and quadruplets. Josephine was a triplet herself. The story of this remarkable woman and her many multiples made the news multiple times.

New York Times, New York, NY – 23 Apr 1912
Heirs Dig Up $3,000. Aged Woman in Will Left Instructions Where She Hid Money.
It’s the premise behind Hollywood movies – the eccentric old widow dies, leaving a fortune to her heirs, only for them to learn they have to follow a treasure map to unearth the gold. Not a real-life story, right? Wrong! In 1912, the oldest living person in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, ninety-seven-year-old Sallie Bennighoff, left an undisclosed amount of “buried treasure” to her heirs. Using precise details described by Sallie in her will, family members were forced to dig up locations on two of her farms to find their inheritance.

Chicago Examiner, Chicago, IL – 23 Apr 1912
Girl, 15, Dresses and Smokes “Like a Boy” – Has Her Hair Cut and Assumes Full Male Attire, but Her Shoes Betray Her.
When 15-year-old Sarah Wilson is told by her father she cannot visit her married sister in Kansas, she takes matters into her own hands. After stealing money from her parents, buying some boy’s clothes, and then having her 11-year-old sister cut off her hair, Sarah made her way by train to Chicago. She went to a barbershop to get her haircut evened out and then planned to board another train to Kansas when detectives arrested her.

Commercial Tribune, Cincinnati, OH – 18 Jan 1925
Mourned as Dead, Brother is Found Through a Magazine
Young Anthony Iselin enlisted in 1917 to fight in World War I and was sent to France. During the battle in the Argonne forest, it was believed Anthony died, and the family received word of his death from the War Department. However, Anthony was very much alive. When he returned home to New Jersey, his family had moved, and he could not track them down. Anthony decided to move West. Fast forward to 1925. One of Anthony’s brothers read an electrical magazine and came across an article about a man that was an electrician in California with a description shockingly similar to Anthony. Could it be his brother?

The next time you’re searching for something in a newspaper, I encourage you to look around. See what stories were making the news. You might be surprised by what you learn. And whatever you do, don’t keep them to yourself. Give someone’s story a new life through sharing with others.

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