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The Mr. Roger’s Steubenville connection

Local library has McFeely family collection

MCFEELY MEMORABILIA — Alan Hall, director emeritus of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, and Erika Grubbs, local genealogist/librarian at the Schiappa Branch, sit in the board room at the Main Library where they look over various items that are part of the McFeely family collection. The items are related to Eli Hawk McFeely (1802-1882) who arrived in Steubenville in 1814 as a 12-year-old boy, and the family continued for four generations as leading citizens of the city. They would be ancestors of Fred McFeely Rogers — Mr. Rogers of the PBS TV show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” The McFeely Family Library collection will be developed into library displays, and documents are being digitized for the library’s Digital Shoebox. -- Contributed

A couple of years ago, Erika Grubbs, the genealogy librarian for the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, received an e-mail from Jacquie Clark saying that she had a lot of material from her ancestral Steubenville family that she would like to donate to the library — if we wanted it.

She stated that her family identifies her as the “family historian” and these material items were given to her by family members as they were “found” by various close and distant relatives. She took the items to a reunion hoping that some younger person would take interest in them — but as is usually the case — she returned home with the items.

Those items consisted of old newspapers, receipts, deeds and several books with the oldest dating back to 1818.

The library’s Local History and Genealogy Department is interested in the preservation of information and its use for future generations, and how would these fit into that format, Clark wondered.

Libraries today have new abilities to store information, specifically digitizing and preserving bits of history that can then be accessed for local history, in addition to the traditional paperbound book product identified with a public library.

Erika followed up with Jacquie to get more specific information to determine how these materials would benefit the library’s collections.

The items related to Eli Hawk McFeely (1802-1882) who arrived in Steubenville on Oct. 22, 1814, as a 12-year-old boy, and the family continued for four generations as leading citizens of the city.

In 1879 he even documented what Steubenville looked like in 1814 with information that would have been lost otherwise. His son was John McFeely (1827-1895) who was married three times and known as being “one of the most enterprising citizens in Steubenville, having been engaged in many enterprises over the years.” He was engaged in the woolen trade through the years, acquiring property around the county and trading nationally.

Within the collection is a leather wallet that was owned by John McFeely, who carried it to the California Gold Rush of 1849. The wallet was a prized possession of the 19th century McFeely family and was noted in a newspaper article which was attached to the wallet.

As the family expanded, various family members became involved in McFeely Lumber and Contracting Co. located on South Seventh Street with various family members living all over the downtown area.

Of particular interest to anyone aware of local history research was Eli McFeely’s grandson, Joseph B. Doyle (1849-1927) the author of the 1910 “20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County,” containing 1,197 pages of history.

Doyle was an attorney and newspaper editor in the 19th century, librarian of the Law Library and served on the board of the Carnegie Library. Did I mention that he authored several other books, particularly biographies of Edwin M. Stanton?

Erika brought me into the discussion regarding the many books, which were an example of the books to be found in a 19th century home ranging from the 1818 Holy Bible to the 1837 Family Encyclopedia and 1850 dictionary which gave Mr. Webster credit for the first dictionary that was used to develop this later edition.

The little collection of books had been well-used, and later generations seemed not to have taken as good of care as earlier ones, and yes, I would clean and repair the books for the purpose of public display.

After we discussed the books, Erika said, “There is more.”

Eli McFeely’s grandson, Charles Albert McFeely (1846-1908) branched out from the local clan and acquired some Pittsburgh businesses, and his son, Fred Brooks McFeely, relocated to Latrobe, Pa., and started the McFeely Brick Co.

His daughter used her maiden name in her son’s name, Fred McFeely Rogers — yes, Mr. Rogers of the PBS TV show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”

So, many of Mr. Roger’s ancestors resided in Steubenville.

And the character of the mailman on “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” received the name “McFeely” from Mr. Roger’s middle name, which was his grandfather’s family name.

The library system has what I have termed “The McFeely Family Library,” and I got out my book repair tools to clean and repair the little family library. If you look in the library catalog under the subject “McFeely Family Library,” you will see the cataloging for the collection.

Erika has been busy digitizing the documents and placing them on the library’s Digital Shoebox under the “Images” file searchable by simply entering “McFeely.” They can be found at www.digitalshoebox.org with some 39 items currently on file.

After Christmas, we will develop displays at the Main Library and Schiappa Branch to show off the McFeely Family Library collection.

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