Autograph book makes it way home

Two months ago, I wrote a column about an autograph book I found while cleaning out some old file drawers here at the office.

It was filled with sentiments from friends and family members and dated to the late 1800s. I couldn’t tell where it came from, or what connection it might once have had to a story or person here at the Gazette. My only clue to who might own it was a small note stuck to the outside:

“Milley’s Autograph Book. JAO’s wife. Need it back.”

That was actually a pretty good clue, but I needed help decoding it.

One reader suggested I send the book over to the folks at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library as a piece of local history, but I dragged my feet.

The sentiments I shared from the book struck a chord with another reader who sent a link of the story to her friend in North Carolina.

It hit home.

A few days later, I got a phone call from Lou Osborne, who was pretty sure it was his grandmother’s autograph book.

Lou Osborne is the grandson of J.A. Osborne, the gentleman the Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin and John D. Rockefeller hired to come to Williamsburg from Florida and restart The Virginia Gazette as part of the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. It was, as the note said, his wife Milley’s book.

Osborne and his wife, Sheri, stopped by the office on Tuesday to pick it up and we chatted for a bit. He recalled his family’s indecision about coming to Virginia, but once his uncle and another family member got a job here, they were all in.

He talked about visiting the office when it was down at Merchants Square, where the ice cream store is now. He remembers his aunts — they were lovingly called the three M’s for the initial of their first names — running the newspaper after Mr. Osborne died, but he said men didn’t much like working for women then, and so they gave it up after a while.

They couldn’t stay long, as they had other stops to make and election day duties tugged at me.

But Lou and Sheri had gotten what they came for: A piece of their family story, long in their hearts, now back in their hands.

Election wrap

Election day always brings some drama, and this week’s held its own in that regard. I want to thank you for all the letters — mostly civil — and I’m pleased to say we published nearly all that we received.

There are two ways to send letters: By email to or via the post office to Letters to the Editor, The Virginia Gazette, 216 Ironbound Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188. Email is by far the preferred way to receive letters (no retyping needed); and if you sent them any other way or to any other email addresses, we did not receive them.

A few people wrote columns and we didn’t use those in keeping with the guidelines of the past few years; we published those again on Aug. 31.

We received and did not publish Last Word comments on the local elections, issues and candidates. We said at the outset that we would not publish anonymous comments — good or bad — about local political campaigns, so if you were wondering, that’s what happened to those.

But it’s finally time to move on to new topics — or perhaps revisit some of the old favorites — and I look forward to hearing from you.

Bellows is editor of The Virginia Gazette. Reach her by phone at 345-2347 or at or on twitter @peggybellows.

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