Recently, I’ve been feeling much the same as Dorothy must have felt when she returned to the Wizard of Oz, only to find that her hard-won victory, keeping those ruby slippers on her own feet, was already capable of bestowing upon her the very wish she had sought him to grant. The realization lately dawned upon me that, despite the fantastic service provided by the Monroe County Public Library, I already have the means to obtain Bloomington newspaper clippings. It’s called NewspaperArchive.com, and for whatever reason, I had totally forgotten about my subscription there—until, that is, I read Iggy’s comment containing a link to that very service.
Well, duh. Why I didn’t think of that, myself, I don’t know. Call it a season of over-commitment, I suppose.
So, back to my subscription at NewspaperArchive I went, to see what I could find on Ella Creahan Fulk, her deceased husband Homer, and their youngest—and most unusually-named—son, Lyman.
Not that I’m saying Lyman is an unusual name. It’s just that it’s less common than his older brother’s name (Robert) or his sister’s name (Marie). And if I’m going to trace this Kelly line’s descendants, I may as well start with the path of least resistance.
Pulling up the name Lyman Fulk at NewspaperArchive produced quite a collection of results—just under five hundred entries, in fact. And that’s just for the newspapers in Bloomington, Indiana.
A few quotes help reveal one of the reasons why he merited so many mentions in Bloomington newspapers. The Bloomington Evening World assured its readers on Wednesday, April 7, 1915, that “the appearance of Wink Weaver and Lyman Fulk on any amusement program is a guarantee of its success.”
A later edition provided another clue. The May 27, 1919, report discussed an “act by the premiere comedians Lyman Fulk and Robert Hamilton.” I’m not sure what happened to Wink Weaver by this point, but evidently Lyman was still in the business of pleasing his audiences.
In addition to mentions of Lyman’s acts throughout the 1920s, it appears some performances were a family affair, with “Mrs. Lyman Fulk” either providing accompaniment, singing soprano solos—sometimes in Civil War period costume—or conducting junior choirs or girls’ choruses.
That, however, was not Lyman’s main calling in life, for early on, the Bloomington Evening World announced “The friends of Lyman Fulk insist that he be a candidate for coroner” in the upcoming 1916 Democrat primary—which, upon declaring his candidacy, pitted him against candidate H. R. Barrow.
Regardless of how that election turned out, even this was not his calling. A March 17, 1919, report in the Evening World revealed that he was a “traveling salesman for the Nurre Mirror Plate company,” providing some corroboration for what was somewhat difficult handwriting to decipher on the 1920 census. Apparently, as he traveled, his whereabouts were reported by the paper back home—mentioning his far-ranging business in Midwest cities such as Memphis and Chicago.
With nearly five hundred mentions in the NewspaperArchive results, you’d think there would be one providing me with the very obituary I was seeking—that of his mother, Ella Fulk, who had passed away on May 28, 1933. However, as often happens in archival collections of newspapers, the series of dates in the collection can be spotty. Apparently, 1933 in Bloomington, Indiana, was one of those spots.
While Dorothy may have only had to click her ruby heels together and assert, “There’s no place like home,” it will apparently take a bit more than that for one particular obituary to materialize before my own eyes. It’s just as well that the down-to-earth offer tendered by the Monroe County Public Library still stands.