They were total strangers; faces from long ago staring back at him from decades-old family photos.
But as the summer progressed, Jedediah Buck began feeling a connection to the Bailey family as he sorted and catalogued items for the Special Collections in the Spiva Library Archives, where he is a student worker.
Buck, a senior history major, said he spent more than 140 hours putting the collection together.
“They all started out as strangers, but I began to see the same people showing up again and again, and I began making a map of the family,” he said.
The Bailey Collection documents the lives of a Carthage family and their lives prior to and following World War II. When Mabel Sellars Bailey died without any heirs, the family photos, letters and documents were donated to the library in 1986.
Following World War I, Edward Bailey married Mabel Sellars in 1919. Their son, Carroll, was born in 1927.
Edward served as a colonel during WWII and he and Mabel settled in China in the 1940s to assist with post-war construction. They were evacuated in 1947 due to the rise of the Chinese Communist Party. Settling back in Carthage, Edward wrote letters to government officials in Washington, D.C., warning them about the dangers of communist China.
Carroll was drafted by the Army in 1945 and later was stationed in Japan. There he met Koda Emiko (Amy Eileen Koda Bailey), and they were married in 1957 before he was called back to the U.S. They lived for a time on the base at Fort Bragg before moving back to Carthage.
A professional violinist, not much is known about Amy’s life in Carthage, but at some point she moved to North Carolina, where she passed away in 2015. No mention of her was made in Carroll’s obituary when he died in 1979.
As he began piecing together the digital collection, Buck said he became invested in the family’s story. On Memorial Day, he visited Mount Hope Cemetery in Webb City and was able to track down the gravestones for Edward, Mabel and Carroll, where he left flowers.
“They grew on me, and it hurt my feelings that there was no one – not even distant family relatives – who could have inherited (this collection),” he said.
Buck, who will graduate from MSSU next May, said the experience of assembling the Bailey Collection helped solidify his interest in continuing his education to get his master’s degree in archival and library sciences.
“As a history major, it puts me back in the past,” he said. “You see patterns and can put them together so others can see. It’s really fulfilling.”
The collection can be viewed online through Spiva Library’s Archives and Special Collections page at www.mssu.edu.