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A trip back in time

By By Jason Cannon
Last week, Orland Britnell, which I imagine most of you already know, brought me an unexpected surprise.
The original intent of his visit was to run an old photograph he found in the newspaper with the hope that someone might be able to identify the people in it.
We've done this several times in the past for other people and were happy to do so in our Sunday, Aug. 8 edition.
I enjoy running items like that. Not only are they items of interest to many people, but also I am a history nut. In fact, I minored in history in college.
Mr. Britnell became a good friend of my family before we were even able to unpack our moving boxes in Russellville nearly a year ago.
Friday, in what my wife, Tiffany, and I decided was some free time, we decided to investigate several of the items Orland had left in our care. That few minutes of free time turned into several hours, spilled through the weekend and into the early part of this week.
It is amazing what you can find out by spending a few hours pouring though the pages of Google and the various newspapers the search directed us to.
For all our efforts, we weren't able to identify every person in the photo, but we were able to find out several key points about the person who spurred this search – Robert Wardlaw.
Long story (and many hours of searching) short, Mr. Wardlaw was a well-to-do businessman in Mankato, Minn.
Mr. Britnell came in possession of an old accounting ledger of Wardlaw many years ago, and his life story had been a mystery ever since.
The story takes many interesting turns from there, pinpointed by the personal letters and receipts that were folded and placed in the book.
Reading those letters was the most interesting part. Just to think that someone actually wrote that more than 150 years ago, most likely with a quill and ink well, was like reading the pages of history.
I can't say that Tiffany and I were of much help in the grand scheme of things.
We could only identify one of the people in a group shot of 33 men, and we were only "pretty sure" he was the one we thought he was, but we sure had a lot of fun trying.

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