Wishful Wednesday: Jefferson Springsteen was “Lured by the Sawdust Ring…”

Jefferson Springsteen, c1890?
Jefferson Springsteen, c1890? (Click to enlarge.)

One never knows what lurks in the dark back corners of closets.

I had been tracing our family history for years and was stuck at my great-great grandfather, Jefferson Springsteen. I had searched far and wide (in the days before internet genealogy) without success in learning much more than his name and a few dates- he was hard to find. I wished for just one clue…

My mother had asked some of her siblings if they had any family information tucked away, in a closet or their memory, but with no success. She finally asked her oldest brother Edgar if he had any information, and he, although very ill, remembered an old box in a closet. His dear wife pulled it out and there was a darkened clipped obituary of Jefferson Springsteen pasted to a page with information about Jeff and his family. There were three additional newspaper clippings about his death and funeral.

Jefferson Springsteen Obituary
Jefferson Springsteen Obituary (Click to enlarge.)

My hands shook as my mother handed me the copy. “EVENTFUL LIFE OF PIONEER IS ENDED” I read. Oh my, I couldn’t believe what I held in my hands! (Yes, genealogists are weird…)

“Jefferson Springsteen, 90, Whose Career is Interwoven With Early Indianapolis, Dies” continued the headline.

“Carried Mail on Horseback”

“Public Service Began When 16

Over 65-Mile Route–Later

Democratic Politician”

I could not believe what I was reading.My mother thought her family were mostly poor Germans and Irish, and had done nothing ‘important.’

The newspaper obituary stated,

“Jefferson Springsteen, one of the oldest

pioneers of Indiana, died at 8 o’clock yes-

terday afternoon at the home of his

daughter, Mrs. Joseph Beckwith, 1118

Bellefontaine street, closing an eventful

and interesting career of ninety years.

The funeral will be held at the home

Tuesday afternoon with interment at

Crown Hill Cemetery.”

This was the breakthrough I had been searching for, for so long.

“Mr. Springsteen was born at Harrison, O., in 1820.  The love for excitement and adventure seemed to have been born in him. When a very small boy he was lured by the sawdust ring and tented arena and running away from home with a circus, took his first glimpse of Indiana [or may be ‘Indians’- newspaper damaged so cannot determine which it is]. He left the circus life, but never lost the appreciation of a good show. It is said of him that he never missed attending a circus in Indianapolis.”

 These newspaper clippings gave me so much information- I have since been able to learn much more about his life due to those clues, plus of course the incredible breadth of records now online. And the stories in the obit- just priceless! A wish come true.


Tomorrow- More details from the obituary and newspaper clippings.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family treasure chest photo and documents.


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