As a young boy, my uncle, William Malrose Spencer II “Uncle Bill” remembers his mother, Anna Schumacher Spencer talking about That Black Book. The way she spoke about it must have made him understand that somehow this book was really important, because he never forgot about it. He called it That Black Book, because his mother had called it That Black Book. He figured that was as good a name as any. Uncle Bill writes, “The year was 1937, and we lived on a farm exactly one half mile West and exactly one half mile North of Holyoke, Minnesota, which was about 20 miles Southwest of Duluth.” He is so meticulous when it comes to the details of the family history…a fact that makes every detail so clear to the reader.
The book came to be about the time of World War I, when his dad, my Grandpa Allen Luther Spencer had gone to Arapahoe and Thomas, Oklahoma to visit his Uncle Luther and his Uncle Cornelius “Neal” and their families. The uncles had homesteaded in the area in 1895. When he came back, he brought with him the family historical information that Grandma Anna Schumacher Spencer filled the first seven pages of That Black Book with. Uncle Bill believes that most of the information came from his Great Uncle Luther, and then recalls that it was at that time that his own interest in the family history started…never to end.
Being a very meticulous man, who checked his facts as carefully as possible, Uncle Bill became a little frustrated when it appeared that there were errors in the information found in That Black Book. Of course, the only error was that in writing down the history, Christopher Spencer’s father was listed as his brother, making the birth years look like an impossibility. Uncle Bill is a smart man, however, and he figured that problem out right away. As I said, he was meticulous. He just couldn’t let a situation rest until he fixed the error in it. The really amazing thing about that is that he did his fixing without the benefit of a computer and the internet. His work always involved trips to different places to spend hours going through archives in libraries and government records offices.
While That Black Book did contain errors, it really served its main purpose anyway, in that it peaked the interest of a young boy with an amazing amount of determination. Through the years Uncle Bill would build on, correct, and give away copies of the family history to any and all of his relatives who were interested. He is responsible for many additional family historians coming up the ranks in the family, myself included. And it all started when a little boy became interested in the family history information contained in That Black Book.