A Guide to the Papers of
Collection No. 97-16
Jean Sybil McElrath was born to Mabell Paddock McElrath and Fenton Morrill McElrath on June 8, 1917 in Chloride, Arizona. She moved with her parents to Wells, Nevada, in 1924, where she lived the remainder of her life. She had two sisters and one brother: Anita Cory, Marjorie Klein, and Thomas W. McElrath.
When Jean was in high school she fell from a horse and as a result, developed rheumatoid arthritis by the age of 16. The disease progressed so that by the time she was 19 she was unable to walk and by the age of 33, was blind.
Although confined to bed, Jean wrote extensively, publishing columns and news stories in newspapers in Wells, Elko, western Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah. her sister Anita was an accomplished photographer and provided photos for many of Jean's articles.Â Using an electric typewriter fitted with Braille caps for the keys, and with the help of Anita, Mabell, and many community friends, Jean was able to maintain contact with the world outside her home and produce a steady stream of articles, including a weekly column, "Tumbleweeds" for the Wells Progress from 1940-1967.
Gleanings from her "Tumbleweeds" column were published with the help of Robert Laxalt, Director of the University of Nevada Press, in 1964 as the book Aged in Sage. A second book, Tumbleweeds was published posthumously in 1971 by her friends in Wells.
Jean McElrath received many awards for her work.Â In 1965 she was awarded the Distinguished Nevadan Award by the University of Nevada. She was active in many organizations, including the Girl Scouts, Nevada Historical Society, Nevada Federation of the Blind, and the National League of American Pen Women.
Jean McElrath died on October 7, 1967.
Biographical note compiled from information in Esther Early's biographical sketch of Jean S. McElrath, 1997.
Scope and Content
This collection of papers of Jean S. McElrath was donated to the Special Collections Department in August, 1997 by her niece, Jean Wagner. The collection is 1 cubic foot in size and dates from 1943-1997. The bulk of the papers dates from 1943-1966.Â There are no restrictions on the use of the collection.
The collection primarily consists of Jean's writings in the form of clippings pasted into scrapbooks. In addition, a large envelope of loose clippings accompanied the scrapbooks. Other items acquired from Mrs. Wagner included two scrapbooks about cats (the family loved cats in both physical and print forms); a biographical sketch of Jean, written by Esther Early; financial notebooks detailing Jean's income and expenditures; report cards from her senior year in high school; a history of two local Episcopal churches in Clover Valley and Wells, Nevada, and worksheets used to formulate the contents of one of Jean's books.
This collection does not include all of Jean's writings. Her two published books, Tumbleweeds and Aged in Sage are part of the monograph collection in the Special Collections Department. Numerous McElrath articles can be found in Nevada publications such as Nevada Highways and Parks (later called Nevada Magazine), the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, and various Nevada newspapers.
Addition manuscript collections for Jean McElrath are:
96-44:Â Jean S. McElrath Clippings, 1957-1991
99-65:Â Jean S. McElrath Papers, 1939-1998
2006-09: Jean S. McElrath Papers, 1934-1967
Processed by: Susan Searcy
Date: August 11, 1997
Guide updated: April 2010
The papers of Jean S. McElrath are arranged into the following series:
Series 1: Scrapbooks
Series 2: Financial Journals and Notebooks
Series 3: Miscellaneous
97-16/1Series 1: Scrapbooks.1943-1977. 10 Folders (0.5 cu. ft.).
These scrapbooks primarily contain articles written by Miss McElrath for newspapers in Nevada and Utah.Â They are arranged chronologically with some overlapping of dates between volumes. The clippings in volume 5 were not pasted into the scrapbook and have been removed to folders (now in box 3). Two volumes of scrapbooks are filled with pictures clipped from magazines, articles, cartoons, postcards, and greeting cards, all pertaining to cats. The contents of one of these volumes were not pasted in and have been removed to folders in box 3.
97-16/1/1Cat scrapbook, Christmas 1943.
97-16/1/2Cat scrapbook, ca 1951-1963. Contents of book placed in folders in box 3.
97-16/1/3March 11, 1952 to October 1957.
97-16/1/4July 29, 1957 to September 21, 1960.
97-16/1/5September 11, 1957 to July 22, 1959. Contents of book placed in folders in Box 3.
97-16/1/6October 9, 1960 to January 8, 1961.
97-16/1/7January 10, 1961 to October 16, 1963.
97-16/1/8November 13, 1963 to June 17, 1964.
97-16/1/9April 1963 to September 1966.
97-16/1/10Loose clippings, 1964-1977.
97-16/2Series 2: Financial Journals and Notebooks.1943-1959.5 volumes.
Jean McElrath tracked all her income and expenses in small notebooks. The books are arranged chronologically. For each month, all income and sources are listed, along with all payments made. Jean's sense of humor is evident in the page headings for the volume 1943-1946; she labeled each monthly income and expense page differently. For example, income for January, 1943 was "Here today," while expenses were "Gone, but not forgotten." February, 1943 entries were labeled "Easy come?" and "Easy go."
97-16/2/11943 to March 1949.
97-16/2/2April 1949 to 1952.
97-16/2/3 Â Â Â 1953 to 1959.
97-16/3Series 3: Miscellaneous.1934-1997. 4 folders.
This series contains material written or generated by people other than Jean McElrath. Included is a biographical sketch of McElrath by Esther Early which was written for the Nevada Women's History Project web page; Jean's 1934 report cards; a History of St. Barnabus' and St. Luke's [Churches] by Terry Hickson; and worksheets used to compile materials for one of Jean's books.
97-16/3/1Biography of Jean Sybil McElrath by Esther Early, 1997.
97-16/3/2Report cards, 1934.
97-16/3/3History of St. Barnabus' and St. Luke's [Churches] by Terry Hickson, June 1976.
97-16/3/4Notes for unidentified book, no date.