The story of how I got this box of memorabilia is interesting in itself. My nephew, Dylan Stewart, and his new bride Haley, purchased a house in Clinton, Arkansas that had been part of an estate sale. The house had sat empty for a few years, and needed lots of work. First they had to clear out old things left behind before the remodeling could get started. My sister, Rachelle, went through a couple of old filing cabinets left at the house and found old pictures, certificates, letters, etc. Thinking that someone in the family would like to have them, she boxed the items up and brought them to me for some investigative work. The widow who lived in the house had no children and was estranged from the children of her husband who had died in the 1970’s. Her remaining heirs, nieces and nephews, likely had no interest in this memorabilia of her deceased husband and his family and left it behind.
Most of the contents of the box seem to center around Mr. Roy E. Warden. He was a 1906 graduate of Purdue University in Indiana with a degree in Engineering and later earned a law degree from University of Arkansas. An internet search revealed that in 1925 Mr. Warden was one of five founding board members of the Arkansas Professional Engineers Licensing Board. He was issued certificate #1. A newsletter published online in 2012 by the board told the early history of the founding board members and had pictures of several members, but not Mr. Warden. I will make sure that they have a picture of Mr. Warden for their archives. Also in the box were three different certificates of appointment by Arkansas governors for Mr. Warden to serve on the board, dated 1927, 1931, and 1935. This would be in addition to his initial appointment in 1925 that is referenced by the newsletter.
A most interesting and lengthy typewritten story and newspaper clippings found in the box told of Roy E. Warden’s near-death experience in May 1925. Memphis was hosting a conference of Engineers from the Mid-South. The attendees and some of their family members went on a steamboat excursion to look at some engineering features. The M.E. Norman steamboat capsized resulting in the loss of 23 lives. Many of the 40 who survived were rescued by a black man named Tom Lee who had just passed by in a motor boat and looked back to see the ship sink. Though he could not swim, he made numerous trips rescuing those in the water and taking them to a sandbar. Mr. Lee’s heroic efforts were rewarded with the naming of a park in his honor, Tom Lee Park, a popular park which hosts the annual Memphis in May festival. Roy E. Warden was one of the fortunate survivors of that tragedy.
Back to the box….two wills were in it, one for Roy E. Warden which listed his son and daughter as equal heirs. Another will belonged to his son, Dr. Jim Roy Warden which listed his three children. A google search for them yielded a 2007 obituary of their mother, Dr. Warden’s ex-wife. The obituary included the name of her eldest son and that he was living in Little Rock at the time. An anywho.com search landed me his number, and he answered my call!
Jim Roy Warden II shared that his grandfather worked his entire career for Union Pacific and designed many of the railroad bridges in Arkansas and particularly those in Little Rock. Jim’s father, Dr. Warden, had been a cardiologist in Little Rock. Jim’s grandfather had died when Jim was only eleven. Surprisingly, he had not heard the story of his grandfather surviving a capsized steamboat. Jim will now have Commercial Appeal and Arkansas Gazette newspapers from May 1925 that reported the story on their front pages. Plus he will have the meticulous first-person account typed by one of the survivors that includes a biography of each of the engineers that perished.
Jim Roy was very excited to learn of the contents of the box. He has virtually no pictures or records from his father and paternal grandparents, saying that he and his siblings were not given anything after their father died. The box contains many photos with several very old ones that could be great or great-great grandparents. Jim Roy will need to do some sleuthing of his own to identify all the pictures!
The pictures and documents left behind in an abandoned file cabinet will be reunited with an appreciative family member. Happy reunions are what ReturnthePhotos.com is all about!