A.L. Truax Of Crosby, North Dakota Signs In
Routinely scanning my email, I noticed a signature that immediately grabbed my attention. Bill O’Byrne, who was then unknown to me, had sent a photo of the fly leaf of Collected Poems Of A.E.1 inscribed with the signature of A.L. Truax.
My interest was piqued because the signature was familiar to me. Beginning with Allan Truax, A.E. Housman, The Ex, and Me (February 9, 2007), I had published several posts about Allan Truax.
The Allan Truax & Me Back Story
A perceptive Ex once gave me an especially gratifying gift – A.E. Housman’s Last Poems, a copy of which was already in my library. The book she presented me, however, was an early edition, replete with well-thumbed pages, a few tears and folds, and blemishes galore.
The date of the first printing2 of Last Poems was October 1922. A second printing also took place in October 1922. My copy was “reprinted” (the publisher’s term) in November 1922. There is no special monetary value attached to this edition, but I’ve always relished reading from it, knowing it was published and appeared to have been well read while Housman himself was alive and still writing.
While I had noticed the inscription on the front page when I received the gift, I had paid it little attention until recently when it struck me as kinda, sorta interesting that the presumptive original owner of this volume was from “Crosby, ND.” Given that I wasn’t certain that a place called Crosby, North Dakota existed, it seemed worthwhile to check out that geographical point lest I discover a few years hence that “Crosby, ND” is a village in New Devonshire or something of that ilk.
As it turns out, Crosby, North Dakota, founded in 1904, is located 186 miles northwest of Bismarck in the northwest corner of the state and, as of the 2000 census, was home to just over 1,000 residents.3
After learning the town’s location and size,4 I began wondering what kind of guy living in Crosby, North Dakota in 1922 would buy a copy of Housman’s second book of poems.
It turns out that Allan Lincoln Truax was, in fact, an extraordinarily accomplished individual whose job was in the railway mail service but whose heart and mind were given over to his involvement with his family and community, his extensive travels, and his devoted pursuit of intellectual interests, especially horticulture, literature, and family, local, and American history.
- He and his wife were well known for their civic and Church leadership. Allan developed great talent as a speaker and a writer.
- Following an accident which severed his arm, he retired from the railroad in 1933. He and his wife bought a Model-T. Because of his handicap, he could not drive. She could. Together, they drove over 100 thousand miles, touring the country. They visited the 48 continental states in the process. They also visited Hawaii.
- He wrote a history of the Revolution in several volumes, and a series on the history of the states.
- At age 83, Allan spent five months in England touring the literary and historical sites he had read about.
- To help complete a Truax family history, From 1934 to 1945, he traveled extensively, interviewing hundreds of Truax descendants, copying gravestone inscriptions, unearthing old Bibles and consulting local records.
- Though he worked most of his life as a railway mail clerk on the Great Northern Railway (until his disabling accident), he accumulated an estate worth over $1,000,000.
I wrote about A.L. Truax and his wife, Evelyn, not only because they were themselves interesting but also because it offered insights into an era and an environment that, while they were only a couples of generations and a few states removed from me, were so unlike my own experience that, in many ways, the circumstances of Allan Truax’s life are as unimaginable to me as those of a Jules Verne character residing on another planet.
Allan Truax Timeline: From Post-Civil War to Vietnam
To place the life of Allan Truax in context, I’ve added historical markers (in red) to his timeline.5
It’s enlightening to grasp that Allan Truax was born only six years after the Civil War ended and died as Vietnam began; he was alive when scientists developed telephones, light bulbs, penicillin, radio, TV, and atomic energy; and automobiles, airplanes, and space travel had their beginnings during his lifetime.
In addition to the events listed on the timeline, Truax’s lifetime included
- 1871: The Chicago Fire
- 1876: Invention of telephone
- 1879: Invention of electric light
- 1890: Battle of Wounded Knee
- 1893: Tesla invents radio
- 1898: Spanish American War
- 1903: First airplane flight
- 1910: Death of Mark Twain
- 1915: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
- 1918: Prohibition begins
- 1919: League of Nations founded
- 1928: Penicillin discovered
- 1945: US drops the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- 1950: Korean War begins
- 1952: Reign of Queen Elizabeth II begins
- 1964: Vietnam War begins
- 1965: USSR spacewalks
I was also motivated to record this miniature biography by my conviction that Allan Truax – and Evelyn Truax – were special, stalwart individuals who deserved to have their story written and read.6
All Allan Truax posts can be found by clicking on the Allan Truax category
The Bill O’Byrne Connection
Bill O’Byrne, who formerly owned a used book store in Livingston Montana, bought a shed full of 2,000 books (mostly history and poetry) in Albert Lea, Minnesota and, after selling most of them (Larry McMurtry bought a lot of them for his Texas store), decided to look up “A. L. Truax,” whose name was signed in the books. He soon came upon the Heck Of A Guy posts about Allan Truax and emailed me.
Other Books From Allan Truax’s Library
- A.E. in this case refers to George William Russell, the Irish Renaissance poet [↩]
- The publisher is Grant Richards, LTD , London [↩]
- Wikipedia – Crosby, ND [↩]
- I should point out that Crosby’s population is more than twice that of my own home town in the Ozarks [↩]
- I’ve also added a few dates from his own life to the the timeline. [↩]
- These posts ended when the death of a loved one caused me to lose interest in many activities, including, unfortunately, the life of Allan Truax. [↩]