Idaho is the Gem State and we have an Idaho Gem right in the Bingham County Archives — Sara Staub.
Every beautiful gem needs polish. When Sara was a young girl growing up in Baltimore, Md., she discovered precious Civil War letters in the closet of her home. Those letters were written by Sara’s great-grandfather, Cornelius Milton Comegys, who served in the Iowa 19th Regiment of the Union Army during the Civil War.
When Sara had time she would take the letters from the closet and read those letters again and again, where she learned of the day-to-day challenges of a soldier. She learned of his concern for the family.
Sara was fascinated when she read that people took picnics near the battlefields and watched as battles were won and lost. Her great-grandmother was, on several occasions, able to join her husband and cook for him and care for him. During her letter reading, a curiosity and love of history was planted. The polishing had begun for Sara.
In 2013, Sara was serving as the Bingham County clerk. At the same time the Bingham County Archives was developing and growing. In a meeting with the county commissioners, a request was made for county representation on the Bingham County Historical Society Board and the county commissioners asked Sara to serve as an ad hoc member of the BCHS board. Later, after her retirement, she served as a voting member of the board.
The polishing of this Idaho Gem born in Baltimore was becoming more intense. In 2015, the board approached her to continue her service on the board but included in her duties that of director of the archives.
As director, the Gem was starting to shine. The daunting task ahead included moving into a new building, setting up a system of reference much like the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries.
With a smile, Sara states that the PastPerfect program used to identify all acquisitions caused the polishing to take off rough edges. Building on what others had started, she set about to index every book, photo, magazine, and artifact donated to the archives. Sara is quick to acknowledge the hours spent by others who came before her had put in to building the archives. Today those who index are very valuable gems in themselves.
One of Sara’s favorite responsibilities is indexing photos that are donated to the archives. Just recently, a photo was found in one of the alphabetical files which showed a group of young men who had just graduated from Yale University. Two sons of the Dubois Family are in that picture. One of the young men who would later be known as Senator Fred Dubois, who is famous or infamous, depending on your political perspective, in the state and specifically Bingham County. The picture also included Fred Dubois’ brother who later became a doctor. Sara had never seen this photo before and was fascinated to see Fred Dubois as a very young man before he became a successful businessman and politician.
Sara particularly enjoys photographs or paintings of women taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unless they are formal sittings, she has noticed that seldom are the women in these photos reading or playing games. They usually have on aprons and appear to have been working. Sara says, “Their life was probably made up on one task or another for survival. There didn’t seem to be a lot of time for frivolity.” The photos tell a story of a way of life.
For the future of the Bingham County Archives, Sara hopes her efforts (at least eight hours a week) will result in helping those who live here to love more fully our area and location.
“It is our opportunity to find, preserve and distribute the history we find. It is so satisfying to see people leave here after finding answers to their own family history. I love the service and the people who help me as we preserve the history.”