As Black History Month arrives next week the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias is delivering another volume.

As Black History Month arrives next week the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias is delivering another volume.

The R.A. Dreisbach Lodge is releasing a second edition, a sequel if you will, to its “Historical African-American Obituaries from Port St. Joe and surrounding areas” in the coming weeks, following up on the original four-volume first edition.

Published in 2010, that project collected 760 African-American obituaries spanning from 1926 through March 2010.

They were collected from a host of sources: an African-American church ushers union which served as something of a repository for obituaries, combing through funeral home and newspaper records and family members.

Many of those obituaries arrived in the form of the programs given out at funerals or wakes, some dating back decades and on their original paper.

“Most of them were in pretty good shape,” said Clarence Monette, Chancellor of the local Knights of Pythias lodge.

Newspaper articles concerning deaths, where they could be found, were also helpful, but it came down largely to old fashioned leg work.

The search was not just confined to those who lived or were raised in Port St. Joe; some family-tree tracking took the Knights to Panama City and Apalachicola.

“I didn’t realize it would take this much work,” Monette said, looking at a tabletop of large 3-ring notebooks, pages sheathed in plastic, tabs of various colors providing the index.

“It contains a lot of history, a lot of information. It provides a lot of ancestry and geneology,” Monette added.

And, it is a project that is highly personal to the Knights of Pythias, preserving a heritage, a place in history for those to follow.

“These people worked hard and for the most part didn’t make a lot of money,” Monette said. “They helped build Port St. Joe.

“When someone passed away it was a historical event (in the community). We wanted to preserve the history of African-Americans in Port St. Joe and the surrounding areas.”

But, with the release of the first volume, Monette and the Knights discovered that their exhaustive research had not quite been exhaustive enough, or rather there were unseen gaps.

“We had a lot of people who saw the books and discovered that they had a relative or friend who was not in the book,” Monette said. “We just kept on going collecting obituaries.”

The second edition, which will comprise two bound volumes, contains 258 additional obituaries which, like the first edition, are indexed.

The earliest obituary dates to 1965; the most recent to the last day of 2016.

The Knights will distribute the second edition as they did the first, with printed copies donated to the local churches, the city of Port St. Joe and the public library.

In addition, individuals may purchase the edition on CD.

The work went to press this week and should be available in March.

As to the next edition, Monette said he hoped some new younger blood would take over this passion project, but he and the Knights are not quite ready to bow out just yet.

“We are preserving a part of history and we enjoy it,” he said.