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Alpheus T. Winterborn is a philanthropist, inventor, and archeologist who lived most of his life in Hoosac, Minnesota (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn).

Biography

Winterborn made a name for himself as president of the Winterborn Silverware Company. The company employed half the citizens of Hoosac and made silver-plated objects like knives, forks, tea strainers, and the like. It also made its founder a millionaire. As a result – and much like other people who ended up with too much money on their hands – Winterborn's monetary escapades included trying to become an inventor and then later attempting archeology in the Holy Land, influenced by Howard Carter and the King Tut craze.

This profession (and location) apparently interested Winterborn immensely as he returned three times to Egypt and Palestine before retiring from the trade. At the time there were rumors that he had stumbled upon something, some treasure perhaps, but the puckish Winterborn, a notorious practical joker, never said a word, instead leaving a set of sing-song clues to its possible location. Close to thirty years after his death, the story of long-rumored treasure hit a nerve with Anthony Monday.

After his final visit to the Holy Land, Winterborn lived in secrecy in his octagonal house in Hoosac. When he finally surfaced again Winterborn announced he had become an architect and would design the Hoosac Public Library. Construction commenced immediately and Winterborn supervised every inch of its creation. When the building was completed, Winterborn did one of his strangest things yet – he delayed the opening of the library seven days so that he could within the building. For one week he never left its premises; when the week was over, he moved out and allowed the formal opening ceremonies. Two weeks later Winterborn died.

Legacy

The Winterborn Reading Room inside the Hoosac Public Library bears his name and includes many of his private items. A prominent portrait of the library’s benefactor hangs above the fireplace and Anthony, upon his employment at the library, can’t help but stare at Winterborn’s amused expression – “it was as if he was enjoying some wonderful secret joke, and Anthony couldn’t help wondering what it was" (Treasure, 24).

Family

Little is known of Alpheus’ family. His father built the octagonal house where Alpheus lived (Treasure, 65). At some point Alpheus must have taken a wife, for Alpheus Winterborn, Jr. became president of the Winterborn Silverware Company after the death of his father and later sold the family house because of his strong dislike of the strangely shaped dwelling (Treasure, 40,70). Alpheus had at least one sibling, a sister (Treasure, 40), who in turn had at least one child - namely Hugo Philpotts.

Inspiration

The name Alpheus Winterborn is another of Bellairs’s slightly pompous and silly sounding names, with this one containing a bit of a watery pun.

Alpheus, in Greek mythology, was a nymph that was turned into a river[1]; today, the Alfeios River is the longest river, flowing northwest past Olympia, before entering the Ionian Sea[2].

A winterbourne (or bourne, Anglo-Saxon for river) is a river that is dry through the summer months[3]. There are a number of villages in Dorset, England that are named for a nearby winterbournes - from Winterbourne Abbas to Winterborne Zelston.

The middle name that begins with T is unknown.

The character Frederick Forsyth Winterbourne appears in Henry James's Daisy Miller, though this is probably coincidence.

While never a major player in the Monday series, Winterborn’s name is evoked in all four Anthony Monday books either in name or in reference to one of the rooms in the Hoosac Public Library.

Adaptation

The television adaptation "The Clue According to Sherlock Holmes" paints Winterborn an even bigger influence on the community by changing the name of Hoosac to Winterborn. In turn, everything in town bears the man’s name, from the library and bank to its newspaper, the Winterborn Mirror. A clue brings Anthony to Winterborn’s grave where he sees the man was born April 9 and died August 8, though the years appear to have been conveniently chiseled away (thereby hampering any later genealogy research).

References

  1. Wikipedia: Alpheus (deity)
  2. Wikipedia: Alfeios
  3. Wikipedia: Winterbourne (stream)

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