Summoned by Reaper


Abt. 1867
Written on back – “S J T and Mrs Hass”

These four tintypes have one sitter in common, Sarah Jane (nee Cartwright) Thompson and they offer the unusual opportunity at a glimpse of the sitter throughout different times in her life. I’ve done my best to date each image.  I studied the clothing and hairstyles of the sitters, as well as the props, and even the paper sleeves that house the photos.  If you disagree with any of my datings, please comment and let me know.  I welcome all input and suggestions.

Sarah Jane Cartwright was the daughter of Charles Cartwright.  His trade was that of a carpenter and extensive house builder. He was born and raised in North Carolina and came with his parents to Wayne County, Indiana in 1828, at the age of 17.  There he met and married Miss Nancy Till, in 1832.  The couple had two children, Sarah Jane, and John T., when they removed to Iowa, becoming one of the earliest settlers in Johnson County.  There they had eight more children: Jesse Edward Bower, Charles Albert, Mary Etta, Emma Elva and four who died very young.  Charles served as City Alderman (a member of the city council) in Iowa City in 1856 and was a member of the Johnson County Old Settlers’ Association, his signature appearing on the Old Settlers’ Constitution of 1866.   So respected and involved in the community, he was called upon to help prepare the body of Iowa Governor Lucas for burial in 1853.

Sarah’s mother, Nancy, was born in Virginia in 1816, the daughter of Mrs. Sybil Till, and grew to womanhood in Wayne County, Indiana.  Nancy’s father died sometime before 1830 and her mother, Grandma Sibbie, as she was affectionately called, resided with Nancy, and then Sarah’s family for over thirty years, until her death in 1886, aged 90.  She was so loved that Sarah named a daughter after her.


Abt. 1874-1876
Written on back – “C.E. Thompson Sarah Jane Thompson & friend (standing)”

On Christmas Day, 1859, Sarah Jane married Charles Edward Thompson.  Charles fought for the Union in the Civil War, mustering in on May 14, 1861, leaving Sarah, then pregnant with their first child, to remain at home.  He sustained injuries at Wilson’s Creek that would plague him throughout his life.  The couple lived and raised their family in Iowa county, except for a brief time when they lived in Napa, California around 1870.  When returning to Iowa, they settled in Marengo, where Sarah operated a dry good and notions shop and Charles was a commercial traveler and agent.

Abt. 1874-1876
Written on back – “Sarah J Thompson and 2 seated friends”

Sarah and Charles had three children: Winifred May born November 1861; Sybil Till born January 1868; and a child that, upon my calculations, was the second born, about 1863, and died sometime before 1870.  You may be wondering how I came to that conclusion.  On the 1900 census, Sarah lists she has had three children with two living.  I discovered photos of the family online at Iowa County IAGenWeb Genealogy & History.  One photo was identified as Winifred and Sybil.  The infant in the photograph appears to be about 7 months old.  If that infant were indeed Sybil, that would make Winifred just a few months’ shy of seven years old at the time of the sitting.  However, Winifred can’t be more than four years old in this photograph, which leads me to believe the photo is of Winifred and a sibling born before Sybil.

Winifred was the first to marry in 1883, to Henry Mercer Couch, and had two children, Charles Everett in 1885 and Ethel Louise in 1895.

Sybil married Roswell Scott Roberts in 1906.  The couple had two children, Rolfe in 1907 and Sarah Lillian in 1909.   It is interesting to note that Roberts was living with Sarah Jane and Sybil in 1900 as a boarder. Perhaps that is how the couple met.

In 1885, Sarah Jane, with her mother, grandmother, Winifred, and Charles Everett, sat for a five-generation photo in Marengo, Iowa.  It is likely that photograph, as other family photos had been, was taken by her brother, Charles Albert, who was a photographer, operating under the names Cartwright and Cutright, C.A. Cartwright and Cartwright and Thompson in Marengo, Iowa.  The photo was published in a book, History of Iowa County, Iowa, and its people by James C. Dinwiddie, published 1915.


Abt. 1895
Written on back – “S J Thompson”

Sarah’s husband died March 20, 1898, aged 63 years, of progressive locomotor ataxia, a rare neurological form of syphilis.  In the year 1907, her daughters and their families moved to Sedro-Woolley, Washington.  At some point, Sarah made the move as well, and on the 1910 census was living with Sybil.

In the late 1900s, a scandal rocked the family and had very tragic results.  Winifred’s son, Everett, settled in Seattle, Washington with his wife and worked as a bank teller for the Union Savings & Trust.  In 1918, Everett was charged with making false entries in the bank’s records and appropriating bank funds for his own use, totaling over $13,000.  In May 1918, Everett plead guilty to making false records but denied stealing money.  He was sentenced to one to ten years in the Walla Walla Penitentiary.  Winifred worked tirelessly defending her son.  She held interviews and conferences with lawyers and visited him regularly.  Her daughter, Lillian, was at her side at all times.  On April 10, 1919, Winifred, aged 57, died.  The cause was said to have been from stress and worry.  Everett was escorted from prison to his dying mother’s bedside.   Tragically, Lillian, who had threatened suicide if her mother died, carried out her threat, shooting herself in the head just minutes after Winifred’s death.  Lillian was just 23 years old.

Sybil lived to be 92 years old, passing September 20, 1960.  Over the years, she received quite a number of mentions in the local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald.  She was a faithful aircraft warning service volunteer at the Filter Center in Bellingham.  The center opened the day after Pearl Harbor, on December 8, 1941, and its purpose was to detect and report the movement of enemy aircraft.  Volunteers worked 4-hour shifts, as telephone operators, stenographers, and other clerical positions.  Sybil was cited as the oldest volunteer, at age 76, and had put in over 1000 hours when the center closed in 1943.

Sarah Jane remained in Washington, residing with Sybil’s family in Bellingham until her death on February 1, 1933.  Her obituary read, “Mrs. Sarah Thompson Summoned by Reaper”.  She was 91 years old.

Census Records
Find A Grave
Washington State Death Records
Iowa Select Marriage Records
History of Johnson County, Iowa, Containing a History of the County, and Its Townships, Cities and Villages from 1836 to 1882
History of Iowa County, Iowa and Its People by: James C. Dinwiddie Vol II The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1915
History of Iowa County, Iowa, and its people, Vol I, Chapter IV, Special articles
Iowa County IAGenWeb website ; Information provided by C. Kay Temple
History of Wayne County, Indiana: Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Towns, Volume 2 ; Inter-State Publishing Company, 1884
Nancy Cartwright’s Obit – Marengo Republican, Marengo, Iowa, Feb. 22, 1888
Charles Cartwright’s Obit – Marengo Republican, August 17, 1887
Sarah’s Obit – Bellingham Herald, Bellingham, Washington, Feb. 2, 1933
Winifred and Ethel’s Death, and Everett’s Conviction – The Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, Wash., Fri. evening, April 11, 1919
A History of the Bellingham National Guard Armory, by Taylor Russell
Sybil’s Filter Center work – Seattle Times, Seattle, Washington, June 20, 1943




3 thoughts on “Summoned by Reaper

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    1. I have many, many photos that I find very little about…so, don’t stop researching! I always thought I was odd for being so fascinated with this research, but after creating this blog I’ve discovered there are lots of people who share my passion.


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