I found this strip of photos online at Pieces of Pastimes. I love these antique photobooth-style images and was excited about the challenge of identifying the sitters without a location. And it definitely was a challenge! I planned to say that I was 80% confident in my identification but then I came across what you might call “the missing piece of the puzzle” when I discovered that the owner of Pieces of Pastimes is located in Charleston, West Virginia. You’ll understand my excitement soon.
Berdie Lee Childers and Robert Edward Simms were 3rd cousins who shared Great Great Grandparents, Richard and Mary (nee Towles) Simms. You’ll notice that the person who penned the names on the back of the photo strip wrote “Edw. Simms.” I suspect people might have referred to him by his middle name because his father’s name was also Robert.
Berdie was six years older than Edward and the two grew up in a little town twenty miles from Charleston, which is where they settled as adults. And there it is! The piece of the puzzle that gave me 100% confidence in my identification. I’m glad I didn’t think to check the shop location before doing my research as it would have brought my focus to that area and I wouldn’t have been as thorough seeking out other possibilities.
I believe these images were captured about 1911 when Edward was in his mid-teens and Berdie in her early twenties. At the time, the Childers and Simms families lived in Scott Depot where Berdie and Edward’s fathers worked as farmers.
Berdie was the third oldest of her five siblings and according to unsourced family trees on ancestry, her mother, Ella (nee Horton), died about 1903, when Berdie was just fourteen and the youngest Childers’ child was one year old. Her father did not remarry, so I have to imagine that the care of the younger children fell to Berdie and her older sister, Mary Alice.
Edward’s mother, Mary Emaline (nee Wright), was his father’s second wife and was thirty years his junior. Sadly, this meant that Edward was just a young man of twenty-one when he had to face the loss of his 77-year-old father.
In 1917, Berdie married her second cousin, Jerome “Rome” Childers, and Edward joined the Army. He fought in World War I as part of Company B 65th Engineers and obtained the rank of Corporal.
The cousins lived their adult lives in Charleston. I wonder if they had dinner parties, played cards, celebrated each others’ birthdays, or if instead, they drifted apart. Berdie’s husband was a riverboat pilot and artist, painting the riverboats he loved so much. Edward married about 1924 and worked at Linde Air Products, a chemical plant. He had one daughter, Pauline.
I came across this photo of a much older Berdie. Can you see the twenty-year-old Berdie behind the glasses and gray hair? I can.
Find A Grave
U.S. City Directories
U.S. World War I and II Draft Registrations
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Death index
Florida Death Index
West Virginia Birth Index