Martha “Mattie” Kennedy (nee Luney) Holmes was born in Ireland in 1874 and came with her family to the United States as a young girl. In 1894, she married Dr. William Wesley Holmes, who was 30 years her senior. After William’s death in 1913, Mattie worked as a traveling and home nurse.
I’m not sure when Mattie died. She was living with her sister, Edith Cole, in Yonkers, New York in 1930. The last trace I found of her was in 1936 when she was still in Yonkers, but living on her own at 472 Hawthorne.
The Denison Review, Denison, Iowa, February 12, 1913, – William Holmes’ obituary
Yonkers, New York City Directory 1931 and 1936
Throughout history, flowers have been used at funerals and memorial services as visual expressions of love, sympathy, and respect. This cabinet card is so beautiful that the lack of identifying writing didn’t stop me from adding it to my collection. I also didn’t let it stop me from attempting to figure out who these flowers mourned.
I began the hunt by researching the photographer, Crosby. According to the Directory of Early Michigan Photographers, Crosby operated a studio in Otsego, Michigan for a short time, about 1895. I looked for Jims and James who died around that time in the Otsego area, and came up with six possibilities:
James Henderson died July 17, 1894
James Hopkins died April 7, 1895
James Rogers died April 25, 1895
W. James Monteith died July 29, 1896
James Hunt died July 29, 1896
James Duncan died June 9, 1897
I studied the photo for more clues. Among the flowers, other than the name, there is an arrangement that reads BROTHER. I find this significant. It led me to believe that Jim was a single boy or man, or at the least, that he did not have children. Why? If Jim had been a married man with children, I would expect to see a floral Father arrangement. If my theory is correct, this leaves only James Rogers, as all the other men were fathers. I am in no way asserting my deduction as fact. But, I feel it’s a pretty good bet.
James Rogers died of consumption at the age of 23. He was single, and according to death records, he was the manager of a newspaper. I hoped to learn more about him from an obituary, but upon contacting the Otsego Library, I learned that they have no newspaper records available from 1895.
This cabinet card was found in the Pickers Paradise antique mall in Niles, Michigan. Not only was the sitter identified as Mrs. Tillie Gregory, but the date of May 31, 1895 was also noted.
Mathilda, “Tillie”, spent her childhood years in Canada with her German born parents, Charles and Sophia (nee Shatz) Weishan. In 1884, just 15 years old, she married Charles B. Gregory in Ogemaw County, Michigan and had a son, Walter, the following year. It’s unknown how long Charles stuck around, but in 1898 Tillie filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion. At the time, she was working as a domestic to support herself and and her son. Soon after the divorce was granted, she married Alfonso Clark, a mechanic and shoe maker, who was 27 years older than her. However, that union did not last and she married Henry C. Thielecke Jr. in 1906.
Tillie died, aged 45 years, of pernicious anemia, a disease in which the body lacks sufficient vitamin B12 and cannot make healthy red blood cells. It causes fatique, muscle weakness and stomach upset, among other ailments. Some suspect that Jane Austen and Mary Todd Lincoln suffered from pernicious anemia.
These were some of the first old photos I picked up when I began collecting. The green and dark brown cabinet card mounts are especially attractive and I love how crisp and richly saturated the images have remained after more than 130 years.
All the photos were taken at the same studio, Mast, in Marshall, Michigan, but only the photo of the couple has writing on the reverse. The youngest girl is wearing what appears to be the same, or a very similar, necklace as the woman. While I typically do not buy photos without some attribution, the previous observations, as well as the fact that the girls look to be either sisters or the same person, led me to purchase all of them, as I wanted to keep the photos together.
The notations on the back of the couple’s card have something that I’ve come to relish in a find…a date. I quickly realized that photos with dates, even if they have no name, are a wonderful thing to have in a collection, as you can put the sitters’ fashions, hairstyles, and accessories with that moment in time. There are many wonderful guides that provide tips for dating photos in this manner, and I often refer to my 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark when looking for clues, but, having actual examples in my own collection is priceless to me.
I discovered these photos in a shop in Warsaw, Indiana. Although the gentleman sitter has his name, John William Stuck, written on the back of the cabinet card, he would be impossible to identify if it hadn’t been for the second photo found in the pile. That photo, a cabinet card featuring three children, identified on the back as Mabel Stuck, Susie Tyrone Stuck, and Clesson Daniel Stuck, provided a location of Elkhart, Indiana.
John William Stuck was born in 1856 in Pennsylvania and came with his family, as a young boy, to Elkhart, Indiana where he wed Mary Prudence Newman. The couple made their home in Elkhart, where they raised their seven children, the eldest three being Mabel, Clesson and Susie. Based on how old the children appear to be in the photo, along with the fact that John and Mary welcomed a son, Bernard, in 1894, I date the children’s photo to 1892 or 1893.
In order to date John’s photo, I consulted the 19th Century Card Photos KwikGuide by Gary W. Clark. His hair and clothing appear to fit with styles seen from 1879 to 1885. The turned up collar, which was popular in the 1850s and 60s, was making a comeback in the 1880s. He isn’t wearing a wedding ring, which may be a clue that the photo was taken prior to his marriage in 1881. Of course, it’s also possible that he didn’t wear a ring.
During his life, John worked as a carriage maker, and later was employed as a wood pattern maker by the Elkhart (Elcar) Motor Company. I suspect that he began working for the motor company when it was known as Elkhart Carriage and Harness Manufacturing.
I should be satisfied to have rescued these images, but I can’t help but wish that I found a photo of Mary and the other children. It would be nice to complete the family and keep them together.
I picked up this cabinet card from The Wurdeman Studio. If you enjoy beautiful antique photographs and other bits and bobbles, you can check them out on Instagram or visit their Etsy shop. Be sure to read the how and why of the shop. Here’s a little teaser… “It all started in Mrs. Wurdeman’s Store when I was five.”
Emma Sager’s life was just getting started when it ended in 1894; at age twenty-five she died of consumption.
Tuberculosis, also known throughout history as consumption, scrofula, TB, and the white plaque, was highly contagious and killed many, being especially dangerous to those living in large cities and those who lived in poverty. (I realize that not everyone is interested in reading about disease, but if you would like to learn more about the history of tuberculosis, you will find a link in the sources at the end of this post.)
I also came across the newspaper article on the right, published in 1894, that may be of interest to some.
Emma and her eight siblings grew up on a farm in Gentry county, Missouri with her father, Edward, who immigrated to the US from Germany when he was a young boy, and her mother, Susanna (nee Gearheart). When she was twenty, Emma’s mother died and I imagine much of the responsibilities for the household chores, as well as the care of the younger siblings, may have fallen upon Emma and her older sister, Mary, who was also single. However, four years later, in August of 1892, Emma was one of the teachers in attendance at the teacher’s institute in Stanberry, Missouri. If her obituary is correct, this is about the time she fell ill. Whenever someone dies young, I ponder about their life and Emma is no different: Did she finish school? Fall in love? What hopes and dreams were extinguished too soon?