From the grave

blog COOK Pat and family

Pat Cook’s family portrait wound up in a sale basket in Archbold, Ohio. While the cabinet card shows a lot of wear, and the mother and daughter on the left appear ghostly pale, the overall depth and detail of the sitter’s images held up well.  The balloon-like sleeves of the daughter on the right helped me date this photo to the 1890s.   And although the boy isn’t sporting the long hair and ringlets that accompanied the Lord Fauntleroy craze of the mid 1890s, his wide, white shirt collar fits the fashion.

As I was preparing to admit defeat that I would never identify this family, I got the answer I had been hoping for…from the grave.

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Until the serpent crossed her path

I picked up these old photos from a wonderful shop on etsy, The Wurdeman Studio.  If you love old things, especially photos and jewelry, take a moment to check it out.

blog HELTON James and HIBBS John

The back of this cabinet card photo reads, “J.W. Helton & J.W. Hibbs, Unionville, Mo, Age 27 & 30.”  James Helton and John Hibbs grew up together in Unionville.  The posing of the two men made me think of a best man helping a groom get ready for his big day. However, according to the ages, this photo would have been taken in 1895.  James, on the left, first married Cerula Caster in 1897 and then married newly turned 18 year old Emma Josephine Severs in 1899.

blog HELTON James and unknown Helton or Hibbs

I believe this second image was captured about 1890.  The man sitting is identified as James Helton, and appears to be in his early twenties.  The back identifies the man standing, only as “Helton.”  James had brothers who would have been 24 and 18 at the time.  However, I think the second man in this photo looks an awful lot like John W. Hibbs.

Trigger Warning: This post contains descriptions of domestic and sexual violence.

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Nevertheless, She Persisted


“Aunt Margret Newkirk” is written on the back of this cabinet card that was found in Auburn, Indiana. The sitter is Margaret (nee Warwick).  The inscription leads me to believe this photo belonged to Maud Kelley, a foster daughter, who lived in the Newkirk home for some years, and who fondly referred to the sitter as Aunt Margret (a variation of Margaret.)

Margaret Newkirk was a daughter, a wife, and a mother.  But, she wasn’t defined by the traditional roles of women in the 19th century. You see, Margaret was a suffragette!

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Unrelenting Death

Lizzie and Emma Boeckling

This cabinet card was found in a Goshen, Indiana shop and features Lizzie and Emma Boeckling during happier times; I uncovered a sad tale during my research.

Lizzie and Emma were two of six children born to John and Johanna Boeckling  of LaPorte, Indiana.  They were the middle children, with the eldest being Carrie and Albert, and Frank and Hattie, the babies of the family.  Tuberculosis, also known as consumption, took five of them to the grave.  And strangely, Carrie, Albert and Lizzie, the first three to succumb to the disease, each died when they were 30 years old.

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Mattie’s Snap Shot

blog HOLMES Mattie

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.

Census records
The Denison Review, Denison, Iowa, February 12, 1913, – William Holmes’ obituary
Yonkers, New York City Directory 1931 and 1936


Love and Sympathy

Funeral Flowers

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.


Census records
Directory of Early Michigan Photographers by David V. Tinder, published 2013
Find A Grave
Michigan Death records