Secret Lovers

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Sarah Gregory (seated left) and B. Goodell – May 1, 1863

Sarah Jane “Jennie” Gregory first said  “I do” when she was 64 years old.  She wed Theodore A. Collier, 62, in Pontiac, Michigan, on February 27, 1912.  It was his first trip to the altar, as well.  As strange as this late-in-life marriage may seem, what makes it all the more interesting is that the two lived together for 41 years before saying “I do!”

Jennie, working as a servant and housekeeper, moved into Theodore’s home in 1871, when the two were in their early twenties.  He was working the family farm and supporting his mother, Eliza, and his divorced sister, Isadore.

Were Jennie and Theo lovers all those years?  If so, what stopped them from marrying sooner?  Did Theo’s family disapprove?  Theo’s mother died in 1890.  His sister continued living with him until her death in 1907.  If family strain prevented the nuptials, it seems unlikely Theo and Jennie would have waited five years after Isadore’s passing to tie the knot.  Is it possible they had unspoken, romantic feelings for each other, only to become brave enough to profess their love when they were older?  Or, I suppose it could have been a marriage of convenience, either financial or otherwise.  But, I do hope my first theory is the correct one.

Jennie died on December 10, 1917, and Theo married once more to Sadie (nee Owen) Newell in 1919.

Sources:
Census records
Michigan death records
Michigan marriage records
Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Oakland County Michigan, 1903
History of Oakland County, Michigan; A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Its People, and Its Principal Interests, Volume 2, by Thaddeus De Witt Seely, 1912

Living with Hoboes

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I admired this cased ambrotype, along with a smaller, cased tintype (shown at the end of this post), for at least a year, as they sat listed on etsy.  The seller mistakenly  identified the sitter as William Wallace.  He overlooked the next word, which I came to discover was the surname of Hungerford.

William Wallace Hungerford was aged 16 when the above image was captured on January 1, 1861, in Lansing, Michigan.  He was the son of a farmer, Lyman Hungerford, and grew to follow in his father’s footsteps.  Although I’m sure William’s life wasn’t uneventful, it doesn’t appear to have garnered much attention in the newspapers.  That is, until he ran off to live with hoboes.

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From the grave

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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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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.

Sources:

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

 

Pernicious Anemia

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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.

Sources:
Census records
Michigan marriage records
Michigan divorce records
“What an Affliction”: Mary Todd Lincoln’s Fatal Pernicious Anemia, by John G. Sotos
Jane Austen’s Last Illness, published in the British Medical Journal, 1964

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The Best Deductions

C W and Laura Brown

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.

blog-brown-child-2blog-brown-child-1The 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.

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The Dressmaker

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Abt. 1895

Here is another cabinet card from the Pinney album, which I found in an antique shop in Fremont, Indiana.  This image was not identified, but upon researching the family some years ago, I was pretty certain I knew the name of the sitter, based on the fact that she was the only female cousin found living in East Jordan, Michigan who fit the time period.  Recently, I discovered photos shared on a public ancestry tree and now I can be certain that I’ve matched this photo with the correct person.

Laura Mabel Pinney’s family moved from Arcade, New York and were one of the early settlers of Jordan township in Antrim County, Michigan.  In 1873, when she was about one year old, and her brothers, Herman and Howard were six and four, her father, Curtis, purchased a 160 acre parcel of wood land that he cleared and where he built a 16 x 24 ft. log cabin.  Her Grandmother Pinney, a widow, lived with the family.  Her mother, Marion (nee Beebe), knit long woolen socks and mittens, sewed rag rugs and clothing for the family. And when a school house was built, her mother acted as teacher for the first year.

When Laura was fifteen, her parents built a nicer frame house on the homestead that was completely finished and even had running water, courtesy of a nearby spring piping water into a 20 gallon tank in the pantry.  What a joy that must have been!

Laura worked as a live-in housekeeper during her early adult years, later becoming a dressmaker.  I wonder if she designed and made the dress she is wearing in this photo?

Laura and her brother, Howard Curtis Pinney, came down with pneumonia in 1911 and both succumbed to the illness within a couple weeks of each other.  She was just 38 years old.

Sources
Census records
A Brief Account of the Pioneer Settlement of a part of Antrim County, by Allison Pinney
Michigan death records