Reassembling the Past

Cousinly Review Prompts a Re-view (updated 27 August 2014)

Shortly after posting this piece, I received an email from reader and cousin, Linda Bell. My colleague strongly suspected that the face was familiar, not just family-like, as if she had seen the photograph before.  Perhaps, Linda suggested, this face appears in Bates’ History of Greene County, Pennsylvania (©1888) which can be read online at the Internet Archive.  And yes, he was there…This post has been updated to reflect the new information.  Portions of the original post have, therefore, been deleted. 

I have stared at the last half of the Minor Family Album for a month now, confounded by more than one photograph.  None are annotated with given names, or family names, or even a hint of a date.  I look at the next cabinet card with a hand lens. I scan it into my hard drive, enhance the clarity and then look again, with the computer as hand lens.  The paper photo drops crumbs of information, which I collect and line up, willing a trail to appear.

tw rogers trademark back 1870 est

The photograph was produced by Thomas W. Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, on ivory colored cardstock with rounded corners, and the simple, red-ink trademark on the back.  The photograph, whether original or a copy, was made most likely between the late 1860s and early 1870s, early in TW Rogers photographic career.

Mr. Clean-shaven is between 50-65 years old, with thick wavy hair worn in a conservative above-the-collar fashion.  The white mane sweeps from right to left above his bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows. Puffy half-moons beneath  light-colored eyes cushion his intensity; this is a busy man with little patience for sleep.  The gaze, the wavy hair, the Roman nose, the bushy brow…features shared with other Minor family members.

My wavy-haired gentleman is wearing a starched white shirt, with a heavily starched, detachable collar. He has tied a black silk cravat into a flat bow tie at his throat.  Over this he wears a black, collarless, single-breasted vest, trimmed in braid fashionable in the late 1860s. All of the buttons are fastened, without any evidence of a watchchain. The double-breasted sack coat is also made of black wool and trimmed in braid.  The buttons and button holes go very high into the lapel, which is notched quite deeply, the lower portion much wider than the upper portion at the neck.  The fit is quite generous, particularly at the sleeves, which sit on the shoulder, a style worn in the late 1860s-early 1870s.

This clean-shaven man had his portrait taken at the height of his career, when he was about 55 years, between 1868-1872.  Fortunately, Samuel Bates included an illustration based on this very photograph in his History of Greene County, Pennsylvania (1888), which accompanied a biographical sketch of a very prominent Baptist minister–Charles W. Tilton.
Abia Minor, cabinet card 1866-1873Born  to New Jersey residents Enoch and Elizabeth Tilton in 1815, Charles spent his childhood on the family’s farms.  The youngster attended local subscription schools in western Pennsylvania and Frankfort Academy in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.  Tilton’s first vocation was as a teacher, but he was called to the ministry.  In 1843 Teacher Tilton was ordained a Baptist preacher, and began a life of service inside the Ten Mile Baptist Association, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Reverend Tilton filled the pulpit at several Ten Mile churches, at times perhaps simultaneously, including Goshen Baptist in Garards Fort, home church to my Minor ancestors.

Pastor Charles was a reknowned revival leader during the post-war years, leading congregants to a healing place after the horrific losses and community ruptures of the Civil War. (Greene County was a Democratic Party stronghold, fiercely opposed to the concept of emancipation.) This photograph was taken during this time.  As a revival preacher, Sabbath School leader, and a higher education advocate, Charles W. Tilton was famous among the Baptists of Greene County, and probably well acquainted with the Minors of Ceylon Lane.

Little wonder that the man’s photograph was sought by my great-great-grandmother, and later displayed, among family, for posterity.

 

 

 

 

 

On The Trail of S. A. Stevens : The Minor Family Album

The second, third, and fourth pages of the Minor Family Album were all taken by Oliver Eugene Aultman, in his West Main Street studio, in Trinidad, Colorado.  I made a thorough study of the photographs’ internal clues and narrowed down the timeframe for the shoot as being between 1889-1893.  With no annotations to aid my identification, I turned to the internet and googled the photographer.  This switch in focus may seem counterintuitive, but, as I reported here, perserverance paid off with an amazing, unexpected clue: the discovery of MY photograph in the online Aultman Collection shared by History Colorado.

So these folks are the Stevens Family

The online file confirmed that the photo had been taken in 1890, and the name associated with the woman was S. A. Stevens.

Still means nothing to me.

I found online copies Trinidad Directories from the 1890s and discovered that there was a Sanford H. Stevens living in Trinidad.

Still means nothing.

I searched the digital Denver Library files and found an 1892 photograph of Sanford H. Stevens surrounded by his colleagues at the Trinidad Advertiser where he was business manager.

Still no connection to me and mine.

Damn the fire that destroyed the 1890 census!

So relying on the 1850-1880 and the 1900 US Federal censuses, I reconstructed the life of this Sanford Stevens and found a sliver of a clue.  Sanford Stevens was born in 1849 to Greenwood W. and Maria Stevens, farmers in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia.  The family moved to Dunkard Township–just south of my family’s Greene Township home!!–by 1860.  Sanford was listed as a school teacher in Dunkard Township in 1870, and must have married soon after, for the 1880 census has Sanford and wife, Phoebe, farming and raising two children in Monongalia County.  Since they sat for a photograph in 1890, the family moved west sometime in the 1880s.  By 1900, the Stevens family was complete, and Sanford and Phoebe were living on Colorado Avenue, Trinidad with four children, Clyde (1875), Frank G. (1877), Chellie M. (1881), and Mary E. (1884).

So this is Sanford H. Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

And this is Phoebe Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

And, from left to right, these are Clyde, Chellie, Frank, and Mary Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

But. Why are these folks in the album?

I googled my accumulated terms–Sanford, Stevens, Trinidad, history, Advertiser, newspaper–and hit upon a 1913 Semi-centennial History of the State of Colorado, Volume 2, by Jerome Smiley.  Page three hundred and thirty was my perserverance reward, three glorious paragraphs describing Sanford H. Stevens’ family, employment, and public service. And most importantly yielding the golden ticket, the clue that solves my mystery.

Sanford H. Stevens was married in 1873 to Phoebe H. Evans, daughter of Benjamin Evans. OH!  I know that name!!

That’s it!!!

That is THE connection. Benjamin Brice Evans was married to Margaret Minor and Margaret was the sister of Francis Marion, my great-grandfather.  Mary Jane included these photographs because they were her niece’s family, folks who had successfully navigated their way to an exciting new life out west.

With tremendous satisfaction, I introduce Phoebe Evans Stevens, the Minor link to Trinidad, Colorado.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

 

A Well Dressed Woman: (almost) wordless wednesday

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

The West Building, site of the first Aultman StudioOne hundred and twenty-four years ago Oliver E. Aultman welcomed a well dressed woman and her family to his newly opened third floor gallery in the West Building, the “finest (photography studio) of its size west of Chicago” according to the local papers. Trinidad, Colorado was a booming town in 1890, supporting the surrounding mining communities and business ventures.  This family arrived in their finest clothes, the father and eldest son dressed in matching plaid three-piece suits, their patterned silk ties neatly knotted at their throats.  The younger boy, not old enough for his own suit, wore his best pleated wool coat, with a complimentary bow tie.  The two girls wore matching dresses, with ruffled shoulders and loose fitting bodices.  The mother wore a dark dress, with a pleated bodice and ruffled shoulders, decorated with elaborate applique and a small locket.  Her hair was swept back in a low bun, with short bangs and a bit of curl.

Aultman Ad 1892 Trinidad DirectoryOliver Aultman composed several shots of the family; the adults were placed in separate poses empty of props or backdrops, and the children were grouped on some bales of hay, casually placed in front of a subtle bamboo-patterned panel.  After the shoot, the young photographer and the parents discussed the viewing of proofs; the glass negatives were placed in envelopes and labeled S.A. Stephens in pencil.  Sometime later the final portraits were selected, copies made and distributed to friends and family, including the family of Francis Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor, of Garards Fort, Pennsylvania.  Who was S. A. Stephens?  Is that the name of the father?  Of the mother, the well dressed woman?  Or is it the name of the person who contracted for the sitting?  And how is S. A. Stephens and the well dressed family related to the Minors of Ceylon Lane, Garards Fort, Pennsylvania?? 

Accepting all hints and recommendations for further investigation!!  Stay tuned…

Click on the images below to view these photographs more closely.