Friday, October 29, 2010

Creepy Encounters

There are those moments, albeit infrequently, that we discover something among our research that sends a tiny little shiver down the spine.....or gives us goosebumps.....or makes us pass by it quickly because it's just plain creepy. History is full of genuine horror stories and unexplained phenomenons, and although I have never encountered the paranormal during my two decades worth of research, I have had my fair share of creepy encounters. For fun, I will include a few examples of what I mean.....tis the season to share the creepy....or put the family skeletons in the front room window!

Cemetery Creepiness:
These places are chock full of creepy. After all, as my mother always reminds me, I'm playing among the dead when I have to visit one for research. She uses the word "playing" because I actually enjoy roaming among these peaceful and beautiful places full of life memorials. However, there are times when we run across the death reminders, and they can be a little disconcerting.....

Here are a couple of examples of what I like to call the faceless figures. Time and weather have worn away the stones to the degree that no facial features remain....only a silent figure that stands guard over the lost loved one.....reminding us that time marches on and renders everything and everyone to dust.

Sometimes the site of a fresh grave with a mound of wilted flowers gives me a little shiver of creepy, but this photo below seemed to have a little dash of creepiness on the side. We were visiting Daniel Boone's grave in Frankfort Kentucky when I walked around to the backside of the monument. In the back corner of the iron fence that surrounds the rectangular tower, was this wilted token of remembrance. I suspected it was left by someone who had been in the cemetery for the purpose of funeral attendance and had this little rose leftover.....but then, it could be someone locally who does this regularly for old Daniel's tomb.....either way, the rose in wilted form on that dreary day was another reminder of our being like the flower that quickly fades.
And let us not forget the cracked above ground tomb.....getting the zombie vibe!

Those Eyes!
Let's face it.....we can all remember those odd family photos where the person's facial expression or fathomless eyes have almost made us jump back in startled response......

As exhibit A, I have this nameless, but pretty girl from my family. I know she is from my mother's side of the family, but from what branch, I am at a loss. However, those wide, pale eyes, while wearing white, among a white utterly ghostly!
And speaking of ghosts! From now on, when I read about Jacob Marley in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I am going to picture this face forever. Poor guy.....Jonathan Harrington is actually one of our nation's heroes as he fought at the Battle of Lexington as a young man in 1775. You can read about his life in Maureen Taylor's book The Last Muster - pg. 75.

The Headless/Faceless:
After generations of relating stories about headless horsemen and apparitions, finding a photo that has carefully had the face or head removed speaks to a certain level of creepy. In my opinion, the physical act of intentionally removing that face or head from the photo is evidence of a tremendous emotional moment from the past. Either great grief, or rage spurred that type of action, and an object that has been the recipient of great human emotion from the past, kind of makes my creepy meter go off......and then there is the obvious creepiness associated with a headless figure. Double whammy in my book!

My first example comes from the Library of Congress' newest digitized acquisition: The Liljenquist Collection. This photo of the unidentified Union Soldier with his headless lady was quite a shocker while perusing this magnificent collection. Perhaps because they couldn't just cut out the woman's head, but they had to sit and scrape away the image of her face.....evidence of a pretty disturbed individual?

My second example is from our family collection - little Granville Hampton. I am well aware of the special challenge that had to exist back in the day when photography lacked any high-speed capability. This meant children were hard moving targets to capture on what was a mother to do? Drape herself in a bold fabric of course and hold the child still. Sorry, this registers on my creepy meter.
Open Caskets/Post Mortem:
Open casket and post mortem shots are pretty high on my creepy meter.....but I know it was highly popular once upon a time. The example below is the only open casket photo we have in our family collection. As you can see, it is of a baby, which removes the creepy, and replaces it with a twinge of sadness.....children in the caskets are hugely tragic, and due to the year range of the 1920s, I will not reveal the name of the little infant. As far as I can tell, she was not a family member, but a close neighbor from the northern part of Kentucky. Animals:
Yes, we have photos of dead moose from Canada in our family collection, and even a dead skunk that great grandpa John was skinning while drunk.....but those never creeped me out. This little guy below was a little creepy, because, how did they manage to capture his ears and tail in this perfectly erect state? And on second thought.....what did he see that made him so scared? Sure looks like he sees a ghost! For immortality purposes, the little guy's name was Spot...of course.
Hope you enjoyed this macabre posting.....what sort of creepy have you encountered? CD
Sepia Saturday #47

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: The Last Muster

Title: The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation
Author: Maureen Taylor
Hardcover: 177 pages
Publisher: Kent State University Press; 1 edition (July 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606350552
ISBN-13: 978-1606350553
Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.3 x 0.6 inches

I am a bit late in reviewing this title since it came out in July, but once I received my own copy of this wonderful book, I knew it still needed some deserved attention. I first took note of this title at the FGS Conference in Knoxville. My business partner and I had wrapped up our things and were leaving the exhibit hall for the last time when I spotted this title on the bottom shelf of one of the other booths. As someone who harbors an almost obsessive fascination with antique photographs, I stopped in mid-exit and grabbed the book. This title also spoke to another lifelong obsession I have had - Revolutionary History. Since the age of about 16, I've been fascinated by pre-Revolutionary Boston, and how the developments affected the common citizens. The idea of being able to see photographs of those common citizens was a thrilling notion, bordering on genius, in my opinion!

This book is such an enjoyable read. The photos chosen were clear and interesting....and in most cases captivating. Sometimes, the reader can easily become mesmerised by the solemn or at times charismatic stare of the subjects. Their eyes tell such stories and leave the reader with no doubt as to the driving force behind their adventurous pasts and determined longevity. I found it interesting that I had always been guilty of romanticizing that generation. Growing up and hearing of their exploits painted a grand image worthy of heroic status. As adults we recognize and try to get rid of that false romanticism, but as I looked at these faces, and read their fascinating stories, I found myself justifying the romantic image our history had bestowed upon them.

One of the strengths of this work, is how each image is presented and the commentary that accompanies each one. The enlarged, clear image is on one page, with the text on the facing page. There are no visual distractions which allows you to focus on the details. As their story unfolds, Maureen also interjects some observations her trained and experienced eyes have detected. One of my favorite themes she notes for several images is the recycling of older style dress. Just as our older generations today are fond of the old comfortable polyester sets, so the older generations of the mid-19th century favored the comfortable styles of their youth, or at least their middle age. This then gives the photos an added textile value. To see these older styles as they would have been worn is priceless. Of course, not all were worn due to comfort preference. Some were worn simply to accentuate their 18th century connection. There are several examples as evidenced when the subject brought out their tricorn hat in celebration of their Revolutionary association. Many of the photos were taken as mementos of grand birthday or anniversary celebrations, which accounts for the fancy and antiquated garb.

The details and research presented about each subject seems to be well done. I did find myself wanting to read more about some of the more charismatic individuals, although, sometimes there was very little to be found about them in the historical record, and Maureen has documented what remained. This is probably the area where I found a bit of weakness. In presenting the information about the subjects, I ran across several typos in the final published edition. In some cases it involved two different spellings of a person's last name (Hillard vs. Hilliard p.109), and in one case, the date listed for a second marriage was after the subject's listed death date (Tomlinson p.135). In my opinion, it does not detract from the beauty of the work, but speaks heavily of the publisher (Kent State Univ. Press) who should have had enough proof readers to catch the mistakes. These errors and a lack of index does limit the work as a research tool, since most genealogists or researchers would want to quickly peruse an index to catch a certain surname or event. However, the bibliography for each profile is quite thorough and a handy resource.

Overall, it is a beautiful piece of work. As a historical resource it is important on several levels, and also serves as a great conversation piece! I did notice that most of the subjects were from the New England area. Which made me suspect that there may be another large collection of Revolutionary generation members just waiting to be discovered in Southern Universities, Museums or attics. Of course, provenance and identification are the main challenges which Maureen handled beautifully, but if she wants to continue the search for this generation, a Last Muster II would be well received!

Rating: 4.5 Quills
Happy reading!
CD 10/21/10

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Allender Case Update

I finally beat that clever and often evil opponent procrastination by travelling north a few weeks ago to take a closer look at the Connelly Cemetery which I mentioned in my previous post: The Allender Case. I described the location of the cemetery in northeastern Pendleton County as being just within the entrance to Thomas Road up near the town of Mount Auburn. All of this was remembered correctly as we drove right to the cemetery with no trouble.

The cemetery has very easy access when the weeds are down. This time of the year, conditions are prime for exploration. The cemetery is behind a fence, but the fence is along side of the road and does not encircle the stones. The beginning of the fence is pretty even with the beginning of the cemetery, so you can walk around the beginning of the fence, right into the grouping. The trees along the fence obscure the cemetery fairly well from the road, but if you drive slow, and watch for the beginning of the fence on the right-hand side, you should find it relatively easily. The picture below is how the cemetery looks as you come around the fence and head toward the stones.
So, what did we find as we explored? Sadly, we found only one stone fully intact, and it did not belong to a Connelly at all. The stone below is the most prominent stone and the one you can just barely see from the road if you look closely. It belongs to Martha Hart - and I have no idea how she fits into this family.
The other some fragments did answer some of our questions. The two subsequent pictures are of Enola and Elizabeth's stones. As you can see, they have become very hard to read, and will soon be illegible.

The only other stone in the group was that of Margaret Connelly. She was quite a surprise as I later learned she was Thompson (Tobe) Connelly's mother, whose maiden name was Bonar - a very prevalent name in Pendleton County. Her stone, as seen below, was also fragmented, but the bottom half did give the accurate information for her, and was quite handy in making a match.

I did not find Thompson Connelly in this cemetery as the family lore had stated. Not only had Pearl Allender's note said all three were buried there, but the Barton Papers also repeated the same information. Of course, the Barton Papers are interviews of local people, so the same story could have been spread among the Allender clan. I would like to go back and take a look at the Connelly section of those papers to see what oral tradition existed among that family unit.

I would also like to go back and do a full exploratory analysis of the cemetery site. Based on the fact that there are two clumps of trees together in this level part of the field that have never been plowed, I suspect that the cemetery is rather large, with many stones broken off and resting just under the soil surface. Of course, that would involve talking to the land owners prior to heading to their cemetery with shovels. As a reminder, I don't necessarily need permission to explore like that as the family buried there is technically related to me, and under Kentucky law, the family has a right to enter and maintain the space. However, the people of Pendleton County are a very nice bunch, and it would be a more rewarding experience if the locals were involved and informed ahead of time.

I went ahead and added this cemetery to FindaGrave earlier today. I also stumbled upon Thompson Connelly's gravestone in Illinois. I am pretty certain this is the same guy based on the birth date, other research entries and census records from Pendleton County, so I added the photo of him to the FindaGrave entry in the hopes that the family he created with his second wife will find him and get back in touch.

Based on the sad condition of the cemetery I am very glad we took a trip up there this year. At least what is left has been recorded. It will not be long before they fade away along with the others.

CD 10/16/10

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Ancestor Doppelganger for Family History Month

As most of you know, October has been the official month designated as Family History Month since 2001. It also has the recognition of being named American Archives Month. In honor of both, my parent company, Pastology, has announced a new way to celebrate both. You can see their (my) original blog post about the event by clicking here: Ancestor Doppelganger.

But as I participate, I thought you might want to see who I chose as the ancestor I most resemble:
" So…….who is my Ancestor Doppelganger? That would be my great great Grandmother Oleva Ellen Mockbee Cox. Grandma Ollie, as people used to call her, was born and died well before I was a gleam in my parents’ eyes. She was born in Pendleton County Kentucky on February 9th, 1862, to William Lanson Mockbee and Jane Allender Mockbee. Oleva grew up to marry Lavega Cox on April 22nd, 1880. She had three children: Leonard, Nellie and Lanson. She departed this life June 20th, 1953 at the age of 91. I don’t know much about her as a person. My Mother only has brief memories of her being a strong woman who was quiet and enjoyed receiving her great grandchildren’s Sunday school papers that they would bring to her when they arrived for Sunday dinners after Church. Her obituary says she belonged to Pine Grove Methodist Church…..but that is all I know about her…..Sure wish I could have met her; I think we would have had a lot to talk about! "

I would love to see some of your doppelgangers out there! As the instructions state, you can participate in a couple different ways: A post on your blog or changing out your Facebook profile photo. If you decide to write a blog post about this, we'd love to hear about it! Comment here, or anywhere we can find it: our Facebook fan page you see on the right, our main blog, or the event page in Facebook.


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