A lost history, found

GeorgeWBailey1Lately I’ve been spending a couple of hours each weekend day reorganizing our family history archives. In the yet-to-be-organized portion of the archives, I’ve got a dozen large, plastic storage boxes, each of which holds hundreds of papers, photos, mementos, and other items judged at some point as worthy of being preserved.

One of these boxes is filled with memories and keepsakes from my great-great-aunt Dorothy Mary (“Dot”) Bailey and her husband Clarence Humphrey Bailey. You may know Dot as the young girl pictured at the center of my site’s header photo. Dot and Clarence were distant relations (third cousins; although they apparently didn’t know this when they met) and had the same last name before marriage, so I can’t be sure whether Dot adopted Clarence’s “Bailey” surname according to tradition, or whether she was an independent maverick who bucked tradition and kept her own “Bailey” surname.

I was lucky enough to have known them both as a child and to have known Dot until I was a young man in college. They were incredibly thoughtful, gentle, intelligent, and modest people, but for whatever reason, they never had children. My grandmother, Dorothy McMurry Black, their niece, was like a daughter to them and she was their sole heir. Their tangible memories have now passed to me, and I’m making my way through them.

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Why Nampa?

map-idaho-nampaThis is a post that’s been sitting on the back shelf for over a year, as I’ve been hoping to uncover more details before posting the story. I’ve made some headway, but not as much as I’d like, so I’m putting this post out there today in hopes that some McMurry or Chilson relative will be able to fill in some of the missing details.

I recently learned that my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, lived in Nampa, Idaho, when she was very young. She never mentioned this to me while she was alive, and I had never heard about her or her parents living in Idaho before. I knew that her grandfather, Arthur Webster McMurry in Nampa, Idado, on November 17, 1917, after moving there in December, 1916. Arthur’s daughter (and my grandmother’s aunt) Maud “May” Belle (McMurry) Jeglum was living a few miles south in Bowmont at the time of the 1920 census, having moved there with her husband and three children at some point after 1914.

The evidence for my grandmother having lived in Nampa comes from two sources. First is this short mention published on page 6 of the Friday, December 20, 1918, edition of the Olympia Daily Recorder:

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Were Annie Horan and Anora Lee Prettyman the same person?

confusedfamilytreeIn yesterday’s post, I investigated the birth family of my great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Horan. I learned that her parents were William and Anna (“Annie”) Horan. William Horan apparently disappeared (died? divorced?) around 1880. Annie Horan is listed on the federal census of 1880 as being the head of her household, while also marked as being married but not marked as being a widow.

Five years later, in 1885, Annie Horan also appears to have disappeared or died and her children appear to have been adopted a brother-in-law and next-door neighbor of Mary Horan, her husband’s older brother Francis (“Frank”) Marian Prettyman and his wife Anora Lee Prettyman.

When doing further research today into the mystery, I discovered a growing number of similarities between Anna Horan and Anora Lee Prettyman that make me now think that they were quite possibly the same person. If this is true, then my great-great-grandmother’s mother was also her sister-in-law! Continue reading

Mystery photo #4: Fort Collins child

Mystery ChildI found this photo in a collection of photos that I believe once belonged to my great-aunt and great-uncle, Dorothy (“Dot”) Mary Bailey (1896–1987) and Clarence Humphrey Bailey (1895–1982). These photos would have passed to my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry (1917–1997) upon the death of Dorothy Bailey (Dorothy McMurry’s maternal aunt). Upon my grandmother’s death, they passed to my father, and he generously let me have them a few years ago.

The photo in question is a cabinet card image of what appears to be a young girl, aged one to two years old I would guess, dressed in a white gown and black boots and standing on a wicker chair. The photo was taken in Fort Collins, Colorado, by a photographer named Seckner. My initial ballpark estimate is that it dates to 1880–1900.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 4

P1000912I spent a fair part of the day today talking with a conservator about evaluating and treating the two paintings that my cousin Carole McMurry let me borrow for a year to research and conserve (introduced in parts one, two and three of this series). It’s usually quite an enriching experience talking with a conservator, and today was no exception. In just a few short hours I learned several key facts about the two paintings:

  • The paintings had almost certainly never been rolled to make them easier to transport;
  • The paintings were almost certainly not restretched onto their current stretcher bars;
  • The canvases were almost certainly bought already stretched and primed (rather than being stretched and primed by the artist);
  • The paintings were almost certainly painted while the canvases were on their current stretcher bars;
  • The paintings appear more consistent with having been painted in the 1880s than in the 1860s to mid-1870s, as I had expected;
  • The style of the paintings was described as American Folk, but a sophisticated type of American Folk that indicates the painter may have received formal training at some point.

These observations about the paintings, when combined with the fact that the woman alleged to have painted them—Elizabeth Miller McMurry—died in 1876, bring into question the true identity of the painter.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 3

P1000926In part one and part two of this post, I introduced and discussed a trio of oil paintings that I had last seen back in the 1990s. These paintings were reportedly done by my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry, who died near Carlisle, Arkansas, on February 6, 1876, when she was only 47 years old. I was told by my first cousin twice removed, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings at that time, that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If that were indeed the case, then these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876.

Last month I traveled to Olympia, Washington, to see my father and do some family history research. Thanks to the help of my cousin Crystal (Art’s great-granddaughter), a fellow family historian, I was able to locate and visit two of the three paintings. These two—the pastoral scene and the still life with flowers—were in the home of Crystal’s grandmother Carole (Art’s daughter). The last time I had viewed the paintings, the rain had prevented me from being able to take good photos of the paintings. For the five days I had been in Washington before meeting with Crystal and Carole, the weather had been mild and clear. On the day I was to meet Crystal and drive out to her grandmother’s house, the sky opened up and we had torrential rain as well as thunder and lightening; even the locals were surprised by the volume of the downpour.

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Francis Gores (1826–1899)

Prussia_1854_thaler_Sincona_4-04335At the age of 27, in the spring of 1854, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” Gores (born Franciscus Gores), left his native homeland in the Kingdom of Prussia (or Königreich Preußen) with two of his siblings—Johann, aged 29, and Maria, aged 25. Francis was noted to be a farmer, and his brother Johann was recorded as being a butcher. They were leaving Schönecken, a small market town in Rhenish Prussia (in what is now the Rhineland-Palatinate on the western edge of Germany), home to the Gores family for many generations prior to them.

The village of Schönecken is located in the valley of the Nims river, which meanders through the hilly landscape of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The 400-million-year-old sandstone bedrock that forms the hills produces rich soils for agriculture. The population today is essentially the same as it was in 1854—about 1500 people.

I do not yet know why the three siblings decided to give up their lives in Europe and head to the United States, but one contributing factor may have been the famine that struck much of Europe due to repeated crop failures that began in 1846–1847, most notably potato rot. Land prices were also rising at a pace that exceeded the profitability of farming the land; if a farmer sold his land, however, he could easily afford to relocate his entire family to the United States.

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