The Prettyman boys in school with their uncle

img001One of the pleasant fringe benefits of writing this blog is hearing from distant relatives (nearly all of whom I’ve never before met) who are also interested in family history. Almost without exception, both I and the newly met relatives come away from these correspondences having learned something new about our shared history.

My second cousin twice removed, Lorraine, first commented on my blog two months ago, and since then we’ve exchanged dozens of emails. She’s the one who made me realize that I must have made a mistake in my Horan pedigree, as her grandfather (Arthur Horan) was the brother of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Horan. The Horan family I had pieced together didn’t have an Arthur Horan, which made me dig deeper and ultimately uncover a case of mistaken identity (my second case of two people with the same name, born at nearly the same time in the same geographic area, with a parent of the same name).

One of the things that Lorraine shared with me is this wonderful school photograph of her grandfather Arthur Horan and three of his nephews—Roy Alfred Prettyman, George Irvin Prettyman, and Charles Austin Prettyman.


img003 img001I was so happy to learn that this photo existed; it’s informative and interesting for so many reasons. This is clearly a one-room schoolhouse, with 15 students (9 boys and 6 girls) appearing to range in age from about 5 to about 16 or 17 years old. The teacher has a disability that prevents him from walking (polio, perhaps?), and he relies on an unusual hand-cranked wheelchair (much like this one) to get around.

The photo appears to have been taken in the Fall, as might be expected of a school photo. Of the four relatives pictured in the photo, the caption only clearly identifies Arthur Horan (front row, near the center, underneath the blue “x”). The caption states that three Prettyman boys are also in the photo (Roy Alfred Prettyman, George Irvin Prettyman, and Charles Austin Prettyman), but it doesn’t make it clear who is where.

Detail of school photo

Lorraine had been told that the boys were (from left to right): G. I. Prettyman, Arthur Horan, Roy Prettyman, and C.A. Prettyman. This struck me as odd because the apparent relative ages of the Prettyman boys in the photo didn’t align with their known relative ages. The boy who looked the youngest (third from the left in the above photo) was identified as the oldest of the three Prettyman boys.

The four relatives who are pictured had the following birthdates:

  • Arthur Horan (March 29, 1881)
  • Roy Alfred Prettyman (August 26, 1885)
  • George Irvin Prettyman (July 14, 1887)
  • Charles Austin Prettyman (August 18, 1889)

Given these relative ages, I believe that the boys are actually pictured in the photo in this order: Roy, Arthur, C.A., G.I.

If the youngest Prettyman boy pictured (Charles Austin) was 5 years old when this photo was taken, then the photo dates to Fall, 1894, and the ages of the boys pictured are (left to right): Roy (9), Arthur (13.5), C.A. (5), and G.I. (7). Younger sister Gracie Prettyman had died two years earlier, and youngest son Clarence was born only a month or so before this picture was taken.

Where was the photo taken?

The Prettyman family was on the move during this time.  Here is a list of the places that the Prettyman family lived during the last quarter of the 19th century:

May 1876 (census) Spruce Hill, Douglas co., MN
Jun 1880 (census) Spruce Hill, Douglas co., MN
Dec 1884 (marriage) Spruce Hill, Douglas co., MN
Jun 1885 (census) Spruce Hill, Douglas co., MN
Aug 1885 (Roy born) Alexandria, Douglas co., MN
Jul 1887 (G.I. born) Spruce Hill, Douglas co., MN
Aug 1889 (C.A. born) Parkers Prairie, Otter Tail co., MN
May 1891 (Gracie born) Parkers Prairie, Otter Tail co., MN
Aug 1892 (Gracie dies) Parkers Prairie, Otter Tail co., MN
Aug 1894 (Clarence born) Woodside, Otter Tail co., MN
Jun 1895 (census) Woodside, Otter Tail co., MN
Jun 1900 (census) Woodside, Otter Tail co., MN

From the above list, it appears that the Prettyman family would have been in Woodside township in the Fall of 1894, so that is almost certainly where this photo was taken. I’ll be contacting the great people at the Otter Tail County Historical Society to see if they can identify the school, and I’ll post all updates to this blog.

If you can add anything about this fantastic photo or the lives of the people it pictures, please let me know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *