I love the way the edge of the painted backdrop can be clearly seen on the left side of the photo, and that the bottom of the backdrop sits rumpled on the floor, visible in the gap between a child’s arm and his torso. The backless, single-armed chair upon which the father sits contributes only briefly to the verisimilitude of the family sitting casually in their living room. The sad potted plants that appear to have surrendered all dignity complete the scene. All of this stands in stark contrast to the proud, grounded, and solidly built family that is the subject of the photo.
Compositional details aside, this photo is tragic in many ways. It documents a family together for perhaps the last time. It speaks to the effects that death can have on a family. It also serves as an example of how the decisions we make about where to live and where to work can have large and unintended consequences.
There are six people pictured in this family photo: Wilfred Lawson Askew, Hattie (Eddy) Askew, Clyde Lawson Askew, Manfred Eddy Askew, Beulah Lucille (Askew) Fanson, and Kenneth Hubert Eddy.
Beulah Lucille (Askew) Fanson
I’ll start with the baby in her mother’s lap, Beulah Lucille Askew, as she presents clear evidence regarding the date of the photo. Beulah Lucille was born on May 20, 1907. In this photo, she’s certainly less than a year old. From the standard lists of infant milestones, she looks to be about three to five months old — she is clutching her own hands, has good head control, holds her head up when sitting, and is old enough to sit up with some support, but not yet old enough to sit up without support.
If this 3-to-5-month-old estimate is correct, then the photograph was taken between late August and late October, 1907.
Given her young age in this photo, I won’t go into much more detail than I already have on Beulah Lucille.
As an aside, Beulah Lucille Askew’s namesake was her mother’s younger sister, Beulah Eddy, who was only 17 when Beulah Lucille was born. In turn, Beulah Lucille Askew (who went by the name Lucille) was the namesake of her older brother Clyde’s eldest daughter, Beulah Lucille Askew (who also eschewed the name Beulah and instead went by the names Boo and Bonnie). To the best of my knowledge, the latter Beulah Lucille Askew was the last in the family to carry the name “Beulah.”
Hattie (Eddy) Askew
As I mentioned in an earlier post about Hattie, Hattie Eddy Askew lived a short life, dying in her early thirties (32-34), only one to two and a half years after this photo was taken. She died
in Cripple Creek, Colorado, at their farm home outside Casselton, North Dakota, around 1908-1910† on February 14, 1909. She died of pneumonia as a result of a sudden and unexpected heart failure following an illness of about a week’s duration. Her husband Wilfred could not handle the burden of raising his children alone, so Clyde, Manfred, and Lucille were sent to live with Hattie’s then-childless younger sister Mattie and her husband Addison Stewart in Dieringer, Pierce County, Washington. Another of their maternal aunts, Beulah Eddy (Lucille’s namesake), then 20 years old, also went to live with Mattie, Addison and the three children, presumably to help with the large and unexpected burden of three young children.
Sending the three Askew children to live with a then-childless couple half a continent away may seem on its face to have been an odd decision, but with some additional context, it may make more sense.
The Eddy family had been hit hard by death by the time of Hattie’s early demise in ca. 1908-1910. Hattie died young, and so her mother Emma Alice (Comstock) Eddy, who had raised seven children of her own, would have been an obvious choice to adopt her grandchildren with her husband Chester. But Emma herself had died prematurely in 1907, at age 56, in Tacoma, Washington. Hattie’s eldest sister, Emma Addie Eddy, had also died young, passing away in 1887 at the age of 19 and leaving a 1-year-old daughter Myrtle E. and a widowed husband, George Herbert Craig. The next-eldest Eddy child, George Frank Eddy, also died prematurely in 1893, at age 23, and he also left a young child behind, Josephine Eddy, only 4 years old at the time of her father’s death. The next Eddy child in line, the third-born Hiram Hubert “Bert” Eddy, had also died prematurely, dying in November, 1902, while away from home working in Dunsmuir, Siskiyou County, California. He also left behind a young child, Kenneth Hubert Eddy (pictured in this photo), who was only 15 months old when his father died. Kenneth’s mother died around the time this photo was taken, and Kenneth had been adopted into WIlfred and Hattie’s family. So at the time the photo above was taken, the middle child, the fourth-born Hattie, was the eldest Eddy child. With her death, her sister Mattie was then the eldest surviving Eddy child. There were two younger Eddy children: Gladdie and Beulah. From what I can tell, Gladdie died quite young, so Mattie and Beulah were the only two surviving children of a once-large family of seven children. It is in this context that it makes perfect sense that Mattie would be the best candidate to adopt the Askew children, and why Beulah would choose to join her only surviving sibling in raising their shared nephews and niece.
† The exact date of Hattie’s death is currently uncertain (ca. 1908–1910). Harriet (Askew) Prettyman once told me that Hattie died around 1908, but I also discovered a note written by Harriet’s now-deceased aunt, Eva Scott Martes—the sister-in-law of Hattie’s eldest child, Clyde—stating that Hattie died in 1911. However, as Hattie’s children were already living with their aunt and uncle, Martha Alice “Mattie” (Eddy) Stewart and Robert Addison Stewart at the time of the 1910 census (enumerated on May 4-6, 1910), Hattie had most likely already died by May, 1910.
Wilfred Lawson Askew
Wilfred is seated at the back center of the photo. He is the husband of Hattie, the biological father of Clyde, Manfred, and Lucille, and the presumed adoptive father of Kenneth. Wilfred was born on July 15, 1873, in Cumberland, England, probably in the parish of Egremont, where the Askew family had lived for centuries. He was the fifth child and second son of Col. Joseph Askew and Jane (Eilbeck) Askew, part of a family that would ultimately grow to include 13 children, 12 of whom lived to adulthood.
In early 1875, three or four months before his second birthday, Wilfred and his family departed from Liverpool on a ship called “City of Montreal”, bound for America. He arrived in the Port of New York on March 20, 1875, and by 1880 he and his family were settled in Wadena, Minnesota.
I currently have little information on his activities or whereabouts from 1880 to 1900, but he was still living in Minnesota on May 7, 1896, when his son Clyde Lawson Askew was born in the nearby city of Menahga, Minnesota.
At some point between May, 1896, and March, 1900, Wilfred decided to take his family and move from Wadena County, Minnesota, to the mining town of Altman, Teller County, Colorado. The 1900 federal census (pictured at right), enumerated on June 18, 1900, has him already settled in Altman, CO, and Wilfred’s second-born son Manfred is listed as having been born a little over two months earlier in Cripple Creek, Colorado, in March, 1900.
The town of Altman is now a ghost town. It was a short-lived town—it was founded in the late 1800s and then most of the town was destroyed by fire on May 24, 1903. The town continued for a while, though, and Altman was still reported to have a population of 145 in 1914. According to its entry in the USGS’s Geographic Names Information System, at an elevation alternately cited as 11,146 feet, 11,200 feet, 10,550 feet, 10,650 feet, or 10,630 feet, Altman was said to be the highest incorporated town in North America. Why the wide discrepancies in elevation estimates? Well, with changes in mining technology, Altman has gone from being a mining town to being a town that itself has now become the mine.
This is a satellite view of the town of Altman from October 27, 2011 (at right). Altman is two miles uphill from Cripple Creek (seen at the upper left). Altman has been all but obliterated by strip mining operations. The only portion of the town that remains is the little island of green in the middle of the mine. Henry Chenowith of ghosttowns.com had the following to say about Altman:
“The first stamp mill in the Cripple Creek area was built by a Sam Altman after whom the town was named. One of the most bustling cities in the region around the turn of the century, Altman was composed almost exclusively of union miners and was one of the headquarters during the bloody strikes of 1894 and was the center of much labor violence during its lifetime. It is said violence was so common at one time, a busy undertaker offered to give group rates if all killings were done on Saturday. Altman was the highest incorporated town in the United States in its day. The town covered the entire top of a hill, had several hotels, restaurants and saloons. The American Eagle mine dominated the site and still does as only a few of the buildings of the city remain.”
After Wilfred and Hattie moved to Altman with Clyde around 1897-1899, the couple had one other child, Beulah Lucille Askew, who was born on May 20, 1907, in Wadena, MN. From that fact alone, I
might have concluded would assume that they had moved back to Wadena by 1907. However, the story I’ve been told about Hattie’s death is that she caught pneumonia while on a trip to Colorado. This is backed up by the fact that she’s buried just downhill from Altman, in Cripple Creek, CO. Why would she have been travelling back to this small, unsavory, mining town, unless they (or at least Wilfred) still lived there? For now, I’ll assume that Wilfred and Hattie lived in Altman, at least part time, for the decade between their arrival in ca. 1897-1899 until Hattie’s death in ca. 1908-1910.
After Hattie’s death, Kenneth went to live with his mother and grandparents in Wadena, and the three Askew children were sent to live in Washington with their aunts and uncle, presumably after first travelling back to Wadena.
Wilfred himself probably also went back to Wadena, MN, at this point. I say this because he was remarried on April 6, 1911, in Wadena, MN, and the woman he married, Selma Throndson, worked as the “Dining Room Girl” at his father’s hotel in Wadena, the Commercial Hotel. I presume he met her while she was working at the hotel.
Wilfred and Selma went on to have five children together: Alma Josephine, Wilfred Russell, Mildred Loraine, William Leighton, and John Gordon “Gordy” Askew. From their dates and places of birth, Wilfred and Selma appear to have lived in Wadena until at least 1916, then moved to Washburn, McLean County, North Dakota, around 1916-1918, where Wilfred was the foreman of a road building crew††. By 1921, Wilfred and Selma were back in Wadena.
†† Aside: I’m really excited to look into this, as my previous post was about a road building project in Washburn, ND, that Frank Scott worked on. It seems not at all unlikely that these two men, who would become in-laws when their respective children—Clyde Askew and Gertrude Scott—married each other on May 7, 1916, worked on the same remote road project together.
Clyde Lawson Askew
Within a few years of his birth, his father moved the family to the mining town of Altman, Colorado.
According to Harriet Prettyman, at some point, Clyde ran away from his adoptive family in Washington and made his way back to Minnesota to ask his father if he could live with him and his new wife. Apparently, his adoptive parents were fiercely religious evangelical Christians, and he didn’t like living with them.
I have a lot to learn about Clyde’s early years, but I know that Clyde met his future wife when she was working in the Arlington Hotel in Menagha (Clyde’s grandfather, Col. Joseph Askew, owned and built the Arlington Hotel). Gert and Clyde got married in Menahga on May 7, 1916, and had five children together, eventually settling in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. I’ll do Clyde more justice in a future post.
Manfred Eddy Askew
Manfred is the boy at the center of the photo, seated below his father. Unlike his older brother Clyde, Manfred stayed with his adoptive parents a bit longer (although he frequently travelled back to see his Minnesota family) and became a devoutly religious person himself, eventually becoming a reverend. He married a woman named Hope Minerva Purvis and they served together as missionaries in Japan for nearly 20 years—from 1951 to 1969.
Time allowing, I’ll find out more about Manfred and write a post about him. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of him and his wife on their 30th wedding anniversary.
Kenneth Hubert Eddy
After Kenneth was born, his father Hiram “Bert” Eddy set out for the wooded, hillside town of Dunsmuir, California, to make money as a drayer. I do not yet know the specifics, but Bert died and was buried in Dunsmuir in November, 1902, leaving Kenneth and his mother, May Isabelle (Claydon) Eddy alone in Wadena, Minnesota.
The family portrait that is the topic of this post would seem to suggest that Kenneth was living with the Askews at the time the photo was taken. By the time of the 1910 census, enumerated on April 26, 1910, Kenneth and his mother (and curiously, another child named Warren C. Eddy) were living with her parents, Frederic and Harriet Claydon, in Wadena. Kenneth’s mother died in 1912, leaving him an orphan. By the time of the 1920 census, Kenneth was living on his own as a boarder in a hotel in Cass Lake, Cass County, MN, and was employed as a clerk in a drug store. He went on to marry Mae Loretta Wright, have four children, and spent the rest of his life in Minnesota until his death in Hastings, MN, on March 3, 1977.