This post is about a man who was either part of our family or was close to our family, but I don’t know exactly who he is. I have at least eight photos of him (one additional photo is uncertain), and nothing is written on any of these to help identify him. I’m hoping that someone reading this recognizes this man or has additional photos of him, perhaps even some that may yield clues as to his identify.
Yearly Archives: 2013
Fooled by a mystery photo
About five or six years ago, my mother gave me an 8 x 10 print of a group of poor but spirited children standing in front of what I assumed was their house. The print appeared to be a fairly modern one (I’d guess it was made within the last 40–50 years), and there was no information written or printed on the back. I had never seen the photo before, and my mother said she thought it was probably family, although she didn’t know who the children were.
About two decades ago, my aunt and uncle made modern prints of some older family photos, so I thought perhaps they made this print and would know more about the identities of the children who were pictured. When shown the photo, however, my uncle said he had never seen it before.
I scanned this photo over two years ago, and since then, I’ve shown the image to most every family member I’ve visited. No one has so far recognized the photo or known the identities of the children in the photo, although some similarities were seen between my paternal grandmother and the girl on the viewer’s right, and my maternal great-grandmother and the oldest girl at the top center (neither of whom met the other until my parents got engaged).
William McMurry’s Cow Pasture River home, part 2
In part 1 of this series, I explored the available evidence for clues as to where William McMurry and his family settled on the Cow Pasture River in what is now western Virginia in the late 1750s to early 1770s (and probably beyond). I ended that post with an uncertainty as to how to interpret the surveyors’ bearings on three of William McMurry’s land patents.
The surveyors used the metes and bounds method of describing parcels of land, in which the perimeter of the parcel is described using distances and directions. To express direction, the surveyors had used statements such as “south eighty eight degrees west,” and every way I interpreted those bearings resulted in an unclosed polygon. To proceed, I had to first figure out how the surveyors had intended those bearings to be read.
In looking for insight, I found a great body of research called Genealogy of the Berry and Associated Families, by Jim Jackson and Carol Vass (last revised November 11, 2013). In it, they show how such bearings should be interpreted, and they present several worked examples of parcel reconstruction. With this help, I learned that bearings such as “south eighty eight degrees west” were meant to be read as 88° west of due south. Below is an illustration I made to help make these older style of bearings more understandable: Continue reading
William McMurry’s Cow Pasture River home, part 1
While writing the last post, on the McMurry family’s migrations from Virginia to Kentucky in the late 1770s to early 1790s, I was somewhat vague about where they lived in Virginia. Other than one source—which states that William’s youngest son, Robert McMurry,was born in Fincastle on December 6, 1772—all of the sources I’ve seen state that William McMurry and his family lived on the Cow Pasture River. The location has been more specifically described as being on the lower Cow Pasture River and near a stream called McMurry Creek.
From what I’ve been able to learn so far, there is no tributary to (or anywhere near) Cow Pasture River that is still called anything like “McMurry Creek.” A distant cousin and fellow family historian, John Drye, has contacted the local history society for that area to see if they might have any insight into where McMurry Creek might have been, but he’s gotten no information so far. John suspects that the McMurry farm might have been in the area around Nicelytown, and that area is a leading candidate for me, too.
The Cow Pasture River is fairly long—just about 50 linear miles from source to mouth, but slightly over 80 miles as the river flows, because of the meandering nature of the river. It would be great to be able to be able to narrow down possible locations for the McMurry home along this river.
I’ve been reading through some excellent research notes by Don McMurray (a distant cousin), who’s spent much time, effort and money doing historical research on the McMurrys in Virginia, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere. In his notes were a couple of additional clues to the location of the McMurry property on the Cow Pasture River that made me think it might be possible to start narrowing down possible specific locations.
Mystery photo #4: Fort Collins child
I 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.
A little boy and his big dog
I’ve got several labor-intensive posts in the works, but I figured that I needed (and my readers might like) a bit of a break from long posts. Plus, I’m feeling like I need to pay some attention to some neglected branches on our family tree.
It is in that spirit that I present today’s brief post, about a curious photo that I scanned while I was in Minnesota almost exactly a year ago (Wadena, how I miss you!). Gordy and Geri Askew and their family kindly let me borrow their collection of older photos for a week to examine and scan.
The McMurrys head to Kentucky
My recent post about the reconstructed migration route of the McMurrys from Kentucky to Indiana (Armchair Highway Archaeology) got me thinking—how might the McMurry family have gotten to Kentucky in the first place?
The five surviving children of my 6th-great-grandparents, William McMurry (ca 1725–1798) and Agnes(?) (1730–after 1772), were said to have travelled to Kentucky together around 1787–1788: John (1752–1832), James (1760–1832), Thomas (1765–1829), Jane (1767–1835), and Robert (1772–1812). What would have been the most direct available route from the McMurry’s home(s) in Fincastle, Augusta (now Botetourt) County, Virginia, to their new homes in central and southern Kentucky? Kentucky in the late 1700s had far fewer choices in terms of routes, so I decided to start there and work my way back to Virginia.
The Wilderness Road was the primary means of entry into Kentucky. As a result of his pioneering exploration of central Kentucky beginning in 1769, Daniel Boone had determined the best route into Kentucky. This route started at the Anderson Blockhouse (see photo below) on the Holston River, just east of Big Moccasin Gap. The Wilderness Road crossed into southern Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap, a mountain pass through the Cumberland Mountains region of the Appalachian Mountains.
Ninety-five years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and to the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.
An old coffee grinder
In the 1970’s, my parents were given a number of antiques from my paternal grandfather’s side of the family. These were said to be old objects from the sod house that my adoptive great-great-grandparents, Lewis J. Black (1839–1901) and his wife Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black (1841–1915), built in Jewell County, Kansas. My grandparents made a trip back to that area in the 1970s with their motorhome and came back with these and other items.
I’d like to take a closer look at these items to see what I can learn about their origins and history. The items include a coffee grinder (the subject of the current post), a chopping knife or ulu, a coin purse, a rocking chair, a kerosene lamp, and two pendulum clocks—a schoolhouse regulator style clock, and and a tabletop style clock. They’re all in rather poor condition and would have almost no value as antiques, but to me, they’re priceless.
Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 4
I 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.