Samuel Askew, horseman

I got an email today from Rebecca Komppa, a newspaper columnist and local historian in the Wadena county area of Minnesota. I had helped Rebecca with an article she wrote on the Arlington Hotel, a hotel that my 3rd-great-grandfather Joseph Askew built in Menahga, MN, in 1891. This morning, she got an email from a man named John who’s a great-grandson of Joseph Askew, asking for my contact details.

It turns out that he’s my second cousin, twice removed—in other words, he’s my grandmother Harriet’s second cousin. Joseph Askew had six sons, but only three lived past childhood: William Henry Askew (1864–1927), Wilfred Lawson Askew (1873–1953), and Samuel “Sam” Clarence Askew (1876–1954). John told me that Sam Askew, Joseph’s youngest surviving son, was his grandfather.

For today’s post, I want to present a couple of interesting photos I’ve scanned of Sam Askew. One is housed at the Wadena County Historical Society, and the other is in the possession of my great-uncle Gordy Askew.

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Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 2

Detail of cabinThis post is a continuation of a post I wrote yesterday on a series of three oil paintings that are said to have been painted by my 3rd-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller McMurry (1828–1876). In today’s post, I’ll be taking a closer look at one of the paintings (the pastoral scene with boy and cattle), and looking for hints as to the date(s) and settings of the paintings.

My grandmother’s first cousin, Art McMurry, the owner of the paintings until his death twenty years ago, said that they were painted by Elizabeth while she and her husband were traveling west by wagon. If true, these canvases would have been painted at some point between Elizabeth and Luke’s marriage in 1851 and Elizabeth’s death in 1876. She never made it further west than Arkansas, but her family later reached the area near Olympia, Washington. From what I can tell from the images I currently have available, nothing about the paintings or their mounting and framing is inconsistent with dating from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Continue reading

Elizabeth Miller McMurry’s paintings, part 1

Botanical still lifeAround 1990, when both my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black (1917–1997), and her first cousin, Arthur “Art” Edgar McMurry (1915–2001), were still alive, I paid a visit to Art out at his home on Black Lake, outside of Olympia, Washington. Art had become the caretaker of the McMurry family heirlooms, and in addition to the photos and artifacts he possessed, he had a prodigious memory for family history.

Art pointed out three old paintings he had on the walls of his house and told me that they were painted by Elizabeth Miller McMurry (1828–1876), his great-grandmother and my 3rd-great-grandmother. Previous to this, I hadn’t heard anything about Elizabeth being a painter. Her three paintings were amazing. They all appeared to have been painted with oils on canvas and then coated in varnish. Each of the paintings had been framed in ornate, gilt wooden frames. The frame of one painting had three areas of modest damage, and the canvas of that same painting was punctured and torn—apparently from having fallen on a dining room chair at some point. The other two paintings and frames were in better shape.

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