A little boy and his big dog

Raymond McDonaldI’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.

One of the photos I scanned was this cabinet card image of a young boy in a rather elaborate costume standing next to a patient large dog that looks like a St. Bernard mix. The boy is identified as Raymond McDonald. Raymond was a grandson of Col. Joseph Askew, and the only child of Henrietta (“Etta”) Askew’s first marriage (to William McDonald, a cattle buyer and horse dealer). Raymond was born on September 30, 1895, and had a fairly short life, dying on April 24, 1922, at the age of 26.

Raymond McDonald

From what l’ve been able to piece together (and please, do let me know if you know more about Raymond than I state here), Raymond was married (although I don’t yet know his wife’s name) by the time of his World War I draft registration in June, 1917 (see below), and he worked as a railroad brakeman for the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Raymond McDonald draft card p1 Raymond McDonald draft card p2

Raymond was born in Detroit (Becker county), Minnesota, but his parents appear to have moved shortly thereafter to Hawley (Clay county), Minnesota, where this photo was taken. Thanks to the excellent Directory of Minnesota Photographers put together by the Minnesota Historical Society, it appears that the photo was taken by a Norwegian immigrant named Sylvester Peter Wange, who was active in Hawley from 1894–1898, 1910–1912, 1918, and 1926. By 1910, Raymond would have been 15 years old, so this was clearly taken during Wange’s first stint in Hawley (1894–1898). Raymond would have been only 2½–3 years old in 1898, an age which seems consistent with his appearance in the photo above.

Please let me know if you know anything more about Raymond, his premature death, his wife and marriage (did he have any kids?), his mother’s first marriage, or anything that might be relevant to Raymond and his family. Also please let me know if you have a photo of Raymond later in his life (say, anything older than 3 years old), as this is the only photo I think I have of him.

2 thoughts on “A little boy and his big dog

  1. Mike,
    My name is Jessica Askew. I’m Gordy’s granddaughter and Steve’s oldest daughter. I have a large version of this photograph given to me by my grandparents. This version was also painted to add color–mostly to the plaid kilt and the dog. It used to hang on the wall of their lake cottage and I always loved it because it’s so strange–this very formally dressed, solemn looking child with his enormous dog. Grandpa always told me that the boy in the photo had died young, adding an air of tragedy to the photo. On the back paper of the frame, Grandpa Gordy wrote that Raymond died of tuberculosis. It also said he died in an army hospital in Des Moines, IA. Raymond’s father was Scottish, and Etta was100% English, according to Grandpa. True to form, my grandparents gave me the photo because they knew I had always admired it, and I had it framed in protective glass and it’s on prominent display in my home. I also have a funeral card that lists the same date of death as you but gives his age as 27 years. I love your blog–I’m a history teacher and I’ve used some of your research to help my students make connections to the past. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for writing, and pleased to meet you! I’d like to ask you about you and your sisters and your families, so I’ll send you an email for a more private conversation.
      Great to hear about the big, colored version you’ve got! I would guess that his mother Etta was the original owner of the version you’ve got, but have you heard anything about who the previous owner(s) was/were? I wonder if Etta had that printed when the photo was taken, or after her first husband died, or after Raymond died. The histories of such family keepsakes fascinates me, as you may have noticed!
      I’ll write you more this weekend, but in the meantime, do you happen to know anything about the death (cause, date, place) of Etta’s husband and Raymond’s father, Will McDonald? All I’ve been able to track down so far is that he died sometime between June 8, 1905, and April 25, 1910.
      Thanks also for letting me know about your students and your finding helpful tidbits in my blog—that brings a big smile to my face!


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