Mystery photo #4: Fort Collins child

Mystery ChildI 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.

Mystery Child

According to the Fort Collins Photography Timeline, S. H. Seckner is known to have been active in Fort Collins in 1885, 1889, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1907, and 1908.

What about clues from the photo’s location and subject? As far as I know, there have been only five 19th-century migrations of branches of our family to the Fort Collins area:

  • Anne Mary Severson and her sister Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) Severson
  • Peter Anderson
  • George Wicks Bailey
  • Belle Jarbeau
  • William Noble Bailey

Anne Mary Severson (ca 1856–1891) moved from Black Earth, Wisconsin, to Fort Collins at some point between 1870 and 1878 (she married Peter Anderson in Fort Collins in 1878). Carrie Severson (1859–1921) moved from Black Earth, Wisconsin, to Fort Collins at some point between 1870 and 1880. If Anne and Carrie travelled together, and if they waited until Carrie was 18 to leave home, the date of their move to Fort Collins is narrowed to between 1877 and 1878.

Peter Anderson (1845–1927) was born in Norway and moved with his siblings and widowed mother to Wisconsin in 1850. By 1864 he had moved to Denver, Colorado, and had settled in Fort Collins by 1878, when he married Anne Mary Severson.

George Wicks Bailey (1856–1909) was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but had moved to Larimer County, CO, by the time of the 1880 census. Belle Jarbeau (1860–1935) was born in Sherman, Texas, and moved to Grand County, CO, at some point before 1883, when she married George W. Bailey.

William Noble Bailey (1860–1923), the second cousin of George Wicks Bailey, moved from Rockville, Connecticut, to Fort Collins, CO, sometime before 1886, when he married Carrie Severson.

So as a result of these five migrations, three couples met and married in Fort Collins, Colorado, between 1877 and 1886. The young children that each of these couples would have had with them while living in Fort Collins were:

  • Peter Anderson and Anne Mary Severson:
    • Cora M Anderson (born ca Jan 1880)
    • Pearl Anderson (both April 7, 1882, but died 15 days later)
    • Franklyn T Anderson (born August 5, 1882)
    • Paul Frank Anderson (born November 14, 1885)
    • Earl Sidney Anderson (born December 31, 1887, but died 2 months later)
    • Florence M Anderson (born June 26, 1889, but died 9½ months later)
    • Myron Porter Anderson (born September 1, 1891)
  • George Wicks Bailey and Belle Jarbeau:
    • Isaiah Loomis (“Ike”) Bailey (born June 24, 1884)
    • George Jarbeau Bailey (born August 5, 1889)
    • Clarence Humphrey Bailey (born March 2, 1895)
  • William Noble Bailey and Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) Severson:
    • Lucinda Tracey Bailey (born February 20, 1887)

If we remove the children who died before they reached the age of the child in the photo, the list of potential subjects is:

  • Cora M Anderson (born ca Jan 1880)
  • Franklyn T Anderson (born August 5, 1882)
  • Paul Frank Anderson (born November 14, 1885)
  • Myron Porter Anderson (born September 1, 1891)
  • Isaiah Loomis (“Ike”) Bailey (born June 24, 1884)
  • George Jarbeau Bailey (born August 5, 1889)
  • Clarence Humphrey Bailey (born March 2, 1895)
  • Lucinda Tracey Bailey (born February 20, 1887)

I know that the subject of the photo is not Clarence Humphrey Bailey, as I have two photos of him from approximately that same age (see one of these below, also by S. H. Seckner of Fort Collins), and he’s clearly not the same person as the subject of the mystery photo.

Clarence H Bailey ca 1896So the photo is not of Clarence Bailey, but is it a photo of a boy at all? I don’t think so. If the subject of the mystery photo is indeed a girl, as I strongly suspect, given the the style of the gown, the hairstyle, and the facial features of the child, the list of potential subjects shrinks to:

  • Cora M Anderson (born ca Jan 1880)
  • Lucinda Tracey Bailey (born February 20, 1887)

Now, given that this photo almost certainly came from my great-aunt and great-uncle, Dorothy (“Dot”) Mary Bailey and Clarence Humphrey Bailey (it was found in a folder with photos of Dot and Clarence and their immediate family members, and with WWI letters from Clarence to Dot), would it make more sense for Dot and Clarence to have a photo of Cora or of Lucinda? Cora and Dot were first cousins (their mothers were the Severson sisters), and Lucinda and Dot were sisters.

I think this photo makes more sense if it’s a photo of Dot’s older sister, Lucinda Tracey Bailey, my great-grandmother. If this is indeed the case (as I go through more and more photos, hopefully it’ll become more certain), then when would the photo have been taken? The child in the photo looks like she’s just reached the age where she can stand alone, unsupported, so my guess is that she’d be about 11–14 months old (if you think differently, please let me know in the comments section). Lucinda was born on February 20, 1887, so this photo would have been taken between January and May, 1888.

If you have any further insights, please tell me about them in the comments section below!

Mystery Child

14 thoughts on “Mystery photo #4: Fort Collins child

  1. This looks like Dorothy. It’s just a guess but I member her saying the name Lucinda Bailey and because of the similarity in the face that’s my guess.

    • Dorothy Bailey would have been my first choice, too, but by the time she and her older brother were born, the family had already moved to Henrietta (Clay County), Texas. It’s not out of the question that they came back to Fort Collins, CO, to have this photo taken (especially since Carrie—Dorothy’s mother—had a sister in Fort Collins). Her sister (Anne Severson) died in September, 1891, and Dorothy wasn’t born until October, 1896.

    • Now that I re-read your comment, I think you’re referring to Dorothy McMurry, Lucinda’s daughter, and not Dorothy Bailey, correct? I see what you’re talking about, if that’s the case. There is a definite resemblance.

  2. The other two Severson sisters, Julia and Selena, were in the Fort Collins area at various times, however neither had daughters that could have been in the photo. Julia was also a 19th century migrant. While Julia held a land patent for 160 acres south of Saratoga WY in 1891, she was in the Fort Collins area, probably on the 40 acres in LaPorte, by 1892 and married. Her sons were born in 1893 and 1895. Selena also did a short stint as a teacher in Berthoud, south of Fort Collins and in Fort Collins in 1888 and 89, according to your Blackened Roots post “Selena Severson’s Autograph Book”.
    Mary’s move may have been closer to 1877, when “Miss Mary Severson, Dressmaking” is listed as a business in Black Earth on p. 524 in a publication from that year: Madison, Dane County and surrounding towns ; being a history and guide to places of scenic beauty and historical note … early intercourse of the settlers with the indians” (W. J. Park & Co., 1877). My grandmother, Mary Leary Marks, their niece, recalled that Mary and Julia went west to establish a dressmaking business in “Rollins” (Rawlins) Wyoming, however it may have been Carrie who went with Mary, since Julia is shown in the 1880 census as being in Wisconsin with her mother and younger sister, Celia.
    The death of Mary in 1891 and five of her children in the 1880s and early 1890s has been attributed by family lore to typhoid harbored in a water tank in their home.

    • Anne—
      Wow. That’s some great information—thank you! Carrie was also a dressmaker, so all three elder Severson daughters were dressmakers: Anne, Julia, and Carrie. Given what your grandmother said, I’d be interested to see if all three went to Fort Collins to open a dressmaking business.
      Do you have a copy of the 1877 Park & Co. volume? I’d be interested in seeing that.
      With Selena’s teaching involvement with Fort Collins, it really seems like there’s a bigger picture to be had about why the sisters travelled to Fort Collins. I hope we can eventually see that bigger picture!

      p.s. I’ve got a crazy quilt made by Carrie in the 1880s that I’ll be writing up as a blog post as soon as I can find a way to get good photos of it (it’s big!).

  3. Michael,
    Yes, I’d like to find out more about why and when the sisters went west. The sisters were said to go to Rawlins, WY to open the dressmaking business. Mary’s future husband, Peter Anderson, was a stockman from Fort Collins who ran cattle in Wyoming at that time, so to speculate – perhaps they met there. I haven’t really researched the Rawlins connnection. It’s curious, too, that over ten years later, Julia had a land patent within 40 miles of Rawlins at Saratoga. Why was she there, when her sisters were in Fort Collins?
    Anyway, here’s the URL for the citation mentioning Mary’s dressmaking business above:


  4. I wonder if there is any way to track the timeline of this studio’s photographs by the color of the card around the photograph, or the props used in the photograph. For example, you can see the same chair and backdrop in a photo on a white card with red (or orange) text in this photograph:

    Granted, it’s no use to compare if you cannot date that photo, either!

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for stopping by! I think dating cabinet cards by seriating them is a great idea. With cards like those of Seckner, there are changes in the logo as well, so it sounds like a promising approach, assuming enough cabinet cards can be found (of which one or more has a fairly solid date). The one you pointed out is great—it’s got the same chair, in roughly the same state of wear, and the same background, *and* a man in a possibly datable uniform is sitting in the chair! I’m looking forward to looking into this more.

      Thanks for the tip!


      • I looked up the college the guy went to. It started in something like the 1880’s and at least through the 1930’s was still around, so its existence won’t get you too far. The uniform probably did change over time, so that might be an interesting place to look. (Maybe while I’m on a photo-research kick, I should get back into researching a studio-taken photograph owned by a distant relative’s family where we have no idea who is in the photo!)

  5. Looking more carefully at the background in the photo in my prior comment, it looks like it’s a different area from the one in your mystery photo. If they are not the same backdrop, they are similar in style.

    Here is another with the same backdrop as the prior photo I linked to (but maybe or maybe not the same as in your mystery photo):

    This one is listed as being 1895, for however accurate that is.

    • I’m headed out for a bit right now, but I’m looking forward to looking into this as soon as I can.

      I’ve peeked at your blog, but haven’t yet had a chance to look in any depth. What’s your interest in Fort Collins and/or photos from that time or place, if I may ask? It’s always great to hear from fellow researchers!


      • So interest at all, I’m afraid! I just happened to see your post when taking a break from a heavy research session for someone in my family tree, and was still in research-mode.

        I do however have an interest in trying to determine when these professional studio photos were taken and tracking the people in them.

        Here’s the one I’m up against (just in case you may be curious):

        • First off, nice resolution on that scan—I appreciate a man who appreciates the importance of sufficient resolution!

          I sympathize with your current mystery photo—I have a lot of similarly puzzling photos, but I’m heartened by the fact that the number of unknown photos keeps going down over time as new information comes to light. I use Aperture to store all of my family history photos, known and unknown, and have been helped a few times by its facial recognition functionality. If I don’t know who the person is, I give them distinctive nicknames in lieu of actual names and then see if I can find patterns of co-occurrences in other photos that help me start to narrow down who they might be related to.

          Thanks for the tip about the likely date of ?1895; if that’s the case, then this is the person I expected it to be, but thought it couldn’t be, because of the location. Know I’ll look at that assumption more closely, to see if perhaps that family moved back to Fort Collins, or visited family there after they moved to Texas.

          I looked up a little about Paul Gilbert Sloan; it turns out that the Dec. 20, 1894, date is his birthday, not the date of the photo, so the photo is probably from early 1895. Poor kid apparently didn’t make it to his third birthday, having died on June 25, 1897.

  6. Sorry for the flood of comments. This is what happens when I take a break from a four-hour research session on my own genealogy by reading of a genealogy-related mystery…

    Here’s another photo:

    Dated 20 December 1894, the rug looks a little like the one in the link in my second comment. The photo linked to in my second comment also has details on who’s in it, which help confirm that that one is an 1895 photo. This photo in my third comment here is claimed to be from the end of 1894, and if you look at the logos at the bottom, they look more simple and less detailed than in the other photos and your mystery photo.

    My guess, with no background on photo studios, and no idea how Seckner did things, and having never heard of Seckner before seeing your post, my guess is that he updated the look of his cards in 1895. If I had to place your mystery photo by year, I’d say 1895 as the earliest possible date.

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