Ruth Black and her sod house

This will be another quick post, just to present another couple of gems I found in my family history archives.

Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black is my step great, great grandmother, the wife of Lewis J. Black, a civil war veteran. She and Lewis were born in Fairfield County, Ohio, and when he returned from the war, they settled there and had their first two children in Bremen, Ohio: Ida May (born November 22, 1865) and Perry Commodore Black (born August 4, 1867). In either late 1867 or early 1868, they started heading west.  On May 23, 1878, their son Frank Walter Black was born in Norwalk, Iowa. By June 1, 1880, they had taken a homestead in Jewell County, Kansas. It was on this homestead that they built their sod house.

The woman standing in front of the sod house is Ruth (Tucker) Black. Because of the absence of her husband, Lewis, in the photo, I would guess that this photo was taken after he moved back to Ohio for medical treatment in ca. 1895. Ruth died on February 15, 1915, so the photo probably dates to the two decades between 1895 and 1915. The subject matter of the photo gives us very few hints as to the date, none of which refine the 1895–1915 estimate.

These first two images were scanned from two film negatives I found in an envelope (pictured below) that was mixed in with family papers. I don’t know if they’re original film negatives or more recent internegatives, created to make additional prints for family members. On the back of the envelope that held the two negatives is a note:







Mrs B. Here are films and address if you care to send to St. J. They cost 5¢ a piece — unmounted

Getting a date for the envelope may give us an indication of whether these negatives were given to Ruth herself by the photographer or whether they were given to another woman in the family at a later date.  I haven’t been able to find a record of the Lorenz & Co. business in St. Joseph, Missouri. I’ve found examples of the Kodak line “Pictures worth taking are worth keeping” in advertising from 1922 and 1945, so that doesn’t help narrow down the possible date range.

Update: I just found three copies of the following print shown below, showing both Ruth Black and her son Frank Black in front of the sod house.

The captions on the back of all three prints are in my grandmother and grandfather’s handwriting, except for the line beginning “A Hayes”. They are:

A Hayes, Smith Center KS 66967   N O 6 photo – 14 reprints
Frank W. Black & His mother Ruth Black
Old sod House – Kansas

Dad Frank Black and his mother in front of their sod house near Dentonia, Kansas

Dad Frank Black & his mother Ruth Black
Old Sod House
Dentonia, Kans. 1913

So the new photo is dated to 1913, two years before Ruth died. What about the original two photos? Ruth looks considerably older in the 1913 photo than she does in the other two photos (see comparison images below). But how much older?

Ruth died on February 15, 1915, at age 73, so she would have been 71 or 72 in the 1913 photo, depending on when in 1913 the photo was taken. The Ruth in the other photos looks 5–10 years younger, perhaps 60–65 years old? If so, then the earlier two photos would have been taken around 1903–1908.


I’ll add more information to this story as I uncover it.

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