Ella May Bunce – A Midwestern Life

Our next photo from the Hemingford High School Class of 1928 is Miss Ella May Bunce.
Ella (what a sweet, old-fashioned name!) was born in 1909 to Myron and Alice Beaman Bunce in Harrison, Iowa.  In 1910, the family was still in Harrison, and Myron was working as a farmer.  At the time, the children were Elva Jane, Ella, and Virgil Clyde.  Two more sisters, Dorothy and Lucille, would follow in 1913 and 1918.  By 1920, the family had moved to a farm just outside Hemingford.
1925 finds Ella in the Freshman Class at Hemingford High School, and it appears they went to the Nebraska State Park (likely Scotts Bluff – 60 miles away) on Class Skip Day.
Scotts Bluff
In Ella’s Junior year, she was in the class play – “The Hoodoo.”  My friend Google tells me this is a mystery / comedy of errors, involving a charmed (or cursed) piece of jewelry that keeps being stolen over the course of the play.  Hilarity and hijinks ensue until the piece is finally reunited with its rightful owner.
Ella was also a member of a group called the “Girl Reserves” during her Senior year.  The Girl Reserves were begun in 1918, founded by the YWCA, in part to help girls from ages 12 to 18 “navigate through their lives during the chaos of the war” by helping them “develop a well-balanced personality, grow physically and take on social responsibility.” This was the YWCA’s first program specifically designed for teens.  According to the YWCA’s website, a lot of emphasis was put on character building to teach young women to become responsible and caring members of society.  More information can be found here:
According to the 1927 yearbook (apparently, the school’s first one ever), that was the last year in the old school building.  The yearbook reports that the new building was being erected at a cost of $70,000 and “is modern in every way.  It is expected to be ready for the new school year in the Fall of 1927, and includes a large gymnasium with shower rooms and dressing rooms.”
With the rest of her class, Ella graduated in the Spring of 1928, and in the Senior Will, she bequeathed “her littleness to Pauline Estes.”
Only two years later, Ella married Roy Ware.  In October 1940, Roy registered for the draft, and his registration form shows they were living in Alliance, Nebraska, where he worked at a creamery.  They remained in the area, raising their family – a son, Richard, who served in Korea and was later killed in a car accident after hitting a deer, and a daughter, Betty Jean, who married and eventually moved to Denver, Colorado.  Ella passed away in 1955, only a couple of years after her son, and her husband, Roy, lived until 1983.  All of the family, Ella, Roy, Richard, and Betty Jean, are buried in Alliance.
I love how Ella’s life, seemingly a quiet one, encompasses much that is stereotypical of the American Midwest.  She lived mostly in the same area, she was involved in her community as a teenager and then began raising  her family.  Her husband and her son served in the military, and their family saw some tragedy, but life went on.  I don’t believe Ella had grandchildren, but perhaps nieces and nephews had families who remember her.  It’s nice to think so.

Lavern Devere “Brownie” Scott – Worked for the Railroad

I thought it might be a good time to pick up my research on this lovely little photo album from Nebraska. If you missed the first two posts, they are linked here:



The second photo in the album was Lavern Scott, who was born July 13, 1910 to Jesse Franklin Scott (1882-1955) and Ella Wilson Scott (1878-1963). In 1920, the family was living in Hemingford, Nebraska, and Jesse was working as a “Section Foreman” – I assume for the railroad. Jesse and Ella had two daughters and two sons, one of whom was Lavern Devere Scott.

My delay in researching has allowed me to stumble over a real treasure – the whole yearbook for the Class of 1928 at Hemingford High School! Ancestry has been scanning high school and college yearbooks for quite a while, and in updating my research, I found this one!

Hemingford 1928 yearbook

According to the yearbook, Lavern Scott played football during his junior and senior years (for which he earned a letter), was a part of his class plays, and was in the orchestra.  The “Class History” reflects that Lavern joined the class in its junior year.  In the “Senior Will,” it appears that Lavern Scott “consents to the giving up of his prescription on ‘How to Become Strong & Healthy,’ and says he hopes that Bud Badger will take advantage of it – wouldn’t you love to know the story behind that??

In 1930, the Scott family were all still living in the same house, even Lavern, who had graduated from Hemingford High School two years earlier. In 1930, he was working as a laborer and his father was still working for the railroad.  Found this great photo of the Hemingford Depot – wonder if this is where Lavern and his dad worked?

Hemingford - CB&Q Depot

In 1932, Lavern married Agnes Jane Harris. According to Agnes’s obituary in 2009, she grew up in and around Berea, Nebraska, at one point living in a sod house. She went to Hemingford to attend high school, and this is where she met “Brownie.” At the time of their marriage, the country was in the early years of the Great Depression and, according to Alice’s obituary (2009), Lavern was a section foreman on the railroad and did a lot of relief work for other foremen.
In 1940, Lavern registered for the WWII draft, while the young couple was living in Belmont, Nebraska. He listed his employer as the Chicago Burlington Quincy RR Co, working in the Alliance Division. He was described at 5’6” tall, weighing 145 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion. I was unable to find a service record, so it is possible that Lavern was deemed an essential worker, since he worked on the railroad, and remained in the US during the war.  Wonder if this was one of the trains that passed through his division – the Texas Zephyr, from Denver to Ft. Worth:

Texas Zephyr
After the war, Lavern and his family lived in several places around South Dakota and Nebraska before he was assigned his own section. Agnes was a homemaker, and eventually the mother of two sons and two daughters. The family eventually settled in Edgemont, South Dakota. Agnes’s detailed obituary describes a family that was active in their community and their church. They gardened and canned their own produce, and Agnes sewed almost all of their clothes. They were described as living “a helpful, kind life.”

As their children grew up and married, Agnes and Brownie traveled through the United States, camping and soaking up local scenery and history. The only state they did not get to see was Hawaii. They had been married for 73 years when Brownie passed away in 2005. Agnes died in 2009, and they were survived by their four children, nine grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. Both Lavern and Agnes are buried in Edgemont.  Found this sweet photo of Agnes – I love her grin!

Agnes Harris Scott - Lavern wife

I don’t believe Lavern’s family were the owner of this little photo album, since it was found in New Orleans, and there doesn’t appear to be anything connecting them to New Orleans. So, on with the search!

Captain Luna’s Bracelet – The Story Continues

Some things happen at just the right time, don’t they? Here at the end of a very trying year, I got my own little Christmas miracle. In 2014, for Memorial Day weekend, I posted a story about a POW bracelet that I wore for several years as a teenager. You can read that post here:

Memorial Day

As Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story:

One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving, I received an email from someone I did not know. He is a restaurant owner in Maryland and he was reaching out to me on behalf of a woman who eats at his restaurant about once a week. Since she was a regular customer, the owner and his wife got to know the customer fairly well, and learned that her husband is a veteran. Curious, the restaurant owner’s wife did a little searching online for the veteran’s name and eventually came across my blog post about the POW bracelet I had worn with his name on it – it was the same person. She thought it was nice that this was a personal story, instead of just dry facts about his service, so she printed it out and showed it to the customer when she came in for dinner one weekend in November.

The customer took the printed pages home and shared them with her husband, and they asked the restaurant owner to reach out to me on their behalf, to see if I was willing to be contacted by them. After reading that first email from the restaurant owner, I was thrilled, but a little suspicious – the internet can be a weird place these days. So I let my friend Google do a little searching for me and everything I came across about the restaurant and its owner confirmed that he was a real person with a real restaurant. So I responded, and let him know that I would be honored to hear from the veteran and his wife.

“Honored” … such a small word for how I was feeling about possibly hearing from the person whose bracelet I wore for so long. “Honored”?? How about “flabbergasted” or “amazed at the working of the world”?? As I told the restaurant owner and his wife in subsequent emails, when I wore that bracelet, I was around 13-14 years old and fairly certain that the world should revolve around me. I knew there was a war in Asia (how could you miss it?), but I had no family members who were involved, so it didn’t seem real. But once I had that bracelet, it was as though I had a connection to someone who was not only serving, but who was making a far greater sacrifice. He had been captured and, as I recently learned, he was held at the infamous Hanoi Hilton for several years. This bracelet that I had purchased because “everybody’s doing it” somehow stretched a thin, fragile line between me and someone I had never known existed. And then he came home, and I saw it live on television – I’ll spare you the description of the tears of a teenager. Suffice it to say that I just couldn’t believe he had come home – whatever magic I believed was in that bracelet and the gesture of wearing it, it had worked. [Again – there’s a whole blog post about this – I won’t repeat it here.]

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from Captain Luna and his wife, with notes from each of them. I am overcome. I will keep most of their comments to myself, but the card basically expresses their gratitude for my supporting him by wearing his bracelet and for telling his story. THEIR gratitude?? I can’t even …. What we owe people like him, and like her, is beyond gratitude. And yet, here before me is a peaceful snowy scene, holding words I will always treasure. The connection is made, once again.

I pass along this story so I can say this and perhaps encourage someone else: Sometimes, things happen when they are supposed to happen, and not before. If you are a person of faith, as I am, you often call it God’s timing. This little thing was hanging out there, in my story and in his story, until just the right time for it to happen, and when it did, it touched a small wounded place in my heart. It happened when I needed brightness and light, when I needed something extra to remind me of the strength and courage of average people, when I needed just … something. My life has been so blessed, I shouldn’t need reminders of grace. But after this year in particular, I did. And the reminder came, with perfect timing.

There IS light … there IS hope … there IS goodness … just give it time.

It All Started With A “Wanted” Poster

Back in May, I was wandering around a favorite antique mall outside of Atlanta.  As I passed a locked glass case, I noticed a small poster.  “$100 Reward!”  Two people were wanted for arrest, probably in 1920, in Resaca, Georgia.  I say “probably,” because I couldn’t read the entire thing – it was behind some other items and photographs.  But I saw enough to be intrigued, took a quick photo with my phone to remind me, and started digging when I got home.
I didn’t get far – the name of the guy was unusual, but the girl had a perfectly ordinary name.  I did some research, left a message for the owner of a family tree on Ancestry, and thought, “I should really have bought that little notice, so I could have all of the information.”
Fast forward to September.  I was back at the antique mall and decide to see if the little poster was still there.  It was, so I bought it.  Should have negotiated on the price a little, but I weighed the price against my curiosity, and curiosity won.
Here’s the poster:
Bishop and Moore
I first thought of Bonnie and Clyde – I mean, how could I not, right??  First of all, her name is Bonnie, and there’s a guy, and a reward, and the word “arrest” … !!!!  So I hit the newspapers ….
Nothing … not one word.  There was a reward and everything!  How did it not make the papers?  Time to look for census records.
“Farris Bishop” – a name that shouldn’t be hard to research, right?  Imagine this – there were TWO men living in Georgia at the time of this poster who were named “Farris Bishop” – both were born right around the same time, but only one near Resaca, Georgia, so I decided to track him.  Didn’t get far – I pretty much lost him after the 1920 census [where he appears only one page before Bonnie Moore’s family], which is dated roughly five months before his disappearance with Bonnie.  So maybe he was on the lam after this incident? He vamoosed?  He R-U-N-N-O-F-T? [see “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” – seriously – rent it and see it.  You’ll thank me later.]
As for the other Farris Bishop, he grew up in another county, had more siblings, and died in 1943 near Savannah, Georgia.  I’m pretty convinced this isn’t the same guy.  The census records don’t really line up, and he didn’t live near enough to Resaca to be the right person.
Bonnie Moore was a little easier to track.  She was the daughter of Edward and Josephine Jones Stanford Moore.  She had an older sister, Rena, and several half-siblings from her mother’s first marriage.   Rena married a man named John Schmidt, and ended up living in California.  But Bonnie stayed in Georgia, and appears in the 1930 and 1940 census records, living with her mother (her parents having divorced some time before 1930), and working as a saleslady for a dry goods store in 1930.  By 1940, neither Bonnie nor Josephine is employed.  After that …. crickets ….  Josephine died in 1944, so what happened to Bonnie?  Did she get married? Did she have children? Did she move to California to live with her sister?
Then I ran across a family tree on Ancestry that had a photo of a girl named Bonnie Moore, and it was the same photo as the one on the little poster.  Jackpot, right??  I was about to get all of the details on Bonnie and what happened to her.  Click … and what have we here?
Bonnie and Rena
A caption that says this is Bonnie and her sister, Rena, in 1916, “the year they went to boarding school in Powder Springs.  Rena graduated in 1917.”
And there was another photo! Josephine [their mother] and Bonnie and a little boy named Harold, taken in 1922.  According to the owner of the tree, on the back of the
photo, someone has written the names and “Don’t I look like a barrel?”  Who is Harold?
I sent a message to the owner of the tree, but have never received a response, although that person seems to be active on Ancestry.  So I went back to the photo of Bonnie and her sister and checked to see who else had saved it to their trees.  Only four other people, but one of them had another picture!  This one showed Bonnie as a middle-aged woman, standing in a yard … gray hair, same body type, and still named “Bonnie Lee Moore” – no married name.  This person also listed a death date for Bonnie in 1996, in Resaca.  It also showed that Harold was Rena’s son, and that he married and had a child of his own.
Bonnie’s death information led me to a site called “Find A Grave” (sounds morbid, I know, but it’s really great), where a person had posted both pictures – the picture of Bonnie and Rena and the photo of Bonnie as an older woman – to a grave listing for Bonnie.  It seemed possible that this person is related to Bonnie and Rena, so I sent a message.  Not long afterward, I got a response – LOVE the internet!
William and I emailed back a forth a bit.  Bonnie was his great-aunt, and he was able to tell me that she died at age 95, after living most of her life in Georgia and, as far as he knows, she never married or had any children.  Unfortunately, he knew very little about her life, other than what he had posted and what I had already uncovered.  But he was gracious enough to give me permission to write about what we do know, and to share it.
So — Farris Bishop is a complete mystery, and Bonnie Moore seems to have led a perfectly normal, ordinary life, probably full of the highs and lows that occurred in most lives during the time period in which she lived.  She was born before the Wright Brothers first flew, and she died when we were sending shuttles into space on a fairly regular basis.  She lived during two World Wars and the Great Depression.  She was born when William McKinley was president and died while Bill Clinton was president – eighteen administrations in all.
Nothing remarkable, really … except for 1920.  Something happened when she was 19 – a young man turned her head, perhaps, and persuaded her to walk with him down a path that seemed exciting and different.  Or perhaps she persuaded him?  Not sure I will ever know, but I keep coming back to this story over and over again.
As always, if you know these people or discover more about the story, or if you have other comments, feel free to contact me here.  And thanks for dropping by the blog ….

EDITH L. MELVIN (1891-1977) – The Teacher

Included in the album of photographs from Hemingford High School was a portrait of Edith L. Melvin.  I thought she was one of the students, but, in fact, she was their teacher.


Edith Lucy Melvin was born to Emery L. Melvin and Alma Ellen Savage Melvin on November 24, 1891.  When Edith was born, the family was living in Cedar, Nebraska, and she grew up there.  The 1920 U.S. Census shows her living in Willow Grove, Nebraska, where she was working as a teacher.

On the webpage for Hemingford High School, where I found the group photo of this class, Edith appears on other class pages as well, listed as the principal of the school in 1929 and 1930, and she also taught orchestra and chorus.


In 1930, just over 1000 people lived in Hemingford, Nebraska.  It was decidedly a farming village, and the town itself was not even one square mile.  The first home were sod houses.


Sod home in Hemingford


Sod home in Alliance, a nearby town

The town’s website notes, “In 1930, 1,893 carloads of potatoes were shipped from Hemingford and the town was known as the “Potato Capital of the World.”  Who knew? An absolute mecca of commerce in this little village!

Despite living in the hub of potato activity, it seems Edith wanted to reach for other things.  City directories for the years from 1931 to 1938 show her living in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she was working in the registrar’s office at the University of Nebraska.  Several articles in the Lincoln newspaper during that time, naming Edith in connection with various social events, usually include some sort of musical event or women’s organization.  I gather Edith probably had a real affection for young people, since her career path to this point kept her in touch with students and their education.

In 1941, a newspaper article noted her resignation as the assistant registrar at the University, as part of reorganization under new leadership at the University.

After that, there isn’t much documentation on Edith, until May 1960 notes from the Board of Elections in Santa Barbara, California, which mention her as a clerk for Judge Whipple of the Board.  I was unable to find any information on why she moved to California.

Edith had eight siblings: Etta (1890-1967); Rollin (1894-1980); Clarence (born 1896); Clarence (born 1897); Veva Isabelle (1899-1994) (married Christian F Nauenburg and moved to Colorado and then Santa Barbara, California); Harold (1901-1992); Donald (1904-1974); and Florence (1910-1952). I suspect Edith must have moved to Santa Barbara to be near her sister, Veva, who had a son, Harold Melvin Nauenburg.  Harold married Gwenneth Nadine Blair and they had three children. Perhaps this was the family that Edith was able to enjoy, since she did not marry or have any children of her own.

Santa Barbara Genealogical Society records reflect that Edith died in December 1977, was cremated, and her ashes interred at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

I suspect Edith was a very interesting lady – a music teacher and high school principle, who later worked at a major university and was involved in several social societies and musical organizations, and ended her working career for the Board of Elections in California.  Perhaps her truest legacy was her connection with the students who came into her path.  A truly death-defying legacy – good for you, Edith!


Class of 1928 – Hemingford, Nebraska

I saw the first image on a website where I buy old photographs.  Look at her!


And there was even a name – Doris McKinstry.

I bid on the offering, not realizing that it was an album of faces – an album that is roughly 9 x 6, with a soft leather cover.  When I received the album, I couldn’t stop looking at those faces.  The seller called them a “beautiful portrait collection,” and she was right.  Almost all were identified – 13 out of 20.  There was no information on where the photos were taken, but the seller recalled purchasing this album at an estate sale in New Orleans, at a house on South Carrollton Avenue.  No information remained on the occupant or the family, but the home had been empty for a while.  So all I had were 13 names and 20 faces.

Some of the names were unique enough that I began with those, and one location kept popping up:  a village called Hemingford in Box Butte, Nebraska.  I continued to search all of the names, just to make sure they were all in that area, and they were.  In a situation like this, Google can be your best friend, so I let it run … and found THIS !!


Check it out – every single one of my faces is in that composite – and only three are missing names.  Fortunately, I have names for those three people from the album, so I had identified all 20 of these people.  The photo was on the webpage of Hemingford High School, set up as part of an attempt to include information on every graduating class.

So here they are – 20 classmates of Hemingford High School in Box Butte County, Nebraska.  But how did this album get to New Orleans? Spoiler alert: I still don’t know the answer to that question.

What I do know is some of their stories … not all of them, not yet.  I don’t know which class member this album belonged to … was it Doris? Hers is the only photo that is colorized. Did it belong to Willard Donovan? His is the only one that mentions a year – “Willard Donovan ’28.”  Or maybe it belonged to Margaret Willcox – her name included a married name.

Maybe in writing about them, I can locate living descendants.  Barring that, perhaps I will return this album back to the school itself.  For now, I want to document what I have found, in case someone else is searching.  So here’s to you, Class of 1928, Hemingford High School:

Edith Melvin
Lavern Scott
Ella M. Bunce
Doris McKinstry
Albert Shindler
John Laeger
Lowell E. Bedient
Florence J. Planansky
Oneta G. Hucke
Mildred M. Myers
P.O. Johnson
Bernice Osborn
Dean Badger
Edna I. Myers
Willard Donovan ‘28
Margaret Willcox-Walla
Viola Ustohal
Neil Gibson
Jason Wiltsey
Tessie L. Plahn

I hope you will allow me to tell your stories.


Mary Boland Pequignot – I found her photo almost five years ago, and two weeks ago, I mailed it to a member of her family. For over four years, I have looked for her, researched her, wondered about her, marveled at her, and stared at her face. Not constantly … I would go long stretches of time without ever thinking of her. And then there she was again and off I would go, spending a couple of hours looking at census forms or Google search results or newspaper articles. It took me four years to figure out when she died, and I was convinced there would be an obituary, naming her family members and the children of her sisters, so I could find them. Nope – never found it.
If you want to know why I found this woman so interesting, you can read her story – the part I was able to uncover – here:

Mary Boland Pequignot


After that blog post, I continued to search, and found additional census records that showed Mary living in New York or Boston, sometimes with her sister, Kate, sometimes alone. A year or so ago, I was able to determine when Mary died (1942) and where she was buried (Winthrop, Massachusetts). Kate died a couple of years later. Great information to have, but it brought me no other answers about Mary’s life or her surviving family. So I put the photo back in the drawer. When I had time, I would go the tree on Ancestry where I was storing the records and information I found, but I never really found anything new.
Four weeks ago, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon, and I began searching again. I broadened my search a bit, and found a tree on Ancestry.com where she was listed, and I realized that the owner of the tree was probably a relative of Mary’s, likely descended from one of her sisters. So I sent a message to the owner of the tree and thought, “Well, Mary [I talk to her when I’m researching her … it seems to help] – here goes another fruitless attempt. You need to make him answer me.”
And he did.
That same afternoon.
The Lyons family of Massachusetts remembers Mary and her sisters, and has been gracious enough to fill in some of the details of their lives. It’s likely that Mary’s parents arrived in the United States from Ireland during the time of the Irish famine, so there is really no mystery as to why they came. They raised their family in Massachusetts and it seems, based on census records, that the sisters remained close and were a group of strong ladies. Mary’s sister Kate was a nurse (you may recall that Mary studied and taught nursing, and wrote a book about the care and feeding of invalids) and her sister Ellen lived in Lancaster and in Winthrop, raising her family there. Kate lived in Boston, and Mary lived in Worcester, although there are records showing that Mary traveled to Europe and she is shown in the 1940 census as living in New York City. (Interestingly, that census identifies Mary as a writer of fiction – I wonder if Mary gave them that information, and was working on something, or whether it was a misunderstanding of information given to them by the head of the household where Mary was a lodger?) As Mary aged, her family became concerned for her health and safety, and arranged to have her move back to Massachusetts, where the family saw to her care until she passed away. Nieces and nephews knew Aunt Mary was a teacher and that she was very smart, and that she had written a cookbook. Mary is buried in Winthrop, and Kate, Ellen, and Ellen’s family are all buried in Worcester County, Massachusetts.


Mary A. Boland Pequignot


I am so happy to be sending this photograph to Mary’s family. She has been quite an inspiration over these past years. To women born in the last 30 years, her career as a teacher and writer may not seem that spectacular. But for a woman of her generation to have achieved these accomplishments and this level of education in the years between 1876 and 1920 was nothing short of spectacular, in my opinion. She did not come from a family of wealth, which could have opened doors and made a way for her. She opened those doors and made her own way, thank you very much.
Indeed … thank you very much, Mary.

LOUISE GENESTA BEAVOR WEBB LEONARD, or How Did a Friend of J.P. Morgan End Up at a Goodwill Sale?

This story could also be subtitled “The Society Girl and the Mounted Policeman” … but more on that in a moment.

Where to begin?  How about with a random search on a Goodwill website that took me to a scrapbook?  In my never-ending quest for old photos that are crying out to be reunited with their families, I ran across a scrapbook.  Some of the posted photographs looked interesting, so I bid on it, and won the auction.  Several days later, a treasure dropped into my hands.

Louise Genesta Beavor-Webb Leonard

Louise Genesta Beavor-Webb Leonard

Louise Genesta Beavor-Webb, daughter of Alice May (of the Washington, D.C. May family) and John Beavor Webb, identified in the 1900 U.S. Census as a naval architect living in Nassau, NY and in Manhattan, on Park Avenue, no less!  It seems Mr. Beavor Webb (born in Ireland) designed yachts, two of which, the Galatea and the Corsair (owned by J.P. Morgan) competed in the America’s Cup.  Obviously, J.P. Morgan was a fan.  They became friends – such good friends that Mr. Morgan left Mr. Beavor-Webb $250,000 in his will.  To you and me, here in 2015, that is the equivalent of roughly SIX MILLION DOLLARS!  That was some friendship!

John Beavor-Webb, naval architect

John Beavor-Webb, naval architect

John and Alice had three daughters – Louise Genesta (named after one of her father’s yachts, The Genesta), born in 1892; Edith Sybil, born in 1896; and Alice, born in 1898.  The girls were raised in privilege, and all became accomplished horsewomen.  This was a family who moved among the top society families, and, just as in 2015, their names were regularly in the newspapers.  Back then, they called them “society pages” – today, we call it Entertainment Tonight and the Internet.

Louise was the first daughter to raise eyebrows.  While riding along a bridle path in Central Park, she encountered a young mounted policeman, Thomas J. Leonard.  Eventually, a romance bloomed, and the two were married in 1920.  Those three sentences do not come anywhere close to conveying the newspaper coverage of this relationship and marriage.  I found articles everywhere – and by “articles,” I mean half-page, above-the-fold, big headline ARTICLES.

Louise article

Louise article photo

But wait – there’s more!  Barely a year later, Edith also “married beneath her” – another horseman!  Edith married George Miles, who was the head groom at a nearby estate in New York.  The newspapers were filled with stories of how she had followed Louise’s footsteps, and there was even an article about how horses had brought love and marriage to these two couples.

Alice, however, broke tradition – despite an article asking quite cheekily if she was looking for a horseman for herself – and married a banker, David Rees Richards.

Sadly, all was not sunshine and roses for the Beavor-Webbs as the girls grew up.  John and Alice separated, and by the 1920 Census, they were living apart.  The daughters lived with John on Park Avenue (31 Park Avenue, to be exact), and Alice was living elsewhere.  They never divorced, but Alice was quite blatantly left out of John’s will, which was drawn up in 1916, according to the Buffalo, NY Courier Express of April 5, 1927.  John died in March 1927, so he likely did not live to see his daughter, Alice, marry David Richards.  I am not certain of when they were married, but believe it was some time around 1930.

The good news is, all three marriages appear to have lasted, and all three produced children.  Louise and Thomas had a son, John (also called Jack), and a daughter,  Alice; Edith and George had a daughter, Edith; and Alice and Richard had two daughters, Joan and Gwen.  Which brought me to the big question – who put together this album, and how did it end up at a Goodwill store in Florida?

Jack Leonard, son of Thomas and Louise

Jack Leonard, son of Thomas and Louise

Skating at White Lake, NY

Skating at White Lake, NY


As I read articles about this family, I found it so curious that I could never find an obituary for any of the daughters.  This seemed to be such a prominent family at one time – why no further coverage?  The likely answer is that the changing times brought changing attitudes about what was interesting, and then, as now, newspaper readers were looking for the next hot story.  The Beavor-Webb girls appear to have settled into happy marriages, raising their children – not enough scandal? – or maybe they fought to keep their names out of the public eye, for the benefit of their children.

I continued to research, and although I have not located anyone directly descended from Louise, Edith, or Alice, I found a tree on Ancestry.com created by Derrick and his sister, Judy, that seemed to line up with the names, dates, and places I was finding, so I fired off a message and kept researching.  Very quickly, I received an e-mail from Judy in Australia – AUSTRALIA???  As we compared notes, we realized that my Beavor-Webb scrapbook was about the family of her grandmother’s cousin.  So much information has been lost over the years – and she was over the moon about getting a crazy email from a random stranger in the U.S.!  Together, Judy and I have pieced together some further details of the Beavor-Webb sisters and their families, although we know there is more discover.

As you read this, the album is making its journey from Atlanta, Georgia to Australia – full of lovely surprises for Judy, Derrick, and their family.  Judy graciously allowed me to share some pictures with you, and some of her family’s details.  If any of these names or faces are familiar to you, feel free to contact me, and I will put you in touch with Judy and Derrick.

Thanks for stopping by – it’s always such fun to tell these stories!

Still Searching … Are You My Descendant?


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It’s so great to be able to post photo reunion stories. I have had several recent reunions and it just makes my day every time I put one of those pictures in the mail. That’s always a good day. Over the past three or four months, I have sent pictures to Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, and even Hawaii.

Then I see my boxes (yes, “boxes” plural) of photographs and photo albums and even family Bibles that are currently unattached to their families. Even if I never bought another one, I would have enough projects in those boxes to keep me occupied for a good, long time. But it’s sad to look at those folders of names, and those fascinating images, and think that no one sees them except me. So I’m sharing … who knows? Maybe someone is researching one of these folks, this week.

First, we have Charles Heald Bennett and Jennie May Bennett – no dates, no place named.

Charles and Jennie Bennett

Charles and Jennie Bennett

At first, I assumed they were a married couple, but if you look at them closely, it’s fairly easy to tell they are related. And sure enough, I found them listed in the 1900 Census for Cayuga, New York. Father, William I. Bennett, age 54, was a “picture enlarger.” Mother, Maria, was 51, and their son, Charles, age 26, is listed as a physician. He and his wife, Mittie (age 29), and their daughter, Genevieve (age 3), were living with his parents, along with his sister, Jennie, age 22, who was a music teacher. There they are! Charles and Jennie – very exciting! I continued to find evidence of Charles, Mittie, and Genevieve in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, and a 1902 City Directory for Auburn, NY, lists Jennie as a music teacher, living at 8 Hoffman Street. I found Genevieve in the 1940 census, still named Bennett, so … never married? Last, I found two cemetery listings for Genevieve and Mittie. Mittie died in 1960 and Genevieve in 1948. But nothing on Charles or Jennie. Perhaps another rainy day research project?

This next one is a different kind of puzzle – not sure what the name means, exactly:

Mama and Jennie Wren

Mama and Jennie Wren

On the back, this photograph says: “Mama with ‘Jenny Wren’ and her mother. (One of Mama’s baby’s [sic] – Ft. Mac during WWII)”

I found this in Chamblee, Georgia, so I made the leap that “Ft. Mac” is Fort MacPherson, in East Point, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. During WWII, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps had a presence there, so I assume this baby was the daughter of one of the enlisted men. But here’s the thing: “Jenny Wren” may not actually be her name. When you enter “Jenny Wren” into the Google search bar, the first listings are references to a song by Paul McCartney, and I’m going to assume Sir Paul likely never met a girl born at Ft. Mac during WWII, although it is certainly possible when he was here 49 years ago with three of his friends. There is also a nursery rhyme which mentions a “Jenny Wren,” and both Shakespeare and Dickens used the name. But I can’t find any instance of an actual person born in Georgia during the war named “Jenny Wren.” It was likely a nickname that “Mama” used for her little girl babies. Not sure I’ll ever figure this one out, but the picture captivates me.

And finally, please meet Abbie Bullis Weiser and her FABULOUS hat!

Abbie Bullis Weiser

Abbie Bullis Weiser

Abbie Bullis was born in 1873 in Iowa. This photograph was taken in 1895. In 1914, a ship’s manifest lists Abbie and her husband, Charles Weiser (born 1865), arriving in New York City from Hamburg, Germany, on their way home to Decorah, Iowa. Traveling with them were “E. Weiser and Grace Weiser,” ages 47 and 40, respectively, who were headed for Fargo, North Dakota. Charles’s brother, perhaps? In 1920, Charles and Abbie are listed as living in Decorah, Iowa, with their three children: Horace, age 21; Charles, Jr., age 18; and Hubert, age 11. Charles was 55 years old at the time, and a banker; Abbie was 46. Twenty years later, the 1940 Census finds Abbie living in Los Angeles with her son, Hubert, the assistant manager of a hotel. Interestingly, the census lists Abbie as “divorced” … wonder what happened? Finally, Abbie passed away in 1955, and is laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Oooh! Wonder if she is buried near Clark Gable and Carole Lombard??? Oh, well … Abbie looks like an interesting person, and I hope that hat went to a granddaughter (although I have not yet found one). More research – this picture belongs on SOMEbody’s mantle !!

As always, if you see a name you recognize, please contact me. I would love to get these pictures in the hands of living family members.

Capt. Jose David Luna – for Memorial Day



Capt Luna


When I was in middle school (we called it “Junior High School” back in the day), we all began wearing bracelets … bracelets with the names of American POWs on them.  They were made of nickel and I think they first showed up around 1970.  I probably got mine during the 1971-72 school year.  My bracelet bore the name of Captain Jose David Luna, of the United States Air Force, captured 10 March 1967.  For over a year, I wore that bracelet.  I didn’t know him or anything about him, except that he was a prisoner of war “somewhere over there.”

In the Spring of 1973, my family and I were at my grandparents’ house.  I don’t recall how I knew – whether we saw it on the news or had some sort of advance notice – but I spent a huge portion of the day watching television, because there were POWs getting off an airplane somewhere.  I remember watching for a very long time … and then, there he was!  Captain Jose David Luna, USAF – getting off the plane!  I remember crying, and thinking, “He’s home! He’s home!”

Fast-forward to 2013-2014, and I know a little more about Jose David Luna.  Based on information from various POW websites, he was held at the “Hanoi Hilton,” among other places, before being released in 1973.  He stayed in the Air Force, married, and lived in Maryland.  I believe he finally retired as a Lt. Colonel  – I did not find an obituary, so I assume he is still alive.  I didn’t really research any further than that – it was enough to know that he is still around.

Today, on Memorial Day 2014, I dug out that bracelet.  Forty-plus years later, and I remember that day so clearly.  Lt. Col. Luna – I salute you today on Memorial Day.  I am grateful for your service and for your sacrifice.  I may never meet you, but you still hold a special place in my memory.