Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sepia Saturday - The Allender Case

The title for this week's Sepia Saturday post is a small play on words. I refer to both a physical photo case as well as a bit of a mystery. My maternal great grandmother, Nellie Cox Beyersdoerfer, of Pendleton County Kentucky, was the keeper of the family photos. She had a ton, and some from the mid-nineteenth century. Among her plethora of tintypes and carte de visites is only one set in a double case, reminiscent of the daguerreotype or ambrotype presentations. This sixth plate sized double tintype portrait of a young couple came with a note from one of Nellie's unmarried cousins written in 1958. Pearl Allender, the author of the note, would have been the niece of the female subject. According to Pearl's note as seen here, the subjects were Tobe Conley, his wife Elizabeth Allender and their daughter Enola. The note includes Elizabeth's parentage (James Jackson Allender and Mary Stout) as well as the sad report that baby Enola died not long after this photo was taken. Pearl also goes as far as identifying the burial place of all three subjects. The location she gives is described in typical country style, by listing the current farm owners: "along side of road between Roy Biddles & George Norris." Thankfully, my mother who is from the area, had grown up knowing exactly where this was, because Nellie took her on little family field trips, detailing important locations - I like to think of her as the equivalent of a family history GPS system. She knew where each little event happened and was quick to sound an alarm instructing you to "turn here!"

In modern terms, this little family cemetery along side of the road would be on Thomas Road, just after it forks off of Hickory Grove Road, which is off of Highway number 10. The cemetery is nothing more than a farming family's plot, under an old tree grove, as owned years ago by the Conley or Connelly clan. I cannot locate a submission for this cemetery on Findagrave, and any pictures I took of the stones years ago are probably sitting on undeveloped 35mm film rolls. So, hopefully, when I head to the Kentucky Wool Festival in Falmouth in two weeks (October 1-3), I will head up the hill to snap some photos for submission.....if they can still be read. It's been years since I've seen them, but I will try nonetheless.

The case as seen above is one of those embossed faux leather pieces with a detailed scotch thistle in the middle on both sides - with the family name of Connelly, I'm not surprised at the motif choice! The portraits themselves are beautifully crisp and clear after so many years. Elizabeth is holding something in her hand to attract Enola's attention while the photo is being taken. Post production meant someone adding a little gold paint to the object, thus obstructing our view enough to prevent identification. Whatever it was, it must have worked because Enola is only blurred a little bit.
Since these beautiful portraits never made it to my original web site, this is the first time they are being shown to the public, and as such, required further study as usual. Based on Elizabeth's style of dress, I was guessing Civil War era. I went back to my records to determine her age range at the time of the war, and this is the breakdown for the family:

Children of James Jackson Allender and Mary Stout:

Elizabeth b. 1835

Jane b. 1837

Angelina b. 1839

George b. 1842

William James b. 1846

Charles b. 1853

Benjamin b. 1859

As the oldest, her clothes and age would put me in right range, but knowing the little girl died, I decided to head in that direction. Little Enola Jane Conley or Connelly was born in 1857 and died in the fall of 1859. While digging for this information, I also came across some other info about her parents. Tobe was actually named Thompson and the former was merely his nickname. The couple was married October 9th, 1856, and sadly, Elizabeth followed Enola to the grave within the next year at around the age of 24. Apparently, Enola was Tobe and Lizzie's only child, and from other relative interviews from the 1940s and 50s, Tobe had to have followed his small family in death, since they are all buried at the family farm.

However, as I was reviewing the basics from my own Gedcom, I came across another researcher who claimed Tobe went on to marry another woman in the fall of 1861 and later moved all of them to Illinois. Tobe and Eliza Ann Fryer's subsequent children have been listed, with their first child being a little girl - whom they named Elizabeth.

I always find it intriguing when our family lore can be mostly spot on when the factual records are researched, but can then stray completely off course in some instances. The people reporting that Tobe and Elizabeth and Enola were all buried on the Connelly farm were nieces and nephews of Elizabeth, and not children, which might make a difference here. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I seem to remember not being able to find Tobe's grave among the others, but as proven with the story above, our memories can easily play tricks on us - the proof of our mettle lies in backing up those memories with documentation. I hope to provide the photos of that little cemetery within the next couple of weeks.

Until next time,
As a side note, I loved the flip side of Pearl's was a receipt from the local grocers. Her bread was 48 cents, but she was credited for eggs worth $2.25. I love those little snippets of history....they too give us little insights.


Joan said...

Such an interesting post. How sad the little girl died so young. I love the clothing. I have just been reading about a NZ photographer that still does daguerreotype photos. The subjects had to sit very still for some time.. do I detect a little blurring from the baby's movement. It must have been so difficult to get babies to sit still.

Your Genetic Genealogist said...

This is amazing! These photos are in fantastic condition for their age. You are so lucky to have them! Elizabeth is beautiful. What a sad outcome. I am happy to hear that Tobe may have gone on and lived a full life. Maybe you will find his descendants and be able to share these wonderful photos. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thank you!


the intrigue lives on!! you have to get to work and tell us the rest of the story now...

Christine H. said...

What a hard life they must have lived. Elizabeth looked as if she had already been through a lot at that age. It brought a tear to my eye to think that Tobe remarried and they named the first child Elizabeth.

Nancy said...

The photos are quite lovely after all these years. It's interesting to me that the frames (or mattes) are different on both of them. I love Elizabeth's hat. I don't think I've ever seen a hat like that worn at that time period. Wonderful post. It will be interesting to learn what you find out about the cemetery and gravestones. You have a nice blog.

Marilyn said...

What wonderful old photos and your research is fantastic. The photos themselves are very clear, it was Often easier to take photos of babies back then as the babies would sleep through the lengthy process. So sad that mother and child both died so very young.
I love the information on the back of the docket, it gives detail that help 'flesh out' our family history.
Oral history is a wonderful thing as it can contain some truth but very seldom is completely accurate, this is what I have found with my family research.

Cheri Daniels said...

Thanks everyone, I can't wait to head up to the cemetery for more info....their story is a poignant one, and was in great danger of never beging told if cousin Pearl hadn't written that note for us. Hope to post an update soon!

Alan Burnett said...

Full of fascinating information as usual. A post to savour.


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