Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hey There, Delilah!

"Hey there Delilah here's to you
This one's for you"

Oh, it's what you do to me...squealing and jumping up and down, and getting all misty. OK, that's not part of the song. But we've all imagined a moment of discovery that gives us chills and reveals a piece of history previously lost. I had this moment a couple of months ago....in a dusty old basement...pulling back the sheet and staring into the face of an ancestor I had never met...neither physically nor photographically. So, without further ado, I have the honor of revealing the photo of a long lost ancestor: Delilah Estle Daniels!
Delilah Estle Daniels
The discovery was made when I encountered a pile of very large photographs, all framed in different ways, covered by sheets. Three of the images were children - and images I had seen before, only smaller: My grandfather, Charles, as a baby, and his infant siblings who had died before the age of 4 - Richard & Garnet.

But then I saw her. She was staring up at me, right in the eye....rather knowing...and piercing. I knew I had never seen her before. In all the scanned photo albums I had poured over for decades, she was new. She was unknown, but she was obviously important if she had been kept secure all these years.

Below her portrait was an older gentleman. Again, no one that I knew. Followed by another, much younger gentleman. This man's identity I was pretty certain of as I had seen several of him as an old man. His big clues of giveaway: he was sporting the same beard and hairline in his old age as he was in this picture: Madison Daniels.
Madison Daniels
All three images were chalk portraits. You know the kind, large beautiful images that are a tad softer around the edges, bearing a chalk-like appearance. These images are usually created as enlargements of smaller images, but I had never seen the smaller originals.

I searched in vain for a label of identification....their frames were all different....and freshly sealed with paper tape. After identifying the young man as Madison, one of my Aunts declared the older woman had to be his wife, Mary. Keep in mind that all three portraits were very similar in construct. Madison's paper looked a bit more yellow, but if these were created around the same time, the age difference was possibly a big clue that the woman was not his wife. But at this point, that is just conjecture. Funny thing about Madison's portrait - even though I knew who he was, I thought, "Wow, a pic of John Hunt Morgan!" With the family story about John Hunt Morgan and the family clock, it was just an internal ancestral joke....you know, the kind no one would understand if you said it out-loud. The similarity in hair and beard with JHM is pretty cool.

I had seen so many images of Madison's wife, Mary Hill, that I knew immediately this was NOT Mary. This declaration fell on deaf ears....and so I had no choice but to go in for dissection. Dissecting the frame is a hard call in cases such as these, but I was also not the owner of these portraits, and only had a few hours in their presence. Since there was a good chance I would never see them again, and since I had my really good camera with me (Thank God) I took a more drastic measure.

In order to get a clear image of the older couple, the glass had to come off. I was not in an area of good lighting and had to use flash. I dug into the man's frame, took him out, but found no label. Cue sound of heart breaking. Funny note about his photo. There was a piece of masking tape on the glass, exactly like the pieces attached to the glass of the three children's portraits. Each of those pieces of tape had my grandfather's handwriting, identifying each child: Charles, Garnet, Richard. He had clearly meant to write on the label of the gentleman's portrait, but failed to do so. Does this mean he knew him and just forgot that step after freshly securing the back? Possibly.

Then I dug into the woman's frame. Cue the ancestral angels singing: There was writing on the back of her portrait!!! Her name was truncated due to a possible family nickname: "Lila Estel Daniels, wife of John Daniels. Their children: James, Madison, John, Abraham, Silas, Janie." That brought on the squeals and happy dances. I could not believe I was looking into the face of a woman I had long known by name.
I first learned of Delilah Estle Daniels from the pages of the family Bible record given to my father years ago by Aunt Mattie Townsend. I wrote about this Bible record previously, and it became a wonderful piece of proof during my DAR application process. In fact, I submitted a copy which will forever be in the DAR application records. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1804, the daughter of Silas and Sarah Estle. This means she was the granddaughter of my Patriot, Daniel Estle! So many feels!

I also have a couple of other artifacts related to Delilah: Her obituary, handwritten by someone in the family. And a signed verse from Church in 1841. I'm assuming the later has to do with the membership process, but it is signed by Delilah and has been a special piece of our heritage for several years.
As for the other gentleman, I'm seriously thinking this may be Madison's father, John Daniels. With the similarities in photo production, his hair style and clothing, the odds are in his favor. I cannot be completely sure, but I also know that it would fit into the overall story of how these pictures would have been obtained. From what I have heard, the family went down to the family farm, in Porter Ohio, after the last inhabitant passed away (probably Uncle Jess - died 1964.) They took home items that were left in the old farmhouse. Since they came away with Delilah, and Madison, it makes sense that John came along as well. With grandpa about to place a name on the masking tape, I'm assuming he knew the identity. Uggghh, if only he would have written on the tape!! But regardless, we are overjoyed to have a few ancestors returned to the family collective.
John Daniels?
Since I do not want to be the only person with the photo - I am placing a copy of Delilah's photograph on Findagrave for family members to find her and download a copy. I will place John there as well, with a note, asking if anyone has the original smaller version out there. If someone else in the family has the smaller version labeled, we could get confirmation!

**Note that her name is spelled "Delila" on her tombstone. In every other written document - the Bible, her Church token, and her obituary - there is an 'h' at the end of her name.

Welcome home, grandma Delilah! "Girl, you look so pretty!"

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