Saturday, July 21, 2012

Edna's lasting gift

Edna, right, with her husband Thomas Clark. 1920s or 1930s, around the time she likely began the massive family history project that inspired this blog.
I believe I owe Edna a great debt of gratitude. When Corinne passed away and all of these wonderful primary resources about my family came into my life, it took me several months just to wrap my head around everything I had. There were hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of old photographs, dating from as early as the 1860s. And as I started sifting through, I realized that about 50% of them were labeled, often with not only the person's name, but their relation to the family written next to it. Or, if there was no relation to the family, that is sometimes indicated as well. (My favorite is the photo that reads, "Dr. Goff, dentist.")

Even the dentist is carefully labeled

And as I sifted further, I began to realize that these hundreds of photos were most likely labeled by just one person, who had diligently undertaken a family history project. Then I found the incredible scrapbook I told you about, and I realized just how time-consuming and thorough this project must have been for the person completing it. Pasted carefully into this scrapbook are hundreds of newspaper clippings from small-town newspapers all over the country, from right here in Walworth County all the way to Kansas and California. Whoever undertook this enormous project must have written away to local newspapers asking for any archival clippings they had about people with the last names Vaughn, Brittain, Dike... And then that person must have waited weeks or months in the hopes that the newspaper would have time to do as she asked and return her envelope full of treasures. That same person must have commissioned the hand-painted portraits of my great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother, painted from photos in the collection.

Portraits of Otis Vaughn and Fannie Brittain Vaughn (Edna and Ora's parents) painted from old photographs

That is when I realized that this family history project must have been the all-consuming passion of one person. And that person was most likely Edna Vaughn Clark, who was doing all of this to honor her parents.

Alongside the family- and town-related clippings in the scrapbook, she sometimes pasted poems or articles from current newspapers, which helped me date the scrapbook to the 1930s. And it turns out that Fannie Brittain Vaughn, Edna's mother and my great-great-grandmother, died in 1931. So it seems like this massive family history project was perhaps a way for Edna to come to terms with her mother's death. And in doing so, she has unknowingly passed on to me a treasure trove of history about not just my immediate family, but the entire early settlement of Spring Prairie, Wis., and nearby Honey Creek, Wis. Without meaning to, she has launched me on a massive family history project of my own.

Such is the beauty of print. It persists, sometimes unnoticed for years, until the right person comes along to find it again. It connects human beings across generations. It keeps our history for us until we are ready for it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Edna Vaughn Clark, part 1

Because so much of what I inherited came to me through my great-aunt Corinne, the collection skews a little heavily toward her mother, Edna Vaughn Clark. Edna was the middle Vaughn sister, born Nov. 7, 1877, on the farm in Spring Prairie. She was seven years older than Ora, my great-grandmother, and four years younger than the oldest sister Hattie. By modern standards, she was the most classically "pretty" sister, but it's hard to know if that was the case at the time as well. She certainly appears to have had a dramatic streak, appearing in a lot of local theater productions and posing for portraits in over-the-top, dramatic outfits with enormous sleeves or intricate hats.

So let's start this introduction to Edna with a few photos:

Edna at 19, in 1896
From the same shoot
Date unknown. Late 1880s, perhaps?
Another undated one, but this was before Hatch struck out on his own as a photographer, early 1890s?
This one is interesting for being taken by a photographer from Oshkosh, 120 miles away from Spring Prairie
Edna playing a bride in a school play (front row)
Edna playing a man with a moustache and a boater hat (center front). Other people in the photo: Belle Ryce Moore, Mabel Moore Wilson, Stella Leach, Lucile Perkins Caldwell, Rebie Fraser, Edna Perkins McCarthy, Nonie Meinhardt, Ada Lewis, Belle Bradshaw Mutter, Hattie Wheeler Rhoads, Jesse Moore Miller, Mabel Norton, Maye Hoyt Patterson, Grace Aldrich Bennetts, Pearl Owen, Alice Sheldon Jennison, Cornelia Petibone Dudley, Emily Berry Moe, Helen Smithers.
Edna as a villain with a gun (back row)
Edna (right) with Rae Dodge, Grace Aldich and an unidentified friend. The note on the back says, "At Herb and Pearl's wedding." (Herb Vaughn was Edna's grandfather's brother's grandson (more on that later) who lived in town as well. Pearl Allison was his first wife.)   

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Recipes: Ora's Chocolate Cookies

Happy Independence Day! Since Ora had several Revolutionary War Patriots on her father's side (more to come on that later,) perhaps you'd like to celebrate this Independence Day by making her chocolate cookies? This recipe seems to be written in Genevieve's handwriting:

Choc. Cookies (Mother's)

1 egg
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. melted butter
1/4 c. raisins
2 sm. cake choc., melted
3/4 c. siv (?) milk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour

Drop in greased tins and bake in moderate oven.

Monday, July 2, 2012

More pictures of Ora

Since all I really know about Ora are the pictures I have of her, here are some more glimpses into her life.

Ora (left) and Hattie Vaughn

The note on the back says April 1899, (written in my own handwriting but I'm guessing based on information provided by Corinne) which would make her 15 in this photo.

Ora, on the right, with a neighbor friend.

Scanned from a tintype, Ora (front right) and Clarence (back left) with Hattie and I'm assuming Hattie's husband John Cheeseman.

Another tintype, different pose. This one is in poorer shape, but Ora and Hattie are in the back and Clarence and John Cheeseman (I assume) in the front.

Possibly her high school graduation photo, which would place the year at 1902.