Strange Happenings

Growing up in the south, I came to appreciate the art of embellishing a story. You never outright lie; you simply over-emphasize certain aspects of the truth and leave out the boring and irrelevant bits. As both a librarian and a historian, I have also learned that often the truth is stranger than fiction—no embellishment needed. So when I come across a peculiar image or just something different in our photo collection, I often wonder just what the story behind the image is. Some of them you know had to be a good one. Who were these people? And why were they doing that? Or what is really going on here?

Below you will find some images from our collection that are just fun. A couple of them have me scratching my head a little.

Asa Barlett Coger (right) and an indientified friend. St. Paul (Madison County), circa 1918.

Asa Barlett Coger (right) and an unidentified friend, St. Paul (Madison County), circa 1918. Naomi Coger Miller Collection (S-2000-106-13)

The question here is, what would possess two grown men to climb a tree? You know that when they told this story (if they ever did!) it was likely one of those “you had to be there” moments.

Here’s what I can tell you about Asa Coger, the man on the right. He was born October 8, 1880, to Franklin Monroe and Lucinda Jane Davis Coger.  He died January 16, 1978, and is buried next to his wife, Amanda Ethel Bedingfield Coger, in Hindsville Cemetery (Madison County). He appears on the 1900 census as “H. B. Coger” and his home is in War Eagle, Benton County. He and Ethel married on January 17, 1907, in Madison County. In 1910, they lived in Hilburn township (Madison County) and he was a druggist. Asa Coger’s World War I draft card reveals that he was average height and build, with blue eyes and light-colored hair. In 1920, the Cogers returned to War Eagle. Drug Trade Weekly: A Commercial Publication for Druggists noted that in 1921, “Asa B. Coger, Huntsville, Ark., who has been engaged in the drug business for several years will erect a large drug store at Springdale.” His World War II draft card indicates a 61-year-old man who is self-employed as the owner of Coger Drug Store on Emma Avenue in Springdale.

While I was able to determine who he was and what he accomplished with his life, I still do not know why a man who was already engaged as a pharmacist was hanging upside-down from a tree limb.

Alfred Thomas Smith, Hot Springs, Arkansas, circa 1915.

Alfred Thomas Smith, Hot Springs, Arkansas, circa 1915. P. J. Smith Collection (S-87-259-18)

The alligator wearing your hat says it all, right? Here’s the thing, the photo was taken in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Who was this guy? Why was he in Hot Springs? Our database lists him as Alfred Thomas Smith. Based on another Smith family photo I found on a genealogy website, I believe our Alfred Thomas Smith was born August 20, 1861, and died August 31,1924.  He was married to Florence Eli Fitch (1866-1947). In both the 1880 and 1900 censuses, he lived in Madison County. After his marriage to Florence, they lived in Springdale, Arkansas, and, in the 1910 census, he is listed as a farmer. According to the 1920 census, they lived on Holcomb Street in Springdale and his occupation was still farming.

John Blackford (center) and friends, early 1900s.

John Blackford (center) and friends, early 1900s. Ardella Braswell Vaughan Collection (S-89-57-72)

This one is described in our database as “men on silly donkeys.” The donor of the photo, Ardella Braswell Vaughan, was born in Green Forest, Arkansas, and lived most of her life in Jasper (Newton County), Arkansas.

The only person identified in the photo is John Blackford (middle), who was a friend of Ardella’s. As far as I can tell, Blackford was born September 10, 1881, and died August 20, 1967. He married Lela E. Bishop. They lived in Johnson and Pope counties in the Arkansas River Valley.

Dr. Alonzo Everding Quinn.

Dr. Alonzo Everding Quinn. June Crane Collection (S-89-12-30)

I must admit, I was a little disappointed to discover this gentleman was a doctor. But then I wondered if he brought his own props for the photo shoot. Surely the photographer did not have a human skull just lying around, right? And did the doctor have this photo displayed in his office?

Dr. Alonzo Everding Quinn was born May 21, 1841, and died March 21, 1910. According to his obituary in the Springdale News, he was a physician in Grandview (Carroll County) for nearly twenty years. In 1860, he was living in Ohio and and was employed as a school teacher. In 1870, Quinn, his wife, and his children lived in Kansas and by 1880, he is listed as a physician in Carroll County, Arkansas.  Dr. Quinn died of blood poisoning and left behind a wife and seven children.

This photo of Dr. Quinn is part of a large collection of glass plate negatives donated to the Shiloh Museum by Dr. Quinn’s granddaughter. The negatives were found in the attic of the Quinn home.

Charles Blanchard, Edinburgh, Scotland, April 1934.

Charles Blanchard, Edinburgh, Scotland, April 1934. Charles Blanchard Collection (S-2001-49-1)

Who doesn’t love a kilt? According to information provided by Charles Blanchard (the subject and donor of this photo), he may have indulged a little too much with some friends and they all decided to go to a photo studio and have their photos taken while dressed like Scotsmen. He also noted that they had to stand very still for the camera.

Charles Theodore Blanchard Sr. was born 14 April 14, 1898, and died July 11, 1984. He was a private first class in the U. S. Army and served during World War I from  April 27,1918, to 2 June 2, 1919. On April 17,1921, he married Thelma Mattocks in Carroll County, Arkansas. After their marriage, they returned to his home state of Iowa and that is where they appear on the 1930 census. In 1940, however, they were in Berryville (Carroll County) and he is manager of an auto services shop.

I’m still kinda curious to know why the man was in Scotland in 1934. Was he serving in a military capacity or just on holiday with some friends?

Rachel Whitaker is the Shiloh Museum’s research specialist.


A Thorny Thicket

Tintypes recently discovered in the Ada Lee Shook Collection.

Last year I was deep in the process of cataloging the Ada Lee Smith Shook (1928-2009) Collection. Ada Lee’s ancestors were among the first to settle in Northwest Arkansas. I worked up a very basic family tree, found spouses, divorces, deaths of loved ones, births, graduations, lifelong friendships, and all the usual highs and lows found in a lifetime. I became so attached to her and her family, it was sad to watch them age very quickly through the thousands of photographs. In this case, I did not have the luxury of watching it occur in real time, but over the course of a few months.

When I completed this project, glutton for punishment that I am, I accepted the challenge of going through three more collections donated to us by Ada Lee in the years leading up to her death. We found a treasure trove of photos loaned for our History of Washington County (published by the Shiloh Museum in 1989). Many are original photographs and there is also a lovely set of tintypes.

With this batch of photos, I have now been introduced to a whole new branch of Ada Lee’s family tree. But a mystery began with two tintypes slid between mountains of photos in envelopes and boxes.

The tintype on the left was familiar, as we have a copy of the image in our photo collection. It is George Washington Vaughan (1813-1888) with his grandsons. We knew the name of only one grandson in the picture—Albert W. Bevers—who was reported to be the boy on the right. The second tintype, showing four unidentified girls, appears to have been taken on the same day as the Vaughan tintype.

George Washington Vaughan and grandsons

A copied photo of George Washington Vaughan and grandsons from our museum collection—the same image as the newly-discovered tintype. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-85-323-31)

The rapture of discovery was put on hold while I worked up a more intensive family tree in a tentative hope we could come up with IDs for the girls in the second tintype and perhaps the boys with George Washington Vaughan.

Based upon clothing and an age estimate for Albert W. Bevers, the previously cataloged photo had an estimated age of early 1880s attached to it. Keeping that in mind, we checked the dates for all of George Washington Vaughan’s grandchildren and compared those against the estimated date of the image and the guesstimated age of the children in the images. And let me tell you—when historians do math, it is a hoot!

I located other photos of the families involved (see two below) and we began the process of elimination.

Joseph Bevers and Ada Vaughan Bevers family of Hindsville, Arkansas, circa 1880.

Joseph Bevers and Ada Vaughan Bevers family of Hindsville, Arkansas, circa 1880. From left: Cora, Albert, Amy, Joseph, and Ada holding Ada Estelle. Ada was the daughter of George Washington Vaughan. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-87-325-14)

Henry Parker and Julia Fitch Parker Family. circa 1890s.

Henry Parker and Julia Fitch Parker Family. circa 1890s. Julia was the granddaughter of George Washington Vaughan. Ruby Vaughan Collection (S-96-1-340)

After studying photos and birthdates of George Washington Vaughan’s grandchildren, we postulated that the children in the tintypes were those of two daughters of George Washington Vaughan—Margarett Louisa Vaughan Fitch (1838-1926) and Ada Ann Isabelle Vaughan Bevers (1851-1943). While there are several grandsons that could possibly be the other two boys in the George Washington Vaughan and Albert Bevers tintype, we think the children came from the Bevers and Fitch families and were not a hodgepodge of children belonging to the siblings of Margarett Vaughan Fitch and Ada Vaughan Bevers.

Granddaughters of George Washington Vaughan

We now believe these are the granddaughters of George Washington Vaughan.

So who do we think the children in the tintypes are?  For the girls, we suggest, front row, L-R:  Cora Bevers Southerland (1874-1902), Ada Estelle Bevers Slaughter (1879-1955). Back row, L-R: Julia Ann Fitch Parker (1868-1946), Amy Elizabeth Bevers Southerland (1872-1907)

George Washington Vaughan and grandsons

George Washington Vaughan and grandsons.

As for the boys, we believe they are, front row, L-R: Lemuel Washington Fitch (b. 1876), George Washington Vaughan, and Albert W. Bevers (1877-1964). Standing in back is William Byron Fitch (1874-1893).  I was able to locate an image of another grandson, Catlett Franklin Fitch (1871-1948), but am almost certain he is not pictured, although it is possible.

I feel sure about the identifications of Albert and Ada, because in the course of cataloging this collection I watched them grow from children into elderly adults. The other children I can only speculate on. Until someone brings in a photo with IDs, we will never know for certain who they are.

Moral of the story: ID your photos early, in detail, and while you still remember. Do not assume that decades later your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren will know who these people are.

Rachel Whitaker is the Shiloh Museum’s research specialist.