Terri Poore and her cousin have a lot of questions about this photo. Who, what, when and where is just the beginning.
Unfortunately, the original owner of the picture is currently unknown. Terri’s cousin received a copy of it years ago and can’t remember who gave him the print.
Terri and her cousin believe the folks in the picture are Felix Horvat (1884-1952), his first wife Sophie (1890-1918) and their daughter Anna 1909-1997). I agree with this identification.
There is a long complicated story about this couple. It’s very important to write down the oral history of your family because you never know when all the pieces will link up. This photo is a perfect example of how stories and pictures are a natural match.
First the facts: Sophie’s hat in this picture and her coat date the picture. She is very well-dressed in a heavy wool coat, fur collar and an oversize hat known as a toque. Her hat and clothing combined with the birth date of their daughter date this picture to circa 1910. Toques were all the rage at the end of the first decade of the 20th century.
Her husband wears ethnic dress that identifies him as a resident of Croatia. The family lived in Ljubljujana, Croatia.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Family stories relate how this couple met. He was a country boy who worked as a coach driver for a wealthy family—the Bahuneks. Their daughter ran away with the coachman! Sophie, her husband Felix and their daughter Anna immigrated to the United States in 1911 and lived in West Virginia for a time. The Bahuneks followed their daughter and also immigrated.
There is a sad twist to this tale. According to family lore, when Sophie gave birth to Terri’s grandfather Nicholas in 1912, Sophie’s mother was present for the birth. Her mother and the midwife decided she shouldn’t have any more children with that “awful man” so they tried to perform a gynecological procedure to prevent more children.
The Horvat family moved to Michigan, but Sophie was so ill after the childbirth procedure that Felix allowed her family to move her back to West Virginia so they could care for her. He retained the children. In 1918, Sophie likely died from complications related to that botched procedure.
Family stories also relate how immediately following her death, her husband Felix and her father had a knife fight to determine the custody of the children. Felix won. He took the children back to Michigan and eventually married the children’s caretaker, also named Sophie.
This photo is the gateway to an amazing family tale. Present in the image is pictorial evidence of the economic difference between the husband and wife. She’s very fashionably dressed while he still wears his native dress. She’s the city dweller and he’s from the country.
Now Terri is trying to piece together the family history and try to locate living relatives.