No doubt about it, I’ve looked at a lot of family photos. Every so often there’s an image that not only depicts an ancestor, but also documents a bit of local history. Take this photo, for instance:
Pamela Fisher sent me this photo owned by her cousin Lorrie Glover. The women thinks the man on the right (with the dog) is their great-grandfather Otis Shepardson.
Not everyone in the family agrees. Shepardson was born in 1880 in Home Valley (Cowlitz County), Wash.
This picture is mounted to a gray piece of card stock. It can be difficult to date a group photo where no one is wearing very fashionable clothes. Men’s clothing is particularly challenging because the fashion changes are subtle. The style of men’s hats suggests that it was taken circa 1900. If that’s true then it could be Otis.
There is one woman in the picture. She wears a frontier-style bonnet that protects her face from the sun. Perhaps one of the boys is her son.
Also in the photo is a man in the background who looks like he just stepped off his horse. He wears a cowboy hat and a kerchief around his neck.
This photo just begs the viewer to fill in the details and answer these questions.
- Who shot the mountain lion?
- Why are the men gathered around? (It could be the day the lion was placed there.)
I think I know why a taxidermied mountain lion is on display in the town. It’s quite possible that this animal threatened the town. Once it was shot, the town mounted it on tree stump (notice the wooden post to keep its head up). Whoever shot it must have been the town hero.
My husband’s ancestral hometown of Peru, Vt., once had a bear on display in the town center. I have photographic proof in an early 20th century postcard.
You’ll find help identifying the mystery photos in your family albums in Maureen A. Taylor’s book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.