Months ago, I wrote a Photo Detective column for the March 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine called “The Graduates.” It was about the chance discovery of a photograph stuck behind the lath in a bathroom wall in Sandi Alex’s house in Camas, Washington. This story has a happy ending!
Sandi told an elderly neighbor who’d lived on their street her whole life about the photo. That neighbor thought maybe the picture once belonged to the Mott Family who’d built Sandi’s house.
Being a genealogist, Sandi wanted to reunite the picture with a member of that family so she posted a query on genealogy message boards including the Mott surname forum on Ancestry.com. Judy Strong saw that posting and contacted Sandi. Judy’s paternal relatives were the Mott’s. They’d lived in that house until 1959.
I knew from their attire, props and pose that it was a graduation picture and I worked with Sandi and Judy to try to figure out the names of the students and the teacher. We also tried to discover why the image was in the house since it didn’t appear to feature any of the Mott’s. We had a couple of ideas, but nothing definite.
The final identification came from a Family Tree Magazine subscriber. Janet Cosgrove of Yamhill, Oregon wrote to the editors. “Today I received the March 2010 issue in the mail and was flipping thru the pages, when I saw “The Graduates” picture and was shocked to see my maternal grandmother in it.” We were equally surprised.
Janet not only knew her grandmother, she had a date and the names of the people in the image. Amazing! Her great-uncle had listed all their names on the back of a copy of the original picture.
From left to right are Harold Peterson, Esther Jones, Marie Schrohe, Mabel Nielsen, and Edith Anderson (the teacher). Janet’s maternal grandmother taught this small class at the Constance School in Green Valley, Waupaca, Wisconsin. This is the graduating class of 1915.
It’s so interesting when photos are suddenly identified. I wonder if the family living in the house ever missed the picture. It didn’t depict any of the Mott’s but Janet thought that perhaps Esther Jones was the daughter of the widow Sarah Rodwell Jones that I mentioned in the magazine article. She was related to Mrs. Emma Mott.
This photo is a great story–it’s about youth, young love and family. Turns out that the teacher ended up teaching for only two years. She married the older brother of her student Harold Peterson.