Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Photo Number 397

Recently I heard from a fellow by the name of Jim..he wrote:

Last year, I picked up an amazing photo at the Brimfield Antique sale.  It's a group photo of ten women and a baby.  The note on the back indicates the Names and ages of the women -- aged 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100 years.  (the baby represents 0!)  Taken in about 1885 or so, some of these women were born in the 1700s!

I was intrigued..about the photo and about the sale.. I asked him where Brimfield was located..

I bought this photo at the Brimfield Antique show in May.  It's an amazing show in Western Massachusetts.  It's a week long, three times each summer.  It's a mile long and extends about 500 yards on either side of the road.  I bought a bunch of old photos from Oxford Women's College (which became part of Miami University in about 1907 or so.)  Some of them are simply amazing!

But this one came from an estate in Massachusetts.  I'm not sure what town.  The photo was damaged as you can see, but the notations on the back really made me want to buy this photo.  I figure it dates from about 1885 or so?  I notice that all the women are wearing similar carnation corsages..

The photo is on cardboard, attached to another piece of cardboard.  It may have been a large carte-de-visite type photo that was modified later.

I'm dying to know anything about who these women are!  I'd love to know what your readers think!

Brimfield Just about anything is possible..I think it is from 1890 or maybe even 1900. The sleeves are somewhat poufy on the younger gals…none seem to be the “leg of mutton sleeves” of 1895..the gal in the back row way on the right has the biggest sleeve. There hair is all simple and pulled back like in the 1890’s.   It may have been Betsey’s 100th birthday in 1890 or  1900.  It was most certainly a special occasion.
Brimfield names from Jim 
Jim would like to keep the original photo and have it restored.  He will share a copy of the photo with family members if any are found.

Here is the list as I read them..
 Mrs. Betsey Davis

 Mrs. Lamb

 Mrs. Mary H. Sherman b. 1811

 Mrs. Mc Donald

 Miss Hapsibah Stearns b. 1833  Sister in Law to Ednah, Aunt of Alice and Lily Buck

 Mrs. Ednah M. Stearns b. 1841 Sister in law to Hepsibah , Aunt of Alice and Lily Buck

 Mrs. Carrie Perry

 Miss Alice M. Buck b.1862 Niece of Hepsibah and Ednah,  Cousin of Lily

 Miss Lilly I. Buck b.1873 Niece of Hepsibah and Ednah, Cousin of Alice

 Miss Bessie Dunbar b. 1883

Added December 20, 2010 Baby Mina Treen 

 I would guess that Hapsibah is really spelled in the Bible.   And the baby is not named…
Thanks Jim for sharing this unique photograph!

Thanks for stopping by, do come again:)
Update: This photo was probably taken in 1892.  I updated the people with their birthdates if they were discovered.  This is a very interesting group of ladies! :) 

Update on December 20 2010  from Jim who is the owner of the photo. 
I wrote to  the author and genealogist behind the the research that linked a lot of these women.  He replied to me with:

"...In the meantime one of the comments lead me to check Bessie's birth date. I had it like my source (34 page doc) gave it to me but she was wrong. did a quick look up at the 1900 census an confirmed it to be 1883 not 1893 as I had it.

I should have caught it before as she had a brother born Dec 19, 1893 which would have been a little quick :-)...."

Then I heard from one of HIS kinswomen, who wrote:

"...The photo is in the book, Mansfield, Images of America, p. 121. The blurb under the photo is: "This fascinating 1893 photograph shows Mansfield women from 11 different decades. Listed from left to right are the following: (front row) Mrs. Margaret MacDonald, 70; Mrs. Mary Sherman, 80; Mrs. Betsy Davis, 100, holding Mina Treen, six weeks old; Mrs. Cynthia West, 90; and Miss Hepsibah Stearns, 60; (back row) Miss Bessie N. Dunbar, ten; Miss Alice M. Pratt, 30; Mrs. Edna M. Stearns, 50; Mrs. Carrie M. Perry, 40; and Miss Lillian Buck, 20...."

I wasn't sure if you felt like updating the post!  It sounds to me that this photo is somewhat well-known, if it's showing up in local history books!

I ordered a copy of this book from Amazon, just for fun.

Thanks Jim for the update!! :)


  1. fascinating photo . would be wonderful to find out who they all are and how they fit together.

  2. Very interesting photo. I had time to do a little searching before I go get ready for work. I have managed to get through the bottom half of the list. Most of these women resided in the county of Bristol, Massachusetts, from what I've discovered thus far. This photo was taken in 1892, which is my bet, or 1893 ( I need to do a little confirmation on exact years of birth). I do know: Bessie Dunbar was 17 in the 1900 census, which means she was born in either latter half of 1882 or first half of 1883; I am fairly certain Alice Buck's birthday is July 7th, 1862; Lillian (Lily) Buck was 7 in 1880 census; Carrie Perry born about 1852, etc. While some of these women may be related (I believe Alice Buck may be a niece to Hepsibah Stearns, while relation to Lily Buck is not known--not a sister or cousin). I also found that Betsey was apparently married to a man 13 years her junior--secret to a long life? :-)

    My guess would be that a church or township is celebrating 100 years and this is a representative from each 10 years. I suppose it could be the celebration of Betsey's 100th birthday, and maybe these are all relatives of some sort or another. There are many family trees with connections to people in these photos, but I have to head to work and can't finish digging right now. I will try to get back to it, though. Meanwhile, I'll hand the shovel off to Iggy! ~Abra

  3. The first think that leaped into my mind was "Gosh, what a fabulous picture!! And 10 women spanning 100 years by decades! What a cool concept!"

    As I read Abra's (always) impressive "preliminary" research, I was further awed by her and her thoroughness and ability to pull details out of the magician's hat!

    The first thought that occurred to me was Bristol county MA is the home of Falls River and New Bedford. Falls River in 1892-3 was the site of the Lizzie Borden's home, the scene of the supposed hatchet murder, and the site of her murder trial.

    I'll have a very interesting lunch hour looking into this photo!

  4. Wow! Definately one to have restored. A whole Century of life portrayed in one photograph! I love it.

  5. Cracking photo - and with all those names hopefully someone will be found. Look forward to further posts and news. Jo

  6. Interesting photo idea.
    My 1st thought was just how safe could that infant possibly be in the hands of dear old Betsey Davis!

  7. Isaac Stearns, born in England in 1600, came to America in 1630. He landed in Salem, MA, and settled in nearby Watertown.

    The 7th Isaac Stearns (1790-1879) had an extended family and descendants. This branch of the Stearns family remained in or near Mansfield, Massachusetts, for 300 years, or seven generations.

    I have found evidence that the Bucks, Stearns, Davis, and Sherman families were all related and all of their surnames are listed in the Mansfield Business Directory (Taunton) of 1906.

    Mrs. Mary H. Sherman (b. 1812) was the wife of Job Sherman and an active member of the MA Department of the Woman's Relief Corps (the WRC was the women's auxillary of the GAR). The WRC was very active at the time of this picture - and all of the older women may have been members.

    The nearby Bristol Academy was founded in 1792 would have been celebrating its 100th year.

    I suspect Abra was right in that this might be a "Family Reunion-type" picture honoring Betsey Davis 100th year and a chance to show off the new-born baby.

    I found someone in the census that matches the name, area, and birthdate for each of the women in the photograph, minus the baby.

    I followed Mrs. Ednah M. Stearns (b. 1842, widowed, married Orange S., lived in Mansfield, Bristol, Massachusetts) had a son Arthur Brickman Stearns (b. 1866) and daughter Annabel A Stearns (b. 1868) to Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine as of the 1920 census where both offspring are stated to be married *but* sharing a house with only each other and Ednah. At that point, my brain cramped trying to figure out that "arrangement" and my lunch hour ran out.

    I suspect any of the 2-3 Stearns family in Mansfield are offspring - I can send addresses and phone numbers if you wish.

  8. Incredible photo! I would have bought it too. Names on an old photo are the "buy me" whisper that catches me almost every time. And this with the many generations represented is really fabulous. I wonder - if this was some sort of community or church event - were photos for sale as a keepsake? Could there be other prints out there?

  9. Another fascinating picture. I've been reading your blog for a while now and I can't wait to see what you come up with every day.

  10. I have been to Brimfield Mass antigue show.It is just like the man said and we had a ball there it was cold at night and no place to stay but in our truck. That was back in 1980's

  11. Isaac Stearns (Jan 18 1790 - Jun 14 1879) and Sarah Fillebrown were parents of George F Stearns, Louisa S Stearns, Hepsabah F Stearns (*60), Orange S Stearns, Marion Stearns, and Ellen Stearns.

    Orange Scott Stearns (Feb 26 1835 - Aug 25 1870) married Ednah Maria Shaw (*50) (b. Dec 28 1842)

    Franklin Buck married Ellen Stearns (Sep 9 1839 - Aug 10 1920)
    Daughter - Lillian Isabel Buck (*20) (Mar 14 1873 - Oct 16 1954)

    Horace Sheppard Buck married Ellen Stearns' sister Marion Stearns (Feb 8 1837 - Aug 17 1924)
    Daughter - Alice Marisa Buck (*30) (Jul 7 1862 - Apr 9 1948)

    Sewall Hodges & Sally Billings were the parents of:
    Mary H. Sherman (*80) (Dec 1811 - 29 Jul 1906) who married Job Sherman (b. 1834 mother Lucy T. Sherman)

  12. Miss Bessie Dunbar mother was Elizabeth Wheeler - who was a daughter of Elizabeth Stearns (Issac Stearns Jr.'s daughter).

    The complete family tree can be traced here:

  13. WOW!! Incredible! I knew y'all would find something, but didn't imagine all this..!

    As I read through the STEARNS genealogy, I am troubled by one thing: Bessie Nathalie DUNBAR was born the year after this photo was taken. She had an older sister, however: Bertha DUNBAR, who was born in 1881. Could it be that the person responsible for labeling the photo years after the fact wrote down the wrong DUNBAR sister? Or could the family historian have written the wrong dates on his monster file?

    I want to adopt this family!

    I also want to renew my subscription to so I can play along from home!

  14. Jim,

    Another possibility is that the "unnamed" baby is Bessie Dunbar - born June 8, 1893. If so that would date the photo to the summer of 1893. If so, the day appears pretty chilly with all the shaws the women are wearing. The town is on/near the waterfront - so its not impossible.

    I looked closely at the baby and you can't actually see anything but clothes.


Hi, Thanks for the comments, your input on these old photos is appreciated! English only please! All comments will be moderated! Connie