From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sees Family Portrait, c. 1904

George and Elizabeth Sees of Gordon, Nebraska


I drove over to Murray yesterday afternoon to deliver some textbooks to our son Isaac who is a college senior in that fair city. He ordered them through Abebooks last weekend. Several of the books arrived quite promptly, so I wanted him to have them. We are still waiting for a couple more to arrive.

My cousin Alta, who lives in the general vicinity of Murray, drove over and had supper with Isaac and me. We went to the Sirloin Stockade and enjoyed a nice meal together. I had not seen Alta since last spring, so I very much enjoyed visiting with her and catching up on some of the family news.

Alta gave me an amazing gift -- a scanned portrait of my great-grandparents George and Elisabeth Sees, and their five children. The older little girl (Elva) was Alta's mother, and the youngest of the three boys (Harry) was my mother's father.

Hilda, the little girl sitting on her mother's lap, was born in 1902, according to my mother's papers. Hilda looks like she is at least 18 months old -- possibly 2 years old -- in the photo. Based on this, the photo can be dated to about 1904.

George Sees was born in 1865, and Elisabeth Sees was born in December of 1866. Thus, George was probably about 39 years old and Elisabeth was probably about 37, at the time of the photograph.

The photographer took a sharply-focused, well-organized photo. It's also a little off-center. On the right side, it doesn't show all of  Elisabeth's shoulder or her long dark skirt, but on the left side, it captures all of George, even the tip of his bent elbow, with room to spare.

The off-center composition, the curlicues on the ornate wicker chair and the column of drapery in the background all pull the eye to the head of the family. George looks relaxed, but strong and confident, ready to take on whatever comes his way, with his oldest son behind him to back him up.

George sits in his chair unemcumbered, but Elisabeth holds baby Hilda on her lap as little Elva leans against her. (This is probably rather symbolic of their lives -- he was free to come and go as needed to earn a living, while she had the daily, ongoing responsibilities of house and family.) It is interesting to see that Elisabeth's hair was quite dark. The shape of her mouth reminds me of my mother.

Alta's brother Clifford has the original copy of this photograph. Alta said she saw the photo for the first time that she can remember when she went to visit Clifford last spring. Clifford was surprised that she didn't remember it or have a copy. (Thank you, Alta, for making a copy of it for me.)

If you are my family member and you want a higher-resolution copy of this photo that is suitable for printing, please e-mail me and I'll send you a link where you can download it. (I hope to have Keely or Taurus upload it for me, because it's quite a large file and I have a limited allotment of bandwidth.)

Related:
My German Ancestors, George and Elisabeth Sees
Dellfeld and N├╝nschweiler

4 comments:

Alta said...

Thank you for putting this information in your blog. You did a wonderful detail write up about the picture. I am glad you enjoyed getting the picture and sharing it with others. Love Alta

Genevieve said...

One of the e-mail subscribers to the blog (Fred) commented to me that in those days, a photographer printed the picture that he got. In 1904, there weren't many ways to improve the image after it was made.

I do agree, but I'll add this -- if the photographer had been paying full attention to Elisabeth, I'll bet he wouldn't have cut off her shoulder and left extra room on the other side of the photo. I think he got a complete photo of the person whom he was most concerned about photographing.

RunAwayImagination said...

I'm sure that our ancestors knew one another, because Gordon isn't that large. My father's mother Mary Caufield O'Rourk raised her four children (3 boys and a girl who became my father's mother) on a ranch north of Gordon in the late 1800s. My grandfather Bill Reed was born in Dunlap Iowa and came to Gordon in 1916 as Section Foreman for the railroad. Bill was active in the Oddfellows and served on the Gordon City Council 1937-39, was Mayor from 1942-46 and served again on the City Council from 1962-66.

Genevieve said...

I agree that it's very likely that they knew each other, I had another set of great-grandparents in Sheridan County at that time, too -- the Marcus Eaton family, who homesteaded near the Niobrara River south of Gordon. I suspect that the population of Sheridan County in homestead days was higher than it is today!

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