My sister and I looked at a photo portrait buried in a store room at my parent's home and said, "Who is that and where did it come from?" We didn't remember seeing it before, although we could have seen it years before and not remembered since it was no one we had known. This time, if it wasn't the first time I had seen it, the person looked familiar. On the back of the picture was scribbled "D. E. Stephens, Elgin, Minn." My immediate thougth was that this must be David Stevens, our great-great grandfather. And then my following pressing thougth was, "If this is David, there should be another matching one of Rosina Jane" because Jane had died two years after David and it was unlikely that only one person of the couple would have had their photo taken and printed. We dug around and discovered no matching treasure. That evening, as I thougth more about it, I mused, "Hmm. Maybe this is Robert Richardson." That would make sense, because I knew a photo had been taken of him when he was 80 years old in 1885 and as I recalled, it looked something like this. His wife, Rosina M. Healy Richardson, had passed away in 1872, thirteen years before. Later that week I drove the three hours home and few days later, looked at the few old photos that I had acquired. Another two weeks later I was talking to some acquaintances about having discovered this old family photo, and they told me to be careful, because they had discovered, almost too late, that a couple of old family "photos" were actually charcoal drawings. A family member had fortunately started "dusting" only an upper corner and the surface had rubbed away. On my next trip I looked again at the picture and sure enough, it WAS a charcoal. His face, fortunately, was protected by glass, but it took quite a bit of windex to remove the dust of years which obscured the lines of the charcoal. Still not sure of which old relative it was (so many old male relatives had gray hair, long salt and pepper beards and wrinkled faces), I brought it home to compare to a group of old photos. Sure enough, the face in the portrait is Robert A. Richardson, born in Bath, New Hampshire in 1805. The top photo here shows the newly discovered portrait. Also shown is the original photo that was taken in 1885 and a closeup of the
How fun to find and be able to identify this portrait that was completed so long ago. So the mystery of the D.E. Stephens is solved. I had wondered about that because the last name was Stevens, not Stephens. But it makes sense if it is the artist or the owner writing the place that the portrait is to be shipped. And the fact that Grandma Rosina had been gone so many years is why there would only be one portrait and not two. I'm so glad we could identify this. I plan to put identification an dates on the back so that future generations (should they care) will know who man is. It is always painful to look at photos of interesting people from generations past and to not know who they might have been. Looking at both the photo and the portrait, it is easy to see the strong similarities, but also the differences that made recognition by memory alone more difficult. And I'm sure Grandpa Richardson would have appreciated the loss of age lines and spots that could not be disguised by the photograph. Rosina Jane who had lost her dear mother so long ago, must have taken some comfort in the face of her loved father on her wall in her home so far away in Elgin, Minnesota.