Sepia Saturday – A Gathering

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

A gathering of children and two adults in front of a wooden building. Sixty-nine children, if I counted correctly.

Tom Hoskins, 2nd row, 4th from left

My grandfather, Thomas Hoskins, is one of the school children pictured. He is the tallish looking boy, second row, fourth from the left.

Tom Hoskins

If you followed along in the series I wrote about the life and death of Wilbur Hoskins, an uncle who died at five years of age due to complications from measles, you might remember Tom as Wilbur’s father. I think little Wilbur favored his father.

Wilbur Hoskins

Tom Hoskins was born Mystic, Iowa in 1896. He looks to me to be around 8-10 years of age in this school photo, so I’m guessing the photo is from 1904-06. Unfortunately, the back of the photo doesn’t provide much in the way of helpful information except to identify my grandfather.

There are four handwriting samples here. I don’t know who wrote the original Thomas Hoskins on the back. Was it Tom himself, or one of his parents? I’ll have to try to figure that out. The sideways identification in pen was written by my grandmother – Tom’s wife. My mother wrote the instructions for finding Tom on the left side. And I guess I thought it needed some further clarification, as that is my sideways print on the right.

In another follow up to the series on Wilbur …

I was left wondering where my grandfather sought treatment after a “mental breakdown” following Wilbur’s death. This postcard had only “Wilbur” written on the back. There were no other clues.

Going back through my grandparents’ papers recently, I found a certificate and receipts showing that my grandfather had sought treatment in Excelsior Springs, MO in 1927 for an entirely unrelated condition.

Perhaps he had previously found healing in Excelsior Springs and returned there for healing once again. That’s my best guess.

Switching gears:

My last Sepia Saturday post was about my first grade teacher, Miss Willard. Mister Mike of temposenzatempo left this comment on the post: Miss Willard’s birthplace in Marion, KS caught my attention as I wrote a long story last year about a 1890s photographer from there. I included an image of the Marion public school and I bet my photographer knew the Willard family. Here is the link: Mrs. McMullin Took Their Picture

Mike’s comment sent me to his story that takes place in Marion, KS and then to my newspaper subscriptions before I finished reading his blog entry, then back to his blog. I learned that Miss Willard’s parents both had businesses in Marion. Her father was in business with another man as a carpenter and contractor. Her mother had a millinery shop and was also a dressmaker. Later, her father, Charles E. Willard decided to open a restaurant two doors down from his wife’s new location – his restaurant in the building that previously housed her store.

When I went back to MIke’s blog, right there in the right hand columns of the ads for Mrs. McMullin’s railroad photos, I found an ad for Mrs. Willard’s millinery shop …

and for Mr. Willard’s carpentry business – Pyle and Willard, Carpenters and Builders.

The Willard’s lost their home to fire in Nov. of 1896 and then disappear from the Kansas newspapers. Perhaps this loss led to their move to Ottumwa, Iowa.

Marion Headlight (Marion, KS) 19 Nov 1896

I’ll bet the Willard’s were acquainted with the town photographer that Mister Mike wrote about. Perhaps she took a photograph of my teacher as a little girl.

Please gather at Sepia Saturday to see what others have done with the prompt image.

Sepia Saturday – Grandpa at Lake Okoboji

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. 

Today’s prompt image is of the Spa and South Foreshore, Bridington, 1922, from the Archives of the East Riding of Yorkshire. I don’t have any photos of people in their fine hats and clothes walking or reclining on a beach in England in 1922, but I think I can hit a few common themes – and even the year.

I’ll begin with a photograph of my grandfather, Thomas Hoskins, as a young man in his swimming suit. I don’t know when or where this was taken, but we can probably narrow the location down to Iowa near a lake or river and the year could be 1922. Grandpa was born in 1896, so he would have been about 26 in 1922. It’s a possibility.

Tom Hoskins grew up in the small town of Mystic, in southeastern Iowa. He began working in the coal mines there after completing the 8th grade. Tom married my grandmother Eveline Coates, also from Mystic, in 1923. Here is Eveline wading in Walnut Creek (Mystic) – I’m guessing during the time they were dating.

During the summer of 1922, Tom and some friends took a trip to northern Iowa where there are several large lakes.

When Tom and his companions arrived at Lake Okoboji, he sat down to write a letter to Eveline. I’m lucky to have a poor quality copy of the letter and I want to kick myself every time I think about this! I hosted a family reunion at my home in 2003 and copied the original letter to make a memento for everyone. Luckily, I saved a few of the souvenirs because I haven’t seen the original letter since. I made some big ugly fans with poster board, paint stirrers, and photocopies – including the letter in question.


Okobogi Ia       July 3, 1922

Dear Eveline: I have just arrived at Okobogi, I have been here but about two hours, so you see I am prompt in writing. It is sure a beautiful place here.
We are camping in Highland Park, I think I will like it fine. There is plenty of shade and as I am a fish you know, I will enjoy being in the Lake. I think I will go down and catch a big fish pretty soon but not until I get something to eat for I am nearly starving. I am sending you some pictures of Storm Lake we just left there this morning. There is going to be lots going on here tomorrow. We have just been trying to find out who was the cook of the bunch but nobody seems competent of the job.

Well if you want any fish you had better get in your order as we are going to make a shipment up there the last of this week. Well I will close for this time as the boys are naging me to get a bucket of water.

I will try and write more next time.

Write soon.

Thomas Hoskins

Grandpa was obviously intent on impressing his beau as he made it a point to tell her that he sat down to write to her within two hours of his arrival at Lake Okoboji. I found a couple of postcards with no writing on the back that are likely the pictures of Storm Lake that he mentioned sending to Eveline.

This letter leaves me with a few unanswered questions:
Were the mines closed in the summer? Did they get vacation time? Was there a strike?
Was this a pleasure trip, or were the boys looking to earn some money?
Who were “the boys” anyway?
How long did they stay at Okoboji?
How did they get there?
How would they receive mail?
How in the world did they ship the fish they caught?
Did any of the boys eventually admit to being able to cook?

These questions may go forever unanswered.

The July 6, 1922 issue of The Lake Park News  told readers what “everyone” was planning for July 4th. Hmm – guess that item missed the deadline for the previous issue.

The website for Arnold’s Park – the amusement park at the Lake Okoboji recreation area, states that “1922: On July 4, The Park hosted its largest crowd to date, with approximately 25,000 guests in attendance.” I’m wondering if that celebration in Excelsior, several miles to the west of Lake Okoboji, really drew the largest crowd as predicted by the newspaper?

Did Grandpa and his friends stay at the lake? Probably. There must have been lots going on. And lots of people-watching to keep them entertained.

The sheriff put a damper on the Independence Day celebration for some of the county residents. I wonder if the predicted crowd size in Excelsior had anything to do with this still in the western part of the county?

I don’t know about his younger days, but I never saw my grandfather have a drink of anything stronger than coffee or root beer, so he may not have been fazed by the loss of the celebration hooch.

It’s fun to speculate about what Grandpa and his friends did and saw and talked about during their stay at Lake Okoboji.

Perhaps they saw the new steamboat – the Des Moines – or took a ride if they had the money.

06 July 1922 Lake Park News

Surely they heard about the little girl who drowned on Saturday, July 8th.

And how did they sleep that night? Had they heard of the drowning? Would they have been smiling about the heavy rain overnight as they camped?

13 July 1922 Lake Park News

Did they take their laundry to the barber shop?

27 July 1922 Lake Park News

Tom loved to read Zane Grey books. Was he still in Okoboji on Saturday, July 29th? Did he have the money to attend?

27 July 1922 Lake Park News

Were they there for work in addition to enjoying the lake? I suspect that they were.

29 June 1922 Lake Park News

There was a train station at Arnold Park. Was that their mode of transportation?

I’ve played this guessing game long enough. Except … I wonder if that first picture of Grandpa in his bathing suit was taken at Lake Okoboji?

Please take a walk along the beach to Sepia Saturday and enjoy other interpretations of the prompt image.

All of the newspaper clippings were found at Lake Park News (Lake Park, Iowa).

Sepia Saturday – Pictured Above

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs.

The Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a group of seven men who look rather comfortable on what I view as a terrifyingly high and precarious perch in Yosemite National Park in California. I would never ever ever ever do this. Also I wonder where the photographer was. In another high and precarious place?

The image reminded me of a couple of family photos. Up first is my (maternal) grandfather, Tom Hoskins on the left, my grandmother Eveline Coates on the right, and Eveline’s sister Blanche at the bottom of the triangle. They are sitting on a railroad trestle that looks to be a little high off the ground – maybe 12 feet or so? Since my grandmother wrote her name on the back using her maiden name, I’ll assume it was taken before their marriage in 1923. They all lived in the small coal mining community of Mystic, Iowa.

Like the prompt image, this photo appears to be taken from a location at about the same height as the people pictured. Where might the photographer have been?

Here’s a closer look. I think the sisters are wearing matching dresses. Would they have gone on a double date in matching dresses? Or was this taken on the day of some special occasion? My grandmother looks a little stiff up there. Maybe this wasn’t her idea of a good time. Her future husband has his hand on her knee – perhaps to reassure her?

I’m a bit baffled that they are sitting on a dirty railroad trestle in their fancy dresses.

This second image is my grandfather on the left and his friend Miles Bankson. They look like they are dressed in their Sunday best again. This perch doesn’t exactly look like a railroad trestle, although it seems there might be a track behind them. My first thought is that this was taken at one of the coal mines.

Everyone pictured here became family. Sisters Eveline and Blanche married Tom and Miles.

I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out where these were taken with not much success. I’ll leave that to another day.

Sepia Saturday bloggers will surely take you to great heights today. Pay them a visit!