Sepia Saturday – Puzzling Penmanship

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

Today’s prompt suggests men and youths, sports, hats, men in shorts and socks or men in suits, and politics. The photo is of Irish Revolutionary Leader, Michael Collins, at the Senior Hurling Championship match against Dublin on September 12, 1921. He’s talking to the Kilkenny hurlers at Croke Park in Dublin.

I have selected a photograph with a man in a hat, youths, and a building in the background.

Thomas F. and Sarah Hoskins Home

The building is the home of the Thomas Franklin Hoskins family. The perspective makes the people seem small and what was surely a small house seem large. That’s Tom (in the hat) with three of his children. My grandfather, Thomas Hoskins, is on the right. On the far left is Ethel and the girl in the middle is Edna. They lived in Mystic, Iowa.

Sarah Stokes

You may remember Sarah Stokes from my post last week. That 11th child she gave birth to (Sarah Elizabeth Bryan), grew up and married Thomas Franklin Hoskins. Pictured here are three of Sarah Stokes’ grandchildren and son-in-law. 

Too bad the two Sarahs aren’t in the picture!


But it is the undecipherable handwriting on the side of the prompt picture that led me to choose my photograph today. This is what’s on the back of my photograph:

Believe me when I say it took me a while to decipher this. Here is my solution to this puzzle:

April 2 1913

Well I got hear all to Ottumwa I sayed with Rance last night I found him lots
better he looks bad the Ottumwa doctor said he had got passaned some how he give him medicine that helped him write away well i got home to day the rest of the folks wa all write with love sis Hoskins

Then the postcard was turned upside down and reads:
This is our house an tom an tommy an Edna an Ethel 

The postcard is addressed to
Frank Storms
IO  (Iowa)
route 3 

Thank goodness for the legible printing along the side to identify the people in the photograph!

Frank Storms was the nephew of Sarah E. and Thomas F. Hoskins. Frank’s mother, Joanna (Ann) Hoskins Storms, was living with him in Montrose. Lewis Storms, Ann’s husband, was deceased at the time. Although Sarah didn’t sign her name, she is the obvious author.

It seems that Sarah and Tom’s older son, Rance, had been sick and Sarah had gone to Ottumwa (Iowa) to stay with him. The doctor thought Rance had been poisoned. (Food poisoning?)  Although Rance did not look well, the medicine worked and Rance was feeling better.

Google maps estimates the trip from Mystic to Ottumwa takes an hour by car today. I don’t know Sarah’s mode of transportation or how long it took her to get to her destination. I wonder if she took a train?

Here’s a portion of Galbraith’s railway mail service map of Iowa from 1897 so that we can imagine Sarah’s route from Mystic, in Appanoose County, northeast to Ottumwa, in Wapello County.

I love this map! The illustrator had quite a sense of humor. For the full version, look here.

“One of eight large-scale pictorial maps of midwestern states showing routes and post offices of the Railway Mail Service. Designed by Chicago railway mail clerk Frank H. Galbraith to help employees of the Railway Mail Service quickly locate counties and post offices. The maps were rented for practicing or prospective workers who numbered over 6,000 and traveled over a million miles a year on the rails sorting mail. A printed title cartouche accompanied by a list of counties for each of the states by McEwen Map Company of Chicago is pasted on the maps.”

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division; Reference: LC Railroad maps, 220

Now hurl yourself on over to the Sepia Saturday blog and see what others have puzzled together this week.


Sepia Saturday – In Praise of Women’s Bodies

Oh my. Two Sepia Saturday posts in one weekend!

What to do with today’s prompt? Kat Mortensen (chooser of the prompt) tells us that this picture is of “Twin Wells” on the banks of the River Aille at Lisdoonvarna in County Clare, Ireland, taken around the turn of the century (1900). The waters were acclaimed as restorative and this place was designated a spa. (My image won’t enlarge; if you’d like a better look, go here.)

To be honest, I don’t understand this picture. What in the heck is going on? The poor woman on the right hardly looks real. What is that “shelter”? Why are these people standing around in their nice clothes and hats in front of this woman? It’s a mystery to me.

I was thinking about this prompt while trying to go to sleep last night. The woman sitting on the right led me to think about a picture of someone in my family. Both images portray women whom we would not consider attractive and whom we would assume lived a hard life.

Pictured below is my 2nd great grandmother, Sarah Stokes Bryan, at age 90. It is the only picture I have seen of her. Perhaps it was taken on her birthday?

Sarah Stokes Bryan, age 90





Sarah Stokes’ life in brief:
Born August 26,1821 and raised in Todd County, Kentucky.
Married June 9, 1842 to George Washington Bryan.
Bore 11 children.
Two children died before the age of 2 years.
Moved the family west to Ray County, Missouri in 1854 as troubles over slavery brewed in Kentucky. They found themselves in the middle of trouble in Missouri as well.
Husband joined the Missouri Enrolled Militia July 28, 1862.
Husband relieved from duty February 9, 1863 due to illness (pneumonia and tuberculosis).
Moved family to Davis County, Iowa.
Husband, George, died January 3, 1864.
Gave birth to 11th child, Sarah E. Bryan (my Mom’s grandmother), February 27, 1864.
Remained single, raised her children and managed her farm.
Died October 22, 1914, at the age of 93.

Sarah’s sister, Nancy, had married George’s brother, John. Both families made the move to Missouri and lived together for a while, but Nancy and John remained in Missouri when Sarah and George moved to Iowa. Nancy gave birth to her first child in 1850, twins in 1851, followed by 6 more babies. As told by George in a letter to his brother Francis, Nancy was in poor health after giving birth to her 4th child.

Nancy’s last child, Susan Virginia Bryan, was born March 1, 1866. Nancy died about 10 weeks later on May 19th. The baby died July 13th.

Nancy’s story always reminds me that access to birth control saves lives.

While writing this, I was also reminded of something I read many years ago, so I looked it up. It was from the essay “In Praise of Women’s Bodies” from Gloria Steinem’s book “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions”.

I stole her title. I hope she won’t mind!

Here are some of Ms. Steinem’s words:

Stretch marks and Cesarean incisions from giving birth are very different from accident, war and fight scars. They evoke courage without violence, strength without cruelty, and even so, they’re far more likely to be worn with diffidence than bragging. That gives them a bittersweet power, like seeing a room where a very emotional event in our lives once took place.

…. Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.

…Perhaps we’ll only be fully at ease with ourselves when we can appreciate scars as symbols of experience, often experiences that other women share, and see our bodies as unique chapters in a shared story.

When you first saw this picture of Sarah Stokes you may have thought, “What an ugly old woman!” I understand. That was my first reaction.

But now I see a survivor. A strong woman who earned every wrinkle through poverty, hardship, endless hours of working a farm, caring for her large family, grieving the loss of children, separation from her husband during time of war, nursing her sick husband and burying him, then bearing her 11th child after his death. And living to the old age of 93.

Beautiful, isn’t she?