For the last six weeks, our focus was on the family of Edna Tully McCaughey. Throughout the rest of this month, we’ll move our attention to Edna’s cousin, Agnes Tully Stevens. While the series on Edna was filled with the many photographs from her collection, Agnes’s life focus was represented by a variety of details: everything from business transactions (she became a licensed insurance representative in the state of Illinois) to newspaper clippings and saved letters recording significant events in her family’s history.
|William and Agnes Tully Stevens - Chicago|
It will be a challenge to sort through the “archives” of her collected material. Though many of the pictures have been in my possession for years, the latest additions—composed of letters, news clippings, and other records—are items I acquired during our most recent trip to Chicago. All told, the various snippets of family heritage preserved in what is now only an unorganized pile of papers span family stories from the 1850s through World War II. Adventure lurks in tales of sudden flight from Ireland to murder in Boston to action on the shores of Iwo Jima. Many of these are stories passed down orally through the family, from Agnes’ mother to Agnes’ son, and ultimately to me. Some details I still struggle to substantiate; I see from thumbing through the collection that there are letters filed there showing that Agnes, herself, attempted to verify many of these same details.
Though not in the same way as Edna, Agnes was very much the glue that held her family together. She imbued her descendants with a strong sense of family that is still evident today, long after her passing. Born in Chicago in 1888, she was the baby of the six children born to Edna’s Uncle John and his Irish immigrant wife, Catherine Malloy. Just as Edna had done in her youth, Agnes developed notable skill as a violinist, and for a while as a young adult toured several regions of the United States in performance with some other talented women. Settling back in her home town, on 12 June 1912—the date of the picture above—she married William Stevens of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who had recently moved to Chicago. Like her father and mother before her, she and William became proud parents of six children—five sons and one intrepid daughter. Living a long life in which she saw the birth of twenty four grandchildren and twenty nine great-grandchildren, she passed away—still in Chicago—at the age of ninety six.
While it was possible that I could have met her—her death was in 1985—I never had that privilege. I do, however, feel the lingering touch of her influence in the strong family ethic exhibited by her children, their spouses and grandchildren that I do know. She demonstrated a strength and determination that valued faith and family, a quality that is still evident in the memories and traditions passed down through her children and their descendants today.