Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The One I was Wondering About
There was a time when I wondered whether Nellie Barnes—the third girl in that Kansas family photograph I found in an antique store in northern California—had actually lived past her teen years. Someone had written an explanation on the back of that picture to note that Nellie had just gotten over a fever, and, in my opinion at least, Nellie did look a little tentative in the sisters' portrait. It didn't help to discover that, after that photograph was taken, her parents had subsequently named another daughter Helen—a name often shortened, during that era, to Nellie.
With the discovery of that wonderful cache of newspapers close to the Barnes family home, I was able to trawl through decades of newsprint published in nearby Arkansas City, Kansas. There I found several entries about various Barnes family members. Some of the entries were lengthy, others quite tiny, but all provided clues about the family to help me piece together a clearer picture of just who these people were from Cowley County, Kansas.
Of all the Barnes children of Forrest and Clara, according to her obituary, Nellie turned out to live the longest—to ninety four years of age. Perhaps her bouts of childhood illnesses actually served to strengthen her. Then, too, it was she who had the most children of her siblings, being the mother of five sons who lived to adulthood.
When she was eighteen, Nellie married Frank Earl Crouse, an Arkansas City native, and settled down with him in their first home on a farm near Silverdale, Kansas. The couple raised their family on the farm, where they stayed until moving to Arkansas City in 1946.
Frank, however, was not as long-lived as Nellie, dying at seventy eight years of age in 1975. Perhaps her sons took after their father more than their mother's strong constitution, for by the time of Nellie's own passing in 1996, three of her sons had already predeceased her. By now, of course, all five of them—Freddie, Forrest, Ernest, Paul and Norman—are gone.
In tracing the descendants of the three sisters in that original family photograph I found, I keep seeking a clue to explain just how that picture—now, up to a total of five picture postcards—might have ended up in California. The farther I trace down each sibling's line, the more I find family members who staunchly stuck to their home turf. Other than wandering over the state line to live in Oklahoma, almost every one of the Barnes family children and grandchildren remained in the area where Forrest and Clara once raised their children.
There was one exception, however: a sister who, after completing high school, went on to become a nurse. Her occupation opened doors for her to travel elsewhere to find work—and yet, even this sister didn't head out west, but on the contrary, made her way back east. While her line won't likely provide an answer to my dilemma, it does hold out a possibility of finding a willing family researcher who might be interested in receiving these orphaned photographs. The only problem, though, is that even though this is the Barnes family history researcher I think I've found through Ancestry, it isn't anyone who has been inclined to answer my message.