With the last of five hundred-year-old family photographs I found in an antique shop, I was hoping to figure out how these pictures of the Barnes family from Kansas ended up in northern California. That last photograph, after all, was the oldest of them all, featuring the mother of the family as a young girl standing "between two cousins."
It seemed the more I saw in the pictures, the more questions they left me with. Of course, I had tried to figure out who those two strapping young men were in the photo—the two who were supposed to be Clara Tousley Barnes' cousins. I still can't find any likely explanation.
Then, I began wondering why Clara would have been included in a family photograph with a family other than her own. Though the picture was horribly faded, I could tell, of the six people included in the portrait, that at least one of the women seated in the front row was likely a member of the previous generation. Perhaps this was the cousins' mother.
Why, then, would Clara be included in this other family's photograph? That question prompted me to look at Clara's own timeline. Could she have lost her parents at an early age, and been raised by an aunt or uncle?
As it turned out, Clara's mother did die relatively young. Harriet Hagar Tousley had just turned forty when she passed away in 1893. At that point, Clara was fourteen—a possible reason why she would have been living with another relative.
But her father, Isaac Tousley, was still alive. Though he was a farmer, by the time he lost his wife, his only two children were of an age in which they could take care of themselves. Granted, farming could take a man away from child care duties, but such requirements would hardly be necessary for teenagers, who at that time might be out working in the fields, themselves.
I took my question to that handy newspaper archive hosted by the Arkansas City public library. The first clue I found only added to my questions. It was a brief entry in the Arkansas City Daily Traveler on December 5, 1900:
J. C. Alsip has been appointed trustee of Silverdale township by the county commissioners, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Isaac Tousley.
J. C. Alsip, as it turned out years later, became the father-in-law of Clara's brother John, but that's getting ahead of our story. We also learn from this brief mention in the paper that Isaac Tousley had been serving as a trustee in the local government of his Kansas community. But the main point, of course, was that he was dead. And death meant there should have been an obituary. Of course, I had to look further.
Expecting to simply find a memorial entry regarding the family of the dearly departed, I was somewhat surprised to discover, in the same newspaper on the earlier date of November 15, the following:
Word was received here this morning of the death of Isaac Tousley, a farmer living about fourteen miles northeast of the city. The deceased was well known in the city. His death was very sudden.