With the explanation of who Ralph Pollock was—and a glimpse into how he might have been connected to Thirza Browne Cole, the woman whose photo collection included Ralph's young likeness—I'm ready to send young Ralph off to a waiting descendant. More on that next week.
In the meantime, we have two baby photos from Thirza's collection to dispatch to their rightful owners, as well. We haven't really talked much about one of them—labeled Mildred Rigg—so let's take a closer look at what can be found about her today.
Mildred's photo, if you remember, was the only one of Thirza's collection which included a studio imprint with location. That was our first and only hint that there was a family connection to Greeley, Colorado—helpful, since I had first found Thirza and her family in California.
A note on the back of Mildred's photograph said simply, "To Thirza," but I have yet to figure out just how the families were connected. For one thing, while the Riggs family did live in the same county as Thirza's parents—Weld County—the 1900 census showed them living in Crow Creek. In 1910, they were still in the same county, but this time listed in Lucerne. In contrast, I could only locate Thirza's parents—Thomas and Ellen Browne—in Weld County in the 1880 census. Where they went after that, I've yet to discover. So why did the Riggs family send Thirza Mildred's baby picture?
Mildred's parents, Millard Riggs and Josephine Miller, had married in Greeley in 1897. Mildred was their firstborn, arriving almost exactly a year later and followed by a brother and then a sister.
On August 7, 1918, Mildred married Earl Stanley in Greeley, and the couple could be found there in the subsequent census enumeration in 1920. The Greeley Daily Tribune recalled that wedding in a column entitled "Nineteen Years Ago" when it reprinted the newspaper's original announcement of the wedding:
A very charming childhood romance was that which culminated Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 7, in the wedding of Mildred Mercedes Riggs and Earl Stanley. The young couple had known each other since school days and the marriage was the happy result of a long friendship which ripened into love.
Baby Mildred was now about to have a baby daughter of her own: Mercedese Earline Stanley, who was born in 1925. Like Mildred's own childhood family, her daughter Mercedese in the next generation was followed by a son and then another daughter for Mildred and her husband Earl. But before that second baby could arrive in the Stanley household, the family moved from northern Colorado to southern California. By the time of the 1930 census, pipeline welder Earl Stanley had moved his family to Long Beach.
Finding the family now in California makes researching Mildred's descendants a bit easier, as any Ancestry.com subscriber who has searched for family in that state can attest. I was quite surprised to discover that one of Mildred's grandchildren had actually shown up in one of those Ancestry public records databases giving an address in the same city where I live. Of course, that was over twenty years ago, but what are the chances? Better yet, I also found out that same person is an Ancestry subscriber. You can be sure I sent that Riggs descendant a message!
Mildred, herself, lived eighty nine years, dying in Los Angeles in 1987. She was buried in a cemetery in Whittier, California, according to a memorial at Find A Grave, though there is no confirming picture accompanying the entry.
While I may never learn just what the connection was between Thirza Browne Cole and the Riggs family of Greeley, Colorado, there was obviously some reason why Millard and Josephine Riggs decided to send a photo of their newborn to Thirza. Perhaps that is an unspoken token of just what kind of person Thirza was. I am beginning to worry that I might never learn what the significance of such gestures actually meant, but I am seeing a person take shape in my mind who believed in keeping connections alive with those who meant something to her in her earlier years.
Above: Photograph of baby Mildred "Rigg"—actually, Riggs—from the photography studio of F. E. Baker in Greeley, Colorado. Based on Mildred's date of birth—26 January 1898—that makes this picture one hundred twenty years old. Photograph currently in possession of the author until claimed by a family member.