Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Better Frame of Mind

With a little sunshine and a more forgiving schedule today, I had a chance to organize the items from Agnes Tully Stevens’ mementos. Under the skylights of a particularly cheery room in our home, I’ve laid out a long table to provide room for the task of organizing stacks of notes, cards, news clippings, photos, postcards, concert programs and religious sentiments. I’ve carefully lifted each of the last shards of brittle hundred-year-old newspaper from the bottom of their storage bag, examining each quarter-inch sliver in hopes that the reverse side will provide the missing letter from a name in a puzzling obituary. And I fervently pray that the many letters from priests convalescing in Arizona sanatoriums cannot possibly harbor still-viable tuberculosis infection.

While I haven’t found the “smoking gun” that family researchers hope for, I’ve found a few puzzling clues that need follow-up. Mostly, it appears that there are no surprises. Rather than looking for length in extending the family line, I’ve stumbled upon breadth in fleshing out the plot lines of this woman’s life drama. It is apparent that this was a mother for whom faith, family, music and good works meant much.

Unless I’ve found obituaries of unknown relatives, judging by the clippings of obituaries tucked away with her important papers, Agnes cared a good deal about those who were her neighbors and acquaintances. I can only determine by the fact that she kept these news clippings that these were people who meant something to her, though they were not important through bonds of blood or marriage. I’ll probably never know the significance of these people, but I know that they were significant to her.

Take, for instance, Edward B. Taylor. Judging from his address, he must have been a neighbor, as Agnes lived at 5945 Eggleston Avenue during the late 1940s. That she carefully clipped—though, in her characteristic way, neglected to date or mark the source—and kept his obituary says something about her, as there were only a few such obituaries remaining in her personal papers.

As far as I know, Edward Taylor is not a relative of our family, but in the spirit of knowing that this clipping would be of importance to another family researcher, I’d like to pass it along:

Edward B. Taylor, 5941 S. Eggleston avenue, Jan. 28, 1950, beloved son of the late Lillian and Edward Taylor, fond brother of George E. Taylor of Blythe, Cal., and Mrs. Ruby T. Grant of Evanston, Ill., and the late Susan L. Lear, uncle of Mrs. Suzanne Barthell. At chapel, 316 W. 63d street at Harvard avenue, where services will be held Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. Interment Mount Hope. Wentworth 6-0025.

Much more frustrating was the second obituary I found. A more fragile clipping, it predated the Taylor obituary by at least fifty years, judging by the ease with which the paper crumbled. Considering that observation, perhaps I've found a clipping not from Agnes, but from her mother, Catherine

I first found the main body of the notice sans the all-important surname, but happily discovered, among the shards, the vital link: Cahill, along with the first three letters of her given name.

Frustrations didn’t end there, for in handling the clipping to scan it, it must have developed a serious case of static cling. The triangular chip with “CAHILL—Mar” kept slipping under the second line of the body of the text, though I had taken excruciating care to insure that everything was placed properly without having to add anything intrusive like modern-day tape. I finally gave up on my quest to turn into a modern-era archaeologist and found some removable double-sticky tape—oh, how I laugh at the silliness of that hope—to beat the thing into submission.

While trying to line up a readable facsimile of the clipping to post here, as fate would have it, another piece of the puzzle chipped right off. And so a second delicate operation was required. Happily, though, in working on the reverse of the article, I found a home for an orphan shard of newsprint with the letters “oxvill”—the reverse of this obituary. A hollow victory, though, as it added nothing to my body of knowledge about the Cahill family.

Even so, in the spirit of my benefactress Agnes Tully Stevens, I include its text here in hopes a small kindness passed along may serve a (possible?) descendant of that Chicago family:

Mary Augusta, beloved wife of –J. Cahill and mother of Mrs. Charles J. –han, Anna E., James E. and Walter Cahill. [Fu]neral from late residence, 18 Gilpin-pl., 10 …Thursday, to Holy Family church, by ca[rriage] to Calvary.

May the descendants and relatives of Edward B. Taylor and Mary Augusta Cahill come to esteem their ancestors and find the value in those lives that Agnes Tully Stevens once cherished.


  1. There is a gravestone inscribed:
    << Erected by his Wife in Memory of James Cahill
    Native of Carrigahout Co. Clare Ireland 1847 - 1902 >> who's wife was Mary Augusta nee Gregory.

    I think these people were more than neighbors - they may have been fellow immigrants - perhaps they shared the journey to the USA.

    I'm glad you are feeling better. Sounds like you've had a rough time - and dealing with old dusty, frustrating memories is enough to make anyone melancholy.

  2. Edward B Taylor's grandson is a member of Fold3 (another family history site).


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