Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leona and the Twins

Just as the proverbial iceberg—submerged for the greatest percentage of its mass under water—so is childhood in its ability to camouflage the very essence of what makes the adult.

In reviewing the story of Samuel W. Bean and his twin, William S. Bean, I’ve discovered some things about their big sister that I hadn’t known, even after those few years I knew Leona. I suppose, in visiting Leona in her senior years, I could have asked her, myself. But then, assuming her blood relatives would have said something, I never spoke up to do so.

Come to find out, it may be that Leona’s own niece and nephew didn’t know some of the things I’m discovering about her now.

Leona Bean Grant was born July 28, 1891, which is a good thing—it gave her a nearly five year lead on her twin brothers.

On the other hand, given the mores of the time, I suppose it put her in the position of surrogate mother whenever Ella Shields Bean felt overwhelmed.

Whatever the case may have been, Leona turned out to have a strong personality and snappy temperament. I imagine keeping two kid brothers in line might have helped develop her take-charge affect.

I’ve been fortunate, in receiving the box of a lifetime’s worth of family photographs, to have found the Bean children’s few pictures well-labeled. In some cases, not only were their names affixed to the reverse of the photograph, but often, so were their ages—or at least the date—and occasionally even the location of the picture.

On the other hand, I must give three cheers for the “auto-fix” and “enhance” features on Adobe PhotoShop, which helped my attempts at making these small, torn, scuffed and faded likenesses become just a bit more visible. A bit, I said.

Try your eyes on what I’ve found.

Redwood City family on vacation Mendocino county
First, what seems like a nondescript snapshot of greenery at water’s edge actually reveals Leona perched on a rock—and reflected in the water below. Above her and to her left, behind some wisps of plant life, are the two bare-legged twins, appearing ready for action. Miraculously, their sun bonnets are still perched on their heads—but, I suspect, not for long.

Thankfully, one of their parents labeled the reverse of the picture. Though there isn’t a date, I’d guess from their sizes that this would be the summer of 1899 or 1900, since the boys were born in March, 1896.

For those who love beautiful nature scenes and want to know the location, someone was thoughtful enough to post that: the picture was taken at Noyo River. Though I’ve lived in California for years, I had never heard of that river, so I had to look it up. It is evidently a northern California river, flowing through Mendocino County out to the Pacific at Fort Bragg. Since that would be quite a distance from the Bean residence in Redwood City, this photograph must have served as a reminder of a relaxing summer vacation.

Samuel Bean William Bean Leona Grant Ella Shields Bean front porch of home
Back home in Redwood City, another snapshot was taken, supposedly on the front porch of the Bean home there. Leona and the twins, dressed for a special occasion, appear rather somber in this one. A woman off to the shadows on the left may actually be Ella Shields Bean, their mother, but the photo doesn’t provide any names.

Remember my guess for the date of the summertime excursion above? Well, count me wrong on that one, if the date on this second photo is correct. Marked “Redwood City 1898,” it puts Leona at the age of seven, and the twins at two. Somehow, I just don’t buy that scenario. Those boys look taller than two to me. What do you think?


  1. Marfan Syndrome aside, I'd argue that the boys look more mature than 2, not merely taller than 2. Did they have a vine growing across that chicken wire? In the river picture, Leona looks like a little wood nymph in some idyllic pastoral landscape.

    1. Leona does look right at home in this woodland photo, Wendy. And the place itself looks quite inviting. I often wonder if it is still in such pristine condition. I'm thinking it might be the river along the route of the "Skunk Train" that goes inland past Fort Bragg. I don't get up that way often, but now I'm wishing I could check it out. It does look like beautiful country.

  2. My little guy is approaching 4, and the twins in the photo above look a lot like 3 to 3.5 year olds. The height difference between the twins and their sister is about the same as the difference between my son & daughter, who is a bit over 7. Just an example for comparison. Great photos to have.

    1. Patrick, thanks for the comparison. I'm thinking the 3 to 3.5 range is probably right. That would date the picture at about 1899. Late summer would put them at about 3 years and 5 months or so...

  3. I love those photos. Especially of the twins hiding in the background while Leona looks as if the she was caught playing in the water and shouldn't have been.

    1. Betty, she does look like someone who's been caught at something, doesn't she? She was always a strong personality, and I don't doubt that she had her mind made up about what she wanted to do at the water's edge.

  4. Both wonderful old photos! I think the twins look around three years old in both photos..I am sure that doesn't help much. They sure were cute:)

    1. They were cute...and quite a handful, if the stories I've heard were not exaggerated too much!


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