Thursday, February 15, 2018

There Was This Aunt . . .

...and some mystery cousins. Can you tell I'm coming to the end of my rope, trying to figure out any connections to the Barnes family from Kansas whose five photographs I found in a northern California antique shop?

Searching through that wonderful newspaper resource I found at the Arkansas City Public Library, I noticed one thing while researching Alta Barnes and her sisters Mollie, Nellie and Helen: there seemed to be one aunt whose name kept popping up. For instance, the Arkansas City Daily Traveler mentioned, on August 7, 1925, that
Mrs. Roy Fresh, Silverdale, and sister, Alta Barnes, are spending this week with their aunt, Mrs. Charity Hume.

We already know that Mrs. Roy Fresh was Mollie, one of Alta's older sisters. But how did Charity Hume fit into the picture?

It would be easy to ignore this clue, if it were a solitary blip on the family radar. But it wasn't. Not much after that first mention I found in 1925, there was another, this time on November 6, 1926:
Mrs. Forest Barnes and son of Eaton, Kans., and her daughter, Mrs. Alta Williams of Kansas City, came down on Thursday for a visit with their aunt, Mrs. Hume.

Perhaps this more oblique reference to "their aunt" actually helps clarify the relationship. Mrs. "Forest" Barnes was Alta's mother, Clara. Between that first mention of a visit in August, 1925, and the second, Alta had gotten marriedon November 20 of that year. The second visit was just before Alta celebrated her first anniversary. Alta's only brotherJames, the one who at the end of his life donated his remains to sciencewas barely six years old at the time of that second visit, so by necessity, would have had to accompany his mother on this visit. But whose aunt, actually, was Mrs. Hume? There were two separate generations involved in this mention.

As it turns out, Mrs. Charity Hume was the younger sister of Alta's maternal grandmother, Harriet Hager Tousley. Charity appeared in the 1880 census in the household of Isaac and Harriet Tousley, thankfully listed as sister-in-law to Isaac, instead of any of the less diligent labels sometimes applied by weary census enumerators.

According to the 1900 census, Charity and her husband weren't married until that very census year, when Charity was thirty five years of age, and her husband, Wallace, was forty one. Reading between the lines in those subsequent newspaper entries in 1925 and 1926 tells the story of why so many family visits were mentioned in the town's social column. The original note in 1925 was likely mentioning a visit designed to console a recently-widowed relative, as Charity lost her husband Wallace Hume just a few months earlier, on February 9.

As often happens to couples in their later years, while Charity may have appreciated the visits meant to comfort her in her loss, those visits in 1926 may have served a secondary purpose: Charity's own health may have been declining after her husband's passing.

The little reports came more frequently, and revealed longer visits. Besides the note in November, 1926, there was an earlier one on October 15:
Mrs. Mollie Barnes Fresh came down the last of last week for a visit with her aunt, Mrs. Charity Hume. Mrs. Hume accompanied her home Monday for a longer visit.

Again, on October 29, another report:
Aunt Charity Hume spent the latter part of last week with Mr. and Mrs. John Tousley and family.

John, Alta's mother Clara's only brother, may well have been doing his part in rallying with family to provide support for his aunt. With all this mention of doting nieces and nephews, there was nothing saidat least in the local newspaperabout Charity's own family. While the 1900 census may have left a confusing impression that Charity had children of her own, looking closely points out two details: first, that the children in the Hume household were actually those of her brother-in-law, Alvin Hume; and second, that the small entry next to her own name indicated that she had no children of her own. The 1910 census confirms that situation. If anyone were to attend to her ailing health in the year after her husband's passing, it would be members of her siblings' families.

The last mention of visits to Aunt Charity appeared in the newspaper on June 18, 1927:
Mrs. Charity Hume is visiting with relatives at Eaton and Silverdale this week.

Not long after this point, on June 28, Mrs. Charity Hume apparently succumbed to her illness and joined her husband in their final resting place near so many of her relatives, the Parker Cemetery in Arkansas City, Kansas.

It was not solely on account of these newspaper reports that I felt compelled to scramble to locate just who Charity Hume was. Though I'm glad to trace the family connection, I was looking for a different clueone to help with the last photograph in the collection I found in that California antique shop. It was a group photograph of Alta's mother, Charity's older sister Clara, along with five other people. On the back of the photograph was the explanation: "Clara Tousley, girl standing between two cousins."

Who were those two cousins? Could they be the California connection?

Above: Handwritten note entered on the back of a family photograph of six people, taken at the studio of J. L. Cusick in Arkansas City, Kansas; undated photograph currently in the possession of the author.

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