Thursday, September 13, 2018
West Point's Adolph
Even if the dates don't line up quite the way I'd like them to, if we have found an Adolph in West Point, Nebraska—location of the photography studio which had captured the wedding memory of a young Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Brockman which I found, one hundred years later, in California—then, I'll at least take a good look.
Admittedly, I'm no expert at dating photographs. I try my hand at following the advice of those who really know their stuff, but there's a wide berth for mistakes in such attempts. I wasn't really sure the boy Adolph I found in the 1900 census would be one and the same as the well-dressed man appearing in his wedding portrait quite a few years later. But with a town as tiny as West Point, what were my chances?
The one candidate that I could find for our Adolph was the first of five children in the Brockman family of West Point. According to the 1900 census, his father's name was entered as "Wm," so naturally my first assumption was that dad's name was William, but when I looked closer, it seemed the enumerator had written the "m" so purposefully with an exaggerated connector from the "W" that I couldn't be certain that the entry didn't signify the initials, "W. M." (As it turned out, I had been thrown off by some codes later entered by census officials which had overwritten the man's name.)
Mr. Brockman—whoever he was—was married to Augusta, mother of the five Brockman children of which Adolph was the oldest. Following Adolph were his seven year old sister Matilda, his five year old brother Willie, his three year old sister Anna, and the baby of the family, a one year old girl whose name the enumerator rendered as "Loesa."
Adolph's father had come from Wisconsin but evidently moved westward—perhaps with his parents—where he eventually met his future bride, Augusta. She had been born in Nebraska. Both sets of Adolph's grandparents, though, were born in Germany.
Comparing that 1900 census listing with other such records turned out to be helpful, for in the 1910 census, we receive confirmation that dad's name was really William, after all, and that Adolph's baby sister's name was more likely Louise. By 1910, the family had been joined by Ida, "Helna" and Edward, and we become aware of another child—unnamed—who was born and died sometime during that decade.
By that point, this Adolph was still single and now twenty years of age. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had been tricked into following the wrong family, simply because of the small size of the town.
I did have one more trick up my sleeve: on the photograph I found, someone had inserted the name of Adolph's wife. It was penned in on a white label someone had stuck on the back of the photograph, and it didn't appear to even be in the same handwriting as the original written entry. I couldn't be sure of the source, so of course, I couldn't be certain that this was really her name, but it was worth testing out as a hypothesis, if nothing else. Perhaps this would line up as a match for the "wife and child" listed in the World War I draft registration card for the Adolph I found in nearby Pierce County, Nebraska.
What were my chances? Pierce County was, at that time, a little smaller than Cuming County. Plainview, the draft registrant Adolph's home in Pierce County, was certainly close enough to West Point in Cuming County to make this a reasonable stretch. Besides, we now had another clue to help us determine whether these Adolphs were one and the same.
That other clue was only a name—the name of Adolph's wife—but every bit helps. Her name was Vernie.
Above: Label affixed to the reverse of the photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Brockman of West Point, Nebraska. At the antique shop where I found the picture, the store clerk assured me it was added by the store's owner when, upon acquiring such photographs, she would remove them from their annotated albums. In future weeks, I'll be sharing several other such labeled photographs—some which, confusingly, also happen to be of subjects related to those in other photographs. In this case, though, I believe this is the only Brockman family photograph I was able to find in that store.