In that stack of photos I found last summer in a Sonora, California, antique shop, there have been several for members of the Lewis family. We already know the source for these pictures was likely a descendant of someone named Burt Purkey, whose mother was born Rebecca Olive Lewis. We've already discussed several of these family members, though I haven't yet been able to find a direct descendant of this family who would be interested in receiving these treasures.
Today, we'll be adding to that collection with a baby picture. The only problem is: I had the hardest time trying to figure out just who this little cherub actually was.
It's not that the portrait came without any appropriate information. The subject's name, in fact, was provided in two separate places. The trick was in deciphering the labels.
On the back of the photo, in what has become the telltale white label and small hand many of the family's pictures had been identified with, was the two-line legend:
Lorane Lewis Mason's Baby
Burt Purkey's cousin
While that may seem to be a straightforward identification, it caused me quite a bit of trouble. For one thing, we are talking about a fairly common surname. But that's only if I was reading that information correctly. If you, as I did, thought that meant the baby was the child of someone named Lorane Lewis whose married name had become Mason, you are as wrong as I turned out to be.
After all, if I had figured this out right after finding the photograph, this adorable little picture would have been one of the first to share with you. But that's not how it turned out. I couldn't be sure of finding someone by that name—Lorraine Lewis, no matter how you spell it, marrying a Mr. Mason would not yield me anything in certainty.
What we were in desperate need of was a rightly placed comma. In other words, read this label as if it said,
Mason Lewis' baby.
That is who was Burt Purkey's cousin: Mason Lewis. Remember, Burt Purkey's mother was Rebecca Olive Lewis. She had a brother named Sherman Isaac Lewis, who in turn had a son named—you guessed it—Mason Jay Lewis. It was that cousin of Burt Purkey who had a baby named Lorraine.
And here is her picture, taken perhaps almost exactly one hundred years ago in a studio in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Above: Photograph taken about 1918 in Mitchell, South Dakota, of Lorraine Lewis, daughter of Mason and Mildred Baxter Lewis; currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.