Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Remembering the Last Leaf on a Branch


Genealogy, as a pursuit, is designed to memorialize those whose branch in the family tree extends beyond their own generation. But life, as we know it, doesn't always include branches without end.

Something is calling out to remember that last fading leaf on the branch. In researching Marilyn Sowle Bean's family history, thanks to the stash of photos I found at a local antique store, it didn't take me long to find such a tale. Even though the photo is now faded—as you'll see, it had to have been at least one hundred years old—I've got to share it, if only to remember someone who turned out to be the last leaf on his branch of the Moore family tree.

Let's trace our way back from Marilyn, former owner of the photograph, to the man captured in that hundred year old photograph. We've talked about Marilyn's dad, David Moore Sowle, and shared a photograph of David, being held as an infant by his mother, Dora Moore Sowle.

In following the Moore line back through David's mother Dora, I uncovered an obituary for her father which, in one brief article, gave me the background information to guide the search for that family. That, as it turned out, was a fortunate discovery, for he possessed the rather common name of John A. Moore.

At John's passing in 1908, The La Crosse Tribune gave the news in a front page headline mentioning the deceased was a county pioneer. The newspaper noted that John, age seventy at his passing, had come to Onalaska from Maine "in the early fifties, when the country was first being settled."

The April 10, 1908, headline was enough to prompt further research questions. For one, it mentioned John was the father of a "supervisor"—presumably a local political figure. I had to read further to see just how this county pioneer was connected to his community—which led to the family's story.

John Moore was indeed father of a county supervisor, his son Abel Nutting Moore. Abel's parents, John and his first wife Sylvia Nutting, also had a daughter Clara who, at the time of her father's 1908 passing, resided in Los Angeles.

John apparently lost his first wife and married, secondly, a Michigan woman named Arcelia Delamater, with whom he also had two children. The eldest of this second marriage was Dora, the young wife of Joseph Sowle whom we saw yesterday, posed with her newborn son. Nearly ten years after Dora's birth, John and Arcelia announced the arrival of their son Sidney C. Moore.

Not much can be said about young Sidney, other than that I now possess a photograph of the man. Born March 12, 1893, in his parents' adopted hometown—the lumber town of Onalaska, Wisconsin, where his father was known as a "pioneer"—Sidney did not leave much of a paper trail of his personal history. 

At the time of his father's death, the Tribune noted Sidney's age as fifteen. By the time the 1910 census was taken, Sidney and his mother were living in the household of his older sister Dora and her husband, along with baby David. His draft registration in 1917 revealed Sidney had already served in the Wisconsin National Guard, and that he was currently working in La Crosse as a locomotive fireman. His last appearance in any document I could find was in Milwaukee, where according to the 1920 census, he worked in a chemical plant. A headstone marked simply "Sergt. Sidney C." tells us Sidney died sometime that same year.

With no obituary that I could find, nor any other record of what became of the man, I can't help but feel a wistful sense of futility in posting the photo I found with the simple inscription, "Sydney C. Moore, G'ma's younger brother." Sidney's gone. His sister Dora, too, long gone. Even the woman who wrote that note is not only gone, but gone long enough for her photo collection to have ended up for sale at an antique shop. Even if there is no one left to remember Sidney Moore, I still feel the need to share his one picture here.

Photo, undated but taken before 1920, labeled "Sydney C. Moore, G'ma's younger brother," from a collection sold at a local antique store, once belonging to Marilyn Sowle Bean, currently in possession of the author.

Excerpt from front page headlines of The La Crosse Tribune of April 10, 1908, courtesy of Newspapers.com.


  1. Thank you for remembering Sydney.

  2. Replies
    1. It would be wonderful to be able to send Sidney's photo home again--or at least to find family who could fill in more of the blanks of his story.


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