A Trip to Lovewell

Here it is almost Labor Day, and I'm finally getting around to writing about an event that followed hard on the heels of Memorial Day, the Lovewell/Davis reunion held in June at Lovewell State Park in Jewell County, Kansas.  The region's fickle spring weather had cooperated, beckoning a crowd of boaters and anglers to the lake.  About forty family members threaded their way to the Willow Group Shelter for a potluck lunch, a program of historical tidbits, and the chance to get reacquainted with widely-scattered relatives and friends.

Jim and Jean Lovewell's son-in-law Rick Berckefeldt plugged his iPad into a digital projector and presented a slideshow of a 2012 visit to Minster Lovell and the stately ruin of the old manor house in Oxfordshire.  This was an eye-opener for most of us, who had no idea that there was such a place, or that it had an important connection with the family story.  My spot behind Rick on the agenda allowed me to segue into my presentation by announcing, "Then, after we got kicked out of that country…"  Yes, it was an exaggeration, but I suspect it may have been only a slight one.  Plugging in my own iPad (Actually, like the projector, a loaner), I went over what was much more familiar turf, the story of Thomas and Orel Jane Lovewell, who were among the first settlers to tiptoe west of the Big Bend of the Republican River in the 1860's.

Although I was there to share information, I also discovered something quite unexpected.  Thomas Lovewell's granddaughter Rhoda had brought along a few family photos, and it was only a few nights later that I suddenly sat bolt upright in bed, realizing exactly what I had seen.  The woman in an 1893 photograph is sometimes identified as Thomas's wife Orel Jane.  However, in 1893 Orel Jane Lovewell would have been fifty, while the subject seems to be a much younger woman.  

There are known photos of Orel Jane at seventy, and at that time she looked nothing at all like an older version of the woman who appears at Thomas Lovewell's side in 1893.  Most notably, Orel Jane Lovewell had a long, slender face.  The woman in the double-portrait has pleasantly round features and shares Thomas's long upper lip and prominent cheekbones.  She had every right to share them.  The woman is apparently Thomas's daughter Juliana, who was reunited with her father in 1893, after an absence of thirty-four years. 

Her arrival in the Village of Lovewell is no doubt the main reason we have a formal portrait of Thomas Lovewell at the age of sixty-seven.  Juliana had been two years old when her father set out for Pikes Peak in 1859, and he had not seen her since.  One of the first orders of business after her arrival in his little town would have been a visit to a photographer's gallery in Courtland, Kansas, to have a record made of her homecoming.

© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com