Guesses About a Chilly Reception

I blogged about the family get-together pictured below, appropriately enough, in May of 2014, which, according to the caption in “The Lovewell Family" was exactly one century after the photographer snapped the picture, probably hoping to capture everyone wearing a pleasant expression.  Mary and Ben Stofer, on the right-hand edge of the photo, seem to be in good spirits, but otherwise, it’s a pretty glum bunch.  I wrote that it looked more like a cold March day, judging from the blankets.  That is a blanket in Orel Jane’s lap, but we get a good look at it only in the second photograph, which also reveals a muff or scarf keeping Thomas Lovewell's left hand warm.  Orel Poole, standing at the center of the group, between and slightly behind her grandparents, appears to be shivering.  It seems more like March to me.

Lovewell family gathering, May 1914.  Left to right, Back Row - William Frank Lovewell, Grant Lovewell (holding Freida Lovewell), Pansy (Lovewell) Wirth, Steve Lovewell, Edna Lovewell, Mrs. Hutchins, Mary (Lovewell) Stofer, Ben Stofer.  Middle Row - standing - Lulu Lovewell, Miss Wirth, Ethel Stofer, Orel Lovewell.  Seated, Thomas Lovewell, Orel Jane.  Front Row Bennie Stofer, Frankie (James Franklin) Lovewell, Young Tom Lovewell, Leonard Lovewell, Wilma Lovewell, Daisy Lovewell and Dolly Lovewell.  The last two un-known.  Pansy Stofer

It’s hard to tell what season we’re looking at in a black-and-white photo, especially one that has been half-toned, broken up into all those little black dots for publication.  Are those May blossoms the children are kneeling among, or fallen leaves that haven’t been raked yet?  Are the trees behind the group just starting to leaf out, or do those few dark clumps among the naked branches represent the last leaves of autumn, stubbornly hanging on?

Family reunions are usually centered around holidays or funerals and I couldn’t think of one that might have drawn everyone together in May of 1914.  In my book I grasped at a straw which I remembered seeing in the pages of the Lovewell Index, an item about Orel Jane Lovewell marching uptown to the Post Office and commenting that her husband was enjoying the splendid spring weather they were having and was feeling better than he had in years.  That, I reasoned, might have been the signal for a family photo-op.  I later had my doubts, especially after returning to examine the Index and realizing that I had made a few careless notes during my early searches.  Mrs. Lovewell’s good news was printed in April of 1913, more than a year earlier than the caption on the photograph suggests that it was taken.

But is the original caption correct?  Family photographs have a spotty track record in that regard.  Sometimes we go through boxes of photographs and make our best guesses about who people are and when the photos were taken, and even a bad guess can eventually petrify into a gospel fact.  An item printed in the Belleville Telescope in January of 1914 suggests that the pictures might have been snapped late in 1913, and what we’re seeing is not a cold spring, but an unusually mild December day.*

Two Pioneers Celebrate

Thos Lovewell, an old timer of White Rock has just celebrated his 88th birthday in the presence of a number of his children.  Grandma Kelley, another old settler of Norway township has just completed the celebration of her 82nd birthday with a few relatives in attendance.

When his birthday rolled around again in 1914, the celebration made State-wide news.  Although there was nothing mentioned about family members in the report, all the usual suspects surely would have been in attendance.  I was inclined to think that the pictures printed in “The Lovewell Family" are from 1914 as the caption indicates, but could have been taken in December rather than May, not only because of the chilly look of the celebration, but because of the one flower that’s notably missing.  There are two Pansy’s and a Daisy, but no Violet.  Violet Lovewell had been laid to rest three weeks before her grandfather’s 89th birthday bash.  It occurred to me that it could be why so many faces are somber.

Nope.  I’m not done.  I thought I was a minute ago, but then it occurred to me that little Freida might hold the key.  Freida Lovewell was the infant daughter of William Frank Lovewell, and is being held in the arms of her Uncle Grant.  She’s a little thing, perhaps only a few months old.  Freida was born February 13 of 1913 and died at the age of two.  Conceivably it could be May, but probably not May of 1914, when Freida would have been a fifteen-month-old toddler.  The reunion really might have been called at the spur of the moment because Grandpa Lovewell was feeling full of life, and wanted to see his flock gathered around him.

See.  If you make enough guesses you’re bound to be right about some of them.  

To skip ahead for the final word on this frequently-misunderstood photograph, which for the record, was taken April 1, 1916, see The Face-Maker Makes the Case"      

 Photograph from “The Lovewell Family” by Gloria G. Lovewell ©1979

© Dale Switzer 2023