The Blacksmith Twins

After searching on, I was delighted to be presented with a portrait of Robert Wallace Logan, son of Finley Logan and a brother to James William “Billy” Logan, the village of Lovewell’s blacksmith, who sometimes served as a police judge in the last decades of the 1800’s.  

James William Logan was also my great-grandfather.  His son Will Logan married Thomas Lovewell’s granddaughter Lillie Robinson.

I thought there was something familiar if perhaps a bit fishy about the likeness of Robert Logan.  Digging out a keepsake my mother gave me long ago of her Logan grandfather, I was surprised to find the the two images to be identical.  Almost identical.  You’ll spott the major difference at first glance.  James William is on the left, Robert on the right.

James & Robert Logan

According to data on James William Logan was born to Finley and Rachel Logan on December 17, 1849.  The birth of Robert Wallace Logan followed on May 7, 1850.  If you’re any good at calendar math and know something about obstetrics, you realize at once that someone has made an error.  That’s too close even for “Irish twins,” a term applied to siblings born barely a year apart, probably a slur on the apparent birth rate of Irish-Catholic immigrants.  It’s an insult that would have infuriated even Finley Logan’s family, though for a different reason.  They had emigrated from Scotland before settling in Nova Scotia.  One of their proudest family possessions was a portrait of the Chief of the Logan Tribe.

Obituaries and headstones are often unreliable sources.  The information they contain was usually patched together hurriedly by grieving family members attending to a myriad of details, with the guest of honor no longer able to provide any.  However, in this case some old-fashioned forgetfulness may have been to blame.

On early census forms from the time the family lived in Boston and Cincinnati, the two brothers are generally listed as being one year apart in age.  After James moved to Kansas around 1885, discrepancies began to creep in.  In the 1920 Federal Census, the last one in which the brothers would participate, they are both recorded as having turned 69 on their last birthday.  While this was true for James William Logan, his younger brother Robert was only 67 when the census was recorded in January.

According to birth records from Massachusetts, Robert Wallace Logan was actually born May 4, 1851.

You may have noticed that only one of the pictures, the black and white image from Robert Wallace Logan's family, is a genuine photograph, albeit a slightly blurry one.  The other is an almost eerily sharp artist’s rendering of the original, immaculately penciled and shaded, with the thoughtful addition of a manly tie, the sort of tie a blacksmith might wear to church.  

The brothers were close enough in age and perhaps close enough in appearance that a drawing of one has been passed off as a photograph of the other for over a century.  Very economical. 

Now that’s a true Scotsman.


© Dale Switzer 2023