Saturday, February 11, 2017

William Fenton, The Father, The Son, Which is Which? Photo Faceoff

Copyright 2017, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

William Franklin Fenton (referred here as Sr.) and his wife Margaret Catherine Haley were married in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada on May 25, 1860.

William Franklin Fenton (referred to here as Jr.) was born June 21, 1861 in Chebogue, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.  As a young man, William (Jr.)  married a lady named Fannie Hurlburt and had 4 children.  Fannie died in 1898 and in 1900 William married Ida May Jarvis.  William (Jr.) and Ida had 5 children.

When we have  a son and a father with basically the same name, it can be easy to confuse the two in records.  

Now, we need to state right here, that to our best knowledge, William (Sr.), Margaret Haley, William (Jr.). and all the rest of William (Sr.) and Margaret's children were all white.  Ida May Jarvis, however, was not.  She was black and I have heard, but, never have been able to establish/prove it, that she may have had Indian heritage as well.

I can tell you from my research, and my interaction with family members of William (Jr.) and Ida's descendants and descendants of William (Sr.) and Margaret other sons and daughters, that racism was healthy in Nova Scotia in 1900.  I have heard stories (again, family stories, not provable via documents) that after William (Jr.) married Ida he was "cut off" from his family.  Siblings that wanted to visit would have to sneak over to William (Jr.)'s home.

There are facts I can "prove".  For example, I can tell you and prove that when William (Sr.) passed, the informant on his death certificate was William (Jr.).  It is very interesting to note that William (Sr.)'s obituary does not mention William (Jr.).  William (Sr.)'s obituary reads in part:

"Mr. Fenton, besides the daughter mentioned, leaves two others, Mrs. Emma Vickery and Mrs. Clara Huskins in Massachusetts, the latter with Mrs. Robert Fenton arrived by the Prince George this morning to attend the funeral; also one son George, a painter and decorator with R. K. Smith."

Ten years before William (Sr.) died one of his daughter's passed.  Her obituary reads in part, you will note, there is no mention of William (Jr.).

"She leaves a husband and four small children to mourn the loss of a devoted wife and mother.  She is also survived by her father, Mr. William Fenton, two brothers, George and Robert; and three sisters: Mrs. John Vickery, Mrs. Oscar Vickery, and Mrs. Clara Huskins."

The fact that William (Jr.) was ostracized by his family seems to have carried down in area of family photos as well. Even after researching this clan for well over 25 years, I have had no "verified" photo of William (Jr.).  All the photos you will see in this post came from other family members, Man and I had no Fenton ancestral photos.

Due to the kindness of other family members, I have these, which most family and family researchers of the Fenton clan agree are William (Sr.)  Let's note here that William (Sr.) was born in 1833 and died in 1922. And, let's consider those dates in reference to the photos and the clothing.  Let's call this photo # 1.

On the back of photo # 1 (copy of a photo, actually) was written in bold print :  Grandpa Fenton, Marion's Mother's Father.  Marion is Marion Vickery, her mother is Emma Stella Fenton.  Emma's father is William Franklin Fenton (Sr.).  On other photos in same group,it is written, "Marion's inscription on back",  indicating that the identifications came from Marion Vickery.

I also have this photo, also identified as William Fenton (Sr), identification provided by a great-granddaughter. This is photo # 2.  Supposedly, this is the same man as is in photo # 1.  There is, in my opinion, a resemblance, so I will accept this as being William (Sr.)

We have another photo of what appears to be the William in photo # 2.  Family has stated this is William (Sr.) and his Christie grandchildren.  This to me appears to be the same man.  Here he is in photo # 3.

Last summer Man and I traveled to Nova Scotia, specifically to research the Fenton clan and to see where they lived, loved, were born, died and were buried.  Neither of us had ever been.  It was a remarkable trip.  While there we were able to spend a few hours with descendants of William (Jr.) and his second wife, Ida.  The fact that we were able to meet up with this part of the family was a small miracle.  Man and I made the trip on a whim, with very little planning.  I did not make any attempts to contact the few family members I had email addresses for before we left. But, at a campground we stopped at along the way, we actually met some distant kin.  It was one of those "the manager of the campground had an employee who was the sister of a bride of one of the Fenton men." Far out, eh??

While visiting two Fenton elders Man noticed a 8 X 10 piece of paper with the photos of 5 men printed and identified. It was one of those kismet moments in research.  He asked and was graciously granted permission to take a cell phone photo of that sheet of paper.

Below are 3 of the men, the other two have been edited out since they are both still living. This is photo # 4.

You will note that the photo on the left side of this group is the same as the one I have already shown in Photo # 1 above. It is identified as William (Sr.) dates of birth and death the same as I have indicated.

In the middle, this man is also identified as William. From the dates of death and birth this is William (Jr.), note the dates agree with my research and documentation I have obtained.

The man to the right is the son of William (Jr.) and Ida.

Tonight, when working on my consolidation project, I re-discovered a photo, with names/identities.  You will note the second man from the left is the same man that is identified as William (Jr.) in photo # 4.  

This is photo # 5.

The people identified in this photo # 5 were named as: George Fenton, William Fenton, Sr., Emma Fenton Vickery, Annie Fenton Vickery, John Vickery.  This photo has been dated as 1921, place, Rockville, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Wait!  Hold everything.

Photo # 4 he is William (Jr.)

Photo # 5 he is William (Sr.)

I have stared at these photos for years, on and off, I revisit, I stare, my eyes cross, and I move on to something else. And, return again at some point, repeat for years and years.

There are strong family resemblances, eh??  Between all these Williams.

That's why it is so difficult.

Tonight, my opinion is that # 1 is William (Sr.)

# 2 - - I'll say he is also William (Sr.), especially when we compare it to # 3, which has been identified by family members.

# 4, is William (Jr.), as is of course, # 5, since that is the same photo, just cropped a bit.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And, ohhhhh, yea, photo # 5 seems to disprove the rumor/family story that siblings had to sneak off to see William (Jr.) after his marriage to Ida.  Except, for that interesting/questionable identification the William in this photo as William (Sr.) 

What tangled webs were woven.  

* William (Jr.) and his first wife, Fannie Hurburt, are Man's great-grandparents.  William Henry Fenton, see photo # 4, was Man's grandmother's half brother.



Fran Ellsworth said...

Great post. Love the pictures.

Carol said...

Thank you Fran. It was a good exercise for me, serious study of those photos.