In my case, it started with a podcast. “Extreme Genes” this week encouraged genealogists to search eBay for family heirlooms, and that search led me, as it often has, to old postcards.
Here is one of the Boston Common in 1907. If Emilie were to come up the walk, she would be forty, brunette, and no writing career in sight. We imagine her so much as a writer, it’s intriguing to think of her other pursuits.
Boston’s copper-domed State House is off to the side on this card, and in the center is a place that Emilie lived in her later years: Hotel Bellevue, “the Aristocrat of Beacon Hill.” The back reads:
The Bellevue has a restful atmosphere and an air of quiet dignity and charm not unlike that of a distinguished private residence or one of the better clubs.
Single rooms with private bath from $3.00. For two people, $4.50 up.
Mentally, I figure out how many books she would have to sell to afford one month there–if she had to support herself with her books, which she didn’t. I wonder which windows were hers?
I keep browsing…
These views of the Charles River Esplanade remind me of another photo. It’s the one hanging to the right of Emilie’s desk in her Beacon Hill apartment. The man is leaning on a low wall along a public walkway lined with trees.
The places are not the same, but there’s something about the feeling of the space, the wall along a public walkway, the sense that water may be off to one side, that still strikes a chord. I wish that identifying the location would lead to figuring out who is in that frame.
This photo of Emilie at her desk was taken at the height of her career. Who was important enough to hang right next to her? A family member? Mentor? Colleague? I still can’t make out the signature, but I’ll keep at it.
–which is when I think of my Topaz software that uses artificial intelligence to sharpen and add density to photos. Let’s see how it does:
Oh yes, that’s much better. I have a bigger picture and still finer detail, although not yet the signature. I’m distracted by her jewelry, the items on her desk, and then I look at the fellow in the photo again. I feel like I know him. Could it be…?
I have to flip a photo horizontally to match their positions, but what do you think? Could these be the same person?
If so, it’s her grandfather, Albert Baker. I’m not willing to declare it yet. First, I feel I need to know where this was taken and about when. Is that a boat tethered on the far right? If so, then we’re looking for low wall with a beveled edge along a tree-lined walkway next to water. Anyone out there recognize the place or the man? Please write, if you do!
I look for more post cards…
This one rings a bell immediately. The image on the left is the Wescott iron forge in Blue Hill, Maine, and I’m sure I recognize that upper-right, shadow-image. I scroll through my photos… Yep, here it is. The hanging sign for Arcady came from the Wescott iron forge.
“From the little I could see I know that your Arcady–I love the name–is a heavenly spot.”Love Came Laughing By
Both of these post cards were written in 1908, the first documented year that Emilie and Victor were in Blue Hill. Did she know these people? Let’s see.
The Landing postcard on the left was written by “Miss Brooks.” That’s an easy one. She was Elinor Brooks, the eighteen-year-old daughter in a family that was about to become good friends of the Lorings. She was writing to a young boy in her East Orange, New Jersey neighborhood. Her father was an inventor, like another famous resident of East Orange, Thomas Edison.
The card on the right is the type that Emilie might have used as inspiration for a story:
Did you ask Ed Hall to tell me any thing Monday night? He said you did.
The card was mailed from Brooklin, Maine to Etta Young in Sedgwick, Maine, just five miles away (and about the same distance from Blue Hill). With no phones, did they gossip through post cards?
Is Ed Hall a suitor? Did he tell Miss Bridges the thing that he said Etta told him to tell her?
With help from Ancestry.com, I learn that Etta Young is fourteen, and Hattie Bridges is twelve. Neither ends up with Ed, who is twenty-five. Hattie marries Ray Carter, and Ed Hall lives with another Carter family. Maybe Ed engineered an introduction? There’s no Emilie connection, unless it’s the Carters.
“I’m glad the Carters came… They are the best type of real people.”Beyond the Sound of Guns
I move on.
I love this image of the bridge over the Reversing Falls, another post card from 1908. Usually, they are taken from the opposite (inland) side, but this photo was taken from the Bay side. It was mailed toward the end of a chilly April:
Fine, smooth trip all way home. Wind and snow squall up Blue Hill Bay. All well here. Beautiful today but some cold. C–
I’m intrigued by the addressee: Mrs. C T(?) Stoue? Stowe? Stouer? at 51 Trowbridge St., Cambridge, Mass. Could she be another Boston/Blue Hill connection?
I look in the 1905 Boston directory for similar names. Stoel, Stoner, Storen… Nothing connects.
I search in old newspapers for the address, “51 Trowbridge”, and get a hit.
STOVER! and not Charles T but Charles A. Once you know it, it’s easy to see in the handwriting. He’s a druggist, and she belongs to the DAR (so does Emilie).
Now I have a name. I check the 1910 Census: Charles Stover and his wife Roxa live at 51 Trowbridge St, so I know I have the right people. Hmmm… Both were born in Maine. In a Cambridge directory from 1931, I read:
I was right; there is a Blue Hill connection! Let’s see what I can learn from more records:
- Charles A. Stover was born in Blue Hill, Maine.
- He’s just three years older than Emilie, of an age to be a friend.
- His drugstore is a popular spot for Harvard students–like Emilie’s sons.
- Charles’ father, a retired druggist, still lives in Blue Hill.
Now, we’re getting somewhere!
Does Mr. Stover Sr. live near Emilie and Victor?
No. He lives on Beech Hill Road, flanked by Frank Merrill and Abed Hinckley.
Merrill and Hinckley? Like the general store?!
Yes, but the founders were Max Merrill and Merrill Hinckley, not Frank and Abed.
I look for more history on the store and hit an unexpected jackpot:
100-year-old store ledgers open past lives of Blue Hill
Written in a cursive handwriting seldom seen in contemporary times, 45 store ledgers filled with the purchases of Merrill & Hinckley customers from 1890 to 1919 are now part of the Blue Hill Historical Society archives.Penobscot Bay Press
I forget about whether the Lorings knew the Stovers or not. Look what’s available!
How neat would it be to know what the Lorings purchased when they set up housekeeping for the first time in Stone House? Emilie’s cookbook, For the Comfort of the Family, listed the necessary ingredients of her “emergency cupboard.” Would we see caviar, Major Grey’s Chutney and anchovy paste on the Loring account? Paper doilies?
“I bought plate and finger bowl sizes and small ones for the water glass by the hundred.”For the Comfort of the Family: A Vacation Experiment
Now we have a way to find out.
Melissa Barclay (Give Me One Summer) reflected that “one dwelt in another world when one was at work on a story.” The same is true for me when I follow a thread of discovery.
Stay tuned next September when I have a chance to get to the Blue Hill Historical Society. Meanwhile, take another look at that photo on Emilie’s wall. If you recognize the place or the person, comment below this post or write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring continues on its way. Happy landings, everyone!