During our visit to Logan County a few weeks ago, my cousin, Garwood Linton, was there the first weekend, and we were fortunate to spend Sunday afternoon with him and his cousin Tracy, looking through the treasures of the Linton house. The first thing he shared was amazing – a Victorian woven hair shadowbox. It was complete with a photo of four people – husband, wife, son and daughter – and flowers and leaves made from human hair. I’ve seen something similar in the old state capital in Frankfort, or one of the museums.
It is definitely a work of art, and was very popular during the Victorian Era. I read that even short strands of hair could be incorporated into making the flowers, it wasn’t necessary to have long strands.
Garwood was interested in knowing the people in the tintype photo. We knew it wasn’t John Wesley Linton and Emma Adelaide Proctor, his gr-great grandparents, who owned the large Linton house. A genealogy mystery – I was on a mission and in research mode! It was decided to open the shadowbox and check the back of the tintype for names. The box was very gently opened, but no names were listed. But it was a good time to take more photos without the glare of the glass top.
If this wasn’t a photo of John Wesley and his family, it must be that of a brother or sister. I would say this photo was taken about 1875-1885, based mostly on the woman’s dress. It is definitely not a Civil War era gown. The gentleman’s large lapels and sleeves of his coat made it look from the 1860’s (which possibly it was), but clothes were worn as long as they were useful, not necessarily thrown out for fashion’s sake. The smaller lapels of the boy’s coat give us a hint it is more in line with the 1875-1885 timeline. John Wesley Linton was the oldest son of Benjamin Burkett Linton and Nancy Jane Newman, born in 1843. Thomas A. Linton was born in 1845. The next three children died before the time this photo was made. My bet is this is a photo of Thomas Linton and his family. As idyllic as it was visiting the Linton homes in rural Logan County, internet service was spotty at best, so I couldn’t make any searches. But Friday was to be a rainy day, and we went to the Logan County Historical Society in full search mode.
I remembered seeing a photograph of Thomas Linton and his family, standing before their large brick home, very similar to the one owned by John Wesley Linton. Perhaps a check of that photo would give us an answer. The Thomas Linton in the photo was much older, 50, and the way the photo was taken it was hard to tell if he was the same man in the tintype. But the oldest child was similar to the son in the tintype.
A check of the 1870 census gave a clue. In the census book written by the historical society, little notes were added to the census information. It said that John Wesley Linton and Thomas A. Linton married sisters in a double wedding on November 11, 1869. John married Emma Adelaide Proctor, and Thomas married Elizabeth F. Proctor. The Proctor sisters were daughters of Benjamin Ellis Proctor and Martha Dixon James. Even though there is a family tradition about the double wedding, the marriage of Thomas and Elizabeth took place February 22, 1870.
The 1880 census proved to be more elusive – a quick Ancestry search gave no Linton’s living in Logan County. We know this is obviously incorrect. I went to the actual census records and looked through the Clay District (Linton’s lived here in 1870) and found this census to be a mess. There were water marks on the pages and some were almost impossible to read. Did this deter me? Of course not! With magnification, and having looked for the Linton name so many times, I finally found the two brothers, John and Thomas, with their families, and their parents, living in household dwellings 135, 136 and 137 on page 18B. I saved a copy, then edited it to make it somewhat readable.
However, do you notice there are no children listed for Thomas and Elizabeth? George Browder Linton was born June 28, 1881. I do not have a birth date for daughter Ada (probably Adelaide after her aunt). She was likely born a year or two later. Their first child was born eleven years after their marriage. That seems a little odd, but perhaps Elizabeth was not very healthy. Perhaps she had given birth, but the children died shortly afterward. There is a servant living in the household with them – a black female, aged 17, whose first name looks like Tillison. Twenty-seven-year-old Elizabeth Proctor Linton most likely would not have a servant unless she was frail or very ill.
This information puts us at the higher end of the prospective date of the tintype. I do know that Thomas Linton married Mary Susan Duncan, as his second wife, January 5, 1888. Elizabeth Proctor Linton probably died in late 1886 or early 1887. If this photo was taken just before her death, her children would have been seven and five. Little Ada died about the same time as her mother.
For Emma Adelaide Proctor Linton to lose her beloved sister and niece, this memento of a photo and flowers made from family hair, was a way to mourn and remember. I’m sure it was a labor of love that took many hours. Garwood remembers seeing this shadowbox when very young, and was told the flowers were in a ‘U’ shape to allow the souls to pass on to heaven. I want to point out the silver buttons spaced evenly throughout the flowers – perhaps these came from a dress of her sister? I’m sure it was a treasured remembrance – and thankfully is back in the house today. I’m sure Elizabeth Proctor Linton is smiling down upon the Linton family!