Saturday, March 6, 2010

Alex and Annie Williams c 1905

I am intrigued by the several photographs found of Itawamba families during this era (circa 1900-1905) that have a similar background. There are many such photographs in my collection, of unrelated families scattered all over the county, posed in front of a log structure with tree branches behind and around them. Most of the time the branches are of pine, but occasionally one will have branches with oak leaves.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Would this be a traveling photographer, and the log structure be the home of the family? My guess is that the photographer came up with the idea of using branches to provide somewhat of an artistic backdrop, as a way of obscuring items that might be distracting in the photograph (oh, but wouldn't we be interested in those items!). Or maybe, there was a community location, perhaps a church or school, where the photographer was situated for a day, and the families traveled to him for their photographs?

This photograph is of the James Alexander Williams-Nancy Annie Johnson family, and I would date it around 1905. J. A. Williams was named for grandfather, Alexander, and was called Alex (or Alec or Ellick). His wife, Annie, was the daughter of North Carolina natives Stephen Johnson and Caroline Harriet Pierce. The Williams and Johnson families lived next to each other in eastern Itawamba near the Gum community.

The pretty daughter standing in the rear is Alex and Annie's daughter, and first-born child, Cleo. The two young boys are twins, Allen Shelva and George W., who were born in 1903, and the little baby is Melvin, born about 1905. Here is the family in the 1910 census, living in the Providence community of Tishomingo County:

1910 Census
Tishomingo County, Mississippi
Providence precinct
Ellick Williams 36 MS AL AL farmer
Annie 33 MS NC NC
Cleo 14 MS daughter
Allen S. 7 MS son
George W. 7 MS son
Melvin 5 MS son
Lillie M. 1 MS dau

Not long after this census was taken, the family moved to Arkansas where several more children were born. Alex and Annie both died near Pine Bluff in Jefferson County, Arkansas. Annie lived to be 95 years old at her death in 1968. Her oldest brother, John, my husband's great-great grandfather, was born in 1853 in Wake County, North Carolina. He was 55 years old at his death in 1907. Other than John, most of the Johnson siblings lived to be in their 80s and 90s.

The niece of Alex Williams, Mary Williams (Mrs. Clastel) Dulaney, shared this photograph of her uncle and his family. I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Mary a couple of weeks ago, and she is one of the nicest folks in Itawamba County. Such a sweetheart. I think she and Cousin Don have been spending a lot of time together.

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