Sunday, November 6, 2016

Day Six: Favorite Family Photo

Day 6: Select your favorite family photo, and write about the moments just before and/or after the photo was taken. Why was it taken? Was your ancestor happy to be in it?

Without a doubt, this is my favorite family "ancestor" photo. Many more recent photos can be counted among my favorites, but of the shots of yesteryear, this one tells the fullest story of my family...and I love it when "a picture is worth a thousand words."

Pictured above are the schoolchildren of one Miss Lula Tribble, a teacher in Fairfield County, South Carolina. Fairfield County is a beautiful part of the Palmetto State and if you have ever seen Mel Gibson's The Patriot, then you have an idea of what the land, houses, and families were like at the time of my family's settling there in the mid 1700's. I still have relatives in the area, but my branch of the Ragsdale family left Fairfield County for Greenville, South Carolina in 1907. This picture is from five years before their move.

Today's writing assignment (#30DayFHWChallenge)

It was a beautiful day in the fall of 1902 when the school children of Fairfield, South Carolina gathered with their teacher, Miss Lula Tribble, to "have their picture made" for posterity. The Ragsdale children were particularly excited! There should have been only two Ragsdale children in the picture that day, Helen, age 9, and Edward, age 6. But little Elizabeth, age 3, had heard about the photographer coming to school and insisted on having "her picture made, too."  Mrs. Ragsdale, who had had her hands full with six children over the years, was thrilled when Miss Tribble warmly welcomed her youngest to join the class. The little tow-headed sprite, who was small in stature, but large in attitude, put on her best white dress, stood tall and proud, angled her body, cocked her head, and grimaced her best smile for the photographer. 

The other Ragsdale children in the picture stood out as just as much as their baby sister. Young Helen, brilliant in everything academic and forceful in her opinions about life, took center stage, and was happy to be there. Reclining on her right side, her right hand formed a fist, just as it did when she was frustrated or was trying to make a point in a heated class debate. In her left hand, she clutched the latest book that had captured her interest. It would be a surprise to no one that Helen would be a college graduate by age 19 and start teaching just after. Thousands of students would be influenced by her, until she retired in her 60's. Helen and Elizabeth's brother Edward also took center stage that day, and was equally proud to do so. Always spot on in his assessment of any situation, Edward had not only worn his very best dress collar for such an occasion, but had also cast himself as the ideal student. In his small hand he held a bright, shiny apple, the de rigeur teacher's present of the day. Edward's serious countenance and upright posture foretold the upstanding man he would become. A sought after and well respected attorney, his career would take him from being on the legal team for Warner Brothers Studios in Hollywood, California to heading up the southeastern office of the Federal Trade Commission in Atlanta, Georgia.

All three of the Ragsdale children were happy to be captured for posterity in this picture and could hardly wait to get to school that day. In 1902, being photographed was an occasion. It might have been the first time that some of the children in the picture had even seen a camera or met a photographer. Photography was nothing they would equate with family moments. That is something we might have a difficult time relating to today. This was about 100 years before the advent of the camera phone, so they were not followed around my overly involved parents wanting to record every moment of their childhood!

Follow Up

A few weeks ago, when working on genealogy files, I found this picture and started thinking about the teacher's unusual name. A quick search showed me her marriage write up (some years later) and from there I was able to enter her into the search engine and find others (in her family) who were related to her. I was able to contact them and share the photo electronically with them. As I did so, I couldn't help but think what the children (and their teacher) would have thought in 1902 of a descendant who, 114 years later, would be talking about them and this one particular photograph.

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