After writing the post about my great grandmother, Jessie Tyler, I talked to my mother on the phone. She had more information, that I probably knew already, but had forgotten it.
First of all, she identified a couple more photographs on the Old Photographs blog as being her grandmother. Upon careful inspection, I agree with her. She has my grandfather’s nose.
Then my mom assured me that she didn’t dislike her grandmother, and told me that she and her brothers and sisters used to eagerly anticipate the arrival of their grandmother and her husband, Frank Harris each Sunday when they’d come to my grandparent’s house for dinner. She did admit that her mother wasn’t all that pleased that her in-laws came for dinner every Sunday — perhaps it just got old. Mom said that her grandmother would tell them all stories and that she loved that.
Mom also mentioned the divorce — that Jessie divorced her first husband who was my grandfather’s father. Since that was highly unusual back then, I suppose it left a mark on Jessie.
It is impossible for me to know, now, if Jessie was married to my great-grandfather when these photos were taken, or not married at all or perhaps married to Frank Harris.
This all has a tragic ending though. Three tragic endings, actually.
My great grandfather, (
I think his name was Walter Green, just like my grandfather) Albert Green, was killed on the train track in South Elgin. I’m not sure if he was in a car at the time or if he was killed when walking across the track. I used to think he threw himself in front of the train, but it was an accident.
Frank Harris, Jessie’s second husband, did kill himself though. He hanged himself. I don’t know if this was before or after Jesse died though.
Jessie herself did not die an old woman in bed surrounded by her family. She was struck by a car in Elgin.
It surprises me that I didn’t know any of this — or at least didn’t remember any of it or tie it all together. But looking carefully at the photo of Jessie with her son, she does not look like that defiant, teasing woman whose photo I adopted. She looks very sad.
Edited 4.30.09 — Mom corrected me on two things 1) Jessie’s husband Frank committed suicide after Jessie was struck by an automobile and 2) the photo of my grandfather and the woman — the woman is not his mother. Mom doesn’t know who she is, but is sure she is not Jessie.
Edited 4.15.17 — 1) Changed the spelling of Jessie’s name based on her signature in a book she owned and 2) added Albert Green’s name, crossed out speculation about his name being Walter Green.
I love happy endings. I love connections. This is about both.
When I was a child I found a book that belonged to my grandfather’s mother, Jessie Tyler. I knew it was hers because she’d written her name inside the book. She may even have written her age — I seem to recall that she was 12 when she wrote it. However, that may have simply been part of my fantasy, because, fantasize I did. I wondered what her life was like and what she looked like when she wrote her name in neat script on the inside of the book. I wondered how she liked the book — although I don’t remember the title (I thought it was The Secret Garden — but when I looked now, all I saw was some graffiti from pre-WWI Elgin High School students). I also looked in Ivanhoe, but neither of our copies of Ivanhoe have writing in them. I suspect that either the book is long gone or somewhere else in the house or the writing has faded so much that I cannot see it anymore. I even had imaginary conversations in my mind with young Jessie.
When I first saw the name in the book, I asked my mother if she knew who Jessie Tyler was. She told me it was her grandmother — her dad’s mother. I asked my mom about her — hoping to learn that Jesse was a sweet and loving grandmother who doted on her grandchildren. My mom didn’t have a lot of good things to say about her grandmother, however. She mostly remembered her as being selfish or something. [Mom — if you read this, remind me what you said about Jessie Tyler.] She was married twice — the first ending in divorce, I believe. (For years I thought she was a widow but found mention of the divorce on the Internet).
I knew the name Tyler though. I knew my ancestors were named Tyler and Tyler Creek in Elgin was named after our Tylers. Jessie’s father, Dr. Alexander Tyler, was a veterinarian and my grandfather had many of his grandfather’s instruments in his basement. My grandfather’s middle name was Tyler.
Last year I began scanning some photographs that I took from my mother’s house and uploading them to another blog. Some of the people in the photographs I knew, but others I did not. One photograph that I especially liked was of a woman, arms akimbo, standing in front of greenery. I recently made that photo the background for my twitter profile as well as the gravatar icon for one of my email addresses. I even looked into registering “akimbo.org” or “akimbo.net” but they were both taken. If I had been successful, I would have used the photograph of this unknown woman as my “brand”.
Something about this photograph called to me — the look on her face perhaps, or her posture maybe? Sort of teasing — kind of defiant? Whatever it was, I liked the photo enough to make it a part of me.
Last night, just before I went to bed I checked my email once more and noticed that someone had commented on my Old Photographs blog. It was my mom. She’d finally gotten around to looking at the photos there and commented that one of the photos of ancestors I didn’t know was her father, my grandfather and that the photo of the woman in the white hat, arms akimbo, was my great grandmother, Jessie Tyler. The same woman whose book I owned. The same woman who spoke to me as a child.
Looking back at this photograph and another taken the same day, there is no doubt in my mind that Jesse wanted connect with me. First through the name in the book and then through the photograph. Why not? We both loved her son — and I’ve dreamed of connecting with him again, after all.
I’ve often written about the connections I’ve found on the Internet and this is just one more example.
Edited 4.15.17: Changed the spelling of Jessie’s name based on the signature in the book mentioned here.