52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Favorite Photo

This week’s 52 ancestors challenge has been a struggle for me. To choose just one photo out of so many seems like an impossible chore.

The photo I chose is a unique one. Look closely.

My Photo Choice

Critchley and Brown family abt 1919 WV
Adults L to R Joe Critchley, Della Brown, James C. Brown, Unknown female friend, Minnie Brown, and Jennie Brown. Circa 1918-1920 West Virginia

There are so many things going on in this photo.

The first time I saw this photo I didn’t give it much thought. At a quick glance it is just a group of random people.

Odd Prop

With a closer look the next thing I noticed was the snake. Interesting photo prop but okay. I do come from a long line of interesting folks. To this day I have no clue what the deal is with the snake. I assume it made an appearance as they were trying to take their family photo and it wound up in the photo.

With even deeper examination and discussion with various relatives I learned even more about the photo.

Generations

This is a four-generation family photo, and one of the only photos that I have seen of my Great-Great Grandfather, James C. Brown. James is the tall guy in the dark suit jacket in the back row. The lady standing to his right, holding the snake on a stick, was a female friend.

The two younger women are Della, on the left, and Minnie on the right. They were James C. Brown’s daughters, my great grandmother’s (Lucy Brown) sisters.

Longevity

The elderly woman at the right end is Virginia Jane “Jennie” Osborn Brown, the mother of James C. Brown. “Mother Brown” as she was known locally would have been about 80 at the time of this photo. She went on to live nearly two decades after this photo. Her obituary boasted her ages as 105 at the time of her death but records show she was closer to 98. Still quite a longevity feat.

obit of Mrs Jennie Brown 105

The children belong to Della and Minnie either through birth or marriage. Judging by the ages of the children in this photo I date it to be between 1918-1920. The location is somewhere in West Virginia, likely Fayette County.

One child in this photo that really caught my eye was the little girl standing next to the snake. Just something about her and the way she seems to be watching that snake out of the corner of her eye. I made it a task one day to figure out who that girl was and learn about her life.

Life is fragile

Her name was Luella. She was born in 1915 to Della Brown and Joe Critchley. Sadly, not long after this photo was taken Luella died of diphtheria. She was 10 days shy of her 5th birthday at the time of her death.

Luella death certificate. Died 1920 of diphtheria.

I chose this photo as my favorite because I like how there is so much here that is noteworthy. I like the fact that it is a 100-year-old photo which shows 4 generations. I like the odd snake prop that makes no sense…yet at the same time makes complete sense. I like how when investigated this photo is such a great representation of both human longevity and fragility.

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