Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday - what I learned from 838 old photos

After going through the photos I've scanned and saved, I realized that I know a lot more about my great-grandparents Charles and Rosie (Sitzman) Wagner than I did before. I'll post a few pictures, and tell you what each one taught me.

1. My great-grandfather and his brothers owned a lumber mill. I learned this from a picture of one of the trucks from the lumber mill my great-grandpa worked on - with the words Wagner Bros on the side. I've known for years he worked for the mill, but until that picture came along, I had no idea it was HIS mill. I'd like to find something about the mill - maybe a mention in a city directory, or a newspaper ad, or something about the mill. Maybe I'll start collecting things for each of my ancestors' occupations...once I get a bigger house, that is.

2. My great-grandparents knew how to ride horses, and apparently really enjoyed it. Most of the pictures I'd seen of them were of city scenes - pictures of the house, their farm, traveling different places, etc. I don't think they ever owned horses, so I never would have thought of them as riding them much. But apparently they did. This is a big thing to me, as my own experiences on horseback are limited mostly to one old horse named Old Shoes, which I rode on my honeymoon and which tried to buck me off after biting the horse my wife was riding. Needless to say, I'm not as much of an equestrian as my ancestors were. :)

3. They loved the outdoors. There are a LOT of pictures like this - mountain scenes, views of different lakes, photos of their annual moose hunting trips up to Canada, and a whole two-page spread of pictures of the trail up to and inside the Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana. This I can relate to. Even if I don't care for spending a week in the woods hiding from bugs in a tent, I can still appreciate the beauty of nature, and love seeing the view from a mountaintop (or hilltop, as those are more accessible :) ).

4. My great-grandpa was an amazing woodworker. He not only knew how to cut down trees, he knew how to work the wood from raw timber to finished product. He even built his own house! Not to mention several other houses in Monroe, Washington. A lot of those houses, according to my dad, are still standing. I'll have to ask him to take me up there one of these days to take pictures of them. It just amazes me that he could cut the trees down, cut them into lumber, design a building, and (with the help of his brothers) turn the lumber into a finished house - all without going to other sources for help or labor.

5. They were very social people. My great-grandma was involved in a few different clubs - the Pocahontas Lodge, the Home Demonstration Club, and maybe some others (unless she just liked getting all dressed up just to get together with friends). One interesting page had a photo of one friend named Ethel taken in the 1950s, and another photo of the same woman taken in 1972. So my great-grandma made long-time friends, which I think is pretty cool. There are many pictures of family friends, many of whom my grandma remembered by name. I don't know if I could name my parents' friends in a photo, so this kind of shows me where I have room to improve on.

6. My great-grandparents loved their family. This is abundantly evident by how many pictures they have of their parents, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces, and grandchildren. There are probably several hundred pictures of just my Aunt Eileen, who was Charles and Rosie's first grandchild, playing with friends, dressed up for the dancing and skating events she participated in, etc. One of the hardest pictures to see (though it technically came from a different album) was a photo of my great-grandparents and their kids Blossom (my grandma) and her brother Howie visiting the grave of their youngest child, Charles Wagner III. Grandma Blossom and Uncle Howie were smiling, but Rosie and Charles just looked so sad, even years later. I can't imagine losing one of my children at such a young age (Charles III was only 10 when he died), so I can understand why they looked so sad. But, on the other hand, it really shows how much they valued their family, and how much they loved each other.
I'm sure there's more I've picked up from some of the other photos, but I think that's a good start. It's a remarkable feeling - getting to know someone you barely even met, even 25+ years after they've died. But now, my great-grandparents aren't just names on a pedigree - they're people that I know and love.


Gibson Family said...

You are amazing, BJ. This is wonderful. I thank you for sharing it. Let's plan a trip north end your dad and grandparents can she you the houses and mill, ok?

ironhide781 said...

I would love that! You name the day, I'll be there.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

What a treasure you have with all those photos. The amazing thing to me is the variety of subjects. They are not all just posed photos of people, but action shots, scenery, occupations. Very cool! Will you be posting more?

Susan Clark said...

Great post! It gives a whole new perspective to sorting through the boxes we inherit - and something I'll think about as I work. Thank you.

Marian said...

Great post! I love the way you analyzed and learned from each photo.

Karen the AncesTree Sprite said...

What a fantastic post. You are so fortunate to have that treasure trove. How I wish I had 838 old photos of my ancestors and relatives to learn from.