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  • Writer's pictureDiane Mague Stanley

"I Remain Your Loving Sister"

Updated: Jan 19, 2018

Week 2: Inspiration this week was "Favorite Photo." This created a bit of a dilemma because of my commitment to feature collateral lines. There were fewer photos to choose from! But there was one that stood out; not so much the picture, but the puzzle.

When I found this photograph, I had no idea who the people were. Of course, there were no names on the back. I asked my older relatives to no avail. None of them could even remember seeing the picture before. I was reasonably certain that the photo was from the Saunders or Gilbert families because it was in the Candy Box. I surmised that, just like the letters, it was a cherished memento from “Olde England.”

I put the mystery photo aside for probably 10 years. When I happened across the photo again, I knew enough about the Saunders family back in Buckinghamshire to draw a reasonable connection. I dated the picture to about 1900 based on the clothing which meant it was likely hand-carried in Jack’s or Phoebe’s luggage when they immigrated to New Jersey in 1904 - 1905. The middle-aged woman would then have been a contemporary of my great grandparents. The second thing I noticed was how the older girl's arm rested tenderly on the woman's shoulder. My guess was a mother and her children, but with quite a gap between the oldest daughter and her brother. So who among the close family had an older daughter, toddler son and new infant around 1900, and would likely be in the Candy Box?

There's only one answer: Jack Saunders' older sister, Sarah Saunders, who had raised him, and their other brothers and sisters, after their mother died in 1881. In fact, most of Jack’s cherished letters in the Candy Box were from Sarah. Luckily, she was a prolific writer so I could make the connection. Sarah had an older daughter Mary Parsons (b. 1890) from her first marriage to Albert Parsons, and two children with second husband, Robert Holloway: 2-year-old Stanley (b. 1897) and infant Rose (b. 1899) who appears to be wearing a christening gown in the picture. To me, it makes sense that Sarah would want a picture of herself and her biological children. (Never mind that there were 6 other step children of Robert's who Sarah also mothered). Sadly, Sarah lost Robert to a freak industrial accident shortly after this photo was taken, and wound up married for a third time to a much younger pheasant-breeder.

Motherhood and family became Sarah's themes in life, but I'll save Sarah's story for another time.

© 2016-2018 Diane Mague Stanley ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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