Sunday, January 31, 2016


For my posting this week, I'm asking readers for some help with a couple questions I have about these vintage photos that were in the belongings of my husband's maternal grandmother, Emma Jane Thomas nee Cook, 1899 - 1989. Based on their attire, accessories, and hairstyles, I feel the photos were made in the late 1890s to early 1900s. My first question is, have I correctly narrowed the timeframe for these portraits?

My second question, a much harder question than dating an old photograph, is who are these women? Without success, I've asked for nearly twenty years every relative that might recall something about them or a conversation they might have overheard about these ladies!  So everyone out there in the blogosphere--does anyone know who they are? Ok now that you've stopped laughing here are some more clues that I've gathered over the years.

  • Portraits likely taken in Hot Springs or Bismarck, Arkansas. 
  • They could be sisters or sister-in-laws
  • The flowers are gardenia mixed into the black ostrich feathers, probably to refresh/update an older hat.
  • Hats are high and each covers just to the edges of their Gibson Girl hairstyle, prominent in the late 1890s to early 1900s.
  • Hat brim may be a bowl shaped
  • No identifying marks are found on the backs of the pictures
  • Pictures appear to have been trimmed down to approx 1.5 to 2.0 inches 
These ladies' pictures have obviously been treasured over the last 100 plus years. It's a shame there is no identity to establish the history that can go along with the memories of these nameless ladies in fabulous hats!

I feel these ladies are ancestors of Emma Cook Thomas.  The reason I feel this way is based on a photo that was taken of Emma around 1945 that strongly resembles the lady on the left in the above portraits. 

Female ancestors in Emma's line that could possibly be one of the ladies could be her paternal grandmother, Adeline E. (Rogers) Cook, 1833-1915, her mother, James Elizabeth (Tinkle) Cook 1861-1919, or her eldest sister living to adulthood, Abagail "Abbie" Dorinda (Cook) Allen 1885-1952. Abbie may be a stretch, since she would have only been in her late teens at the turn of the century.

Emma's family had made it to Arkansas from Tennessee by the late 1850s, finally settling in the Bismarck area around the mid to late 1870s.  Her paternal grandfather, Roland Ronald Cook, Jr migrated from Henderson County, Tennessee some time after marrying Adeline Elizabeth Rogers.

Her grandfather farmed the land in south Arkansas until they moved their way north to Hot Spring County, Arkansas. This move must have taken a few years since about every other child was born in Bradley County or in Hot Spring County.  We do see the family on the July 25th 1870 census living in the Eagle Creek Community of Redland Township, Bradley County, and know by 1874 all of the family had transitioned to the Bismarck area since Emma's grandfather died at age 47 and is buried in the Old Bismarck Cemetery.

In 1878, Emma's father and mother are married and list their residences on their marriage license application as DeRoche, another small community near Bismarck. By the 1880 census, Emma's grandmother, Adeline Elizabeth (Rogers) Cook, better known as Elizabeth, is found in Hot Spring County near the small community of Valley, widowed and farming the land with her remaining seven children at home. They are living next door to her son James Monroe Cook (Emma's father) with his young family James "Jimmy" Elizabeth, going by Elizabeth at this time, and their first child, six month old Anna.

Emma was born, raised, married and raised her family in Bismarck. She is buried in the same cemetery as her parents and grandfather, Roland Ronald Cook Jr. Her grandmother, Adeline Elizabeth (Rogers) Cook is probably buried in Childress County or Fannin County, Texas, where she was living with family at the time of her death around 1915.


Cook, Unknown. Photographs. ca 1900. Digital image. Original images privately held by Lin Eakin Watson, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Arkansas. Bradley County. 1870 U.S. census, population schedule. Digital images.

Arkansas. Hot Spring County. 1880 U.S. census, population schedule. Digital images. Arkansas, County Marriages Index, 1837 -1957 [database online], Provo, UT. Accessed January 29, 2016.

Kreisel Shubert, Betty. Out-of-Style: A Modern Perspective of How, Why and When Vintage Fashions Evolved. Mission Viejo:Flashback Publishing, 2013.