I am not related to Phillip Hodges Smithson or his family in any way, but I found this picture in a local antique mall. Photographs of people gathered around a tombstone don't come along very often. It always makes me sad when great family heirlooms like this one get separated from their families.
This one had no photographer's information or any other identifying information besides the tombstone inscription: Hodges Smithson Born Sept. 1, 1856 Died Dec. 17, 1908. I thought, however, that it would be able to easy find his memorial on findagrave.
|Close up of tombstone inscription.|
click to enlarge image
I could not find it through the findagrave search because the memorial was listed as Phillip Hodges Smithson, and I was searching for Hodges Smithson. However, I was able to get to it through a google search, which pulled up the findagrave memorial. Luckily, the memorial had a photograph of the tombstone, so there was no doubt in my mind that I had the correct memorial. You can see the findagrave memorial here.
The next step was try to identify the people in the photograph. That was really even easier since Phillip Hodges Smithson's wife and three children's memorials are all linked to his memorial. Logic dictates that they are the woman and three children in the photograph.
|Lula Franklin (Williams) Smithson Wilson|
The widow, Lula Franklin (Wilson) Smithson, has a biography and an obituary posted on her findagrave memorial. Her biography indicates that she remarried in about 1912 to Robert P. Wilson. They were living apart when she died in 1937.
|Annie Laura (Smithson) Williams|
Daughter Annie Laura Smithson was born in 1893. She married her first cousin Thomas Leon Williams, who was 17 years older than she. He died in 1921, and she remained a widow for the rest of her life. They had no children. When she died 49 years later in 1970, her youngest brother Luke Hodges Smithson was her only immediate survivor. There is a biography and an obituary posted her findagrave memorial.
|Joe Cobb Smithson|
Joe Cobb Smithson, born in 1900, was seven years younger than his sister Annie. A carpenter, he was unmarried and living with his widowed sister Annie and younger brother Luke at the time of his death in 1954. They were making their home in the Caviness community in Lamar County. There is an obituary posted on his findagrave memorial.
|Luke Hodges Smithson|
Luke Hodges Smithson was born in 1903 and was three years younger than his brother Joe. He was the last surviving member of the immediate family. He seems to have never married. Luke died in 1991, and it seems reasonable to think that he owned the photograph that I have. It's hard to say where it went in 1991. Luke left his estate for the upkeep of Prairie Ridge Cemetery, so perhaps it was sold for that pupose? I'm guessing that it remained in a collection until I bought it a few months ago. In any event, there was no immediate descendant of this family to inherit it. There is an obituary posted on his findagrave memorial.
Luke would have been about five years old when his father died in 1908, and nine when his mother remarried in 1912. Joe would have been about eight when his father died, and twelve his mother remarried. Annie would have been about fifteen when her father died and nineteen when her mother remarried.
Based on the appearance of the people in the photograph I would guess that one year, but no more than two years, had passed between Phillip Hodges Smithson's death and the time the photograph was taken. That means that the widow Lula had not remarried yet. Is that why she is standing by herself to the right of the tombstone?
The question is who is the mystery man standing behind the children? Is he Robert P. Wilson? Was he courting Lula, but not married to her yet? Born in 1852, he was thirteen years older than Lula. Since everyone else in the photograph is related to Phillip Hodges Smithson, is this man also a relative? Lula had a brother, Thomas Cobb Williams, who was still living in this time period. He was fourteen years older than Lula. Could it be Thomas Cobb Williams? Phillip Hodges Smithson had a younger brother, Joseph Carroll Smithson, who died in Canadian County, Oklahoma in 1943. Born in 1861, he was four years older than Lula. Could he be Joseph Carroll Smithson?
Another question concerns the occasion of the photograph. Since a professional photographer was present, what was the event? A holiday? A cemetery working? Another look at the photograph reveals some more little details:
On the far left is the arm of a young boy, suggesting that other families are present. He is either waiting with his own family by a neighboring tombstone for, perhaps, their turn to have a picture taken. Or he is waiting for the Smithson boys. Phillip Hodges Smithson's grave is freshly mounded, so perhaps this was a cemetery working, which would have drawn many families to the cemetery on this occasion. Little Luke looks both hot and tired, so this was perhaps late in a long day. Joe seems to be holding his sister Annie's fan, suggesting that they have been fanning themselves while waiting for their picture to be taken. Joe, also, looks hot and tired. He has an expression that suggests he is ready to get this over with. Their mother Lula is also holding a fan. On the ground behind Annie is a wire basket and a woven basket. Did these hold their picnic lunch?
The women's hats could be used to more closely date the photograph. That will have to wait for another day of research.
It has been a few days more than 170 years since Phillip Hodges Smithson was born on 1 Sept. 1856. Happy Belated Birthday, Phillip.
This photograph will be added to their findagrave memorials and to FamilySearch.