KNOX - I really had not planned on looking for Grace McElhatten last week but when I did go looking for her, it got complicated, challenging and in the end, rewarding.

It started with an email from Bobbie Lorenz, who used to work here in the newsroom. She had a friend, Jean Shaffer, who had an old photo album she didn't know what to do with.

Jean wasn't sure of how she came to own the old album. And the photos inside included men and women, someone's families, sisters, brothers and even a family dog.

None of the people in the old photos were identified except for one. One photo had a name on the back. It said only, "Grace McIlhattan, Knox."

Jean thought maybe I knew some of Grace's family. I didn't, but I offered to place the album at the Knox Public Library's local history section.

Jean brought the album to the office and wished me well in the search for Grace.

Grace was a pretty young woman. The portrait photograph was made at a Clarion studio but I can't make out the name.

So, I went looking for Grace and maybe her family. I doubted she was still alive, but the photograph is in very good condition and maybe it isn't as old as I thought.

I "Goggled" Grace and ran her name through a subscription search engine that accesses old newspapers.

There she was a teacher at a school in the Knox area. It was in the monthly school reports from 1903 and 1904. Grace was the teacher of a small classroom with about a dozen students.

But the find led to problems. The newspaper had her name spelled McIlhattan one time and McElhatten the other time.

So, next I moved on to U.S. Census records from 1900. There Grace was again. In 1900, Grace was 17 years old. Her father's name was Joseph and the family lived in Beaver Township, just outside of Knox. Her mother's name was Loretta and Grace had several brothers and sisters.

Another subscription search engine got me to Grace's grave. Grace is buried in Chicora and those records noted she was named to a man named Richard Jacob Frederick.

Richard and Grace McElhatten had a son named Pearson. The cemetery records indicated Pearson died in 1954 at age 38. Richard died in 1957.

Grace died Aug. 16, 1958. Grace, her husband and their son are all buried in the Chicora cemetery.

Back to the newspaper search engine. Pearson's obituary said he died at the home of his parents. The obit listed no other siblings nor any other family for Pearson.

Grace's obituary said she died at the home of her sister, Mrs. C.A. Wentling, and in addition to Mrs. C.A. Wentling, she was also survived by another sister, Mrs. H.B. Beals, also of Knox.

One of the more frustrating things with old newspapers is the old-style of identifying women as "Mrs." so-and-so and omitting the woman's first name.

The only other information I could learn about Grace E. McElhatten Frederick was just a short note from a March 12, 1908, newspaper paragraph. It seems Grace had to give up her teaching career that spring 113 years ago due to health issues.

Among the other photos in the album is a reproduction of what might have been a tintype image. Under the photo on the album page is written "Grace."

Is it the same "Grace?" It looks like it could be.

Another photo shows a young woman and a young man. Could that be Grace and her husband?

There are about 20 other photos in the album, including a family portrait. Next to the family portrait is written "1899."

Grace had two brothers and two sisters, according to the 1900 census. One older brother (Forest) and sister (Ida) and one younger brother (Hugh) and sister (Holley). Is the family photo Grace's family?

Other photos in the album seem to match some of the people in the family portrait. I closed the album and decided I had gone as far as I could go.

I took the photo album to the Knox Public Library where it is now part of the "local history" collection.

Hopefully some member of Grace's extended family will be able to look at the album and maybe identify some of the people in the imagines.

If not, I feel a little sad that those folks and their stories are lost to history.

It also reminded me I need to identify some of the people in old photos I have of my own somebody might want to know someday.

I doubt Grace McElhatten Frederick would have ever thought she's be the subject of a newspaper feature some 138 years after she was born, but here she is. I enjoyed meeting her.

Tags