Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
When I saw the amusing photo from this week’s Sepia Saturday challenge, I immediately thought of my mystery children whose photo I have used several times.
|John Jr and his sister Bob with Cutey, the poodle|
and unknown woman
A beach in New York, probably 1921
I made myself promise not to use it again because I have nothing new to add to the story. So I won’t.
Instead I challenged myself to find an ancestor who was born, married or died on April 1st. There was only one: John F. Breeden, my first cousin three times removed. Born 1 April 1853, he was the third child of George and Lydia Jollett Breeden, my 2x great-grandfather’s older sister and brother-in-law.
Spending most of my research time on my direct line means that my research on collateral lines is slim, so I went in search of John Breeden’s great story. What did I find? I found the April Fool’s joke was on me. I had entered his wife into my database with John’s brother. But thanks to Sepia Saturday, I now have that fixed.
John’s story is rather unremarkable. He married Mary Susan Patterson on the 6th of January 1876 in Augusta County, Virginia. They had two children, Sarah Ann and John Dodge. Then at the ripe young age of 36, John died. The end.
However, John’s brother James Madison Breeden and one of James’s grandsons offer a bizarre, if not twisted, answer to the prompt photo of the “headless” and “body-less” boys.
Like many of his neighbors, James Madison Breeden worked for the Norfolk & Western Railroad in Shenandoah, Virginia. He worked his way up to the responsible position of Track Foreman. It was in doing his job that he fell, striking his head on the tracks. He died from the injury.
|Snipped from death certificate|
James Madison Breeden
|James Madison Breeden|
OBITUARY: James M. Breeden, aged about 60 years a highly respected citizen of Shenandoah died on Tuesday in the Roanoke Hospital from injuries received while at work at Shenandoah the day previous. Mr. Breeden had been an employee of the N. & W. R.R. for many years and on account of his advanced age he had been given light work around the shops and yards at Shenandoah. About 10 a.m., on Monday he started to cross the turn table and in doing so slipped and fell striking his head and fracturing his skull from which he never regained consciousness. The remains of the deceased arrived at Shenandoah on Tuesday night. Mr. Breeden was a consistent Christian and a member of the United Brethren church for many years. He is survived by a widow and three sons, J. Vernon Breeden, of Roanoke, and D.B. and J.W. Breeden, of Shenandoah. The funeral took place on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the United Brethren church. Interment which took place in the Cemetery at the church was in charge of the Odd Fellows and Red Men, of both of which orders the deceased was a member.
SOURCE: Page News & Courier, Friday 21 May 1915
The obituary did not mention that James Madison had four grandchildren (plus one on the way), all children of his oldest son Joel Vernon. This next story concerns only one of them: Maxwell Peary Breeden.
Maxwell was born to Joel Vernon and Zaida Maiden Breeden 30 November 1909. He grew up in Roanoke, Virginia. He worked as a clerk for a printing company and ten years later was advertising manager at a local department store, which probably put him in a strong financial position when he married Dorothy Ann Lewis in 1932. During World War II he served in the Air Force. Afterwards apparently he returned to the advertising business. At his death he was employed at Houck & Co., a major advertising firm in Roanoke. Whatever troubles Maxwell struggled with in 1968 are not revealed through online search, but a death certificate makes it clear that he was not a happy man.
Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
For cheerier stories of good times at the beach, please visit Sepia Saturday.
PS – Happy Birthday to cousin John Breeden who would have been 164 today.
© 2017, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.