Friday, May 12, 2017

Sepia Saturday: You Say Tomato - I Say McDonald

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows a number of people focusing their attention on one dapper gentleman with hat and cane in hand. His expression is seemingly one of annoyance. But isn’t he well-dressed? Among my old photos is one of my maternal grandfather’s cousin Lee McDonald dressed similarly in light pants and dark sport coat.

Lee McDaniel or McDonald 1891-1973
Lee Roy McDaniel or McDonald
15 Nov 1871 Virginia - 30 Jan 1973 Indiana

The timing of the prompt photo inspired me to go ahead and update Lee’s line in the “Genealogy Do-Over” way, complete with proper citations and all that. Unfortunately, this Do-Over is Not-Done, thanks to absence in census records, conflicting records, and confusing names. In the state of Virginia, the family was known as McDaniel. Lee’s parents were Grattan McDaniel and Melvina Davis, sister of my great-grandfather Walter Davis. In both 1880 and 1900, they were McDaniel. But in 1920 Indiana, they were the McDonalds. Why, I don’t know. And why Indiana, I don’t know. But all the living children had relocated to Indiana as early as 1907, judging by a marriage record for Lee’s brother Thomas.

As adults, three of the McDaniel brothers – er, uh McDonald brothers – were professional painters: Lee, Grover, and Bernard. Lee was employed at the Polk Sanitary Milk Company. (Sanitary? Isn't all milk "sanitary"? I didn't know a company needed to make a point of saying it.)

Polk Sanitary Milk Company
The Polk Sanitary Milk Company 1925
courtesy Indiana Historical Society
I don’t know how a milk company kept a full-time painter busy unless they needed those oversized milk bottles kept clean with fresh paint. The company was a large enterprise, frequently expanding, so there’s that too. 

Lee retired from Polk’s in 1956, right about the time the company fell on hard times and closed. No use in crying over  - well, you know. 
(posted on Findagrave)

To see how others were inspired by hats and canes and well-dressed folk, please visit Sepia Saturday

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Hi Wendy, interesting post, enjoyed reading about The Polk Sanitary Milk Company.

  2. Don't you love when obituaries contain extra information?

  3. The photo of Lee is a good match to the prompt picture! His brother, Grover's name caught my eye. I'd not heard nor seen the name before or after my grandmother dated a man named Grover for a while. In fact at one point, they were engaged to be married but something happened (?), and they never did get married. Probably just as well. It would have made an odd connection with an ex-boyfriend of mine. But that's another story. :)

  4. Great Match! I imagine that the slogan of the Sanitary Milk Co. was something like, "Never Any Arsenic in Our Milk!"

  5. I remember a milk bottle factory near where I used to work and they had a "Decoration Department" because individual farmers would want decorated milk bottles. Perhaps that is what Lee worked in the Decoration Department. And isn't that a fabulous illustration of the milk factory!

  6. As I understand it, "Sanitary" was a term used in the dairy industry to cover a whole array of disinfection to keep milk safe during milk distribution. Ah...some might say, "the good old days" before pasteurization was accepted everywhere as a logical tool in food production. Now, I have a negative reaction to the word "sanitary"...reminds me of hospitals. Oh the paths SS leads us down! Lee is one handsome dude.

  7. That’s a good match to the prompt! Isn’t it great when a Sepia Saturday prompt sets us off on another channel of discovery?

  8. Great to hear about another family search that has twists and turns...and it sure makes me curious why they changed their name!

  9. Have you been able to find any name changing records? My husband's family changed their name in about 1952 but, thankfully, my husband was born after that so never had an official name change recorded. Nice post!

  10. You honestly have some of the best pictures. I have an ancestor who changed his name. I've never determined why exactly, but researching his siblings, my guess has been he didn't want to be associated with them, but I'm not sure. Interesting about the Sanitary Milk Company. I guess that is something I take for granted.