Monday, February 18, 2013

Whose home is this?

One of the photos I recently found in the Church History Library is labeled as the "Home of James Conder". It isn't the only photograph so labeled in the Church History Archives. Yes, there are two photographs that make that claim. But they are both wrong. I wasn't sure until I received a digital image of the one I had not seen yet. But now I am sure. The first one I had seen I knew was not of the Conder home because the photo was taken in 1967, and the Conder home was destroyed by fire in 1894 or 1895. The 1967 photo was actually of the home of Isaiah Thomas Garrett. Three of the four missionaries connected to the shooting stayed at the home of Tom Garrett the night before. So the home was connected with the shooting, but is was not the place of the shooting. Originally I thought this second photo would prove to be another image of the same house: Tom Garrett's. There was only one way to know. I had to see it. But living far and away in Tennessee, that meant paying to have the image digitized. Since there were three photos in the file, and because I wanted to be sure, I had to pay for all three to be scanned. So for $15, I was about to be surprised.

It took a couple of weeks, before the CHL did their magic. Honestly they were faster than they said they would be. I have no complaints. But when I opened the link with the images, I did not find the home I was expecting. No way was this the Garrett home, but I wasn't sure whose house it was. Could these really be photos of the Conder home?

I was skeptical. I had been told so many obviously false "facts" about the massacre that I have to doubt whatever I am told. Other than the label on the archive file, what was it that indicated this was actually the site of the massacre? Oddly enough, the original label on the back of the second photo was typed "Home of Martin Conder" and then crossed off and "James Conder" was written in hand above it. The first one did not have the typed label, just the hand written note. James had a father, a brother and a son named Martin. By 1884, all of them had passed away. Of course I can't know for sure, but I suspect the typed name came from a misunderstanding that the home was Martin Conder's because he died at the massacre.

The third photo is an image of James Conder and his wife Malinda Conder. Perhaps something about the other photos might help me with one I was really interested in. All three images have the photography studio name "Hatch & Hatch" stamped on the back. The image of the Conders has obviously been edited. The original was a photo published in 1890.  The original had the two girls in the background, but for this version they had been cropped out. Since it is unlikely the girls were added in 1890, I must conclude that the 1890 version was the source and not the other way around.

Based on the article in which the Conder photo was originally published, it was mailed to B. F. Cummings by the Conders. It was likely he had written the Conders and asked for their photo. But that raises another possibility. Did the Conders also send these photos of their home? If they had, wouldn't Cummings have published them in 1890? I know I would have.

It seemed like a dead end. Then I vaguely recalled that this photo looked like a hand drawn image used in another article on the massacre. Could this photo have been the source for that drawing? I opened my digital file collect to see if they were similar. They weren't. My memory is apparently getting bad. But in the process I came across another photo that was even more like it: the home of Robert Robbins Church. This photo came from a descendant of the Shelby family who bought home after R. R. Church's death. The people in this photo are the Shelbys.

Details from the second photo in the CHL file and a comparison on several points has led me to believe these are the same house. I focused on comparing the shape of the foundation stones, and the position of the windows since building materials and plans were often ordered and could be very similar.

It is sad. I so very much wanted the photo to be what it claimed. I want to know what the home looked like. But now the question is, Is it worth the time and effort to prove that the photo is mislabeled at the CHL? I think I could convince anyone who will listen to me that these are the same house, but proving they are the home of R. R. Church, and not the home of James Conder, is another task altogether.

No comments: