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Photos Spark More than Memories; They Reveal History

Digging through those old photos several weeks ago not only revived memories (see my previous post) but also unearthed some real finds, pictures that I had long forgotten ever having.


Among my finds were several copies of old photos that I had obtained from a cousin, Owen Peterson, at a family reunion several years ago.

One of them was a colorized photo of my great-great grandfather Joshua and his wife Martha Elizabeth Warrick Peterson. The only other picture I had seen of him was the one that appeared with his obituary. He was shown standing in what looked like a small orchard.




Apparently, before Joshua had married in 1866, he had served as a soldier in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, also known as the 41st Regiment, North Carlina Troops (CSA) during the War Between the States. A photo of his tombstone shows it decorated with a Confederate flag.






According to the 1870 North Carolina agricultural census, Joshua owned 60 acres of land, 15 of which were "improved" with the rest being woodlands. The value of the land was $200. Farm implements and machinery added another $10 to his net worth.


He also had a horse, two "milch cows," eleven sheep, and six swine valued at $160. In that year, he had produced 18 bushels of wheat, 75 bushels of Indian corn, 15 pounds of tobacco, 5 pounds of wool, 2 bushels of beans and peas, 5 bushels of Irish potatoes, 40 pounds of butter, and 10 pounds of flax. "House manufactures" added $10 to his income and the slaughter and sale of animals another $25.

Then there was the photo of my great grandfather James. I never knew James because he died before I was born. I rarely heard anyone mention him. Not sure why. He married Julia Griffith, and they had six children, including my grandfather Blaine. James survived Julia, who died in 1914, by many years. He died in 1941.


In the earliest photo I've seen of my grandfather, Blaine, he is in a group shot outside a clapboard school or church. He is in the middle of the front row, taller than the other boys in the row. He and most of the other boys are wearing overalls and brogans, indicative of their farming activities. I don't know where the photo was taken.

Pappaw (as I called my grandfather) had a younger brother named Henry. He, too, is in that group photo, near the right end of the same row. That's also the earliest photo I'd ever seen of him. I fondly recall helping both of these relatives put up hay and chase errant cows.


I remember Pappaw as being a Chevy man. He had a blue-and-white, 1953 or 1954 Chevrolet BelAir, which he kept immaculately clean. He also had a darker blue 1950 or 1951 Chevy pickup truck. I remember helping him slide milk cans into the bed of that truck to take to the Avondale Farms milk plant a couple of miles away in Halls.


Uncle Henry, on the other hand, was a Ford man. I never recall his having a car, though he might have had one. But I do remember his red, early Fifties F-150 pickup. He worked for many years at the C.B. Atkins Furniture Company in Knoxville and farmed on the side.


I'm sure that if you dig through some of your own old photos, you, too, will find yourself remembering, maybe even asking questions about your own ancestors!

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