Friday, November 29, 2013

Early 20th Century Hunter Sisters Stories

At Thanksgiving I was able to discuss the photograph of the four Hunter sisters with my mother and she corrected the previous thinking about who was in the photograph AND the date of the photograph AND the location of the photograph. I was able to show her the image on my iPhone and zoom into the picture to see each face closely. Looking at a closeup of the oldest girl at the left, she assured me that this was Caroline. She also told me that the photograph was taken about 1914 in California.

I also realized that I should have recognized my grandmother. Looking closely at the photo of the five sisters that I shared in July 2011 (also below) one can compare photos and tell which sister is which in the later photo.

Mary (8), (in back) Helen (4), (in front) Margaret (6), Marion (12), Caroline (11)
(ages estimated based on dating photo to late 1911)

The photograph also prompted a couple of stories about her mother and her older sisters.

Marion, the oldest of the five Hunter sisters, died in late 1913 of pneumonia. It was the fourth time she had suffered from it.

After Marion died, Marguerite (her mother) was absolutely devastated. Percy (her father) decided the only way to help her cope was to divert her, so he took a job opportunity in Oakland, California, and the family moved and lived in California for a couple of years. My grandmother, Helen was not quite 7 years old when her sister died. She admired a girl down the street (a couple of years older) while living in California and named her oldest daughter after this girl.

This photo was taken soon after the Hunters moved there.

June 12, 2015 Update: Additional information from my aunt has changed the timeline of this story and these pictures. See Early 20th Century Hunter Sisters - Update for the updated information.

Caroline (13-14), Margaret (9), Helen (7), Mary (10-11)
(ages estimated based on dating photo to early 1914)

You will notice in this picture that Caroline, Margaret and Mary hold dolls. My grandmother, Helen, when she received a doll as a gift, would announce that the dolly was sick and that she had to be put to bed, so her doll was not in this picture because she was recovering from some illness. I wonder if this was how Helen remembered Marion, ill in bed.

The death of the girls' oldest sister had an effect on all of them for decades. A story shared by my second cousin, a granddaughter of Caroline, above, follows:
I do remember my Grandma Caroline never being able to view a dead person. According to the practice of the day, she was forced to look at her sister Marion and kiss her goodbye when Grandma was 12 and could only remember Marion in her casket after that. She could not view her Father at his death [Percy died in 1937], but had dreams about him for years afterward. She would step off the elevator at the top floor of the Horne's store (I think, but it may have been Gimble's) and see him walking down the hallway toward the restaurant that was on that floor. She would run after him calling his name, getting a bit closer with each dream, but never catching up to him. Until one night when she got very close and great grandfather turned around and said, "Caroline, you have got to stop following me." She never had the dream again.
And another story from my mother:
Grandmother [Marguerite] could not talk about Marion for years after her death. Twenty-two years later, when my mother was born, Percy and Marguerite came to the hospital to see their youngest daughter's first child. Percy picked her up and touched her skin and said to Marguerite, “Her skin is so soft, it feels like yours and like Marion’s” and after that, they could speak of her. They hadn’t spoken of her AT ALL before that.
Thank you to my mother and to my second cousin for sharing your stories!


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing these stories. I feel so close to them and I learned a story behind the photo. Wow. It's amazing what one photo can do to open up a lot of memories.

    1. Again Devon, thanks for commenting. Yes, show your older relatives an old photo and see what memories come back to them! Gets my mother talking every time.