In plodding through my Mother’s personal effects, I recently came across a 1921 family reunion photo involving several Vermilyea brothers and their relations.  It’s 99 years old!  One of the brothers in the photograph is John Knickerbocker Vermilyea (1851-1925).  He and his wife, Alice Jane Whitney (1855-1928) are my second great-grandparents (2GGs).

John is the second brother from the left sitting in the front row.  Alice is standing behind him just over his left shoulder.  For me, it is a new image of both.  John was 70 and Alice 66 at the time.

What a great shot of the four Vermilyea brothers seated in the front row!  This family had a very distinctive look, I think.  Handsome men all.  They are L-to-R:

  • Jesse Charles Vermilyea (1863-1930)
  • John Knickerbocker Vermilyea (1851-1925)
  • James Irving Vermilya (1849-1938)
  • Abram Augustus Vermilya (1846-1926)

Standing immediately behind the three brothers on the left are their wives, recorded here with their maiden names:

  • Grace Elaine Huntoon, Jesse’s wife
  • Alice Jane Whitney, John’s wife
  • Mary Ann Hinton, James’s wife

Abram’s wife, Mary Tabitha Benner, died in 1911; he did not remarry.

The photograph was taken in Lansing, Mower, Minnesota.  It’s an original photograph, fairly small, measuring only 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.  A note on the back reads:

Taken by Mildred Sept. 11, 1921

at Pollocks, Lansing

V. Bros., wives, and married cousins.

Mildred refers to Mildred Elaine Vermilyea (1899-1996), a daughter of Jesse C. Vermilyea.1)Susan K. Quella & Beverly Bonn Jonnes, “Genealogical Information for Those Who are Descended from Avery Vermilya (1820-1904),” June 2002, unpublished manuscript, p. 57; ring binder copy privately held by Steven Nelson Jonnes, 2020.

Just as an aside, Mildred later married a man named Leonard Peterson and, in a remarkable coincidence, moved to Montevideo, Minnesota.  Leonard and Mildred’s first child, David Vermilyea Peterson, was born the same year as my Mother, Beverly Jean Bonn (1932), and grew up with her.  Beverly and David were first cousins, once removed.  I actually met David at my Mom’s 60th high school reunion in 2010.  He sang a very moving a capella version of some Irish ballad about friends parting that I’ve never forgotten.  It brought everyone to tears.  He had an amazing voice.

Pollock refers to John A. Pollock who owned a farm in the Lansing, Mower, Minnesota area.  John’s wife was Ida Belle Vermilya (1881-1965), a daughter of Joseph Mahlon Vermilya (1854-1936).  I believe Ida Belle could be the lady standing way in the back, 3rd person from the right.2)My identification of individuals in this photograph are based upon:  1) other photos I possess of the same collateral ancestors; 2) notes attached to photographs in the family trees of Vermilyea/Vermilya cousins on Ancestry.com.  Any Vermilyea descendant who can help with identification is welcome to email me.

I’m not sure who the other folks in the photograph are.  I don’t see my great-grandfather David Mead Vermilyea (1882-1950) or any other children of John K. Vermilyea.  The couple to the right might be Dr. George Schottler and his wife Kate Vermilya, one of Abram’s daughters, but that’s pretty tentative.

Two other brothers must not have been able to make it to the reunion.  Joseph Mahlon Vermilya (1854-1936) lived in Bay City, Oregon and Orville Avery Vermilyea (1861-1933) lived in Vader, Washington.  A seventh brother, Samuel, died the year before.  The eighth and ninth brothers, David and Reuben, died in 1887 and 1905, respectively.  There were also two sisters, Josephine and Lilly.

Avery and Fanny (Mead) Vermilyea, guessing 1890 (Author’s collection)

The parents of all these siblings were Avery Vermilya (1820-1904) and Fanny Mead (1821-1897), my 3GGs.  They raised 11 children who lived to adulthood.  There are thousands of descendants of this couple alive today.  That might explain why I have well over 200 Vermilyea-Mead DNA matches in AncestryDNA!

Our newly discovered 1921 photograph was taken only four years before the tragic automobile death of  John K. Vermilyea near Rochester, Minnesota.  His brother, James I. Vermilya, a former Minnesota state senator, was the one driving the car.  I told this story in a previous post here.

We now possess three images of John & Alice.  The other two are from family portraits taken circa 1897 and 1907.  You can compare them to the new photograph.

Here’s the 1897 image.  Based on the ages of the children, I am calculating the portrait was taken about 1897, although I think anywhere between 1895 and 1899 is possible.

John K. Vermilyea Family circa 1897 (Author’s collection)

In 1897, John would have been 46 and Alice 42 years old.  Their 5 children are L-to-R:

  • Fanny Margaret (1888-1963), age 9
  • David Mead (1882-1950), age 15
  • Emma Alice (1884-1903), age 13
  • Avery James (1877-1951), age 20
  • Earl John (1878-1950), age 19

Here’s the 1907 image.  Again, I’ve calculated the dating based on the presumed ages of those in the portrait, especially the two little children, Eva and Earl Jr., born 1905 and 1906.

John K. Vermilyea Family circa 1907 (Author’s collection)

In the front row are L-to-R:

  • Emma Vermilyea (1886-1908), daughter of John & Alice
  • John K. Vermilyea, father
  • Alice (Whitney) Vermilyea, mother
  • Eva (Arnott) Vermilyea, wife of Earl
  • Little Eva Vermilyea (1905-1968), daughter of Earl & Eva, in mother’s lap

In the back row are L-to-R:

  • Margaret (Vermilyea) Mount, daughter of John & Alice
  • Avery Vermilyea, son of John & Alice
  • Clara (Wylie) Vermilyea, wife of Avery
  • David Mead Vermilyea, son of John & Alice
  • Mabel Alicia King, fiancé or wife of David
  • Earl Jr. (1906-1982), son of Earl & Eva, in father’s arms
  • Earl Vermilyea, son of John & Alice

The more I look at this portrait, the more I’m convinced it has to be 1907.  I strongly suspect it was taken at the time of David Mead Vermilyea’s marriage to Mabel Alicia King in Grand Rapids, Itasca, Minnesota, when family members would have gathered.  The wedding occurred on 2 July 1907.  Mabel’s presence in the photograph increases that possibility.  (David and Mabel are my great-grandparents.)

David’s sister Margaret, back row left, also married in 1907.  But that happened earlier in the year, on 21 January 1907, to William Mount in Ft. Scott, Kansas.  If the photograph was taken at the time of her wedding, you would expect William Mount to be in the photo, not Mabel.  If the photograph was taken in July, Margaret could have traveled to Minnesota for the wedding without her husband.  Furthermore, Margaret’s first child, Madge, was born 9 November 1907, so she would have been 5 months pregnant in July.  From her appearance in the photo, that seems plausible.

Emma A. Vermilyea Gravestone (Source: Findagrave.com)

David’s sister, Emma, front row left, died tragically the following year on 24 October 1908 at age 24.  She was in nursing school in Chicago and would have graduated in a few months.  Maybe I will find more information about the cause as I go through my Mom’s stuff, but there is a note in the family tree that she died of an emergency appendectomy.  She was buried in Elmdale Cemetery, Osawatomie, Miami, Kansas, where her parents, John & Alice Vermilyea, were then living.

References   [ + ]

1. Susan K. Quella & Beverly Bonn Jonnes, “Genealogical Information for Those Who are Descended from Avery Vermilya (1820-1904),” June 2002, unpublished manuscript, p. 57; ring binder copy privately held by Steven Nelson Jonnes, 2020.
2. My identification of individuals in this photograph are based upon:  1) other photos I possess of the same collateral ancestors; 2) notes attached to photographs in the family trees of Vermilyea/Vermilya cousins on Ancestry.com.  Any Vermilyea descendant who can help with identification is welcome to email me.