Saturday, January 15, 2011

Great-Grandfather Edward Jesse Bickerstaff

This is my great-grandfather, Edward Jesse Bickerstaff. He was born in April, 1871. There's no date on this photograph but if it were taken about 1920, he would have been nearly 50 years old. It could have been taken later.

Edward was a carpenter and built the home in which his family lived on Morris Street in Mineral Ridge. It still stands today. He's facing the house, which is why we can't see it. What a lot of work it was to have been a carpenter in the early years of the 20th century: no easy transportation of lumber; no electric cement mixers to pour basement floors; no electric tools to cut lumber or drill holes; no easy anything! No wonder he's so thin!

My mother remembered her grandfather as stern but I think he looks very kindly in this photograph. (Click on the photo to move it to a window by itself, then click again to enlarge it to see detail. To return to this post, click the back arrow in your browser.)

It's interesting how the little boy is bundled up. I think E. J. didn't need an extra outer layer because he seems to be wearing long johns. You can just see the layer under his left cuff. I like my great-grandfather's hat: it looks just battered up enough to be comfortable. I wonder if his striped shirt was handmade. There's no way to tell that I can see. I'm surprised it has an attached collar, though I probably shouldn't be. I suppose detached collars were worn only on dress shirts. I also noticed that he's wearing suspenders (are they also called braces?). But I can't quite make out what he has in his back pocket.

Notice that the little boy's wearing shoes with the straps going upward past the ankle. I've seen other photographs with children wearing similar shoes. I'm convinced they were mothers' helpers in keeping shoes on children's feet.

As I was looking at photographs of E. J. tonight I realized that I have perhaps half a dozen snapshots. Unfortunately all but this one are at least a little blurry. I am very grateful to be able to scan and easily enlarge photos. There are so many details I would miss if looking at a regular size photograph.

I've written some other posts about Edward Jesse and his family. A few of them are E. J., the Coffee, and His Moustache, The Family of Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff, and Twice a Veteran.

This is a Sepia Saturday post. Click on the link and enjoy other old photographs.


  1. There is always something interesting about seeing pictures from the past, and learning about who they were and what they were thinking.....thanks...what a darling little one so happy to just be held!

  2. I think Edward looks kindly too, Nancy - the way he is holding the little boy so close yet upright for the photo :-) Jo

  3. What keen observations! You really can learn so much from a picture.

  4. Yes it is a wonderful photograph - especially when treated to your usual skills of image analysis. You are right about being able to enlarge the photographs : when I clicked on the image it was almost as if Edward's face suddenly filled with humanity and, as you say, kindness.

  5. It's sweet how his work-hardened hands so gently hold the child. How wonderful to have these visual memories of your family -- I feel honored to have gotten to take a peak.

  6. What a great old photo,

  7. It's Monday and I'm just getting around to reading Sepia Saturday posts. What a coincidence that we both wrote about our grandfather's hand built homes. I hadn't stopped to think how much harder it must have been in those days, as you did.
    Here's another slight coincidence..
    my great grandfather on the other side of the family is named Jesse Edwin.

  8. This is a wonderful photo to have and I enjoyed enlarging it so I view it more clearly. I loved reading your thoughts and words about this photo and about your great grandfather. I have always enjoyed family history so enjoy viewing the history of other's families.
    Thanks for visitng my SS post.

  9. It is a wonderful shot of your great grandpa. I think people had to build their own homes because they could use their own labor, and they probably could not have afforded doing it any other way. Photo shop sometime can help clear up pictures a little but I have a lot of hopeless blurry pictures also.

  10. i think it was very much the mentality of men in those days to appear stern. my grandpa was such... but i know he liked me nonetheless, in his own fashion.


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