never you never

Person standing on a point at the shore. They appear as a silhouette. A beam of light appears behind them on the water.
Silhouette. Sonia Nicholson photo.

Visual poems are a challenge to publish online because it’s hard to maintain spacing. I’m sharing this one as an image, but the text is included below it, as well as in in the alt-text. Tip: try it in reverse order! As always, thanks for reading the words I put out into the universe. –Sonia

never you never between bricks and mortar 
show yourself
true
self
say
truth?
Yes-Man yes to everyone knocking hands elbows out
in demand 
business
stocks the best now

everyone wants a piece of 
time
the words the right words yeswhenofcourseillbethere 
give them your minutes and 
the whole
damn clock

keep up, now,
can you standup sleeping, love,
be the star burn -ing out inside the walls
with the rest
always never always

full stop.

beyond, remember,
another version one cresting over buildings brick and mortar 
unbuilt you outside open
beautiful 
inside-out
mess
of constellations
missing one piece 

for now

show yourself 
never

say 
you

never say

Text (without spacing):

never you never between bricks and mortar show yourself
true
self
say
truth?
Yes-Man yes to everyone knocking hands elbows out
in demand business
stocks the best now

everyone wants a piece of
time
the words the right words
yeswhenofcourseillbethere
give them your minutes and
the whole
damn clock

keep up, now,
can you standup sleeping, love,
be the star burn -ing out inside the walls

with the rest
always never always

full stop.

beyond, remember,
another version one cresting over
buildings brick and mortar
unbuilt you outside open
beautiful
inside-out
mess
of constellations
missing one piece

for now

show yourself
never

say
you

never say

Provenance Unknown – Available for Pre-Order!

Exciting news! (At least to me. Not only exciting, but a little terrifying too…)

Cover for Provenance Unknown. Image courtesy of Sands Press.

My debut novel, Provenance Unknown, is up on Goodreads and WorldCat, and available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble and Amazon (just in time for Prime Day). I’m assuming it will be coming soon to Coles/Chapters/Indigo as well — I’ll let you know when I know! And for any other book retailers, bulk orders are available directly through Sands Press.

The links to the above are also on my Linktree, which I’ve added to my Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as my author Facebook page. Please spread the word! I’d really appreciate it.

Screenshot of listing for Provenance Unknown on Amazon.

So, when can you expect your copy? The release date is March 28, 2023. If you’re in the Victoria (British Columbia) area, the book launch will be held at the Indigo store at Mayfair Shopping Centre — details to be announced!

Screenshot of Sonia Nicholson’s Linktree.

In the meantime, I’m nearly halfway through writing my second book. You can learn a little bit about A Year of Summer on the “Books” page of my website.

As always, thanks for your support. Happy Summer!

Edit: And Indigo, Chapters and Coles have joined the party! Provenance Unknown is also available for pre-order on their online store.

If you’re in the Victoria area, watch for a book launch event next Spring. 🎉

Screenshot for Provenance Unknown on Indigo.

some things maybe

Another publication announcement!

Cover of Pinhole Poetry’s Volume 1, Issue 2 cover, July 2022.
Courtesy of Pinhole Poetry.

The pieces in Pinhole Poetry’s Issue 2 are beautiful and poignant. I’m not sure how my little poem “some things maybe” got lucky enough to be included, but I’m grateful! It’s in excellent company. ☺️

Pinhole Poetry is a “digital poetry journal that loves the upside-down view and the fact that some art can only happen in the dark.” They “aim to be the pinprick of light for your work”, and publish poems and lensless photography on a quarterly schedule in April, July, October and January.

Banner from the Pinhole Poetry website.
Courtesy of Pinhole Poetry.

They will be featuring the various contributors to this issue on their Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout the month of July; contributors had the option of responding to questions, and some of these answers will be shared online. I did submit, so watch for those soon.

List of pieces and contributors, Pinhole Poetry Volume 1, Issue 2. C
ourtesy of Pinhole Poetry.

“some things maybe” is special to me, so I’m thrilled that it found the perfect home. The event that inspired it took place many years ago in Paris; I’ve been waiting for just the right time to write about it ever since!

Check out Pinhole Poetry online — they would appreciate the support.

Fifteen Minutes to Cavendish

Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, 4 June 2014. (Author photo)

I’m happy to share that Literary Heist has published my short story, “Fifteen Minutes to Cavendish”, in their Summer 2022 edition!

Screenshot from the Literary Heist home page,
showing content from the Summer 2022 edition.

The introductory blurb describes the premise as, “A relationship viewed through a discussion on real estate. We get so caught up in ‘What-Ifs,’ we lose sight of what’s right in front of us.”

Screenshot from Literary Heist of the
“Fifteen Minutes to Cavendish” short story.

Literary Heist is an Ottawa-based online literary and arts magazine that also publishes a yearly compilation into an electronic book. It is published by Ryan D Brinkhurst, a writer, web developer, and publisher. It relies heavily on submissions from “great writers and artists around the world to make it complete”; and “gives a voice to transformative writers.”

The Literary Heist Summer 2022 edition includes art, articles, short stories, and poetry. It’s wonderful to have my work included with all of this fabulous content. Have a read!

Memories of Paris by Seasons

How the City of Light is City of Life

Part of Inspirelle newsletter, 9 June 2022

Out today! My essay on Paris, in Paris-based magazine Inspirelle.

A Canadian author writes about her love affair with Paris through the years as a teenager, young adult and now married woman and mother.

Inspirelle inspires, connects and empowers international women in France through engaging and authoritative lifestyle content and community events.

My essay. About Paris. In a Paris-based magazine…

16-year-old me is freaking out right now!

Check it out here.

As the famous quote goes, ‘Paris is always a good idea.’

Screen shot of Sonia’s essay on the Inspirelle website.

And watch for a poem of mine in Issue 2 of Pinhole Poetry, coming July 8!

Pinhole Poetry is a digital poetry journal that loves the upside-down view and the fact that some art can only happen in the dark. We aim to be the pinprick of light for your work.

I’m excited to be included in this new digital poetry journal. I’ll share the link once the issue has been published!

Pinhole Poetry Issue 2 announcement / contributors list.
(Image courtesy of Pinhole Poetry)

With Best Wishes

Floral postcard “With Best Wishes”. (Author’s Collection)
Verso of postcard. (Author’s Collection)

Mrs. Gerig
Beiber
Cal

April 28, 1911

Dear Grandma, I am going to send you a card to tell about my big boy. he was born the 25 of april and he weighed 10 pounds. we haven’t named him yet. Yours Truly,

Mrs. Rohena Conklin

I feared not being able to find any information on the recipient of this postcard — the last card in the series initially gifted to me ten years ago. A last name (and a married one, at that), a town, and state. A quick search revealed that there was no shortage of Gerig’s in Beiber, California. It wasn’t a lot to go on. But there was a silver lining: for the first time, I could tell the story of the sender.

Rohena Lee (Leona) Harris was born on May 2, 1888 or 1889 in Oregon to Jacob and Nancy Harris, (both from Missouri). The United States Census of 1900 shows Rohena, age 12, living with her parents, two brothers, and two sisters (she was the second youngest) in Adin & Lookout Townships, Modoc, California. If you examine the postcard closely, you can just make out that it was postmarked in Adin 11 years later. Her father owned his farm and older brother James helped to work it; the other children were still in school.

“United States Census, 1900”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M9PR-3ZJ : 23 January 2022), Rohena Harris in entry for Jacob A Harris, 1900.
Adin, California, ca. 1907. Northeastern California Historical Photograph Collection, Meriam Library, California State University, Chico. Identifier: sc14113. http://archives.csuchico.edu/digital/collection/coll11/id/23175

Five years after the Census, on September 30, 1905, Rohena married Robert Roscoe Conklin in Alturas, Modoc, California. She was 17 years old. Together they had several children: Charles Roscoe (1906), Mina Emma (1907), Marshall Edward (1908), Joseph Geno (April 25, 1910 — the year on the postcard is 1911, but the birthday matches), Leonard Jacob (1914), Betty Ellen (1916), and Robert Clarence (1925).

Adin Township, Modoc was home to the Conklin family in 1910. Robert was a general farm worker at the time and Rohena looked after the home and cared for Charlie, Mina, and Marshall. Geno had not yet arrived when this Census was taken.

In 1920, Robert and Rohena were living at 22 Grant Avenue, “Precinct 11”, Napa, California with Mina (12) and Geno (8). None of the family members’ estimated birth years on the U.S. Census index seem to match with those on other sources. Robert’s occupation is difficult to read, but appears to be laborer at a tannery.

Robert Conklin’s occupation. “United States Census, 1920”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH7G-Q3Y : 31 January 2021), Rohena Conklin in entry for Robert Conklin, 1920.

Rohena’s youngest child, Robert, was born on February 6, 1925; on November 2 of that year, she died in Napa, California at the age of 37. She is buried at Tulocay Cemetery.

Grave marker for Rohena Lee Conklin. Source: findagrave.com.

In the end, I did not find a connection between Rohena Conklin and a Mrs. Gerig. Then there’s the matter of the discrepancy in birth year for Rohena’s son, Joseph Geno. There’s a chance that I don’t have the correct woman at all, of course — and if that’s the case, please correct me.

There are photos of Rohena and members of her family on the FamilySearch website; these are not included here because I did not secure permission to do so.

Despite the many questions remaining, and the confusing information in this particular search, I’m glad to be able to share part of Rohena’s story. Maybe one day I’ll learn the rest.

Are you a descendant of Rohena Harris Conklin? Do you know who Mrs. Gerig might be? If you have any information or photos — or even corrections — to share, I would love to hear from you. Please reach out via my Contact page.

Easter Greetings

Front of postcard, “Easter Greetings”. (Author’s Collection)

Postmarked April 18, 1908, Masonville, New Jersey

Maggie R.[V.?] Evans
Birmingham
New Jersey

Our Dear Niece Margaret.
Many Many thanks for the beautiful Easter card rec’d this eve very kind of [them] to remember us, trusting you are all well & with love to all [from all]. Aff’tly [i.e., Affectionately] Uncle + Aunt John [Mc?] R.E. [U, V, N, or H?] [Holyoak?]
Rancocas
4/18/1908

Back of postcard.

Postcard #5 in this series has been the most difficult to track so far. As you can see from the above, transcription was difficult, (assistance would be most welcome!)

After nearly giving up, I think I found the correct Margaret Evans. Key word: think. So, with that caveat…

Margaret R. Haines was born on April 3, 1865 to Benjamin D. Haines and Elizabeth Hilyard. In 1880, she lived with her parents, sisters Rachie [i.e., Rachael] and Anna, and brother James in Rancocas, Westampton Township, Burlington, New Jersey. The census shows 13-year old Margaret (Maggie)’s birth year as 1867 rather than the 1865 on her headstone.

“United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNZL-2DC : 30 December 2021), Benjamin D. Haines, Westampton Township, Burlington, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district , sheet , NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm .

Her parents were Quakers; they had married at the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1864.

According to the Township of Hainesport, New Jersey — about 7 miles from Birmingham, the postcard’s destination — the Haines family has a long history in the area:

One family of particular interest was that of Richard and Margaret Haines who set sail from Northamptonshire, England in 1682. The land grant for which the Haines family emigrated covered approximately 1700 acres, including a portion of the present Mount Laurel Township. Their son, Joseph Haines, who was born in mid-ocean, purchased a tract of land beyond Lumberton covering several hundred acres, including the Village of Long Bridge which was the original name of Hainesport. The village was named after the long wooden toll bridge crossing the south branch of the Ancocas (Rancocas) Creek on the only road leading from Moorestown to Mt. Holly, known as the Philadelphia Road. The Haines family were Quakers, as were most of the original settlers to this area.

Township of Hainesport website, “History” page, accessed 10 Feb 2022.

On March 15, 1887 Maggie married John B. Evans in Rancocas — the same place named at the end of the postcard.

The 1910 Census lists John E. Evans, 45; wife Margaret R. Evans, 44; and their 17-year-old son Maurice as living on Birmingham Road (near Birmingham), Vincentown, Southampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey. Despite the difficult handwriting on the postcard, it was definitely addressed to a Maggie — referred to in the letter as Margaret — R. Evans of Birmingham, New Jersey. John and Margaret, both born in the state, were general farm workers.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MKTW-98L : accessed 2 January 2022), Margaret R Evans in household of John E Evans, Southampton, Burlington, New Jersey, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 79, sheet 13A, family 310, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 872; FHL microfilm 1,374,885.

Four years later, on December 9, 1914, John passed away at age 50. He is buried at Woodlane Graveyard, Mount Holly, Burlington, New Jersey. John’s middle initial on the headstone is B.; the E. on the 1910 Census was likely an error.

Grave of John B. Evans. Source: findagrave.com

Margaret died on June 1, 1939 and is buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

Grave of Margaret R. Haines Evans. Source: findagrave.com

Are you a descendant of the Haines/Evans families? Do you have information or photos to share? I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out using the “Contact” page.

Dream. Come. True.

It’s official — I’ve signed a publishing contract for my debut novel! Watch for Provenance Unknown in Fall 2023 wherever fine books are sold. I’m so excited to be joining the Sands Press family of authors.

And, since archives play a major role in the story, what better place to sign than in one! (Except for maybe Paris, of course. 🇫🇷 )

Sonia sitting at a small desk in front of shelving filled with grey archival document boxes. She is signing a document. There is an old ledger opened on the desk as well.
Signing on the dotted line! (Photo by C.R.)

Published Poem!

Branches silhouetted against a morning sky, February 2022.
(Sonia Nicholson photo.)

The Winter 2022 edition of the Van Isle Poetry Collective publication is out and it includes my poem, “Trees of Remembrance”. You can enjoy the magazine for free online or purchase it in print on their website. (Purchases support the publication.)

Screen shot, Van Isle Poetry Collective website showing Winter 2022 edition.

The cover also features beautiful photography and art by Vancouver Island artists.

It feels good to get a “yes” in the writing world, so I wanted to share the happy news. Thank you as always for reading, and for your support.

Greetings

Front of postcard, which reads “Greetings”. (Author’s collection)

Mr. Leon Homer
North Java
New York.

Nov. 1. 1912.

Hello Leon:-

I am still alive You see. I heard you looked about all in Isn’t this a lovely day? I thought I would send this to surprise you. Will look for you this eve if not to [sic] stormy. I am having a splendid time. We may come over town tomorrow. Bye Bye. You know who from.

Back of postcard. (Author’s collection)

Leon Elmer Homer was born on April 7, 1893 in Batavia or Alexandria, New York (depending on the source) to Elmer Homer and Eva Hyde. His parents were both born in the Java area.

By 1900, the Homer family was living in Alexander Township, Genesee, New York. The census lists 7-year old Leon with his parents; older sister Nellie, 12; and younger brother Howard, 4.

Census information for the Homer family, 1900.
Source: “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSXY-XNC : accessed 31 December 2021), Leon Homer in household of Elmer G Homer, Alexander Township Alexander village, Genesee, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 2, sheet 10A, family 243, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,037.

At age 17, Leon was a hired hand in Wethersfield, residing with William and Dora Harris and their newborn son. The year was 1910. Like his father, Leon worked as a farmer early on.

After he had gone off on his own, Leon still made visits home. The July 11, 1912 edition of the Wyoming County Herald reported:

Leon Homer of Attica spent Sunday with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Homer.

The Wyoming County Herald, 11 July 1912, Page 11.
The Wyoming County Herald, July 11, 1912, Page 11.
Image provided by the Java Historical Society.

And on July 26, 1912, in the social section for North Wethersfield:

Mr. Leon Homer of Attica was in town Wednesday evening.

The Wyoming County Herald, 26 July 1912, page 7.
The Wyoming County Herald, July 26, 1912, Page 7.
Image provided by the Java Historical Society.

On June 25, 1915, he married Marjory Jennie Fancher; they had one child, Darwin Walter Homer, in August that same year. Sadly, Marjory died about two weeks after the birth of her son, at the age of 21. She is buried in Wethersfield Cemetery, Smiths Corner, Wyoming County, New York.

Marriage record for Leon Homer and Marjory Fancher, 1913.
Source: “New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KL7Q-7W1 : 9 March 2021), Leon E Homer, 25 Jun 1913, Wyoming, New York, United States; citing ref. ID , county clerk offices from various counties, New York; FHL microfilm 989,420.
Grave of Marjory Fancher Homer. Source: findagrave.com.

The widower did find love again, a year later marrying 18-year old Sadie Alice Walker on October 25, 1916 in Rochester. Leon, 23, was a railroad trainman while Sadie worked at a collar factory. The marriage record lists both as living at 162 Alexander Street; the Monroe High School was built on the site in 1923 and is still there today.

Marriage record for Leon Homer and Satie [i.e. Sadie] Walker, 1916.
Source: “New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XVGP-CT8 : 9 March 2021), Leon E. Homer, 25 Oct 1916, New York, United States; citing ref. ID 492, county clerk offices from various counties, New York; FHL microfilm 831,344.
James Monroe High School on Alexander Street, Rochester, NY.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

According to his WWI Draft Registration card from 1917, Leon had at that time a wife and two children to support. He worked as a farm labourer for a Martin Mosher.

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, database with images, FamilySearch(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KXB7-863 : 26 December 2021), Leon Elmer Homer, 1917-1918.

Sometime after his father Elmer Homer died in 1918, Leon’s mother Eva moved in with her son and his family. The Attica News of March 7, 1918 published Elmer’s obituary notice:

Elmer Homer, a Wethersfield farmer, and son of Mr. John Homer of Main street, died at his home Wednesday morning at 11 o’clock of apoplexy. Several weeks ago he suffered a shock and had been out of health since that time.

Mr. Homer was born and had always resided in the town of Wethersfield. He was 58 years of age and besides his father is survived by his wife, five children, Roy Homer of Rochester, Leon Homer of Batavia, Howard Homer of Bason, Mrs. Frank Saulsbury of Batavia and Mabel Homer at home; a brother, Charles Homer of North Java and three sisters, Mrs. L. J. Hall, Attica, Mrs. H. H. Charles, Warsaw and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer of Wethersfield.

Funeral services will be held Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock at the house and at 2 o’clock at the church at Union Corners.

Source: findagrave.com

The 1930 census records Leon, Sadie, their 6-year old daughter Gertrude, and Eva as living together on Crestwood Boulevard, Gates Township, Monroe County, New York. Leon had made a career change: “Carpenter – House”.

Neither Gertrude nor Eva are named in the 1940 census; but daughter Doris, aged 9, is; the whereabouts of Gertrude and Eva at that point are unclear. Leon was still working in the construction industry as a contractor. The family lived at #10 Geneva Street, Bath, Steuben County, New York.

Google Street View of 10 Geneva Street, Bath, Steuben County, New York. Screenshot captured 30 December 2021.

It seems the union with Sadie didn’t last, however; she later became Mrs. Otto L. Drews. Though the circumstances and exact timing of the split are undetermined, we do know that Leon married a third time. Wife Florence S. Dye had married Kenneth Miller in 1927; the couple had planned on making their home in Bath, New York. How she came to be with Leon is unknown.

Leon Elmer Homer died the day after his 80th birthday, on April 8, 1973 and is buried at Nondaga Cemetery, Bath, Steuben County, New York. He shares a headstone with his third wife, Florence.

Grave of Leon and Florence Homer. Source: findagrave.com.

Leon’s son Darwin, from his short first marriage, went on to serve in the Second World War as a Hospital Apprentice, Second Class. He died in 1980, aged 64; and his half-sister Doris died in 1997, aged 66. Interestingly, some records reference another sibling: Carl Melvin Homer (1914-1996). If the birth year is accurate, he would have been Leon’s eldest child, born a year before Darwin. The identity of Carl’s mother was not confirmed during this research.

As to the sender of the postcard on November 1, 1912 — “You know who from” — that person remains a mystery.

Are you a descendant of Leon Homer? Do you have more information or images to share? Use the form on the Contact page to connect. I’d love to hear from you!

With All Good Wishes

Front of postcard. “With all good wishes.” (Author’s collection)

Postmarked Philadelphia, December 3, 1910

Miss Mary Lear,
Madison,
Mo.

Have lost your school address so send to Madison.

Dear Girlie; I am glad you like teaching as much.. Do you go home very often? I suppose you take the “Index” & do [several words illegible] much. My school is progressing nicely. I hope you will enjoy Thanksgiving. “Answer soon”, and I’ll be more prompt next time. [Anna] Lee.

Back of postcard. (Author’s collection)

Mary Engleton Lear was born in Madison, Monroe County, Missouri on September 4, 1891 to Elijah Thomas Lear and Mary Frances Willis. When she received this postcard, she was only 18 years old but already teaching.

Teaching, it seems, defined Mary. She never married or had children; rather, she devoted her life to her career.

After that teaching job referred to in the postcard, she didn’t stop learning. The September 1920 edition of Sigma Xi Quarterly (Vol. 8, No. 3), includes the Missouri Chapter report, which shared that,

During the academic year 1919-1920 seven scientific and business meetings were held. The first two meetings were devoted to a discussion of the research work being done, time available for research, equipment for research, and research projects. […] The first public meeting where active members presented papers was on March 18, 1920. […] At the meeting the following associate members were elected. All were graduate students.

Sampson, H. C., et al. “CHAPTER REPORTS: Ohio, Missouri, Illinois.” Sigma Xi Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, 1920, pp. 74–88, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27824140.

Mary Engleton Lear, a chemistry student, was among those elected. She received degrees from the University of Missouri and by 1927, had begun teaching chemistry at Lindenwood College.

The Madison Times published a history of Madison, Missouri compiled by then-student Mary Humphrey in 1948-1949 as instalments. In the section on schools, she wrote that Miss Mary Lear was at that time honored by Lindenwood College with “a lifetime job as Professor of Chemistry.” Mary Lear would spend a total of 44 years in the position.

Information on school history in Madison, Missouri.
Source: https://monroe.mogenweb.org/townpage18.htm

Mary Engleton Lear died on February 27, 1971 in St. Charles County, Missouri at the age of 79 — ten years after her retirement. She is buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Madison with her parents, and was survived by a number of cousins: Sam Cornelius, Mrs. Tura Foster, Mrs. Alphia Willis, and Mrs. Fannie Maude Roberts.

Lear grave at Sunset Hill Cemetery, Madison, Missouri.
Source: findagrave.com

A 1971 edition of The Lindenwood Colleges Bulletin included a short write up on Miss Lear following her death:

Professor Emeritus Mary Engleton Lear, who taught chemistry at Lindenwood for 44 years, died Feb. 27 in St. Charles.
A native of Madison, Mo., Prof. Lear earned degrees from the University of Missouri and was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Lindenwood College in 1960, the year she retired.
In her honor the chemistry floor in Young Hall of Science is designated “The Mary E. Lear Chemistry Laboratories.”

The Lindenwood Colleges Bulletin, Vol. 144, No. 10, August 1971
Write-up on Mary Lear in The Lindenwood Colleges Bulletin
following her death in 1971.

And so, Mary Lear’s name lives on — and not just on a postcard.

Mary Engleton Lear. Source: findagrave.com

Are you a descendant of Mary Lear or do you have some connection with her? Please reach out using the form on the “Contactpage.

Birthday Greetings

Postcard to Mrs. Nellie French, 1924. (Author’s collection)

Mrs. Nellie French,
Kezar Falls,
Maine

Post marked South Hiram, Maine, December 19, 1924

12-19-1924
Wishing you a very happy day and many more to follow. From your friend Alice
[B. or D.?]

Nellie G. Ridlon French was born on November 28, 1867 in Parsonfield, York County, Maine to Magnus and Emily Emery Ridlon. She was one of eight children, including: Emery Stephen, Elizabeth R., John F., Stillman, Emily F., Mary F. and Marcia E. (later Hardy).

Nellie married Frederick Merl French, also from Maine. They moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and together they had two children: Clayton Hurd (also spelled Herd or Heard) (1895) and Emery Ridlon French (1901).

It was in Cambridge, at their home at 4 Leonard Avenue, where in 1908 Emery died at only seven years old. The cause? Diphtheria. He has a headstone in the cemetery in Kezar Falls, with other members of his family.

“Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915, 1921-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NWYZ-P7Z : 2 March 2021), Emery R French, 13 Oct 1908; citing Cambridge,,Massachusetts, 71, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 2,257,001.
Google street view of 4 Leonard Avenue, Cambridge, MA.
Screenshot captured 12 Dec 2021.
Headstone of Emery Ridlon French. Source: findagrave.com

Little Emery was likely named after his uncle, Emery Stephen Ridlon, who had died in 1887 at the age of 45, (and who had been given his mother’s maiden name.) Nellie’s eldest brother attended Parsonsfield Seminary in Maine in 1859 and was one of its prominent former students from that year:

[…] Emory S. Ridlon, who later attended Albany Law School and eventually took his place as one of the best lawyers at the Cumberland County Bar.

History of Parsonsfield Seminary. Accessed 12 Dec 2021.

He was also a Mason, initiated in 1863 and made a Member of Honor in 1883 — four years before his passing.

Records list the young lawyer’s cause of death as “Paralysis of Brain.”

Death record of Emery S. Ridlon. Source: findagrave.com

Nellie’s eldest son, Clayton, remained in Massachusetts. As reported in the Cambridge Tribune at the time, he married Gertrude Eleanor Hampson in Watertown on January 17, 1917. Rev. Vincent Ravi Brooth officiated. Described as a “Forwarder & Machine Mover,” Clayton lived at 47 Mt. Vernon Street in Cambridge.

Less than five months later, he registered for the United States World War One Draft. He stated on the draft registration card that he had a wife and child to support, and that he worked for the T. Libby Co., 39 Hartford Street, Boston, as Manager of the Truck Department. His eyes were grey and his hair brown.

“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZJM-ZRZ : 23 February 2021), Clayton Hurd French, 1917-1918.

Clayton wasn’t the only member of the family working at T. Libby. The 1925 Cambridge Directory lists his father Frederick as a teamster at the company (at a different location: 186 Fifth), together with proprietor Tobias Libby. In fact, Frederick’s mother was a Libby, so perhaps there was a family connection.

The Cambridge Directory, 1925

Frederick and Nellie lived at 182 Upland Road, Cambridge in 1925. And yet, the postcard sent to Nellie in Kezar Falls was dated December 1924.

The Cambridge Directory, 1925

Maybe the discrepancy wasn’t that curious, though. Nellie’s connection to Kezar Falls was strong, despite having lived in Cambridge for many years. The book History of Porter, published by the Parsonfield-Porter Historical Society in 1957, explains:

Mrs. French was a native of Kezar Falls, the daughter of Magnus and Emily Emery Ridlon. She was the widow of Frederick M. French of Cambridge, Mass. She and her husband lived at Cambridge for 38 years, then returned to live on the family homestead here until the death of Mr. French. Mrs. French later went to live in Bangor, Me., for some time, then returned to Cambridge where she remained until her death.

History of Porter (1957)
Houses along a street in Kezar Falls, 1944. Photo by George French. It is quite possible that Mr. French was a relation of Nellie’s.
(Maine State Archives G547-210842-CF106)

On June 26, 1949, she died at the age of 81 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Kezar Falls. (Other records show her final resting place as Nathan Hale Cemetery in Porter, Cumberland, Maine; with the same birth and death dates). She was predeceased by her parents, husband (1933), all of her brothers and sisters, and her children — Clayton died in 1935 at age 40. No further record of his child (her grandchild) — the one mentioned in the WWII Draft Registration — was found during this research.

Nellie’s headstone. Source: findagrave.com
French family grave marker in Kezar Falls, Maine. Source: findagrave.com
“Maine, Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection, ca. 1780-1980,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJ5-7158 : 1 March 2021), Nellie G. Ridlon French, ; citing Porter, Cumberland, Maine, United States, Porter Village Cemetery, Maine State Library, Augusta; FHL microfilm 1,315,207.

When her friend Alice sent the postcard in 1924, Nellie would have still had her husband and son and other family members in her life. Happier times, indeed, even though the “Birthday Greetings” postcard was nearly a month late. It was mailed on December 19, and her birthday was November 28.

But of course, it’s the thought that counts, after all.

Front of postcard to Mrs. Nellie French, 1924. (Author’s collection)

Do you have information or photos to share relating to the French family? Are you a descendant? If so, I would love to hear from you! Please reach out via the Contact page.

Success! I’m pleased to report that this postcard has gone to Nellie’s grand-nephew.