The first mystery: THAT HOUSE

You know how you when you’re growing up you’d hear things about your family from the older folks and you couldn’t make any sense of it all? There’d be some story about these Great-Grand Whoevers and you had no idea who they were, because of course you were a kid and you had no perspective. I knew Grandpa Mac’s family was from Texas, and if my grandmother’s stories were to be believed—and often they weren’t, because she was crazy and kind of awful— that side of the family once lived in the Texas governor’s mansion. Or something like that.

Grandpa Mac, my maternal grandfather, died in 1997. His wife, who we called Grandma Steve, died in 2002. When we cleaned out their house, reams of letters and photos and family albums were collected in some file boxes and a military footlocker trunk. My parents put the stuff into storage, first at one house and then another, meaning to go through it all eventually.

Years passed. My mother died in 2007. Then, during Christmas 2011, while visiting my dad and my aunt (my mom’s sister) in Albuquerque, we opened up the trunk and the boxes. And among all the old photos and letters, we found this photo:

(You can click to enlarge.) Among the first things we found out about this place is that it was just down the street from the governor’s mansion, and it was built by the same architect. So it wasn’t the governor’s mansion, but indeed “something like that.”

Pasted on the back of the photo is a typed, mimeographed letter, dated June 15, 1899, that tells us so much and not nearly enough. The letter is from my great-great grandfather, Joe Lee Jameson, who tells us who the people (and animals) are in the photo: To the left, “Black Joe” holds the saddle pony, “Duke;” “Bessie” is harnessed to the phaeton. The little boy at the far right, Joe Lee says, is “Master Malcolm Jameson”  “looking pleasant at the photographer.” The girl sitting with the housemaid on the veranda is Malcolm’s little sister, Vida, and to the right stand my great-great grandparents, Joe Lee and Amaryllis Routh Jameson. The letter mentions the servants’ building, the latticed cistern house, the way the elm trunks “are clothed with a rare variety of English Ivy.”

Or course, there’s plenty the letter doesn’t tell us. Is this house still standing? Did the family actually own it? Why don’t we live there now? What happened to us?

2 thoughts on “The first mystery: THAT HOUSE

  1. I think your blog and family story is quite interesting. Thanks for the ping to my page with my glass plate negative of the Insane Asylum. I hope you can find out more about your family. Quick blog question; how do you get your WordPress to click on a photo to show it in a large size? I don’t even know the term to find a plug-in to use on mine. Thanks for the help and sharing,

    • Hi Jan—I’m glad you like the site. I wish I knew more about that photo feature… it seems to have come with the WordPress theme I picked. I’ve noticed that sometimes the basic features you get with the blogs hosted by WordPress are a little more advanced than what you get in the version of WordPress that runs on self-hosted sites. I don’t have the option to use plugins on this blog and I’d have to pay extra to customize the RSS, but there are some nice bells and whistles on this thing, and the photo-enlarging feature is one of them. Hope you find something that works, though!

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