The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith: Part Seven

On September 26th, 1917, Lena finally passed away, six days after having swallowed her fatal dose of corrosive sublimate.  Could a sudden change in her condition explain why the family was not present at her death?  It appears that the family was not notified of her tenuous hold on life, otherwise they would surely have rushed to her bedside.

My grandma had told me that Lena’s father, George, and her two brothers-in-law, Oscar “Ray” Champion and Oliver Arras, traveled to Boston when they were notified that Lena had died.  This fact was corroborated in a letter from Lena’s younger sister, Hulda, to my great-uncle, Theron Arras.

The presence of Oscar “Ray” Champion in Boston after Lena’s death is confirmed by her death certificate.  Interestingly, he is listed as the informant.  I expected the death to have been reported by a hospital employee since none of the family was nearby.  Instead, her death was not recorded until about a week and a half after her passing.

lena smith death record

Perhaps it was necessary for a family member to be present to identify the body and provide other pertinent information, such as the names and birthplaces of her parents.

The delay may also be accounted for by the involvement of the medical examiner, who likely performed an autopsy.  The doctor certifying her cause of death was the medical examiner of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Dr. Timothy Leary.

(If you’re like my mother, you might have just giggled.  No, it’s not THAT Timothy Leary, but he was his great uncle!)

In 1927, an article, “The Medical Examiner System”, authored by Dr. Leary, appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  In it, he acknowledged the differences between a medical examiner and a coroner, a distinction that I did not realize existed.

At the time, Massachusetts had been using the medical examiner system for fifty years.  Nearly all the other states in New England had also transitioned to the system by 1927, along with the state of New York.

The job of both a medical examiner and a coroner is to investigate the cause of death when a person dies either suddenly and unexpectedly or under suspicious circumstances.  The distinction between the two is that only a medical examiner is required to have a medical degree.  Though systems vary depending on location, a coroner can be either elected or appointed.

Surprisingly, this situation has not changed over the last hundred years.  In fact, it was addressed by NPR’s All Things Considered as recently as 2011:

While Lena was lucky enough (?!) to die in a state where her death would be properly investigated, it seems highly unlikely that any new information emerged from her autopsy.  The cause of death, corrosive sublimate poisoning (suicidal during temporary insanity), directly ties to the information given in the initial newspaper article.

lena smith death record

Following the medical examiner’s report, Lena’s body would finally have been released to the family for transport home.  She was buried in the family plot at Arlington on October 11, 1917.

mary m smith grave

So perhaps the big question is, “Why?”  Why was Lena’s death a mystery for generations?  If her father and brother-in-law were present to collect her body and provide information for the death certificate, it seems rather unlikely that they would have been unaware of her cause of death.  Surely the body would not have been released for burial until the cause had been determined.

Perhaps, on that final train journey, with Lena’s body behind them, they wracked their brains for a way to tell the family what had happened.  But how do you tell a mother whose teenaged son has just shipped out for France that her daughter, the only other child to leave home, has killed herself?

I think, in all likelihood, George and Ray made a pact of secrecy.

Together, they lied to Lena’s mother.

They lied to her two adoring sisters, Clara and Minnie, and the rest of her younger siblings.

But it was a lie told out of love.  By keeping her cause of death secret, they spared those who loved her the pain of knowing what agony Lena had experienced in her final days and that she had chosen that fate for herself.





The Family Photo Album: The Arras Family, about 1930

henry arras family 1930

This photo, depicting the family of Henry and Johanna M. (Crates) Arras, was taken in about 1930.  Henry and Johanna themselves are seated at center.  To the right of Johanna are sons Oliver and Homer Arras.  To the left of Henry are Elvina (Arras) Weihrauch and Clarence Arras.  The grown children in the back row are, from left to right, Helen (Arras) Weidman, Carrie (Arras) Huffman, Willard and Ted Arras.

The photo must have been taken outside the home of one of the children, but who?  Clearly someone with a love for plants.  Just look at all those pots!

The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith: Part Six

The average fatal dose of mercuric chloride for an adult is three to five grains.1 According to contemporary newspaper articles, one tablet used for antiseptic purposes contained 7.8 grains.2

Lena had ingested three of these tablets before seeking help.3  Nearly 24 grains, five to eight times the average fatal dose, had been swallowed by a woman who couldn’t have weighed much more than 100 pounds.

Initial symptoms would have appeared very rapidly, within ten to fifteen minutes if unbroken tablets were swallowed.  If she had taken the time to dissolve the tablets in water, Lena would have experienced extreme abdominal pain almost immediately, accompanied by “violent, painful and obstinate vomiting”4.

Most likely, this would have been the point at which Lena ran out into the street, searching for help.

Another famous case involving poisoning by mercuric chloride, that of D.C. Stephenson and Madge Oberholtzer, gives us some indication of how Lena would have been faring during these initial moments.

madge oberholtzer
Madge Oberholtzer (

In March 1925, Stephenson was the grand dragon of the Indiana Klan.  He, with the assistance of an associate, kidnapped and violently raped a woman he claimed to love, 28 year old Madge Oberholtzer.   The following day, she requested to be taken to purchase makeup to cover the bruises on her face.  As Stephenson’s bodyguard waited outside, Madge purchased corrosive sublimate tablets and secreted them in her coat.  Back at the hotel, she waited until her captors fell asleep and choked down six of the tablets.  According to the statement she dictated on her deathbed, she had planned to take all eighteen tablets, but only managed six as they “burnt [her] so”.

Six hours later, when she was finally discovered, she admitted to having taken the tablets.  She had been vomiting blood all day long; the cuspidor was half-full of curdled blood and parts of several tablets.5

According to contemporary sources, immediate action was necessary to give the poison victim a fighting chance at life6.  He or she would be given a drink consisting of the whites of one dozen eggs, as well as an injection of apomorphine.  Next, gastric lavage (commonly known as stomach pumping) would take place.

gastric lavage

Essentially, the idea was to bind and neutralize as much of the poison as possible, then remove it from the stomach via the strong emetic (i.e., vomit-inducing) action of apomorphine and subsequent mechanical means.

Unfortunately, this remedy was far from foolproof.  Egg whites were swallowed in order to cause the formation of albuminate of mercury, but that substance was not entirely insoluble in the stomach’s acid.  While absorption was reduced, mercury continued to enter the body’s tissues.  In addition, the chemical reaction that occurred released hydrochloric acid, which further increased acidity in the stomach.  Even back in Lena’s day, alternative means of binding were being sought.7

At this point, if treatment had been rapidly obtained, it was possible for the initial symptoms to recede.  To the untrained eye, it might appear that the victim was out of the woods and on the road to recovery.  However, this was not always the case.

Further treatment received at the hospital might vary, but one protocol8 recommended the following:

  • Every other hour, the patient should drink a solution made up of one dram each potash and sugar and one ounce of lemon juice in two cups of water.
  • In the alternate hours, one cup of milk should be consumed.
  • Constant rectal irrigation, drop by drop with a solution of acetate of potash in water.
  • The stomach should be pumped once daily and the colon washed twice daily.
  • Five hot packs given every 24 hours.

Again, the focus was on flushing as much of the poison from the body as possible.  At this point in history, there was little to be done to treat the organ damage that occurred when mercuric compounds were swallowed.

Severe damage to the digestive tract inevitably occurred.  Mouth lesions might appear, along with severe pain and swelling in the mouth and throat9.  A case in which the internal organs of a victim of corrosive sublimate were studied after death appeared in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1861.  According to the article, the interior surface of the stomach “presented the appearance of having been scorched in some places, varying from a reddish slate color to an almost perfect black.”10

Mercury would accumulate in the patient’s kidneys, the body’s filter system, causing damage and eventual shutdown.

Indications of a fatal result might take between 48 and 72 hours to emerge.  The production of urine would slow and eventually even halt altogether as the kidneys failed.  Without that natural process for flushing the body, toxins would begin to build up.

The patient might lapse into unconsciousness, which by this point in the process, was a mercy.  The combination of effects caused by mercuric bichloride resulted in severe and widespread pain.  Thankfully, opioid pain relief was available, as mentioned in the 1913 Walker case.  The doctors and nurses at Boston City Hospital likely did all that they could to ease Lena’s passing.

However, the most tragic aspect of the entire situation was that Lena had clearly regretted taking the pills almost as soon as she had done so.  She had run out into the street, late that night, looking for help.  Perhaps she had experienced some hope in those first days as her initial symptoms lapsed, only to have the world come crashing down on her.  Ultimately, she would never step foot outside the hospital again.

1 Modi, JP. A Textbook for Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology. Bombay: Butterworth & Co. (India) Ltd., 1940. Google Books. Accessed 9 Oct 2017.
2 LeMars Globe Post (LeMars, Iowa), 11 May 1925, p 7 col 2.
3 “Lena Smith, Discouraged, Takes Poison Tablets,” Boston Daily Globe, 21 Sep 1917, p 4 col 2.
4 “Treatment of Poisoning by Mercuric Chlorid,” Southern Medical Journal vol 9 issues 1-6, p . Google Books. Accessed 9 Oct 2017.
5 Linder, Douglas O. The Dying Declaration of Madge Oberholtzer, <>, accessed 9 Oct 2017.
6 “Treatment of Poisoning…”, Accessed 9 Oct 2017.
7  Hayward, Edward H and WH Allen.  Corrosive Sublimate Poisoning by Means of Antiseptic Tablets.  JAMA.  1913; 60(22): 1727.
8 “Treatment of Poisoning…”, Accessed 9 Oct 2017.
9 “Mercuric Chloride Poisoning”, , accessed 9 Oct 2017.
10 White, James C. Death from Corrosive Sublimate — Was Bed-Bug Poison the Preparation Employed? Boston Med Surg J 1861; 65:169-175.

Indexing: Wills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1854

If you need help navigating to the Pennsylvania probate records on FamilySearch, click here for guidance.

Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image.

233 Book 4 Begins
234 John Gant East Huntingdon 16 Jan 1854
235 William Caven Donegal 18 Jan 1854
236 Robert Beatty 19 Jan 1854
Christian Greenawalt Sewickley 24 Jan 1854
237 James George Loyalhanna 26 Jan 1854
John Ashey 28 Jan 1854
238 Daniel Remaley or Remeley Franklin 31 Jan 1854
Robert Foster Salem 1 Feb 1854
239 John Blair Fairfield 14 Feb 1854
Robert Ewing Donegal 20 Feb 1854
240 John Klingensmith West Newton 20 Feb 1854
241 Caleb Peterson Franklin 22 Feb 1854
Henry Slotterbeck West Newton 27 Feb 1854
George Hammer Hempfield 4 Mar 1854
242 Thomas Anderson Sr Fairfield 6 Mar 1854
Esther Ross Allegheny 10 Mar 1854
John Irwin 14 Mar 1854
Daniel Yotter Burrell 20 Mar 1854
243 Sarah Walter Unity 12 Apr 1854
Francis Laird Franklin 18 Apr 1854
244 Jacob Stahl Borough of Mt Pleasant 18 Apr 1854
Jonathan J M Gill Washington 21 Apr 1854
245 John McCadden Village of Livermore 22 May 1854
Mary Anne Sindaf Hempfield 23 May 1854
Henry McDowell Ligonier 1 Jun 1854
246 Catharine Zimmerman Hempfield 3 Jun 1854
Mary Clark Fairfield 5 Jun 1854
247 Rev. J A Mearns 13 Jun 1854
Christian Hughes Derry 6 Jul 1854
Isaac Silvis Hempfield 29 Jul 1854
248 David Stotlar Allegheny 8 Aug 1854
Thomas Gormly or Gormley Derry 11 Aug 1854
249 Daniel Helman Larimer 14 Aug 1854
Daniel Kiehl Borough of Greensburg 18 Aug 1854
Jacob West Fairfield 22 Aug 1854
250 John Kirker Fairfield 22 Aug 1854
Barbara Walthour Harrison City 6 Sep 1854
251 James Sloan Unity 11 Sep 1854
Elizabeth Sowash North Huntingdon 22 Sep 1854
252 Peter Bush Salem 3 Oct 1854
William Blair North Huntingdon 10 Oct 1854
253 Simon B McGrew Sewickley 12 Oct 1854
William Brown East Huntingdon 17 Oct 1854
Margaret Brown East Huntingdon 17 Oct 1854
254 John Giffin Sr Mt Pleasant 23 Oct 1854
255 Daniel Hawk Allegheny 6 Nov 1854
Samuel Jordan Mt Pleasant 7 Nov 1854
256 John Decker 13 Nov 1854
Jacob Husband East Huntingdon 16 Nov 1854
Margaret J Peoples Fairfield 16 Nov 1854
257 James McClelland Derry 25 Nov 1854
258 duplicate image
259 Mary Saltsman 7 Dec 1854

Chance Finds: A Story With A-Peel

From the Boston Daily Globe, 26 Sep 1917, p1:


Overripe Cargo Arrives in Fruit Steamer

Company Required to Distribute Under Appeal to Hoover

Boston and vicinity never saw such a banana craze as prevailed yesterday and it probably never will again, for the United Fruit Company gave away, to all who were willing to receive, the entire cargo of one of its steamships that arrived Monday from Central America laden with 27,000 bunches, approximating 3,000,000 bananas.

All the afternoon and the greater part of the night men, women and children of the North End, to say nothing of thousands from more or less distant sections of Greater Boston, crowded the freight shed on Long Wharf, in many cases wallowed in slush composed of rotten bananas, up to their ankles.

They fought and struggled for the possession of tempting looking bunches of the yellow fruit, which in a majority of cases, after they had been obtained fell all to pieces within half a minute, leaving only a bare stem to be mourned over.  The fruit was over-ripe, and that was why it was given away.

Boiler Breaks Down

It all came about through one of the boilers of the steamship having become inoperative for awhile during her last trip to Central America, so disarranging the refrigerating plant that the temperature in her hold on the way to Boston with her banana cargo ranged from 80 to 90 degrees instead of about 55, the needed temperature for delaying the ripening of bananas.

When the hold was opened Monday, at Long Wharf, the cargo was found apparently dead ripe instead of green, as it should have been, in order to be saleable, for that fruit is always ripened artificially after it has reached the dealer’s hands.  Not only was it nearly all ripe, but much of the cargo in the lower hold had been reduced to a state comparable with thick pea soup.

Vice Pres Eugene W. Ong of the United Fruit Company said last evening that the fruit was so soft and its tendency to rot so rapid, after it is once started, that he appealed to the Board of Health for its opinion as to dumping the whole cargo overboard, feeling sure that none of it would last long enough to be of practical use to any one.

Some Called Fit for Food

“For many years,” said he, “we have given strict orders to all our managers throughout the country never to destroy any fruit until the local health officials have declared it unfit for food.  So we followed that rule in the present case.

“An inspector from the Boston Board of Health after looking over the cargo gave it as his opinion that much of the cargo was fit for food.  Ripening bananas generate a great deal of gas, which it is necessary to constantly release from a ship’s hold, and as our defective refrigerating plant had not allowed the release of that gas in this case, we were afraid the edibility of the fruit might have been seriously affected by the gas.  We had no desire to poison anybody.

“For that reason we asked W. W. Paine of the Boston branch of the Agricultural Department at Washington to test the fruit which was not entirely spoiled, which he did, giving the opinion that it was not injured.

“Thereupon we called up the city authorities and notified them that the municipal institutions could have all the bananas they chose to take away from the wharf.  A general invitation to the public to the same effect was also issued.

Fruit Sent to the Camps

“We sent eight carloads of the fruit to different military camps in this State today and notified the Navy Yard and harbor forts to come and get all they wanted.

If they do not arrive there in a condition fit to eat, it will not be our fault, as we have made no pretense of being able to guarantee their quality.”

On hearing of the company’s proposition to the Board of Health that it be permitted to dump the entire cargo overboard, Mayor Curley telegraphed to Food Administrator Hoover at Washington that the fruit company had asked the Board of Health to condemn its entire cargo and allow it to be dumped into the sea, whereas the Board of Health claimed the fruit was fit for the market. The Mayor added: “I believe this an attempt to destroy food in order that high prices may be maintained. What do you advise?”

Vice Pres Ong of the fruit company last evening characterized the Mayor’s telegram as “a political play,” entirely unwarranted by facts. The cargo if marketable was worth about $30,000 and it cost about $2500 to unload and distribute the fruit even if given away. The latter sum would have been saved if the dumping was at sea.

Could Have Dumped Outside

“If our intention in seeking to dump the fruit overboard had been to maintain prices,” said Mr. Ong, “we cold have dumped it before coming into port, or we could have kept it on board the steamer till Thursday, when she sailed again, and have dumped it as soon as she got outside the harbor. Our good intentions are manifested in our asking the judgment of the local Board of Health.”

The extent to which average humanity will go for the sake of getting something for nothing was never better illustrated than by the thousands of people who fought and scrambled in mud and slush for many hours to get a bunch of bananas, which if in marketable condition, was worth about $1.50 at wholesale.

The early comers, about noontime, had an easy time, as hundreds of bunches were stacked within the freight shed. Those early callers fared best, for the fruit they obtained had been on the upper deck and parts of the bunches were still green, making it possible to ripen them naturally at home.

But the farther down in the ship the stevedores went, the worse the condition of the cargo, the lower strata being reduced to absolute slush. About one bunch in 10 of the upper cargo would be green or partly so, and for their possession natives of sunny Italy who were experts, fought vigorously.

Came With Trucks

At no time was there much less than 1000 persons scrambling about the open ports of the steamship, where the incessant shouting and yelling made a pandemonium. Moreover, wagons, automobiles and auto trucks were backed up in a long row close to the steamer, loading up in some cases for the benefit of municipal or suburban charitable institutions, though some drivers frankly confessed that they were there from no such altruistic motive.

One Italian had a load that must have aggregated about 10,000 bananas, which took him hours to solicit from the distributers. Even the familiar Fish-Pier jitney buss called for a load which was said to be destined for the poor children of Somerville. Another big load was taken away in an undertaker’s auto.

At nearby street corners all the evening automobiles, occupied by well-dressed persons, waited while one of the number spent an hour or more getting one, two or three bunches of the yellow fruit to take home as proud trophies.

Other bunches were wheeled homeward in baby carriages, toy carts or wheelbarrows or hand carts, while hundreds were satisfied with a quantity of the fruit tied up in a large bandana handkerchief, a newspaper, a school book strap, a meal bag or a leather handbag.

May Be Dangerous Eating

Officials of the Fruit Company last evening expressed some fear as to the effect of a free indulgence in that particular cargo of bananas on the stomachs of the recipients. Even such of the fruit as looked inviting had never properly ripened, but rotted while still green, owing to the intense heat of the ship’s hold.

Vice Pres. Ong telegraphed to Food Administrator Hoover, [anent?] an earlier telegram of Mayor Curley, last night, reciting the foregoing facts and denying any attempt to maintain high prices by du[m]ping a cargo overboard.

The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith: Part Five

Unfortunately, it is very likely that the story that appeared in the Boston Daily Globe1 was not entirely truthful.  At no point was the severity of Lena’s condition in doubt.  The poison she had taken, mercury bichloride, was well known and highly toxic.

Mercury bichloride, also known as corrosive sublimate, is an extremely poisonous mercury salt with the chemical formula HgCl2. Currently, it is a highly restricted substance, utilized in the manufacture of PVC and as a depolarizer in batteries.2

However, during Lena’s lifetime, it was frequently used in households across the country.  Agricultural columns in newspapers recommended using a dilute solution to disinfect tools after removing diseased portions of trees affected by blight, in order to avoid spreading contagion to healthy limbs.3 A few tablets of bichloride of mercury dissolved in a bottle of alcohol created a remedy for bedbugs.4 For cleaning a sick room or disposing of the “bodily discharges” of an ill person, a solution containing one teaspoon of corrosive sublimate and one teaspoon of permanganate of potash per gallon of fresh water was advised. Diluted by half, this fluid could be used to cleanse the hands.5

corrosive sublimate
Pharmaceutical Label (found on Flickr: <; )

Given all these legitimate uses, it was not difficult for the average Joe to obtain mercury bichloride tablets. All he had to do was walk in to his local drugstore and request them.

And purchase them, he did.  Following a highly publicized case of accidental poisoning in 1913, there was a significant upswing in the number of suicides in which corrosive sublimate was the method used.

In an issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, published in November 1915, two New York doctors examined the frequency of these cases.  According to their article, 155 suicides by mercuric chloride had been recorded in the previous 25 years.  Nearly one-half of those incidents (73) had occurred during the two years since the notorious Walker case.6

corrosive sublimate 2
Atlanta Constitution, 25 May 1913, p 19 col 4

Perhaps more realistic coverage of his gruesome death would have deterred copycats.  Instead, newspaper articles glorified his drawn-out passing:


Poisoned Macon Man Sinks Into Unconsciousness.


Sensation of Dying Not as Unpleasant as Pictured, He Tells Her Ere Stupor Comes.

Macon, Ga., May 22. — B. Sanders Walker, the young Macon banker, whose remarkable fight against death from bichloride of mercury poisoning has puzzled physicians, lapsed into unconsciousness.

His physicians believe he will probably die in this condition. He had been conscious since taking the poison by mistake a week ago.

“If this be dying, then none need fear its terrors.”

Walker had made this characteristically cheerful reflection earlier as he vainly begged his nurse to tell him exactly what had been said at a conference of physicians in a corner of his bedchamber.

Walker had begged his physicians to allow him to talk with him family and friends. He said he had no fear of ill consequences. To his wife, struggling bravely to bear up, Walker constantly offered words of encouragement.

“The sensation of dying is not as unpleasant as it is generally pictured,” he told her.

Tuesday night Walker’s physicians believed the end was near. The patient, however, steadily assured them he was determined to live. After an all-night fight with death Walker rallied slightly.

Although warned from the first that death undoubtedly awaited him. Walker consistently maintained buoyant spirits. He had rallied again Wednesday and was the least perturbed of any in his room then.

While conscious and suffering little or no discomfort, he has been unable to grasp the situation which physicians said confronted him. The slow work of the deadly poison had failed to shake Walker’s belief that he would recover. His high spirits, it is believed, had much to do with his resisting the effects of the drug.

While unable to fully account for Walker’s remarkable vitality, some of the physicians partly attributed his successful resistance to the poison to the fact that he emitted a portion of the bichloride of mercury tablet soon after it was swallowed.

It was this which alarmed the banker and caused him to call a physician, who rushed to the Walker home and pumped out the contents of the banker’s stomach. The physician’s arrival, however, was not before the poison had taken sufficient effect to paralyze the kidneys.

All of the members of Walker’s immediate family are gathered at his home. Every precaution is being taken to prevent the patient from becoming unduly excited. Only his wife, the attending physician and nurses are permitted to enter his room.

Telegrams containing suggestions for treatment still are being received at the Walker home from every section of the country.7

Reading this article, one would think that after taking mercury bichloride, you might float painlessly off to a peaceful oblivion, lingering just long enough for loved ones to fawn over you, regretting any moment they might have caused you pain.  As Lena would discover, this notion could not be further from the truth.

1 “Lena Smith, Discouraged, Takes Poison Tablets”, Boston Daily Globe, 21 Sep 1917, p 4 col 2.
2 “Mercury(II) chloride,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. <; (accessed 8 Oct 2017).
3 “Fire Blight,” Las Cruces Rio Grande Republican, 20 Jul 1915, p 3 col 4.
4 “How to Get Rid of House Pests,” Altoona Mirror (Altoona, PA), 22 Jul 1915, p 3 col 3.
5 “How to Disinfect a Room After Contagious Diseases,” Danville Republican (Danville, IL), 25 Jan 1917, p 4 col 3.
6 Southern Medical Journal, Vol. 9 Issues 1-6. Southern Medical Association: 1916. Treatment of Poisoning by Mercuric Chlorid, p 279. <;
7 “Banker Cheerful in Face of Death,” Gettysburg Times, 22 May 1913, p 2 col 6.

The Family Photo Album: Lucia Arras and Friends

childhood friends

The photo above shows my grandmother, Lucia Arras (second row without a doll), and her little sister Jeanne (second row left) with several childhood friends.  For the longest time, we didn’t know who the other people were in this picture.  Then, several years ago, my mom posted it online and someone came forward with the missing information.

Not only that, but she had another photo taken the same day!

childhood friends 2

Going back to the original photo, the other girl in the second row, Mary Etta Waltermire, was my grandma’s neighbor across the street.  The three remaining children in the photo were Mary Etta’s cousins, who were visiting from Toledo, just under 50 miles away.  Josephine and Mary Lou are seated in the bottom row and George, of course, is clowning away at the top.  Isn’t he hilarious?!  Pulling faces in both pictures, like you’d expect of a boy that age.

The funniest part was finding out who else Mary Lou, George, and Josephine were related to.  Mary Etta was their cousin through their mother, Alma Irene Cessna.  Her sister, Gytanna Cessna, had married Orville Waltermire.

Alma Irene Cessna’s husband was named Harold Clyde Benington.  His brother, Ralph Orlando Benington, who I’ve written about here, was my grandpa’s father.  Mary Lou, George and Josephine were Lucia’s future husband’s first cousins!

She would not meet their cousin, her husband, Clark, until high school.

I wonder whether Grandma and Grandpa ever recognized the connection!