Monday, August 10, 2015

Mystery Monday Photo - SOLVED with Social Media!

Sometimes we find interesting things in the "old stuff" people give us to consider adding to our special collections or our archives in the library where I work.  This originally-a-mystery photo fell in that category.

It has the following information on the back, handwritten in what appears to be ballpoint pen.  Therefore, it's likely the information was written well after the photograph was taken, and therefore it is possible that it is not accurate:

Katherine Mitchell Preston
taken in Dublin, Texas

Trouble is, I didn't have much luck initially searching in the genealogical research sites I typically use:  HeritageQuest, FamilySearch, the Portal to Texas History, FindAGrave, and

So I posted the photo in a few groups I'm in on Facebook, including the Erath County Genealogical Society.  I'm involved in this one because my university is the repository for its old county records.

A helpful member of that group located seven-month-old Katherine living with her parents, Holcombe Lightfoot Preston (8 May 1862 or 1863 - 3 October 1944) and Julia Mitchell Preston (13 September 1866 or 1867 - 25 June 1948), on Patrick Street in Dublin on the 1900 Census.  Also living with them was Julia's widowed mother, Julia K. Browning Mitchell (13 September 1828 - 25 August 1901, and buried in the Live Oak Cemetery in Dublin).  I'd missed the record because the census enumerator had misspelled her name as Kathrine, and because I was treating Mitchell as a maiden name rather than a middle name.

Holcombe was originally from Virginia, born of Virginian parents.  On the 1900 Census, his occupation was listed as "Superintendent - Compressor," and I found a couple newspaper articles referring to that as well.  A compress was used by the railroads to, literally, compress ginned cotton bales to about half their original size to "facilitate shipment."

Julia was born in Matagorda, Texas; her father was from New York and her mother from Germany.  Holcombe and Julia married 6 December 1893 at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Cleburne, Johnson County, Texas.

Katherine was born on 7 October 1899 in Texas, probably in Dublin.  She was an only child.  By Friday, November 10, 1899, her family was living in Dublin, as the Dublin Progress of that date reported on page 5 that  "H. R. Preston, superintendent of the compressor at Cisco, spent Sunday with his family here."  However, in the Friday, March 13, 1903 edition of that paper, a classified ad on page 4 said the house was for sale.  The January 22, 1904, Dublin Progress stated the family had moved to Vernon, while the February 5, 1904 edition corrected that, saying "H. L. Preston write us to change his post office address from Vernon to Cleburne, Texas."

On the 1910 Census, taken April 18, Katherine and her family were living at 804 Main Street in Cleburne.  Holcombe's occupation is railroad office clerk.  By 1912, though, the family had moved to Austin, as Holcombe is listed on page 249 of the 1912-13 city directory living at 1915 San Antonio and working as a rate clerk for the Houston and Central Texas Railroad freight depot.  The listing is the same for 1914 (page 651) and 1916 (page 352), but by the latter year, Katherine has her own listing as a student.

Katherine Preston in the 1918 Cactus yearbook
 of the University of Texas - Austin, page 274
By 1918, according to page 359 of that year's Austin city directory, Holcombe and Julia are now living at 2502 Wichita, and he is now chief clerk of the depot.  Katherine has a separate listing on the same page; she is living with her parents and is a student at the University of Texas.  I found her in the 1918 and 1919 Cactus yearbooks.  In 1917-1918, her freshman year, she was vice-president of her class in the spring term. She headed up the decoration committee for the freshmen reception on February 15 and was the female lead in the grand march at that event.  In the 1919 Cactus, she is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

The family is still living at the same address in 1920, according to page 341 of the city directory and the 1920 Census, and the Census shows Holcombe has the same job.  Katherine, however, is listed as a public school teacher.

Holcombe and Julia are in the 1924 Austin city directory, on page 372, but Katherine is not listed.  Holcombe is a division passenger and freight agent with Southern Pacific [rail] Lines, and they still live at 2502 Wichita.

In the 1927 city directory (page 390), they are living at the same address.  Holcombe is now working as a railroad rate clerk for the state highway department, and Katherine is an assistant "trouble clerk" with the city water and light department.  In the 1929 directory (page 402), same address, same employers, simply listed as clerks though.

The 1930 city directory (page 428), and 1930 Census show no changes.  However, according to the 1932-33 Austin city directory (page 385), the family now lives at 207 W. 32nd.  No changes for Holcombe in the 1935 city directory (page 447), but Katherine is now working as a clerk for the Acme Life Insurance Company.  By 1937 (city directory page 522), Katherine has changed jobs again, working as a certifier for the Texas Old Age Assistance Commission.  That was still the case in 1939 (city directory, page 491).

According to the 1940 Census, Katherine was a typist with the Texas Board of Public Welfare.  Holcombe was still working for the state highway department, but now as a traffic manager.  He's listed as Howard in the 1940 city directory (page 496).  No changes in the 1941 (page 513) or 1942 (page 502) directories for either, but in 1944 (page 392), "Howard" is listed as a "rate expert" with the highway department.  He died of cardiovascular problems on October 3 of that year at St. David's Hospital, according to his death certificate.

By 1947, according to page 571 of the Austin city directory, Katherine has risen to the position of auditor with the state Department of Public Welfare, and is still living at 207 W. 32nd with her widowed mother Julia, who died at home on June 25, 1948.

The 1949 Austin city directory (page 550) gives Katherine's occupation as accountant with the same employer.  There are no changes in employment nor address for the 1952 (page 506), 1953 (page 583), 1954 (page 525), 1955 (page 629), 1957 (page 682), or 1958-59 (page 716) city directories.

Apparently Katherine never married.  She died February 11, 1986, and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Austin, as are her father and mother.

I was able to contact the person who gave us the photograph through her cousin, who is employed by my university.  She does not remember exactly how she got them, but I suspect it was at an estate sale or antique shop.  Katherine had no children or siblings, so there was no one to give or leave the photo to.

Comments on Facebook indicate that the decorated baby carriage might have been for a May Day or May Fete celebration, common in small Texas towns in the early 1900s.

© Amanda Pape - 2015 - click here to e-mail me.