Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mysterious Monday - What's Happening Here?

Back in 2010, I scanned this photo while visiting my cousin, Harold Green, in Louisburg, NC.  As you can see, the picture is "dirty", but still, it depicts a scene of some event, and I believe it may be of significant interest, if I/we could just figure out what that event was!

I posted the picture on Facebook, to the Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren Genealogy Group, and we've been having a good discussion, there.  Because of that, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the photo here, to get more opinions about it.

I have always thought that this was probably the scene of either a baptism or a burial.  At first, I also wondered if maybe there had (possibly) been a lynching, but I think I'm straying away from that idea.  What I do know/see is this:
1. Almost all of the people appear to be dressed in white/light-colored clothing.
2. There appear to be two main groups of people, walking in opposing directions.  A large group of mostly women are coming up the path toward the camera.  And, a smaller group (of what we can see) of men appear to be approaching the scene from the bottom left.
3. There are two carriages: One looks like it has a flatbed, and the other looks more like it might be a buggy.
4.  A lady with a small child stands alone in the center of the picture.
5.  It looks like there's at least one small child in a basket of some type near the center of the picture.
6.  There is (what we think is) an electric pole with climbing spikes in it near the forefront of the picture (on the right).
This appears to be a baby or small child (with a hat on) in a basket.
It also looks like there are a couple of darker-clothed people in this close up.

Although I can't prove it, I'm sure the setting has to be in Franklin County (Louisburg), North Carolina.  The picture was in an album that belonged to my cousin's grandmother, Mary Helen "Pidgy" Green, who lived from 1876 - 1959.  Other than this, the collection consisted only of family pictures.  This picture was an 8x10.  It was the only one of that size in the album.

My cousin (who is now 89 years old) was very reluctant to show me the pictures, or to discuss family history with me. (More on that, later.)  It had taken me years just to get him to allow me to see these, and other pictures that he has at his home, and to allow me to interview him.  I had taken my scanner with me, and I was going as fast as I could, because I knew that he was going to cut me off (which he did).  I want to try to get him to let me borrow the picture for a short time, so that I can get it professionally cleaned, but first I have to get my nerve up to ask him.

What do you see, and what do you think is happening, here?



  1. Because most of the people are dressed in light colored clothes, I think it is a baptism.

  2. Very interesting. It appears to me to be a baptism but it could possibly be a burial (depending on the religion, some wear white). But could also be an Easter Sunday picnic and while the clothes look white, may be light pastels.

    I hope you find out - wish your cousin would be a bit more forthcoming.

  3. Ahh, my curiosity is piqued and though I don't have any suggestions to offer, will be very interested in finding out how the unraveling of this mystery progresses! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Can't wait to read more. Baptismals usually mean white and Funerals Dark. I'm wondering as well. Men 1st, Women 2nd. Time of the Day for why Men maybe where going before the Women. Can't wait for more!

  5. My first thought was perhaps an Easter or spring picnic. There does not appear to be a water source for a baptism, though a stream or small pool of water could be behind the trees.

    The women seem to be looking in the same direction except for the figure in dark who may be looking at the child in the basket.

  6. Renate, that picture you posted on your blog in January was very interesting. I am going to look at it some more but my gut feeling is it is either a burial or something involving a funeral. Was there any writing on the back to date it? Every time I look at the photo I see something else. I keep playing with the contrast and tones in the photo. I looked at the two carriages, the carriage on the right where a man looks like he is wearing something white or light colored clothing looks like a simple horse drawn funeral caisson carriage, basically a flatbed on wheels and there would be a little seat for the guy to guide the horse. The coffin would lay on the flatbed. The other carriage, the black one that has a man dressed in dark clothing, standing in front of the wheel with his back to the camera, looks like a horse drawn doctor's carriage, a simple carriage that would have a cover for the doctor and high wheels and a compartment in the back and under the seat for his doctor's bag. If this were a baptism, I would expect to see a body of water, usually water like a pond, lake, or maybe a creek would be in the picture. I am trying to figure out why this lady with the baby is by herself in the middle.
    From the site “Grief Speaks” (http://www.griefspeaks.com/id90.html) there is a possible clue:
    “Many in African-American communities mourn by dressing in white as a sign of resurrection and celebrate with music and hope. However, Native Africans often wear red or black.”
    I hope you have a breakthrough with your reluctant relative.