Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does Time Reveal Mercy?

Wading Through the Photos and Heirlooms
I am defintely not going to say that going through the photos and heirlooms [my husband's family's genealogy jackpot cache] that I discovered at my father-in-laws' house is a chore.  On the contrary, it is absolutely awesome to uncover, to wonder, to research, and to document these rare treasures; for each one has a story behind it.  After all, someone or several "someones" thought so highly about the items that some of them have been kept for over 100 years.  Unfortunately, though, no perfect and detailed journal exists that can reveal their stories...just a vague memory here and a distant fragment of family lore there.  What do we do with these wonderful items that, while they are inanimate, are just brimming with stories to tell, if only they could talk!  I mean, could you imagine what these item's witnessed?   Not only that, but none of the vast family trees can compare [in my opinion] with touching - really touching - our family's history.  Holding it where our ancestor's hands were holding it.    It's one of our tangible connections with our past.  So, I ask again, what do we do when we don't know the story, or it's incomplete and/or vague?  Well, I have some items that have given me mixed signals, and in trying to determine the provenance of one item, I'm pretty sure I have uncovered the identities of two people that I found all alone in a Victorian era photograph album.  You see, sometimes it's not the story behind the name, but sometimes the story may lead you to the name...

The Ladies' Pocketwatch
Pocketwatch Front
I have to admit that my eyes like "pretty things".  They are naturally trained to find the "bling", but I am not [by any stretch of the imagination] an expert [not an even an amateur] on antique pocketwatches.  That being said, I was able to find some information to help me with my analysis.   This beautiful ladies' Elgin pocketwatch came in a small white envelope with 2 lines of writing on the envelope.  The first line reads, "Pearl May" and the second line reads, "Dad's Watch".  Not exactly specific, but better than a blank envelope.  Unless, of course, the information is incorrect, or it doesn't pertain to this particular pocketwatch.  As you can tell from the photographs, the pocketwatch has engravings on both sides with the front having a type of floral design around the edge and a blank shield and the back mirroring the front but instead of a shield, it has a bird in flight.  Also, the front "lid" of the casing is broken off, the glass is gone, and it does not run.  The outside of the envelope details a quote of the work that needs to be done to it.

Pocketwatch BackSo, Whose Pocketwatch Is This?
Well, that's a good question.  It is thought by my husband's family that the handwriting is from my husband's paternal grandfather, Forest Pointer. Forest's father was Harvey Lewis Pointer, and he was Pearl May's husband.  [Remember, the beautiful lady?]  Harve and Pearl married in 1906.  This is pretty cut and dry, right?  That's what I thought, but how do we know if the writing on the envelope refers to this watch?  How do we know if the identification of the pocketwatch by Forest is correct?  The answer is...we don't.

Pocketwatch Open
Identifying the Pocketwatch
I needed to identify the pocketwatch in order to document it correctly.  So, I crossed my fingers and googled "Elgin antique pocketwatches."  I was ever so lucky and I found a site that is "everything to do with Eligin antique pocketwatches" including a database of serial numbers and manufacturer descriptions at  [Yup, it was that easy.]  It took me step-by-step in identifying this pocketwatch including correcting me on the placement of the serial number [The number on the inside of the casing is the serial number for the casing.  The timepiece's serial number is located on the inside near the gears.  Just in case you were wondering.]  This is its "official" manufacturer description:
  • This "style" was manufactured between 1899-1903;
  • There were 3000 manufactured in a "run" and there were 45 runs;
  • Pocketwatch Gears
  • 15 jewels are located in it.
  • It's a pendant model & pendant set.
  • Designed for a hunter's case [meaning second hand is 90 degrees to the pendant];
  • Has a 3/4 plate
  • Has nickel damaskeening [a shiny silver color with patterns and designs that change when watch is moved (on timepiece not casing);
  • Beats 5 beats/second;
  • This particular timepiece was made about 1903, but probably selling several years after the date of manufacture;
  • This particular style was manufactured in low-volumes, 3000/run [compared to a high volume of 10,000-20,000 per run]
Remember the stamping on the casing?  There were some more on the inside casing in the back where you access the actual timepiece's gears and whatnot.  [Yes, that's my technical term. ;)]  Using the same above process, I found information here about the casing's manufacturer.  [Back then, the casing & the timepiece were manufactured separately.]  It's stamped "Keystone Watch Case J.Boss, 14K, Guaranteed 25 years."  I discovered it was a 14k gold-filled case designed by J. Boss.  Boss was the man who received the patent for the gold filled process.  Wow, huh?  Who knew there was so much information that could be determined by a serial number on a pocketwatch? [And who would've guessed I'd be looking for it?]

Switching Gears
Mercy HaleyI put the pocketwatch aside [much to my chagrin because I really like the bling...].  Amongst all the photographs, there were 2 in particular that caught my eye.  Why?  Maybe because they were the only 2 studio photographs that were in this beautiful Victorian era celluloid photo album [the album is a story for another time].  Not only were these 2 photographs alone, but they were anonymous as well.  There were no names to be found on or around them.  Let me correct that.  Their names weren't on there, but they did have a studio "stamp" on the front.  It reads "C.W. Bonham, Gering Nebraska".  [Gering is located in Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska.]  Now, it's thought by the family that the photo album came from the "Haley" side of the family, which would be my husband's paternal grandmother's family.  If this is correct, then the owner of this very lovely album would've been Lovina Emaline Haley [wife of Daniel Haley and my husband's 2nd great-grandmother who owned the 125-yr old autograph album.]  So, it's thought that the photographs are of the Haley persuasion.  [Not exactly definitive because throughout the generations, people could've changed these photographs around.]  I looked on both sides of the family looking for members who had lived in Nebraska.  There were 2 distinct family members that had lived in Nebraska - both from the "Haley" side. [Yes!]  The first was Emaline's younger brother James Madison Richmond.  I found him and his family living in Dawes County, Nebraska [located in the northwestern area of the state] in 1910 and his age is 47.  The other family member living in Nebraska was Frank Edward Haley the adopted son of Daniel and Lovina Haley.  In 1900, he was single and living in Gabe Rock Pct., Nebraska.  In 1910, it's listed that he'd been married to a woman for 5 yrs by the name of Mercy, and they were living in Rose Pct., Scotts Bluff County, NE.  Between 1910 and 1920, they moved back to Iowa [where Frank Edward was born and where he was raised by Daniel and Lovina].  Now, this puts Edward [the name Frank Edward went by] and his wife Mercy very much near Gering, NE, where these photographs were taken.  I looked up on a Scotts Bluff County map from 1907 on and learned that Rose Pct [where they lived in 1910] was near Gering, NE [in fact one district away].  This leads me to believe that these two people in these photographs are Frank Edward and Mercy (Slingbaum) Haley [Mercy is pictured above, and Edward I introduced you to here. ].  Not definitive, I know, but still a strong likelihood.  [Also, please note: I tried looking up information on the photography studio in Gering Nebraska, but was unable to find anything.]

Taking A Closer Look
If you take a closer look at the photograph of who I believe is Mercy Slingbaum Haley, you'll notice that she's wearing a...pendant pocketwatch.  I didn't notice this at first even though I had looked at this photograph several times.  I took a look at it under my magnifying glass, and then I could almost see the design on the pocketwatch.  It looked quite similar to the pocketwatch that I had been examining and documenting, but the pocketwatch is supposed to be from my husband's paternal grandfather line [Pointer], and Mercy is from his paternal grandmother line [Haley].  Of course, this might not be Mercy in this photograph, but no other familial lines [paternal or maternal], that I've been able to find, lived in or near Gering, Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska.  The closest other candidate is Lovina's younger brother James Madison Richmond who lived in Dawes County, Nebraska, so he's a possibility, but due to proximity, I think Edward and Mercy Haley are the better candidates.  I decided to try some digital enhancing of the pocketwatch to see if I could make out the design on the pocketwatch.  [Now,  I have no clue how to properly do this.  In fact, I am below an amateur when it comes to this, but I thought I'd at least try and "fiddle" with it!] Here is what I came up with:

Pocketwatch 300xPocketwatch 100x

Did Time Discover Mercy?
So, nothing really definitive, but I think the enhancements lend a little credence to my theory that this might be the same pocketwatch.  If it's not, it's one very similar.  Edward and Mercy were married in 1905 and this pocketwatch, remember, was manufactured in 1903, but probably sold several years after that.  However, Harve and Pearl were married in 1906, so the timing is right for this pocketwatch to have been a gift of some kind like a wedding gift, etc. for either woman.  One thing of note is that Edward Haley was raised in Jasper County, Iowa, moved to Nebraska and married there, and he and Mercy moved back to Jasper County, Iowa.  In addition Harve and Pearl Pointer lived in Story County, Iowa.  These are adjoining counties and maybe two similar pocketwatches were purchased at the same place.  However, the only problem is, at that time, Edward was living in Nebraska, but he could have gone home.   Maybe they [Mercy and Pearl] just had similar pendant pocketwatches.  Of course, this particular pocketwatch's "runs" were considered low volume - not high volume.  Basically, I don't know.  What I do know, though, is that I probably wouldn't have spent so much time examining an adopted son's life as much if I hadn't noticed the similarities in pocketwatches.  So, in this respect, time did truly help me find Mercy!


[Note: All census information accessed through Heritage Quest Online and]


  1. You just amaze me with your ability to pick up on clues and find similarities and look for logical matches. That watch is really beautiful.
    Great detective work.


  2. Fantastic detective work and what a find! Imagine finding people in photos with all the misc. items that get passed down in a family. You really did your homework on this bit.

  3. What an interesting mystery. It's a gorgeous watch and it would be fascinating to know exactly who gave it to whom, when, and for what occasion. By the way, I have nominated you for the Janice Brown Puckerbrush Blog Award for Excellence at

  4. Thank you for following my blog, Flipside. I have to come back and read this particular blog when I have some time. I have pocket watches and know nothing about them.

  5. Guess Greta beat me to it - I also nominated you with the Puckerbrush... great minds think alike!

  6. Wow--you're really amazing at this!! Lovely pocket-watch, as well.
    Kinda makes me jealous, though. I really, really, really love to do what you're doing--but our family doesn't really have that many items . . . :(
    Although our roots can be traced back to Captain Kid. 0.o And the author of The Cherokee Strip. One of our relatives even got a written pardon from President George Washington. (sorry--too much info . . .)
    Well . . . I suppose I should be satisfied . . . but I still want to know more!!
    Really love your blog. It's beautiful!!


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