Until just recently I have not been in possession of a really good portrait of my grandmother on my dad’s side, so I have not yet posted one. But in the past week I received not only two images of her from my cousin Tim, but also several good ones on a CD chock full of images that my cousin Nancy and her husband Joe have spent numerous hours collecting. This is one that Tim has, given to him I think by my Aunt Miriam. I’m thrilled to be able to introduce you to this young woman, Jennie Viola Coffin.
It’s fun to say “this young woman”, because she was an old lady when I was born, almost 73, and she remained an old lady for the 27 years I knew her. But here she is in the blush of youth. Now that I am over 50, I understand that people age only on the outside — we carry thoughts and attitudes and deep beliefs that originate in our formative years and remain oft unchanged, and although we are well aware of changes overtaking the world around us, we are often startled to realize what time has wrought on our own mortal coils while we were distracted with life’s necessities, especially when we feel internally as though we are the same person we have always been. Thus I can acknowledge that this photo is as good or better an external representation of my grandmother, who wished that we call her Granny, as any memory I have of the old woman I knew. The fresh-faced young person lost in reflection here was and is Jennie Viola Coffin.
You’ve seen Jennie here a number of times before, yes, but never younger than fifty, I’ll warrant. As I said, it is only recently that digital versions of these younger photographs of her have come to me, and many of them I have never seen before. Consequently I have no information about where this photo was taken nor when, but she was 27 when she married James Ezra Fleagle in June of 1916, and she looks much younger than that here. She was born in Genoa, Nebraska, to Joseph Coffin and Margaret Foster in April of 1889, and she lived there until she married, so I think we can safely put this sitting in Genoa, my wild guess somewhere between 1907 and 1912. She was born on Easter Sunday the day after the family arrived in Nance County by covered wagon from their previous home in Wheeler County. She apparently grew up to be amused by the fact that, as she wrote, she “just missed being a covered wagon baby.”
I have lots of pictures of “Granny”, and lots of memories, too. She lived with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Evelyn out here in Seattle when I was younger, and then moved in with us when I was a teenager in the late 1970s. And too, she had so many children and grandchildren and great grandchildren that she seems to some of us to have been the very fountain from which our family sprang. But for the nonce we’ll leave those tales for pictures of the old lady, and leave the young Jennie to her reverie. – mdf
Image archive ID:
About the physical photograph:
Unknown. From the collection of Tim Taylor.