In September of 1946 the cousins of Carolyn (Gage) Rockefeller started arriving in a convoy of cars at the resort that she and her husband Guy owned on the shores of Lake Higgins near Roscommon, Michigan. Carrie was related to the Fleagles and Coffins through the Foster line, and the Rockefellers were inspired that year to invite the family at large to come and stay in cabins by the lake during that quiet time after the summer vacationers had cleared out and before the hunters had arrived for the fall.
The family had by then become geographically dispersed but in those days still maintained strong tribal bonds, and lots of letters were being written in attempts to keep everyone abreast of events and goings on. Many children had been born who had grown up constantly hearing about cousins they’d never met. The retreat at Lake Higgins would be a chance for everyone to convene in real time, face to face; for old friendships to be reaffirmed with warm embraces and new ones to be struck.
My father, Willard Foster Fleagle, mentioned this reunion a few times at least, but I never really understood during his lifetime who the Fosters were, other than the sake of his middle name, and I also hadn’t understood that the Michigan reunion happened only once, that this gathering at Roscommon was a special event. I’ve learned more about it recently, and apparently it was a jolly time (and a lot of work for some of the younger women). My father was there, of course, but so were his sisters and his brother Ben.
Lots of photographs were taken. This photo of an original photo was given to me by my cousin Nancy, who was two and a half years old at the time and is the youngest person in the frame.
A version of this image was reproduced in a book that my cousin Christina put together about the descendants of the Fosters and Fairweathers.* Here are the names as the book gives them to the people in the photo, with the difference that I have swapped italics for parenthesis around maiden names:
“Back Row, Left to Right: Vera Mabel (Horton) Rathbun, Joseph Simmion Rathbun, Glennora (Horton) Washabaugh Wissler, Mrs. Helen Horton, Charles McConologue, Fannie (Kisabaugh) Michener Hickey, Charles Edgar Hickey, Lois Viola (Hickey) Behlen, Wallace Raymond Hickey, Lydia Rose (Tyler) Cochran, and George Barbour.
Middle Row: Luella (Coffin) Bowser, Benjamin Joseph Fleagle, Jennie Viola (Coffin) Fleagle, Lewis Frederick Linker, Horace Coffin, Wilbur Loren Foster standing immediately in back of his wife Beatrice “Bee” (Scott), Marguerite Katherine (Kilday) Foster, George Allen Foster, Albert Glenn Hickey, Elmer Edward Johnson next to his wife Alice Marie (Hickey) Johnson.
“Front Row: Nellie Mae (Coffin) Stake holding the waist of Vivian June (Fleagle) Wise, Willard Fleagle, Miriam Evelyn (Fleagle) Linker with her right hand on the shoulder of her daughter Miriam Rebecca Linker, who is standing in back of little Nancy Lee Wise who is sucking her thumb, Sarah Etta Mock standing in back of James Frederick Linker, Pearl Lorinia (Foster) Secrist slightly in front of Mamie (Hall) Hickey, Sandra Jane Johnson, Richard Allen Johnson, Georgene Barbour, Alberta (Rockefeller) Barbour, and hosts to the 1946 FOSTER reunion, Carrie (Gage) Rockefeller and husband, Guy Leslie Rockefeller.”
It is a strange thing to see my father Willard here just days before his sixteenth birthday, having lived yet to only half the age he would be before he knew me. The entire agelong span of my relationship with my father transpired between that moment and this. To the best of my knowledge only his two sisters, my aunts Vivian and Miriam, remain living out of all the adults pictured here, though there may be one or two others. Of the three children left of center, cousins Nancy and Jim remain, but Jim’s older sister Rebecca died in her twenties. The two other children I do not know, but if they are still living they would be in their mid-70s now. -mdf
*The Early families of Elbridge FOSTER and Jane FAIRWEATHER and their Descendants, by Christina Cochran and Claudia Cristina Carvajal, 2003.
Image archive ID:
About the physical photograph:
Unknown. This digital image of the photograph is from the collection of Nancy Stake-Reynolds.