My family has a long line of strong, independent-minded women and Henrietta Jane James was certainly one of them. By studying many of her postcard correspondence, I have learned she had a spark for adventure. Being the sister of my great-grandfather, Aunt Etta was actually my great great Aunt. She was born in Providence, Rhode Island on April 17, 1861 and lived well into the 1940’s. She was one of ten children (siblings listed toward the end of this piece) born to Charles Henry James (1824-1892) and Julia Ann (Moore) James (1836-1914).

etta-tinThe earliest picture that I have found of Aunt Etta is shown here to the right, it is a tintype photo. Most likely, this picture dates to the mid-1870’s which would be her teen years.

At the age of 17, Henrietta was married to William T. Hooper on July 10, 1878. He was born about 1860 and died in 1932. According to the 1930 Census, William was living on Peck Street in Franklin, Mass., where he and Aunt Etta had lived for many years. He was still working as Deputy Sheriff for the District Court in Franklin. For some reason, on this 1930 Census, Aunt Etta was actually living on Spring Street, in Franklin, as a “lodger” in the home of Francis and Beatrice MacDonald. In the near future, I may find some clarity on this–were they separated, or perhaps she a caregiver of some kind? Over the years, Aunt Etta had lived in other places including at St. John’s Parish in Providence and for a time in Worcester, Mass.

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This photo with bikes, to the left, was taken of Aunt Etta with her husband Bill around 1900 which would make her close to 40 years old at the time.

She and William had two children, both of whom tragically died early on: Ethel May was born on December 14, 1879 and sadly drowned on May 31, 1884; Irene was born on July 4, 1885 and died nine-months later on April 1, 1886.

There are two pair of shoes that belonged to Ethel May that have been passed down to me via my grandmother (Gra Gra). It seems that I remember my grandmother mentioning that someone in the family was a shoemaker that made them. These baby shoes were made in 1879 and 1881 and are pictured below.

The photo below was taken in 1913 with Aunt Etta wearing the print dress at age 52 and her husband Bill on the left in the picture. The other ladies I believe to be nieces, I am working on getting better able to specifically identify them. From the expression on her face, one can only wonder what she was thinking at the time.

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In time, Aunt Etta became involved in organizations, one of those was the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) which was the official Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The group of pictures shown below are from a very small luncheon brochure from 1926 that has been passed down that belonged to Aunt Etta, the last page of the brochure shows the symbol for the WRC.

The GAR, sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, was founded in Decatur, Ill. in 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson and disbanded in the late 1970’s. The membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served from 1861-1865. The GAR held Annual Encampments with the final one being held in 1949, in Indianapolis, Ind.

The 49th National Annual Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was held September 27th thru October 2nd, 1915, in Washington, DC. There is a postcard pictured below that Aunt Etta had sent to my grandmother (Gra Gra) on Friday, September 24, 1915. She noted, “I leave Boston Sunday morning, (September 26th) at 9 o’clock for Washington, DC with the Grand Army”. At this time, Aunt Etta would have been 54 years old.

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The Annual Encampment, in 1915, recognized the 50th Anniversary of the Grand Review when in 1865 the Union Civil War Armies marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. This event in 1915 was to be a reproduction of the original Grand Review and included a parade which passed by President Wilson and cabinet members. Many aging Veterans participated in this march for the last time. Some of this information was found from a historical newspaper article that appeared in the Herald Democrat dated July 6, 1915 that had been published in advance of the event.

My featured postcard at the top of the blog is of the Tea Room at the Sweet Heart Inn, Shelburne Falls, Mass. This 1920’s postcard was from The Albertype Co., of Brooklyn, NY.

According to “The History and Tradition of Shelburne, Mass.” the Sweet Heart Inn was built in 1914. Later, more seating and foods were added and it became the Sweet Heart Tea House. Alice Brown made heart-shaped molded candy from maple sugar called “Maple Sweethearts”.

Living in New England, the fall season becomes a brilliance of color with the changing foliage. Even in the present day, we enjoy a beautiful fall ride along the Mohawk Trail, also known as Route 2, in the northwest section of Massachusetts. And so it was the opportunity for such an adventure, perhaps, that in 1922 on October 14th and 15th, Aunt Etta took a fall automobile ride which would include the Mohawk Trail. According to Aunt Etta’s budget list, one of their stops was for dinner at the Sweet Heart Inn. One of the other images shows the list of towns they visited: “going through” and “Returning through Mohawk Trail”. Their journey began in Worcester and went as far as North Adams, having gone through the Berkshires. Aunt Etta, age 61 at the time of the trip and is standing in front of the auto wearing the dark-colored hat and lighter colored dress in the front row along with her traveling companions.

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One of the pictures above (with the little roof) is of the “well at Jacob’s Ladder” which would have been on the first part of their journey, the “going through” section of her travel list. The picture would have been from the Jacob’s Ladder Trail Scenic Byway, part of what is also known as Route 20, as they went through the towns of Chester and Lee. This trail opened in 1910 for the new “horseless carriages” and there was a 100-year celebration held in 2010.

As I will explore some of the family interactions via postcard correspondence in future blogs, it will be helpful for me to provide some genealogical information here and make additions to it along the way. The following list will show the siblings of Aunt Etta and their spouses, I will save listing any offspring for future writings:

  • Harriett Ann James was born in Dighton, Mass., on November 12, 1854. She married William J. Young (born 1858) on July 4, 1878 and in the 1880 Census they were living in Providence and William was listed as a Jeweler. Harriett died of childbirth on December 8, 1893.
  • William Henry James was born in Dighton, Mass., on November 4, 1856. He married Mabel A. Dollof on December 25, 1877, in Providence.
  • Charles Edward James was born in Providence, RI on February 10, 1859 and died July 13, 1861.
  • Martin Royal VanBuren James was born in Walpole, Mass., on May 22, 1864. He married Mary (Mollie) J. Pease on November 20, 1895 in Boston, Mass. etta-w-brother
  • Ethan Allan James was born in Providence on November 25, 1866. He married Jennie Taylor in Conn. He died on November 6, 1928 at Backus Hospital, in Norwich, Conn. They are both buried at River Bend Cemetery, in Westerly, RI.
  • George Lang Parkhurst James (my great-grandfather) was born in Providence on February 25, 1869 and died March 15, 1926. He married first to Martha Ella Carr in 1890 and second to Susan Mary Henrich, from Plainville, Mass., on October 12, 1899.
  • Charles Frederick James was born in Providence on December 27, 1870 and died on September 7, 1871.
  • Byron Madison James was born in Providence on September 23, 1874. He married (unknown name at this time) and divorced. He was said to have disappeared for twenty years and died about 1935 near Schenectady, New York.
  • Frank Daniel James was born in Providence on November 29, 1876 and died on June 5, 1883.

The picture, just above, with Aunt Etta standing on the right with the man sitting who I think is her brother Ethan Allan, not her husband. I may be able to make a better determination in the near future.

We will learn more about Aunt Etta together in future blogs, I am still working on her exact date of death but I know she lived into her 80’s. last-of-etta

The picture you see here to the left is probably one of the last ones taken of her, so it is most likely from the 1940’s.

My mother used to mention Aunt Etta from time-to-time since she was fortunate enough to know her in person. By reading her extensive collection of postcards, in part at least at this point, I have grown to know her better and find her fascinating.

For myself, and for those that may choose to read my blog, I look forward to learning and sharing more about her life, as well as, her (and mine) extended family.

Until next time…