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Sunday, March 10, 2024

Who is the Kerr County woman in the shattered portrait?

Portrait of woman on shattered glass, photo taken about 1863.
Click on any image to enlarge.

Often, when people bring me things, I wish someone years ago had taken the time to identify the people shown in old photographs. Most of the time, there are simply not enough clues to figure out the names of the persons shown in the photographs, and to determine how their story relates to Kerrville and Kerr County.

Such was the case recently when the Fitch family gave me an old suitcase filled with family portraits and snapshots – portraits not of the Fitch family, but photographs of the ancestors of one of the many customers of Fitch Estate Sales.

Among the photographs in the suitcase was a small formal portrait of a woman. It only measures 2 ½ x 3 inches, and is housed in a worn frame. Though it is a black and white photograph, some artist years ago added a bit of color to the woman’s face, lips, and throat, and also added gold details to the woman’s dress.

Two tightly-coiled locks of hair were in the upper left and right corners: faded brown on the left; blond on the right. The blond hair is still braided.

The woman peers from behind shattered glass: the image itself is broken, though held in place by a glass frame. The frame saved the image from complete destruction. 

The photo is a puzzle in several ways – its broken pieces coming together to reveal the portrait; the identity of the woman is also a puzzle.

Who is the woman in the shattered portrait?

Hal Peterson, 1913
I placed the portrait where I would see it several times a day at work – just to try to figure out who she was. Among the photographs in the old suitcase were several of a much older woman – an older woman who looked a lot like the young woman in the mystery photo. One of the portraits of the older woman was labeled with her name.

I believe, based on several comparisons with many photos, the woman’s name is Lucy Ann Wright Peterson, the wife of William Caswell Peterson. They married in January, 1860.

Lucy Peterson was born in 1836 in Alabama; William Peterson, in 1835, in North Carolina.

The couple had 10 children together; the first, a daughter named Elizabeth, was born in Mississippi, in late 1860; the last, another daughter, named Cornelia, was born in Gonzales County, 1879. 

Sidney Baker, 1918
Because of the dates of the births of her first two children – and because there are only two locks of hair in the glass frame, I’m guessing Lucy Peterson had this portrait taken around 1863.

The Peterson family moved to Kerrville in the summer of 1882.

Though you might not recognize Lucy Peterson’s name, you’ll recognize the names of several of her descendants. 

Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital was named for her son, Sidney Clay Peterson. It was built by Lucy’s grandsons, Hal and Charlie Peterson. Those brothers were very generous with Kerrville and Kerr County. In fact, the Peterson Foundation continues to help our community to this day.

Kerrville’s middle school is named in honor of Hal Peterson.

You might recognize the name of another of Lucy’s grandsons: Sidney Baker. The street running through town was named in Sidney Baker’s honor after he was killed in the final weeks of World War I. Sidney Baker was one of the sons of Lucy’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth.

Another grandson, Jack Hamilton Peterson, was instrumental in building Louise Hays Park in a single day, back in 1950.

Other family names among Lucy Peterson’s descendants beyond Peterson and Baker include Fawcett, Michel, Carr, and Patton – among many others.

Lucy Peterson died in Kerrville in 1925; her husband, William, in 1924. They are buried in the Glen Rest Cemetery, near Schreiner University.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column originally appeared in the Kerr County Lead March 7, 2024.

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1 comment:

  1. Patsy Jordan FlemingMarch 11, 2024 at 9:31 AM

    As usual your writing is captivating and l actually thought she might be an ancestor of Schreiners’. I can’t even imagine the stories she could tell. Thanks again Joe, for sharing the history of our great Kerr County!


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