A Snapshot of the Past-Five Generations of My Family

Front: William Reid, Gertrude (Brewster) Miller, Mary Ann (Cotterell) Headington. Back: Pearl (Reid) Brewster, Elvira (Headington) Reid. c1898

This five generation photo is one of my favorites. William Reid, featured in my latest Tombstone Tuesday blog, is the man seated in the photo and is my second great grandfather. The little girl in the photo is my grandmother, Gertrude Miller, nee Brewster. Her mother, Pearl Brewster, nee Reid, is standing on the left. William was Pearl’s father. William’s mother, Elvira Reid, nee Headington, is standing on the right. Elvira’s mother, Mary Ann Headington, nee Cotterell, is seated on the right.

This photo and accompanying story was reprinted on 18 April 1957 in The Graphic, a newspaper published in Portland, Indiana. The original story was published 21 Feb 1903. The article states that the photo was taken in 1903, but my grandmother was born in 1896 and she doesn’t look as though she was 6 or 7 years old in the photo. I would guess the photo was taken about 1898. The article:

PIONEERS IN PORTLAND—Mrs. Mary Ann (Cotterell) Headington, of West Main Street, here, boasts of living representatives of five generations, and she, the head of the list, carried her 87 years with an easy grace that marks her as an altogether unusual type. She is the widow of William Headington, a brother of Judge JW Headington and Col. Nimrod Headington, citizens prominent in all the best enterprises of Portland since first they cast in their lot with the struggling Hoosier hamlet on the Salamonie.

William and Mary A C Headington came west fifty-two years ago, leaving the old home in Baltimore, Maryland, on their wedding morn and making the long journey overland in an old-time “prairie schooner,” capacious and comfortable. Their wedding trip occupied fourteen days.

When they first arrived in Portland, the place was but a small village, the log houses nestling down among the forest trees. Mrs. Headington is remarkably bright, active and light of foot, and takes great pride in attending to her household duties. The reason for this young-old lady’s vigorous intellect, sunny, helpful character and strong body may be found in the fact that she has always faced life with cheerful heart, absorbing its sweetness and light and touching lightly its bitterness and shadows.

Her reminiscences of the early years in Portland are exceedingly interesting and inspiring. She has helped into life, and prepared for burial more people than did any other person who has ever lived in Portland. A call came for her one night in the long ago when the waters were up from Meridian Street to Pleasant Street. Her husband was away from home at the time, but she turned the key in the door, leaving her four little ones asleep, mounted her trusty horse and drawing her feet into the saddle went through the waters to the house of death, prepared the body for the coffin and was back at home before daylight.

Thirty-eight years ago Mrs. Headington saw a snow storm on the 4th of July which bowed the wheat crop to the ground. She gathered her first mess of green peas of that season from under the snow. Two of her daughters went to a Sunday School picnic that day dressed in white, wearing blanket shawls. Their escorts wore white duck pans and black coats.

January, 1903, Mrs. Mary Ann (Cotterell) Headington has seventeen living grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, ten great-great-grandchildren, and ten great-great-great grandchildren. Few mothers live to see ten children of the fifth generation.

This article was written by a special Star correspondent, Charlotte Archer Raney.

Caption under photo, 1957: Edith L. Stroube, 615 West High Street, Portland, submits this “Old Album” shot of a five generation picture of the Headington family, starting with Edith Stroube’s great grandmother, Mrs. Mary Ann (Cotterell) Headington, seated right. Identifying the generations, seated left to right, are William Reid (father), Gertie (Brewster) Miller (niece), and Mrs. Headington. Standing left to right are Mrs. Pearl (Reid) Brewster (sister), and Mrs. Elvira (Headington) Reid (grandmother). This picture was taken in January 1903 and, appeared with an interesting story of the Headington family in “struggling Hoosier hamlet on the Salamonie.” (source: The Graphic, Portland, Indiana, 18 April 1957)

I have used this photo and the accompanying article as proof of descent for several lineage applications, including a DAR application. It is interesting to note that Elvira, William, Pearl, and Gertrude were the first born in each of their families. The article states that William and Mary Ann Headington came west 52 years ago, which would be 1851. I believe they meant that the couple came to Portland or Jay County in 1851. Their daughter Elvira was born in Knox County, Ohio, about 1838, according to her obituary. William and Mary Ann were living in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1840 and in Franklin County, Ohio, in 1850, according to census enumerations.

Mary Ann (Cotterell) Headington passed on 19 June 1903, just a few months after the article was written. Here are the vital dates of those in the photo: Mary Ann (Cotterell) Headington (1816-1903); Elvira (Headington) Reid (1838-1911); William Reid (1855-1905); Pearl (Reid) Brewster (1880-1962); Gertrude (Brewster) Miller (1896-1973).


Skip to comment form

    • Kate Eichler on January 15, 2013 at 7:33 am
    • Reply

    I love this picture, I have the original hanging upstairs. Kate

    1. It is one of my favorietes, too, and so special because it is a five-generation photo. How large is the original?

        • Lois (Pogue) Grubb on May 2, 2018 at 10:47 am
        • Reply

        Kate Eichler has the original??? I wondered who had it. This is my ancestors, my gr. grandfather & gr. grandmother, aunts, etc.

        1. Yes, they would be your ancestors, too, cousin! That is one of my favorite photos. So special. Kate said she had the original but she passed away a couple years ago. I am glad to have a good copy of it.

    • Carolyn Bigelow on September 23, 2013 at 10:15 pm
    • Reply

    I have done ALOT of generations, and come to a Mary Cotterell, however she was born abt 1565 in Ashford, Kent, England, and Married a Nicholas Butler in 18 July 1613. I wonder if this is in the same family line?
    I’ve been looking for her parents for quite some time. I’veread your article, and I’m impressed with what I have read.

    Carolyn Bigelow

    1. I have not gone farther back than Mary Ann Cotterell, so it would be a leap to say they are the same family. But you never know. I’ll e-mail you and we can compare information. Thanks for writing!

    • Lydia on March 11, 2023 at 2:34 pm
    • Reply

    Hello distant cousin! My great great grandfather was James, one of the younger twin brothers of William. I’ve also been in Knox Co., Ohio where our mutual ancestor, Elvira, was born, although at the time I did not know my family connection to it. So neat!

    1. Great to hear from you and to learn that we share distant ancestors. I do have a question for you about James and William–twins? I need to do more research on this branch of the family and should plan a trip the Knox County cemetery where they are buried. Thank you so much for writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.