Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday From The Collectors - November 14


Denise Levenick
The Family Curator

amily historians spend considerable time in the past. Old photographs, brittle letters, fading handwriting. Technology is an anachronism that aids this time warp, but nevertheless, a surprise from the Present can be a bit jarring.

footnoteMaven seems to be a magnet for my widespread family members. In the past few months I connected with cousins Andy Graybeal and Scott Angus MacPhee through comments and articles at Shades of the Departed, and footnoteMaven was kind enough to forward their messages.

I first discovered Andy through footnoteMaven’s article, “Close Encounters of the Best Kind” describing a postcard she found in a Missoula, Montana antiques store. fM’s research on the card’s owner, Grace Mathewson, turned up Andy Graybeal, Grace’s nephew. I read fM’s story and posted a comment about my own research on the Mathewson family line. Andy replied, and although we haven’t found a close family link, we think that we may be related somewhere along the family branches.

Just last week, Scott MacPhee Googled himself (don’t we all do that once in a while?) and found my article for Shades featuring a classroom project on using historic family letters with my English students. The article also mentioned my great-aunt who happens to be Andy’s great-grandmother, Mercy Kinsel MacPhee. He probably didn’t recognize my name because the last time we met he was a youngster and I was a young mom. He wrote to fM, who forwarded his email to me.

Scott lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and is the little boy I may have babysat when my husband was pursuing a graduate degree in Moscow, Idaho under the tutelage of my first cousin, Scott’s grandfather. Those relationships are all a bit cumbersome, especially when generational age differences make cousins “feel” like uncles, but we always refer to Scott’s grandfather as “Cousin Craig.”

After we moved away from Idaho, we saw the MacPhees occasionally and then lost touch over the years with Scott’s immediate family. When he wrote to fM, Scott probably didn’t know that he had cousins living in Southern California, nor that The Family Curator was his relation.

His news-filled email filled in some gaps for me about Mercy’s marriage and children, and I hope I hope that I helped him to learn a bit more about Mercy and her elopement with the dashing Scotsman, Angus MacPhee. Scott wrote:

Angus may indeed have seduced Mercy Kinsel, but the tales of his being a hypnotist and forcing her to marry against her will are certainly untrue. Mercy ran off with Angus in late 1915, and within two weeks, they married. Her family obviously didn’t approve of the match.

Mercy’s father, Eliphaz, was working in El Paso, Texas and living apart from the family at the time of Mercy’s disappearance. His concern for her well-being was no doubt fueled by the sensational news style of the time and by correspondence from his wife Minnie and elder daughter Arline. When Eliphaz wrote to Arline on July 5, 1916, Mercy and Angus had supposedly been married for over six months, yet he was reluctant to acknowledge the match.

Mercy Winsor Kinsel performing as Mrs. Lee,
The Colonel’s Wife in “A Noble Outcast.”
Pueblo, Colorado, 1906.
The plot and performance are detailed in a series beginning
with “A Mystery in Two Acts—Act One” at The Family Curator

Scott and I will have a puzzle to piece together as we unravel the timeline for his great grandparents’ romance and the ensuing hue-and-cry over Mercy’s marriage. Scott is now a new father with a keen interest in history, and an eye for historical detail. I learned all that just from repeating his Google search. He is an avid miniaturist and paints historically accurate war games figures featured on his blog, MacPhees’ Miniature Men.

I don’t know if he realizes, however, just how much he resembles his grandmother, Mercy, in his vocation and interests. Mercy, like Scott, was a teacher as well as a very accomplished self-trained artist. She also seems to have preferred working on a small scale, and often sent hand-decorated cards to her friends and family. It is wonderful to see that Mercy’s artistic talent still flourishes in the hand of her grandson!

Notecard, handpainted and signed by Mercy Kinsel,
ca. 1918. Pueblo, Colorado.
“Duty makes us do things well, but love
makes us do them beautifully. – Phillips Brooks”
On the reverse, Mercy has written a message to her father
and notes “I painted the flowers on this card and did
the printing with gold ink.”

I’ve also made connections with more cousins through my blog, The Family Curator. My mother emails everyone she knows with a link to the site, and it was exciting to hear from cousins Sara Winsor and her daughter who are researching our New England Winsor relations.

Discovering four family connections in just a few months inspired me to start thinking about ways that family historians could encourage such reunions. I’m working on a list that I will post at The Family Curator, but here is

My #1 Tip for Making Family Connections –
Write an article or leave a comment with footnoteMaven at Shades of the Departed!

Meanwhile, if you are related to a Kinsel, Winsor, Chamblin, or Mathewson, we may be cousins. Drop me a note; I would love to hear from you!

Denise Levenick, The Family Curator
Familycurator [at] sbcglobal [dot] net


All images and correspondence privately held by the author.

Copyright © 2008
Denise Levenick
The Family Curator


Blogger footnoteMaven said...


I love the postcard and how Mercy worked her initials in the upper left hand corner.


November 14, 2008 at 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mercy was a talented artist. This card is a good representation of her style -- delicate with a bit of an deco look, do you think?

Thank you, fM, for the invitation to write about the connections I've made through the web, and Shades. I'm looking forward to finding even more cousins. -- Denise

November 18, 2008 at 8:31 AM  

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