Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sepia Saturday: William Emery Travis - a brief sketch

William Emery Travis c.1880s

This photo is one of the oldest in my collection. It was in the possession of my grandmother Aune Proctor. Written on the back it said, "Will Travis, brother of Everett's mom...Millie (Amelia Travis Proctor)."  By looking at my family tree, I can see right away that my great grandmother Millie had two brothers who could fit this description - William Emery Travis and Wilbur Reuben Travis. Since I know that Wilbur went by the name "Rube", I am quite sure that this "Will" must be William Emery. He was born November 20, 1859 in Sidney, Iowa to Abraham and Ruth (Stoalabarger) Travis.

Will's life is fairly easy to document. In the 1860 Federal Census he is living with his parents and, at six months old, is still unnamed. Abe and Ruth must have had a difficult time naming their children, since my great grandmother Millie is also recorded as unnamed at five months old in the 1870 Federal Census. Will appears to have continued living with his parents in Sidney until he married Minerva Henrietta McCluskey (known as Ettie) on February 16, 1888. By 1900 he is living in Brock Village, Nemaha, Nebraska working as a peddler and grocer of dry goods. In 1910 he is a landlord at a hotel on Main St in East Muddy, Richardson, Nebraska and in 1920 he is a hotel keeper in Weeping Water, Cass, Nebraska. In 1930 he is in yet another Nebraska town named Gresham in York County where he is working as a restaurant proprietor. He died at 80 years old in that town on April 6, 1940.

Will and Ettie had six children between 1888 and 1899. According to the 1900 Census, five survived. They were Donald, Walter, Thomas, Herschal Abe and Millie (probably Amelia named after her aunt and my great grandmother).

Now I have the basics of his life, but I sure would like to fill it in with some stories. It appears that only the descendants of Herschal Abe have dabbled in genealogy so far and the ones that I have contacted have not returned my messages. So, for now, I will close this brief sketch of the handsome young man pictured above. Hopefully, someone will find this post someday and tell me a little about Will.

(If you liked this post, please check out my friends over at Sepia Saturday and their terrific blogs.)


  1. He does look a bit worried doesn't he? Hope someone contacts you with his stories soon.

  2. Yes, you are right Kristen. He doesn't want to be forgotten. :-) CeCe

  3. You found out a lot more about Will than I know about some of my ancestors. He seems to have been quite an entrepeneur. He also has a very nice part in his hair!

  4. It's been interesting to me to discover that people changed trades much more often than I would have expected. Your Will is a perfect example of that and it makes his life that much more intriguing.

  5. Such an early photograph, but you can still almost reach into the image and get to feel the real person who was there : in a way that you never could with an oil painting. There is a truthfulness about photographs isn't there?

  6. well, according to the census, Will had a busy life!!!...
    let's hope you get some answers from these folks.

  7. I wonder if newspaper research would help you find information between census records. I don't have ancestors in Nebraska so don't really know anything about the newspapers. I wonder, though, if because the towns were spread so distant, whether the newspapers would cover a broader geographic area and include small bits of information on lots of people. Wouldn't it be grand if you found an advertisement for his hotel or restaurant?

    The photo has an interesting quality to it, almost as though time is beginning to erase the person. It's so good that you scanned and posted it and that you're researching Will.

  8. What a treasure to have a photo this old -- just about 20 years after photography took off (I'm thinking of Matthew Brady photographing the Civil War). My oldest photo is about 1893. I hope you'll drop by my site and let me know about Sepia Saturday -- just add a comment on latest post (I've started Travel Tuesday to share the beauty of Romania, & family & historical revelations in my roots-finding trip there in 2007. Is there a group for Sepia Saturday - or one just posts an old photo on Saturday? thanks.