Unidentified Woman circa 1850s

an unidentified woman (circa 1850s)


When you look at family trees, very often the names of the daughters is the last we hear of them. If you don’t know who the daughters married, very often the daughters get detached from the family history.  Probably no one alive knows the name of the unidentified woman pictured here in a gold frame.   Hers is simply one of many photographs that have survived with no record of who she was.

Sarah McGill Russwurm was the daughter of and sister of a famous influential Liberian family, who was herself a world traveller and business woman. Sarah married an older man, John Brown Russwurm, himself a noted historic figure. Together they had a family, and all reports indicate how much he relied on her, but his life was cut short and so historically speaking, Sarah’s history seems to have stopped at about the same time. Biographical listings about her McGill family don’t even mention her. There are two known portraits of John Brown Russwurm, but Governor Russwurm missed being captured in a photograph because Augustus Washington didn’t arrive in Africa with his daguerreotype kit until after his death.  But his widow Sarah had gone back to be near her family, so she could very easily be the woman in the double daguerreotype case with her brother.  Still, we we will probably never know for sure if it is Sarah, or if she is some other anonymous woman, detached from history.  One of the things I find most annoying in genealogical research is how easy it is to misplace women. It can be difficult to determine whether they died or if they married and assumed their husband’s name.

Just as often, women appear as “wife of” or “mother of” in family trees with no indication of the families they came from.  We don’t even know the given name of John Brown Russwurm’s mother.  Although she was an important part of his life, all we know is that she was a woman of colour, (presumably) a slave on his father’s plantation.  And yet her son was a writer, educator, and publisher.

Nor do we know the given name of Mrs. J. T. Wade.  Presumably this woman was related to John Sumner Russwurm, since she is the person who gifted the John Sumner Russwurm Papers to the Tennessee State Library and Archives.  We just don’t know how.

But what is her given name? We know from this obituary that Mrs. Wade tragically lost her 27 year old daughter Jennie in 1923.

It becomes my sad and painful duty to write in memory of my dear wife, Mrs. Jennie WHITE, daughter of Mrs. J. T. WADE, who was born June 20th, 1895, and departed this life February 12th, 1923, making her stay on earth 27 years, 7 months, and 22 days. She was married to Dave WHITE on February 14th, 1914; to this union two children were born, Robert Lee and Carnie. She leaves her husband; two children; father; stepmother; three brothers; and seven sisters to mourn her death. Funeral was held 13th February 1923, burial in Poplar Grove Cemetery.


The Eagleville Times on the Web includes references to Mrs. J. T. Wade and family…

Searching for Mrs. J. T. Wade turned up this University of Kentucky digitized newspaper page from the “Breckenridge News (1876-1955) of Cloverport Kentucky which reveals that Mr J. T. Wade is a Reverend)

Rev, and Mrs. J. T. Wade have gone to Princeton to take charge of the M. B. church. They have been with us four yeas and we regret very much to give them up.

The Breckenridge news., October 10, 1917, Image 8

[Wonderful Open Data offering! This is an example of an ideal digitization, which allows people view it online, download the page as a PDF or Jpeg or access the information via OCR text conversion.]

Further newspaper sitings:

Mrs. J. T. Wade and Miss Lydia Greer, both of Rocky Mount. Va., are guests at the home of Mrs. Thomas P. Moore on Tenth avenue. Mrs. Wade is the grandmother of Mrs. Moore.

The Evening Chronicle › 1913 › May › 20 May 1913 › Page 2

“Mrs. Ann Jackson Is visiting her sister, Mrs J. T.Wade, of Raleign, N. C”

Times Dispatch, Volume 1904, Number 16616, 12 August 1904

Margaret (Mann) Ahern
AHERN—Aug. 14, at her residence, 328 Loomis-st., Margaret Ahern (nee Mann), [aged 70] beloved wife of Michael Ahern, and mother of John, Michael, and William, Mrs. Jas. W. Sheridan, and Mrs. J. T. Wade, and the late Mary and Henry Ahern. Native of County Limerick, Ireland. Funeral Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 9:30 a.m. to Holy Family Church, where high mass will be celebrated, thence by cars to Cavalry via C. M. and St. P. R. R.
— Chicago Tribune 15 August 1898

Mention of Aherns in Newspaper Obituaries 1757-1899

In her mother’s obituary above, we still fail to learns what Mrs. J. T. Wade’s given name was. In a world where women were defined by their husband’s profession and status, the husband’s status is conferred on the wife who bears his name. So while I understand why it happens, it’s terribly annoying when following a family tree.

Mr, & Mrs. J. T. Wade, Sandy Wade, Norfolk. Va. are listed as patrons of the Bluestone 1965 yearbook online at Archive.Org

New Hope church

J.T.Wade’s New Hope church (archive.org)

And the Rev J.T. Wade can be found in the Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America at Archive.Org

1899-1902. Rev. J. T. Wade served New Hope from the fall of
1899 until March 1902. In “Our Life Story” written by Joel and
Grace Wade, Rev. Wade tells of his arrival in New Hope and of
cutting trees to build the first manse. Much of the timber used
in the construction of that first manse were trees on that
original site.

At that point in time, the status of the surrounding churches
were as follows: Olney and Long Creek were grouped with
Steele Creek, Lowell and Belmont shared a minister, and
Bethel and Gastonia had grown to be strong churches and had
a full-time pastor.

New Hope determined to stand alone and called Rev. Wade
as her first full-time minister. The congregation built a manse
and with renewed hope took a forward step.

Rev. Wade was an affable man who was popular with the
young people. He was an excellent Sunday School worker and
in 16 months added 39 members to the church.

In addition to his duties at New Hope, Rev. Wade preached
every Sunday afternoon at McLeans Chapel.

It is noteworthy to mention that his daughter, Emma Lucille,
was the first child born to parents in residence in the first

History of New Hope Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, N.C. : established 1793″

While these bits and pieces remain, it would be nice to know where Mrs. J.T.Wade fits in the area of Russwurm genealogy. There are still threads that might be followed in the information presented here, so someday I might find out.

UPDATE: Solved

By way of the comments below, I now know that it was Mrs. J.T. (Ida) Stockard Wade who presented the papers of General John Sumner Russwurm’s to the Tennessee Library and Archives.

Ida Stockard was the grand daughter of Sara Russwurm Miles, and her J.T. Wade was a Rutherford County farmer, not the minister mentioned above .

Thanks so much to Murray T. Miles, Jr for sharing this information. In historical research, there is nothing as good as a primary source. (You can find more detailed genealogical information in his comment below.)

Image Credits:
Unidentified Woman circa 1850s is a public domain image reproduced from Vintage Photos

New Hope Church from the booklet History of New Hope Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, N.C. : established 1793 (1975) available from archive.org