Cold Case: The Centenarian with an Untimely Demise…
By Jaclyn Haynes Day, April 2014
As a teenager, I remember discussing a photograph in the possession of my paternal grandmother, LaVonne. (See Exhibit 1) The photograph is a portrait of a very old woman. She is neatly kept in a black bonnet, lace collar, button and bow at her throat. Her gaze is direct, her eyes are light, possibly cloudy. Her eyebrows are faint. Her mouth is closed and appears to be a bit sunken (toothless). Her skin is very deeply wrinkled. My grandma claimed that this woman was a Grandma Mary Poole, mother of our ancestor Mary Ann Poole Hale (Exhibit 2), and that, very memorably, she had lived to the age of 104 and died choking on a fishbone.
Exhibit 1 Portrait of an Old Woman in a Bonnet
Mary Ann Poole Hale with husband Hiram Hale
Caption with photo reads, “Great Grandma & Grandpa Hale, daughter of Mary Poole. Hiram & Mary Hale”
Years later I began researching this family. I acquired the photos (mounted on the same scrapbook page) and accompanying papers from my grandma LaVonne. I began searching for more information about this elder Mary Poole, particularly looking for the name of her husband. To my dismay, the evidence began piling up that Mary Ann Poole Hale (the daughter) was the daughter of DELILAH and William T. Poole. Delilah only lived to the age of 76. My photo of the old woman is labeled, “Great Great Grandma Mary Poole. Buried at Roseburg, Oregon,” and what little I knew of her claimed that she lived to 104 and died choking on a fishbone. I was faced with the following options:
Faulty Kinship Research. Were the old woman’s name and accompanying story true, disproving the body of evidence for the parentage for Mary Ann (Delilah and William) I had considered well established? (Note, in case you are thinking, couldn’t Mary just have been the name of William’s first wife? And then she died young? Oh wait. Now you remember why that doesn’t work. 104! Having someone live past 100 years throws several theories out the window.)
Inaccurate Captioning and Storytelling. Was her identity really Delilah Brown Poole, rendering both the caption and story incorrect and unreliable?
Middle Name Interference. Was her name Mary Delilah or Delilah Mary, making the caption and relationship correct, but the story false?
Generation Gap. Was the name “Mary Poole” correct and the story correct but the relationship incorrect, in other words, could she have been young Mary’s paternal grandmother?
Complete Fabrication. And what about the story about the 104 year old choking on a fishbone, existing by itself? Did that have any merit at all? If it was true, was it really about the woman in this photo, or someone else? Could the story be used as a tool to resolve the identity conflict?
What could be learned from the photo itself?
- The woman in the picture does appear to be very old, making the fishbone story credible.
- The woman in the photo is not the same person as the daughter Mary, although there is some resemblance in the deep-set eyes and cheekbones, and forehead. The nose and eyebrows are clearly different. Also, the photo of old Mary and the photo of daughter Mary appear to be taken around a similar era, basked on photo style, clothing, etc. (If daughter Mary had lived to be as allegedly old as the woman in the picture, the elderly portrait of her would have been taken in the 1950s!) So, this is not a case of making two people out of one.
- Based on appearance, IF the two photos were taken around the same time, could the elder Mary be the right age to be the younger Mary’s mother? Yes, if the younger Mary aged well and the elder Mary did not. Does elder Mary look like she could be young Mary’s grandmother? Yes, it is possible.
- Did anyone else in the family have this picture, possibly identified in a different way? No one in my line seems to. I have posted queries online, as well as sharing the photo with some different Poole researchers (including one who attended a Poole family reunion and reportedly shared it there). No one has recognized the woman.
- Could elder Mary solve the mystery on her own? I had high hopes when I learned that Google will allow an image search. (You upload the image and Google looks for nearly exact matches anywhere online.) Unfortunately, nothing came up except the copies of the photo I had posted myself.
- It would be a slightly unusual for the family to have a picture of a grandmother but not a mother.
- There is no husband pictured (although the photo is off-center and conceivably could have had another subject at one time). Easiest answer, though, is that the woman is a widow.
- The photo is printed on good, glossy paper and does not appear to be as old as I would expect—it is probably a copy. (Also, all the photos on the scrapbook pages seem to have the same finish, and three are definitely copies, showing the torn edges of the originals.) Hopefully there is an original or additional copies somewhere else!
Who labeled the scrapbook page the photos are mounted on?
The scrapbook pages were created or at least possessed and labeled by Elmira Bos Wehrend, a great granddaughter of Mary Ann Poole Hale (young Mary). Two pages were mailed to my Grandma LaVonne by Elmira’s daughter, who knew my grandma was interested. (Elmira and LaVonne were first cousins). Besides knowing that the scrapbook belonged to Elmira, it is clear that she wrote the captions because she titles the people in the photos on all the pages “Grandma”, “Great-Grandpa”, etc, according to her relationship to them. All of the pictures except the two Mary’s are of a different branch of the family entirely, holding no further clues on our subject.
How reliable is Elmira’s info?
It is unclear how she was able to identify the people in the photos—who might have helped her—because she would have been too young to know all of the people personally. I’m assuming that her mother Grace (young Mary’s granddaughter) would have contributed. Elmira’s designation of “Greats” seems to be correct in the other photos—she seems to have a handle on who is related to whom and how closely. There is one claim that one of our ancestors was Teddy Roosevelt’s aunt back in Holland, which I have debunked. All in all, somewhat reliable, but Elmira was at least four generations removed from our younger subject, possibly six from our elder, creating a huge opportunity for error.
What about the provenance of the fishbone story?
I found the source of the fishbone story in a letter among my Grandma LaVonne’s papers. Much to my frustration, the last page is missing and the author, therefore, unknown, although the content makes it clear that the author was one of LaVonne’s aunts, a granddaughter to young Mary. The letter states, “This Grandma Poole you asked about is my great grandmother. She lived to be 104 years old and died by choking on a fish bone.” The first name of this Grandma Poole is not mentioned, and there is no further information about her. It would be helpful to know if the choking occurred during the author’s lifetime because then we could narrow down the time frame, or if it was just a story she’d heard. It would also be especially helpful to know if this particular letter-writing aunt was the same aunt Grace who may have helped label the scrapbook, possibly spreading the same error. The fishbone story and the photo page were not received at the same time, and came from different sources; but it is inferred that the story reported in the letter is about elder Mary because she was the only “Grandma Poole” my Grandma would have been aware of to ask her aunt about.
Is there any evidence that supports the fishbone story, or the caption of the photo?
- No. Mary Ann Poole Hale (young Mary) does seem to be the daughter of William and Delilah Brown Poole (see appendix I, “William T. and Delilah Brown Poole”). With Delilah trying out for the role of fishbone choker, her gravestone would cause her to lose the part. It clearly reads, “Delilah Poole, Feb. 15, 1807- Mar. 28, 1883”. She died at a mere 76.
- No. Delilah’s obituary or cause of death could also support at least part of the story, but death certificates were not yet required in Oregon at her time of death, and an online obituary search has proved unfruitful.
- The possibility that Delilah’s full name might have been Delilah Mary is possible, although it seems unlikely, not yet showing up on any records. Also unlikely that her granddaughters would refer to her as Mary if that was only her middle name. Our Middle Name Interference theory is not holding up. Another no.
- Yes…sort of. Part of the photo’s caption sates, “buried at Roseburg, Oregon.” This part is too close to a connection to be discounted. Delilah’s burial in Canyonville, Oregon is within 30 miles of Roseburg, in fact, this very random connection for a family from Iowa is one of the reassurances that Delilah and William Brown are in fact a part of young Mary’s family. The Roseburg claim on the caption is grounds enough to at least hypothesize that the photo is, in fact, of Mary Poole’s mother—only her name is Delilah instead of Mary. The fishbone story, which designates the subject only as a great grandma Poole, no first name mentioned, could have been about another woman, one who lived much longer, maybe a generation back. The photo and the story become disconnected, supporting the Incorrect Captioning and Storytelling theory.
- No. Despite multiple queries and conversations with other researchers of this same family, no one has ever heard the fishbone story. Complete Fabrication? Perhaps, but it’s very difficult to prove something didn’t happen.
Since the Kinship Determination is covered in the appendix, let’s test our remaining theory, the Generation Gap. What if the only mistake made was an incorrect understanding by whoever labeled the pictures and told the story (reasonably both came from Aunt Grace). Maybe Grace thought the woman was young Mary’s mother when she was really her paternal grandmother. This theory could make both the name on the photo and the story true, and by the look on that totally wrinkled face, I’m secretly rooting for it! However, one big problem remains--the paper trail. It would be difficult to live to be 104 and not leave any trace beyond a photograph. Where is this old lady? And of course, how old was she, really?
1. Our search parameters would have us looking for a woman who was born sometime before 1814, (Young Mary was firstborn, b. 1828, giving “old Mary” at least an age of 14 before she gave birth).
2. Date of death would be 1918 at the latest (1814 plus 104) and somewhere in the 1850s at the earliest, simply because she would have needed to get her picture taken. 1870’s or 1880’s might be a likely guess, looking at her very aged face and the probable era of the other photos on the page.
3. We would not be stuck on the name Mary, since the fishbone story does not give a first name. We would also need to remember that Pool or Poole or Van der Pool would have been a married name, not a maiden name. To really make things interesting, we may even have to throw out the name Pool because living that long, odds are good that she would have remarried!
4. Locations to focus on could be Douglas Co., Oregon (remember Roseburg), Iowa or Illinois (where Young Mary lived), Kentucky or Nebraska (additional locations where William T. Pool, Mary’s father lived), or anywhere in between! Common sense would have us work backward, starting in Oregon.
This search is still underway, but notably, no Mary Pooles of the right age appear on a digital search of the census records in Oregon. Neither does there appear to be a Mary Pool present as a mother figure to Mary Ann Pool Hale, who resided in Wapello and Davis County Iowa and Schuyler County, Illinois. (This absence also supports the kinship research.) She is also not found living with Mary Ann’s father William T., although I have still not located his household in 1850 census. (For William T’s compiled census information, see Appendix II.) William’s father’s name, or any extended family, are unknown. Many elderly Mary Pools exist outside of Oregon in the right time period, but without a connection to William T’s family, there is no way of confirming the correct Mary Pool. One slight lead I have not yet followed up is from a marriage index on FamilySearch, a Mary T. Clay Pool married a T.T. South in 1859, Linn, Oregon. More information on this Mary’s age and background is needed.
What would be on the wishlist to move this case along, or bust it wide open?
- Finding the existence of another elder Mary photo, with a complete, informative caption.
- Finding stronger ties between young Mary and the other children of William and Delilah, confirming the kinship research. Obituaries, probate records, photos shared, etc.
- Discovering the names of William T. Pool’s parents, particularly more about his mother.
- Finding an obituary or newspaper article about Delilah Pool, giving her cause of death.
- Any evidence of an elderly Pool woman connected to William’s family or dying in Douglas County, Oregon.
Until more info comes to light, this case remains open, and my photo remains unattached to our family tree.
 Gravestone of Delilah Poole (1807-1883). 100F Masonic Cemetery, Canyonville, Douglas, Oregon. Photo and location courtesy of Michael Thorstad, 2006. Mr. Thorstad asserts that the Poole family in the area is assured that this is the “right” Delilah Poole since other family members are also buried there. A digital search for another Delilah, (older!) buried in the vicinity has been unfruitful. Also, Delilah Poole’s lifespan is supported by her lack of appearance in the census records after 1880.
William T. Poole and Delilah Brown Poole Family
(updated 2008? These are just working notes.)
Discover once and for all if this is Mary Ann Poole Hale’s family or not.
KNOWN FACTS (from primary sources…therefore “indisputable”)
I. Delilah Poole is buried in Canyonville, Douglas, Oregon and her headstone reads Feb. 15, 1807—Mar. 28, 1883.
A. Papers were found among my family history things including a picture of “Great Great Grandma Mary Poole. Buried at Roseburg, Oregon.”
B. Mary Ann Poole Hale (Sep 1828-1905) is buried in Iowa and was not the person in the picture.
C. Roseburg and Canyonville are both in Douglas County and only about 20
miles apart, and Roseburg is the county seat.
II. Two of Delilah’s children are buried near her.
A. Martha Melinda Poole Pickett
B. Napolean Bonaparte Poole with his wife Sarah (Cardwell) Poole. Not to be confused with Sarah Poole Hale.
III.A picture of Napolean B. was found with the belongings of Elizabeth Jane Poole Garrett.
IV. William Pool is in Schuyler County, Illinois, for the 1840 Federal Census.
A. 1 male under 5, 1 male between 5-10, 1 male between 30-40.
B. 1 female under 5, 3 females 5-10, 2 females 10-15, 1 female between 30-40.
C. Making a household of ten.
V. William T. Pool is in Wapello County for the Iowa 1847 Census, (but not found there in the 1846 index.) He is the only Pool listed in that county. The actual image did not have the categories labeled, but if it is like the 1840 census form, it would add up like this.
A. 3 males under age 5, one male adult between 30-40.
B. 2 females under age 5, 3 females between 5-10, one female adult 30-40.
C. Making a household of ten.
D. Interesting bonus to our cause is that he is listed next door to James Hale and Vinton Hale, Hiram’s brothers.
VI. Sarah Pool age 16, was married to Thomas Hale in the home of William T. Pool, December 1848, Wapello County.
VII. Wm. T. Pool is listed in the 1852 Iowa State Census, but the county didn’t come up on the printout. (I don’t think it was Wapello at that time, I’ll have to recheck, probably Appanoose.)
A. 4 males
B. 4 females
VIII. The 1856 Iowa Census lists the William T. Pool household for Shoal, Appanoose, Iowa.
A. My Mary is listed with her husband Hiram Hale in a different household. She claims to have been in the state 10 years.
B. These children were listed (I need to see actual census for more info…)
3. Polly B.
4. William H.
SUPPOSED FACTS (from secondary sources…therefore disputable)
I. William b. 8 Mar 1805 Kentucky, d. 17 Aug. 1871 in Beatrice, Gage, Nebraska
II. William married 16 Mar 1825 Schuyler, Illinois to Delilah Brown
III. Delilah born in Kentucky, already knew dates from gravestone.
IV. William and Delilah had 10-11 children as follows
A. John Poole b. after 1825
B. William H. Poole b. 1826
C. Elizabeth Jane Poole b. 1830 Illinois, married Jeremiah Garrett 19 Mar 1845 Fairfield, Jefferson, Iowa, d. 7 May 1902, Holt Co., Missouri
D. Sarah Poole b. 1832
E. Martha Melinda Poole b. 3 Aug 1835 Schuyler Co., Illinois, married James Swift Pickett.
F. Napoleon Bonapart Poole b. 7 Mar 1838, Schuyler Co., Illinois, Married Saraphine Cardwell 22 Jan 1857 Appanoose Co., Iowa, d. 10 Sep 1916, Days Creek, Oregon.
G. Polly B. Poole
H. James Allen Poole b. 1848
I. Charlotte Temple Poole
J. Nellie Poole
K. Mary Ann Poole Hale
CONNECTED LOCATIONS (not including later deaths of children)
Kentucky—William and Delilah birth 1805-1807
Schuyler County, Illinois—marriage 1825, Napoleon’s birth 1838, 1840 Federal Census
Somewhere Illinois—Elizabeth’s birth, 1830
Fairfield, Jefferson, Iowa—Elizabeth’s marriage 1845
Wapello County, Iowa—1847 Census and Sarah’s marriage Dec. 1848
Shoal, Appanoose, Iowa—1856 Iowa Census
Appanoose County, Iowa—Napoleon’s marriage 1857
Beatrice, Gage, Nebraska—William’s death, 1871
Canyonville, Douglas, Oregon—Delilah’s grave, 1883
1. Here is a possible reconstruction of the family for the 1840 Federal Census in Schuyler, Illinois.
William and Delilah are the adults, of course.
One Male under age 5 would be Napoleon (1838).
One Male between 5-10 would be John (born sometime after 1825, this would put him closer to 1830)
One Female under age 5 would be possibly Martha (1835) but she could fall into the next bracket or either Polly B., Charlotte, or Nellie, birthdates unknown.
Three Females between 5-10 would be Sarah for sure (1832), possibly Martha (1835) but she could fall into the earlier bracket, possibly Elizabeth (1830) because she would have been 10 that year and could fall into either bracket, and once again, possibly Polly B., Charlotte, or Nellie.
Two Females between 10-15 could be Mary (1828) (Hooray! No other daughters in this time frame!) and possibly Elizabeth (1830) who would have been 10 that year.
Note: The only child that for sure does not fit into this is William H. Poole b. 1826, but I don’t know if he died or he could have been apprenticed out somewhere. He would have been 14. Another idea is that I was given a wrong birth year on him since he shows up as a child on the 1856 census (which I have not seen myself to find out ages, etc.)
2. I tried to reconstruct the 1847 state census, but nothing added up as far as ages go, so I really need to find the key to the column headings to make any sense of it. They may not have been asking ages. The 1852 census form is labeled but different, it didn’t ask for ages, (but it also had fewer columns). The most I can say for sure is that there were four males and six females present.
The four males would have been William, John, and Napoleon for sure. This leaves room for a 21 year old William, Jr., or James if his birth year was actually a year earlier, or a son we don’t know about.
The six females would have been Delilah, Mary Ann (if this was taken before her Aug. 15 wedding), Martha, Sarah, and at least two of these three: Polly B., Charlotte, or Nellie. It is very possible that not all three of these were born yet. It would not include Elizabeth since she was married in 1845.
I think Mary Ann did in all actuality belong to this family. Here are my supporting facts.
1. William T. Pool is the only Pool living in Wapello County the year of Mary’s marriage, and she was “of that county”.
2. Mary Ann fits very nicely into William’s family, especially on the 1840 census where she would have been 12.
3. A connection to Delilah Poole’s unlikely burial area was found among my family’s photos.
4. Mary Ann states that she has been in Iowa for ten years in 1856. This guess would match closely with the Poole’s first recorded time in Iowa, Elizabeth’s wedding in Jefferson County in 1845. It would be even closer if she meant Wapello County because William does not show up yet in the 1846 index of the State Census, or perhaps Elizabeth came to Jefferson County unconnected to the family.
5. Mary Ann’s first son is named John, as is her father-in-law. Her second son is named William, I assume after her father.
6. Sarah Poole marries Mary’s brother-in-law in the same county, in the house of William Poole.
7. William is living next to Hiram’s brothers James and Vinton in 1847.
TO FIND LIST:
1. It would really be helpful to find any kind of obituary for either William or Delilah or any of the siblings in case they list survivors, etc.