Sunday, January 26, 2014

On the Road to Bathgate Act 4c: By George We Got It

We are knitting together stories, finding and fitting missing pieces of information, and adding granularity to the picture of our family heritage. 

Like many, we have old family photos of people long departed from this world whose identities are in dispute, taken in places no longer directly recognizable. One of those is the following photo that was posted on the internet a year ago by a cousin, a direct descendant of my aunt Florence Foster King, looking for people to share stories about family history and the early days of Bathgate, North Dakota.

Undated Foster family photo.

The two young ones are comfortably settled in a coaster wagon, pulled by a lamb and a turkey harnessed to the same. The young girl is holding the reins, and the little boy is posing towards the photographer. The photo is said to be of Fosters. Outbuildings are in the background, framed by small grove of medium trees. Charlotte had written in the Hamilton Fair paragraph on page 17 of her third-person perspective family history, "A buck sheep and a tom turkey had been trained to pull us in a child's wagon," but it was not clear who "us" referred to. We surmised, based on appearances, that the girl was my Aunt Charlotte and the boy my father George, but we could not be positive, not by any means.

But digging through microfiche archived copies of the Bathgate (N.D.) Pink Paper, I found a previously unknown and confirming information link, which is about the
Bathgate Pink Paper, May 31, 1911
turkey no less, who went by the name of Tom. It turns out the turkey was quite the celebrity. On May 31, 1911 the Pink Paper reported:

There is great mourning among the little ones at the Ike Foster ranch. Tom, the old turkey gobbler which was such a pet and which Herby drove in harness and cart at the Hamilton Fair last year, took cold in the storm of Thursday and died of pneumonia a few days later. Most of the visitors at the fair will remember the oddly assorted team driven by Herby, consisting of a pet lamb and old Tom the gobbler. The matter of the loss of a turkey, more or less, may not seem a great matter to most people but to the dozen young Fosters he was an institution, a playmate, an old friend, almost a member of the family and his going left them quite disconsolate, for, had they not raised him from a chick and taught him many things, most important of all, that driving in harness. They had made him unique in his line, the only track turkey in the state and it was the results of their efforts and their success in an effort. No wonder they feel his loss.
Herby was my Uncle Herb who drove a more conventionally propelled bus for the Chicago Transit Authority after serving in the navy during World War II. Herb turned 12 years old in 1911. My Aunt Charlotte Foster Von Alman was the the only girl among the final four of the Foster children who survived childbirth. She turned 5 years old in 1911. My father, George Foster, would have been 21 months old at the time of the turkey's demise. The age profiles, picture and supporting newspaper story fit our surmise perfectly -- no other Foster kid combination would do. So now by George we got it -- picture positively identified for posterity. Case closed.

By the way, one of those Wagner Coaster wagons sold for $675.00 on eBay earlier this month. Dig that stuff out of the attic, the storage shed and the hay loft -- it pays.

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