An intriguing prompt for this 178th Sepia Saturday. So many choices of faces speak silently to me over the years, each a tribute to a life lived long ago and giving me just a glimmer of the real person beyond the sepia. I toyed with photos of grandfathers, Scots and German, with my earnest-eyed father at age six, or my great great grandmother, who purportedly of Indian heritage, crossed the Oregon Trail in 1854. Finally, I settled on my first choice, a picture that has intrigued me from the moment I first found the tiny 1"x1" photo, loose and nearly lost in the fold of an old box of pictures. The piercing dark eyes of my grandmother Agnes Laura Sigford might indeed hypnotize a person as she seems to stare into your soul. My mother always said that her mother, this Agnes Laura, could stop her childhood misbehavior in its tracks from far across any room -- just with those eyes. I have many pictures of this maternal grandmother of mine, but this picture of her in the cloche hat and the fur neck-piece intrigues me most of all -- mysterious, imperious, regally aloof.
|Agnes Laura Sigford (Keyes)|
The picture of Agnes Laura when she graduated from high school in Corvallis, Oregon, far from her eastern Oregon home outside of the small town of Mitchell, reflected her high school dreams -- lovely white dress, flowers at her feet. She was ready to step out and meet the world. A few years later, this daughter of a well-to-do rancher left the Keyes ranch to marry Frank Sigford, a young man from Wisconsin who had joined his brothers out west to make their fortune.
However Lady fortune never laid her bounty on the couple. The sweet picture of my grandmother and her first born, Irene, belied the grief of losing this baby Irene when she was not yet two years old. Frank, her husband, followed his dream of riches from dredging gold near Marysville, to the Pacific Northwest logging camps, to southern Oregon cattle ranches, and the subsistance on dry land farms in southern Oregon.
By the time Agnes Laura was in her mid forties, my grandmother had born seven children, five of which lived to adulthood and old age.. Her life was hard -- their lives were hard -- young children and shy on financial resources took their toll on her. Dreams of living a life in which one talked about books, the lives, places and thoughts between the covers, fell by the wayside. And she became the grandmother that I knew as a child-- an old woman, who plied us with homemade applesauce and bread fresh from her over. Her only tie to the life she thought would be hers was the Elocution book which rested behind the homemade glass fronted bookcase.
|Agnes Laura Keyes|
High School Granduation, 1898
|Agnes Laura (Keyes) Sigford and|
baby Irene, 1904
|Grandma Sigford (Agnes Laura Keyes) as I |
remembered her when I was a child
|1942, Grandma Sigford with my little sister|
These are the pictures of my grandmother on her life's journey. As I look at this series of pictures of Agness Laura Keyes Sigford, I am held by her eyes -- to me her eyes were mesmerizing -- and sometimes a bit frightening.. And those eyes tell me to remember her as that slightly mysterious, imperious woman of her dreams. Yes, I am sure that is how she would like to be remembered.
© Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications