Evermore Genealogy

5 Generations of Brewers

Courtesy of John Houk

5 Generations of Brewers, courtesy of John Houk


The photo was sent by John Houk, who identifies the individuals, from left to right, as Howard Huston Dunlavy (b. 1854), Edwin (child) (b. 1874), Daniel A. Brewer (b. 1784), Nancy Jane Straughan (b. 1834), and Mary “Polly” Brewer (b. 1808).

Daniel A. Brewer is in our direct line. He lived to 1881. This photo would have been taken about 1877.

John Houk writes the following on the this photo and another related to it:

I call this the “Five Generation” photograph. There are actually two copies. Both are tintype. One copy is about 2×3 inches. Dark but beautifully preserved. The hand-tinted pink is easily seen on the cheeks. The second copy is larger, 5×6 inches. It is a mirror image of the larger photo. Not as well preserved.

The photos were found January 2003 in a cardboard moving box in the basement of my mother’s home, Bernice Wuethrich Houk. Howard Jacob Houk (b 10/13/1912, d. 12/30/1990), my father, was the executor of the estates of his maternal aunt and uncle, Lora Dunlavy (b. 9/11/1877, d.6/8/1958) and Edwin Wesley Dunlavy (b 6/25/1874, d.3/6/1953). Neither had any direct descendents, my father was their closest relative, and explains why I am currently in possession of the photo. The basement boxes contain some of what he saved from their homes. The photo was probably found in Lora Dunlavy’s home in 1958. The “Five Generation” phon tos were found in a smaller keepsake box within the larger box and contained other seemingly prized mementos and the Dunlavy photos, particularly baby photos of Lora and Edwin. The “Five Generation” photo had no identification with it so what I state below is educated speculation.

Next to the “five generation” photo was another tintype photo within an envelope with handwriting on it. I call this the “Five Grandfathers” photo. Knowing who is in this photo is critical to understanding the “Five Generation” photo. On the envelope is written, “Edwin Wesley Dunlavy, Grandfather Dunlavy, Great Grandfather Dunlavy, Grandfather Oliver, Great Grandfather Straughan, Great Great grandfather Brewer.” In the photo is a young boy with four men in beards. The handwritten note does not state which bearded gentleman is which grandfather. A letter written by Edwin in 1940 states, “I have a photo standing beside my Great grandfather Dunlavy”. I believe this is the photo he alluded to. I believe, based on other identified photos, that the gentleman in this photo are Top row, L to R top, John Wesley Dunlavy (“Grandfather Dunlavy” b. 7/9/1831, d. 5/27/1916), Nathaniel Sanford Straughan (“Great grandfather Straughan”, b.4/42/1810 d.10/28/1898), Morris Henderson Oliver (“Grandfather Oliver”, b.3/6/1809, d.11/22/1890), First row L to R Francis Dunlavy (“Great grandfather Dunlavy”, b.1/6/1803, d ?1885), Edwin Wesley Dunlavy, age 5, Daniel Brewer (“Great great grandfather Brewer”, b. 3/1/1784, d. 4/9/1881). All of the men were known to be living in Putnam or Johnson Co., Indiana in 1879, the year I believe this photo was taken.

Returning to the “Five Generation” photo, a young man is in the lower left. He appears to be Edwin Wesley Dunlavy, judged by other identified photos taken at the same time of Edwin. The old man in the center appears to be Daniel Brewer (b 3/1/1784, d. 4/9/1881), based on the identity of “Great Great Grandfather Brewer” being in the above mentioned “grandfathers photo”. Behind Edwin is apparently Howard Huston Dunlavy (b.6/17/1854, d.1/23/1922), again based on similarity to other identified photos of the same period. Standing next to Daniel Brewer appears to be Nancy Jane Straughan (b.5/10/1834, d. 2/21/1901), mother of Howard Dunlavy, again based on identified photos of her about the same time. The women to her right is not found in any other photos. When I first found the photo and pieced together the first four I wondered who the this person to be. It was only when I kept looking at my family tree that I discovered that it must be Mary “Polly” Brewer (b.9/1808, d.3/25/1883), mother of Nancy Straughan, daughter of Daniel Brewer, and husband of Nathaniel Sanford Straughan. This would make this a five generation photograph. All of these persons were living and residing in Putnam or Johnson Co, Indiana in the 1870s.

I believe the photo was taken in 1877 maybe at Christmas time. Edwin was born in June 1874. Daniel Brewer died in 1881. So we know the photo is taken between those dates. In the “Five Grandfathers” photo Edwin appears to be a year or two older and Daniel Brewer is in that photo too. Howard Huston Dunlavy left for Missouri to preach as a Methodist circuit rider in December 1877. It would be a good time to have such a photo taken, as it was uncertain when Howard would return or how long Daniel might live. Christmas might be a time when all the family would gather, especially if Howard was leaving for Missouri. If the photo were taken December 1877, then Edwin would be 3 years 6 months, which is consistent with his appearance in the photo.

I think John Wesley Dunlavy and his wife Nancy Straughan may have been the moving forces behind the “Five Generation” and the “Five Grandfathers” photo. We know that John Wesley Dunlavy was interested in genealogy, and he may have recognized the significance of photographing the five grandfathers together. Nancy Straughan was the middle person in “Five Generation” photo, in her prime and probably with the assets and wherewithal to make such an event happen. But this is pure speculation on my part. I do have a few boxes of thus far mostly unread correspondence written by the ancestors in the photographs. Maybe one of these letters will shed more light on the subject.


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