A few months ago, I got a text from a 2nd cousin. It included a picture of a portrait of a young man in a military uniform. She thought it was either our Great-uncle John or our Great-uncle Henry, both brothers of our grandfathers.
I had a picture of Uncle John as a young man in his U.S. Army uniform, so I was sure it was not him. I only had one picture of Uncle Henry as a young man, and he wasn’t looking directly at the camera, but it could definitely be him. It also made sense that this cousin’s father would have ended up with Uncle Henry’s portrait. When Henry became unable to care for himself, he moved into a nursing home near his brother Berry. Since Henry’s wife was already deceased and they had no children, Berry almost certainly ended up with his stuff. And Berry was this cousin’s grandfather.
I was surprised (and thrilled) when she said she was sending me the portrait. I was surprised again when it arrived. From the photo of the portrait, I couldn’t tell the size. I expected an 8×10, but it’s 14×22!
We had talked about the possibility that something could be written on the back of the picture. It was beautifully framed and I really hated to mess with it up. BUT my curiosity got the best of me, so I opened up the back to look. And I was rewarded!
Written on the back
“Buck Private Henry Hopkins, 1905, June or July 1907, Fort Missoula, Montana, 7th Infantry.”
The only thing I knew about Uncle Henry’s military service prior to this was that he was stationed at Ft. Thomas in northern Kentucky at the time the 1910 U.S. census was taken. According to his World War I draft registration, he had already served a total of six years. Henry and John are both missing from a family photo taken in May 1909 so I knew Henry enlisted before that. I now suspect he enlisted in 1905.
Clearly, I have some research to do into Uncle Henry’s military service. His portrait, which went back together just fine, now hangs on the wall in my office reminding me to do that.