Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Search of Bessie Rider – Part 3

Bessie Rider – the girl on the 1906 postcards – and her family had disappeared from the Lorain city directories after 1915. I assumed they had moved out of the area, and that it would be impossible to find out anything more about her or the fate of her eyesight. But I decided to do a little more online research, focusing on other family members. Perhaps an obituary of one of them would list Bessie, and provide a clue as to what the rest of her life had been like.

I was lucky and uncovered a few obituaries. Maude Rider (Bessie's mother) had passed away in 1941. Her obituary in the Warren Tribune Chronicle stated that the family had moved from Lorain to Youngstown. It also revealed that Bessie and her sister Margaret had been living with their mother in Youngstown when she died.

I also found Bessie's sister Ada's obituary in the Lorain Journal. Interestingly, she had married a Sheffield Village farmer named Harry Root – thus connecting her with the well-known pioneering Root family. Ada passed away in 1977.

But I still hadn't found anything specifically about Bessie or her life.

Finally, while researching the Rider sons, I found a link to an online issue of The Village Pioneer. (The Village Pioneer is the Journal of the Sheffield Village Historical Society and Cultural Center). An article in the publication mentioned that four of the Rider sons had volunteered for service during World War I. 

The article also made reference to an earlier issue of  The Village Pioneer that mentioned the sons, and I excitedly looked for it online. When I found that issue (September 2011), I couldn't believe my eyes. An article – entitled "The Rider Family in Sheffield" – was all about Bessie's family!

(Courtesy of Sheffield Village Historical Society)
The article was written by Dr. Charles "Eddie" Herdendorf, the Director of the Sheffield Village Historical Society's Director. It recalled the early history of the Rider family, beginning with their exodus from McKeesport, Pennsylvania – where patriarch Harry had worked for National Tube –and their arrival in Lorain around 1904 as Harry transferred to the company's new plant. Although the article did not mention Bessie specifically, it did include a photo of her as a little girl.

And why was there an article about the Riders in The Village Pioneer in the first place? Because Dr. Herdendorf was related to them! (I should have guessed this, because one of Ada Root's daughters had married a man with the last name of Herdendorf!) I contacted Dr. Herdendorf to share my research with him, and to see if he had any knowledge or memory of Bessie.

He did indeed, and was happy to share his recollections of her with me.

"Yes, I knew Aunt Bess quite well, she was actually a great aunt—my grandmother Ada's sister," he wrote. "Although my grandmother never got along with her younger sister too well, I liked Aunt Bess a lot. She was quite a photographer and did her own developing."

"When I was a pre-teen, she seemed to take a liking to me too, and taught me how to develop photos and eventually gave me all of her darkroom equipment. She lived in the Cleveland area, but I don't recall when she died. I think it might have been in the 1970s. She never married as far as I know or at least she wasn't married when I knew her. I was surprised to hear about the loss of an eye. I never knew it and it was never apparent.

"I do have a photo of her playing in the snow in front of the house where I now live," he noted. Here is the photo (below).
Tomorrow, I'll conclude this look at the life of Bessie Rider with some final reminisces from Dr. Herdendorf and his cousins, as well as a wonderful photo gallery.


Miss Merry said...

Can't wait until Chapter 4! What amazing hats on those little girls.

Loraine Ritchey said...

funny how "they" find the one to tell their story - :) terrific and great reading a young girl on a beach comes back to us

Rick Kurish said...

I don't know what information you have in the upcoming part 4 of the blog, but my guess is that todays blog answered a small question I had when first seeing the photograph --- how did she end up on a commercial postcard by Willis Leiter? Dr. Herdendorf's revelation that she was interested in photography, including doing her our developing, would seem to answer my question. She may have sought out Leiter to further her knowledge of photography, and accompanied him on a photo shoot to the lake shore. If so, it would conveniently explain her appearance in the photo of otherwise rather uninteresting background subject matter.

Dan Brady said...

That's a good question and a good theory too, Rick! It would seem to make sense!

I'm assuming also that being able to have a real photo postcard created might have been something that only well-to-do families could afford – and it sounds like Mr. Rider had an important job at National Tube.

Dan Brady said...

I received an email from Paula Shorf, one of the authors of the Willis Leiter Arcadia book. She's pretty sure that the photos of Bessie are not Willis Leiter real photo postcards, as there are no studio marks on them and that the composition does not look like his work. (She had hundreds of samples of Leiter's work in her collection.) Dennis Lamont has an interesting theory as to who took the photos: he has heard that at that time there was a female photographer that went around in a a Model T, taking those types of postcard shots locally. Or, it might have even been Bessie herself, using a timer.