Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who was Lida?

As we read journal entries written by A.N. Bush from 1911-13, we encounter many names of characters who populated the lives of A.N. and his family. Some of the names are easy to recognize, while others take a bit of puzzling over.

Take "Eliza", for example.

Eliza Sloan Nolan was the daughter of A.N.'s cousin, Octavia Painter Nolan. Eliza was born in 1895 and was about 16 years old when the journal entries began. She was a student at Sacred Heart Academy in Salem, but her family lived 'way out in the Clear Lake area of what is now Keizer, which was too far for a daily commute. So Eliza lived in town with A.N. and his wife, Lulu Hughes Bush, during the week, and went home to Clear Lake every weekend. A.N. enjoyed Eliza's company and detailed their adventures together, from visits to the vaudeville theater to picnics at Silver Falls. Around the same time, A.N.'s sister Sally made a portrait of Eliza so we even know what she looked like. Although A.N. never gave her last name or mentioned the family relationship, "Eliza" was easy to figure out.

Lida, not so much.

"Lida" first appeared in A.N.'s journal in November of 1911. Lida (no last name given) lived in Eugene, but had come up to Salem on her way to Detroit (Oregon) where she had been appointed postmistress. She stayed with Sally for a few days and went to visit with Eliza's family in Clear Lake one weekend. In later entries it's clear that Lida had taken up her post in Detroit and found the snowy winter weather to be a challenge. From the context one can infer that Lida was an old friend or family member, someone who literally needed no introduction -- but her actual identity was never clear.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail message from a gentleman who lives in Australia, who has distant ties to the Bush family. He had been browsing through our online photo collection and was writing to correct some of our information. Turns out his ancestor, Colin McIntosh, had been married to one Eliza Zieber, another cousin of A.N. and Sally Bush. This Eliza, who was divorced from Mr. McIntosh by 1900 and was living in Salem by 1916, was also known as... Lida. Eliza "Lida" Zieber McIntosh.

We don't have any photographs of Lida (that we know of) and we still don't know very much about her. But now we can tell her relatives that she was the postmistress in Detroit during the winter of 1912, and that she preferred the whole back over any other piece of chicken.

That's who Lida was.

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