Cheatwood, Barnwell, Rainwater
Back row: Alma, Alice, Lizzie and Lela
Front row:  Mariah Rainwater Barnwell, James, Louvina Cheatwood Barnwell, Harvey, Lola,
William R., John Thomas

I love to study old pictures.  Although I realize that people always looked solemn in old photos, I nevertheless find myself always hoping that they were happier than they appeared.  This picture is no exception. William Robert Barnwell, along with his wife Louvinia Cheatwood, his eight children and his mother, Mariah Rainwater Barnwell, all posed for the camera and there’s not one smile in the bunch.  I  find it interesting that even though it looks as though they put on their “Sunday best” for the picture, putting on their best didn’t always necessarily  include shoes. Notice the two little boys all dressed up and yet they are shoe-less.

While the only known picture of Mariah’s sister, Olivia, is very faded, I still feel that there is a resemblance between the two.  (A picture of John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater is on the main page.)  Mariah Rainwater b. 1826 in South Carolina was the second oldest as well as the second daughter of Joshua and Polly (Peterson)  Rainwater. She was five years older than her younger sister, Olivia, my 2nd great grandmother.  On December 21st, 1843, when Mariah was a young girl of seventeen, she and William Barnwell married in Carroll County, Georgia.  They soon ventured out on their own, settling in Benton County Alabama.  In 1845, William began buying land in Alabama and it was there that their first child, John T was born, also about 1845.  According to the 1900 census, seven children  blessed William and Mariah’s home although only 4 were still living at that time.  In addition to John T., they had Francis Marion born about1847, Mary Elizabeth born about 1858, William Robert born about 1862 and Margaret Helen born about 1863. Their other children are unknown to me at the present. It is also unknown exactly when William died, but it is assumed to have been before 1900 because in that year, Mariah appears on the census as a widow and living with their son William R,  his wife Louvinia Cheatwood and their eight children  in Hampton, Polk County, Georgia.  It makes sense to me that the above picture was taken while Mariah lived with them.  I find it interesting that when she died just three years later in 1903, she was buried back in Alabama.  A rather new headstone for “Maria Rainwater Barnwell” (name misspelled)  exists in Oak Hill Cemetery in Talladega, Talladega County, Alabama.  You can view the headstone on findagrave  here.

Pictures add so much to our research and I am always so grateful to have a picture to go with a name. I find myself often looking at a picture and asking myself what it tells me about them. Can I see any family traits that have been handed down?  Do they look like their parents or siblings?  Do I look like them in any way? What does the picture tell me about their lifestyle, their economic status, their family life?  If they can afford a nice outfit, why not shoes? As always, many questions remain unanswered, but I am always grateful for the additional clues a picture can provide. While I am not sure how long Mariah lived in Georgia with her son, I am so glad that she was there the day they had their picture taken.

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14 thoughts on “Where are their shoes?

  1. It is neat that you were able to get a picture of Mariah. You do study those photos carefully, too, don't you? I would have missed the detail about the shoes. Makes me wonder now about the girls in the back row…

    I find it interesting to hear about misspellings on grave markers. Our family has at least one, if not more, that fall into that same category. That has always been a caution to me to verify even the most basic detail with more than one resource. "Set in stone" can perpetuate so many errors.

  2. The two older girls look very much alike. I believe shoes were so uncomfortable in those days, children prefered to go without them, especially in summer. And while they probably made their own clothes, not so with shoes, so it involved a trip to town and with a family that size, a good deal of barter.

  3. Yes, I think Mariah and Olivia resemble each other. Their faces and heads are the same shape (same hairdo, too). Most of the gals have on "Sunday best," especially the white-clad ones in the back row, but it looks as if the guys may have opted out! But the shoes … that triggers memories for me. I grew up in NC, and in those hot summers, the nicest thing you could say to a kid was, "You may take off your shoes." Also — in all our family pictures, in SC, there are no smiles until around the 1940s. They've told me it was considered "undignified." Thanks for this wonderful post! What part of SC are your folks from?

  4. I do wonder about those girls on the back row as well! I have so much to learn about getting the most out of a photo.

    You are so right on the grave marker issue. I have a friend that told me recently that she realized after the fact that she had put an incorrect date on her dad's headstone. She said she knew his birth date, but simply wasn't thinking at the time. I am sure it happens more than we realize.

  5. I appreciate your comments on the comfort aspect of shoes as well. I looked at the grounds surrounding this family and all I could think of was stickers! When I was growing up, we lived where there were lots of stickers around and we always wanted shoes on when we were out running around. But we slipped on keds—and your and T.J.'s comments have made me think about the fact that likely their shoes were not quite as comfortable as what we wear today (and they definitely were not keds!) . Add to that the pinch of shoes that were possibly a little too tight and I am sure you both are right. Comfort was a big issue. Thank you for pointing that out.

    My folks lived in Pendleton, Edgefield and Abbeville. Did yours go to SC?

  6. Oh, you are welcome. I always love reading your posts. You are pursuing something right after my own heart when you try to ferret out the essence of each of your ancestors as you study them. I love seeing dusty old facts transformed into living legacies!

  7. I can imagine that in poorer areas and poorer times they borrowed each other's clothes, clothes belonging to family or neighbors, for pictures and often the clothes might fit somewhat but the shoes didn't. I know my own mother had to borrow a nice dress to get married in but had to buy her own penny loafers to have shoes that fit. Just a thought.

  8. I was surprised to see a photo of my family on your site. My grandfather is John Thomas Barnwell who married Bertha Crim. My family in Jacksonville, Alabama has this same photo. Small world!

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