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Jim Darling, a stranger remembered

A few years ago, I was given an album of antique postcards collected from central New York yard sales and antique dealers over the course of many years. This special gift, filled with mysterious images of the people and places that occupied this place in the 19th and early 20th century, could keep a historian busy for years!

It's a shame when old family photos end up being sold off to strangers. It could happen for a number of reasons, though. Perhaps there were no living descendants to cherish the photos or they were photos of friends no one in the family could identify, so they let them go. Maybe there was a death in the family and someone's photos were sold off at auction without the knowledge of the extended family. As for myself, I have many family photos of unnamed people, but I will do my best to keep them in the family. I've shared hundreds here on my website, from my own albums and those of my relatives who are willing to share. You can see them in my Family Album and elsewhere on my site.

At any rate, one of the postcards in this collection is a real photo (RPPC) of a man's portrait. Beneath the image is his name, in cursive, "Jim Darling". There are no men by that name in my family tree, yet when I see the photo, I think someone out there might like to see and save this photo. In many cases, when these old photo postcards were made, there were only a few copies printed, making them extremely rare. This may be the only copy to exist on the planet, so here I am writing this article about Jim Darling.

Although this postcard doesn't seem to offer much information, it provides a lot more than other cards and portraits I've seen. In fact, it provides enough information to learn all about him.

I started my search on Findagrave and found a man in upstate New York named James Darling, buried in West Monroe, Oswego County, New York. He lived from 1832 to 1901 and was married to Rebecca (Hess) Darling. He had at least six children. View his memorial on Findagrave for more details. He lived in the same place when the census was taken in 1900, with his wife, Rebecca.

In an attempt to confirm whether or not this was the same man in the photo, we need to look at the other clues. First, the card is dated, Sept. 1910 or 1916, with a "K.C." before the date, which I'm assuming means it was probably being sent from Kansas City, Missouri. Notice, it doesn't mention New York at all, even though the card was found in New York.

The addressee, "Mrs. Mary Darling, Max, Neb." is a valuable clue. Given the date, it wasn't hard to find her on the 1910 census. Sure enough, we find her living in Max, Dundee County, Nebraska, in 1910.

Mary A. Darling, widow, age 81, born in Ohio, was living with her sister, also a widow, Christena Ritchie. Notice, they were both born in Ohio, and both report their parents were born in Pennsylvania. In order to find out who her husband was, I searched the 1900 census and found both sisters living 500 miles apart.

Mary was living with her husband, Frank Darling, in Prairie City, McDonough, Illinois, and Christina was living in Gibbon, Buffalo, Nebraska, with her husband, Alexander “Ritchey”, born Dec. 1837. They had been married 39 years. Even though Frank and Mary reported being married 41 years, this wasn't the case, as we will see later.

Next, two articles printed in The Benkelman Post and News-Chronicle from Benkelman, Nebraska, January 27, 1911, read as follows:

Although the name is "Mary A. Cook", after seeing the 1910 census, we know it was Mary A. Darling. The obituary mentions that she was widowed in Prairie City, Illinois, and we know Mary and Frank had been living in Prairie City when the census was taken in 1900. Frank died there on May 22, 1907, and is buried there with a tombstone that reads: "F. B. Darling, Co. K, 3rd Ind. Inf., Mex. War" and is proudly decorated with a GAR marker. View his memorial and grave on Findagrave here.

Christena Ritchey died Nov. 10, 1918, and is buried in Marshfield, Missouri. Her grave tells us her maiden name - Bauchman, and also confirms the name of her husband, Alexander Ritchey, as seen on the 1900 census. They were married on July 4, 1861, at Ashland, Ohio. He was a veteran of the Civil War. View her memorial and grave on Findagrave here.

Assuming that Mary A. Darling's maiden name was also Bauchman, we find that Mary A. Bauchman married first to David Bryte. They were married in Ashland, Ohio, (like Christena and Alexander), on March 22, 1857. Mr. Bryte was in Co. D 12th Illinois Cavalry during the Civil War and sadly, he died on August 15, 1864, at the age of 32.

Sometime after 1864, it appears that Mary married to a Mr. Cook, because when Frank Darling and Mary were married on April 1, 1895, at Knox, Illinois, her name was recorded as "Mary Cook". Furthermore, pension claims for Alexander Bryte include the name Mary Cook.

Given this information, we can see that at the time of the 1900 census, Frank and Mary had only been married five years, as opposed to "41" as given on the census.

Frank was 66 years old when he married Mary, so I knew it most likely wasn't his first marriage. With a little more digging, I found that he was born in April of 1827, in New York, a son of Alpheus Darling and Martha Tucker, who lived in Madison, Madison County, New York, in 1820 and 1830. In 1840, they were counted on the census in Johnson, Ripley, Indiana, and Alpheus died there in 1849.

Sure enough, Frank had married first to Barbara Ewing, on Nov. 1, 1849, at Ripley, Indiana. They were living there in Ripley when the census was taken in 1860, but Frank and Barbara split up between 1860 and 1870, because in 1870, Frank was living in Portland, Whiteside County, Illinois, with a woman named "Mima" (Jemima) and a young child named Katy. In 1880, Frank and Jemima were living in Prairie City, Illinois. Frank reported that his father was born in Massachusetts and his mother was born in Vermont, according to the 1880 census. He was a Railroad Conductor.

In 1870, Barbara, was living in Steuben, Crawford, Pennsylvania, with her two sons, James Darling, age 19, and William Darling, age 17.

James F. Darling was born November 12, 1850 or 1851, in Indiana. He married Celia Orilla Woodard on Feb. 24, 1874, in the same state, and they had three known children: Mary Darling, Lynn A. Darling, and Woodard Darling. In 1880, they were all living in Quincy, Adams, Illinois. Barbara was living with both her married sons, James and William and their wives, along with four of grandchildren. James worked as a Railroad Conductor, like his father. His brother, William, also worked on the railroad. William married Evangeline A. Green in 1877 and they had several children, including Dell (1877), James (1882), Glenn (18), Archie (1887), Olive (1890), and Hunter Darling (1893). (Birthdates are estimated and their names may be middle names).

Note: There was another James Darling (1844-1925) in New Jersey who married Cecelia Amanda Ward (1849-1929). They were married in Ohio in 1849 but lived in New Jersey from 1880 to 1920. I mention this to avoid confusion for anyone researching James Darling.

In 1900, Frank was living with Mary in Prairie City, Illinois, as mentioned previously, which brings us full circle -

Mary Darling, the addressee on the postcard, was stepmother to James Darling!

James Darling sent (or intended to send) the photo to her, proclaiming his friendship and giving her his blessing. The date on the postcard is difficult to decipher. It could have been 1910, or it could have been 1916, but Mary died in 1911, so I'm assuming it was 1910, but being that there is no postmark or stamp on it, it appears it was never mailed. How it ended up in upstate New York is a mystery.

James married second to Laura A. Austin, widow of John H. Austin, on Nov. 21, 1904, in Jackson, Independence, Missouri, and there they were counted on the census in 1910. When the census was taken in 1920, however, James had a new wife - Marion A. Darling. They lived in Kansas City, Ward 6, Jackson County, Missouri.

James died April 8, 1929, at St. Joseph's hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The cause of death was "Septic exhaustion following amputation of part of foot" and "necrosis of old amputation stump". According to the death certificate, his body was taken to Corry, Pennsylvania, for burial. His mother and brother, William, are buried there in Pine Grove Cemetery, also known as "Corry Cemetery", in Corry, Erie County, Pennsylvania. See Barbara's memorial on Findagrave here.

Although James Darling is not currently listed among the burials submitted on Findagrave, it seems likely that he is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, in Corry, Pennsylvania, with his mother, brother, and other family. At any rate, I hope his descendants and/or relatives find this page and cherish this rare photo of Jim Darling.

If you find any of the information I've shared here to be incorrect, please let us know in the comments below!


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