Paul and Iris Stephenson, Mount Vernon, Illinois, c1897

Recently, I found this photo on eBay and loved the two children, probably siblings, who may – or may not, by the unimpressed look on Iris’s face – have been excited having their picture taken.

I am always on the lookout for vintage photos that can be sent home to descendants and was quite thrilled when this photo met my three criteria.

1. Well under $10
2. Photo was taken in a relatively small town
3. Subjects in the photo are identified and descendants can be located today

Someone recorded on the back of this picture that these two little cuties are Paul and Iris Stephenson. From the style of the photograph, it looked to have been taken in the 1890s.

I hoped that the family had stayed put in Mount Vernon, Jefferson, Illinois for the 1900 census and the family came up in a quick search.

Fred M. Stephenson was born in March 1869 in Illinois and was 30 years old at the time of the 1900 census.  He was the son of Henry F. and Sarah M. (Reder) Stephenson.

Fred married Lora Belle Cunio in Jefferson County, Illinois on 27 December 1891. Lora was born in December 1869 and died in 1910. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Mount Vernon, Illinois.

Lora’s family story is tantalizing from the tidbits I’ve collected. Her father was Lorenzo (aka Lawrence) Cunio, born in Genoa, Italy. He reported in 1900 that he arrived in 1850 and was a naturalized citizen and a hotel keeper. Even more surprising is that he was a Civil War veteran (!) and Lora’s mother, Parthenia (Wells) Cunio, applied for a widow’s pension in 1901.

Fred and Lora had three children in quick succession:

1. Iris Irene, born November 1892, Jefferson County, Illinois; died 7 March 1969, Toppenish, Yakima, Washington; married Ernest McDougal, 3 May 1913, Wayne County, Iowa. He was born c1889; died 22 August 1954, Puyallup, Pierce, Washington and was a storage worker by trade. They were the parents of two daughters and a son.

2. Paul (Ames) Cunio, born 22 February 1894, Jefferson County, Illinois; died 12 May 1967, Orange County, California; married Theodocia (Theda) Ruth Huff, c1922, probably Canadian County, Oklahoma. She was born 17 January 1897, Missouri; died 30 March 1988, Orange County, California. Paul is clearly identified as Paul Ames on the 1900 census, but in later years claimed Cunio as his middle name. He was a druggist by trade. They were the parents of two daughters.

3. Mark Ivan – born 3 December 1895, Jefferson County, Illinois; died 10 February 1987, Norman, Cleveland, Oklahoma. He is buried in Edmond, Canadian, Oklahoma, with his parents. Mark apparently never married. He was a World War I army veteran, serving from 1917-1921, and when applying for a passport in 1921 stated that he was in the Dominican Republic with the U.S. Marines and wanted to travel to see Caracas, Venezuela.

The children’s father, Fred M. Stephenson, led an interesting life, too. In 1900, his occupation was given as a barber. However, by 21 April 1910, Fred, Lora and their three children were living in Lakota, Nelson, North Dakota. Fred was a Methodist minister.

Lora, then, died sometime in 1910 after the census was taken. She is buried in Illinois, but no death information is included on Find-a-Grave.

Fred’s 1947 obituary states that he was a retired Methodist minister who served in Illinois, Iowa, Wyoming and Oklahoma.

Lora and her brothers saw quite different lifestyles, relocating from Illinois to Iowa to North Dakota and Wyoming before the family settled in Oklahoma.

Because the lifetimes of Lora and Paul extend well into the 20th century, no further details about their families are included here. However, their adorable photograph has gone home to a family member.



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