Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sarah Maria Matilda Lee

EDIT May 31, 2017: Since I wrote this post, I've had the old photo looked at by a professional archivist and have learned that it IS for sure a "Tin Type" photograph. I now highly doubt that this photo can be of Susannah Case. She died in 1851 and Tin Type photography was first used in France in 1853 and patented in the US in 1856. I'll leave my post here as originally written, and I'll be posting an explanation soon.

On March 5, 1849 in Hamilton, Madison County, New York Sarah Maria Matilda Lee was born. Maria is pronounced like "the wind".  She was the second child and first daughter of Charles and Susannah (Case) Lee, her brother George Washington Lee was 3 years older.   Before she was much more than a year, the Lee family moved to Illinois.

On April 24, 1851 in Buda, Illinois, Susannah had a baby boy named Thomas Jefferson. Susannah died that day, Thomas died in September.  George was 5 and Sarah just 2 years old. 

This is a tin-type photo that my Grandma gave to my Mom. Grandma wasn't sure who this photo is of, but she assumed it was Susannah because it would be likely that Sarah would have had a photo of her mother who died when she was so young.  My Grandma was the granddaughter of Sarah. There are no markings on the photo or frame to give any idea of when or where the photo was taken. The tin-type is clipped at the corners to fit into this oval frame.  

“When I was just a little girl”, I liked the Doris Day Show.  Little did I know then that her theme song, “Que Sera, Sera” was from a Hitchcock movie.  I'm a Hitchcock fan.  “The Man Who Knew Too Much” is a great movie!  I won’t give anything away if you haven’t seen it, but there’s a key point in the movie about a name and how it’s used.  Just like in the CASE of having the surname CASE in your family tree.  It can be very tricky Googling or searching message boards and mailing lists for the surname CASE as opposed to every CASE of mistaken identity, or even “just in CASE” scenerio.  All legal CASEs come up, all “in some CASEs”, all “that may be the CASE”, even if someone has information in their briefCASE.  Frustrating.  Trying to find Susannah's parents has been a challenge.  The information I have on her birth came from the old trunk in the attic, but I've never been able to find a document to verify that.

Sarah's father Charles, was widowed at age 38 and just 10 years later he died leaving Sarah and her brother George orphans at ages 15 and 12.  Charles was an abolitionist and is known to have helped an escaped slave by hiding him in his well.  Although I've never heard any hint that Charles died of anything questionable, I'm very curious about how he died at only 48 years old. 

In 1998, I was able to visit the graves of Charles, Susannah and Thomas J Lee in Bunker Hill Cemetery, Buda, Illinois.  The tall stone for Charles was lying on the ground with his name side-up.  I assumed Susannah's name was on the bottom side, but I didn't attempt to flip it. Fortunately, a couple of people were there before the stone fell over and uploaded photos of the stone with her name showing on her findagrave memorial. 

Sarah's brother George served in the Civil War from 1862 to 1866.  Most likely, Sarah lived with her Uncle Lewis Holmes near Buda after her father died.  Lewis had been married to Charles Lee's sister Hannah, but Hannah died in 1858.  In 1870, Sarah was living with George and his wife, Christine.  He married Christine Berkstresser in 1868. 

Sarah married Josiah Negley in 1871 and they moved first to Iowa, then Nebraska where they raised their family.  She served as Justice of the Peace in Eldorado, probably finishing out Josiah's term after he died, from 1922 to 1925.  The only female to ever do so.  

On October 5, 1927, Sarah's granddaughter, Cleo (Negley) Jensen died at age 23, leaving 2 small boys.  Sarah died of a stroke at age 78 just six days later on October 11, 1927. 


  1. I looked up tintypes on Wikipedia and came up with this information. Basically, the tintype was popular in the 1860s and 1870s and replaced the ambrotype. The ambrotype was invented in the early 1850s so, unfortunately, this tintype could not be of a woman who died in 1851. The hairstyle and dress also suggest the post Civil War period. Good hunting.

    1. I want to have this looked at by an expert someday. I do think it could be a daguerrotype, it has a silver finish. I called it a tin-type as a general term. As I said, we don't know for sure who it is and there is no one alive who would know. Thanks for reading.