Above: The Conner Street Boys – George Tescher sits at center, and his older brother Mahlon behind him (left), in the backyard of their home at 1179 Conner St. Note the child at the far left of image. A boy in such an outfit in a later generation would have been a target of abuse, but these “Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes were coveted and common for small boys in 1890s America. The brick home behind them still stands today at the corner of 12th and Conner Streets. We’ll see a front view of this home in a later photo in this post. (Please share this post – I’m trying to build something here:-)
The background thread that runs through my romantic novel, Noblesville examines how life has changed in small town America over the course of 120 years. The main character, David Henry, travels in time between modern day Noblesville and the town as it was in 1893. David struggles with the stark difference he sees between the two places, differences born out in photos like these of the very town and neighborhood were the novel is set. (To purchase a copy of the novel, follow the book link above, or download it onto any of the popular e-reader formats via Apple, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.)
Below: Two tries at a portrait of a Noblesville child. The first with the tot sitting in a flower box built atop a sawed-off tree trunk, the 2nd on a rocker. Note the woman, perhaps mother, at left, watching from the doorway in each image. I do not know the exact location of this house.
Below: George Tescher (knealing) and brother Mahlon play with tops on the sidewalk beside the Presbyterian Church with another boy. A blemish in the negative makes it appear the boy at right is holding something large, but I believe he was balancing a spinning top. Some fifteen years ago, the Presbyterian Church was renovated and I salvaged and still have the exterior oak doors, including the one pictured here.
Below: A motley group of girls gathered for a costume party portrait in front of 1195 Conner St. Edith Tescher is at far right in cowboy costume. The boys pictured at the beginning of the post are in the backyard of this home.
Below: A younger Edith Tescher than we see in the photo above, sitting on the front fence newel post, held by her aunt, at 1179 Conner St. This photo was taken circa 1895. Who says people didn’t smile in old photos? When the city replaced the sidewalks on Conner Street in the late 1980s, I salvaged the limestone slab sidewalk you see behind Edith and her aunt in this photo. They were cracked and damaged and I used the resulting small pieces as stepping stones in my yard, a couple blocks from this location. The houses you see across the street were both demolished long ago.
Below: Edith and George Tescher on the sidewalk of their home at 1179 Conner St., on the other side of the fence we saw in the earlier photo. Of all the houses that can be seen in the background of this photo, only the one to the right of George still stands today (it is a lawyers’ office, covered in aluminum siding). The areas of Old Town Noblesville that bordered the edge of the commercial downtown were dramatically destroyed in the early 20th Century, largely thanks to the automobile. Many of the town’s finest homes were demolished to make way for gas stations, tire and muffler shops, and parking lots. In the novel, Noblesville, David Henry mourns that so much beauty was replaced with so much ugliness.
Below: George and Edith playing in the dirt. Circa, 1895. Looks like someone was digging a basement or foundation – note the wooden plank to facilitate the wheel of a wheelbarrow. Location is unknown. Noblesville was growing rapidly in the 1890s, thanks to a natural gas boom that hit the eastern portion of the state beginning in the late 1880s. Noblesville was on the western edge of the gas field. At the time, this was the largest known gas reserve in the world, but would largely be consumed (most of it wasted from promotional stunts and shear gluttonous overuse) by 1900.
Below: Perhaps the latest photo in my collection showing Edith (at far right) and George (beside her) Tescher. Though not a part of my novel, the Tescher’s story is fascinating. As the children age, the photos grow fewer and further apart. Mental illness overtook their mother, Julia until it destroyed their idyllic, enviable family life. Julia grew more and more paranoid, hallucinating and often convinced people were after her or her children. She was eventually institutionalized in Indianapolis and the children’s father, Samuel, the photographer, moved to a residential hotel near the asylum. The children appear to have been raised from that point on by grandparents.
Below: Knowing the heartbreaking fate of the Tescher family, it is hard not to read meaning into the often lost, lonely, and withdrawn expressions on the face of Mahlon, the oldest of the 3 Tescher children, in the many photos I have of him. On the surface, he was a fortunate child in a well-known, well-liked upper middle class family. He lived in an impressive house, had the best toys and the finest clothes, but behind closed doors, his mother was descending into madness. While the younger two children appear care-free and happy in the photos, Mahlon does not, as if a camera in his face is the last thing he wants. You can imagine his father, camera in hand, prodding him to “look this way,” but he won’t. (Both the church and the white barn to the right have survived in good condition to this day.)