Finding Emerson Nale

December 30, 2014

I love hunting for old photographs in antiques stores and malls. I’ve been doing it for several years now, at first only buying those I could find with names. I have since expanded to buying photos just because there is something compelling about them for my own collection – name or no name.


Recently, at a nearby shop, I was picking through a group of photos (fodder for another blog entry) while my husband browsed the rest of the store. 


A few minutes later, his bright blue eyes twinkling with pride, he came back to where I was and said: “You have to come and see something when you’re done. I think we hit the mother lode.”


I was skeptical. We hit this place often, and judging by the direction where this “mother lode” was located, I was afraid it would be something we’d looked at before. But no. Apparently, I’ve trained him well. I do believe the bug has bitten him, too, though I doubt he’d admit it.


What I found was an old drawer filled with some beautiful photographs. Looking through them, one by one, I determined quickly that they all seem to be from the same family.


So, I picked out four that I really liked, including this one. A photo of one Emerson Denny Nale, taken by a photographer named Spurgeon in Salem, Ind. His first and last names were carefully written in pencil on the back.


Yeah, baby!


Once I got back home to my computer, it took almost no time for me to find Emerson’s family online and pull all sorts of records for him. Trust me. This doesn't usually happen.


His parents were Orange L. and Laura Frances (Denney) Nale. I haven’t seen a document to verify this yet, but personal online family trees indicate that his father’s middle name was Lemon. Records I have seen show his initial is, indeed, “L.” But seriously? Who names their son Orange Lemon?


Emerson apparently had one sibling – an infant sister who was born 23 July 1886 and died three days later. According to his WWI Draft Registration Card, Emerson was born on 6 August 1894. At 22, he was tall with brown eyes and dark hair, self-employed as a farmer in Pierce Township, Washington County, Indiana, near the city of Salem. He states that his father and mother are dependent on him for support. 


On 20 November 1926, he married Mamie Frances Marshall, the only daughter of the six children born to Don Carlos Sheridan and Rosa Alice (Overton) Marshall. In the 1930 census, Emerson and Mamie were living with the Nales, along with their young son, Norman. The Nales lived next door to Mamie’s brother, Ralph. Both their mother, Rosa, and grandmother, Frances Overton, were living with Ralph and his family.


By 1940, Emerson and Mamie have added another son, Lee Edward, 4, and a daughter, Mildred J., 6 months, to their home in Pierce Township. Living next door is Orange, who is now a widower. 


So now, you can see the basis of my obsession with photos of people who are completely unrelated to me. Judging by the amount of genealogical information posted solely by one researcher on, I’m thinking that this “mother lode” of photos may actually find it’s way back home.

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