Sepia Saturday: The Irish Side

I was amazed a couple of years ago to discover that my paternal grandmother Jessie Orr Bentley was descended from a family of rabid Irish (Country Antrim) nationalists, including William "Remember" Orr (1766-1797 -- hanged by the English in 1797 for swearing two soldiers as members of the United Irishmen) and his nephew William "Rebel" Orr, both of whom are well known in story and song. Google 'em!

The Orrs eventually migrated to a slightly less English New Brunswick in the 1820s or so, and thence steadily westward through Nebraska until they safely hit Cripple Creek, Colorado, where my grandmother was born in 1887, her father having gotten involved in the local industry, mining.

Here is the first known photo I have of Jessie, in high school, looking placidly angelic in the back between two young men. All the girls' hair is well put-up and prim!

This portrait was taken probably around the same time, which would have been around 1905. Rather "Gibson Girl"!

In this, the next chronological photo I have of Jessie, quite a bit of time seems to have passed. Assuming this is one of her own children, that would place this between 1911 and 1921. If closer to the latter, she would have been about 34 years old. The baby does not appear to be amused by the photographic process.

Here are a couple of Jessie on the farm in Livonia with my father and his younger sister, circa 1923.

Those are big plants, whatever they are! Sunflowers?

A matronly Jessie and natty husband George (who'd taught her in high school) some years later, gussied up beside their house, with The Marmon in the background.

Here are a couple of shots from the early Forties. Unfortunately she suffered for many years with TB and died in 1946.

Only recently my cousin unexpectedly provided me with this postwar shot of Jessie's mother, Louise "Muvver" Orr, looking rather ancient (born 1867) with another grandson, Ken.

Apocryphally Louise was related somehow to Nathan "one life to live for my country" Hale, who was also executed by the English, on American soil this time around; alas, I have been unable to substantiate it, but it would nicely round out the patriotic fervor in which my heritage seems to be steeped.


  1. I love that sweet expression Jessie is wearing in the second photograph. Her mother looks pretty formidable though.

  2. very Gibson-girl! how lovely to have a whole sequence of shots from throughout her life

  3. It is interesting to see the close connections of people in history. You have a nice sequence of photos. I hadn't thought about the name Orr being Irish, but we had a family here in town by that name. Now that I think about it they did resemble the visual traits. Nice boys that I taught in school. Great blog.

  4. Rebellion seems to run in the blood. I love the way the collection of pictures you use in the post tells the story : an excellent example of how to use multiple pictures to effect.

  5. Wonderful history of a family through the photos of one of them. Her Gibson Girl photo is so pretty.

  6. The photos of your grandmother as a young lady are very beautiful -- SHE was very beautiful! I especially like the first photograph with the ladies in their lovely dresses and the young men in their suits with boutonnieres. In the 7th photo, notice what perfect posture she and her children have! Thanks for sharing her and your photographs with us.

  7. I enjoyed seeing your charming old photos. Like you, I have many old snapshots but none as old as yours. I have no photos of my mother until she was in high school; you are lucky to have these treasures.