Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beware! The study of history can be dangerous and exciting.

On June 11, 2012, I received an email from Heather, a primary researcher with the Savannah Memorial Park [Cemetery] in Rosemead in southern California. In her email she said she had found the Historic Happenings blog on the internet and had seen photographs of a couple identified as Nathaniel and Matilda Vise. I had done this posting some time back. Now for the shock! Heather went on to say, “I’m sorry to tell you, but the pictures are in fact William Francis Turner and his wife Rebecca (Humphreys) Turner.”

I was surprised, disappointed and pleased all at the same time. Surprised because the couple has been the face of Nathaniel and Matilda Vise in our area and beyond for at least 40 years. Disappointed because Annie Mitchell and I, and probably others, have published these pictures purportedly showing Matilda and Nat Vise—Nat being the namesake for the town of Visalia. Pleased because anytime we can fix the historical record and improve on its accuracy that is a good thing.

Since arriving in Visalia 40 years ago, I believed the accuracy of the identification of this historic Visalia pioneer couple’s photographs—especially when Annie Mitchell published the photographs in her Tulare County history book called The Way It Was (see page 29.) Annie had received the photographs with identification from Lillian Wiggins, a descendent of Nat and Matilda. It appears Lillian made an error in her identification.

When I asked Heather how she knew our identification was wrong, she shared that through her historical research she was familiar with the pioneer Turner family from southern California and as a result was aware of the Turner autobiography called My Story written by Rebecca Humphreys Turner. The book was published by Rebecca’s daughter Maud in 1960. The book is rare, but a copy is in the San Bernardino Public Library. In the book the identical portrait photographs are shown and identified as William and Rebecca Turner (see pages 231 and 235). Thanks to Heather I have seen the Turner book. I believe this to be persuasive evidence as to the correct identification. An autobiographical book would certainly have gotten the photos correctly identified.

After checking with other local resources and communicating at length with Heather and with the son of Lillian Wiggins, I am now convinced  that the couple we have come to know as Nathaniel and Matilda Vise is in fact  William Turner and his wife Rebecca Turner.

So the hunt is on again for a picture of Nathaniel Vise. I believe we have a correctly identified photo of Matilda in the photo files in the Tulare County Library, so I think we are OK with a correct picture of her.  I will supply my investigative material to the Annie Mitchell History Room, just In case there may be people who wish more detail.

I would be happy to show the evidence and discuss the basis for my conclusion, so please contact me if you’re interested. A photograph of Nat has got to be out there someplace.

Thanks Heather for taking the time to pass along your discovery.  It is important to us that we get the historical record as accurate as possible.


Madness7 said...

Nathaniel Vise was my 3rd great grandfather via his daughter, Ellen, who married my 2nd great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Wiggins.
The family story is that he named Visalia after his home town in Kentucky (also named Visalia). It is further believed that, somewhere in the distant past, Nathaniel had a relative or acquaintance named Salia Vise after whom the Kentucky town was named. The story may well be apocryphal.

SpaceRat said...

You can see the modern day Nathaniel Vise here on his Facebook page!

Nathaniel is my son. His Mom is from Philippines.

The founder of Visalia is actually a great-great-great Uncle (don't know how many "greats").