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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, July 26, 2010
Prize Catch
Posted by Maureen

No doubt about it, I've looked at a lot of family photos. Every so often there's an image that not only depicts an ancestor, but also documents a bit of local history. Take this photo, for instance:

Otis Shepardson family  cougar edit.jpg

Pamela Fisher sent me this photo owned by her cousin Lorrie Glover. The women thinks the man on the right (with the dog) is their great-grandfather Otis Shepardson.

  Otis Shepardson family  cougargrandfather.jpg

Not everyone in the family agrees.  Shepardson was born in 1880 in Home Valley (Cowlitz County), Wash. 

This picture is mounted to a gray piece of card stock. It can be difficult to date a group photo where no one is wearing very fashionable clothes. Men's clothing is particularly challenging because the fashion changes are subtle. The style of men's hats suggests that it was taken circa 1900.  If that's true then it could be Otis.

There is one woman in the picture. She wears a frontier-style bonnet that protects her face from the sun. Perhaps one of the boys is her son. 

Otis Shepardson family  cougar bonnet.jpg

Also in the photo is a man in the background who looks like he just stepped off his horse. He wears a cowboy hat and a kerchief around his neck.

Otis Shepardson family  cougarman.jpg

This photo just begs the viewer to fill in the details and answer these questions.
  • Who shot the mountain lion?
  • Why are the men gathered around? (It could be the day the lion was placed there.)
I think I know why a taxidermied mountain lion is on display in the town. It's quite possible that this animal threatened the town. Once it was shot, the town mounted it on tree stump (notice the wooden post to keep its head up). Whoever shot it must have been the town hero.

My husband's ancestral hometown of Peru, Vt., once had a bear on display in the town center. I have photographic proof in an early 20th century postcard.


You'll find help identifying the mystery photos in your family albums in Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.

1900-1910 photos | group photos | unusual photos
Monday, July 26, 2010 6:37:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
Monday, July 26, 2010 11:32:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
When I looked at this picture I saw that the man with the dog on the left was the person who shot the cougar and that it had simply been put up on display for a picture. I think the crowd had gathered to see the cat and were there when the man had his picture taken with it. These giant cats have been seen of late in Ontario and are raising quite a stir. No doubt he would have been a town hero! That a woman was in the picture with a child could possibly mean it was her husband that was the hero.
Donna Decker Carlaw
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8:20:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I would comb old newspapers in the area for information.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:56:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Although it is possible that the cougar is stuffed, it seems more likely that it was recently shot, probably for preying on livestock. The man beside the cat, due to his prominence in the photo, is also like the one who killed the animal. His left hand seems to be curled around something that can't quite be made out in the picture. There is a suggestion of a linear shape near that hand that could be a rifle.

I agree searching the old newspaper archives is a good idea. As for identifying the man himself, it might be possible to make a facial feature comparison if there is a known portrait of the individual in question. You might find these links of assistance along that route.
Friday, July 30, 2010 1:11:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Really I am impressed.I agree searching the old newspaper archives is a good idea.
Friday, July 30, 2010 9:49:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree, if that cat is stuffed, it was a terrible taxidermy job. It looks recently killed to me - see what looks like blood around its mouth? Also, dogs of that type were often used to track mountain lions.
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