The almost ghostly face of an anonymous young man peers out from this small carte de visite image, forgotten by time. His identity may never be known. What's equally fascinating is the back of the cardboard mounting, bearing the imprint of photographer Samuel Bookman of Ursina, Somerset County, PA. Samuel's third wife, our Sarah Jennings, was the daughter of Thomas and Christina (Ream) Jennings.
A Civil War veteran, Samuel made a living preaching and selling Bibles as well as operating a shoemaking and repair shop. He appears to have come to Somerset County, PA circa 1870 when marrying his second wife, Annie. During the couple's brief two years of marriage, ending in her untimely death, he worked as a watchman at a railroad tunnel and traveled with portable photography equipment to help make ends meet. His mobile studio consisted of a portable tent with wooden walls.
Tongues wagged around Ursina when Samuel wed our Sarah, after just seven months as a widower, and with him 23 years older than she. Sarah's cousin Thomas Flanigan -- son of Job and Mary (Ream) Flanigan -- once wrote that Sarah was "a funny kind of a woman and ... appears to have some mental weakness." The couple dwelled in a photography studio at the corner of Ursina's Park Street and Maple Alley. Tragedy arose in September 1882. While on an outing, the family picked and ate deadly mushrooms. Two of the children died, and a third suffered brain damage from which he never recovered. Reported the Somerset Herald, "Mrs. Bookman and another child are not expected to recover from the fatal dose. Mr. Bookman has recovered, having vomited immediately after eating the poisonous dish."
The couple in 1885 were admitted to the County Home of Bedford, PA and transferred to the County Home of Somerset. He asked for a divorce, but she refused. They eventually separated. Samuel spent his final years at the home of his married daughter Mary Dougherty in Galloway, OH, where he died in 1902.
See other cousin-photographers featured as a Minerd.com Photo of the Month -- Nov. 2005, Ward C. Miner of Louisville, CO -- Nov. 2006, Charles H. Rose of Normalville, PA -- April 2012, Harry G. Bowman of Hartford City, IN -- Feb. 2017, Clarence "Edward" Grove of Uhrichsville, OH.