Who are you, Carrie Tillman McCune?

A dark-haired, young woman, wearing a high-necked, long-sleeved dress of the late 1800s, stares off into the distance with large, hopeful eyes. Typical of the photos of that time period, she’s not smiling. Her hand rests casually on the arm of an ornate chair. This is the first photograph I’ve ever seen of our great-grandmother, Carrie Tillman McCune (26 Jan 1873? – 30 Nov 1918), mother of Granddaddy Bill McCune.

Someone in our family had sent me copies of two old photos of Carrie several years ago. I’m sorry that I can’t remember which of my cousins sent them, but I’m very grateful! The second photo is of an older Carrie, seated with a Bible open in her lap, next to a table holding a crystal cross. She has a ribbon pinned to her bodice that appears to read “Me For Christ.” Now her eyes look somberly at us, perhaps in calm resignation.

Looking at these two old photos, I could see Aunt Rossie in Carrie’s face and wondered if any of us shared any

Carrie McCune, circa late 1800s, perhaps her engagement photo
Carrie Tillman McCune, circa late 1800s, perhaps her engagement photo

similarities with our great-grandmother. I knew from my DNA research that we carry about 12.5% of the genes of our great-grandparents. My Dad and your uncle, James McCune, knew nothing about his grandparents, William and Carrie McCune. They both died before Granddaddy Bill married and were never talked about in the family.

Carrie McCune
Carrie Tillman McCune

Several years earlier in my research, I had discovered that Carrie had actually been born in Upson County, ca 1873, where my family was currently living. She and her parents, John Wesley and Rebecca Tillman, had lived within 10 miles of where I lived! One brisk winter day, Mike and I rode down a rural county road, traipsed through the woods and found an old cemetery with the gray, weathered gravestones of my 3X great-grandparents, George and Almeda Tillman! What an odd feeling, seeing the site where they lay, never having known anything about them before, and they were practically at my back door! Just goes to show, home can be right around the corner!

I wanted to know more about these relatives of ours, especially Carrie. What was her life really like in the early 1900s and what kind of person was she? Was she quiet, loud, cheerful or pessimistic? Did she go to school and know how to read and write? What did she enjoy doing and what kind of mother was she? So I expanded my research and discovered a dark family secret. Carrie Tillman McCune, our great-grandmother, had been impacted by a startling event that affected not only the rest of her life but those of her three children as well!

Next time – a sad, shocking family story!

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