Effie’s Mystery Man


A while back, I shared a painting by Effie Skaggs, my great-aunt. That one featured baby Effie sitting on the knee of my 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Ellison. It seems that Effie was quite the painter but unfortunately, the family does not know who the subjects are in some of the portraits.

Now, my challenge is to figure out who is the man in this painting.

This painting shows an intense, reasonably young man with dark hair. That hairline might be a help in identifying this mystery ancestor. Another clue is the tie which looks like the style from the 1860s where most of it is hidden by the shirt collar.

painting unknown man by effie martin skaggs

Portrait of unknown ancestor by Effie Martin Skaggs

Let’s round up some possibilities. I’d love for it to be a Martin or an Ellison, but we must also consider Skaggs and Osborn on her husband’s side of the family.

Effie’s husband was:

Henry Talbot Skaggs
BIRTH – 14 SEP 1848 • Indiana
DEATH  – 25 DEC 1920 • Enterprise, Wallowa, Oregon

I’m thinking it may be a generation older than Effie and Henry. So it could be one of these men below. I don’t have any photos of either of them to compare to this painting.

Her father was:

Charles Coleman MARTIN
BIRTH – 26 JANUARY 1831 • Kentucky
DEATH – 16 AUG 1886 • Madison, Greenwood County, Kansas

Her father-in-law was:

Solomon Skaggs
BIRTH – 23 MAY 1822 • Lawrence County, Indiana, USA
DEATH – 21 OCT 1864 • Alton, Madison, Illinois

It could even be an uncle of Effie’s or of her husband, Henry. That gives us these possibilities: Charles Coleman’s brothers are Thomas Claggett Martin, William Allen Martin, James Henry Martin. Solomon Skaggs’ brother was John Wesley Skaggs.

Now, I do have a photo of Thomas Martin but he is older and with a white beard, not easily compared to Effie’s painting. My eye is drawn to his son, Hal Roach Martin, standing behind him. Look at the dark hair and the hairline but with the mustache, it is hard to see his mouth for comparison purposes.

I’m still thinking that Henry/Hal Roach Martin (born in 1855) is the wrong generation for the painting. Consider this, could he be a good representation of what his father looked like twenty years earlier or maybe even his uncle, Charles Coleman Martin?

People in the photo are Martha Ann, Elizabeth J, Henry Roach, Mary E, Laura Belle, front row: Milton T, Thomas Martin (bearded man), wife Mary Margaret Sullivan, Sadie L. photo from Merle Martin, sent to Gail Lee Martin.

H Roach Martin (2)

Looking at them side-by-side, I’m just not sure. The nose, hairline, and maybe even the ears look like a good match, but the subject in the photo has more angular cheekbones. I really would love to attach a name to this painting by Effie. It’s quite possible that it’s my direct ancestor, Charles Coleman Martin.

It would be great if the cousin who has the painting could find the photo that it may be based on and that it might have the name of the person written on the back. One can hope!

7 thoughts on “Effie’s Mystery Man

  1. JamaGenie

    Virginia, age could account for the difference in cheek bones. However, in my experience ID-ing younger vs older photos, brow bones and eyebrows pretty much stay the same over the years. Enough other points match, so the two men are definitely related, but imho the brow line of the older man isn’t that of your Mystery Man. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

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