She Wore Black

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Jemima was born June 17, 1856, in Clear Creek, Fairfield County, Ohio.  She was one of twelve children born to Joseph Henry and Hannah (nee Steward) Christy.  Looking at this photo, a carte de visite, I noted the sitter’s black dress, black ribbon at her neck and two large, black bracelets.  These things suggested to me that she may be in mourning.

The Victorian mourning trend, of wearing black clothing and various forms of mourning jewelry, reached a peak when Queen Victoria’s mourning of the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, popularized the tradition.  People wore jewelry, such as the bracelets Jemima is wearing in the photo, as a way of remembrance of their dead loved ones.  The best pieces of jewelry were made out of jet, fossilized coal found near Whitby, England. Less-expensive alternatives included black glass, vulcanite (a hardened rubber,) and bog oak.  I date this photo at about 1870 when Jemima was aged 14 years.  I have; however, been unable to determine a death in her immediate family that would have dictated mourning attire at this time.  Possibly, her black jewelry and attire had more to do with fashion.

Jemima’s father was a farmer and a pioneer of Fairfield County.  Her mother was the daughter of Charles Steward, another prominent farmer of the county.  Her sister, Nancy Ann, married Amos Aldenderfer on October 27, 1870.  Six years later, on January 6, 1876, Jemima married Amos’ brother, Eli Aldenderfer, a blacksmith.  The couple had four children: Edward Ervin, born 1877; Ramon, who died in 1879, aged 7 months; Nora, born 1881; and James Clark, born 1888.  By 1900, Eli was working as a farmer.

Jemima’s father died in 1908, in the same county where he was born and had lived his entire lifetime.  After his death, her mother lived with Jemima’s sister, Minnie.  She died in 1915.

At the time of Jemima’s death, on May 3, 1929, aged 72 years, she was survived by her husband, three children, and seven of her siblings.  Her obituary said she had been ill for several years and died of a brain hemorrhage. Her husband died on January 10, 1934, aged 87 years.

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Census Records
Find A Grave
A Biographical Record of Fairfield County, Ohio, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1902
Family Search – Ohio County Marriages, Ohio Deaths, and Ohio Birth Records
Jemima’s Obit – The Circleville Herald, Circleville, Ohio, May 4, 1929
Love After Death, The Beautiful Macabre World of Mourning
Collectors Weekly, Mourning Jewelry


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