As I opened another dusty box I found pictures hiding between pages of paper, in books, stuck in places pictures shouldn't be.

Behind a framed portrait of my 2x great uncle, Martin Van Buren Phillips, named for the eighth president, there was another picture.

Uncle Van gave up trying to run his own store. and moved to Sylacauga, Alabama, about 1905. The photo was a gift during one of his protracted annual visits. His descendants kept in touch for a couple of generations.

My paternal side faithfully identified pictures but this bonus photo had been skipped. Or, it was someone known to the Alabama bunch and Uncle Van's photo slipped into the frame in front of it.

Most of the old photos are of people I'd heard of such as Madge Vansant, the daughter of Uncle Noah Vansant and Nollie Phillips Vansant. I'd never seen the picture before.

Uncle Noah took delivery of a Mitchell Wagon from the factory in Racine, WS, and assembled it.

The Mitchell had been in service for a week when 19 month old Madge fell from the wagon and was fatally injured on Chapel Hill Rd. before it was paved. It was October 1915. She is buried at Chapel Hill.

There were pictures of the Underhill family which moved to Arizona and farmed big there. A daughter ran off with a young man and when she refused to return they sold everything and followed the couple west.

The child bride (she was fourteen) was determined to stick it out and apparently she did. They all did and made their lives out west.

As I sorted the pictures I realized none were strangers to me. I'd heard of all of them until I came to Elsie Shaw.

There were no “Shaws” connected to my family, not even neighbors.

Why her photograph was kept and identified in my grandmother's handwriting is a mystery.

I started a wider search.

She was born about 1900, one of seven children of Emanuel and Nellie Shank Shaw both born in McDuffie County and married there in October of 1885.

Her grandfather, Simon Shaw, was born in Virginia in 1790, her grandmother Polly was forty years younger, born in 1830 in Georgia. Her paternal great grandparents were born in Virginia.

The most information is found in her death certificate: “Suffocated in fire that destroyed the county jail in which she was being held for trial for lunacy.”

She was buried in the Green Branch Church Cemetery in McDuffie County.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at