Prologue: research contributed by William Moran (grandson of Margaret Cummins Moran), Celine McGrath Moran (granddaughter of Mary Cummins McGrath), Mary Ellen Moran (daughter-in-law of Margaret Cummins Moran). and Jo Cummins Langdon (daughter of Emmett). Shirley Morrison contributed pictures from the 1986 gathering. (Shirley’s mother was Mary Moran Carmichael, daughter of Margaret Cummins Moran.)
In 1890 or ’91 the James Cummins family dressed in their Sunday best, carried four chairs out to the yard, and posed for this picture. We know the photograph dates to around 1890 because Emmett Cummins (far left), was born in 1884.
James and Johanna may have hired the photographer to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary (married in 1866). They may have done it because the children were growing up and “if we’re going to do it, we’d better do it now.” They may have done it because the neighbors had or because the photographer stopped by their Iowa farm and showed off his samples. We don’t know why they did it, but we’re very glad they did.
Elizabeth Josephine (Lizzie) [1868-1939], sitting left of her parents, shared the title of eldest with her twin brother John who is seated to the right. Lizzie married James Sinnott, and they farmed in Monroe County Iowa.
John [1868-1952] married Katie Hurley. They farmed in Monroe County Iowa and had James, Margaret, Auora (Nora), William, and Johanna.
Mike [1869-1965] married Jennie Logan. In 1930 Mike’s occupation is listed as “Independent Telephone.” Mike both worked for and ran the Melrose Iowa Telephone Company.
Edward [1871-1952] never married. In 1910 he is living at home and farming with his dad. Later he farmed on his own.
Annie [1872-1957] married James Roan. They had three daughters – Margaret, Johanna (Joan) and Mary and one son John who died when he was three years old. They farmed in Monroe County Iowa.
Mary Frances [1875-1926] married John McGrath. They had eight children: Herbert, Maurice, Edmund, Joe, Dave, Helen, Kathryn, and Mary. They farmed in Monroe County Iowa.
Nellie [1876-1970] married Thomas Carmody. If my childhood memory serves, my great-aunt Nellie operated the switchboard for the Melrose Telephone Company out of her house.
James [1880-1945] married Mary Agnes O’Connor. They had Margaret and Mary Jo. In 1930 James is listed in the census as “Owner Grain and Feed Store” in Monroe County Iowa.
Margaret [1881-1942] married Dr. Thomas Moran. They had four children Walter, Mary, Tom, and John. Dr. Moran practiced medicine in Melrose, Iowa.
Emmett [1884-1970] married twice. He fathered Lucille and James Edward (Ed) with first wife Kathryn McGrath. After Kathryn died in 1920, he fathered two daughters, Mary Ellen and Anna Jo (Jo Cummins Langdon) with second wife Ravena Crowe.
Except for Emmett, none of the Cummins siblings went far from home. And Emmett was away for only a few years, some of which he spent in Deadwood, South Dakota before returning to take over the family farm.
For the first half of the 20th century, the Cummins led rich intertwined lives in the heart of Iowa. In Lucas County Iowa and Monroe County Iowa they worked together, prayed together, and played together. Their network would put our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to shame.
The next generation scattered. They served in WWII. They went to college. They moved to Colorado. They settled in to California. They relocated to Texas. They connected with letters and Christmas cards and occasional visits.
NOTE: Cummins descendants in pictures below are identified in captions. Not all pictured are Cummins descendants.
Anne Lamott wrote “A hundred years from now? All new people.”
Yes, almost 125 years after that 1890 picture, we’re all new people. But descendants aren’t totally new. My brother Tom and his son Matt resemble Edward and John from the 1890 family. Ann Polich resembles her great-grandmother Mary Cummins McGrath. Shirley Morrison looks like our grandmother Margaret.
Someday a whole new batch of Cummins descendants may unearth these photos. And one of those serious 1890 faces or a 1986 smile will shout out a Cummins connection.