Maude Witthall – Pioneer Women

A visual journey through the Dumpster Collection of old photos from Lincoln Missouri

I was deep in suburban St Louis landscape off a street called Sappington, after dropping my son off at pre-school I spied the dumpster in front of a small house. A classic one speed bicycle stuck out of a large dumpster in front of a garage and wanted that bike!

(real post and photo of the dumpster)

My first sense was a death purge but it turns out the elderly woman (Christy Jane) just had her garage cleaned out after her husbands death. A few young able young men in the family took on the task, as the dumpster filled with a long life of junk and collecting. It was the National Geographic magazines that caught my eye and vintage Playboys from the 1960s. I filled a red suitcase once owned by her husband, with his old magazines and almost moved on.

At the bottom of the box of magazines was layer of photos and paperwork. Picking up the old photograph and flipping it over I saw that it was 100 years old, and there were more, an entire box of old photos, ranging from 1906 to 1970s. I couldn’t let them go, so i brought them home and photographed them all for the future. A story emerged!

Maude Martin was born in Lincoln, Missouri and became a teacher by 1908, top of her class, she married a religious man and moved to St Louis. After several kids and a long life, she moved on, but what remains, is her commitment to family and the history of Lincoln, her little small Missouri small town next to the Ozark forest.

They say Lincoln, Missouri was divided, as the Irish preferred the flat crop growing land to the north, and the Germans loved the wooded edges of the Ozarks. Main street divided the Pioneers and yet Maude knew every child, every family and corresponded with many, as photos got sent, letters came from her own children and kin. Her pictures immortalizes the town.

The full box of letters and photos I emptied into the red suitcase with TWA tags from Christy Jane’s husband, which contained the remaining objects of Maude, her photographic Grandmother. The true story was told to me by Christy’s daughter who remained suspicious of this Dumpster Diver and my efforts to return the old photos. “those boys made a mistake throwing out my great grandmother’s things.”

I tried to give back everything I found, several times, but alas it never happened as the family shows no interest in this history. Now the old photos and memorabilia sit in a few scrapbooks, the bike finally rusted, the magazines used for Art and the story is done.

A signing album from Maude’s school days.

All that remains of Maude’s time in Lincoln, is here on this page.