Man learns identity of family members in century-old photos
CAMBRIDGE, Minn. — The mystery of the family photos taken in Marshfield, Wisconsin, during the early 1900s has been solved.
David Marshall of Cambridge, Minnesota, has kept a group of antique family photos — a family portrait and three wedding pictures — for nearly 50 years after finding them while going through his deceased aunt’s belongings. He believed the people in the photos were connected to his family, but he never knew for sure.
Until now. After the pictures were published recently in the Marshfield News Herald and other USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin newspapers in central Wisconsin with a story about Marshall’s efforts to find out who the people were, two relatives have contacted Marshall, including Kathy Krush of Stevens Point. They’ve told him the family portrait is of Charles and Catherine “Kate” Feit and their children, Helen, Carl, Katheryn “Caddy” and Leo. Leo Feit is Krush’s father.
The family portrait likely was taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and shot, like the others, by a photographer named Mason, who had a studio in Marshfield. The Feits were a farm family from nearby Milladore, the relatives said, and one of the wedding portraits was of Charles and Kate, taken in 1905.
Marshall presumes the other two photos were of the weddings of two of Charles and Kate’s children, but he can’t be sure, the Marshfield News Herald reported.
The connection between the Feits and David Marshall’s family is thread thin. Charles Feit’s brother, Steve Feit, married David Marshall’s great aunt on his father’s side of the family, Florence Marshall Sombs. Marshall Sombs had been married once before her wedding to Steve Feit.
Steve and Florence Feit never had children together, and the only child of Florence, a daughter, died in her early 30s. “So when Flo and Steve passed away, the relatives probably sorted through their things, and somehow the pictures were brought back to Minnesota where Aunt Flo had been born,” Marshall said in an email to Krush, which they shared with a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reporter.
The Feit children put down roots in central Wisconsin. Helen Feit Kubacki became a longtime elementary school teacher. Carl Feit became a farmer. Caddy Feit McGivern became a homemaker and, later, a bartender. Leo Feit was a World War II veteran, worked for Thorp Finance for years and retired as a self-employed real estate agent. All are deceased.
Krush has a copy of the family portrait on the dresser in her bedroom and immediately recognized it when she saw a copy of it in the print version of the Stevens Point Journal.
“The thing about it is, I don’t think I would have recognized the picture if I didn’t have that exact picture on my dresser,” she said.
Krush was able to fill in for Marshall the background of the family.
“It was an interesting family. They had very different personalities,” Krush said. As a young girl, she would visit the Charles and Kate Feit home once a week or more.
Her grandmother, Kate Feit, suffered from diabetes when she grew older, and she would eventually lose both legs and her life to the disease, Krush said.
Her aunt, Helen Feit Kubacki, taught in elementary schools in Portage and Wood counties for nearly 60 years, including as a substitute teacher for 10 years after she retired.
“Auntie Helen was a free soul,” Krush said. “She was just great.”
Helen Feit Kubacki was Krush’s godmother, and she carries with her all the time a Stevens Point Journal letter to the editor written about Feit Kubacki by a former student.
“She would tell us funny stories and laughed at her foibles. She taught us it’s better to laugh than cry at them,” the student, Edward R. Seefelt, wrote in 1997 after attending Feit Kubacki’s funeral.
Marshall, 75, a retired elementary school teacher himself, is ecstatic to finally learn about the people in the pictures. He focused efforts on the photos now because he’s researching his family tree and was bothered by the mystery of the photos.
“It’s exciting to find out,” Marshall said. “It’s a relief in a way. This whole genealogy thing is like a picture puzzle, and I’ve been able to fill in a missing piece. And these photos are just awesome. I’ll be giving them to the family members.”
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