Channeling an inner Sherlock and identifying photos

By Rich Tarrant

Shuffling through some old photographs some days ago I happened upon the pair that accompanies the column this week. They caught my attention because they are both about the same size and in very good condition. But the great thing about them is that some kind souls thought to identify them – or at least one of them. Anyway it was a beginning.

In a faint penciled script on the back of the portrait on the left was the name Albern Thompson. Actually the first name was nearly illegible. It was hard to tell whether it was “Albern” or “Albert”. Fortunately, somewhere in my ramblings through local histories I recalled the name, Albern (Thompson), because I thought it unusual. Consequently, I have no doubt as to the identity of the man in the portrait. [Move over Sherlock Holmes.]

Albern Merwin Thompson was born to Miles Malcolm Thompson, a ship’s carpenter, (VPJ 10/09/2011) and Julia Augusta Sturtevant in Vermilion Ohio on September 14, 1859. He had two sisters; Alice and Cora; and two brothers; Vernon and Everett. Throughout his life Albern worked as an engineer on the fish tugs.

The Thompson family was a rather prominent Vermilion family. Several of their ancestors had fought in the American Revolutionary War. Albern’s father, Miles, had once been town Marshall and curator of the town lockup that was located where Exchange Park is today.

In May of 1882 Albern married a girl named Anna S. Broguard (b.1852). The couple had two children; Helen born in 1886; and Hazen born in 1889.  Anna died in 1907. Albern died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lorain in 1918 after undergoing an operation for gallstones.

Now, discovering the identity of the person in the portrait on the right was a little harder: On the back of it, though marked in very small letters it simply reads. “Hattie Englebry”. Though I doubt that it is a photograph of someone named Hattie I suspected that it was a keepsake once belonging to her. To help substantiate that thought a brief search showed me that Hattie Englebry was the daughter of 19th century Vermilion undertaker John Englebry and his wife Mary. [Note: The Englebry’s occupied the house where Granny Joe’s Ice Creamatorium (no pun intended) is located today (2017).]

Hattie was born on the 22nd day of September in 1867 and married a Vermilion fella named Flynt Nicholas on the first of December in 1892. Flynt was born in 1862 in Brownhelm to Henry and Philina who were pioneer residents of the area. He began working on the lakes as a cabin boy at age 9, eventually working his way up to captain. Hattie and Flynt had two children; a boy they named Charles (b.1898) and a daughter they named Vera (b.1905).

Hattie died in 1933 – Flynt in 1954.  And here is where I began to understand the reason the two portraits were found together.

On October 13, 1924 Vera J. Nicholas became the wife of Hazen B. Thompson. Albern and Anna Thompson and Flynt and Hattie Nicholas were their parents. And though I knew neither of the men pictured I was very familiar with Vera, Hazen, their children – and some of their children’s children. With this in mind I took a closer look at both portraits and am able to see how much their offspring resemble them. In each face I see something that reminds me of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as I knew – and know – them.

Well, I’m not really as ingenious as Sherlock Holmes. But once in every great while I trip over something from a yesteryear that helps me appear so. At least I deduce that to be the case.

Ref: Special Thanks to the Thompson-Corcino families; Sandusky Register 05/13/1954; The Vermilion News, 1918.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at:




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