PIECING TOGETHER THE PUZZLE OF THE NICHOLS-CARNEY PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION –PART III – HELENA MAY NICHOLS
In 2016 I received a package. It included 16 photographs and assorted land documents for the ancestors and descendants of Charles Knerr NICHOLS (1865-1951), and his wife Elizabeth (Lizzie) Bell CARNEY (1865-1955). Charles and Lizzie passed these treasures on to their only child, Helena May NICHOLS. She in turn passed them on to her daughter, Sara, (Sally) LEFKOWITZ BOZEK TOWLE. Unfortunately, only three of the pictures have names. The puzzle is to piece together the bits of information I know, and share it in the hopes that someone will recognize the unidentified faces. Please contact me if you have any suggestions.
HELENA MAY NICHOLS – 6 MONTHS OLD
A faded cabinet card shows a bald baby girl. She sits propped up against a plush animal skin throw. A wide ruffled lace collar encircles her little intense face, and a dainty cotton dress envelops all but her tiny hands. She gazes intently at someone, perhaps the photographer, A.S. (Agnish Simeon) Schreckengost. The back of the cabinet card is labeled Helena May Nichols, 6 1/2 months old. The only child of Charles Knerr NICHOLS and Elizabeth Bell CARNEY, Helena was born May 25, 1895 in Ap0llo, Pennsylvania. She was named for her paternal grandmother, Helena KNERR NICHOLS who died in 1875, twenty years before her granddaughter’s birth.
TWO MYSTERY PHOTOS – HELENA NICHOLS?
There are two additional photographs that I believe depict Helena May NICHOLS in her early years. The first portrait features a pretty young girl about 7-10 years old, seated with her hands gently folded in her lap. She wears a fine white cotton dress, the high neck edged in lace. Eyelet enhanced ruffles drape over the bodice and full sleeves. Long ringlets cascade over her shoulders and a large bow sets off a few wayward curls on her forehead. A bracelet of gold links encircles her left wrist and she wears a delicate gemstone ring on her left middle finger. The photograph bears the label Holyer. This is the same studio that took the photograph of Helena’s father, Charles, about 1903-1905, when he visited his younger sister, Bertha NICHOLS DONALDSON in Trenton, New Jersey. I think it’s possible that Helena accompanied her father on this trip, and had her photograph taken at the same studio.
A third unlabeled photograph features a poised young woman approximately 15 years old. The clothing style indicates a time period around 1912. I believe this portrait is also Helena May NICHOLS. All of the facial features, including the shape of the face, as well as the small mouth, the nose, the eyes and the ears are the same as in the previous photograph. Seated on a padded bench, a nature scene in the background, the slender young woman poses in an elegant fashionable dress. The bodice and sleeves are trimmed with narrow tucks and embroidery. A sheer over skirt delicately drapes over the lustrous silk taffeta under skirt. I imagine the dress in pastel colors and can almost hear the soft rustle of the fabric. Her left hand gracefully holds the folds of her dress. She wears a gemstone on her ring finger and a gold bracelet adorns her forearm. Befitting her status as a young woman, “Helena” wears her hair swept up into a “Pompadour” style. There is no identifying information on the photograph indicating where it was taken. Perhaps the photographer’s studio was near Pittsburgh where the NICHOLS family lived in 1910. What was the special occasion that prompted this studio portrait? Perhaps it was the first time “Helena” wore her hear styled like a young woman?
Are these pictures of Helena May NICHOLS? Based on the provenance of the pictures and the photograph clues, I am almost positive that these two photographs depict Helena. What do you think?
Census records indicate that Helena lived at home with her parents until 1920. According to a family source, Helena served as a Red Cross driver volunteer in WWI. I couldn’t find any information about her service but supposedly a framed certificate exists somewhere in the extended family.
I found one intriguing travel record for Helena. On March 18, 1924 she traveled from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida. Did the 28-year-old young woman travel alone? During the 1920’s Cuba became a popular pleasure destination for Americans and Europeans. In 1924, Helena was one of 30,000 visitors to seek out the pleasant island climate.
About 1925 Helena married Charles LEFKOWITZ (1893-1983), a 32-year-old pharmacist and immigrant. When he immigrated to the United States in August, 1908, fifteen- year old Charles arrived with the name Kaplan Leokovics. The passenger list for the German ocean liner Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, described Kaplan as 5 feet tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed, occupation- farm laborer. He was accompanied by his sister Berta, age 16, 4’8”, fair-haired, brown eyes, and occupation – maid. The The two siblings were born in Telek-haza Austro-Hungary. Their home at the time of their immigration is noted as Szecsudvar, which was also part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After WWI this area became part of the independent country of Czechoslovakia. Today that same village, Szecsudvar, is called Dvorianky and is part of Slovakia. In 1918 Charles applied for U.S. citizenship. His application notes his height as 5’8”, 138 pounds, and his occupation as a druggist. Charles received his U.S. citizenship on January 2, 1924 in Pittsburgh, PA.
After their marriage Helena and Charles settled in New Kensington, PA where Charles established a successful business. He started on Fifth Avenue with one drug store and expanded the Central Drug stores to 26 locations.
Between 1925-1931, Helena and Charles added three children to their family.
- Charles (Charlie) Nichols LEFKOWITZ born September 27, 1925 Pittsburgh, PA – died September 2015, Arizona. (Charles legally changed his name to Charles Lefkowitz NICHOLS).
- Robert (Bob) Nichols LEFKOWITZ, M.D., Ph.D., born November 15, 1926, Pittsburgh, PA – died August 31, 2007, Asheville, NC. (Robert legally changed his name after 1950 to Robert Lefkowitz NICHOLS.)
- Sara Elizabeth (Sally) NICHOLS BOZEK TOWLE born November 14, 1931 Los Angeles, CA – died February 10, 2014, CA.
THE LATER YEARS
About 1958 Helena and Charles relocated to sunny Arizona. Helena died at age 69 on March, 23, 1965 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Reverend Lyle Burns conducted her funeral service at Valley Lutheran Church. Charles died at age 90 on July 28, 1983. His funeral services were conducted by Rabbi Samuel Seicol, at Sinai Mortuary Chapel. Helena and Charles are interred together at Green Acres Cemetery, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Until a few years ago, I was ignorant of Helena’s existence. I still only have snippets of information about her. When and why did my relatives lose contact with Helena and her family? Was it the distance of 940 miles from Pennsylvania to Nebraska? Was it simply the passage of time and generations? In speaking to my mother, she recalls her grandmother, Mabel NICHOLS HYDE spoke warmly about the LEFKOWITZ family in Pennsylvania. At the time she did not know how they were related. Contact may have been lost after Mabel died in 1954.
Helena is my 1st cousin, 3 generations removed. Far removed, as my husband says. However, it is through distant cousin connections that we find the missing pieces of the puzzle and create a more complete family story. Perhaps one of these cousins can help solve the NICHOLS brick wall through DNA testing and combining our research. Who are Helena May NICHOLS’ 2x great-grandparents? What is their story?
© 2017 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.