In this episode we will take a break from the narrative of the history of Hannah Knight Libby Carter and spend a little time in trying to learn a little about what Hannah looked like. Since she died in 1867 we are severely limited in images of her. In fact, there are no photographs and just one portrait of her in existence.
This portrait has a quite interesting history of its own. Archibald F. Bennett described what he knew about the portrait in his text book, Finding Your Forefathers in America, 1962, pp. 252-255:
“Years ago I wrote: ‘There was said to have been a picture of her in existence, but none has yet been located.’ We now believe that picture has been found. In June 1955 my wife and I paid a visit to Mrs. Dora Bolt, daughter of Charles Carter and granddaughter of Phillip L. Carter, at Lima, Illinois. She brought out for our inspection an old case containing letters and family heirlooms. She showed us the portrait of a lady of the pioneer period, and said she understood it had been sent to her father from relatives in Utah. Her father Charles had visited Provo, among the relatives. He had corresponded with Dell Roberts and it may have come from him. While there we took photographs of the portrait, which was badly worn away in places from being rolled for many years.
Upon our return to Utah we made a careful investigation. Adelbert Roberts had died 7 Nov. 1919. His obituary spoke of him as one of Provo’s pioneers. His widow, Martha Eliza York Roberts, died at the age of 82, on 31 Dec 1931. She was a 1st cousin to Charles Carter on both the Carter and York lines.
It would be logical for the oldest daughter of Hannah Knight Libby Carter who came west (Hannah Carter York, wife of Aaron M. York), to have possession of a portrait of her mother, who stayed with her in later life, and to pass it on to her daughter, Martha, with whom I am told she spent her last years. In comparing the face of the portrait with photographs of Hannah’s children, there certainly seems to be a family resemblance.
Mr. Leslie A. Carter of Detroit, Mich., is descended from Richard Carter, a brother of John Carter (husband of Hannah Knight Libby). He has done a prodigious amount of scholarly research on the Carter ancestry in Maine and New Hampshire. On December 2, 1952 he wrote of a visit he made to Mrs. Dora Bolt at Lima, Ill.
‘The Bolts are in possession of a remarkable collection of early deeds, old letters, and miscellaneous papers dating back to Newry, Maine, 1835. They also are the owners of a portrait done in oil of an elderly unidentified woman, with light color or blue eyes. The enclosed color photograph is a picture of the portrait taken by me. It is being sent to you in the hope that you might be of assistance in having the woman in the portrait properly identified by persons who might have seen the original portrait at one time or another.
It cannot be ascertained how or when this portrait was first received by Charles Carter, though it is believed to be a picture of his grandmother, Hannah Knight (Libby) Carter (1786 – 1869).’”
The above was copied so the reader can appreciate the work that has gone on prior to the portrait re-surfacing in the last few years. For those of us in the Utah part of the clan the portrait was virtually unknown from the 1860’s until it was “rediscovered” by Leslie A. Carter in about 1951. A few family members were aware of its existence but its whereabouts were unknown again until the last few years when we of the Utah clan were introduced to Joe Conover, who came into possession of it after his mother’s death and has recently had it restored.
Below are three images. The first is a copy of the photograph of the portrait as Leslie saw it in 1951. In the middle is a digitally enhanced version of the portrait. Finally, a photograph of the newly restored original portrait.
|Leslie Carter Photo|
So are there any accounts of what she looked like or any personal accounts of her? We actually have five records that I would like to provide that help bring Hannah alive for us.
First is a second-hand account from "Sketch of the Life of Hannah Knight Libby Carter" by A. F. Bennett: “Those who remember her described her as short in stature with a round face, impressive blue eyes, and a refined and dignified bearing. She frequently wore a lace cap and was very prim and neat. She was well educated and always very industrious, keeping her knitting close by and working even in her advanced years.”
Lastly are three first-hand accounts originally quoted in Richard Cater/Carter of Dover, New Hampshire and Some of His Descendants, by Robert E. Givens, 1972, pp. 47-48, that were originally found in Sunday school genealogy class manual that I no longer have possession of. They date from the 1930’s. I believe the narrator of the following is none other than Archibald F. Bennett.
“On Dec. 24, 1933, Mrs. Ella K. Miliner dictated to me the following description: She was of medium height, less than 5 feet 2 inches, very slim and proud, with a delicate face, brown hair, and big blue eyes, a handsome woman.
She always had her hair, combed straight down, parted in the middle, straight down at the the ears, and tied by a ribbon in a bow at the back. She was real dressy, and had a beautiful black dress, with a plain waist, high neck and a lace collar.”
“Francis Carter Knight, a daughter of Dominicus Carter, at 84 years of age, described her grandmother thus: She was short and had a round face, was light-complexioned, and her eyes were a light color. She did not look as old as she really was. Her hair was grey when I knew her. She wore a little lace cap. She had a good education and was always very industrious, keeping her knitting close by, and working when she was what might be considered too old to work.”
“Melissa Carter Bates, another granddaughter of Dominicus, and 79 years old, remembered Hannah, who lived in Melissa’s home in her later years: She was short, and had a round face. She wore a little black lace cap. You could not help but remember her eyes, but you could not be sure of their color. She had a good education. She lived in father’s home when I saw her.”
“Sarah York Tiffany, a great-granddaughter said: Hannah Knight Libby Carter was short and wore a lace cap. Her eyes were blue and her skin was fair. She seemed so white in comparison with my mother’s family, who lived in Arizona and were tanned with the sun. Her eyes were large and seemed so blue that I always remember them, for those in our family had dark eyes. She sat in the chair or on the bed and pieced quilt blocks, and her sewing was neat. She was childish and would cry when left alone very long.”
The above exhausts what this writer knows about Hannah from contemporary accounts. If anyone who reads this should happen to have any other first-hand accounts of her, please let us know. Hopefully this has helped you better picture our ancestor, Hannah Knight Libby Carter.