The complete identification notes for this photo read "The uncle who loved and helped me" "Aunt Marys husband" "Papa's sister" "Uncle Robert" "R. E. Gutherie, Guthriesville," and faintly at the bottom "helped me through school". Obviously the notations were made at different times. Some are in pencil and there is at least 3 different colors of ink, plus a typed label. The handwriting varies. Lots of clues, but common names that might appear anywhere in the country.
The obvious beginning point was to find Guthriesville. Only one popped up with a Google search, a town in Pennsylvania. I moved over to Ancestry and tried to find a census record from 1850-1880 for a Robert Guthrie in Pennsylvania. No match. There were two possibilities in 1870, a Robert Guthrie with wife Mary in Missouri and a Robert Guthrie with wife Mary in South Carolina. I moved to the public family trees and found a tree for both of these Robert Guthries and picked up the maiden names for their respective wives.
I went back to Google and tried Guthriesville in combination with Missouri - no match. But, when I ran a search on Guthriesville in combination with South Carolina, I got a hit. A gazetteer website pinpointed a Guthriesville in York County, South Carolina, but had no other information. Back to Ancestry and the census I went.
Concentrating on the Robert and Mary Guthrie I had located in South Carolina, I began to chase them from census to census and in 1860 they are listed in Guthriesville, York County, South Carolina. Bingo. Robert is a farmer in every census I find him. In 1850 he and a Sarah J. Guthrie are living in the home of a Francis Irvine in York County. No relationship is given to the head of household, but I suspect a little digging might prove a family connection. Robert is shown as a laborer, but no occupation is given for Sarah. My gut reaction was that Robert and Sarah were siblings who had lost their parents and were living with relatives, as they are shown intermingled with the Irvine family according to age. My experience has been that lodgers/workers are generally enumerated after all family members in the household.
Moving to 1860, Robert is 31 years old and has married Mary, age 26. There are no children. In 1870, Robert E. and Mary J. have an apparent daughter, Ailcy, age 10. In 1880, the household now consists of Robert, Mary and Robert's sister Jane S. (and I'm betting this is the same woman as the Sarah J. back in 1850). Robert and Mary are in York County in all of the censuses and Robert is shown as a farmer. In 1880, the sister Sarah is shown as postmistress.
A search of the public family trees on Ancestry produced one match. In this tree, Robert E. Guthrie is shown as born in 1829 and died on December 4, 1891. He married September 9, 1851, to Mary Jane Williamson, born November 24, 1834, and died March 10, 1909. No children are shown and no information for Robert's parents or siblings is included.
I decided to check FamilySearch, not really expecting to find anything as the records for South Carolina are limited and always sketchy. I did find Robert's will dated December 14, 1881, in which he leaves all property to his wife Mary Jane and appoints her as co-executor with a Jos. F. Wallace. No property and no specific bequests are made. The will is a brief paragraph leaving everything to his wife.
As a last ditch effort to find out anything more about this couple, I decided to go back and search the Ancestry family trees for Mary Jane Williamson with the dates obtained from the one family tree I had unearthed for Robert. It was this last effort that surprised me with a link to another photograph I discussed here previously.
My intention was to try and identify who the photograph belonged to. Did Mary Jane Williamson have a brother who might be "Papa"? When I moved the focus of my search to Mary Jane, I found a detailed family tree that gave her parents (William Lewis Williamson and Sarah Jane Jeffrey) and her two brothers, William and John. William Augustus Williamson lived his life in Tennessee, but John Jeffrey Williamson moved to Texas, living in Brazos and Hays counties. I think "Papa" was John Jeffrey, also known as "JJ", Williamson.
So then I moved down to John Jeffrey's family to see who the possibilities were for the niece or nephew who was loved by Uncle Robert and who had been helped through school. John Jeffrey Williamson married Mary Virginia Carlley and had several children.
A light went off in my head. I remembered running into Mary Virginia Carlley before. I did a quick search back through the photographs already discussed here and yes, she and son C. J. were the subjects of the photo discussed in the entry Genealogists Love Puzzles. That photo was also purchased in Smithville, so I'm sure it probably came from the same source. There are several possibilities for the person who made the notations on this photograph. I want to think it might have been CJ himself, who became a lawyer, but there's no way to know for sure.
What I do know is that whoever wrote the words on this photograph, there was affection between that person and this Uncle Robert back in South Carolina. It is unfortunate that this photo is so damaged, but I think the eyes show kindness.
And that white beard. Uncle Robert would have been a great Santa Claus.