Yesterday’s WHO is it Wednesday photo was kind of unfair…there was virtually no chance that anyone would know who the handsome young gentleman was! Actually, we chose the photo because we just happened to run across it in our collection of identified local men and the picture was so striking, we just couldn’t resist trying to learn more.
We’ll take you through our long and winding detective process:
The back of the photo said “Rich Hackett, 1886-1891, CCHS 7487 Item 8.” The first stop was the city directories, where Richard was listed as a painter in a house on Main Street with his mother and siblings from 1886-1891. Next we jumped to our clipped obituary card file and found a Richard Hackett who died in 1983. While that particular Richard seemed very interesting (he worked at Crowell Collier, headed the Hackett Trio), his 1896 birth date and 1983 death date told us he was clearly NOT the correct person. Our next step was Ancestry.com for census records where we found Richard (b. about 1867) with his widowed mother (Eliza)beth and siblings (Mary, Patrick, and Charles) in the 1870 and 1880 census records.
His mother showed up in the 1900 census with Charles, who was listed as an elevator operator. A quick search of Familysearch.org turned up a death record for brother Charles in 1913 and said he was buried in St. Raphael Lagonda Cemetery. So, we grabbed the index to St. Raphael burials off the library shelf and found that the entire Hackett family, parents Charles and Elizabeth with children Richard, Mary, Patrick, and Charles are ALL buried with one stone (and no dates) at St. Raphael’s.
With still no sign of Richard and no death date, we turned back to the census, where we found a Richard Hackett, who appeared to be around the right age, married to a Katie in Greene County. Mystery solved, we thought, he moved! Then we found the same Richard Hackett in Greene County in 1870 and 1880 with different parents…so definitely not our guy.
Since the photo had an old CCHS inventory number on the back, we checked the index card files that were used for artifacts and archival material at the historical society in the 1970s and 1980s to see if finding out about the donor might give us a clue. Recently, two of our volunteers, Ruth and Marguerite, spent several months organizing the boxes of old inventory index cards so that we can access the information more easily whenever we find an item labeled with a CCHS inventory number. The card told us the donor’s name (Mrs. Frances McKee), but a brief search in that direction did not appear to yield any obvious connection.
Finally, it dawned on us to check the Probate Court and Health Department death records that we have in the archives and there he was. Sadly Richard Hackett died at a very young age on August 25, 1891 at age 24. The cause of death listed was heart failure. Now, with a date, we turned to the 1891 newspaper microfilm and found a death notice on August 26. Interestingly, we noticed that a benefit for his brother Charles, the city building’s elevator operator, was scheduled for October 12. The benefit was to raise money for an artificial limb for Charles….a story that we’ll have to investigate more later!
With all of this information put together, we decided to go a bit deeper to determine if Mr. Hackett was related to the W.R. Hackett who started the wholesale fruit and produce business in Springfield. The 1860 census gave us our answer: Charles Hackett Sr. was the brother of Peter Hackett….who was the father of William R. Hackett. It appears that Richard and William Hackett were cousins!
This foray taught us some lessons, namely, don’t always go with the first match you find just because the name is the same!
CCHS index card files
Springfield Township Cemeteries Listings Volume 1 – St. Raphael/Lagonda Cemetery
Health Department Death Microfiche, September 1891