Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alice & Her Family

Alice T. Miner was from a very large family by today's standards. I have found conflicting reports on how many children her parents, Bernard Trainer and Louisa Saunders Trainer had, but there were ten or twelve children born from 1850 - 1868 (Alice in 1863.) One would expect that such a large brood would carry on to this day, perhaps contracting slightly with the changing times. And wouldn't it be interesting to have visits from the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Alice's siblings?

As far as I know, there have been no such visits since Alice passed away in 1950, that is, until 2007. That summer The Alice had a surprise visit from Helen Highley Matel and her family. Mrs. Matel visited with me long enough to tour the museum, a place she remembers visiting as a girl, but she does not live nearby and had not been to Chazy since the year Mrs. Miner passed away. The family connection is through Helen's grandfather, James Saunders Trainer, who was Alice Trainer Miner's older brother. James and his wife, Hannah, had one child, Helen Trainer Highley, Helen Highley Matel's mother.

James Saunders Trainer

It has been very interesting to continue a correspondence with Helen Highley Matel via email. Knowing that Helen was descended from Alice's brother I asked if she could send information about who he was, when he was born, what he looked like... The museum has photographs of Alice and a few of her sisters; Matilda, Bertha, and Louisa, but not one photo of her brothers; Bernard, James and William.

Helen Trainer Highley, Helen H. Matel's mother

What I received from Helen in return really surpassed all of my expectations! In late January I picked up a heavy padded envelope from the Post Office sent from Helen Highley Matel. I eagerly opened the parcel and was delighted to find a note from Helen and nearly thirty portraits of Saunders and Trainer family members, most of which I had never before seen! The following photo is the least formal of the collection, the rest seem to be studio portraits taken in Canada and the U.S.

Alice Trainer Miner, ca. 1898 near Chicago

At last some faces for a few of Alice's brothers, and some real surprises - three photographs of James Saunders (1792-1879) and a few with his wife, Jane Woolocott Saunders. James was Alice's grandfather who brought his family over from Crediton, England to Goderich, Ontario when Alice's mother was just a child. Goderich is where Alice and her siblings were born.

James and Jane Saunders

I had seen James Saunders face many times, in a painted portrait in the formal dining room of the museum. Now we are trying to determine if Jane's face is the same one looking out at us from a painted portrait in the collection that has previously remained unidentified.

Helen included a few rather romantic photographs of Alice, Bertha, and Matilda that I had never seen. Note the letter in Matilda's lap... She was the oldest child and raised Alice and her siblings after the loss of their parents.

Matilda Trainer, Alice's oldest sibling

Bertha Trainer, also older than Alice

William Trainer who was just a few years younger than Alice

In the accompanying correspondence Helen Highley Matel says she remembers meeting William Trainer once when she was very young. William was a pharmacist, scientist, civil servant, and author in Canada, the one person in Alice T. Miner's immediate family about whom you can find information on the internet.

The last photo I'd like to share is one of Alice at approximately age 15. She has very heavy bangs that make her look as though she has short hair - an unusual style for a girl at the time - but you can see what appears to be a thick braid of hair going behind her back. This is the youngest photo we have of Alice, note those light blue eyes... Many of the Trainer children have the very light eyes we have seen for years in photographs of Alice.

Alice Trainer Miner, ca. 1878

I'll leave you with some of Helen Highley Matel's recollections of her family,

"I do remember visiting Heart's Delight Farm when I was a little girl, probably twice it must have been in the late 30's or 1940. We drove up to Chazy from Medford during spring vacation, my mother, father and sister. Seward (Helen's brother) only remembers going once, he probably was too little the first time we went. We had to be old enough to behave properly in a formal setting. It was very exciting for us, my sister and I (to) be in such luxurious surroundings. I remember Aunt Alice as being a rather portly lady, of whom I was in awe..."


  1. How exciting to get an envelope like that! Enjoyed your blog.

  2. What a treasure you received in the mail! It's so nice in so many ways - to connect with the family more, to know that the photos are in your charge and will be preserved. Awesome.

  3. A treasure indeed! And so terrific to read and see it online. Congratulations and I can't wait to visit again soon.

    Jason Andrew

  4. Amanda, your post is a lovely introduction to Alice's loved ones. This blog is a wonderful resource for all fans of The Alice. Oh! Alice's little dog companion makes me smile.