Thursday, September 10, 2015

From the Archives: Who are the Tennis Family?

"E. A. Tennis's home in 1891," I read as I looked at a picture from a file on Thompsontown, Pennsylvania during a visit to the Juniata County Historical Society. My mother-in-law, now gone, once told me  read more
that a Tennis family gave my father-in-law a tuxedo bought in Paris.

Moving to a different file cabinet, I found a folder on the Tennis family. More interesting tidbits emerged.
One newspaper article told about four brothers from Thompsontown who had become very successful. The oldest brother, J. C. Tennis, left to go to Chicago, became a salesman, and then worked for a famous millinery company. His brother, O. B. Tennis, joined him in Chicago, and started his own millinery business. A third brother, C. C. left Thompsontown at some point, moved west to become a bank president and a vice president in a land company.  E. A., the fourth brother, worked as a very productive railroad contractor.

The Picture
That Started my Search
Back home, I began to search these names on the Internet. I created a Word document for each of the brothers. As I found information, I copied and pasted the webpage address and the information on the appropriate document. When I found all that I could, I made a timeline of the men’s lives, together and then separately. Their four life spans ranged from 1844 to 1943. 

After that, I began to look up some of the other names and places I encountered while reading articles about the four men. I looked up the D. B. Fisk, Chicago milliner, who J. C. and O. B. worked for and found a picture of the actual building where they worked. An accompanying article told that the building perished in the famous Chicago fire. Comparing dates, I realized that the fire happened while J. C. worked for him. The next year after the fire, O. B. arrived in town.

The Tennis Home Today
A 1930 census record told me that both J.C. and O.B. lived with sister Mrs. Emma Spotts in Thompsontown in their old age. Most likely, the tuxedo given to my father-in-law belonged to O.B. who I found during my research had visited Europe two times a year to make selections for his millinery business.

My final bit of wondering about this family led me to drive Main Street in Thompsontown to look for a house that matched the picture in the historical society file. The house is still there, two doors from my in-laws’ house and surrounded by a wooden fence just like in the 1891 picture. The only difference is the absence of two square cupolas.

I thought all this research would lead to an interesting blog post on the Tennis family. Maybe I will tackle that later. For now, I learned more about the process of historical research, which is useful when I create my history books for children. 


  1. I'll bet Tom would enjoy your writings. He likes history more than I do.

    1. Thanks for being such a faithful reader anyway!