Helen Durkee Bridge

I wish I had some good “primary” sources from my husband’s family, the Bridges of Massachusetts, then New Hampshire and Vermont, and of St. Louis, Missouri, but I don’t.  Primary sources are direct interviews, letters, receipts, and personal effects belonging to the person in question.  The most well-known member of the family, Hudson Ernestus Bridge, was a businessman who moved from Walpole, NH to St. Louis, MO, eventually establishing a cast-iron stove company.  Cast-iron stoves were a ‘hot’ commodity in the 1800’s, and on these he made a fortune.  There is quite a bit published about him, but published accounts take on a dry and predictable form, not varying widely from one author to the next.  In this we can see that there is an established storyline from which accounts are taken without much deviation.  Below is a picture of one of his daughters-in-law as an elderly woman, in the year 1954.

Helen Durkee Bridge in 1954

This image is photographed from a printed booklet of the Mary Institute Alumni Association, so it shows the characteristic repeating pattern of printed matter.  Helen was an 1880 graduate of Mary Institute, and here is what the copy says next to her picture:

“Our beloved oldest living alumna and former President of the Alumnae Association sits in her easy chair, with a warm smile, for her Easter picture-greeting to the alumnae of Mary Institute, which she and her family have served so faithfully and generously.  The portrait on the mantel is of her husband, Hudson Eliot Bridge, the son of Hudson E. Bridge, one of the founders of Washington University and of Mary Institute.  Mrs. Bridge now makes her home in Walpole, New Hampshire, within the circle of three generations of her family.  Her son, Leighton [called ‘Lad’ by the family], and his family live in Walpole; another son, Dwight, is nearby in New York; and her daughter, Marion Bridge Sterling (Mary Institute 1916), and her family, are within easy distance in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Only her son, Laurence, and his family now make their home in Missouri. ”

Hudson E. Bridge, Jr. Home in Walpole, about 1915

This is the home in which they lived in Walpole, NH.   The image is taken from a photocopy of a photo, so it is really third-hand in quality.  It is this home in which Helen is sitting in the previous 1954 picture.   We own an oil painting of what the elders in the family believe to be an image of Helen Durkee Bridge.  My guess, after examining her clothing, is that the oil painting was made at about the same time as the photo of the home was made.  Her son, Dwight, was a painter, and it is likely that the portrait was made by him.  The portrait was in the possession of the son named Laurence Bridge in the St. Louis suburbs until it moved to humid Houston with Lorren Bridge, the third son of Laurence and Mildred Bridge.  We brought the painting to Austin, and the change to a dryer climate after living in Houston caused the painting to crack like a bowl of potato chips.  We had it restored, and photos of the damaged picture, as well as the restored picture, are shown below. The true color of the actual painting is closer to that found in the photo of the unrestored painting.

before restoration

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