History Detective: Charles C. Dawson (Part I)

I’m a detective! Not really, but I play one on this blog.

Marc and Wanda live next door. They are great neighbors to have in a pinch. Marc knows how to fix almost anything, which is very convenient since I can’t fix a thing. Wanda is the neighbor type who is always willing to help, especially when your dog is at home too long and you are at work.

Unfortunately, Marc and Wanda are selfishly deciding to get their retirement on and move to their lake house. I do not agree with their decision as there are still many things which need to be fixed, but now we can at least take advantage of the lake house a lot more. And we will.

The one (and only!) positive is that Wanda started clearing out some items for the downsize. She came across something and thought I’d might want to have a look. When I showed up, she had the photo for my history nerd eyes to see. I may have squealed a little.

Somewhere in this picture is Wanda’s grandfather and his unit from World War I. I am sure your heart is palpitating now like mine did.

(Quick tangent: It’s hard to see, but the badass in the front row, second from left is wearing his trench whistle. Yes, the whistle which he’d blow and then thousands of soldiers would charge from their trenches into the teeth of German fire. I needed to sit down.)

Wanda didn’t have much more to go on. Her mom had some information but not a lot of specifics at the time. All I had was this picture and the name Charles C. Dawson, Wanda’s grandfather. It was time to get to work.

It took a little while, but it turns out my eyes are still pretty strong. As I kept looking at the picture, I noticed some very faint writing in the bottom center and right.

I needed to get in good light, squint a bit, and then had to start guessing. The bottom right letters were much easier to see. “Ewing, Inc., Baton Rouge, LA.”

I began my search into Ewing Inc. The first bit of evidence was in some archives which list Jasper G. Ewing as a photographer who worked in Baton Rouge from 1913 to 1945 (https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/collection/data/900610470). Seems straight forward enough. The time, name, and occupation check out.

Then things got weird. Here’s a random sampling of what people said when I told them what I found:

Me – “You gotta be ——- kidding me.”

“Stop. No way, really?”

“Well, that’s just creepy.”

One of my search results was an obituary. This seems to be for Jasper’s son, since he is a junior (https://obits.theadvocate.com/obituaries/theadvocate/obituary.aspx?n=jasper-g-ewing&pid=17946859). The weird part? His daughter married a man. That’s certainly not newsworthy. She did marry a man named Tom Dowd, though. Why is this significant?

My last name is Dowd.

A quick search using http://howmanyofme.com/search/, which is an actual website I did not know existed until ten minutes ago, estimates there are about 16,000 Dowds in the U.S. I suck at math, but this seems pretty crazy.

Once I got over my shock and decided to stop being so self-centered, it was time to figure out what it said in the bottom middle of the photo.

My search went from weird to very cool.

(For Part II, go here.)

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History Detective: Charles C. Dawson (Part I)
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