This portrait wasn’t in the best shape for starters. And this image is a scan of a copy made on a copy machine of a picture made over 15 years ago of the portrait. That explains the poor quality. I’m more concerned about who is in the picture.
According to the owner of the portrait, this is John Covey Howard and Matilda Brock. Matilda was the first of John Covey’s three wives. The portrait owner is descended from one of their 11 children. A second cousin of mine visited the owner years ago, made the picture of the portrait, and shared it with me a several years later.
From the first time I really looked at this picture, I’ve had doubts that it’s Matilda. She disappeared around 1850. Her fate has never really been determined. Family stories say she went to the spring for water and never returned, or she was captured by Indians, or she ran off with a pack peddler. Considering she lived in Harlan County, Kentucky and disappeared sometime between the birth of her youngest child in May 1849 and the 1850 census, Indians don’t seem like much of a possibility. At any rate, John Covey was supposedly granted a divorce bythe state legislature about 1852. He married Sarah “Sallie” Saylor in 1852 or 1853 and divorced her about 1855. (I haven’t found a record of either divorce, yet.) He married his third and final wife, Mary “Polly” Morris on 10 March 1856. They were together until he died in 1899.
John Covey was born in 1806 and Matilda about 1810. They were around 44 and 40 when she disappeared. Could the woman in this picture be 40 years old or even younger? Could the man be 44 years old or younger?
Sallie was between 37 and 40 years old during their brief marriage and John Covey between 46 and 49. Could the woman in this picture be 37 to 40 years old? Could the man be 46 to 49?
Polly was 26 when she married John Covey and 69 when he died. He was 50 to 93 during those years. Could the man in this picture be 24 years older than the woman?
If it isn’t Matilda, why did one of her descendants have the portrait? Polly survived John Covey and spent the rest of her life with either her daughter Lucinda (and husband James Arton Hopkins) or her daughter Sarah (and husband Elijah Brock). Seems like if there had been a portrait of John Covey and Polly, one of them would have had it rather than one of Matilda’s children.
Maybe the question is “Who is this couple?” I’d never doubted it was John Covey, but the more I think about it…