Identities of subjects in vintage photos a mystery to Walla Walla Woman

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The importance of identifying subjects in photos is never more evident than when those possibly able do so are no longer around. As a result, countless images become identity orphans.

This is Jan Hansen’s dilemma. The Walla Walla woman found two old photographs (above and far right on this page) among her father’s belongings after he died. All fine and dandy, but they bear no indicators of who they are.

“I believe they were taken of residents of Milton-Freewater,” Jan emailed. Her father, James Robert “Bob” McAuslan, was related to the William E. Miller, George E. Edwards and John McAuslan families.

“I don’t know anyone who can help me identify them,” she said. Perhaps a public airing will bear results as she would love to to identify any members of her dad’s family.

She does think the mustachioed angler on the right in the top image could possibly be William E. Miller, who operated Miller’s Mill in Milton. He died at 73 in 1938.

She said Bob’s parents, James E. and Helen Jennie Edwards McAuslan were descendants of pioneer families.

In terms of James, his father, John, was an immigrant from Scotland who came to the United States as a young man. James was born in 1892, and the family was definitely in Oregon by then, Jan said.

Jan’s dad Bob was born in 1919 in Milton to James E. and Helen McAuslan, both of whom were from early pioneer families. Helen was the youngest daughter and 10th child of George and Helen Edwards. A blacksmith by trade, George and Helen came to Milton from California in about 1879.

“There is a wonderful picture of the Edwards family on display at the Frazier Farmstead Museum in Milton, likely taken at the turn of the century ... in 1900, judging by the age my grandmother (Helen Jennie) appears to be,” Jan said.

James E. McAuslan was the oldest son of John and Rosa Lessor McAuslan, born on Weston Mountain in 1892. John McAuslan eventually moved from Weston Mountain to the Milton area and had a small orchard on Cobb Road.

“Sadly, Rosa died of tuberculosis in 1907, leaving John to raise his three sons alone.”

James E. and Helen Jennie left Milton after Bob completed first grade. Bob said his father was an excellent mechanic and shop foreman for a car dealership. Bob mostly grew up in McMinnville, Ore., and graduated from high school there.

He came back to Eastern Oregon after World War II and married Muriel Casteel of Pendleton.

After Bob worked for several auto parts stores in Pendleton as a parts man, he eventually became partners in the Pendleton Auto Parts firm.

Bob and Muriel lived in Pendleton and raised four daughters, Peggy Selk and Jeannie Koppe, now both of Kennewick; Bonnie Sager of Pilot Rock and Jan.

Muriel died in 1970 and Bob stayed in Pendleton until the mid-1980s.

He lived in Salem until 2008 when third wife Eleanor Lindberg McAuslan developed Alzheimer’s and he could no longer care for her.

In December 2008 he moved to Walla Walla and lived at the Washington Odd Fellows Home until his death in September 2011 at 91.

A man of diverse interests, Jan said he loved snowmobiling, hunting and fishing and time at his mountain cabin.

After his first wife died he traveled quite a bit. A favorite journey was revisiting Australia, where, as president of the 41st Infantry Division Association from 1992-93, he and fellow “jungaleers” were invited and honored for their service during World War II.

“My dad spent his war years in very difficult situations in New Guinea, the Philippines and Australia as part of that now famous 41st Division.”

He retired from the National Guard with the rank of captain, Jan said.

Jan and husband Jack settled in Walla Walla in 1983. “I feel like a lifer in the area.”

Should you be able to enlighten Jan about these photos, contact her at jannieh8504@gmail.com


Excitement is building in Joseph as organizers prepare to host Alpenfest after a five-year hiatus. Swiss and Bavarian traditions will be celebrated Sept. 26-29 in Wallowa County.

That means as one of the few such festivals west of the Rocky Mountains, visitors can enjoy Alpine art, antiques and crafts fairs, expert yodeling, performances from the Tyrolean Dancers folk troupe and dancing to the Mirko Pressler and Polkatones bands.

It’s about 21/2 hours from Walla Walla to Enterprise, Joseph and Wallowa Lake, which comprise the state’s “Little Switzerland” description with its surrounding Wallowa Mountains, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps.

Launched in 1975 at Wallowa Lake and running for 33 years, Alpenfest this time will also feature Joseph Trading Post bratwurst, Terminal Gravity Brewery beer from Enterprise and Joseph-based Lathrop Country Wines.

For more information, see oregonalpenfest.com or call 541-432-0209.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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