Rev. Pinkerton and Agnes


Rev. William Brown Pinkerton with his wife Agnes Ellen Gurney in 1941.




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J. R. Findsen

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Vintage Sailor Boy



William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr.



Children are adorable in any era. The little boy in the picture above is my great-grandfather, William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. He is around four years old dating the photograph to 1901 in what is believed to be Iowa.

According to the United States Federal Census of 1900, William’s family is living in Newell which is a small town in northwest Iowa. Young William’s father, William Brown Pinkerton, was working as a minister for the First Congregational United Church of Christ at the time.



First Congregational United Church of Christ       Image Source: Buena Vista County Iowa Genweb


His mother was Agnes Ellen Gurney who came from an old musical family in Massachusetts. Agnes’s mother Mary Williams Orcutt was a trained singer. Her father, Ebenezer Henry Gurney was a music teacher. Her grandfather, Ebenezer Bourne Keen Gurney directed the first all brass band in the United States. Agnes’s great-grandfather, Thomas Gurney, was a composer.

William had a younger sister, Mary Louise, who was about two years old at the time. The family had a live-in servant named Ida Griffel who was twenty years old from Illinois.

By 1905 the Pinkerton family had moved to Wabasha Minnesota, 276 miles away from Newell, where they are recorded in the 1905 Minnesota State Census.

In the picture, William is wearing a sailor suit, which was very stylish in many parts of the world at the time, with high button up boots. Those boots are amazing.

It is hard to imagine that sixteen years later, William would enlist in the United States Army to fight in France during World War I.


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J. R. Findsen


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William Brown Pinkerton 1883



William Brown Pinkerton 1883


William Brown Pinkerton was the son of David M. Pinkerton, Jr. and Mary Ann Hitchcock. He was born on 16 August 1861 in Waupun Wisconsin.

In the picture above, William is about 24 years old, the year being 1883. His future wife, Agnes Ellen Gurney, wrote about William during this time in her later reminiscences:

“That fall of 1882 I entered the preparatory department of the college and the conservatory. I used to see a fine-looking young man walking past our house often and soon learned to recognize his quick, brisk step. Then I became acquainted with his sister, Lillie, and sometimes went to their home. Occasionally Will, a senior, or maybe Winnie, a high school boy, brought me home. I shall have to confess that before long my heart lost its steady rhythm when Will was near, and somehow no one ever was a competitor for my heart. But it was a secret which I never admitted to anybody for a long time, for you see I was only fifteen years old then — much too young to fall in love!
That fall of 1883 he went away to study at the Chicago Theological Seminary. He remained there three years, then transferred to the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover Massachusetts.”

According to Agnes’s account, the picture above probably was taken in Chicago Illinois.

Will and Agnes were not married for another seven years. Both were graduates of Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa. They married on 25 June 1891 in Grinnell.

I have to agree with my 2nd great grandmother, Agnes, William was a good-looking young man.


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J. R. Findsen

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A Lazy Afternoon



William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr.


Can you imagine anything more pleasant than lounging, back up against a blanket-covered rock next to a lazy river on a warm sunny day reading a magazine? Apparently, neither could my great-grandfather, William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. I am not sure on the dating of this picture, most likely 1930’s.

The Pinkerton family had a painful past with rivers. William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr.’s father William Brown Pinkerton lost two older brothers, James Herbert Pinkerton (19 yrs old) and Edward Payson Pinkerton (18 yrs old) who drowned in the Iowa River the same day. William, only sixteen at the time, went in after them almost drowning himself trying to save them. Luckily, friends pulled him from the river in time. The tragedy of that day had a significant impact on his life.

Later in life, while enjoying a day of leisure with his family, William Brown Pinkerton decided to take a swim. He got in trouble and his son William, just a teenager, (the man in the picture) rescued him. Rivers were not friendly to this branch of the Pinkerton family.

A little bit about the family:
William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. was born 14 August 1896 in Rock Rapids, Iowa to William Brown Pinkerton (b. 1861) and Agnes Ellen Gurney (b. 1867). He served in the Army during World War I in France.

A few years after returning to the United States he met and married Annabelle Evans on 5 September 1925 in Santa Barbara, California. Together they had three children.

The family moved to Southern Oregon where they settled. William died 23 April 1981 in Grants Pass, Oregon.


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J. R. Findsen

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Photograph of the Week: The Pinkerton Family


The Pinkerton Family 1905

Back row left to right: Winthrop Pinkerton, Lillie Pinkerton Watson, Rev. Charles H. McCreery (Mary Elizabeth Pinkerton’s husband), Mary Elizabeth Pinkerton McCreery, Emma Pinkerton Booker, William Brown Pinkerton

Front row left to right: William Douglass Pinkerton, Sr. (son of William Brown Pinkerton), Mary Ann Hitchcock Pinkerton (mother and grandmother), Mary Louise Pinkerton (daughter of William Brown Pinkerton).

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J.R. Lowe

Rosebud Sioux Delegation


My maternal GG grandparents are pictures on the right back row. Their names are William Brown Pinkerton (minister and son of David Pinkerton and Mary Ann Hitchcock) and his wife Agnes Ellen Gurney Pinkerton (daughter of E. Henry Gurney and Mary Williams Orcutt). They served as missionaries on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota from before World War I to the mid-1920’s.

This photo was found while searching through the G.E.E Lindquist photo collection. If you are interested in old native photos check out the collection. It is quite impressive and interesting.


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J. R. Findsen

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