Is This A Photo Of John McDowell/Jane Finlay McDowell? Their House?

possible residence at 308 High Avenue, Canton Ohio
Possible Residence of John McDowell and Jane Finlay

With big thanks to my cousin Elinor Clements, I think it is possible to entertain an idea that we may have a photo of John McDowell and his wife Jane Finlay McDowell, or perhaps if not both of them, one of their residences in Canton, Ohio.

I also realize I could be very wrong. But first, let’s have a look at the possibilities.

As mentioned in the biography of Hugh Scott, my grandfather Hugh traveled to America with the intention of immigration. When he landed at New York in 1923, we can find him (as noted and referenced in his bio) on the Passenger List of the S.S. Leviathan, and the record indicates that he told the officials in NYC that he intended to carry on to Canton, Ohio, to his Uncle John McDowell who resided at 308 High Avenue, Canton Ohio.

We also know now that when Hugh Scott arrived in America, someone had a camera, and there are at least two photos of him in Ohio, in 1924.

And then mixed in, we see this house – which appears to my eyes, to be more typical of a North American built house in style and material, than any other house we have seen Hugh McDowell at so far. The photograph itself (although I’m only looking at a scan), would also be reasonably guessed to have been taken in the early 20th century.

The biggest hint to me that it’s a house in North America is the style and material, appearing to be wood siding.

What We Know – 308 High Avenue

The address does not seem to appear today, on Google Maps, but there is a street called “High Ave. SW.” It is very possible that the High Ave that existed in 1923 is the same as what today is “High Ave. SW” or maybe, High Ave that existed back then, is something else entirely today. We also know that today, there is no such address even of 308 High Ave SW – instead, there is a large building with a large parking lot that seems to take up several numbers on the street.

It’s very possible that over the years, some houses have been acquired, demolished, and new construction taken place.

We can also though, take a little peek of the neighbourhood today in the vicinity of what could have been 308 High Ave – and interestingly, just down the road we see this:

205 high ave sw canton ohio

Obviously the house on the right has been fixed up, renovated, and probably expanded, while the house on the left looks a bit dilapidated, and in some need of maintenance.

But both houses have a similar style to our old house photo, taken back in the early 20th century. Wood siding, roof windows, porches. An overhang over the porch. A second floor door in the front, above the porch overhang.

It’s true though, that you could find similar types of designs and building material almost anywhere in North America, built in the late 19th or early 20th century.

But we do have photos of Hugh Scott in Ohio (so we know there was a camera) and at this point, we don’t have any other reasons to believe someone would be passing on photos of houses in N. America probably taken in the early 20th century that might be mixed in with photos of Hugh Scott in Ohio.

What Bothers Me

Beyond the fact that we just don’t have a photo from anywhere else right now that would confirm this is the house that stood at 308 High Ave., there’s something else that bothers me as well.

John George McDowell was apparently pretty short. If you read his bio and refer tot he supporting documents, it’s even recorded on his WW1 Draft registration that he was ‘short’ and ‘slender’ and elsewhere, he’s reported as being 5’4″.

It’s unfortunate that the faces in the photo are not very clear – that could help to at least eliminate people we know – but while I am tempted to believe, based on circumstances that this could be the house of John George McDowell in Canton, Ohio, the apparent height of the man causes problems for me. Of course, it could still be John’s home and took the photo, but that doesn’t really make sense – if you were to take a photo of a relative’s house, would you want the couple living in the house to be on the porch, or agree to stand there near his wife, while the husband took the photo?

I guess it’s possible, but am not sure it’s what most would be thinking, when taking photos and thinking about sending them back to the “old country” or keeping them to show them the house you stayed in. You’d probably want the couple on the porch to be the owners/main residents.

Further Research Suggestions

I’m swamped right now with all kinds of information, that I’d like to nail down – but there are some avenues of research available to anyone who wants to spend the time. Does Canton, Ohio have any archival photos of the address? Can they tell us if the address we are looking at, did have houses demolished at some point to make room for other development?

Are there other Scott family stories that might explain a photo of a house of an apparently North American design and materials, that could be somewhere else, and more evidence for that idea, found? Can someone explain how a 5’4″ John McDowell might look so tall with the roof of the porch above him? I realize he’s wearing a hat.. but still.. but maybe the photographic angle was awkward.

It is intriguing however, to think that we are looking at the house that Grandad Scott lived in for at least a time, when he wanted to immigrate to America, and he stayed with his Uncle and Aunt, John and Jane.


Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comment are below.

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