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2 min Read
Published August 18, 2017

NC History Mystery: Help Solve The Mystery of This Historic Photograph

The owner of Maude’s Garden and Coffee in Raleigh, North Carolina unearthed a box of mysterious historic documents and photos from an estate sale in Granville County.

It hangs in the front of their shop over the fireplace with a sign attached:

If you know where this is, tell Maude!

The curiosity has drawn customers, and yesterday, my friend Amber and I delved into the painting like Indiana Jones, searching for clues. Today, I’m sharing these clues with the Internet, in hopes to find an answer.

First of all, here is the image in its totality:


  • Are those stone steps recognizable?
  • Take a close look at the frame. Does the scuffed wooden frame’s style speak to any particular era or time-frame?
  • What about everyone’s clothing style? Do those clothes represent a certain era in fashion? The hats?
  • What about the hairstyles? Handlebar mustaches were clearly in style.
  • From these clues, can we determine a possible year?
  • Location Clue: Maude purchased the photo in an estate sale in Granville County. Could this be a college near there? These men look too old to be students. Could it be a group of professors?

Next, we’ll look at a close-up of the men’s faces.


  • Again, look at the clothing styles. Can we determine a year?
  • What about the hairstyles and facial hair? The bowler hats?

Next, we zoomed in on the books and paperwork.


  • It’s very fuzzy, but we think this reads Stenographer’s Note Book.


  • This thick volume seems to say “Clark and Con — ” and becomes too grainy to read. Any ideas what book this might be?
  • An astute reader notes, “The book appears to be “Clark on Contracts,” which would be a legal treatise, commonly known as a hornbook. William Lawrence Clark may have been the author. Wake Forest Law School was established in 1894. Does the stone work appear in Wake Forest? Or perhaps in Chapel Hill? My guess is that you have a photograph of a group of law students.”

We also opened the back of the frame and found signatures, written in soft grey pencil.


  • The names seem to read WS Roberson and Shephard.
  • Do these names ring a bell, as connected, perhaps, with Granville County? Or perhaps with a nearby University?

This Teddy Roosevelt look-a-like also caught our eye.

So what do you think? Do you have any potential solutions or thoughts about the origins of the photograph? If you do, please let us know in the comments. Even if you just have an idea or a potential lead!

And if you want to visit the mystery photo for yourself, you can find it on the wall of Maude’s Garden and Coffee. This coffee shop has a Fairy Garden Theme, embracing the beautiful little magical mysteries with tiny fairy doors and portals to fairy wonderlands. It’s no wonder such a mystical little shop would have such a fun, historic North Carolina mystery hanging on its very walls!

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  • heather


  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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