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Nancy Tillman is looking for anyone who might recognize the people in the photo she is holding. A note on the back identifies one of the men as "William Roswell Frisbee grandfather of Grace Slay." A calendar on the wall notes the year as 1912. Tillman found the photo behind a piece of art she bought at the Goodwill store in Hixson, Tennessee.
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Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Nancy Tillman is looking for anyone who might recognize the people in the photo she is holding. A note on the back identifies one of the men as "William Roswell Frisbee grandfather of Grace Slay." A calendar on the wall notes the year as 1912. Tillman found the photo behind a piece of art she bought at the Goodwill store in Hixson, Tennessee.

Nancy Tallman, a Hixson retiree, bought a piece of hand-stitched art at the Goodwill store near Northgate Mall back around the Christmas holidays.

She was in the middle of downsizing from a two-story to a single-story house, she said, and redecorating in the process.

The stitched artwork is blue and beige and depicts a cityscape. Tallman says it's a type of craft stitching called crewel, and she bought the piece to match some blue accents in her house.

A couple of months later, as she was preparing to have the artwork reframed at Hobby Lobby, she discovered a 107-year-old photograph that had been used for backing in the old frame.

"It was quite a shock, to say the least," Tallman said.

The faded black and white photo, likely entombed in the frame for decades, is an image of two men smartly dressed in starched shirts and ties. One is sitting beside a large desk and the other is standing behind an adding machine.

The two are working in what appears to be an accounting office. In the background is a tear-away calendar that marks the date: Dec. 18, 1912. For context, that was the same year the RMS Titanic sank and Woodrow Wilson was elected president of the United States.

Since finding the photo, Tallman has made it a mission to find the family associated with the old image. She has combed through ancestry web sites and even enlisted the historical society to help find the Frisbee family represented in the photo.

"Anybody who lost a picture like this, it would be important to them," she said.

Tallman said she has attended Civil War shows where there are row upon row of unidentified people in photographs. She finds these orphaned images sad, she said, and feels the same way about her found photo.

Tallman paid to have the photograph professionally enlarged so she could tell more about the setting. Besides the date on the calendar, she has been able to determine from the enlargement that the adding machine in the photo was made by the Burroughs company.

There are other tantalizing clues about the origin of the photograph. Hand-written on the back are the words: "William Roswell Frisbee, grandfather to Grace Slay."

You'd think Frisbee would be an easy name to track. But, no. Tallman said a search of ancestry.com turns up more than 2,000 people named Frisbee, including a family cluster in Georgia.

Tallman said she hopes that someone who sees the photograph in the Times Free Press might have a clue to its origins. She has found an R. William Frisbee on the ancestry website who was an accountant for a railroad. That might be one lead.

Another could be anyone recognizing the name Grace Slay, since she is noted as Frisbee's granddaughter on the back of the photo. Her age range is uncertain, since it's not clear whether William Frisbee is the older or younger man in the photograph.

Most people might just shrug this whole mystery off. But not Tallman.

"I don't give up," she said. "Not easily anyway."

(Anyone with possible information about the people or place in this photo can email me at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6645. All information will be passed along to Tallman.)

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