Man Stumbles Across Church His Great-Grandma Painted 90 Years Ago

Man Stumbles Across Church His Great-Grandma Painted 90 Years Ago

Hunter Stuart

‘It was like seeing time travel.’

Growing up in Wisconsin, there was a painting of a church hanging in the sewing room of John Morley’s house. He saw it year after year. It became seared into his mind.

His parents told him his great-grandma Kathryn Morley had painted it. Kathryn had learned to paint in France, they said. In the early 1900s, when she was 21 years old, Kathryn’s parents sent her to art school overseas to get her away from her boyfriend, a handsome but aimless playwright her parents didn’t think was up to snuff.

John is now 57 years old; he moved from Wisconsin to Detroit years ago, had kids, got a job. Kathryn has long since passed away.

On a sunny Saturday this summer, John’s daughter Alex needed to get to a wedding in Milwaukee. John is a pilot, so he decided to fly her there. That day he rented a plane and flew Alex and her boyfriend, who is not an aimless playwright, to Milwaukee.

Kathryn’s husband Walter, the aimless playwright who later became an Episcopal priest, is second from left. | John Morley

Kathryn. | John Morley

Before he flew back to Michigan, John did some sightseeing in the Milwaukee area. He stumbled across a sign for the Nashotah House Seminary. He knew that was the name of the church in his great-grandma’s painting.

He knew the name because his grandpa — the son of Kathryn and the aimless playwright, who Kathryn married (to her parents’ chagrin) — had been an Episcopal priest there.

“But I had no idea the seminary was so close to Milwaukee,” John tells Dose. “I thought it was way up north somewhere.”

Curious, John followed the signs to Nashotah. When he got there, he found the spot from his great-grandma’s painting almost immediately. “I came round the corner and it was unmistakable,” he says.

He snapped a photo, flew back to Detroit, went to bed. The next day he posted the photo to Reddit alongside a photo of his great-grandma’s painting.

“My Great-Grandmother painted this picture 90 years ago and it hung in my house growing up,” he wrote. “Yesterday, I found the spot!”

People started upvoting it, slowly at first. It got five, 10, 15 votes. Then 20, 50, 100, 500. Over the next 24 hours, the post got around 67,000 upvotes, becoming the third most-popular item that day on a website that’s considered to be one of the biggest in the world.

That’s when I saw it. This is exactly why I love Reddit so much. There are all these rabbit holes to dive down, and the commenters can be really insightful. On John’s post about the painting, for instance, there are lots of people talking about how it shows the passage of time: the trees have grown, the little paths have become wide concrete sidewalks.

“It’s like seeing time travel,” one commenter says.

I spent an hour reading through those comments, following those threads down those rabbit holes, lost in my own little world. And then I wrote this story about it.

So that’s it. No big headlines here. Just one story about one family in America.

It makes you wonder how many others there are.