Treasure Chest Thursday: My House is on Fire

Some of the family items I would be tempted to grab in a fire: the flag presented to our family at my dad's funeral; photos of my parents; silly as it is, the horn my dad would try and play every New Year's Eve.

This week, Kerry Scott over at Clue Wagon asked what would you grab to save if your house were on fire (assuming your loved ones, pets, etc. were already safe and sound).

This reminded me that back when I was in high school, Oprah actually had a show on this topic. She encouraged everyone to have a firebox that contained everything they would want to salvage (within reason), so they could grab it in just such a situation.

I didn’t have anything of great monetary value to my name at the time, but I put together a shoebox and I remember dropping in a coin purse that I picked up in Ireland when I was 3 years old, a tiny photo album containing mostly school portraits of my friends with their notes on the back, and assorted other trinkets that meant a lot to me.

That box moved with me several times over the years. I believe I finally disassembled it within the past few years as I’ve started a massive scrapbooking project documenting my school years (so I needed that tiny photo album, to include the school portraits, for instance).

Now that I’m a bit older, I have quite a bit I wish I could save. I doubt I would try to grab only one thing. One of my friends, who is also a scrapbooker, mentioned that all of her scrapbooks sit under a window in her scrapbooking room. If her house ever were on fire, she’d throw all of them out the window, if she had the chance. I think I’d do the same thing. I’d pitch as many of my scrapbooks (especially the ones I did about my mom and dad) and other family photos out the window.

Almost everything else in my home can be replaced, and though I’ve scanned most everything in those scrapbooks and picture frames, there’s just something about holding the original, with an ancestor’s handwriting on the back, that’s irreplacable.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Destination, West!

While in the Portland, Ore., area for the AIIP11 conference, I visited Powell’s Books. I usually hit the local interest section of a bookstore when I’m traveling because you can find great mementos there. I had another motive on this trip since I have a family mystery involving Oregon — back in the early 1900s, my great-great grandfather Joseph Smith Hayes moved his entire family, including seven children, from East Tennessee to Umatilla, Oregon. I found them there in the 1910 census. By 1920, the entire family was back in East Tennessee. I was looking for local history books that might explain why my ancestors made such a move (and then had to move back).

I found and purchased a book on the Oregon Trail. It might not even be related to my family’s journey, but it looked like a good read. I’m also drawn to old books and I found a doozy:

Destination, West! by Agnes Ruth Sengstacken.

This book drew me in because it still had the original cover. When I opened it, I was in for a treat:

A letter from the author to the book’s one-time owner! Here is page two:

Here is a transcription of the letter:

ARS

Stockton, California.
January 19th, 1944.

My dear Mrs. Mccully;-

It is always a pleasure to me to hear from someone who has read my book and has found some interest or enjoyment in it. It is a very simple little story, simply told, but it has the merit of being true. I believe that this is the first published account of a woman’s trip across the plains, told in detaul [sic], though many men have written of their experiences in those dim and distant days.

It is interesting to me to know that some of your relatives are mentioned in this stoey [sic], for I have often heard my mother speak of them. She always spoke of your great grandfather, Tom McF Patton, and thus, I wrote it in my … [end of page one; I suspect a page may be missing]

…MS. this mistake is one of many made by the publishers of the book.

Many years after my mother was located at Empire City, she paid a visit to Salem, where she was the guest of her old friend, Mrs. Sam Garke, the former Harriet Buckingham. While there she also visited with Mrs. Garke, whom I believe she called Belle – though I am rather hazy on this point. I especially recall that she always spoke in glowing terms of your grandfather, Tom MCF Patton, whom she regarded as a very brilliant man.

Thank you for ypur [sic] very interesting letter, -and believe me to be

Sincerely yours.

[Signed] Agnes R. Sengstacken

Kindly pardon this wretched typing.

————————————

I found quite a bit of information on Agnes Sengstacken. She died in 1948, only a few years after this letter was written.

In addition to the clues to the provenance of the book and this letter by the author, the book also sounds like it will be a fascinating read! Who knows, maybe I’ll find a clue or two to my family mystery too.

Friendly Find

Last weekend, I dropped by a new antique store here in Easton and was drawn to a much loved old photo album. What was once apparently a velvety cover has worn down to bare fabric. I was ecstatic to see that it was filled to the gills with old photos of various types. The price was right too, for such a treasure, and I snapped it up.

The proprietor of the shop knew which family had possessed the album before it made it to the store. As you can see from the cover, however, it’s not a family album (at least not their family) — it’s supposedly filled with their friends.

One of the spreads in the photo album. Most of the photos are cabinet cards, but there is a smattering of other types of images.

After a preliminary examination of the photos, many have information written on the backs or margins. Most of the photos appear to be from one family from New York. I’m going to go through the photos and the information they contain to see if I can track down the descendants of that family.

People of all ages are pictured in the album.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Thank You, eBay

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Earlier this year, I created an alert for my last name on eBay. I get daily updates on new items for sale that are related to the surname Corley. There’s a ton of 80s TV show memorabilia related to Al Corley, who starred on “Dynasty” (relationship unknown as of now).

There also are several authors with the last name Corley. This daily alert has netted me two books written by my kinsman in the past year. Over the summer, I scored another copy of A Genealogy of Corleys, which I gifted to my half-brother. Just a couple of weeks ago, another book by a relative went up for auction. It was a Spanish-language novel edited by my great-uncle Ames Haven Corley for use in the classroom.

I was the only person to bid on the book and therefore won the auction. For less than $5 ($.99 bid + shipping), I now am the proud owner of the 1922 Macmillan Spanish Series edition of Amalia. It’s in great shape. Too bad I can’t read Spanish!

Ames Haven Corley

I don’t know a ton about my great-uncle Ames, but I do know that he taught languages at Williams College (where my father eventually went to school) and at Yale University, for whom this book was printed. As the title page above states, he was an assistant professor at the time this book was published.

It is neat to read the preface, written in 1917 by my great uncle, who signed his name A.H.C.

There are exercises at the back of the book, which were devised by my great-uncle as well.

I highly recommend setting up a similar search on eBay — you never know what it may turn up about your ancestors. After the luck I’ve had so far, I intend to set up more alerts for other surnames in my family tree.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Lend Me Your Ear Examiner

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these. The other day, I came across some of my dad’s old things. He passed away when I was little, but I have many memories of him. He was a doctor. When I came down with something back then, the doctor was already in the house.

One of the items I have from his career is his ear examiner or otoscope (yes, I had to Google that). It’s in its original case with all kinds of appendages that I don’t have the first clue about.

You can see my Dad’s initials carved into the handle in the shot above (upside-down).

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Stitch in Time

Previously, I wrote about my mother’s sewing basket and how I love to go through it and relive memories associated with some of the items inside. Well, I’ve recently come to possess still another sewing basket, this one once belonging to my Great-Grandmother (CROW) HAYES.

After the passing of Great-Uncle Ben Hayes earlier this year, his sister Ruth was tasked with going through his personal effects. Ben lived in Tennessess and Ruth lives in Arizona. Shortly after she received his possessions and started going through them, I received a call from her.

Ruth informed me that she would be sending me a quantity of scarves and doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother because I would be able to clean, starch, iron and sort them. She asked me to then split them with my sister.

She mentioned in passing that Ben also had a lot of family photographs that needed sorting, but that she intended to send them to one of my aunts to handle that instead. It was all I could do to keep myself from asking for the photos too. I didn’t want to be greedy.

Well, a couple of weeks later, a large box was waiting for me at the post office. When I got it home and started going through the contents, I realized I had a treasure chest indeed. Many of the items are quite stained and since my great-uncle smoked, they all need to be cleaned thoroughly. But the package Ruth sent had much more than doilies and scarves in need of a washing:

My Great-Grandmother's Sewing Basket

Note From Great-Aunt Ruth

The basket held several crocheted doilies, in addition to scarves, hankerchiefs and other items.

Roll of Handmade Lace

A Real Treasure Chest for Treasure Chest Thursday

The Bartlett Pear Inn at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton, Md., as it looks today. The building dates back to 1790.

Okay, so it’s not mine, nor do I have a photo of it, but I wanted to expand on a part of the Hambleton House story that involves an actual treasure chest! As I mentioned in my blog post about the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton (formerly the Hambleton House), a small chest was discovered under one of the staircases* in the home after the passing of Nannie Hambleton, the last of the Hambletons to occupy the building. Nannie Hambleton passed away in 1962, 117 years after her father purchased the property.

*The innkeeper took me on a tour of the Bartlett Pear Inn when I started working on this project and there are several staircases in the building under which the chest may have been kept. There’s even a staircase to nowhere that was partially walled off during one of the building’s many renovations. You can still see part of it by looking in one of the closets off the main staircase.

The chest that was discovered once belonged to her great-uncle, War of 1812 Purser Samuel Hambleton (not to be confused with Col. Samuel Hambleton (Nannie’s father) or Samuel Hambleton III (her brother)).

The elder Samuel Hambleton made a name for himself at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 by crafting a banner that read “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” The chest found under the staircase at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton contained his personal papers and his medal for bravery.

Purser Hambleton later built Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s, Md., which is also now an inn. Perry Cabin is named after Commodore Oliver H. Perry, with whom Hambleton served during the Battle of Lake Erie.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Memorial Day Edition

Today’s post is about the U.S. flag my family received after my father was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. As I’ve posted in the past, my father served in WWII and the Korean War as a radiologist. Only recently did I discover some of the stories about his service.

My dad died of natural causes, after a very long and full life, when I was only 7 years old. There was so much I didn’t understand when I attended his funeral, but the memories of that day are quite vivid, including the folding of this flag and its presentation to my mom.

Recently, I received my dad’s military personnel file, several months after requesting it from the National Archives and Records Administration. I learned still more about my dad and his service. What a treasure trove. If you are the direct descendant of a now-deceased veteran, I highly recommend taking advantage of the resources NARA provides — request their records as a way to honor them for Memorial Day. You’re sure to learn a lot!