Sunday, August 12, 2012
A chest full of hope...
Back in 1996, my parents purchased a home for rental property. The lady who sold them the home told my Dad there were some things in the loft over the garage, but that she did not want them, and he could do whatever he wanted with them. One of the things in the garage loft area was this beautiful cedar chest above. The bottom of it looked rather rough and the finish was needing some repairing. He asked me if I'd like to to have it, so I took it home with the intention of refinishing the outside and having a beautiful chest. I've stored blankets and such in it as the inside is in wonderful shape and still has a glorious cedar aroma. Life got in the way and I never did refinish it, but still loved it and moved it to the bonus room here in our new home.
A few months back, I was searching for something I thought I'd put in the chest and opened it for the first time in a long while. As I was looking at it and wondering who it had previously belonged to, the plaque on the lid caught my eye. On first glance, it seemed nothing was on the plaque, but when I shone a light on it, I gasped... there in very fine cursive script were the names Geneva Marie Browder and John Lemuel Browder. Now I had a mystery on my hands! I started by trying to find out something regarding the age of this chest. The manufacturer's sticker was still in the lid which stated it met the standards of the TN Entomology Society in 1927 and that it was a Cavalier Cedar Chest made by the Chattanooga Furniture Company. I found a web site that showed this particular style of tag which dates this Cavalier chest to the 1930's. There was also this sweet explanation of the importance of these chests at one time:
"Basically, the chest provides a place to store fabric articles so that moths won't get at them. However, the marriage-related themes on the paper labels indicate that most of these were used as a "Hope Chest." Typically, this would be a gift from parents to a young lady on or about her 14th birthday (or so). The young lady then began a quaint ritual of assembling items for her dream home and storing them in this chest. This would include works of knitting, embroidery and/or crochet, to be augmented by occasional silver place settings given on birthdays and holidays."
I've searched and searched for something about Geneva and John Browder with little success. I did find that there was a John Lemuel Browder who was born in June of 1895 in Pisgah, AL but no trace of a Geneva as his bride. I'd dearly love to find some descendants of these souls and see if anyone would want this wonderful heirloom. The lady who sold the home to my parents is long deceased and so I do not know the connection she had to this chest. It makes me smile when I think about Geneva setting up house with this lovely chest and I wonder what beautiful things it once held in preparation for her eventual marriage to John.