What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Discovering Hidden Treasures

Have you ever been on a "treasure hunt"?  I remember having such fun with my classmates years and years ago searching for treasure as we discovered clues in secret places and followed the instructions written on the notes hidden therein.  Sometimes the instructions told us to walk so many paces to a certain tree and look for the next clue, or to go to the next spot and look up or down or all around and find another clue stashed some clever place.  Then there would be a mad dash to the next destination to see who would be the first one to discover the hidden treasure.  What a thrill to be the one who found it...no matter how insignificant the treasure, it became a a grand prize in the hands of the discoverer!

I loved those exciting events and enjoyed the searching for the mysterious prize almost as much as finding the treasure.  The thrill of the hunt...the challenge of the competition to get there first...and laughter and glee of all my friends running about seeking the treasure...kind of like an Easter Egg Hunt...such happy memories. 

Recently I've been on another kind of treasure hunt as my siblings and I have been seeking out the "treasures" left behind by our parents in our family home upon the departure of our father on his journey to heaven, where he joined our mother who was eagerly awaiting his arrival.  My parents' home was quite a menagerie of collections of so many interesting things that it was almost mind boggling to even know where to begin to sort it all out.  My parents' idea that all their earthly goods should be sold and the proceeds divided equally between their four children sounded good on paper, but in reality it became a complicated problem for us to fairly decipher when there were so many special memories tied up in all of their "earthly goods".  I mean, how can you just out and out sell to strangers the family heirlooms, no matter how "valuable" or lacking in monetary value but precious to our sentimental feelings...things that have our family history inscribed in the knicks, chips and scratches on dishes and furniture, and worn pages and signatures, faded pictures and scribbled notes on old letters, books, diaries...so many memories...

There was one particular piece of furniture in the house that I had always admired, and I kept thinking in my mind that I really would like to have it, but I just wasn't sure if I would have room for it, or if it's "assigned value" might make it cost prohibitive for me to add to my "list" of things I wanted to keep.  But I knew that it really shouldn't be sold out of the family because my mother had told me that it had belonged to one of her ancestors and had even perhaps been built by a family member years and years ago.  Although I wasn't certain from which ancestor this beautiful chest of drawers had originated, I knew that I just couldn't let it slip away from our family.  So I finally made the decision to take it home with me, with the blessings of my other siblings. 


You have to click on this picture to enlarge it (2x) to see the handwritten signatures which I found on the side of one of the drawers of this chest.   Written in pencil, and yet still there over 100 years later!! A little to the right and above their signatures is a note engraved by my father, stating, "Refinished by William F. Mursch, July 1968", which explains why the chest is still in such beautiful condition.
 As we removed the drawers from the chest to make it easier to transport into our house, I began to search for any hidden clues that could help identify the origins of this wonderful old antique.  I knew that sometimes people used to write their names on the undersides or insides of their furnishings to identify them, so I scanned each and every surface of the dresser for an answer.  Lo and behold! There it was, written upside down on one of the sides of one of the drawers was the treasure I was seeking!  Scrawled in the old fashioned script of yesteryear, written in pencil, were the names of two significant people:  Dora Johnston and Flora B. Johnston.  Now, I know that probably doesn't mean much to you, but those two names solved the riddle.  Dora and Flora were sisters, born in 1860 and 1857 respectively.   Flora Belle Johnston married John B. Sheets, and she then became the mother of my grandmother, Flora E. Sheets Tedlie, the mother of my Mother, Dorothea May Tedlie Mursch! So this beautiful chest of drawers that I somehow just couldn't leave behind for strangers, belonged to my maternal Great Grandmother, and probably dates back to the 1860-1870's, since it is signed by both sisters, which means they were most likely still both living at home.  I believe the piece was actually in the home of my Great-Great Aunt Dora Johnston Gorseline, and she actually left it to my Grandmother when she willed her home and all it's furnishings to her upon her death in 1932.  My Great Grandmother Flora Belle Johnston Sheets had previously passed away in 1911. 

Although I still don't know who actually built the chest of drawers, that doesn't really matter as much as who used it and filled it with their own precious treasures, lingerie, dainty hankies, gloves, jewelry and maybe even their secret diaries.  Oh, if those drawers could talk, I'll bet they could tell me the dreams of two young girls who never in their wildest dreams knew that one day, some 150 years later, their great grand daughter and great great niece would be sitting here writing about this on a computer for all the world to see!  Wow! That even excites me and gets my imagination flowing!  Could be the start of that book I keep wanting to write...hmmm...I'll just have to think about that!

What a treasure!  Oh, by the way, when I finally got this chest of drawers set up in my guest room, (which I call "The Grandma Room"), I know I heard some giggles and sighs and hand clapping from somewhere up in heaven...and I could definitely feel my mother smiling down at me and heard her whisper, "Thank you, Pam, for carrying on the family heritage and finding the treasure hidden therein." 

You are welcome, Mama...and I'm so glad you kept nudging me on to not give up on it!
Good night!  Sleep Tight!

The Chest of Drawers that belonged to my Great Grandmother Flora Belle Johnston Sheets and her sister, Dora Johnston Gorseline, passed down to my Grandmother Flora E. Sheets Tedlie, and then to my mother, Dorothea May Tedlie Mursch, and now to me, Pamela Anne Mursch Steiner. I wonder where it will go from here?  Time will tell...

(double click on picture to enlarge view for details, then back arrow to return to blog)
The Buster Brown Tea Set on top of the dresser belonged to my Aunt Margaret Tedlie Moss, and my mother remembers playing with it when she was a child.  The two pictures are: Flora Sheets Tedlie, my grandmother as a little girl about 5 or 6 years old, and the other is a picture of my Great Great Grandmother, Flora E. Johnston, the mother of Dora and Flora B. Johnston!  The doll is a doll that I gave my mother as a birthday present on her 85th birthday.  The books are from my mother's collection of old books, including a very old edition of Little Women, wrapped in plastic because it is literally falling apart and beyond restoration.  I am looking foward to placing more "treasures" in and on this chest of drawer as I discover them...!

4 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you kept the chest, and that you found the "history" behind it. I do believe, like you, that my Grandma is looking down with pride that you are keeping its history alive with family that can appreciate it a bit more than a stranger. (I love all the special things sitting on top of it too!) Thanks for sharing this post!

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  2. I'm happy you enjoyed the story AND the history behind it! I know you treasure these memories too, as do your children. BTW, the Great Aunt Dora Johnston Gorseline was my mother's famed "Aunt Dode" she used to talk about. And the house that Grandma Tedlie inherited was the house in West Lafayette, OHIO, where Mama lived when she went to high school and graduated from West Lafayette High. She may have even used this chest herself while living there.

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  3. It's a beautiful dresser. I'm glad you found the names. Good blog.

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  4. Great story Pam! I'm so glad you found a good place for that chest--I loved it too, but just didn't have the room for it, but somehow, someway, it was not going to be sold to strangers!! We will figure out the rest of the story, I'm sure! I know I must have notes somewhere!! I know you will treasure that treasure!!

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