Week 6 – Family Heirlooms: For which family heirloom are you most thankful? How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family?
I have a houseful of heirlooms – a treadle sewing machine, several washstands, drop-leaf tables, a corner cupboard, old photos, old photo albums, china, crystal, silver, chairs, hats, school books, I could go on. But a favorite? That’s not fair!
If I have to choose, and I guess I do, I will say a fireside chair that isn’t even in MY house. It’s a FAMILY heirloom all right, but I’m not the caretaker. My sister is.
This chair is from my great-great-grandfather’s boyhood home in Greene County, Virginia. That dates this chair to the late 1830s-early 1840s IF it were new then. I can imagine young James Franklin Jollett sitting in that chair while tending the fire under the watchful eyes of his parents Fielding and Mary Ann. Maybe Mary Ann took a rest now and then while stirring the stew.
While the seat and back are normal size for an adult, the short legs make it look like a child’s chair. I suppose children liked the chair because it did not require climbing; they could easily plop down with both feet firmly on the floor.
Apparently the chair was painted green at one time as evidenced by the paint that did not come out of the wood grain when James Franklin’s granddaughter (my grand aunt) Violetta Davis Ryan had the chair refinished. The wood is probably poplar, rather soft wood, smooth from the many hands that held on to the slats for support or to position the chair more comfortably, hands that painted, removed paint, sanded, varnished, and rubbed it back to life countless times.