Trunk provides gateway into family history

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2007

WILSONVILLE &045;&045; The old, wooden trunk sat behind Grandma&8217;s rocking chair, near the fireplace that was the sole means of heating the farmhouse. That&8217;s how Betty Stinson Broome of Wilsonville remembers it.

&8220;Nobody sat in her chair, and nobody bothered her trunk,&8221; Broome said with a laugh. &8220;That&8217;s where she kept important things.&8221;

Broome recalls the crystal necklaces, one black and one clear, that her grandmother kept safely tucked away, wearing them only for funerals and the most special occasions. Along with her good jewelry and important papers, Ida Stinson used the trunk to store everyday items like her medicine, purse and snuff.

&8220;I remember particularly as a child, when she opened that trunk to get something, my curiosity would just get the best of me. I could look, but I couldn&8217;t touch,&8221; Broome said, eyes still dancing at the intrigue of the mysterious chest from her childhood.

Broome eventually inherited the trunk and its contents, which through its tintype photographs and various written records piece together the lives and backgrounds of her paternal grandparents, David and Ida Stinson. At the urging of cousin Myra Stinson Vickery and Vickery&8217;s nephew Paul Thomas Stinson Jr., Broome temporarily turned the collection over to Paul Stinson for organizing, cataloging and creating a digital compilation.

&8220;He made a story of a lot of it, and not only did it give an insight to our family history, but it gave us a lot of information about Shelby County and how life was in the 1800s and early 1900s,&8221; she said.

As the three sat around the dining room table in the family home David Stinson built in 1896, they pulled out papers documenting land sales, slave trades, state and local taxes and medical bills. They found original receipts for the wood burning stove her grandmother bought near the turn of the century and the car &045;&045; a black Ford she paid for in two installments in 1923.

&8220;One of the most interesting things was my grandma&8217;s registration to vote,&8221; Broome said.

The card shows Ida Stinson registered in 1922, just two years after women gained the right to vote. Also discovered were her great uncle&8217;s discharge papers from the Confederate Army in 1863. &8220;I always knew that trunk had little treasures,&8221; Broome said, &8220;but I didn&8217;t know what a story they told of our family&8217;s history.&8221;

It&8217;s a story she expects will pass through her children and grandchildren, same as her grandparents&8217; house and the special trunk contained in it for more than a century.

&8220;Another generation is enjoying [the house], and the trunk is still there,&8221; Broome said. &8220;Grandma&8217;s old purse is still in there, too.&8221;

A copy of The Betty Stinson Broome Collection is available at the Shelby County Museum and Archives