John has been telling me as much as he knows about his grandmother Julie who died before he was born.
She was born in 1890 and died in 1939. Julie worked in both the Pacolet and Cowpens mills in South Carolina. All her brothers and sisters, as well as her parents, were mill workers. From around age 9 until the day she died, she was a weaver.
Her husband Tom was one of the Rough Riders. also called “Uncle Sam’s 1-2-3 Boys” and was badly hurt in the Battle of Manila Bay. In between his service times in both the Army and the Navy, he also was a mill worker.
They were active members of Central Baptist Church in Cowpens and raised two daughters.
Yesterday John’s brother gave him a wooden box of Julie and Tom’s things. Piece by piece, John looked at their history through a grandson’s eyes. A half a dozen .22 shorts were a surprise. There was a small leather coin purse and a twig toothbrush. A ledger full of their expenses and earnings. One year Tom received a raise from $15 a month to $25; they must have celebrated. Tom’s hand-woven lanyard was there, and John figured he must have been a boatswain mate like his grandfather. Interesting connectedness between generations. Julie had a beautiful handwriting; she had filled in pages in the family Bible, and her cursive script swirls.
Several weeks ago, I started writing a short story about Julie. We drove to Cowpens, saw where their house was, and followed the sidewalk she walked to work. Julie is more than a beautiful photograph now; I have held things she used and gazed at the ruins of Cowpens Mill.
I have two, soft leather coin purses of my grandmother’s. and now we have Julie’s. These small, everyday items are new treasures to us, because we treasured our grandmothers.
Maybe you, too, have treasures that you have inherited. Aren’t we blessed?