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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Saturday, February 24, 2018

52.8: Heirloom; Cherry Chest of Drawers

This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.

My favorite heirloom is also my biggest.
Moore Family Chest of Drawers

This chest of drawers is made of cherry and is over 200 years old. It sits quietly in the corner of my spare room, waiting for me to come in and admire it from time to time (which I do quite frequently).

I saw a very similar chest on Antiques Roadshow once. According to the appraiser, they are quite common and not of great monetary value. This cherry chest, though, is priceless to me.

Family lore says this chest was made by my Moore ancestors and came with them on a wagon from North Carolina to Indiana. It has been handed down each generation to the oldest male child ever since.

Sounds simple enough, right? Maybe, but look a little more closely.

First, at when and how it was made.  The family that made the trip to Indiana was that of Edward and Pharaba (Pearce) Moore.  I estimate they were married about 1788 in North Carolina, based on the birth of their first child Martha in late 1789. The family moved to Indiana sometime after the birth of their last child Thomas in early 1811, and in time for Edward to appear on the Militia Roster for Harrison County, Indiana Territory in 1812.

The construction of the chest is interesting to my modern eyes. Of course there were no power tools then. The nails are square; each drawer has dovetailed joints.
Square nails and board salvaged from repair work needed on the chest
Closeup of dovetail joint
I admire the craftsmanship for each step of its construction. Did they use stain then? What is the finish? 

The original hardware was removed and replaced by my grandfather, Lee Moore. He was a janitor at Paoli High School and had someone in the wood shop make round wooden pulls for the drawers. I'd love to put the old hardware back in if I had it, but the wooden pulls are now part of the story.
Original hardware removed and filled
"New" wooden pulls replaced the original hardware

So how did this chest, allegedly subject to the rules of primogeniture (passing to the oldest male Moore child), make it to a female named Heverly? Let's follow it.

I traced the male Moore descendants in a previous post.  They are a rare breed indeed. Edward and Pharaba Moore made the trek to Indiana, as stated before, around 1811. They had nine children ranging in age from 22 to about 1. The oldest girl, Martha was newly married but her family came to Indiana as well.

Here's where the family lore breaks down. My next ancestor in line, Edward Windsor Moore, was not actually the oldest male child. He had an older brother John who lived to a ripe old age. much for family lore? I'm not sure what to make of it.

Edward Windsor Moore, subject of many blog posts starting here, was the father of William Bryant Moore. Though he also had an older brother named John, this John died as a boy.  William Bryant Moore holds the title of my shortest-lived ancestor. He died at the age of 20 while working in the newly-constructed Orange County Courthouse.
Orange County Courthouse in Paoli, Indiana
Photo by Vonda Heverly, taken on a research trip in 2016
William Bryant left behind a 17-year old widow, Mary, and 15 month old son, William Braddock Moore. Mary remarried to Henry Pierce Breeden, and they had five children of their own.

Sadly, all six of these children were orphaned when Henry and Mary Breeden died within a few months of each other in 1862. William Braddock Moore was 13, and did not qualify for any of his stepfather's Civil War pension. He seems to have lived for a time on his grandfather Edward Windsor Moore's farm, but I think he had to grow up pretty fast. 

Someone (I would guess his grandfather) took charge of the chest until he established his own house by marrying Martha Ann Tillery in 1870. From there the chest had a mostly uneventful life, traveling to the home of William Braddock Moore's son Fred, to his son Lee, and finally to my uncle Bill.

My uncle Bill has no children. I had heard about the chest over the years and wondered what would happen to it. By this time I was grown and had my own house. My mom asked Bill about the chest, and he agreed I could have it since I was interested in it. 

One small problem:  while Bill was moving, the chest fell off the truck and suffered some minor injuries.  One drawer was busted and the back panel broken. I didn't care; I wanted it anyway!

My father took on the repair job. He had to construct a few new pieces. I believe he used some old yellow poplar to craft them.  He kept all the old pieces, which I hang on to, just because.
Board replaced by my dad
I am a historical re-enactor, and I keep much of my clothing and blankets for this hobby in the chest. It seems fitting that it holds linen and wool, like it did when it was new.  Every time I open the chest, I think of all my ancestors who have opened it, and I feel a connection to them.

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