Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Carpet Bag's Story

I recently came across this accounting of one of the objects in the museum collection. This carpet bag belonged to William Miner's uncle John, and is now safely tucked away in storage. Its history teaches us of Uncle John and Aunt Huldah's lives as well... John and Huldah raised two orphans - Dora and their nephew William. I hope you enjoy the tale. To read more about Eva and Dora see my blog post from September 12, 2008, or click this link http://minermuseum.blogspot.com/2008/09/family-returns.html

"Written by Eva Simonds Vincent, daughter of Dora LaPorte Simonds, in her late eighties. She donated the carpet bag to the Alice T. Miner Museum.

After Eva's death in February of 1983, her sister Anna had Eva's story typed and gave it, too, to the Alice T. Miner Museum.

As we grow older our memory wanders back to days of long ago. I opened my closet door one day and found my old - but not quite forgotten - carpet bag hanging there. That old bag seemed to be trying to tell me a story, so I listened to what it had to say.

A Carpet Bag's Story

Many things have happened to me in my life - me, an old carpet bag! Did you know that Eva you are the third girl to care for me?

But my story begins with a very young man. Oh, he was tall, handsome, and very anxious for travel and adventure. He came into the store in this very small settlement in Northern New York State and bought me. My colors were bright, and fine leather handles had I then. I was very excited, for he packed me with what clothes he had and we headed for the west coast! a far place from my little settlement home.

It was 1849, and many times I heard men whispering the words "Gold in California!" The trip was not easy, but my new master, John Miner and I were young and eager for adventure.

While we were prospecting, a different kind of fever than the one that brought us out there broke out in camp. John, only 20 years old, came down with yellow fever. The Doctor did all he could for him, but John was very bad. Water was forbidden to the sick, but that was what he craved.

Now young Master John had a belt around his middle. In it he kept the gold nuggets that he had collected. Even while he was so sick, he bribed a small boy who ran errands for the men to bring him a watermelon. He hid that watermelon under his cot with me. He would suck on it piece by piece for the water that he craved.

When the Doctor visited again, Master John's condition was very much changed! The Doctor claimed that John had 'fever-eating watermelon', and that's the reason he lived to bring me back to the east and my home again.

When we returned, John decided to take part of the homestead and marry. He found a pretty young girl named Huldah. She was very young - yes, twenty years younger than John. Huldah was the first girl to love and care for me, and she layed (sic) me safely away with the belt in which my master had carried his California gold. The gold was gone now. Some of it John used to buy gold banded dishes for his bride.

When John and Huldah had been married for three years, Dora, a child whose mother had died, came to live with them. She became the second girl to love and care for me. When she was old enough to play dress-up, she carried me everywhere!

Dora, Uncle John, and Aunt Huldah, ca. 1867
Many happy years passed and before I knew it, it was time for Dora to be married. She was married in John and Huldah's home, but afterwards I lost sight of her for awhile. It was a very lonely time for me.

Before I knew it though, Dora's children came, and I was happy again! Her little girl came to visit Aunt Huldah and Uncle John and to play with me. What happy years those were!

Then came a time when Master John grew sick. He had no 'fever-eating watermelon' this time. It was very sad for me when my young Master John died.

Dora is the woman seated on the left... and could that be Aunt Huldah next to her?
Dora and her family came to live again in Master John's house with Huldah. We were to have a happy time again. My first and second little girls were together again. Dora's child, Eva, was the third little girl to love and cherish me.

Eva and Anna Simonds
As time goes by, those we love pass away. Huldah, my first little girl, went to be with my Master John. 

Dora packed me away for a long time in her closet. When she went to live with her daughter, my third little girl, I was happy once again. Eva took very loving care of me for I was nearly one hundred years old! Many happy years passed.

My Dora is long gone now, but I am still with old friends. Eva has no little girls to pass me on to, but she has arranged it to return me to the very spot where I was bought so many years ago by my young Master John! Where the old store stood, there is now a very fancy stone museum! It will be wonderful to be loved and at rest - and home!"


  1. Amanda-
    Goodness, its good to see this story again! I am the typist! Eva was my great-aunt and Anna was my grandmother, making Dora my great-grandmother. Grandma asked me to type this when I was a newly wed, visiting during the summer with my husband. We were in grad school at that time, and, if I kept a copy of the story it is long-lost with those old papers and tests. I knew I could once stop in and inquire about a copy of it, but life runs away with you! Interestingly, I have never seen the carpet bag, so it is lovely to see the vibrant colors that remain. I am fortunate that I had family members that treasured such items and well protected our family pictures.
    Diane Brown-Steiner

    1. Diane, I was hoping you would see this!! Thanks for your hard work in typing the story originally. Amanda