Evans, Carol: Who Owned this Little Chair?

Who Owned this Little Chair?

by Carol Evans

This battered child’s chair with no rockers is at least 120 years old. It spent many years in the home of my cousins until returned to its owner. Originally it belonged to our grandmother.

Gramma's chair

Blanche Gertrude White, age 16

Blanche Gertrude WHITE “Gertie” was born in Northumberland County on July 14th 1884. When she was born her old uncle who was hard of hearing wondered why she had been called “Gritty”. She lived with her parents in Murray Township, her father taking a new wife when her mother died of consumption in 1893. My grandmother remembered her mother, Mary Nancy Johnston, being ill in bed and that she had sat quietly on the floor of her mother’s room just to be near her.

From age 8, she was raised by a stepmother, Sarah Frost and gained a half sister named Ethel. Gertie had an older half brother Arthur who had been born while father William White was married to his first wife Hester Chisholm. She lost brother Arthur to asthma in 1914.

When Gertie was a girl she walked a mile to school. She remembered her father meeting her after school on snowy days with a little plow made with planks that he had hitched to two horses. He cleared a path for the children to walk. One day her teacher asked the students what they’d like to be when they grew up. This same male teacher went into gales of laughter when Gertie said “a farmer’s wife” as all of the other children had grander ambitions. Gertie passed her entrance exams and then went home to help her mother. No high school for her. I think she must have been quite clever for she could help her grandchildren when they were solving math problems. She would have been nearly 80 at that time.

In 1907 she married Fred Cox, a farmer in the Stockdale area. (She got her childhood wish to be a farmer’s wife.) They were married at her parents’ home about noon and her mother served dinner to the wedding guests in their dining room . They then traveled on a horse to her Uncle Robert Johnston’s to visit and stay overnight and then on to her Uncle Jim Johnston’s for a visit and overnight before returning. A short honeymoon. On route the horse was startled by a car on the road and took off through the fields and she’d been quite frightened.

Together Gertie and Fred raised five children - three boys and two girls, one of whom was my mother. When Fred died in 1943 she stayed on the farm property with three of her children, Leslie, Will and Stella. When the last of these were married the property was sold and Gertie began living with the families of her children. Each time a grandchild was born she would go to that home to help the new mother. In her later years she lived with her daughter, Stella, and our family in Peterborough.

This wonderful woman was a second mother to me and I have many memories of her: the opal and amethyst broach she wore, her habit of eating tomatoes with sugar and her use of words like “grip” for suitcase and “drawers" for underwear. She rose and went to bed early as her farm routine never left her. She helped my mother with everything and never spoke an unkind word about anyone although she had strong opinions about many things. She was often saddened by what happened in the news. Her heart went out to the women in Africa and so she sent money to missionaries to help them.

When she died at age 101 on 15 Aug 1885, one grandchild spoke at her funeral to say that she had been "a guiding ship". Her life had spanned the use of horse and democrat to seeing a man walk on the moon. She had seen so much of life and her mental acuity lasted until the day she died. My grandmother, Gertrude (White) Cox is buried in Stockdale, where she was born and where she raised her children. Now all that remains are the memories, her pictures and of course her little chair.