This chair sits in our kitchen near the door. It appears to be an empty chair, but it isn’t. It is filled with memories from six generations in my husband’s family.
In 1903, when Tom Gilreath was thirteen years old, he rode a horse from Suches to Blairsville, via Sosbee Cove. A distance of twenty miles, across a mountain, meant that he had to spend the night on his way there and on the return trip. Tom’s mission was to pick up four chairs which had been hand made for his family.
Many details of this story been lost over time, the bare essentials I’ve outlined are all we’ve been told. But a thirteen year old boy who had to take his food and bedding and find his way to his destination and home must have had some frightened moments. Hmmm, four chairs, a boy, and his belongings – does this mean he walked the twenty miles home?
And his mother, Margaret, don’t you know she was worried? Though I guess she was accustomed to wondering how things were going for the men in her life. Tom’s Dad, Jonathan, was a circuit riding preacher as well as a farmer.
That made Tom a man earlier than many even in those days, I suppose. Their Dad being gone to minister to others meant that the children had certain responsibilities. Tom recalled going out on cold winter evenings and breaking the ice from around Jonathan’s boots so he could dismount from his saddle and stirrups. Maybe his older brother Henry had to stay home and tend the farm – that would explain the younger one going on the mission to collect the chairs.
I’m sure when you examine an old chair in an antique store you appreciate the craftmanship of assembly without nails. But next time, look a bit beyond the pegs and think about how the chairs were delivered. Maybe on horseback, on a mountain road, accompanied by a lad whose mother was trusting that he would be unafraid.
This chair is empty in the photo, but sometimes it serves as a staging area for things we need to remember to take with us as we head our the door. I did not know Grandpa Tom when he smoked cigars, but those who did say they can smell his tobacco when they see one of these chairs. All four of the originals are still in the family.