Friday, November 2, 2012

Otis's furniture

When I was growing up, I spent every Saturday night sleeping over at Genevieve's house. It was the same tiny house she and my grandfather built when they got married, a two-bedroom cottage of about 700 square feet (I'd be guessing) that they built for something like $2000 around 1940.

The table that we ate our meals at in that tiny house was a functional drop-leaf table that she positioned against a wall in between the couch and the back door. The space was so small that she almost never pulled up either side of the table, so I always thought it was just a small, rectangular table. She would occasionally tell me that my great-great-grandfather had "carved" the table (that was the word she used) from cherry trees in his yard. This always stuck with me, maybe because she so rarely spoke of her family.

The table that Otis carved from cherry trees on his farm and gave as a wedding gift to Ora and Clarence.

When Genevieve passed away, it was very important to her that certain things be passed down to me, her recipe box and that table among them. I was shocked to discover how well-crafted the table was, and to learn that there were several leaves that came with it; if they are all inserted, you could easily serve dinner for 12 around it.

It turns out that Otis (Genevieve's grandfather) was quite a master carpenter. He learned the trade from his father Sam (much more on him in the next post.) The table is actually one of three identical tables that Otis made -- he gave one to each of his daughters as their wedding gift. Genevieve ended up with Ora's table, and Corinne ended up with Edna's table. I now have both of those.

Otis Vaughn, carpenter extraodinaire

When Corinne passed away, she left a list of items in her house that she believed to be Vaughn heirlooms. I bought all of them from her estate to ensure they stayed in the family. So I am now the proud owner of several pieces of furniture that I can say with loving pride were handmade by my great-great-grandfather Otis: the two dining tables, eight chairs that he made to go with those dining tables, a nightstand or work table, and four rope-seat chairs that are incredible because the seats are made of tightly woven rope and have lasted incredibly well, considering they are probably about 130 years old.

The nightstand or work table (not sure which) that Otis made

The rope-seat chairs made by Otis. There are only three of them, which means he could have made them for Edna sometime after Corinne was born. Corinne was an only child and almost everything in her house came in sets of three instead of four.

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