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Farmers, planters, merchants and shopkeepers in the American colonies found it very difficult to hire free workers, primarily because it was so easy for potential workers to set up their own farms.  Consequently, a common solution was to transport a young worker from the British Isles or Germany who would work for several years to pay off the debt of their travel costs.  During the indenture period the servants were not paid wages, but were provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training.  The indenture document specified how many years the servant would be required to work and after which they would be free.  Terms of indenture ranged from one to seven years.
In the 17th century, nearly two third o settlers to the New World from the British Isles came as indentured servants.  More white immigrants arrived in Colonial America as indentured servants, usually as young men and women from Britain or Germany under the age of 21.  Typically, the father of a teenager would sign the legal papers, and work out an arrangement with a ship captain, who would not charge the father any money.  The captain would transport the indentured servants to the American colonies and sell their legal papers to someone who needed workers.  At the end of the indenture, the young person was given a new suit of clothes and was free to leave.  Many immediately set out to begin their own farms, while  others used their newly acquired skills to pursue a trade.

 

 

Mary Oxley was born in Wales in 1775.  She came to the American colonies as an indentured servant, carrying with her a small wooden trunk that held all her possessions.  The trunk would be known to Americans as a Jenny Lind trunk.   The little trunk had quite a journey but eventually it was painted dark green, and then stored in the chicken coop and used for storage on a family member’s farm in Clinton County,  located on James Road in what is Blanchester, Ohio today

It was rescued by Erma Spencer Hoops and given to her daughter, Rosalie Bernard.  The trunk was stripped of green paint but remained in pieces for the next 50+ years.  For her birthday, Rosalie’s husband, Stan Bernard, had the trunk refurbished and refinished by John K. Spicer of Spicer and Sons of South Lebanon, Ohio.

It sits in the home of Rosalie and Stan Bernard today in Miamisburg, Ohio and will be passed down to one of their children someday.  As a little girl, I can remember going to family reunions at the “Home Place”  the family farm in Blanchester and Grandma  (Goldie James Spencer) always wondering what happened to “grandma’s little trunk from Wales.”  It was much later that Ethel Shoemaker, Goldie’s niece, happened to hear her mention the trunk and offer it to her from their chicken coop.  Even though it was in pieces, Grandma and my Mother (Erma Spencer Hoops) treasured it because of its antiquity and sentiment.  It is still treasured today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Little Trunk From Wales - A Restoration Project by John K. Spicer

 

The Story....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary came to the American carrying with her a small wooden trunk that held all her possessions. The round topped trunks were used much sooner in Europe, however, and it is possible that Mary’s family owned the trunk or that her father made the trunk for her as she set out on her journey as a dowry of sorts.  It is not known where she first settled but she married John Woollard in Loudon County Virginia and they later settled in Clinton County in 1817 when she was 42.  She died in 1833 at age 58.
 
Her little wooden trunk was passed down to her daughter, Lavina Woollard who was born in Loudon Co. Virginia in 1800.  She moved to Clinton County in 1817 and married William Stevens.   Lavina and William had a daughter, Sarah Ellen Stevens in 1835.  She married George Kelley in 1852 on his Clinton County farm.  He died in 1899 and she died in 1901.
 
The wooden trunk was passed to their daughter, Josephine.  Josephine was born in 1859 and married a widower,  Alfred James, much older than she.  They lived on his family farm in Clinton County, located on James Road in what is Blanchester, Ohio today.  The farm was acquired by his father, Joseph James in 1831.   Alfred served in the Civil War under Captain William Wolf’s Company G 175th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  He enrolled 24 Sept. 1864 at Hillsboro, Oh and fought in the Battle of Franklin , Tenn.   He died on the family farm in 1879.  Josephine died in 1913 and the little wooden trunk remained on the farm.  The farm stayed in the James family for almost 150 years and many of the James family are buried at Second Creek Cemetery in the country near Blanchester.   When the farm was sold out of the family the trunk was taken to one of Josephine’s granddaughters farms where it was first painted dark green, and then stored in the chicken coop and used for storage.

It was rescued by Erma Spencer Hoops, another granddaughter of Josephine (daughter of Goldie James Spencer) , and given to her daughter, Rosalie Bernard.  The trunk was stripped of green paint but remained in pieces for the next 50+ years.  For her birthday, Rosalie’s husband, Stan Bernard, had the trunk refurbished and refinished by John Spicer of Spicer and Sons of South Lebanon, Ohio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John K. Spicer - 380 King Ave., South Lebanon 45065 - (513) 494-2598