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A Memory of the Suitcases

Do you ever come across treasures and wish you knew their story? I do all the time; I wonder if they ever belonged to someone famous, or if that particular pair of gloves shook the hands of the president, or inspired an engineer to invent or an artist to paint. Often, if I ever find out at all, the treasures don't have terribly glamorous pasts but they just may have been very special to one person, and I think that's beautiful in itself.


These two travelling suitcases happen to be part of my family's history, so my Nana told me some of their story. They belonged to Nancy Agnes (Brown) Beane and James Madison Beane who lived in Beersheba Springs, Tennessee in the early 1900s. He was a doctor and tended to locals on top of their mountain. When he wasn't treating people, he was preaching at revivals. "He'd go to McMinnville, and we knew he'd be back soon. He'd walk all the way down to the end of the dirt road, then down to the corner on the main road with his suitcase. The corner was where the church was (where they're both buried now) and where he would catch the bus to wherever he'd be preaching." My Nana tells this of her father's father, whom she called PapPaw, my great-great grandfather. My great-great grandmother, Nancy, whom my Nana was named after, and then I was named after her, went by 'Mother Beane'. She was the homemaker and kept the home and gardens in order; she went with PapPaw on some of his revival trips sometimes until the children came along, three rambunctious boys. Once they grew up a bit, they would stay on the homestead and she could travel again with PapPaw.


Nana reminisces about the homestead, their big garden, and a cold cellar, "The cellar walls were all dirt, with a big shelf where they put the potatoes. Dirt steps went down into it, with a board over the top for the door but then a makeshift door at the bottom of the steps, but you always brought a flashlight to make sure you didn't run across any snakes." She and her parents would visit for a few weeks every so often when she was young. The barn and outhouse were on the edge of the property, on a bluff overlooking trees and down into the valley where Nancy Agnes was born. Nana said that you never went to the outhouse in the dark for fear of falling over the edge of the cliff. With a giggle, she started to remember when she was very young, maybe five years old, and she was sitting on the porch with her mother and they watched PapPaw leave the house with a chamber pot filled from the night before, and he slipped in the grass, and like a cartoon in slow-motion, the pot went into the air and landed square on his head, emptying the contents all over him. She was almost in tears of laughter remembering how hard she and her mother were laughing on the porch.


These suitcases went all over rural Tennessee between Nashville and Chattanooga. I hope never to separate them so Mother Beane and PapPaw can keep traveling together in spirit. NAB + JMB <3





The quality of these suitcases is impeccable, but where PapPaw's suitcase is a bit more worn and tarnished on the outside, the plastic handles and edges of Mother Beane's suitcase are now tacky from age. I believe the plastic is bakelite, so I'll be researching, cleaning, and restoring them soon, so be on the lookout for a post on what I find out and the results!


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