The dress pictured here was worn by my Grandmother Triplett 100 years ago to say “I do” to her true love, Harvey. I have Grandma’s dress adorning a dressmaker’s form standing in my living room. And thereby hangs an incredible tale.
When we were little kids (my brother, cousins and I), we used to dress up at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. She had a chest of old clothes and shoes that we were free to play with and I remember seeing shoes with many buttons, so different from our shoes having laces or buckles. I even remember a pair of soft white leather shoes with many buttons—her wedding shoes. But there was no wedding dress to go with the shoes.
Grandma died in a car crash and my mother occasionally spoke of her mother’s wedding dress because it had apparently disappeared. She said Grandma had sewn tiny seed pearls around the neckline as decoration and her description made me think of a fairyland creation. Like the fairyland of our childhood, the dress seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.
Flash forward to August 2001. My dad had died and mom was moving into senior housing, but she needed to have a sale of farming equipment and the contents of barns, outbuildings, and the farmhouse. My brother and niece had spent several weekends working on cleaning out the accumulation of 50 years of country living, but there was still plenty to do when I flew back to the Midwest a week before the sale. The day before the sale we were still going through boxes, sorting and tossing.
I was working my way through the back entry between the garage and back door where an old trunk had sat since my Aunt Anna died back in the mid-80’s. I opened it up to find it mostly empty except for a few vintage hats. However, a small shelf attached to the lid still held some detritus which looked like it should head for a trash bag. By this time, I’d learned never to do a wholesale dumping of "stuff" because currency, old pictures, and other priceless memorabilia could well be mixed in with useless receipts from 25 years ago
I started gingerly pulling out a yellowed plastic bag. When I opened it, there were several beautiful little girl’s dresses for perhaps a two year old. I knew they weren’t mine so I guessed they were surely my mom’s or her sister’s from back in the 20’s.
There was another yucky plastic bag in the open shelf so I picked it up and opened it. I pulled out a lovely piece of satin fabric—decorated with seed pearls—and the hair rose on the back of my neck. Could this be Grandma’s “lost” wedding dress?
Out came a long skirt with three rows of ruffles, evenly spaced. The last item was a long sleeved blouse with a square neck also decorated with seed pearls. The first item that had emerged was like a decorative vest so the wedding “dress” was an ethereal three-piece ensemble.
Mom verified that, indeed, it was her mother’s wedding dress but she didn’t remember anything about the little girls’ dresses, guessing that they were hers as a tiny child. It was agreed that I could take the wedding dress home with me since my brother’s family never knew Grandma Triplett and my mom had no place to display the dress. I folded it and the little dresses and put them in a corner out of the way.
Sale day arrived and the helping hands of friends joined us in getting all the indoor “treasure” outside for the auction as the weather had threatened rain the night before. After lunch I was visiting with a cousin of my mom’s generation and mentioned Grandma’s wedding dress. She, of course, had never seen it so I went in the house to get it. But the corner was empty!
Apparently the helpful hands had carried the dresses (the little girl’s dresses were gone too) out to be sold. Grandma’s wedding dress was gone again. And this time there was no doubt in my mind, it was gone forever.
The sale over, we all went home and I was recounting the sad tale of the vanished wedding dress to my friend, Jackie. “Why don’t you advertise for it?” she asked. That thought hadn’t even grazed my mind so I thanked her for the idea and called Mom that evening. She, in turn, advertised in two county papers and the daily just across the river in Illinois.
Three days later Mom got a phone call from a lady who said, “I think I have something you’ve been looking for.” Mom had taught elementary school for sixteen years and one of her students was the caller’s son. He had come to the sale and bid on a box of doilies, aprons, and other items, which, it turns out, included Grandma’s wedding dress. The lady was planning to take the items to a flea market that weekend but when she read Mom’s ad in the paper, she felt compelled to return the dress.
And that’s how Grandma’s wedding dress finally made its way from Palmyra, MO to Elko, NV
She and Grandpa were married on May 14, 1919 the day before her 25th birthday and probably 2-4 weeks after her school term was finished as she taught in a rural school for at least five years prior to her marriage.
|The newlywed 100 years ago, today|