“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”
I have always felt a deep connection to my ancestors, family that I have never met before but somehow they are transfixed in my mind. I love to imagine what their life was like when they were alive and how their decision to live their life somehow impacted mine. It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love antiques and vintage furniture but no one really knows exactly why. I would love to share with you an amazing story that involves a rebranding of my business and a beautiful family heirloom.
When I closed my brick and mortar store in July of 2020, I quietly celebrated a decade of being in the furniture painting industry. It didn’t feel like the right time to celebrate especially since I was closing my brick and mortar indefinitely. I knew that I would be selling my paint online and wanted to have a strong presence so I enlisted the help of Bekah and Heidi of Bliss and Tell. They are the dynamic duo behind the rebranding of my business and also my website design. They are the best in the industry and I thought as a way to celebrate 10 years of owning Simply Chic, why not go all out and have the experts work their magic!
During the logo redesign phase it really dawned on me that I am actually a third generation furniture refinisher. My Mother has been buying unfinished wood furniture for years and staining them herself. She actually learned from her Mom (my Grandmother) how to stain correctly and she then taught me. When I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon for each room to be lined with beautiful antiques and finely crafted furniture. I learned at a young age that antiques and wood furniture must be well cared for otherwise they deteriorate. One such piece that has been in our family for generations and has always intrigued me was this mahogany secretary.
This piece belonged to my Mother’s Great Aunt on her Mom’s side of the family. This beautiful secretary belonged to Ada (Hudson) Bauercamper of Burlington Iowa.
Ada is one of five sisters who settled property in Chappell, Nebraska during the Homestead Act of 1862.
We have an incredible memoir written by one of the sisters (Aunt Joe) about what life was like on the prairie.
She writes about devastating prairie fires, diseases like smallpox and diphtheria plus bitter cold winters. The Soux Indians were also mentioned quite a bit and visited their home often because her Dad, Hosea Hudson was the town doctor. The Indians would seek medicine from him and medical guidance despite the language barrier. Dr. Hudson would motion to the points the sun would be in the sky and that is the time to administer medicine. Something else that really stood out to me was how much she talks about grasshoppers or "hoppers" as she would call them. She said they were so thick in the air that they would cloud out the sun. They would land on the corn fields and Aunt Joe said "each stalk was a crawling mass; in the evening when we returned only the bare stalks were left." They were a horrible pest that would eat anything with starch. All the girls would have to shake out their dresses before coming inside because once the hoppers were inside they would even eat the curtains! Life definitely was different in the 1800's.
What is also an amazing thing is that our family still owns this property (240 acres) to this day. Currently wheat is being grown and harvested on the whole property. Ada had one daughter and her name was Bernice. When I was little I always remember my Mom mentioning Aunt Bernice, and unfortunately I never had a chance to meet her.
I do although have an antique dresser and swivel mirror that goes on top that was hers and currently resides in our bedroom. Once Aunt Bernice passed my grandmother had all of her furniture shipped out here to California from Iowa one piece in particular was the mahogany secretary. Most of the furniture had to be professionally repaired because my Aunt Bernice was not the most gentle with her furniture. The sweet antique dresser that we have in our bedroom with the mirror on top had to have a 3 inch strip of wood replaced on the top. The secretary was also repaired and had a full leather lining to cover all the writing from the many years of use.
This secretary is the oldest piece of furniture in our family and has intrigued me since it came to live at my parent’s house. Just looking through the original wavy panes of glass on the front I imagine my 3x great aunts putting their favorite pieces of china in there on display (as seen in the pictures).
My Aunt Bernice was a teacher so I often think of her sitting at the secretary desk writing a letter or possibly grading papers. At one time the top of the hutch was filled with books, possibly the books she taught from. Having these pieces of furniture that belonged to relatives I have never met makes them come to life in the present day. When we were putting my logo together I wanted a piece of furniture in it with deep meaning to me and my family. I couldn’t think of a better fit for my new logo than using this secretary and I am so grateful to Bekah and Heidi for making this family heirloom front and center of my business rebrand. I know my ancestors are standing back and rooting us on as are your ancestors are rooting for your success as well. Let's make them proud!