Recently I was in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho fulfilling a longtime desire to return to the Idaho Panhandle - a place of great beauty in my childhood memories. One of the gifts was the sudden realization that two Forsgren descendants live in Bonner's Ferry - one a descendant of Adolph Peter Forsgren through his son Oliver and the other a descendant of Sarah Christine Forsgren Klem through her daughter Lorinda Klem Funk. Bonners Ferry is NOT a big town. And it is located pretty close to the Canadian Border. How do cousins end up in the same little area and know each other well - only to find out by surprise that they ARE cousins??
I am rambling. It was just an amazing day to visit with them both in their homes. Can't think of anything that makes a vacation more perfect than finding you can have a "genealogy day."
When I arrived at Madrienne's (pronounced "muh-dreen" - isn't that a beautiful name?) house she said she had several things she wanted to show me. Spread out on her couch was a long dress, obviously from the late 1890's or early 1900's. She said, "I got this dress from my Aunt Lettie. It belonged to Kate Funk." I stared at her in utter astonishment! Kate Funk Forsgren was the second wife of my great grandfather Adolph Peter Forsgren. (She is also a great aunt of Madrienne's, the younger sister of HER great grandfather, Andrew George Funk). [see detailed information about Kate and Andrew from the links on the sidebar].
My skin prickled all over. For years I have wanted to know more about Kate (who only got to be married to Adolph for 7 months before he died). No one in the family had spoken much about her but last year I finally saw photos of her and learned more about her talents and personality. She has been much on my mind since then because coming to know her was the fulfillment of a longing of many years. Now, here before me was an article of her very clothing! I handled and touched the dress with the greatest of reverence and awe!
Kate was a tiny woman! I think I had a waist that size when I was about 6!! The amazing thing about the dress is that it is totally hand stitched, complete with stays, many small hooks up the back, smocking and pleating. Kate was a seamstress and tailor. It is not surprising that she would make her own dress, but to see and admire the tiny, tiny stitches was such a joy! The dress is still in excellent condition and the quality of the cotton fabric used to create it is very heavy and strong.
Detail of the fully-lined bodice, the casings for the stays and the tiny hooks. Hard to tell those white stay-stitches aren't machine done!
A little research: "In the 19th century, people started to patent this form of fasteners in the USA. In June 1900, E.C Beecher patented his form of hook and eye with the US government, which proposes to be sewn on the 2 sides of the garment and used as a fastener." (quoted from an on-line article).
"A bodice is the portion of the dress above the waist. The term bodice also was formerly used to mean a stiffened garment with stays like a corset (16th century)." The emphasis of the stays was less on the smallness of the waist than on the contrast between the rigid flatness of the bodice front and the curving tops of the very full skirts..."
The underside of the dress at the hem. Fully lined - again with tiny stitches. I suppose this extra fabric served the purpose of strengthening the full skirt and helping it to flare, as well as protect the bottom of the dress from one's boots and the elements encountered as you walked.
Detail of the smocking and pleating where the bodice meets the full skirt.
How grateful I was that I got to be part of this moment - of handling something that had actually belonged to Kate.
The true gift came the next day when Madrienne and her husband phoned me and said they were on their way down to Hope, Idaho (where my husband and I were vacationing on Lake Pend O'Reille 36 miles away) and wanted to come visit us. She came bearing a large box. She had decided to give the dress to ME!!
I will cherish this gift forever...and the generosity which prompted its giving. Madrienne had checked with both her daughters to make sure neither of them objected....so the generosity of the gift is three-fold! Thank you my dear Forsgren/Klem cousins!!