Nammie’s Rocking Chair and How I Almost Lost It

Nellie Tarbox Adams was my 2x great grandmother, born 28 June 1856 in Robbinston, Maine, down the road from Calais. She died 23 December 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts where she lived with her daughter, Pearl Adams Chadwick, and her family. She was a much loved member of the family. This is one of the only photos I have of Nellie, affectionately called Nammie after her grandchildren were born. Nammie must have liked the picture because I have about a half dozen of them, still in the original photographer’s frame.

NellieTarboxAdams1920
Nellie Tarbox Adams

Nammie married Calvin Segee Adams on 1 February 1875 in Calais, Washington, Maine. They had two children, Aunt Pearl, already mentioned, and my great grandfather, Charles Edward Adams.

Sometime during the first decade of the 1900’s, Nammie bought a rocking chair, likely made in the Calais region since it was known for its lumber industry.  Unfortunately, I have no photo of Nammie enjoying her rocker. However, after Nammie died in 1927, ownership of the rocking chair passed down to my great grandmother, Annie Stuart Adams, wife of Nammie’s son, Charles. I do have two photos of this chair while Annie owned it.

Annie's apartment 292 Main Street Calais
Annie Adams’ Apartment, 1920’s

Here is a second photo of Annie sitting in her apartment, although not in the rocking chair.

Annie in her Apartment
Annie in her Apartment

Look closely at the dresser behind her. There are two photos on the table on either side of the mirror. On the left is my great grandfather, Charles, who died in 1921. On the right is the same photo of Nammie that I have!

Here is the cropped, enlarged portion of the photograph:

AnnieAptPhotos
Family Photos of Charles and Nammie

An aside, which has nothing to do with the story of the rocking chair, is that I am lucky enough to also own the same original photo of Charles.

According to the 1940 census, sometime between 1935 and 1940, Annie left Calais and went to live with her son’s family, that of my grandparents, Vernon Tarbox and Hazel Ethel Coleman Adams, in Ridgewood, New Jersey. I don’t imagine that Annie took much furniture with her, as she only had one bedroom in their house. The rocking chair was the one piece I know that went with her. The census was taken on 24 April 1940 – Annie passed away on 10 September 1940 at home, surrounded by her family.

Thus, my grandmother Hazel was the new owner of the rocking chair. My grandparents moved often, up and down the eastern coast between New Jersey and Maine because my grandfather worked for Western Union and he kept getting transferred. Sometime after World War II, my grandparents moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts.

However, my mother was an adult by this time and my parents married in June 1947 and always lived in New Jersey. Neither my grandmother nor my mother are here to ask, but I believe that my grandmother gave my mother, Doris, the rocking chair around the time that my parents married. I believe this because I have many photos of my grandparents’ home taken in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The rocker is not in any of them. I also have many photos taken in my parents’ home from the 1950’s onwards. The rocking chair was in our living room for as long as I can remember.

Here is a picture of me sitting in it in my brand new gray velvet (with pink ribbon) party dress, a gift from my Aunt Barbara. The photo is dated October 1957 taken in our living room in Passaic, NJ:

Linda in Rocking Chair
Linda in the Rocker, October 1957

Now the title of this post is “Nammie’s Rocker and How I Almost Lost It.” You are likely asking yourself how one could lose anything as big as a rocking chair.

My mother remained the owner/custodian of Nammie’s rocker until about 1985, when she was downsizing. She asked me if I would like to have it – of course I would – but by that time I was married and living in California. She was still in New Jersey. The rocker was a bit too big to fit in a Greyhound bus box and it was going to cost a fortune to ship it via the post office. A few months later, my mom called on the phone and said the neighbor who lived in the apartment above her was moving to Orange County in Southern California to live with her son. I lived in San Bernardino County, just north of Orange County. The neighbor said there was no problem packing the rocking chair in the moving van with her own furniture and other belongings. She said she would phone my mother when she was settled in with her son’s family and I could make arrangements to pick up the rocking chair.

All was good, or so I thought. A month or two went by and my mother phoned with terrible news. The moving van with all her neighbor’s possessions AND Nammie’s rocking chair had caught fire part way across the country. Her neighbor had said everything in the van was pretty much a complete loss. I was heartbroken as this was a family heirloom. The rocking chair was made of maple wood in the 1900-1910 time period and wouldn’t last long in a fire like that. What were the odds that that one moving van would catch fire and it would be the time when Nammie’s chair was in it???

There wasn’t anything that could be done about it, though, so life went on. I was absolutely shocked a couple of months later when my mom phoned again. She said she had talked to her now former neighbor who told her that the moving van delivered a couple of items to her that survived the fire. Just about the only item that escaped unscathed with not even a burn mark was Nammie’s rocking chair!

A few days later, I drove down to Orange County and picked up the rocker. Of course, I still have it. Our son, Michael, was born in 1988. He became the sixth generation of our family to sit in Nammie’s chair:

Linda & Michael in Rocking Chair
Linda and Michael, Summer 1988

Today, Nammie’s rocking chair sits in our bedroom. It has been repaired a few times as its legs have loosened over the years, but it looks much the same as it did when Nammie sat in it. It has pride of place right next to the gallery of ancestor photos on the wall:

NammiesRocker    NammiesRocker2
Nammie’s Rocking Chair, 2014

I think she looks pretty good for being over 100 years old!

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