Most of us have a connection to the past that only goes as far as our grandparents. For many, it is usually just an odd snapshot from a past reunion, a remembered story about a long-lost relative, or names in an old family Bible. Some of us only get to experience our ancestors from genealogical information we discover in books and online. But what if an artifact from a distant ancestor seemed to travel through time to find you. What would you think? Divine intervention? Coincidence? How would you feel if it happened to you twice? Well just ask Allison Houston Olson, because she’s experienced it.
“I received a phone call from my good friend, Julie Baggett Burroughs. She called to tell me about a sale occurring at an antiques store near my house,” recounts Allison. Some old student desks that were being sold in this particular store had interested Allison; however, after arriving and inspecting the desks, she decided that they weren’t what she wanted. This is where the story could have ended, but it took an incredible twist. She turned to her mother-in-law who was accompanying her, and asked her if she wanted to have a look around. They entered the first antique booth and found several interesting items on display.
|Portrait of Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls 1852-1899|
“An antique photo resting on a lower shelf caught my attention. While looking at the photo, I commented to my mother-in-law that I could not understand why on earth people would sell old photos of their family members. As I stood up, my eyes immediately rose to the items on the wall above my head. What I then saw produced a lump in my throat and caused my heart and emotions to race. Directly above me was the 18”x20” original framed photograph of my great-great grandmother!” she recalls. “I couldn't catch my breath.”
"That is my great-great grandmother, that is my great-great grandmother,” she remembers telling her mother-in-law excitedly.
“Are you sure?” her mother-in-law repeatedly asked her.
“I am positive!” Allison replied.
She had just found an antique photograph portrait of her great-great grandmother, Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls! She knew that was who it was because several family members had copies of the original photograph portrait, but the whereabouts of the original were never known. Allison goes on to say that her grandmother, who has passed away just a year before, had wondered about what had happened to that original photograph of her maternal grandmother.
“Almost exactly one year later, I locate it in an antiques store, “ Allison says, “ With hands shaking, I took the photo off the wall, walked to the cash register, and told the owners that the photo was of my great-great grandmother. The owners questioned me, so I gave them her name. They turned the photo over and there on the back was her name. I was still shaking and on the verge off tears. I called my mother and told her what I had found, and then the tears began welling up again.”
The original photograph now resides in the home of Allison’s mother, Bobbie Wyatt Houston.
"I felt like she had found a priceless treasure. I was very excited when she gave it to me. I felt like my mom, who had just passed away only a year before, was sending us a sweet message of endearment. The picture now holds a place of honor in my home,” says Mrs. Houston.
How does Allison herself now look back on the event?
“Initially I was dumbfounded. My emotions were all over the place. I then realized she was home. Sarah Luvenia, that is. I had brought her home, so to speak. Why had it been me? I don’t know. Was it God? Could be. Coincidence? Doubtful. Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. For some reason, I was supposed to be there that day. For some reason, I needed to be there that day and my friend, Julie, was the instigator, for lack of a better word, in getting me there. Sarah Luvenia's portrait had been hanging there since February of that year, no one had purchased it, thank goodness, but in October, she needed to come home. I truly have no answers, other than, she needed to come home.”
Now that’s an incredible story all by itself, but what if a very similar event happens just a bit further down the road?
|The actual antique cotton basket|
Allison describes herself “a collector of all things vintage”. She has recently started to sell some of her finds on a Facebook page. She recalls a recent event.
“I received a message from someone, unknown to me, asking if I bought antiques. For those that know me well, this is one of my weaknesses, that and genealogy. After much conversing on Facebook, we agreed to meet. This gentleman lived in an area where many of my maternal grandmother’s family members lived. There is even a road with the family name. My family and I arrived at his barn one afternoon. The man was very welcoming. He had several things set out for me to peruse. I noticed a large hand-woven cotton basket near the front.”
She says she asked him about the antique basket and he said he had gotten it from a man named Mayfield who lived just up the road from him. Allison says that that the name sounded familiar, but “it didn't initially click”.
She says she continued to look around his barn at his wonderful collection of antiques; all the while in the back of her mind, she was thinking about the name “Mayfield”. She picked out a few items, one being the basket; then questioned him further about the gentleman that had made the basket.
“He told me the man’s name was "Robert Mayfield". BING! Lights and sirens went off in my head! My great-great-great grandfather was Robert "Robin" Jasper Mayfield. What were the odds, I thought at the time. After much discussion, I discovered that a past relative of mine had made the basket. A conversation with my mom later confirmed it. This gentleman was gracious enough to take us to the old home site of my relative where I took photos and heard stories about how life used to be when my relative was living. The old cotton basket is now in my home, where it shall remain. I reconnected with a part of my history that I would not have known about had this gentleman not contacted me. He welcomed us into his home and barn; but most importantly led me into a part of my history, and for that I am eternally grateful.” She adds, “Someone once told me ‘family comes back to family’. I don’t know where they saw that or read that, but I believe it to be true.”
Click here to view Allison's Southern Mother Junker page on Facebook (and maybe find a treasure for yourself)
Tom Clardy also claims Sarah Luvenia Malone Falls as a great-great grandmother and can't be more happy that the portrait now has a safe home with family. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org