Repurposing My Ancestors’ Boot Box

I found the wooden box in the barn of my great grandparents home where I grew up. It was covered with faded and frayed upholstery fabric. I stored it for seven years. When I moved into my home, I began to work on it. I tore the fabric off and removed the stuffing of straw and old coats of children from under the top.

Underneath the once pretty upholstery material, I found brown burlap with a unique embroidered pattern in red.

I had red burlap in mind for a cover.

I realized I should have been documenting the process. The embroidery pattern was a part of family history. My ancestors were making use of whatever they could lay their hands on, more than once. They needed storage and another place to sit. I did too.

I began to take photos of the old burlap, decided to hang it in my shed for contemplation. Then I discovered the box was originally used to ship boots from Boston to CW Vose and Sons in Machias, Maine. I expect my ancestors bought their boots there, then put the box to use in their home, more than once.

Now the boot box sits in my living room next to a child’s rocker of my great grandparents and a lamp as old as I am. The box contains material for sewing projects that I want handy for use. And, it’s another seat on metal wheels that are in remarkably good condition. You won’t find metal wheels like that anymore.

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Machias Maine Fire Department. 1926.

Among the family photos stored in the attic of my great grandparents home, there are two of a parade in Machias, my hometown.

The firetruck has 1926 Machias Fire Department on the side. I cannot read the side of the horse drawn cart. I am imagining what it was like to fight a fire with horses and no fire hydrants, hand pumping water from a source. Fighting fires was important as many Maine towns and cities were devastated in fast-moving fires in the early 1900s.


No one could forget the Great Fire of 1911 in Bangor.


Unquestionably the worst disaster to strike the Queen City, the Great Fire of 1911 reshaped the city’s landscape, burning 55 acres, destroying 267 buildings, damaging 100 more and causing $3,188,081.90 in losses and damage. The conflagration left 75 families homeless, most of whom had lived from Harlow Street to Center Street to lower French Street. It destroyed more than 100 businesses during a nine-hour span.”

Postcard Machiasport, Maine.

Circa Early 1900s. The back of the post card reads: The Hugh C Leighton Co. Manufacturers, Portland, ME, USA. Printed in Frankfort, O/Main. Germany.  Place the Stamp Here. One cent for United States, and Island Possessions, Cuba, Canada and Mexico. Two cents For Foreign. This side is for the address.


The undivided address side of the post card indicates that it was sold between 1901 and 1907.

My great great grandfather, Otis Witham Means, lived in Machiasport and raised his family there. His home can be found in the 1881 Atlas of Washington County Maine, not far from the seashore, just up the hill from where the Gates House stands now. The home of Otis and Elsie Means was torn down years ago. A neighbor told me the house was expansive, had a wide porch with space to drive the lorry under the roof, and huge rosebushes grew around it.

On the 1881 atlas map, follow the seaside road through the village headed towards Bucks Harbor, turn left, O. Means house is the second house on the left.


“The port” was a favorite place for the Means family in Machias to visit in their lorry in the summer. My grandmother Harriet wrote about it in her 1908 letters.

Related posts:

My Great Great Grandparents’ Family

My Great Great Grandfather Otis Witham Means

My Great Great Grandmother Elsie Fuller Berry Means

My Great Grandfather William Means Sold Overland Automobiles in 1911

Today, I decided to (gently, very gently) peruse old newspapers kept in the attic of my great grandparents’ home: two copies of the Machias Valley News Observer published in 1936 and 1937. I failed to locate an article that explained why these were kept for 80 years, at least this time. Then I moved to a copy of the Machias Republican, April 22, 1911. I’m still not sure why this newspaper was kept over 100 years.

But, I made a discovery.  Continue reading “My Great Grandfather William Means Sold Overland Automobiles in 1911”