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TREASURES IN THE CLOSET: Local woman uncovers wealth of old-time trinkets, jewelry

By SERINA MARSHALL

Staff Writer

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History and heritage can be found nearly anywhere you look, even in forgotten luggage at the top of a closet.

Irene Mitchell and her husband, Samuel William Mitchell III (Sam), moved into their home shortly after Sam’s mother, Marjorie Shipley Mitchell, passed nearly 30 years ago.

“When we moved in everything was here, including the furniture,” Irene said. “Most everything is original to the house, and we wanted to keep that history.”

In addition to the furniture and knickknacks found in the 1914 brick home, Irene found something else that was original as well.

“I found a three-piece set of luggage at the top of the closet,” Irene said. “That’s where I found where she put the jewelry. My sweet friend, Dianna McKinney, helped me sort, find minuscule marks on the backs of the pieces and research them.”

Some of the jewelry belonged to Marjorie, while the rest belonged to her mother, Francis (Fan) Britton Shipley.

“It was when COVID began, I started going through it. We just didn’t have space anymore,” Irene said. “But my husband told me to keep it.”

The jewelry dates from around the 1850s to about the 1960s, with everything from shoe buckles

to vanities.

“Women in Jonesborough liked to shop in New York and Washington (D.C.),” Irene said. “There is even a box from New Orleans.”

The jewelry was stowed and kept in their original boxes, with high-end stores such as Julius Garfinckel, Woodward and Lothrop and John Wanamaker.

“Women wanted people to know that they were not country bumpkins,” Irene said. “They would get in a touring car in their fineries and hats to be seen downtown.”

One piece of jewelry that the ladies fancied was a small vanity that was worn on the wrist.

“They would wear these on their wrists to balls,” Irene said. “It had a mirror and their powder or rouge. Some had a place for a penny or nickel if they needed to call home.”

There are some pieces that Irene has found that have no markings or names. She calls these pieces “orphans.”

From opera glasses to hand mirrors and even a pair of dice the men carried on them, Irene has

hit the history jackpot right in her own home.

“It’s been a trip,” Irene said.