Carrie's Bracelet - Love is Eternal

Carrie's Bracelet

An amazing thing happened in 2011 while I was at my mother's house. She needed my husband Paul to inspect her windows in the upper room that had once been the attic. 
As we were cleaning them, she pointed out a pink gift bag sitting on the floor. Inside it were two ziplock bags of  jewelry. She couldn't remember right off why they were there, but after a few minutes said she had gone through her jewelry and put all this 'gold' aside to mail off to one of those 'we will buy your gold for cash' shams.

She was 86 at that time, and of the old school where you trust people. I gently explained they would give her so little for what her jewelry was worth. I convinced her to sit down with me and sort it out. So in the sitting room I emptied the baggies and shock filled me when I saw this gold bracelet that I remember seeing in a drawer when I was a little girl. It's not the most beautiful, but there is a romantic story behind it. 

Here's the conversation I had with my mother.

"Mother, I can't believe you were going to get rid of this?"
"Why? It's just a piece of junk."
"No. This is an antique family heirloom. Look here at the inscription." The bracelet has a tiny lock, the kind that looks like you need a key to open it. I released it, and the bracelet opens so you can put it on your wrist easily. 
"Mom, it says Monroe to Carrie 1885. Do you remember who Carrie is?"
"She was Daddy's great aunt, and Henry Horan's daughter." (Henry Horan was the superintendent of the Smithsonian Institute in the late 1880s and also helped procure animals for the National Zoo. He had nine children, six sons and three daughters. So, I wondered who Monroe was.)
"I remember now," Mom said. "Well, you can have that if you want it."
I thanked her and put it in my purse. I wasn't about to let a family heirloom get thrown out or sent to the gold-diggers.

At home I dug out of my files a packet that a distant cousin had sent me about the Horans. It was thrilling to see Carrie's photos, one on her wedding day, and the other a portrait. She looks so small, just a few inches taller than the chair she stood beside. Looking closely at her wedding picture she is wearing a bracelet and it looks the same shape as the heirloom. The image is fuzzy, but I was certain it was the same bracelet given to her by Monroe.

She married Monroe Conrad in 1886 at the age of 21, the year after he had given her the bracelet. They had two children, Harry and Monroe. 

Carrie died in childbirth at the age of 28. So very sad. Monroe placed his children with Carrie's sister Mary Ellen (my great grandmother) and her husband James. Why Monroe gave up his boys, I do not know. Perhaps his grief was so deep he could not care for them, and he felt they needed a mother.

In her obituary is a poem written by her husband, Monroe.
It is hard to realize 
That a life so true and pure
Is severed from us forever
When we thought is so secure

'Be kind to the children, Roe'
Was my love's last words to me,
 Before her soul's immortal flight
To a far and unknown sea

So Carrie's bracelet sat in my jewelry box. If she was looking down from Heaven, I hoped she was relieved Monroe's expression of love for her had not been destroyed. I wondered if there wasn't a direct descended of hers out there...a great great granddaughter who would love to have her great great grandmother's bracelet.

 April 16, 2011

Knowing my distant cousin, Therese, would have been interested in this find, I emailed her. She then told me Carrie was her great great grandmother and that everyone in her family wondered what happened to the bracelet.

I had the pleasure of meeting my cousin at my mother's house, with her mother Lucille and her grandmother Marion (97) who was married to Conrad, Carrie's son. Therese has done extensive research into the family tree on the Horan side, and she shared stories and photos with us. Carrie was her great great grandmother. I finally saw a photo of Monroe. To say he was handsome is an understatement.

Marion had a lot of stories to tell, and I wish I had more time to sit and listen to her family history. One story she shared was from the Civil War and I may use it in a novel someday. . .it was that compelling! The house behind them is called Woodlawn, and  is where Marion's mother was born. It is now a bread and breakfast in Virginia where they were staying while making rounds to visit relatives.

My mother brought out an envelope of photos. There were two tin-type plates, each a group photo. It is a mystery who the people in them are. Also in the envelope were four short pages written by my father about his time in WWII and a copy of a V-Mail sent to him by his mother in August of 1943.

Before Therese, her mother, and grandmother left, I gave her Carrie's bracelet in a pretty box. It belonged with her. Now this expression of love and devotion between two people who were obviously very much in love is back in Carrie's family where it will be treasured and kept safe for generations.

 I learned the bracelet was an engagement bracelet given to Carrie from Monroe. In his will he mentions a gold scarf pin in the shape of a key that went with the bracelet. One website featuring what were referred to as 'gate bracelets' says the following.

The Victorian Gate Bracelet History:
Originally designed in England in the mid-1800's during the reign of Queen Victoria, Victorian Gate Bracelets mimic the barred gates found in the castles and estates around the English countryside. Queen Victoria became a collector of different designs of these bracelets that bear her name. The original heart padlock, also drawn from the locks on castle and estate gates, was a working lock and key. The Victorian lady would give the key to her lover as a symbol of their enduring love for one another.

Copyright @ Rita Gerlach