King Brown’s Gift: From New York to Idaho… and Back Again
This post is written by D. Joshua Taylor, President of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.
Among the many items I have gathered over the years, few are as precious to me as a handmade wooden chest that sits atop my bookshelf.
Cracked and nicked from many years of use, the chest was constructed from apple boxes by my second great-grandfather, Nathaniel “King” Rider Brown, and was given to his grandson, who gave it to his sister (my grandmother), who gave it to me when I was 12 years old.
Within my family, the simple chest connects four generations and is one of my most treasured links to New York.
King (as he was known by his family and friends) was born in Cornwall, New York, in 1870. In his youth, he sold apples from his family’s farm on the streets of New York City. Sometime in his mid-20s, he headed off for adventures in the Klondike Gold Rush. King used the boxes that had once held the apples he sold to cart his possessions west.
Though he did not find his fortune in the Klondike, he did find another treasure—my second great-grandmother, Hattie Jane Stiles. Both had family from New York but soon settled in Idaho where they raised their children to adulthood. Some years later King and Hattie became grandparents.
For one grandchild, Robert Quimby, King presented an extremely special gift: a wooden box constructed from apple boxes to be used as a toy chest. Though Robert Quimby passed away before my birth, I was told that the wooden chest was amongst his most precious belongings. His sister, my grandmother, held onto the chest with the intention of passing it (and the story of King Brown) along to a grandchild of her own in the future.
When I began my first genealogical adventures in New York, my grandmother gave me the box and passed along the story of King Brown, his time in the Klondike, and his tales of selling fruit from apple boxes on the streets of New York City. She also told me of her brother and the adventures they had found themselves in as children.
Through King Brown’s gift, my own New York story had been preserved and sat waiting to be rediscovered.
Many years have passed since the chest came into my home. Since then it has traveled with me across the country. It has seen the snow in Boston, the sunshine in Los Angeles, and now the vibrant energy of New York City. It seems extremely fitting that the chest made from apple boxes now sits in the same city where its maker had once sold apples on the streets. After more than 100 years and four generations, King Brown’s gift has returned to New York.
Today the chest holds some of my most treasured memories—handcrafted toys gifted to me by my grandparents on holidays and birthdays, memories of my own trips to the Klondike, and other small mementos from my genealogical adventures.
Though simple and a bit worn, the chest is part of my New York story.
Yet, King Brown’s gift is far more than the wooden chest that sits atop my bookshelf. It is a legacy of strength and adventures that connects multiple generations of the family—and will continue to do so for many years to come.
What treasures tell your family story?
Family treasures play such an important part in telling our families’ stories. They are shared from generation to generation and tell the stories of those who came before us.
One of the many ways we are preparing for our 150th anniversary in 2019 is by encouraging our community to share the stories, mementos and artifacts that mean so much to your family - feel free to leave a story in the comments, or send us an email if you're interested in sharing any of your family stories on our blog - I hope that you will share your story as well!
But most importantly, we need your financial support to continue connecting families to their New York history.
As you know, the NYG&B relies upon those with a fervent interest in genealogy, biography, and family history to support our education programs, website upgrades, webinars, publications, and new projects.
Please donate now to support the NYG&B’s annual fund; making your gift today can help ensure your story and the stories of your friends, colleagues, neighbors and community members will be preserved.
I hope we can count on your support this year as we begin laying the groundwork for the NYG&B’s next 150 years.
About the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
Since 1869, the NYG&B's mission has been to help our thousands of worldwide members discover their family's New York story, and there has never been a better time to join.
The cost of an Individual Annual Membership is less than six dollars a month, and includes the following benefits:
- Access to over 50 exclusive digital record sets covering the entire state of New York, including the fully searchable archives of The Record.
- A complimentary subscription to all of Findmypast's North American records, as well as U.K. and Irish Census records.
- Access to hundreds of expert-authored Knowledge Base articles and webinars to help you navigate the tricky New York research landscape.
- Exclusive discounts and advanced access to conferences, seminars, workshops and lectures to learn more about researching people and places across New York State.
To learn more or join us, please visit our member benefits page.