The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
Small packages can hold fascinating items, but sometimes these items raise more questions. This is the case in a very small object rediscovered as artifacts were being moved and packed for storage at the Fenton History Center. A box of items that had been on display in the parlor many years ago was ready for repacking and storage. The list on the box top included a "safe locket." This turned out to be a locket, but it was shaped like an old square safe, instead of the more common oval or heart-shaped flat locket.
This “safe” locket from the 1860s has kept both Mrs. Mary Langford’s image and hair safe for many decades. The locket is in the Fenton History Center’s collection.
This "safe" did indeed have a photograph inside. But did we know who it was? The paperwork associated with the donation told us the donor was Alleine Langford of Jamestown, and the photograph was of her mother, Mrs. Mary Lakin Langford. So that question was answered.
The photograph was in a frame within the safe. When the frame was removed, the space behind the picture was exposed. This held another surprise that is yet only suspected as being possible. The space held what looked like short strands of hair. This is possible in that a note on the paperwork says that the locket belonged to Theodosia Alleine Lawrence Lakin, the donor's great-grandmother. Theodosia died on Dec. 8, 1869. She was living during the Victorian period when wearing mourning jewelry was a common practice. Mourning jewelry often held some hair of a deceased loved one so that their memory was held close. Lockets could hold hair and a picture of the loved one. Rings and brooches were made to hold hair. These were different than the rings, brooches or wreaths that were made from the hair of loved ones, both still living or deceased.
Theodosia was born in 1788. She married Luther Lakin and lived in Sherman where their son Edward was born. Edward married Martha Miller. Their daughter Mary is the person in the photograph in the locket. Mary married Edward Langford, a jeweler in Jamestown. They were the parents of Alleine, of Jamestown and donor of the locket, and Fredric, who became a tenor living in New York City.
Another connection with this family and the Fenton History Center is the fact that portraits of Theodosia Alleine Lawrence Lakin and her husband Luther Lakin are in the collection of the Fenton History Center. They are in the front hallway of the Mansion over the large case from the 1922 class of Jamestown High School.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.