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Postcards: Things made from wood date to a time when Ray settlers made about everything from trees that surrounded them

By Linda Emley

We live in a world where many things are made from metal or plastic, but this girl will always be in love with the wooden artifacts from our past. I’ve always been fascinated by wooden objects. I love the feel of wood and I love the design found in each piece because I know it took many years to make the growth rings we see in a tree.
I’ll never forget the first time that I was out cutting wood with my dad and he showed me the rings on a tree that had been cut down. He explained how some rings were bigger than others because that year there had been more rain than others. We counted the circles and found out that the tree was older than both of us. He grew up on the same farm, so some of our oak trees are the same trees he played under when he was young.

This hope chest, part of Ray County Museum’s collection, dates to 1712. (Photo by Linda Emley)

This hope chest, part of Ray County Museum’s collection, dates to 1712. (Photo by Linda Emley)

A few years ago, I got to walk among the redwoods in California when we visited the Muir Woods park north of San Francisco. We got there early one morning and it was so beautiful to walk among the trees and feel the breeze of the ocean.
Redwoods were once found all across the northern hemisphere, but now Coastal Redwoods only exist along a narrow, 500-mile coastal strip in northern California and southern Oregon. The tallest tree in the world is a California redwood that is 260 feet high. Most of the Muir Woods redwoods are 400 to 800 years old. Two famous movie scenes were filmed among the redwoods. Return of the Jedi had a scene that took place on the planet Endor and the other was in scene in Jurassic Park. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world but they are not the oldest.
I was amazed when I found out the oldest documented tree is a Great Basin Pine tree in White Mountain, Calif. A core sample was taken and it’s over 5,060 years old. The oldest undocumented trees are “The Sister Olive Trees of Noah” in Lebanon that are said to be between 6,000 and 8,000 years old. There is also a Norway spruce in Sweden named Old Tjikko that may be 9,500 years old.
I’m sure you might wonder what this story has to do with Ray County. When our county was first settled, there were trees everywhere. people built their houses out of wood and heated them with wood in their fireplaces. Most of their furniture was wooden, too.
Everyone had a knife and carved many things out of the tree branches they found growing in Ray County. Many of the toys for good little girls and boys were made from wood.
In the good-old days, most common tools and household items were made from wood because it was always available. I’ve been collecting these items for many years and will be putting them on display in the showcase at the Ray County Courthouse in the next few days. Please stop by and check out this collection because you will be amazed at all the things we have used that were made from wood.
When was the last time you used a wooden coat hanger? These items will be on display for several weeks and you just might find a few items that you have never seen before. Some are from collections we have at Ray County Museum. If you come visit the museum, you’ll find many other wooden items that were too big to fit in our showcase.
One of my favorite items is an oak hope chest that dates from 1712.
In all my research about Ray County, I can only think of a few times that wood was mentioned other than when it was used for a building. I’ve found stories about timbers being used in coal mines as supports. I even found one story where they found a petrified tree stump deep in the ground while digging for coal. I’ve often wondered what happened to that stump. I have a piece of petrified wood that came from Ray County, so I’m sure there are other pieces still buried here.
We have one old piece of wood here at the museum that was one of the early land markers for Ray County. I’ve been told that some of these were dug up and used for firewood.
When someone asked me which wooden item was my favorite and I told them it’s the old wooden spoon that has been used so much that it’s worn down on one side. This spoon belonged to my grandmother, Mildred Kell Schooler, and it is priceless to me because it took many hours of stirring to make it look like that. Someday I will be gone and I hope her spoon will be passed on to someone that will love it as much as I do.

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