John McMullan's Trunk

© by Ann Hunter Burkes
Used by Permission


Many families have a story that passes relatively unchanged from generation to generation. Sometimes that story relates a daring deed performed by a family many generations ago. Other family stories tell of the historical importance of family-owned property. In the John McMullan family, the story concerns a trunk.

I first learned about the trunk from reading the story in Albert McMullan's The History of McMullan and Allied Families. John McMullan came to America from Ireland about 1760. John had followed his brothers from their birthplace of Tralee to Dublin. In Dublin, John served as an apprentice, probably as a tailor, before coming to Virginia. In Virginia John married and began a family. During the Revolutionary War, this patriot served as a junior officer in the 11th Virginia Regiment. After the war, John was granted 400 acres of land in Orange County Virginia and lived there until he moved to Elbert County, Georgia.

When he traveled to the new world, John McMullan brought with him a trunk (or tailor's chest) made of cypress, which he used to hold the tools of his trade. After the death of John McMullan, the trunk became the property of his son Patrick McMullan and was then passed to his son William McMullan. William Marion McMullan, the son of William McMullan, was the next owner of the trunk, and it was then passed to his son William Jesse (Willie) McMullan. Miley McMullan owned the trunk for many years and it now it is in the care of Grayson and Bonnie McMullan of Hickory.

It seems incredible that one object could remain in a family for so many years, but a letter written by William Jesse McMullan on March 10, 1912, will help explain the care taken to see that the trunk remained in the McMullan family. The letter states:


"History of the McMullan Chest brought from Ireland to Richmond, Virginia in 1760"2

"It was carried on a wagon from Virginia to Elbert County, Georgia in the fall of the year 1797. After the death of John the P., it fell into the hands of Patrick his second son who used it for keeping his papers & money & whiskey, when he had but little.

"At Patrick's death, Aug 31st. and after his burial Sept. 1, 1836, his children held a consultation. When the business of the estate was turned over to his oldest son William, and as the chest contained his papers & valuables, William demanded of the widow (Stowers) his 2nd wife, the keys and he took the chest home with him. He, William, afterwards repaired the lid, hinges and lock and painted it.

"At William's death, December 20th 1855, it was taken in charge of, by his older son Jessie Pemberton who brought it from Elbert Co., to Newton Co., Miss. in the 1 st of 1866. He took the partitions or pigeon holes out and made a provisions box out of it on the trip, using the lid for a dining table. He afterwards used it to put clothing in and after his death 1879 his widow used it as before his death. Her home burned March 23, 1901. Her son Robert saved the chest the first article though nearly all of their goods was consumed. On the 10th of November she agreed to exchange the chest with W. J. McMullan for a nice trunk and November 18th the exchange was made, all parties being satisfied.

"This is the record given by W. M. McMullan, my father, at the age of 76 years, he being the last and only one that knew its history, or where it came from. It was his father that got possession of it in 1836 and he knew it well several years before. In the past since he could recollect, his father William was well up on the family history, having been born in 1792 and his son William Marion remembered most of it distinctly. Age of the chest 152 years this March 10th, 1912 and now it is to my heirs.

"This is my will concerning the old chest. Preserve it as best you can. Never allow it to be sold unless it be among yourselves. If ever the house gets on fire, by all means save the chest.

"Your Father W. J. McMullan, March 10th. A.D. 1912."

Through a prized possession such as the trunk, members of the McMullan family will be constantly reminded of their heritage; however, the real "mystery" concerning the trunk is: Did my great-great-great-great grandfather John McMullan REALLY use the tools stored in the trunk to make the first uniform worn by General George Washington after he became Commander-in-Chief of the Army? He was in approximately the right place at approximately the right time and was trained as a tailor... but whether he made the uniform or not remains unproven. Perhaps not knowing the truth is really part of the treasure left to us by John McMullan. As his descendants we can still take great pride in the service he gave to our country and dedicate ourselves to continuing to serve our communities and our great nation.

Footnotes:

2. Edited only for clarity.

© Copyright for these pages and the information contained thereon lies with the writer of this document. Reproduction or commercial use of any kind is strictly and expressly prohibited without permission of the author.


 

(from John Haynes Web Site)

History of the McMullan Chest brought from Dublin Ireland to Richmond Virginia in 1760. Was carried on an emigrant wagon from Virginia to Elbert County, Georgia in the fall of the year 1797. After the death of John the 1st., it fell into the hands of Patrick his second son who used it for keeping his papers & money & whiskey when he had but little. At his, Patrick's, death Aug 31st and after his burial Sept 1st 1836 his children held a consultation. When the business of the estate was turned over to his oldest son William, and as the chest contained his papers & valuables, William demanded of the widow (Stowers) and his 2nd wife, the keys and taken the chest home with him. He, William, afterwards repaired the lid, hinges and lock and painted it. At William's death, December 20th 1855, it was taken in charge by his older son Jesssie Pemberton who brought it from Elbert Co., Ga. to Newton Co., Miss. in the 1st of 1866. He taken the partitions or pigeon holes out and made a provisions box out of it on the trip, using the lid for a dining table. He afterwards used it to put clothing in and after his death 1879 his widow used it as before his death. Her home was burned March 23 1901. Her son Robert saved the Chest the first article though nearly all of their goods was consumed. On the 10th of November she agreed to exchange the Chest with W. J. McMullan for a nice trunk and on Nov 18th the exchange was made. All parties being satisfied. This is the record given by W. M. McMullan, my father, at the age of 76 years. He being the last and only one that knew its history, or where it came from. It was his father that got possession of it in 1836, and he knew it well several years before. In the past since he could recollect, his father William was well up on the family history, having been born in 1792, and his son William Marion remembered most of it distinctly. Age of the Chest 152 years this March 10th 1912, and now it is to my heirs.

This is my will concerning the old Chest. Preserve it as best you can. Never allow it to be sold unless it be among yourselves. If ever the house gets on fire by all means save the Chest.

Your Father W. J. McMullan March 10th. A.D. 1912

© Copyright for these pages and the information contained thereon lies with the writer of this document. Reproduction or commercial use of any kind is strictly and expressly prohibited without permission of the author.

 

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