The old carpenter's bench sits against the east wall of our utility and furnace room in the basement. It stands as strong and straight as it did 150 years ago when Alberta's great-grandfather acquired it in the mid-1800's. He may have built it himself for he was a carpenter and cabinetmaker.
"Grandpa Greiner's Work Bench in 2005"
He, John Jacob Greiner, came to Bridgewater, New York about 1847 and soon afterward married Henrietta Lieber Carbon, the daughter of Anton and Elizabeth Lieber, and widow of George Carbon. They raised nine children, four of whom were Carbons and five Greiners.
His old carpenter's bench has been in use ever since that time, through four generations. Upon the death of John and Henrietta, daughter Matilda, and her husband, Andrew Jones, took it with them to Oneida.
Andrew left it to son, LaVerne Jones and his wife, Claudia Johnston. From them it went to daughter, Alberta Jones, who (luckily for me) became my wife in 1946.
The bench is an antique, all right, and its condition shows the wear and tear of the years. In the antique business "condition is everything" when considering money value. But in that, you're just talking $$$. Each of the digs, gouges, scars and paint stains on its seven-foot-long surface are a part of its history. They tell the tales of it's past. Each blemish has an unknown story behind it. They denote its character and lifetime experiences, as do the lines on an old person's face. Here, a chisel slipped, there, a hammer missed its target, or a nail driven too far through a board.
We can only guess at all the projects carried on by John Greiner. There was just one of his pieces that Verne and Claudia had saved, one of John's dresser/cabinets which they passed on to their oldest daughter, Gwendolyn Jones Fulmer of Decatur, Georgia. We also know that John used the bench in making his living as cabinet-maker in Bridgewater
We know very little about Andrew Jones' use of it.
LaVerne Jones built many things on that bench, the basket cradle for Fay, our first born, the doll crib built later for Jill, and dozens (maybe hundreds)of all kinds of things.
And I know all of the use I have made of it. I also know I added my share of the marks that contribute to the stories the old bench has recorded on its surface.
"Left End Vise"
"Right End Vise"
The vise at the left end of the bench with its soft wooden jaws holds my wood sculptures firmly in place without leaving a mark or indentation. At the other end the "extendable vise" will hold boards of various lengths for jointing, planing, etc. The wooden "screws" of both vises allow a snug tightening, and are still in good condition with remarkably few chips or cracks.
After more than forty years of marriage John and Henrietta Greiner died April 22, 1891, both on the same day. The death record lists cause of death "old age", and that they had both been "afflicted for eight days" (Must have been rapid aging).In both cases a secondary cause of death was stated as "LaGrip". During that period severe bouts of pneumonia, "grip" and other flu-like ailments were rampant in the Bridgewater area and without doubt caused their deaths. The doctor, who reported most of the deaths there, seemed inclined to report the primary cause of many of them to be "old age" and the other ailments just contributing factors.
Alberta and I are in our 80's. Soon I will not be adding any more "damage" to the old bench top.
Will anyone else?
Is it, at last, to be consigned to the woodpile?
Or will it have still more generations' stories line its face?
Charles E. Page Oneida, New York February,2005