Settle in for a mysterious story on this chilly Halloween…

By Sarah Pope – Executive Director

On a warm spring afternoon in 2009, a group of four archaeologists carefully removed a layer of dirt and mortar from a small nook between Menokin’s vaulted wine cellar and the exterior wall of the house.   A glimmer beneath the debris caught the eye of one of the investigators as he slowly worked with his brush.   What was revealed astounded the archaeology team and the staff of the Menokin Foundation.

The work diary of Thane Harpole and David Brown of DATA Investigations, the archaeology crew leaders, from the week of May 15, 2009 reads:

An amazing discovery occurred on Monday, when a small locket was found beneath the western first story window on the south façade, amongst rubble, but amazingly undamaged. The locket is porcelain set into a brass case with glass backing.  The object measures about one inch by 3/4” and is highly decorated with the bust of a Greek or Roman figure surrounded by consecutive borders of blue, gold, and 1-2 mm sized pink colored jewels. Within the locket, and visible through the glass backing, is a lock of hair. Based on similar objects in museum collections, this object dates to the late 18th-century and was likely associated with the Lees.   We have further research to conduct:  To whom did this locket belong?  Whose hair is encased in the piece?  Is it a mourning locket or a love token?  Many questions that we hope to answer in the near future!

 

The owner of the locket, the light brown hair lodged inside and the circumstances under which it came to be buried in that area of the house remained a mystery.   The following summer, Laine Crosby—an investigative medium who was staying at Stratford Hall—made a visit to Menokin.  Why not ask her to shed some light on the locket?   As Laine held the object, she brought forth several images she felt were associated with it: a young woman named Sally, who didn’t live at Menokin, but would visit for extended periods; the year 1794; and a strong uncle or brother figure.

None of these associations made any sense to me—Becky and Frank Lee didn’t have children, and a Sally and the year 1794 were of no known significance to the house.  The day following Laine’s visit, I dug around in the Menokin family genealogy and found that the second occupant of the house, John Tayloe Lomax who lived there from 1809 to 1818, had a sister named Sally, who was born in 1794.  Sally, her mother, and several of her unwed sisters came to live at Menokin after the death of her father.  I must admit, Laine’s reading of the locket took me by surprise—could it have belonged to Sally Lomax?

(Through my research to find “Sally”, I came to know her oldest sister, Judith Lomax—a real rebel who refused to come live at Menokin because she was “unwanted” there by her brother.  But that’s a story for another day!)

To read more about Laine’s visit to Menokin and the mystery of the locket go to this month’s House and Home Magazine.

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