Great Grandmother’s Wedding Gown kept by local citizen

Published 9:18 am Monday, February 6, 2017

By Anne Payne

The Orange Leader

When asked 10 years ago by an elderly Tennessee relative if he wanted his great grandmother’s wedding gown, Reid Caruthers of Orange responded with a definite, “Yes,” knowing he could one day pass it to his daughter and, later, his granddaughter.

The dress is over 150 years old.

Caruthers had the cotton prairie dress with a dainty rose print and the pink pastel bonnet preserved in a special box with tissue paper, both treated with appropriate materials to prevent deterioration.  Wedding dresses and veils were not then what we know them to be today, likely due to practicality and finances.

At a recent Golden K Kiwanis meeting at Sunset Country Club, Caruthers presented artifacts from the Civil War era of Tennessee where he was reared.  Old photos were displayed, including those of the bride and groom in later years, Isaac Newton Plumley and his wife, California, known as “Cali.” The black and white photos captured moments frozen in time of the couple, as well as one of the pair with their 12 children, a common number in those days.

Great grandmother Cali’s sister made the bridal dress, as well as the bonnet, as many women did in those hard financial times.  By luck, a granddaughter of Cali’s was fortunate to have the marriage gown passed to her through the generations.  That granddaughter is 96-years-old and still alert!  The granddaughter even posed for a picture in the gown, at one point, after obtaining the wedding ensemble.

Caruthers, a retired DuPont chemical engineer, his late wife, Chris, and their daughter made the trek to Tennessee after the death of Caruthers’ mother to clear her home.  All were surprised to discover forgotten photos, now treasures.  Meanwhile, Caruthers continues his interest in family artifacts of past days, but he fondly recalls them with enduring memories.