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The Amazing Sojourn of Lindley’s Trunk

February 14, 2012

He was born western Pennsylvania in 1801, ordained in 1831 and, with his wife, journeyed to southern Africa in 1834.  In southern Africa, they travelled overland from Cape Town to Griqua Town, Kuruman, Mosega, Thaba Nchu, Grahamstown and arrived in what is now kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in 1837.  He ministered to the amaZulu at Imfume, to the Voortrekkers at Pietermaritzburg and finally to the amaZulu, again, at Inanda where he and his wife founded the Inanda Seminary School for Girls in 1869.  The Reverend Daniel Lindley (1801-1880) and his wife Lucy Allen (1810-1877) certainly travelled around.  However, their luggage continued to travel long after they did!  In January 2012, after at least 140 years, Inanda Seminary celebrated the trunk’s homecoming.

In the mid-1800s, someone stamped “D. Lindley No. 3” on the front of an ashen blue trunk.  Therefore, one knows the trunk belonged to Daniel Lindley.  Tellingly, the initials “CGM” are inscribed in the upper left hand corner of the trunk.  Also, highly fragmented scraps of newspaper print dated “August 15, 1877” remain precariously glued to the inside of the trunk.  Careful examination with a magnifying glass reveals the newspaper to be The Sun, from New York City, in print 1833 to 1916.  These three clues reveal a substantive amount of information, but not everything. 

Many possibilities exist for the trunk’s initial travels.  Perhaps in December 1834, the Lindleys utilized the trunk as they journeyed from the United States to southern Africa as American Board missionaries.  Most likely, the trunk transported precious belongings in June 1859 when the Lindleys sailed home for their first and only furlough.  Perhaps in October 1862, the trunk carried some of the family’s only possessions when they returned to Natal during the United States’ Civil War because while absent their Inanda home burnt to the ground with all therein consumed.  Perhaps in April 1873, when the Lindleys sailed into retirement, the trunk carried many gifts given to them by his English, amaZulu and Dutch congregants to whom they ministered for almost forty years.

While clues to the trunk’s original travels remain undisclosed, its status in the United States is partially revealed.  In November 1839, Daniel and Lucy Lindley begot one of their eleven children, Sarah Adams (1839-1912) in Port Elizabeth.  In correspondences, Lindley often referred to his children by birth order and Sarah was “No. 3”.  As mentioned above, the Lindleys most likely utilised the trunk when returning to the United States in 1859.  It is likely that Sarah, the third child, inherited trunk No. 3 as her ‘hope chest’.  A hope chest preserved special keepsakes in anticipation of a young woman’s marriage.  Following her parents’ furlough, Sarah remained in the United States to teach in Rochester, New York.  In November 1872, Sarah married Clarence Green Mitchell (1826-1893) in New York.  The Mitchells begot Caroline Green, otherwise known as “CGM” (1875-1962).  In January 1877, Daniel Lindley had a stroke and by the end of the month lived in Sarah’s home on 228 West 38th Street, New York, New York.  By October 1877, Lucy’s health deteriorated, and she wrote in her diary:

Went up to the 3rd story to get some things out of a trunk and for a little time a rush of blood came to my head made me almost insensible.  I have felt very unwell for several weeks and it seems as if my strength had been greatly reduced.

The above clues likely place D. Lindley’s trunk at the home of Sarah Adams and her two year old daughter Caroline Green in August 1877.  Sarah Adams likely bequeathed the trunk to her daughter, Caroline (otherwise known as, Caroline Mitchell Phelps Stokes, whose aid and encouragement inspired the biography The Life and Times of Daniel Lindley (Epworth Press, 1949) and the mother to Bishop Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr. (1905-1986), a former Episcopalian Bishop of Boston. 

While it is difficult to discern the initial travels of the trunk, it is much easier to glean how it returned to southern Africa.  Caroline’s grandson, the Reverend Daniel Lindley Hatch, received his great-great-grandfather’s trunk following the death of his grandmother in 1962.  Hatch, who is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ (a descendent church of the same American Board that Daniel Lindley served), brought the trunk to Honolulu, Hawaii where he served as a pastor.

In 2012, fifty years after receiving the trunk, Hatch organized with Inanda Seminary and Riverside Church of New York City, the return of the Lindley trunk to southern Africa.  The trunk sojourned from Hawaii, to California (again), to New York (again), to Johannesburg and, finally, again, to Durban, South Africa where it rests, no doubt somewhat exhausted, on display at Inanda Seminary’s Lucy Lindley Interpretive Centre.  If only the trunk could speak.  What stories it would tell!

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