Family Treasure (Chest) Appears (Miraculously!)

My grandfather, (John) Travis Dean (1880 – 1954) was a carpenter. Some of his (hand) tools were passed down to me by my father, John Brodie Dean (1812 – 1999). Others came from my cousin, Brian Belliss, who got them from his mother, Dorothy Dean Belliss.

I have a marvelous 18” wood plane, a 16” chisel, a hand drill and other assorted pieces, all stored on an old winebox.

A year ago, or so, while attending Dorothy’s 100 birthday, my second cousin, Art Evans, grandson of Travis’ sister, Naomi May Dean, said he had something I might want. I figured an old photo, maybe a letter…  No, he said, come over here. On the floor of the reception room at York Downs Golf & Country club, sat a marvelous 30” x 16” x 16” old wood box painted in a very dark, almost black, green with a brass clasp. Painted on the lid in gold, were the initials J T D.  Travis' Toolbox

“That’s your grandfather’s tool box from England!” “Art”, I said, “where did you get it?”  Art said, “you won’t believe this, but I was visiting the Johnsons in Barrie, and there it was!”   I had absolutely no knowledge of this part of my immediate family.

Art said: “Here’s the story as I understand it.”

“As you know, many of your grandfather’s family had worked on George Godolphin, Lord Osborne’s Gog Magog estate, just outside Stapleford.  Peter Sr. worked there, as did his son, Peter Jr. (who later became head gardener), and his son, my grandfather, {John) Travis.

When Lord Osborne became the 8th Duke of Leeds in 1859, he inherited Hornby Castle in Yorkshire. Many of the Deans worked there as well and continued to work on both properties for the 9th and 10th Dukes.

Sometime around 1895, my great grandfather Peter Jr. moved the entire family up to HornbyCastle to work on the estate. My grandfather, Travis, was a teenager, and became a carpenter on the estate.

He worked on the estate for several years where he met my grandmother, Agnes Brodie from Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland, who was the governess to the Osborne children.

For some reason, in 1906, Agnes left the employ of the Duke and immigrated to Canada – Toronto to be exact. A year later Travis followed, and they married here in Toronto in 1908. A year later, his father Peter and the rest of the family came over.

Before he left, he gave his toolbox (and maybe some of his tools) to his brother-in-law, George Robinson Johnson, who had married Travis’ older sister, Mildred Kate. George and his family came to Canada a year later in 1910, and he brought the toolbox with him.

They eventually ended up in Barrie, Ontario, about 50 miles north of Toronto. We do not know how much contact these two parts of my family had, or whether Travis was aware that his toolbox “immigrated” as well.

One hundred years later, Art on a visit to the Johnsons, recovered the toolbox from George’s grandson, Ron Johnson and brought it to me at my aunt Dorothy’s 100th Birthday party..

It has a metal label inside that says “J.T. DeanHornbyVillage, Yorkshire”. Only one iron handle on the end survives, but that’s all right. We’re using it as a fire wood box for our newly rebuilt fire place.


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