Mary’s parents migrated to Georgia from the Orangeburg District of South Carolina. John’s grandfather, Valentine Cronic (also spelled “Granick” and “Kronick”) arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, aboard the Cunliffe in 1752 and was part of the early German-speaking community in the Orangeburg area. A similar signed and dated example in the Lexington County Museum in South Carolina suggests cultural continuity between the German families of South Carolina and Georgia.
In 1837 Mary’s father John was appointed a Trustee of the Union Hill Academy alongside Joseph Moon, Cash Willingham, Thomas Butner, William H. Wilkinson, Charles D. Ohelly, and and Jesse H. Davis. It is entirely possible that an artist and teacher associated with the academy created Mary’s chest. Mary’s father John died in 1844 when she was twenty-one years old.
In 1846 Mary wed Anderson Harrison Titshaw (1823-1888). The couple had seven children and divorced in 1882. Following Mary’s death the chest remained a treasured family heirloom for five generations. It descended to her son Simeon Simpson Titshaw (1854-1914), to her grandson John Anderson Preston Titshaw (1878-1967); to her great-granddaughter Willie Mae (Titshaw) Rumph (1919-2000); and then to her great-great-granddaughter. Correspondence with the chest’s last family owner recorded, “how ultimately precious it has been… one generation after another.” The last family owner recalled the rainy day when her mother “moved from the old… homestead… Momma wrapped the chest up as if it were me on the back of the old International Pickup truck… she rode on the back with an old piece of plastic covering it, along with all of the quilts she could possibly find.” The family also recorded the precious things it once held: the family bible, ration coupons, quilts, tools, and other family keepsakes.
The chest was conserved in 2016 by Andy Compton. At that time a later coat of dark-pigmented wax was removed from the surface to reveal the bright yellow, red, green, and white painted surface.