Harriet Burnham was born on June 23, 1816 and died on January 1, 1874. She was the daughter, and twelfth child, of James Burnham and Anna Smith; just under two years later the Burnham family welcomed their thirteenth, and final, child. Harriet never married and worked as a schoolteacher for much of her life. However, there is no indication she taught in any of Windham's school houses. Three of her brothers: John, Asa, and James, operated Burnham's Mill in West Windham, which produced woolen goods such as flannel. The business closed after a few years. Two of Harriet's older sisters Sarah and Augusta lived together in a home they purchased near the center of town. The house still stands today at 17 Indian Rock Road. As Harriet Burnham's trunk was found in the home, where it was stored for over one hundred years, it is likely that she resided at the home at one time.
The label inside the lid of the trunk indicates that it was manufactured in Lowell by Samuel McLanathan. An 1849 directory of Lowell lists several trunk makers, including McLanathan who operated his business at 56 Merrimac Street. However, there are records showing that McLanathan in business as early as 1843. Henry L. S. McLanathan sold trunks not too far down the street at 102 Merrimac Street. Like Samuel, Henry also manufactured shoes. Both the shoes and trunks would have required a stock of leather, as well as a skilled leather craftsman, which both of the McLanathans evidently were. Harriet Burnham likely purchased her trunk from Samuel McLanathan around 1850. Her trunk contained a small compartment in the interior of the lid (shown below), which would have been used to stuff clothing or laundry into the top of the trunk. Originally, the entire interior of the trunk would have been lined with patterned paper, some of which remains on the interior of the lid. The trunk is referred to as a stagecoach trunk because it was often used as a seat when traveling. The top would have contained ample padding to make it comfortable for a long ride travelling down uneven roads.
Derek Saffie is an avid Windham historian who enjoys researching and sharing his collection with all those interested in the history of the New England town.