Family Heirlooms: The Christening Gown of Oliver Tinsley Ray, Circa 1899
Many years ago, this lovely christening gown was sent to me from my sweet cousin, Cris, upon the birth of my now grown son. By the time I got around to trying it on my son at about six months of age, it was already way too small for him. So, to my dismay, he was never able to wear it. I packed it carefully away and then, sadly, forgot to use it when my daughter was born. Ugh.
Well, I recently discovered it again. I lovingly hung it in my bedroom and have enjoyed looking at it and thinking of the generations that went before me. It’s beautiful! Next to it is a framed photo of the baby it was made for with his mother.
This precious gown and its accompanying slip were worn by Oliver Tinsley Ray for his baptism. It is believed that he was the first to wear it but others may have as well. Either way, Oliver was born in December of 1898 in Americus, Sumter, Georgia—so this gown is at least 115 years old. It has beautiful handiwork and was made with gifted hands. A few moth holes are evident and minor tears can be found in its delicate lace but, otherwise, it and its slip are in amazingly good condition.
His mother, Lona Mattie (Tinsley) Ray, was about 35 years old in this picture in which she is holding little Oliver wearing his gown. The family attended Salem Methodist Church in Americus, so I can safely assume that this is where he was baptized in the spring of 1899.
This last photo was taken recently in my home and is of the gown as well as framed family photos hanging next to it.
In the past 25 or so years, at least two children who are the offspring of my first cousins have worn it for their baptisms.
Hopefully, someday, a grandchild of mine will be able to wear it.