Gretchen Hope Kreamer was born in 1895 to Orville and Hattie (Richardson) Kreamer. Her parents had come from the Midwest and her father, an optometrist, owned a jewelry and men's clothing store in Independence. Her maternal grandfather S.W.P. Richardson founded the first Christian Church in the community. Her sister Madeleine was born in 1900, the same year Orville had a new home built on Walnut Street. Gretchen graduated 1916 from Oregon Normal School (now WOU) and continued to earn an MA in Education. Both sisters were teachers and taught together at Leslie Middle School. Maddy taught math and Gretchen taught music.
A page from Hattie Richardson's scrapbook
Museum label on Hattie Richardson's scrapbook
Calling card - Silas William Patterson Richardson
Gretchen passed away
in 1983 at age 88 and there isn't much else known about her other
than she never married. But, before she died, she did
something significant. She had a friend, (and fellow teacher) Vivian
F. Carr, donate a special doll to the Independence Heritage Museum in 1982.
The doll has a china head, hands, and feet (complete with painted boots and ribbons), probably made in Germany, and a soft body. The style of both the doll and pink satin dress date to around 1860. Young ladies usually received these dolls in their teen years not as toys... but to be displayed and treasured. This means it was already about 50 years old by the time Gretchen received her and was possibly a gift from a relative such as her mother, an aunt, or more likely, a grandmother.
She sits in a small chair in the Victorian style 'parlour' of the museum and visitors admire her. Some believe she has the spirit of a young girl attached to her... a ghost of a child about six (Isabelle) who wishes to play with her. Stories are told every year at the annual Ghost Walk. The museum has a few ghost stories, but Isabelle's doll is a favourite of many.
I was asked to donate to a recent fund-raising event to raise money for building a new annex. I wanted to paint something 'museum related' and first thought of the doll. I really enjoyed painting it and was relieved my hands didn't hurt. It was purchased by Robin, director of the local public library and this pleased me very much.
|My photograph and progress as I painted.|
When I told my friend Peggy, the Curator/director of the museum, I named the painting. “Isabelle's Doll,” she said, “Don''t call it (the doll) that... she will think she can play with it and break it!” I answered, “But if she were going to do that, it would have happened by now.” Peggy agreed. I like to think Isabelle is more of a spiritual guardian who watches over it and I hope she didn't mind me painting a picture of her doll.
|The finished painting|