Geneseo Museum opens Emma Wilson's bedroom

Lisa Depies
Angie Snook, curator of the Geneseo Historical Museum, stands in the newly opened ‘Emma Wilson’s Bedroom’ at the museum. Wilson grew up in the home that’s now a museum. Snook holds a book of piano music once owned by Wilson.

A little girl who grew up in Geneseo more than a century ago has a bedroom in the city once more.

“Emma Wilson’s?Bedroom” recently opened at the Geneseo Historical Museum.

The second-floor room previously was used as a records’ storage area for the museum’s genealogy collection. The public could only access the room if accompanied by a museum staff member. Now, all who visit the museum can peer into Wilson’s bedroom.

“When we built our addition, we relocated our genealogy collection,” said museum curator Angie Snook.

The change allowed a “new” room to be open to the public for one of the first time’s in the museum’s 12-year history at its current location.

Emma Wilson was the only child of George and?Jane Wilson, who built the south half of the house that’s now home to the museum. Her aunt and uncle, Hiram and Mary Wilson and younger cousin, Jenny, lived in the north side of the home.

Emma lived in the house from 1867 until her marriage in 1886.

The room now housing her bedroom has been documented as Emma’s actual bedroom, said Snook. A door off the bedroom opens to the servants’ quarters to allow the household help to care for Emma when she was a child.

Snook said the new display has been designed to resemble a child’s room from 1867, however the bed itself is from 1836.

The bed is a maple rope bed, stained walnut, said Snook. The bed was brought from the East Coast to Geneseo by one of the town’s original settlers.

Though the Wilsons are a key part of the home’s history, the museum owns little that actually belonged to Emma.

“We have a wedding invitation and graduation announcement,” said Snook.

The museum also has a bound book of Wilson’s sheet music. A local resident spotted the book available for purchase on eBay

approximately five years ago. Snook contacted the seller, located in Kansas City, Mo., and offered to buy the book, after explaining Emma’s connection to the museum.

“I came to work a few days later and found a package with the music book. The seller donated it to the museum,” said Snook.

Piano sheet music, stamped with “Rummell’s Fine Music,” a Geneseo firm, had been bound into book form, with Emma’s name engraved on the cover. The book also contain’s Emma’s signature.

“The music is very hard, so she must have been a really good musician,” said Snook.

Emma left Geneseo following her July 6, 1886, wedding to Joseph Mitchelson of Kansas City.

The wedding was described in detail in the Geneseo Republic. The ceremony at the Episcopal Church featured an orchestra from?Davenport, Iowa, and five bridesmaids, including Emma’s cousin, Jenny.

A reception at the home followed the ceremony, with both the florist and caterer being from Chicago. The Republic reports a large pavilion platform was built in the backyard for dancing during the reception.

The couple honeymooned at Thousand Lakes on the St. Lawrence in New York before taking up residency in Kansas City.

After her first husband died, Emma re-married and eventually returned to Geneseo to care for her sick mother. Emma died shortly after her mother. “They say she died of a broken heart because all the people she loved had died,” said Snook.

Emma is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, but her story lives on at the museum.

“When students visit, we show them the (first-floor) nursery, and we always have one little girl dress up as Emma during the tour,” said Snook.

The Geneseo Historical Museum is located at 205 S. State St. It is open by chance or by appointment from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and has regular hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  on Saturdays. For more information, phone (309) 944-3043.