Her Pitcher

Discussion in 'USMB Lounge' started by OldLady, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. OldLady
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    OldLady Diamond Member

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    I am in possession of my great great grandmother's syrup pitcher, a fancy jug for molasses or honey, that has been treasured by the women of the family since it was gifted to her as a wedding present in 1840. It's no great shakes of a pitcher, really, although an antique dealer told me it was a high-end item in its day. It has damage so it is not worth anything in dollars, but it's been worth everything to her daughter, and then her daughter, and her niece, and now me. Pretty much all I know of her is the story of the pitcher.

    I remember the first time I asked about it, when I was a little girl; the pitcher sat in the bowfront china cupboard of her granddaughter's dining room, and it always fascinated me. It was not only different from all the other china (my great aunt collected teacups) but the pattern boasted two jousting knights about to meet in collision. I thought "Pilgrims" (as far back as my knowledge of human history went at that age) and figured the pitcher had to have been from then. When I asked my great aunt if it had come from the Pilgrims, she said no, it belonged to her grandmother. She asked when that would have been and I guessed "The dinosaurs?" The whole table burst into laughter.

    The other reason the pitcher stood out in the cabinet was that it has a homemade tin handle that is attached by strips of tin around the neck and belly and that includes a hinge to hold the pewter lid on the top. The tin plating was once a good match for the pewter lid, no doubt, but it has oxidized and dulled now. It was carefully shaped and soldered by someone who knew their business, and although it is a pretty homely repair, all in all, it shows one very important fact: the syrup pitcher was too important to throw on the dump, even though its handle had broken off. I can only imagine the gale of tears that must have accompanied that accident, moving someone in the family to seek out a metal smith or a talented member of the family to piece together the unusual "rescue" that it received.

    I learned much later that when the town was evacuated as a forest fire bore down on the town, her daughter commanded the men to turn around and go back, because she had forgotten the syrup pitcher. They did as she said. They told that story whenever the story of the fire and the evacuation came up.

    Last night after I went to bed, I got thinking about what would happen to her pitcher when I'm gone; who I should give it to that would care about it and for it. I am the last of the line that cares, I think. Not only did THAT thought make me sad, but I couldn't remember my great great grandmother's name, and that REALLY made me sad. It's not my memory (at least not entirely), it's the patriarchy's record keeping that makes it so easy for the women in our stories to fade into ghosts. And to excuse me a little, I never researched that family line, although I certainly read it. So here's her story. Maybe one of you will remember it and it will be as good as hanging on to the syrup pitcher, I guess.

    My great great great grandfather broke from the crowd and moved here from a neighboring county in 1808, bought 140 acres on the outskirts of town and with a couple of brothers and his wife, he built a farm on the little river that twisted several miles to the sea, and he and his wife raised a family.

    His son "A," when it came time to marry, went back to "Town," to County F, to choose his wife. Most likely the wedding was there, since it was where her family was. She came with him to this nearly empty place, on the skirts of the barrens where the wind is always moving, her beautiful little syrup pitcher carefully packed in her trunk, to grace some homebuilt shelf on the frontier farm—or maybe she kept it packed away and only brought it out for special occasions.

    They had a daughter and then tragically, still in his 20's, her husband, son "A," died in the spring, just as the last patches of snow would have been disappearing from the woods deeper in.

    My great great grandmother, a young widow with a young child, did not go back home as many women would have done. She remained on the farm and—we don't know exactly how long afterwards—married Son "B," her late husband's younger brother (my great great grandfather).

    She bore seven children, four of whom did not make it to their 21st birthdays. In the 1880's, when her husband drafted several long letters requesting a Civil War pension as survivors of their son's death, he described her as "needing care" and unable to offer any assistance in running the farm.

    She died in the fall of 1886, just as the apple harvest ended and the leaves began to turn. She is buried in the family cemetery on the highest hill of their farm. There are no pictures of her, no stories except what the syrup pitcher and a few vital records that survived several fires can tell. I hope someone will still remember her, even if the syrup pitcher finally gets thrown on the dump.
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    Stoneware jug commemorating the Eglinton Tournament, by Ridgway Son and Co., Hanley, Staffordshire, England, 1840.
    Her pitcher also has a pewter lid.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  2. rightwinger
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    rightwinger Award Winning USMB Paid Messageboard Poster Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Nice looking pitcher
    Must have been an extravagance when it was purchased

    Sad that many young people do not appreciate their heritage

    Try ancestry.com
    It is amazing what you can find. They will have census records where you should be able to find her name
     
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  3. OldLady
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    OldLady Diamond Member

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    Oh, the first thing I did this morning was look up her name in my genealogy files. I'm gonna tattoo it on my arm or something so I don't forget it again.
     
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