Category Archives: family

Silver and Stones: New Use for Heirloom Silver

In the process of moving and de-accessioning a lot of my china, glass and silver heirlooms (Dec-accessioning sounds so much better than “getting rid of”), I rediscovered one of my favorite silver pieces. It will stay in my new home, because I found a new/double life for it.

Some Silver Heirlooms Are Not Favorites

I am amused at the way that Victorians had a piece of china, crystal and silver for every purpose you could think of. There was the dessert fork, the pickle fork, the olive fork, the fish fork. And besides the dinner plate, salad plate and dessert plate, there was a bone dish to delicately dispose of the bones from your chicken or fish. When it came to service pieces, you could get a glass and silver plate pickle castor, complete with tongs to grab a pickle. Note that the end of the tong is a little hand.  I don’t know whether this is clever or creepy.

Pickle Caster

Pickle caster–Hattie Stout. Late 19th century.

This pickle caster belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout. She gave it to Jenny McDowell King who gave it to her daughter Alice King who gave it to Vera Stout Anderson who gave it to my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser. (Alice King was a cousin of Vera Anderson’s husband Guy–not a blood relative of Hattie Stout, but apparently close to the family.)

Some Silver Heirlooms Become Favorites

But I digress.  The piece I want to show you today is a spoon holder.  And since it is too small, at 7 1/2″ at the very tip of the longest point, to comfortably hold regular teaspoons, I have to assume that it held demitasse or coffee spoons for fancy tea parties.  This silver dish belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout, passed down to my grandmother and then my mother. Unlike the pickle caster above, I have kept this one polished.

Hattie Stout’s silver spoon holder.

In the next photo, the maker’s mark shows lightly.  Even with a magnifying glass, I had trouble seeing the entire name of the maker, but could make out Van B—- Silver Plate Co., Quadruple Plate, Rochester New York, 350.

Silver Spoon Holder Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark on bottom of spoon holder

Dectective Work on the Silver Heirloom

A little internet detective work quickly revealed that the company name is Van Bergh Silver Plate Co.  They apparently used quadruple plate on many of their creations–making them more lasting than those with only one coat of silver plate.  The “350” is the catalog number for this particular design.  I could not find any matching pieces on line.

A site that helps people find missing pieces of silver or china is particularly helpful in getting information on companies–particularly those that have gone out of business or sold to another company.  Checking Replacements Ltd, www.replacements.com, I quickly found the Van Bergh company and saw many of their beautiful creations.  From various other sources, I learned that Van Bergh Silverplate  Company of Rochester, NY was founded by brothers Frederick W. and Maurice H. Van Bergh in 1892. They incorporated as Van Bergh Silver Plate Company Inc. in 1925, and merged with Oneida Community Ltd. in 1926.

That means Great-Grandma’s silver piece was made some time during a 34-year period.  Since the number of the pattern is small (I saw numbers in the 8000 range), I assume that this was an earlier piece, which makes sense in that she was married in 1872, and her husband died in 1910.  Their greatest period of acquisition would have been between 1880 and 1900, when Doc” Stout had a successful medical practice. So I think a good guess is that this piece was manufactured in the 1890s.

From Ohio to the Tasmanian Sea

I have repurposed the spoon holder. (My guests would probably look at me strangely if I presented spoons for coffee in a fancy dish like this.)

The picture below shows Great-Grandmother’s spoon holder with rocks collected on the shore of the Tasmanian sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. So it becomes a reminder of my family past and my travels.  This little silver dish has come a long way in time and holds a collection that came a long way in distance.

 

Hattie Stout Silver Spoon Holder with stones from Tasmanian Sea

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell,  started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join her in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who also blog about heirlooms.

Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself  
Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog

Are you a blogger who writes about heirlooms (even once in a while)?  Let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your blog to this list.

Another Blow To Young Paul Kaser

Two final blows came to the young Paul Kaser as he made the abrupt transition from carefree youth to independent adult.

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser

Irene Kaser and Paul Kaser late 1920s

September 1926,If you have read the two previous stories about a letter and a life-shifting death in the family, you know that at 17, Paul left Millersburg Ohio to start college in Washington D.C.

October-November 1926. But shortly after school started, he was called home because his mother died. His father decreed that he could not go back to school.

April 1927. Therefore at 18 he was home, when his younger brother, Milton Kaser, got pneumonia and ultimately died. Not only was this a blow because he loved his younger brother, but now he had to live alone with his father. But that was not to last long.

Marriage License-Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser’s 2nd Marriage. To Mildred Dailey

December 1927.  Cliff Kaser, Paul’s father, married Mildred Jameson Dailey in Millersburg and they set off on a trip to Florida. I did not know her name until I found this marriage license.

The way my father told it, the woman his father married just wanted to go to Florida, so she married Cliff on the promise that he would take her there. Within a week, Cliff was back in Millersburg–without Mildred.

I have not dug deeply enough to find a divorce record, but their is a mystery hiding in this story.  I know from the records that Mildred continued to call herself Mildred Daily on census reports, and all official papers.  And when Clifford Kaser died, the death record listed Mame Kaser as his wife, and he shares a burial plot with his first wife, also. They both apparently wanted to forget that day in December 1927 when they were officially married.

That is the problem with family stories. You only hear one side.  And the essence of a story is that there must be a conflict between a “bad guy” and a “good guy.”  Now, maybe my Dad’s recollection is true and Mildred just wanted to get out of town. Maybe unemotional and strictly religious Cliff didn’t turn out to be the man of her dreams and she bailed.  But maybe Cliff deserted Mildred down there in Florida in a fit of pique.

Maybe they were just two lonely widowers looking for company when they married.  Cliff’s wife had died a few months earlier and Mildred’s husband had died at the end of 1925.  Find a grave says that the cause of his death was “alcoholism.”  If that is true, it could lead to all kinds of twists to the story.  But I don’t know.

All I have to go on are my father’s admittedly biased report, and some official documents.

At any rate–his father’s marriage and the brief trip to Florida disrupted my father’s life once more. At 19 he was thrown on his own, expected to find a way to make a living.

End of 1929-January 1930. Toward the end of 1929, back in Millersburg, and once again working on building duct work for furnaces, Clifford Kaser began to feel bad.  He had a hernia and went to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Mt. Vernon Ohio for treatment and surgery.  His death certificate graphically describes the cause and contributing factors in his death. Too graphically, for me to add here.  As my father said, he died of complications from an operation that today would be totally routine.  (Ironically, my father also died of complications of an operation).

Death Certificate - Cliff Kaser

Cliff Kaser Death Certificate

January 13, 1930. Paul Kaser officially becomes an orphan when his father dies. Paul is now approaching his 22nd birthday.  For more about his rootless life during the early years of the Great Depression see “Paul Kaser: No Permanent Residence.

A Life and a Dream Ended When Mame Kaser Died

In the last episode of my father’s life, I talked about the sad loss of his Fourteen-Year-Old Brother, Milton Kaser.   I said in that story that I would explain why my father, Paul Kaser, was at home in April 1927 to tend to Milton in his final illness, and why 1926 was both the best year of his life and the worst. Before Milton died, the seventeen-year-old Paul Kaser was to face a worse crisis–the death of his mother, Mame Kaser.

I used this picture in my last post. Mame is shown here just about a year before her death. She was only 55.

Keith Kaser and family

Clifford Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton and Keith with Cliff and “Mame” in front. About 1926

If you have read that previous story about young Milton, you know that my father, eager for knowledge, started college in September 1926.  I imagine that his mother, Mame Kaser, who stimulated his love of literature, pushed to allow him to go away to college. And I also am pretty sure that the fact he was attending a Seventh Day Adventist Washington Missionary college (now now Washington Adventist University) was a compromise with Paul’s strict father, Clifford.

Clifford was a practical man who had built a successful career as a “tinner” without any fancy education.  As the 20th century began and central heating replaced the previous fireplaces and Franklin stoves as a way to heat homes, Cliff made the move to “furnace engineer”, installing the duct work for the new heating systems.

So we now can picture Paul Kaser happily delving into Latin, Greek and ancient history in the chilly suburb of Washington D.C. when he unexpectedly receives a telegram in the first days of November from his father.  While I don’t know the exact wording, the message was simply, “Come home. Mother dead.”

Well into his eighties, my father would still bemoan the fact that his father had not informed him that his mother was ill until after she died.  Our family formed our opinion of Cliff Kaser largely on that seemingly heartless way to treat a young man who adored his mother. However, when–with a little help from another member of Facebook*–I discovered Mame Kaser’s death certificate, I realized that we might have a false picture of Cliff.  He didn’t tell Paul that Mame was ill because her death came so suddenly.

Mame Kaser's Death Certificate

Mary I. Butts Kaser Death Certificate

(Mary I) Mame Kaser suffered a stroke on October 28th (cerebral hemorrhage of right side of brain) and died October 31st at 8:30 p.m.  Since the stroke was on the right side, she would have lost speech and her left side would have been paralyzed. The doctor and family no doubt hoped that she would recover, as many people do. But the death certificate lists contributing factors as arterial hardening and high blood pressure, which were not treated as efficiently as they are today, and she probably never had a chance.

At any rate, it is easy to see that Cliff, in his practical way, could see no point in having Paul get on a train and rush home when the outcome was so uncertain. So he waited–until it was too late for Paul to say goodbye.

I can forgive Cliff for not contacting Paul earlier. I’m not so forgiving, however, about his next decision. He told Paul that he was needed at home now, and could not return to school.  Instead, he needed to stay in Millersburg and work with his father. Therefore in April 1927 when his brother was ill, Paul was home.

So between June 1926 when he graduated from high school and the end of October 1926 when his mother died, my father had faced what he thought were the high point (going to college) and the low point of his life (the death of the beloved mother Mame Kaser). However, as we have seen, five months later, another blow came when his brother Milton died.  At eighteen, life must have looked pretty grim.

In 1928, he faced another turning point, and to make things worse, the country slid into the Great Depression. Next time, I’ll explain the final incident that cemented his move from boyhood to adult.

It is also worth noting, that Paul Kaser died almost exactly 70 years after his mother. She died on October 31 1926 and he died on October 29 1996.

Less Is More?

*Note: For those interested in “inside baseball”, I’ll explain about finding the death certificates of Milton Kaser and Mary Isador “Mame” Kaser. I had searched Ancestry.com to find more information about the Kaser family, but it had been a while, so I decided to go to Family Search.org and see if I could find any documents I might have been missing.  

I particularly wanted to find the death certificates for Mame, Milton and Cliff, and one more document that I will be writing about next time.  I put in all the information and came up with only those documents I had seen previously. Then I Googled “death records 1920s Holmes County Ohio.” and followed the bread crumbs to a link to Family Search.org list that was supposed to contain death certificates. I entered Clifford’s information and came up with nothing. I changed the name to Cliff and found nothing. I knew his death year because I had an obit, a tombstone, Find a Grave and the index of death records for Ohio.

So I went to the Ohio Genealogy Just Ask! page on Facebook and posted an inquiry. Could someone tell me how to find death records for the 1920s from Holmes County Ohio–if they existed.  A member of that group almost instantly came back with all the records I was looking for.  How? She didn’t even go to the link for the specific collection. She searched from the main search page.  She entered LESS information about Clifford than I did. And although I had the specific death year, she expanded the search to a decade (five years before and after). I still don’t know how LESS information equals a better search, but there you have it. It worked.