Tag Archives: heirlooms

Heirlooms –The Oldest

As my brother and sister and I took out each precious antique, somebody wondered what the oldest heirloom is that we have had passed down to us.  We will never know how old my sister’s hand-carved wooden bowl is (although it looks like it could have been 17th century) or how old my brother’s pieces of pewter might be.

The Antique Chest Full of Heirlooms

But thanks to my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother, we have dates and names on nearly all the items in our 2x great grandmother Mary Bassett Morgan’s chest.  I wrote about Mary and her chest, and you might want to look at the history of its travels.

When my brother and sister visited recently, we opened the chest and saw this treasure trove.


Inside Mary Bassett's Chest

Inside Mary Bassett’s Chest

Since the chest itself belonged to 16-year-old Mary Bassett when she traveled to Ohio in 1826/27. It surely had been made some years before, and that makes it one of our older possessions. But there was a much older item to be found.

Finding Some Old Needlecraft

We saw this stack of cloth items, stitched loosely together with a note in the handwriting of our great-grandmother Harriet Morgan sewn on top.  She identifies a collar made on a loom in 1835 by her mother Mary Bassett Morgan (the original owner of the chest).  That means Mary made this lace collar when she was 25 years old, six years after her first marriage.

lace collar

Mary Bassett Morgan collar, stitched together with a cloth made by her mother.

Note o antiques

Harriet Morgan Stout’s note sewed to antique pieces.

lace collar made by Mary Bassett

A closer look at the loom-made collar and an embroidered collar saved together.

The note says:

Collar Made on loom in 1835 by Mary [Stout Platt] Morgan Killbuck

Not to go to Columbus   Holmes Co.

What Does That Mean?

Hattie Stout

Harriett Emeline Morgan Stout

That note takes a little explaining.  Why is this package “not to go to Columbus”?  When and why did Harriet Morgan Stout write this note?

Happily, I already sleuthed out the participation of Harriet and “Doc” William Stout in a huge celebration in Ohio to mark the founding of Marietta, Ohio’s first official city in 1788.  The statewide celebration included expositions in each county of memorabilia by “pioneers.”  Please read that earlier article, and see the newspaper article describing the festivities.

That celebration took place in 1888, so we know that “Hattie” Stout wrote the note that year.  And we now know that the reason it says “not to go to Columbus” is that these precious family antiques were not to go on the road. Mary Bassett Morgan, Hattie’s mother, was still living (she died in 1890) and she probably took these items out of her well-traveled wooden chest and loaned them to Hattie and Doc for the Holmes County exposition with instructions that they be returned safely to her.

However, the collar, now preserved for 181 years, is not the oldest item.  Underneath the collars, in the first picture, you can see a woven piece of cloth. It also has a note written by Hattie Stout attached loosely with thread.

flax cloth

Woven flax cloth


Harriet Morgan Stout

Harriet Morgan Stout’s handwritten note on the woven flax cloth.

The note written by “Hattie” Stout in 1888 says,

Spun & made by Grandma Bassett in 1796

H E Stout

not to go to Columbus        Killbuck     Holmes Co.

It takes me a moment to absorb that information.

Our Great-grandmother is identifying a piece made by HER grandmother, Elizabeth Stone Bassett, our three times great grandmother.

The cloth was made in 1796

  • 30 years after the Declaration of Independence,
  • 8 years after the founding of Marietta Ohio,
  • 92 years before the celebration of the centennial of the founding of Marietta,
  • 220 years before I unfolded the cloth and photographed it.

Elizabeth Stone, in 1796 when she wove this piece was 23 years old,  unmarried, and living in New Hampshire. Eight years later she would marry the last of our long line of William Bassetts. They had five daughters, including my great-grandmother Mary Bassett Morgan. If you click over to the earlier story about Elizabeth Stone that I linked above, you will learn that she died soon after she and her family moved to Ohio.

Unresolved Questions

I know nothing about lace making, and a quick search on Google showed me a wide variety of types of lace and types of looms on which to weave them.  If any readers know more about this, I would love to see what a loom would look like that was used by Elizabeth Stone.

I do know a bit about flax growing and use, as you can see in this item I wrote earlier about my husband’s ancestor Rudolph Manbeck. So Elizabeth may have been using a spinning wheel like this.

Spinning Wheel and Reel

“Charlene Parker, spinner, at Knott’s Berry Farm” by DTParker1000 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.









And of course we still don’t know if 1796 is the earliest heirloom that we still have in the family.

Others writings on familly heirlooms

This has been one of my occasional posts on Heirlooms. To see more, type heirlooms into the search box in the right hand column.

Other family history bloggers who write about heirlooms from time to time include:

Calendar pencil polished

The Propelling Pencil. Is It Counterfeit?

Mary Bassett's chest

Mary Bassett’s chest traveled from New Hamshire to Keene Ohio on a wagon, and 140 years later from Ohio to Arizona on a moving van. (The casters were added long after the original construction.)

When my brother and sister came to visit recently, one of the things we did was go through the antique clothing and miscellaneous belongs of grandmother, great-grandmother and great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother that have been packed away in this chest–some for more than 100 years. We were particularly fascinated with the “propelling pencil.”

Mary Bassett's chest

Inside Mary Bassett’s handmade wooden Chest


The chest itself is at least 190 years old, because the Bassett family traveled to Ohio about 1826, and we know that the chest made the journey with them. Over the years, more family treasures were added to the chest, like the propelling pencil we discovered.

I am still trying to determine the oldest items in the chest, but I do know that some were made by our great-great grandmother Mary Bassett Platt Morgan (original owner of the chest) The items include baby clothes of my great-grandmother and grandfather, who were born in 1842 and 1845–so those items are about 175 years old.

I mentioned Mary Bassett’s hand-made chest and the Bassett family journey to Ohio  and her father’s story , but have not yet revealed the contents of the chest (except for Great-Grandfather Doctor William Stout‘s certificates from Eclectic Medical College).


Inside the chest, the carpenter constructed a small compartment, presumably for smaller items like jewelry, pocket watches, and the like.  i remember from my childhood some doctor’s instruments stored in that compartment, but they are no longer there. I think maybe I gave them to my brother. (We have a running argument about who got the most family treasures.)

But here is what we found when we opened that compartment.

Mary Basset's chest

Contents of small compartment inside Mary Basset’s chest

On the left are miniatures of tintypes, then some collar stays, great-grandfather William Stout’s baby shoes (he was born in 1845), some identification notes, and a small silver object.  As you will see in the following pictures, what we later learned was called a “propelling pencil” did not look so shiny when we first noticed it.


Mystery Item

1. Mystery item found in antique chest

Before long, my sister discovered that if you slid the center ring down, you got this.

Mystery Item Looks like pencil

2. Looking like a pen or pencil

It was very small.

Size of Mystery Object

3. size of pencil before extension

4 center ring extends point

Some Internet research confirmed that this was a mechanical pencil, actually called “propelling pencil.” I was surprised to learn that mechanical pencils had such a long history. One article claims they were first invented in the 16th century, but a satisfactory lead–both thin and strong–took longer. According to Wikipedia ” This source says first patent for a refillable pencil with lead-propelling mechanism was issued to Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins in Britain in 1822. (Mordan soon bought out Hawkins and formed a British manufacturing firm called Mordan and Co. with stationer Gabriel Riddle. After 1836 Mordan operated the company alone.The company operated until a German bombing raid destroyed the factory in World War II and the company was formally dissolved in 1952).

My sister insisted that the hatch-marks on the end of the pencil must have a purpose, since everything else seemed to be there for a reason.  Research showed she was exactly right. It was used as a stamp for sealing wax.  Odd that such an advanced writing instrument as a propelling pencil co-existed with sealing wax.

End of propelling pencil.

End functions as a Stamp for Sealing wax.

Collector’s Weekly speculates that Sampson Mordan was also responsible for the numbers and letters that we see on our propelling pencil. “In the early 10th century, Vickery’s in Lodon carried everything from tricolor pencils to ones with calendars on their cases (These were likely made by Mordan.)

Calendar on Propelling pencil

6- a calendar with days and dates on turning rings

Experimenting with the pencil, we discovered that the first ring (on the left in this picture) represented the days of the week, and could be turned to line up with columns of numbers.  Here you see a month where Fridays fall on the 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, and if there is one–31st.

The cap at the top of the pencil screws off revealing an empty space with a solid bottom.  When we found that, we were convinced that this was a mechanical pencil ( a propelling pencil, it turns out) and that small compartment was where the leads were stored. Impressed with the ingenuity of this little pencil, I decided to find out if it was really silver, and polished it up.

Calendar pencil polished

7. Calendar propelling pencil after polishing

It was.

Although we have no direct evidence, I am convinced that it belonged to our Great-Grandfather Doctor William Stout.  From what I have been able to learn about him, he was always excited about the latest new ideas, and would have been happy to own this little tool. As to date, it would be in the early 1900s, when Grandfather was practicing medicine.


In order to get the numbers 1-31 in a grid with 7 columns, there are going to be four spaces left over in the bottom row.  On our pencil those squares are filled with the letters T A N V.  We still have not figured out the meaning of T A N V.

After reading the very informative site on all things Sampson Mordan, I suspect it is not the  Mordan “ever-pointed pencil”.  Our pencil may have been made by a company in America that ripped off the British company’s popular design.  In 1828 and 1829 the Mordan Company took ads to warn people about such nefarious activities.

“A warning to Merchants trading in Europe, East Indies, America, etc. about a spurious article made for sale in Foreign Countries.”

And their advertisements all warn that they use the Sampson Mordan company name or symbol on the real pens.  There is no S.M. or Mordan and Co. anywhere on our pencil. Furthermore, the Mordan Company put a number designating the thickness of lead near the point of the pencil, and ours has no such number.

Finally, the advertisements I have found for resale of the antique Mordan pens of this design feature either gemstones or fancy letters for seals on the cap rather than the simple hatch mark on ours.

I am hoping that one of the experts on mechanical pencils will be able to tell me what the letters T A N V mean and a probable date of manufacture.

But real or counterfeit, we consider this mechanical pencil a treasure because it was used by our ancestor and carefully preserved for one hundred years. Holding a pencil that was used by someone one hundred years ago definitely gives me the chills.

Suggested reading:

The story of Mary Bassett’s family’s journey to Ohio in her father’s story.

This has been one of my occasional posts on Heirlooms.  Other family history bloggers who write about heirlooms from time to time include:

Do you have an antique pen or pencil? Have you explored its history?

Cream Tea and Scones

I’m sure you have no trouble knowing what scones are, but there seems to be quite a bit of uncertainty about who first made them.  Was it the Scots in the 16th century? Was it the English? Is the name Gaelic, German or Dutch?

Whoever came up with the little cakes first, the British firmly embraced them for afternoon tea, perhaps as early as the 18th century , and then the British region of Devon came up with clotted cream from their Jersey cows, and although there’s no cream in the tea of a Cream Tea–the afternoon ritual generally includes scones, clotted (or Devon) cream. and strawberry jam.

I made AMERICAN scones.

tea and scones

Tea and Cranberry Scones and Lemon curd served on my wedding china.

Read how WRONG the scones are when made with dried cranberries (an American fruit, for one thing. Horrors!) and dusted with cinnamon sugar–the way I made them.  PLUS. I served lemon curd instead of clotted cream. And no strawberry jam. Heaven forbid.  The Guardian’s article about “How to eat a cream tea” had me laughing out loud. Perhaps I should be watching out for those “hounds of fury” that will be unleashed upon me by a afternoon tea purist!

However, the article writer at the Guardian is not a stickler for traditon. He does not like clotted cream, and much prefers double-whipped cream anyway.  I concur, having dumped a jar of clotted cream because it tasted “off.” Whoops–that’s how it is supposed to taste!

So make the scones or not–your choice.  But DO read the Guardian’s article on how to eat a cream tea. You’ll be glad you did.

And just a personal word of thanks to my daughter-in-law Rene for presenting me with a variety of teas and clotted cream, lemon curd and raspberry curd which inspired this article.

For more about my ancestors and tea, see this post.

Buttermilk Drop Scones

Serves 12-14
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Bread
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Region British
From book Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)
The history of Scones may be a bit fuzzy, and the toppings may be controversial, but this all-American version, drop scones using buttermilk and cranberries, is easy to make and palate pleasing.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or substitute raisins, currants or other dried fruit)
  • sugar and cinnamon (for topping)


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Melt butter in microwave, or by putting it in an oven-proof ramekin in the oven as the oven heats.
3. Whisk together all dry ingredients (including sugar)
4. Beat egg, add and beat buttermilk and melted butter (cooled slightly)
5. Mix in the dried cranberries or other fruit
6. Mix together the moist ingredients and fruit into the dry ingredients. Mix just until no dry ingredients show. Do not overmix.
7. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, place mounds of 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter at least one inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.
8. Sprinkle tops with sugar and cinnamon
9. Bake at 400 degrees until tops are golden brown about 15 minutes. Cool on rack.


Unless you are a stickler for tradition, your scones do not have to rolled and cut in triangles, and scones do not have to be served with clotted cream.  In fact, the scones with dried fruit (of your choice) do not need anything on top--although Irish butter would never be amiss, and I enjoyed my scones with lemon curd.


Family Heirlooms

Heirloom china Forest Rose

Forest Rose pattern Inside of cup and on salad plate

The plate and teacup in the picture above are from my wedding china, purchased in 1960.  The china is Hutschenreuther Forest Rose pattern, made in Germany.  Little did I know when we picked it for our wedding registry that it was made in Bavaria, the home country of many  of my ancestors.

This pattern is no longer in production. As of 2000, the Hutschenreuther line as been part of Rosenthal.   There is a very similar one called Continental made by Rosenthal, but mine has the hallmark and the distinctive pattern of the Hutschenreuther Forest Rose, with its gold leaf stem and leaves.

Heirloom china Forest rose pattern

Forest Rose pattern on salad plate

Description: A single white rose shadowed in gray, with stem and leaves in brown with gold leaf.  The hallmark Is a CM in a shield with 18 on one side and 14 on the other. Hutschenreuther and Hoenberg are inside an oval surround all of this, with Germany below the oval. This would indicate it was made in the original Carl Magnus Hutschenreuther (later merged and expanded several times). A more detailed history here.

china hallmark

Hutschenreuther mark on bottom of salad plate

This has been another in my occasional posts on family heirlooms–in this case family collectibles rather than more valuable antiques.

Other bloggers doing Family Heirloom stories: