Wednesday, April 8, 2020

52 Ancestors - FIRE: Family Heirlooms

I come from a sentimental family that likes to save old things and repeat old stories. With that in mind, I am repeating bits and pieces of stories from my blog about some of our family heirlooms, all related to this week’s theme.

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away?


This fireplace grate belonged to my great-grandmother Mary Sudie Eppard Rucker. I am trying to imagine the day in 1958 when my grandmother and her sister and brothers stood around picking over their freshly-deceased mother’s dishes, jewelry, furniture and whatever else. My grandmother inherited many fine items, but did she really want Sudie Rucker’s fireplace grate?

I guess she did. Or maybe it was my mother who wanted it. My sister insists it was in our fireplace when we lived in Cradock and that it followed us to “the new house” in 1971.

A little over 50 years after Sudie Rucker’s fireplace grate came home with us, my sister and I stood staring at it, debating who would get it. Throwing it away was not an option - it had age, it had family history even if we didn’t know what that history was. I’m pretty sure I grunted and said, “What am I going to do with it?” But my sister had a vision for it.
Fireplace grate has become a planter in my yard.


I got the fireplace grate – my sister got this chair.
The Jollett fireside chair
It is a fireside chair from my great-grandfather’s boyhood home in Greene County, Virginia. That dates this chair to the late 1830s-early 1840s IF it were new then. I can imagine young James Franklin Jollett sitting in that chair while tending the fire under the watchful eyes of his parents Fielding and Mary Ann. Maybe Mary Ann took a rest now and then while stirring the stew.

While the seat and back are normal size for an adult, the short legs make it look like a child’s chair. I suppose children liked the chair because it did not require climbing; they could easily plop down with both feet firmly on the floor. 


This basket of antique kitchen tools has been on display in my kitchen for many years. Egg beaters, potato mashers, wooden spoons, and pastry cutters conjure up images of “woman’s work” and what my great-grandmother’s everyday life was like. I bet in her day Mary Frances Jollett Davis had all the modern conveniences.

She probably had a wood-burning stove like this one, a Majestic:
image from Google Images
I’m only guessing about the stove, but I have Mary Frances’ Majestic lid lifter that was used to lift the stove plates which covered the holes in her range top. 
The word MAJESTIC stretches across the flat part
but I could not get a good picture of it.

With this simple tool, she could lift the plate to stoke the fire or stir the ashes with the flat end. Admittedly it is not very glamorous or particularly valuable, but certainly it was important to keep it handy and not lose it.    

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Loved your blog. How wonderful to have so many treasures! I suppose we are related somehow as I have Rucker's in my paternal line.

  2. How neat you have so many treasures from your ancestors and how creative you have been in displaying them.


  3. LOVE your take on this week's prompt. Well done!

  4. I can see the attraction of seemingly everyday utensils that are precious because of their family connections. I have only a copper kettle that belonged to my great grandmother. I do like the way you used the fire grate as a planter - a constant reminder of family.

  5. My grandmother used to have a stove like that. I loved it! She used it year round to cook on, so during the summer her kitchen could get uncomfortably warm, but her delicious food made it worth it.