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It’s nearly Thanksgiving as we finish this issue, and
my thoughts turn to spending the holiday with my
family because our get-togethers always involve
sharing food, fun, and laughter. Several stories in this
issue also have a family theme.
In our Eye on Antiques column, we look at the seed
pearl jewelry women favored from the late 1700s until the
end of the 19th Century. Mothers gave seed pearl sets to
their daughters when they came of
age and young men bought sets for
their brides. Those sentimental connections
assured the survival of many
of these fragile pieces.
Two features talk about family
homes at opposite ends of the economic
spectrum—the Schock homestead
in Pennsylvania and the Rice
house in Massachusetts.
When Bob and Susan Highfield
began looking for another house to
escape encroaching development, they
found both a house and a second family.
(Empty-nesters for a decade, they
have a son who lives in Florida.) The
Highfields took on their third old
house restoration project when they
bought the two-story log house Jacob
Schock built in 1739. Jacob prospered,
owning 185 acres of prime land at his
death. His spacious, sturdy house sheltered
his descendants until the 1960s.
As the Highfields restored the
house, they got acquainted with Jacob’s
descendants, who shared their
records and recollections and followed
the house from its dismantling
to being rebuilt on a new site. Grateful
the "old homestead" had been saved,
descendants invited the Highfields to
attend the family reunion. The Highfields returned the
favor by hosting the 2007 reunion at the newly restored
home. During the event, Susan recounted, a Schock descendant
came up to her and asked her how she was related
to the family.
"We’re the owners of the house. We’re
not related," she told the man, who responded, "You are
The 1782 Rice house, a rare survivor that researchers
at Old Sturbridge Village documented and reconstructed,
enables the museum to show the small houses that predominated
in early New England and tell the stories of
families who barely subsisted in structures no bigger than
a modern garage.
Blacksmith Jesse Rice expanded his meager house
twice but fell behind on his mortgages and eventually lost
the house and his shop. Subsequent occupants, mainly
renters, fared little better, never expanding the house beyond
1,000 square feet and decorating
only with a bit of paint and
The article that brought family
to my mind describes the widespread
pastime of playing cards in early
America. Church and civic leaders
tried to ban it as a vice that led to
gambling, but it proved too popular
with people of every social and economic
In my family, getting together
usually means playing cards. A longstanding
tradition at Thanksgiving,
we learned how to play Michigan
rummy, hearts, and sevens as we
grew old enough to master strategy
and shuffling (though my left-handed
brother always dealt from the bottom
of the deck). We played more for
fun and bragging rights than the few
pennies we might take home at the
end of the night.
The year my mother inadvertently
tucked pinochle decks into our Christmas
stockings gave us a new game and
led to memorable winter nights when
we (Mom, Dad, Jimmy, and I) would
set up the card table as soon as we got
home and spend hours playing.
Now my siblings and I enjoy playing
these games with our children. I’d like to think Jesse
Rice escaped his troubles by pulling the table close to the
fi replace and laughing with his children over a simple
game of cards.
The entry deadline for the 2023 Directory of
Traditional American Crafts has passed. We are now processing entries and submitting
them to our jurors. We will contract entrants after the jurors have made ther decisions.