Friday, August 22, 2014

A Tale of Three Knives

I have three knives – old knives. I’ve known about these knives for as long as I can remember – ever since I was a little girl. Since then whenever I see one of them, I wonder who all could they have belonged to? They were my grandma’s when I was growing up, but did someone have them before her? I remember my grandma Porteous said they were brought over from England, and I think I believed that until just lately when I found them again in a drawer. They aren't in use anymore but was when I was a little girl.

They aren’t very pretty, but I’m not going to clean them up for any pictures. I’ll leave them alone because I know they are old and I don’t want to ruin the "use" marks showing on them now. They have had plenty of use over the years which could very well be over 100 years now. Grandma was married in 1895. I know no one has used them in the last 25 since I acquired them and stuck them in a drawer.


Two of the knives have names stamped on their blade. The middle knife with the horn handle is labeled Landers Frary & Clark with words Bread Knife above a triangle mark with the words TRADE MARK going up one side and down the other and inside the triangle is an arm and hand holding a forging hammer. What looks like ǢTNA WORKS under the company name.
A little web searching revealed and article in Toaster Articles “The Saga of Landers, Frary & Clark” by Earl Lifshey. According to the article, “George Landers, age sixteen, arrived in New Britain, Connecticut in 1829 looking for a job.” He went to work for a Josiah Dewey who had a small company “making cupboard latches and other hardware.” Dewey died and the company became Landers & Smith Manufacturing Company in 1853. By 1862, this “small but prosperous company made another of the many acquisitions” when it “acquired the firm of Frary, Clark & Company, of Meriden Connecticut.” The company name changed to Landers, Frary & Clark. Over the next century into the 1960s, the company was sold to the General Electric Company’s Housewares Division. “In the 1890s the trade name ‘Universal’ was adopted” and it introduced other “revolutionary household products.” After efforts to diversify, about 1965 the company was no longer. The cost of bringing new products to the market evidently was too much and “it was all over. Landers, Frary & Clark was now another famous name that had passed into history where, with the years, its former fame would soon fade away.”

This bread knife is fairly old because its trade name showed up in 1862 and was used until 1890 when the word “Universal” was stamped along with the trade name. My knife doesn’t have this word. This knife couldn’t be one from England because the company was located in Connecticut unless it was imported. I’m sure it was shipped to the midwest and sold in the Chicago area where my ancestors had settled. Who it belonged to before my grandmother is another question. My paternal grandparents William and Carrie Porteous were married in 1895. William’s parents John and Mary Ann lived on a farm on the west side of what is now Mundelein, Illinois and both passed away in the 1920s. Neither one came to live with my grandparents when or if they gave up the farm. Therefore I don’t think any of their household possessions were given to grandma. 

It looks like grandma’s parents John and Wilhelmina Snyder could have been the owners of the knife. They sold their farm in Fremont Center area west of Ivanhoe, Illinois and moved in with William and Carrie sometime after the 1900 Federal census. Great Grandmother Wilhelmina is the likely owner of the knife. I have the wooden bowls and paddles, etc. my grandma Porteous told me were her mother’s. I concluded the knife must have been great grandmother Wilhelmina's.

The top knife in the first picture has the stamped trade name I. Wilson, Sycamore St., Sheffield, England (barely make out England). The “I” actually is a “J” for John Wilson who inherited the company. It was common to see the letter exchanged like that in England. Next to the company name and street name is a trademark of four circles with a diamond next to it. They are called peppercorns.

The handle is two pieces of wood sandwiching the blade which extends in the middle of the handle; all is held together with six rivets in a pattern like 
. . :.
In 1937 there was an ad layout of a “medallion of knives” touting “John Wilson’s World Famous ‘Peppercorn & Diamond Brand’ which cuts as keen as pepper and carries an edge like a diamond – Butchers’ & Provision Dealers’ Cutlery Made from the Finest Guaranteed Double Shear Steel - Hand-Forged. The goods have an unbroken Reputation for Quality One Hundred and Eighty-seven Years. The Oldest and Foremost Firm in the World specialising in the Manufacture of Butchers’ and Provision Dealers’ Cutlery. “Established 1750.” Read about it at British Blades.

John Wilson is listed as one of the masters of the Sheffield Cutlers Guild, 1624-1905 (reference in the “Blade’s Guide to Knives & Their Values” page 117 found on Google Books . On page 323, there is a reference to how well-known John Wilson cutler was: “In 1803, on their transcontinental trek, Lewis and Clark had brought along dozens of John Wilson knives made in Sheffield, handing them out as presents and in trade, as well as using some themselves. We do not know what patterns the knives were. Evidently, both Indians and settlers considered I.WILSON to be a premium brand. Wilson butcher knives were made until about 1970, when thousands of unused examples were dumped on the collector market. The mark ‘HUDSON BAY Co.’ on some of the later knives is spurious [fake].”My Wilson knife more than likely is some sort of a small butcher knife, but it’s hard to tell because it has been sharpened so much its original shape is lost. 
The knife is from Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England. It could have been bought in the Chicago area; many Sheffield knives were shipped and sold in the States back then as they are today. It could also have been a wedding gift to William and Carrie. William was born in Sheffield when John was working there in the mid-1860s. Sheffield steel was considered the best for knives. So it is conceivable it was just a wedding gift from someone who knew.

That third knife will always be a mystery. I'm sure it is old. The blade's patina is similar to the other two. It also looks something like what Henkels could have produced late 1800s or early 1900s. I don't think their style has changed much, but without proof it's a Henkels, it is only a knife with three rivets holding two pieces of wood and the extended part of the blade together. There is no trademark stamped on it; I’ll never know if it is a vintage Henkels or not.

So, what does this have to do with genealogy? Well, not a lot except it would if you are a family historian who is just as curious about heirlooms you had been around all your life. It's putting "flesh" on the bones of your ancestors and not just about names and dates.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Where's Kelstern Parish Church Again?

Wandering around the Lincolnshire Wolds on a beautiful day was so pleasant. That area is so beautiful with its enormous rolling hills and small hedge-lined lanes, barely big enough room for two cars to pass. Our journey to that church had a little surprise for us. 

Bob and I were looking for the Kelstern parish church where in 1716 my 5x great grandfather Joseph PORTAS was baptized. He was more than likely born in neighboring hamlet of Lambcroft, but evidently this was the closest church which served a couple neighboring villages or hamlets. I wrote about finding his baptism entry in October 2012.

St. Faith's parish church according to Richard Croft is "In an idyllic wolds setting, St. Faith's has a Perpendicular tower, and Early English font and some good windows by Sir. Ninian Comper, all lovingly cared for." [Image: © Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence]

Well, we knew it is on a narrow road little a couple miles north of A631 somewhere between Ludford and South Elkington in the middle of the Lincolnshire Wolds. I had my map out and we got to the Kelstern Hall gate, but couldn't see any church. We saw a few houses, but no church. 

Kelstern is in the middle of the above map. Ludford, Lincolnshire is about 5 miles west on A631. South Elkington about 5 miles to the east along A631. To show you here the words would be so small you couldn't make them out. [Screen shot from Classic Google Maps.]

In the above screen shot starting in lower left corner, we drove past the first house -- Kelstern Hall and proceeded on but couldn't find a road or a church. We could see a few houses, but no town. We turned around and called Cousin Margaret; she'd know. She was laughing as I explained where we were. She knew exactly how we were to get to the church. [Image above is a screen shot from Classic Google Maps.]

Evidently we hadn't gone far enough; we couldn't see the road through a hedge. We came down the road on the right and made a quick right turn and then another to be on the lane which goes between the houses we saw from the upper road. The red car on the left is pointed to the lower road which will take us to the church. According to a comment on the Rod Collin's blog post (see bottom of this posting) this triangle was the "site of a gibbet. Also that the bodies of those executed were buried under what is now regarded as the village green...a triangle of grass in the middle of three roads." [Image above is a screen shot from Classic Google Maps.]

Coming to the end of the road which SURPRIZE! lead us into a pasture, we are stopped by a sign claiming "NO THOROUGHFARE  ACCESS TO CHURCH ONLY" -- so should we venture forward or not? Of course! Why did we come all this way any how? [Image is by me.]

There were sheep where we would drive. Hoping they would move, we slowly drove through following the road past the first clump of trees. On our right was Kelstern Hall a little beyond the trees. The sheep did move, but were a little perturbed we disturbed their nap time and told us about it -- BA! BA! BA!.  [Image is by me.]

Anyway we turned to our left and drove slowly up the hill to where we got a glimpse of the church through the grove of trees and bushes. There was a white rail fence surrounding the churchyard. We parked under the trees in a spot where there weren't any sheep and immediately a swarm of flies attached themselves to the car. Since he could get in and out of the car faster than I can... I sent Bob with my camera out to get a picture of the church. Thinking maybe we could drive into the churchyard if the gate was open. No. The gate was locked. I guess the best time to come is in the winter when there aren't any flies, but then the road might be impassable. [Image is by me.]

Bob managed to only get this shot of the church through the only opening he could find before the flies attached to him. Refer back to the beginning to see a better church picture. Luckily for us when he jumped back into the car no flies followed him. [Image is by Bob.]

We turned the car around and headed back to the main road. If you look closely to the light green grass in the picture below, you can see a few flies still clinging to our window. There were less and less attached as we drove on through the sheep pasture.

Leaving the church we drove back down the rutted road and could get a better shot of the manor house... Kelstern Hall built around 1860. According to a book I bought at a second hand store in Horncastle on a previous trip to Lincolnshire called "The Buildings of England - Lincolnshire" by Nikolaus Pevsner and John Harris, published by Penguin Book 1964, "Kelstern Hall is virtually all of 1860, but preserving Georgian work on the W front. The E front betrays the rebuilding of an earlier one, i.e. with two projecting gabled wings and gabled extruded angles." So there was another house before the one we can see above. I wonder what happened to it. Did it burn down? Are there parts of the old building being used -- like the foundation?  [Image is by me.]

He headed back toward what we think is the village. The original village of Kelstern, according to Rod Collins' blog post and comments, was nearer the church, but during the medieval times the "Black Plague" virtually wiped out the town, the surviving townspeople buried the village, and moved about a mile away to what we see today. [Image is by me.]

Rod Collins has a wonderful blog called "Lincolnsire thro' History, Life, Lens & Words / A Site About Everything & Nothing!"  On October 1, 2010 Rod posted about Kelstern church and village history along with a little on Kelstern Hall. It is fascinating what he wrote and if you continue down to the comments, those are equally as interesting. I encourage you to click on the blog title to go to that posting.