Thursday, January 30, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Old Homestead, A Clock and A Fire

I mentioned this clock in the post I did Tuesday. I had originally set out to write down a story about the clock but wandered a bit. In this post, I will try to stay on track so that this story does not get forgotten:

That this clock was rescued from a house fire is somewhat obvious when you look at the back of it where it is blackened. My father had told me of the two-story home owned by his grandfather, John Willis Watts (who died long before he was born). My dad said the kitchen was built away from the house and that there may have been a fire in the kitchen. My father told me that this clock damaged by fire probably came from that house, although my father is no longer here to help me with any more details unfortunately. He remembered there being a lot of old stuff in that house and wondered what became of it all. My dad also remembered his dad’s Uncle George having a house near them.

I had often listened and asked my grandfather (Cephas Bryant Watts, called C.B. or Clip) about the family, too, before he passed away. He told me back in 1991 (and I am going on notes I wrote down and not on memory which I’ve mentioned before can be faulty) that his father was afraid of fire and wouldn’t let anyone build a fire upstairs.  He also told me that he and his brother Pete slept upstairs and at one time a rat bit Pete on the ear. He also talked about the house itself and I remember wishing that it still stood so I could walk through it. But my grandfather told me that he eventually tore it down after he bought the homestead and built the house where my father was born in 1940. My grandfather did not even have a picture of the old house. According to my grandfather, the old house had a big room downstairs and a dining room. A closet door opened to a winding stairway that led upstairs to two rooms and a fireplace. That’s all I know about it. It’s long gone and so are my grandfather (1995) and my father (2009). I always wished I could have seen it.

In 2011, I met my cousin Julia online (see my post about that here) who descends from my grandfather’s Uncle Sam Watts. She shared with me an old photograph album that she had, originally from her Watts grandparents. I scanned many of the photos and recognized several of them. One of them was a photograph of my father as a small boy. One was a photograph of the home my father was born in. Directly opposite that photograph in the album was one of an older house with a chimney and a porch. There’s a man standing on the porch but the picture is too fuzzy to identify clearly. (There were other homestead photographs of Uncle Sam but this one was not the same house.) Could this be is the old home on the property that C.B. Watts purchased from his father, John W. Watts? Is this the house I’ve been longing to see? My father would know but I found this after he died.

I posted a copy of this photograph to a closed online family forum which a few of my dad’s cousins have access to and identified it as from an album owned by S.L. and M.A. (Wortham) Watts. I asked if anyone recognized it and said it was probably from the Sinking Fork/Gracey, KY area. One cousin said it appeared to be the old house on Uncle Clip and Aunt Amy’s farm, across the yard from their house and an Uncle Bill lived in it. Another cousin said she was correct and remembered going there as a child before they built the new house. The cousin also said that she thought the old gentleman who lived there was Clip’s uncle. Another cousin who still lives in the general area said no it was another family house in the area. I guess I may never know for sure, but my heart wants it to be the one.

There’s another part of this story, though. About the fire. I wrote a long time ago about the Radford Moorefield family who was kin to my grandfather on his grandmother’s side. His grandmother was a Chaffin and two of her sisters married Moorefield brothers. I knew a Moorefield child, Josephine, had died in a fire but I wasn’t sure when. This blog post here discusses my research and best guess that the fire probably took place about 1878. This Josephine Moorefield would have been a cousin to my great-grandfather, John Willis Watts. He was born in 1860 and so would have been about 18 when the fire occurred. This probably explains his fear of fire that my grandfather told me about. I don’t know if it was the same fire that did damage to the clock. I am thinking probably not, but it is interesting nonetheless. The time period could be right for the clock. The information from the card my father had said that the clock was manufactured by the New Haven Clock Company popular between 1880-1900 (the company was in existence as early as 1856). The card also said that walnut wood came into vogue in the late 1870s and that an exact copy of this clock is in the Henry Ford Museum. Maybe someday I’ll find out more.

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