Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Mother's Little Rocker

My mother, Audrey Meinzen Doyle, is sitting in what has become a family heirloom. I can't tell if she has a little scowl on her face or if it's curiosity I see as she peers at us. I love the big bow in her hair, the little doll in her lap, and her plump little hands. I'm still surprised when I see photographs of furniture out-of-doors, away from its natural, protected environment inside a house or building.

This little rocker sat in our home all the while I was growing up, used by my siblings and me as we grew into and out of its size. It continued to sit in my parents' living room during the years little grandchildren visited and it remained there until we removed my mother's possessions from her home before selling the house. The little rocker came home with me; its sister piece of furniture, a little cupboard built of the same dark-stained oak, went home with my sister.

My mom was born in 1915 in Warren, Ohio, but after her first two or three years lived the rest of her life in nearby Mineral Ridge. I'm guessing the approximate date of this photograph as 1920 because Mom looks about 5. Could this be a birthday photo (she was born in June) with a birthday gift of the rocker?

Mom once told me that her grandfather made this chair for her but she never named which grandfather. In some families that might not cause uncertainty but in my family it does: both of my mother's grandfathers were carpenters! The grandfathers in question are her maternal grandfather, Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, left, and her paternal grandfather, Henry Carl Meinzen, right.

Edward J. and his wife, Mary Thompson, also lived in Mineral Ridge. In 1920 Edward J. turned 49 years old. He was a carpenter by trade, built homes, and was experienced with tools. Henry C. lived in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, in 1920, with his wife Elizabeth Armitage. Henry turned 83 in 1920. On nearly every record his occupation is different but on one record he was listed as a carpenter, on another as a wagon maker. Clearly he had carpentry skills. Considering the ages of the
grandfathers in 1920 and considering that Edward J. lived nearby and Henry C. lived some distance away, my guess is that Edward J. was the builder of Mom's rocker.

Until just a month or ago the little rocker sat bundled in our attic. I thought of it when the Abundant Genealogy theme was Family Heirlooms. Though it sits idle for the time being, with a grandbaby coming along it won't be too long till a little one will enjoy the rocker once again.

Click through to Sepia Saturday and see what photographs other participants have posted this week.


  1. Beautiful! Nothing better than an heirloom rocker. Like you, I'm always surprised to see furniture outdoors too, and I have several photos of kitchen chairs and dining room tables dragged out onto the lawn for a lunch or family reunion. I guess no one had thought of folding chairs back then. HA!

  2. How lovely to have something handed down which will now be used by the grandchildren. Let’s hope it keeps going for generations to come. I have photos of my own mother with big hair bows too!

  3. I love the way the threat of history is maintained in all sorts of ways. In so many of our posts it is maintained by an image (and that one of yours is a fine old photograph) but you also remind us that the thread can also be maintained by objects as well.

  4. What a wonderful post about a special lady and a special chair!!

  5. This is such a lovely story. The treasured chair, memories of your mother, even a mystery - what grandfather crafted the chair?

  6. Such a lovely post. What is it about rockers? They just seem to carry magic no matter where they are!

  7. How wonderful tom be able to keep handing down heirlooms like the rocker. We've moved around too much to have kept many things from earlier generations.

  8. That's a beautiful rocker and the fact that it is an heirloom made by a grandfather makes it extra special.

  9. The heirlooms we inherited consist of crockery items, no furniture. It's paintings that

  10. It is beautiful and is even more special because your great-grandfather made it. I'm so glad that it is out of the attic and congratulations on the new baby soon to be born!

    I have my rocker in our living room. I got it when I was one, and am now 53 so it's getting old. When I was 15, I could still sit in it; but those days are long gone, lol.

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us.

    Kathy M.

  11. Not only a family heirloom, but a handmade family heirloom. What a treasure.

  12. Such a lovely, gentle memory. When I look at chairs in thrift stores I wonder what stories they could tell.
    I'm sure this is not a new thought but should we all print histories like this one and paste them to the bottom of the seats? What a marvelous surprise for a future owner.

  13. Oh get that rocker out of the attic and put books, teddy bears, something in it before the next generation puts it to use. It is a priceless treasure to have when many of these home made antiques just disappear. I have one that I bought for 25 cents when I was pregnant with our son in 1964; it was old then and I still have it in the corner of our study today; many kids have used it but it is sturdy and so it now hosts teddy bears. I will post photos of it when we return from our trip...your post reminded me of that history.

  14. I remember seeing this in my room over Easter and was going to ask you about it, but forgot. I love the picture of grandma!


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