Holland Platter

The True Story of the Holland Platter
As told by itself.

Dwight Holland Plate

Sarah B. Laurie
1899

More than 250 years ago I became dimly conscious of my own existence, but so vague and misty are my memories of that far distant time that of my surroundings I have no distinct recollections.

The first thing that stands out as a reality is the day when I was lifted out into light and with several companions, similar to myself, was shown to a grave-looking middle aged couple who purchased us, with many other articles.

I learned from their conversation that they had left their native land that they might have freedom to worship God in their own way, and that with a company of others of like faith, they were going still further to a distant and unsettled country across the ocean.

We were carefully packed in a large chest and by for a long time, we were only conscious of strange sounds and tossing about and a fearful sensation of instability. After a time we were once more on solid ground, but we were so seldom taken out for use that we know very little of the life and circumstances of our owners.

It must have been a good many years after we left Holland when, after a short journey, we found ourselves taken out and placed in a row upon a self in an humble home and the young man and woman had come with several other families, to form a settlement some miles beyond the other colonies.

(This Timothy Dwight was one of the thirteen original land owners of Medfield, Mass. He was a member of the band of “selectmen”, for 18 years and was the first representative to their General Court. He died from wounds received in the King Philip’s War.)

Their lives were full of hardship and privation and constant dread of some unseen foe. Sometimes the alarm would be given and they would all flee to the fort of logs, which had been prepared as a refuge in case of an attack. One day the man rushed in, seized his gun, and told his wife to hasten with the child to the fort, for King Philip and his warriors were seen on the hill over-looking the town. In a few moments the house was deserted and soon we heard the yells of the savages and saw the glare of burning homes, and once, through the window I saw Philip himself as he rode on a large black horse, directing the work, but the appearance of a company of soldiers, who had been sent from Boston to follow them, frightened the savages and they fled, leaving only our house and two or three others of the whole town.

Soon our owners returned and with them others, whose homes had been destroyed. Many were mourning friends who had been slain and desolation prevailed in the once happy village. Our home was sorrowful, for the husband had been wounded and died, leaving his widow with one little boy.

Years passed and the boy, now grown a man, brought his young wife to the home, which had been enlarged and improved as years had brought peace and prosperity to the colony, and this young man occupied a respected and honored place in the community.

(John Dwight, son of Timothy Dwight, inherited his father’s homestead and was also a prominent and influential man.)

In time a large family of sons and daughters gathered around their board and sometimes, on festive occasions, we were used, but the every-day dishes were kept in the shelf below us and were of pewter.

It was a sedate, industrious Puritan family but we watched their coming and going and their daily homely occupations and our lives seemed part of their lives. We became acquainted with their neighbors also; often listened with interest, as they were gathered about the great open fire, to the tales of their hardships and dangers, especially as connected with the Indian wars.

But the children married and went to homes of their own and grandchildren began to visit the old home. Little Kezia Plimpton especially, whose home was near, was a great favorite with us, because she was never tired of admiring us and hearing how her great-grandmother had brought us from Holland.

One day when her arm ached, with polishing the pewter dishes, her mother rewarded her by promising a visit to her grandmother, and soon she was once gazing at us and saying, “ Grandmother, why are not all platters like those; then my arms would not ache so?” Her grandmother smiled, and lifting me from the shelf placed me in the arms of the little girl, saying, “ There is one Holland platter for your own. ”

Too much delight and astonishment to speak her thanks, the little girl dropped her “curtsey,” and ran home. I was given a place of honor and looked down upon another family as they grew up and passed to home of their own.

Kezia took me with her to hers, which was on a large farm, not to far away.

(Kezia Plimpton married Henry Harding. She was a granddaughter of John Dwight and the daughter of Kezia Dwight and William Plimpton.)

It was a busy home and there were grave and stirring times in the land, for our colonists had not the liberty in the land they desired and were engaged in war with the mother country and Kezia’s husband was in the army for a time and I was sorry when I saw her sad and anxious face.

But after a long time, peace returned and the husband was unharmed, and life went on as usual. The children were growing up, one son and two daughters, one named Kezia for her mother and grandmother, was my favorite.

Among the relatives who often visited the home was a distant cousin whom I noticed was treated with great respect, for was a student of college at Cambridge and after that studying medicine with a great doctor in Boston. I learned too that he was only son and had a home and large estate and that he would practice medicine in his native town and that he would take Kezia to share that home. Soon there was a great spinning and weaving and packing of chests, and all would soon be ready. One day they were all busy in the orchard and the doctor was there. I could see them through the window and I heard the doctor say. “Why here comes the minister. Why not be married right here in the orchard and not have any fuss about it? And they all declared she would not look any prettier in her wedding gown, but she said, “ At least let me take off my big apron,” which she did and they were married under blossoming apple trees and went away to their new home.

The mother was lonely for she was a widow and soon she left the farm to her son and went to Kezia’s pleasant home. Of course I went too and was placed upon the top self of the corner cupboard with glass doors, in the large living room. I was delighted with the change. In one corner was the long clock and by its side stool the doctor’s cane and we soon were well acquainted and very sociable. I told them my story and they told me theirs.

The old clock had lived a quiet life but the cane told many an interesting story of college days and of the great city of Boston, and whenever the doctor went to visit a patient or walk about his large estate the cane went along and had always something to tell.

It was a busy home, many people coming and going and three little girls came to make us all happy. But one sad day the doctor came in and said, “I am sick.” He went to his room and we never saw him again. In one short week the house was filled with sorrow and large gathering of friends from and near came to pay their last respects to the beloved physician.

All was changed. The cane was never taken from its corner by the long clock and never spoke again. New and unaccustomed cares pressed heavily upon the young widow. Time sped away. The old mother, too passed away and the little girls grew to womanhood, married and went to homes of their own.

Grandchildren came and went. The cane was regarded with awe and looked at but never touched. The old clock ticked solemnly and struck the hours in a slow tone and grandchildren always associated them with the grandpa who had died young and whose goodness and wisdom they had heard so much from those who had known and loved him, but whose name the grandmother never could speak. She often, however, told them the story of the Holland platter and I was regarded as a much more cheerful articles of furniture than the clock and the cane. But the grandmother was too old to keep house and the home was sold and she went to live with her daughter. I was sorry to leave my pleasant corner and mourned still more when I was shut up in a dark closet where I could see and hear nothing. Occasionally I was taken out and exhibited and admired and on one occasion careless hands let me slip and I fell with a crash, broken in three pieces.

Exclamations of regret and dismay filled the air and I was laid away, a sad wreck of my former self and gave myself up to melancholy thoughts.

A long time must have passed thus when one day and strange voice said, “Did you say my old platter was broken?” I was taken from my place of retirement and mournfully contemplated by my new friend. Pretty soon I felt myself being carefully fitted together again and, with the aid of some cement, I pulled myself together and hugged myself with joy. I was whole again.

Nor was I ever again banished to a dark closet. I have crossed the continent now, as long ago I crossed the ocean, and now have my home on the shores of the great Pacific. I occupy a corner shelf once more and, and look down upon the eight generation from those who took me from my Holland home to the “Wild New England Shore.”

In all these years I have learned a good deal. If I could tell I have seen and heard, the stories of the lives that have begun and passed on to old age under my eyes, they would fill many volumes. I have just touched upon them in this short story of my own life, because I do not want them forgotten by those who come after and for their sake I bespeak for myself the same care that they showed me in years long gone.

I feel the truth of the words of the poet, –

And generations pass, as they have passed;
A troop of shadows moving with the sun.
Thousands of times has the old tale been told.
The world belongs to those who come the last.

(The daughter of Kezia Plimpton and Henry Harding was Kezia Harding, who married Dr. Elias Mann, who died while still a young man. His ferule, several text books used in Harvard between 1796 and 1800 and a catalogue of Harvard for the year 1800 with the names of all the members of his class are in the possession of his great-great grandson, J. A. Laurie. His daughter, Amy Mann married George Fiske, mother of Mrs. J. A. Laurie, Sr., The writer of this story.)