52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 8:
Family Finds Charter Oak


This week I am highlighting two heirlooms I recently inherited from my mother. My mother passed away this last spring at age 98. She crafted many beautiful handmade quilted wall hangings, and handwoven fabric items over the years. These she left to family and friends as keepsakes and mementos. But, the two heirlooms I received from her are the pocket watch that belonged to her maternal grandfather, Homer Milton King, and her childhood doll.

Homer’s Watch

I have previously written about my great-grandfather Homer Milton King, 1864 – 1932 [1], including the story of his death. Homer did not have many possessions, but he did have a pocket watch. I do not know where, or exactly when, Homer purchased the pocket watch, but I do know he was the original owner. I presume Homer’s widow, my great-grandmother Ella Rumple King, 1869 – 1962 [2], took possession of the watch at Homer’s death. I don’t know why she did not give it to one of her sons. At some point, probably in the 1950’s, Ella gave the watch to my maternal grandmother, Edith King Dyer Enyart. In turn, Edith gave the pocket watch to my mother, probably around 1978 because that is the first time I recall seeing it. I remember being surprised the 80+ year old watch still worked.

The watch is in excellent condition, it is the usual sort of 19th century pocket watch that requires being ‘wound’ in order to keep time. I imagine my great-grandfather winding the watch daily, and keeping it in a vest pocket, despite it weighing 5oz. Using the serial number inside the watch I discovered it was made between April and August of 1889. It is a model number 1883 manufactured by the American Watch Company of Waltham, Massachusetts, later renamed the Waltham Watch Co. I found a couple of old advertisements from 1889 for this watch company and it appears local retailers sold this model for $10 to $25. Since the decoration on this one is very plain, I’m guessing it cost closer to $10. And, the pocket watch still runs when it is wound, and now is more than 130 years old!

American Waltham Watch advertisement, 1889
Homer King 1885

The photo above is a small tintype of Homer King taken probably near the time when he bought the watch.

Grandfather's Watch, face
Grandfather's Watch, back

Mother’s Doll

Like many depression-era children, my mother did not have many toys. So, even when a toy was damaged, she continued to value and keep it. This is the story of the doll. The doll has a body of stuffed leather, but the feet, hands, and head are porcelain. The head was damaged not long after my mother received it as a Christmas gift. My mother says she continued to play with the doll for years, but eventually the rest of the head became further damaged and removed altogether. After that, my mother kept the doll as a sort of childhood memento. Then, in 1965, my father took the doll to the Doll Hospital for a new head. The Doll Hospital was located at E. 21st and Rural, near Massachusetts Ave., in Indianapolis, probably where the I70 and Rural exchange is today. I don’t recall much about the establishment, but they had a number of very old dolls on display and evidently had a going business of repairing dolls and stuffed toys.

Betty LaFara 2015
Betty Dyer 1930 6x8

My father had the doll repaired, and my paternal grandmother, Pearl Osborne LaFara, 1893 – 1972, made the doll a new set of clothes. They gifted the repaired doll to my mother for Christmas in 1965. I wish I had a color photo, or even a better photo, of the doll with her new head and clothes. The dress and underclothes were of pink satin, and the cape was black velvet lined with the pink satin. I believe my grandmother also made little black velvet shoes for the doll. I do not know what became of the dress and cape, which is too bad. And, I am not sure if the replacement head from 1965 was new at the time or salvaged from another doll.

Doll close up

In 1967, my father built a display case for the doll. He crafted it from maple and glass. The doll was made to stand up in the case and it was hung on the wall where my mother could see it everyday. I also do not know what became of the display case. But, this is how I mostly remember the doll, in it’s display case tempting me to take her out and play with her. The outfit the doll is wearing in the photographs below is made from some of my mother’s handwoven fabric that she fashioned into a skirt and jacket. The undergarments were sewn by my mother, but the shoes are store bought. The doll’s body is over 90 years old, and the head is at least 60.

Mother with Doll and Case, 1965 and 1967
Doll with eyes closed
Doll sitting with eyes open


I plan to display both these heirlooms in my china cabinet so that I may enjoy them every day. I do need to make plans for who should have these heirlooms when I am gone. That sounds grim, but I like to imagine them, and the memories, living on, beyond my lifetime.

Previous Posts

  1. 2020 Week 14: Water about the death of Homer King
  2. 2021 Week 40: Preservation about keepsakes
  3. 2022 Week 3: Another Favorite Photo about the photo of my mother holding the doll in 1930.


  1. Profile for Homer Milton King, ‘Osborn‘ family tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/5107442157/facts
  2. Profile for Ella Rumple King, ‘Osborn‘ family tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/5107441017/facts


  1. Paula Keyes

    What wonderful heirlooms!

    • Barb LaFara

      Paula, Thanks for reading and leaving a note!

  2. Karin King

    Such nice stories Barb! And how amazing that the watch still works! I especially love these stories about Homer….who is also my great-grandfather!!

    • Barb LaFara

      Karin, I’m glad I can share these stories with my cousins. Thanks for reading and leaving a note.


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