Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Coveted BEIN SPOON

Not BEAN spoon… Bein spoon. A once highly esteemed silver spoon, out of circulation and unknown for almost half a century, may be coveted once again.

Recently I visited my stepmother Mildred Cushman who is always finding “one more thing” of my father’s, found stashed away. She sheepishly handed me this tattered old envelope barely enveloping an old silver spoon… and a crude note scrawled with pen and ink on a very old envelope…

From the note we learn several previously unknown family facts.
There was an important spoon, passed down for CENTURIES.
Erwin’s and Edith’s and Jane’s and Mattie’s mother, Jane Bein Cushman, might have been called “Nanan.”
She might have had a sister known to the family as “Aunt Kitty.” This might have been her older sister Catherine.

Catherine (I think) and Jane Bein, from an ambrotype (photo on glass) circa 1860. I found and restored this very old and rare photograph, after finally identifying these two. I was even more pleased when I realized they were the owners of the spoon!

Their mother was Mary Milligan (Liddle) Bein. They believed the old spoon had belonged to their mother's mother, who would have been Sara Betz of New York.
And they chose to give this treasure to the one person who had no children to pass it on to...
But I know from personal experience that Aunt Edith,"Tante," took her custody of things-Cushman very conscientiously.  She gave me items belonging to her own husband, Dr. Russell Caffery, because I was named after him. It must have been tough, as there was not something for everyone.

"Tante." Edith Cushman Caffery.

I’ll never forget when she called me over and presented Dr. Russell Caffery's pocket watch to me.

It was, to me and to her, as if somebody handed me the “Holy of Holies.” I was around eight years old and barely knew who she was. I had just been told a great yarn about my ancestor Major George W. Durant, and was glad to meet someone who might have known him. She had known him, but he was from the other side of the family, and she was quick to point out that she had a father who had served in the Confederacy. This amazed me. She died not long after that. But it was as if she had given me something valuable in heaven. Now I have the spoon…Yes, tears gush as I remember this with you.

It’s not the spoon.

"Blessed be the tie that binds."

Whomever gets this spoon, will have to at least understand THAT.

Anyway, my read on this previously unknown artifact is that it once belonged to Aunt Edith, whom we knew as “Tante,” the youngest daughter of Basil Crow Cushman and wife of Dr. Russell Caffery.  It had been passed on to her not without some fanfare, as it was a revered vestige of her ancestry, from the Bein branch of the family… estimated by her to have been 200 years old in 1928.

So the spoon, believed to have been from the Eighteenth Century, would have been the oldest known heirloom in the family. For it to be that old, it could have been the soup spoon of any number of Bein ancestors, which dated back to Colonial times. It would have been passed down through Jane Bein, born in 1839, daughter of Dr. Richard and Mary (Liddle) Milligan Bein. Since they were probably not born until the early 1800’s, it is possible this spoon was in either the Liddle or Milligan families generations before anyone kept track. The notes read as transcribed:

(From an OLD envelope inside an aged envelope, on which was written;)


Antique spoon from Aunt Edie in 1928

Jane C.IP (in person?)


Presented to

 James A. &  Jane Rollins

Christmas- 1928 

My Dear Jane and Jim:

As I told Ralph & Nell

This may seem to you

a queer Christmas present

but if you could know

how Nanan & Aunt Kitty

Bein & all valued &

adored this particular

old spoon, which is

the oldest piece in

the family- as it first

belonged to Nanan’s

mother’s mother. They had

A hard time deciding

Who to give it to & when

I finally got it-I felt flattered

so now I feel you are the

next in line for it- so

please use it & care


for it &

enjoy it &

then hand it down

if it lasts

that long.


Aunt Edith

It now


200 years

of age

I think


I can only surmise, that like many things, the item was given to my father because he was the namesake and had three sons, and Aunt Janie wanted him to have it, guessing he might find a suitable person to hand it to, to keep the spoon in context… And Mildred ended up with the de facto honors, and she chose me because I was standing there. Now, if Tante’s calculations were correct, the spoon is around 286 years old!

Needless to say, I am unworthy, and lucky and yet honored to hold it for a moment… and looking for the next possible steward in this ancient chain…

And needless to say, if you leave a comment on this particular blog… that will put your name in the hat!

Note: Internet research reveals that there was a Harland silversmithing family in Norwich, Connecticut.  Watchmaker, jeweler and silversmith, Thomas Harland is credited with the manufacture of the first watch made completely in America. His production of wares required a dozen helpers by around 1790. So it is possible Tante's calculations were not too far off. Thomas Harland is known to have apprenticed many American silversmiths, including two of his sons, Thomas and Henry. It is their maker’s mark on the back of the spoon. Henry moved to New Orleans where he produced silverware from 1815 to the 1830’s, and this is most likely the origin and time of manufacture of the Bein Spoon, making it at least 180 years old... and possibly 220 years old.

1 comment: