Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Grandmama McKinley’s Rocking Chair

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, then they often become items that are tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.

Friday Night Family Heirlooms: telling their stories…


Grandmama’s rocking chair…. all new again!!! I love the carved design on the top – I haven’t seen that on other chairs.

Grandmama McKinley’s Rocking Chair

This small simple oak rocking chair with a cane seat always sat in my grandparent’s front room, which also served as their bedroom; how strange that must seem, but it was normal to me. My little rocker sat near the window – and seemed to wait for me – it was the perfect size for a young girl.

After mama gave it to me many years ago, I learned that this small rocker held more memories than I ever knew. Even though it’s not a very fancy rocker, this simple chair served its purpose. It was the very rocker that grandmama rocked both her babies, and probably me as well. My grandmother, Ola McKinley was a small petite woman, so I’m sure it fit her perfectly.

 Here is the chair with the original cane seat – notice the hole in the cane!

My mother remembers it being at their house when she was a young girl; it may have even been passed down through family, but that we will never know.

The rocker might have been re-caned  by our cousin Ulma McKinley, who owned the local general store in town and caned everyone’s furniture. I remember watching cane flow in and out of several chairs as she worked in the back of the store – right behind a big pot belly stove. And she always had an audience on the couch off to the side – several chihuahua’s would suddenly pop their heads up if you dared to sit on “their” couch.

It sat in my mother’s living room for the longest time, until it came back to the farm with her. I was excited actually find a photo of it in our house in 1969; not exactly sure what I was up to on the living room floor….

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Oh My… gotta love those plaid pants…

It came to my house in 1973 and I had the rocker stored in the attic for many years as I accidentally put a hole through the cane seat on a move to our apartment. I thought recently, what a perfect time to repair this little rocker and feature the chair as a “heirloom post.” My husband, kind of, offered to try his hand at caning vs paying someone, so we headed off to buy supplies..

He first refinished the chair, amidst first making several repairs to my poor neglected rocker. It was one thing after another – strengthening a rocker, adding a couple new spindles, cutting out the old cane and enforcing the holes to ready for new cane. One of the rockers had already been repaired; mostly likely my grandfather made that repair. This little rocker, had seen lots of wear and tear through the years, but it still has life left. A few days later, the rocker was brought up from the basement, repaired, refinished, and ready for a new cane seat.

After several You Tube videos were watched, cane sorted and tools gathered – the process began. I watched from my safe vantage point across the room: he was very diligent with weaving the cane  up and  down across the seat. After a few days, he began to pull out all his hard work – he was not happy with the progress as it wasn’t coming together as it should. If you knew my husband, it’s done right – or not at all.

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This first weave was just not lining up correctly – so out it came! You know when you see a mans tools being used as cane holders – that this is someone who knows what he’s doing!

He soon found another video on You Tube and thought this person showed the process in a better light – he had some experience now, so out came the cane again and the weaving started once more. By this time, I might have put the chair back in the attic or accepted it as it was, but not my husband!

It was only a few days of weaving the cane again, when I heard, “finally it’s coming as it should.” Unless you have caned anything, you don’t realize how many times you weave back and forth and sideways to achieve the final look of the small holes across the seat.

When you pick the right man for the job, well this is what you get – a job done right!!

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to read more stories…

© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with, has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons                              Blogger: Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Blogger: Kathy Rice at
Blogger: Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.



About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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7 Responses to Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Grandmama McKinley’s Rocking Chair

  1. treeklimber says:

    When you pass this chair on to family one day it will have another layer oof family history added to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You have either a very patient or very stubborn husband. He did a wonderful work restoring your rocker.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. janene65 says:

    There is a small rocker in my family also, these were nursing/sewing rockers. Made for women to easily sit in to nurse a baby or do their nightly sewing, thus no arms to interfere. My mother was rocked in ours as a baby and all of us in turn, I still hear the squeaking as she rocked back and forth. Your husband did a wonderful job on the seat.


  4. Pingback: Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: The McKinley Farm Bell | Everyone Has a Story

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