Grandparents Will O. & Lizzy Lee

When my mother passed away in 1994, I was her only survivor and inherited everything she owned. Among her things was this tiny little replica of a kerosene lamp. I always thought it had been something I had as a child because I remember seeing it when I was little. However, I recently learned what it really is from one of my first cousins. The story behind it makes it a treasure.

My maternal grandmother died when my mother was fourteen years old, leaving behind six living children and a son she’d lost when he was three years old. He died three years before her own death. The family had been poor and each child was only given one gift on Christmas each year. They all had to work hard in the farm fields and my mother remembered carrying a lamp when she went with her only living brother at five o’clock in the morning to milk the cows. She carried a lamp because they didn’t own a lantern.

Mother’s Last Christmas Gift

My grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Murphy Lee, died at age thirty-seven from  measles. In addition, she had complications from tuberculosis she’d suffered with for three years. Grandpa used to walk his youngest daughter by his second wife down the road to the store often and he told her stories about what a good mother Lizzie was and how hard it had been for her to be so ill and tend to their children. He also said she was part Cherokee. They’d been married twenty years when she died, having been married when she was seventeen years old.

As I only recently learned, this little light of mine was the very last Christmas gift my mother received from her own mother five months before Lizzie died. Each one of the children received one as their gift that year. The others have all been broken or lost over the years. Mine is the only one surviving and it is now ninety-one years old. What stories this little light could tell. It’s been around through six generations now. Let it shine.

Big lamp was my great-grandmother’s. Compare the size to the little gift lamp.


About jtzortman

Author of "WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW" - A Grandparent's Journey Through Grief, first place award winning novel "FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST", award-winning novel "SNOW ANGEL", and the three novellas in her The Drifter Series called JAKE - Whiskey, Water & Wildfire; JAKE-Winds of Change and JAKE-Echoes of Silence. The fourth book in the JAKE series is titled GHOSTED. Contributing author to anthologies "Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides", "American Blue", "Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook" and "The Centennial Book of The National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865". Numerous articles, poems and short stories published since 1990. Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Winner of ten writing awards. I live in a quaint Colorado mountain tourist town. When deep snows blanket the terrain and there are spectacular views from my windows, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.
This entry was posted in Antiques, Author Jackie Taylor Zortman, Family heirlooms, Genealogy, Gifts, Mothers. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jud Taylor says:

    I loved your story of the oil lamp’s history. Special objects belonging to our dear ancestors are very, very special to receive. Their lives will continue to survive in our hearts- and we can “walk with them” somehow, in our mind’s eye. Treasures forever!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jtzortman says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Jud, and leaving a comment, too.


  3. mmgornell says:

    I loved this post, too. I have a collection of oil lamps I’ve picked up here and there at antique stores, swap meets, etc. and for me, each has an unknown to me tale of love, or adventure, or even hardship from days long gone. Inspirational, to me. I’m thinking of referencing your post in blog forming in my mind for October…

    Thanks so much for sharing. Lovely.


  4. jtzortman says:

    Thank you for commenting, Mad. Yes, these old lamps have so many stories connected to them. I remember actually seeing the one that was my great-grandmother’s being used when I was little. I also remember it sitting in her living room until she passed away. I can’t wait to read your October blog.


  5. Pingback: Metaphorical Tapestries… – The Writers in Residence

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