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Way Back When

November 7, 2011

(The Spirit is pleased to share with our readers vignettes of life in the 19th century as originally reported in past issues of the newspapers. These reproduced stories include their original headlines and spelling.)

Local Intelligence
(April 1, 1896)

A SPINNING WHEEL IN COURT
A peculiar case was tried before 'Squire Wilson yesterday. It was an action to recover the difference in value between the frame and flyers of an ordinary little spinning wheel that were on when the wheel was loaned, and those that it was alleged had been substituted. About two years ago Adam J. Smith loaned to his brother-in-law I. E. Kessler, a spinning-wheel. Recently there was some little friction between the families, and Mr. Smith told Mr. Kessler to bring home that wheel. He did so.

But Mr. Smith claimed that it was not in as good condition as when loaned, another pair of flyer frames having been substituted. Some bad feeling was engendered, and Mr. Smith brought an action against Mr. Kessler to recover damages for the deterioration in value of the wheel, claiming eight dollars. The case was tried yesterday. Perhaps a dozen witnesses were called. W. M. Fairman was attorney for the plaintiff, and William Gillespie for the defendant.

The case was well handled on both sides, and was quite interesting.
The defense undertook to prove that the real value of the frame and flyers was not over fifty cents, and one of the witnesses who had some knowledge of the business, testified that a new one could be bought for that sum.

But the prosecution contended that the wheel was valuable as an heirloom and a relic, and Mr. Fairman grew quite eloquent on that point. The old wheel was there. He pointed to the treadle, worn, as he said, by the feet of the plaintiff's mother, who had long since passed to silence and pathetic dust. The music of the hum had hushed to sleep his little brothers and sisters. It had cooperated with a mother's loving hand to transform the fleece into warm stockings and mittens. It was associated with a thousand tender memories that rendered it of priceless value for its owner, and the paltry sum of eight dollars was small compensation for the damage it had suffered. It was one of the family, and as such was regarded with an affection that made its owner feel an injury to it like a wound to themselves.

There was not, perhaps, much in the case but a little bad temper, but Fairman's speech had a considerable tendency to bull the market in old spinning wheels. After the suit was over, which has not yet been determined, several men were heard to remark that they were going to get their mother's or their grandfather's spinning wheel, and keep it as a sacred relic.

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