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Jorey Homestead
by Ruth O'Brien
January 1985 Issue/ The Long Meddowe Recorder

Cows grazing beyond the homestead, the sound of pigs squealing over there by one of the barns, and further on, beyond the blacksmith shop, we catch a glimpse of horses. Nearer the house, a young girl (isn't that Alma!) is scattering feed among the chickens.

A beautiful pastoral setting, on 35 acres right in the heart of Long- meadow, as it extends from Bliss Road to Williams Street, along Laurel Street.

Not a country scene today, we admit, but that's just the way it looked in an earlier part of the century.

The 35 acres are no longer part of the Jorey place but Alma, now 85, and her younger brother Caro are still there. And so is the well, now a town landmark in the side yard of the house at 253 Bliss Road. The old well still works, reveals Alma, although it has long stood unused. The well house was blown off in some long-ago storm, but the bell remains.

There's another well on the property, this one in the cellar and also serviceable, although no one uses it any more. When it was an important part of daily life there, a copper and wooden pump would bring the water up into the kitchen. And before that, a pail would be dropped down from the kitchen to fetch water. A deeply etched brownstone cover, four feet in diameter and six inches thick, secures the well. "We used to picnic down there by the well when Dad was alive," notes Alma. "It takes two men to lift the cover off the floor."

Alma's mother, Melissa Caro, rode the first trolley from Longmeadow to Springfield, about 1895. She and Fred Jorey were married in 1897. Alma graduated from Center School ("We'd just refer to it as 'the school'"), from Technical High School, and from Mount Holyoke College. She is retired from the actuarial department of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.

"The cows and pigs and chickens we raised for our food, but Dad couldn't bear to do the butchering - he'd go in the house and cry," reveals Alma. "But it had to be done, we had to live, and so a friend would come up from Connecticut to do the butchering.

Among her ancestors was a sea captain, some of whose handwork during long whaling voyages hangs, framed, in the dining room. His old sea chest is among the many family pieces.

Her great-great-grandmother, Martha Carrier, was the second woman hung in Salem for witchcraft. "I'm so proud of her - she knew she wasn't a witch."

Years ago the house began to tilt and the Joreys found the fieldstone foundation crumbling. When part of the foundation had to be rebuilt, the old stones went into the gardens. At the same time, part of the dirt floor was paved with bricks which came from old sidewalks being torn up in West Springfield and carted off. "Our carpenter saved them from being dumped.”

The villain was discovered in the huge willow tree (almost four feet in diameter), which had long stood so picturesquely right by the house. The roots had started undermining and cracking the foundation; one large branch growing over the house was breaking the slates on the roof. The tree had to come down.

The cellar still holds the original brick oven, which had helped heat the house and where the family did their cooking.

Town records indicate the house was there as early as 1774. Partially destroyed by fire, it was repaired in 1859. Alma points out the blackened boards on the walls in the attic, which reveal that the scorched wood was used to help rebuild: "They used every smitch they could."

A beautiful Tennessee rose marble fireplace in the kitchen-living room was also used for heating and for cooking. A small closet over the mantel would keep foods warm. Directly above, the second-floor fireplace received the excess heat as it traveled up the chimney.

Sometime in the 1800's, a coal furnace was installed with registers to bring central heating into every room.
In the buttery off the kitchen hangs an enormous collection of keys from every house the Jorey family has lived in for generations past. Here, also, are sets of wooden and tin canisters, and tin whaling lamps. On one shelf stands a solid brass sewing bird: the cloth would be clipped in its beak so the seamstress could move the material along more quickly and securely. Early wooden tools were used for several tasks, from pounding meat to rolling fancy pastries.

Beyond the buttery is what Alma refers to as the "Sunday-go-to-meeting" carriage room. "We had to have horses in those days - that's the way we got around." The room is now Caro's work-shop-den. Although retired from Turner, Inc., he stays on call to repair their television sets.

The attic has since been remodeled and some partitions removed to make half of the space into a big, big bedroom. Big enough to hold several choice bureaus and tables and chests. And two big beds, a favored napping spot for two big cats, one friendly, the other with a wary glint in his eye.

Philip Dill, a long-time associate of Alma's at Mass Mutual, restored every piece of Jorey furniture. Most of their relatives hadn't been interested in keeping the old furniture and would often give various pieces to the Joreys. And upstairs the pieces would go. "The attic was cram-jammed full. Dad and Grandfather were avid huntsmen - guns were their life. Dad would just as soon have broken up the old furniture for kindling, but Mother wouldn't let anything be thrown away."

And what things were saved! Bell Grecian chairs, some chairs with original caning, Hitchcock chairs, all kinds of chairs! And bureaus - many of them pegged, and tables, chests and boxes. In maple, mahogany, redwood, oak, pine, walnut and oriental woods.

Some of the larger chests are brimming with old quilts. Alma's most treasured one she kept out for many years, but has now put away because threads, revealing their age, began to wear. It is a parson's quilt, one of 13 quilts which one young lady in the family made in the year before her wedding. All the bride-to-be's friends embroidered their initials on it. The material is India chintz, one of the first items to be imported here from that country.

Many unusual boxes hold old photographs and mementos. Several shelves Phil Dill fashioned from bureau sections to hold fancy tin trays and pewter pieces among family treasures. Many also hang on the walls.
One beautifully restored box contains the family's extensive collection of silver spoons; another, the silver and china, and a pewter tea pot "heaven knows how old."

Lap secretaries, circa 1800, are edged in brass and lined in Italian velvet. Each contains many compartments including one for sand to dry the ink, and of course each has its secret drawer - no secret to Alma!
One of her choice pieces is a 16th Century pomander carved in olive wood from the Holy Land. Such pieces would be filled with herbs for citizens to hold in front of their nose and mouth to ward off the pestilence.
This attic is so inviting, with a lifetime in every corner! Here a child's sleigh nestled among old trunks, over there a lead flint glass basket from 1830 and a strawberry pitcher from 1840. A deerskin trunk stands out among many.

We come back downstairs and look through one final chest, this one full of family papers, letters, Bibles with their records of births, marriages and deaths. And then Alma, eyes dancing, plucks out one final antique: tucked behind the fireplace tools are - ice skates!

The once-beautiful Jorey gardens are only a memory. "I have the know-how and the desire, but I simply don't have the strength," says Alma Jorey.

But what a treasure-house of memories this wonderful lady has!


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Longmeadow Historical Society

697 Longmeadow Street
Longmeadow, MA 01106
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