Lost Rice family wedding ring story reminder to keep memories alive

Carole Gariepy
 |  Special for The Gardner News

Niece Beth arrived last week with a packet of voices from the past. It contained letters, photos, and newspaper articles that her grandmother had filed away, likely they hadn’t been viewed in over 60 years.

Beth found them in some of her deceased mother’s things and wondered what she should do with them. Since my husband, Gerry, and I are the oldest living members of the family, she brought them to us to decide.

Beth’s grandmother was Gerry’s mother, Elisabeth Rice Gariepy. She was very good about saving family things, and as we perused the contents, we felt appreciation for the value she placed in preserving family history. I was mesmerized with the contents, personal ones and news articles, some even related to the Civil War. There’s one story that is very unique and worth sharing with readers. We’re so glad the story wasn’t lost, and “lost” is what the story is about.

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Sarah Nourse married Thomas Rice in 1774. While pulling flax on their farm, she lost her wedding ring. She and her husband searched and searched but to no avail. The sad story of the loss was not forgotten and was heard many times by their children. They were told that the ring was inscribed with the words, “Let love abide till death divide.”

Then, over 60 years later when a hired worker was digging a trench in the field, he saw something glisten in the dirt, stooped to pick it up and found it to be a ring. When he showed it to Francis, the son of Sarah and Thomas who were by then deceased, Francis examined the ring and was brought to tears when he read the inscription. How he must have wished his parents were there to rejoice!

The ring was handed down from generation to generation and brought to a Rice family reunion in 1899. Its story from that event was reported in the Worcester Telegram. We now have that newspaper article, also a very old undated letter about the story, and the 247-year-old ring with its inscription still perfectly easy to read. As we look at these treasures, they connect us to the past. I even feel the emotion Sarah must have felt about the loss.

This moving experience brings up a concern about the present. Will our descendants know our stories? This great age of electronics may cause our stories to be removed. Written letters are almost a thing of the past; emails have replaced them, and most of them get deleted after read. The daily newspapers are being replaced with online subscriptions. And when people have a photograph to show you, they take out their telephones. No letters to save, no newspaper articles to cut out, no printed pictures to show. We may be an erased generation.

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We need to think about stories to save. We can print out interesting emails, special features in the newspaper, and pictures of friends and family, then add our own personal reflections about them and paste them into a scrapbook. It will be a treasure for descendants many years from now.

The Rice family settled in Barre, so we will give the artifacts to the Barre Historical Society to be sure they will be preserved forever. Thankfully, Beth and past descendants recognized their value. We, too, have value. Let’s take steps to be sure our stories get saved.

Carole Gariepy is a Phillipston resident and author of “In Isolation.”