Life in Old South Central Alabama

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South of Birmingham, Alabama, United States
I am an antique trader in central Alabama....I love old houses... My log home was built in 1817 by my ancestors Benjamin and Hannah Harless Wilson .............. Outside the house are herb gardens and lots of pass-along plants................ No one in Alabama is in a hurry about anything......... Visitors think that the garden needs weeding and the furniture needs polishing....I am a direct descendant of Joseph Towne, whose two sisters Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Easty were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 as witches. I am also a direct descendant of Pocahontas and husband John Rolfe.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Miniature Furniture for Primitive Houses

Every primitive collector needs at least one piece of primitive miniature furniture. This is not doll house furniture. Primitive furniture can be salemen samples or some small piece built in the workshop in the form of a cupboard, chest of drawers, or pie safe. They are much too large to go in a doll house.

I found this example of a chest and liked it immediately. It is made of at least three types of wood. Dovetail drawers would have been better but I can live with it as is, as it was less than a hundred dollars.

I'm looking for a miniature blanket chest now; one will turn up sooner or later on Ebay listed as a box. The trick will be finding four little feet to match.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

William Rufus Devane King

Whenever my friend Joe visits from Denver, we always take a road trip to Selma, Alabama, to Live Oak Cemetery, to have a photograph taken at the grave of William Rufus Devane King. Mr. King was Vice President under Franklin Pierce, and is the highest ranking Alabamian ever in the Federal Government.

Mr. King was quite ill at the time of the election, and went to Cuba to try to get well. He was actually sworn in as Vice President there ( with special permission), then came home to Alabama and died suddenly on his plantation in Dallas County. I have a copy of his Last Will and Testament. He had quite an estate.

During his healthier years, Mr. King was the confident and housemate of fellow bachelor James Buchanan, who was elected President in 1856 and is best remembered as being powerless to stop the South from leaving the Union in 1860.

Mr. King's people were from North Carolina, and I have a Devane line from the same place ( my Devane grandmother having married into my Highsmith family), so my next genealogical project will be to look into the Devane line and see just how closely I am related to this fellow Alabamian.

Some of Mr. King's china and silver is on display at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Esther Weston Towne born 1763

I have added more and better photographs plus the information on the back of the daguerreotype at the bottom of this post.

Here is Esther Weston Towne born 1763. She is my oldest identified Daguerreotype. My early Towne family is from Salem, Massachusetts. She is not my ancestor but she is a New England Towne.

My ancestor William Towne was born about the year 1600 in England. He married Joanna Blessing about 1620. They are the parents of my ancestor Joseph Towne of Salem, who was born about 1639 and married Phoebe Perkins. Joseph's sisters Mary Towne Easty and Rebecca Towne Nurse were hanged in the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692/1693. Their sister Sarah escaped hanging when the trials were ended.

My line then proceeds to Johanna Towne who married Thomas Nichols. Their daughter Anna married William Vining in 1723 and comes all the way down to me.

Esther Weston Towne pictured here was born in 1763 or 1764 and would have been an eye witness to the American Revolutionary War. She married Archelaus Towne and had several children. Her father was perhaps Ebenezer Weston  She is from Amherst, Hillsborough, New Hampshire.  She actually has a faint smile on her face.   I see on ancestry that she has many descendants   I do not descend from her. I bought this original because she was identified as a Towne from New England and I knew I needed to save it and share it. This picture was made 1845-1850 as she died in April of 1850.

I think Esther Weston Towne is quite a lovely old New England lady. I am always amazed when photographs such as this one, taken in the 1840's/1850's, have survived as identified people. The problem with daguerreotypes and ambrotypes: there was no place to write the person's name unless the family attaches a little piece of paper or takes the image out of the case and writes on the inside back. Someone tucked a piece of paper inside this dag with info on her and one granddaughter.

They were so expensive that no one ever thought the day would come when the sitter would be unknown. I have several 1820's- 1830's oil paintings of people and the same problem occurs: a beautiful painting but no one wrote the person's name on the back of the frame.

My mother was smart to go through all of the little snapshots in her picture box and write names on all of them. Everyone should do that.

All descendants please copy these and add them to your family archives. These pictures are also posted on my page at  I also posted a tree on just her, called  Esther Weston Towne Family Tree, so that people on Ancestry could find her.

Attached to back of dag:  "Esther Weston Towne grandmother of Miss Mary Ann Danforth who died at Hillsboro Center N. H. June 1913. "

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oil Painting by Francis E. Jamieson

Francis E. Jamieson ( 1895-1950 )was an Englishman who fell in love with the Scots Highlands. He painted hundreds of scenes showing the mountains and villages of Scotland. He also painted the Highlands cattle.

His pictures were so popular that he was contracted to paint scenes on furniture. In order to sell more paintings and not be in violation of his contract, he came up with over ten other names used to sign his paintings which he sold on the side and on the sly.

I found this painting for sale on Ebay and realized that it was one of his when I saw the faces of the cattle. The sellers could not decipher the name of the artist in the bottom right hand corner; they thought it was some French name, which they read as W. Rieliard. I saw that it was W. Richards, one of Jamieson's many pseudo-artist names.

The seller had had the painting appraised for $1200, but I wonder now about the ability of an appraiser of art who couldn't read the name. The asking price was $400 to start, so I didn't feel guilty knowing the seller believed the painting was worth $1200, what it actually is worth.

No, I didn't write the seller later and tell them. What good can that do? Nor do I approve of anyone who does that sort of thing unless the seller flat out asks for more information. It's not a class-act thing and should be avoided.

The painting is now hanging above an 1850 Virginia chest in the old part of the house. Its browns and oranges stand out nicely against the log walls.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Silhouettes bring a surprise

My bid on this pair of silhouettes was the winner, and they arrived in today's mail. Silhouettes are selling well on Ebay..$200 up when framed, so when I found this pair unframed I thought I might have a chance.

First of all, I wanted something that was actually old. They appeared from their condition to be the real thing. The tears and silverfish spots were a plus in my opinion. Then the seller said that one was marked with some embossing by the Peale museum, so I liked that, too.

The surprise came when I opened them up. Each was in a protective slip, backed by paper. I was looking for the Peale museum mark, whatever that was supposed to be, but found instead, written on the back of the lady, a note in faded period brown ink that says "Robert and Mary Adams 1818."

I can't imagine why the seller didn't mention that in his Ebay description. Either he never took them out of their protective sleeve, or he missed seeing it entirely. It is rather faded, but completely authentic, and certainly wasn't added later.

I already have frames that will work for them, but will continue to monitor the frames on line in case something perfect comes up. The frames I have are 1840's, a bit late, but they will DO until I find a good one buried in the Ebay listings. I need two good ones, actually. They don't need to match ( that is asking too much ), and I really don't want them to match.

Every primitive collector needs a silhouette or two. I think I was very lucky to get them both for $30 ( I think wonderful things slip right through Ebay all the time), and to find the 1818 date PLUS their names on the back, well, that was more than enough to let me know that I am blessed in this.

There is a big difference in feeling blessed and feeling lucky; you have to know this to know this; it really can't be explained.