Life in Old South Central Alabama

My photo
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, November 4, 2012

My Primitive Life in Alabama

Welcome to my Alabama home, built by my ancestors Benjamin and  Hannah Harless Wilson when they came here in 1816.   The house suits me well. The square of marble on the left is an original upping stone,  used to make it easier for riders to get on and off their horses.    

The lard cooker in the side yard holds 80 gallons and was cast in 1878 in Batavia, Illinois, according to the bottom of it. The green duck weed in the cooker has just about disappeared for the winter. It will magically reappear in the spring.  The zinnias came up on their own. The dead branch is poke salad and its purple berries have been picked to use as dye. 

My great grandmother's outside pots.  They escaped the melt down scrap iron drives during World War 2. A friend gave me the old rusted out pedal car. 

This is the spinning and weaving house. My Kentucky loom is just inside.  So is the iron cook stove and three spinning wheels. 

View from the front porch. The grain bin is square-nailed and was sold from an old farm place in Chilton County.  On the left you can see the top of a large pine chest from Elmore County.  It is currently full of dried gourds. 

The chains are hanging from the eaves of the porch.  The place was opened up as a plantation in the 1820's so short links of chain are still found in the fields when plowing sometimes.  The hollow log is cherry.   I still have plans for it. 

View from the porch overlooking the front field. Those white buildings are apartments across the  railroad tracks. Mostly college students live there. The angel trumpet was a gift from friends and blooms a bright yellow every fall. The entire plant dies down for the winter. The boards in the front yard are for porch repair, long overdue. 

Inside is my best summer find, a dry sink.  Each surface is one board and is held together by pegs and square nails.  Both ducks were hand carved. I didn't know the duck in the back had any color until I saw the picture.  Tucked inside the sink is a jacquard coverlet. 

I like the wear marks in the corner. 

I'm glad it has not been painted in 100 years. 


This came from an Alabama auction.  It looks like a normal 1850's chest, but strangely....

....the top lifts up like a mule chest although the drawers are fully functioning. 

I found this drop front desk in Jefferson County at an antique mall.  It had no legs and someone had added plastic rollers.  I had some 1830's  peg feet which restored it to its correct height and look. Behind it is a cherry chest made in Taylor County, Virginia about 1850 and signed by its maker, Zaddock Shields. 

The inside has original dovetailed divisions and drawers. I can't find a wall yet so it's sitting in the middle of the floor. 

Jim bought this Civil War era bench at a sale in Selma, Alabama after I called him on his phone at the auction and asked him to look for it.   He said, "I'm standing by it right now."   I had to beat several people to his antique shop to get it. 

The sides, the seat, and the back are single pine boards. 

Olde Lady Morgan made these wonderful little prim dolls and they seem quite comfortable. 

I found this lift top desk , taken from an old feed store in Birmingham, at a local consignment shop.  No doubt the paint is original as well as the stains that came with it.  The flash brings out the faded red color.   A cotton basket filled with egg gourds sits on the floor.  

I waited patiently for four hours to buy this pegged bench, five feet long, at an auction in Calera, Alabama.   It was from an estate in Chilton County.  It was the very last thing auctioned at the sale that night and worth the wait.  A lady from Tuscaloosa wanted it but she stopped bidding at $50. 

I found the yarn winder and the sewing box this summer. The checker board was my grandfather's. The chair is one of a pair and is English, ca. 1820.  

A real grain scoop found at a consignment shop.  So many on Ebay are repros from Europe. 

My latest weakness is for silhouettes. 

The dough bowls are resting in another square-nailed grain bin from Chilton County, Alabama .

I broke down and bought a Yankee Pennsylvania fractur dated 1851 from an Ebay seller I trust.   Since my ancestor Methusalem Griffith came to Virginia from Pennsylvania before 1760, I decided one little fractur would be OK.  

I learned that folks used to put rugs on tables rather than on the floor, so I had to get in on that, although I don't think I can stand to leave it there for much longer. The dry sink by the window holds waste bowls.  The stepback in the corner displays theorems and art by Susan Daul, Ann Rea, and Linda Brubaker. Two potty boxes slid under the table need to go somewhere else. 

I'm hanging candles on hooks on chains from the ceiling beams now.   


Clothes pins in a wooden cheese box.   


The stepback cupboard holds some local pottery.   Next to the stepback is a school master's desk in tiger maple. Two milking stools hide underneath. 

I open the doors only for pictures. 


Three miniature portraits in oil.  

I promise it doesn't look this cluttered in person, nor did I  intend to have the chair sitting on the table in front of the corner cabinet. Its seat is made of woven corn husks and someone was taking a closer look a few weeks ago.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The little red-haired boy, formerly the little sad boy

The Little Red Haired Boy 







My sister noticed his red hair which is unusual so I decided to change his sobriquet to The Little Red Haired Boy from  The Little Sad Boy.  That makes things a lot happier.

 I finished his outside frame ( a patch job at best) and that will have to do for now.  He is in the old part of the house and I hope he feels good about being there--better that being rolled up and tossed in an attic.

 I need to show you his mother and his sister.

 I have several proposed names for sister...the Elf  Child,  or Salem's child,  of Little Ev ( short for Evil) or "the for sale would anyone want her? Child".....

Mom looks typically primitive and too busy for a portrait sitting with farm and house work to do.   Now you understand why Little Red Hair got the frame and the other two got the "maybe later."

Mom is going to Tennessee.





Sunday, July 15, 2012

1840 Portrait of The Little Sad Boy




He was found in an attic cut out of his frame, rolled up, and torn.  I bought him because I guess I felt sorry for him. 

 I was able to stretch the canvas and he just fit an old frame I had in a closet upstairs.  The outside frame is new and I had to cut it to fit.   It will be painted gold to match.  Then he will join the others in the house.  

 It's a large portrait, about 3' by 2 1/2', and I really like the hands. Some of the famous portrait painters charged more to show two hands, but I doubt this primitive painter got any extra for that. 

 I don't know why he appears to be so sad to me.  Maybe he didn't like sitting still for the artist. We are so accustomed to people smiling in photographs today. Back then, such behavior was considered foolish, so maybe his look is more sincere than sad. 

 A painting of his little sister was found rolled up with him.  I haven't begun to do anything with her yet.  And, a third painting of their mother, or grandmother, was with them.  I started with the little boy because I found him to be the most charming. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Oil Portraits in the House

Now that my English lady is sold, and three more restored paintings are on Ebay for sale, I walked around the house and photographed the oil portraits that are here.  Here is my family's Old Miss of the plantation, hanging in my library.  She was a kind soul.  

Going up the stairs is the cousin who was a wealthy businesswoman, namely a saloon owner.  

The 1790's portrait by an artist named Taylor Dean.


My mysterious stranger.  He is shy and hard to photograph. 

My Alabama Portrait.  Felix Taylor Taliaferro ( pronounced Tolliver in the  South).  He was a cotton merchant in Mobile, Alabama after the war.   His grandmother was a cousin to President Zachary Taylor.  He moved to Alabama and got married but later moved back and lived in Orange County, Virginia, and by 1900 was in Hudson, New Jersey.  His father was Edmund Pendleton Taliaferro and his mother Octavia Hortense Robertson.  Edmund's mother was Mildred Taylor Taliaferro.  Mrs. Felix Taliaferro was nee Annie E. Penny.  They married 14 January 1867 in Mobile, Alabama.