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, December 29, 2013

Cold in Alabama but no one's complaining

When I say it's cold here I mean it's about 50 and sunny, but a bit too chilly to sit on the porch without a blanket.  The sun will warm you up after a few minutes.

The Christmas things are being put away today.

I ran out of wall so I slid this mule chest in front of the stepback until I can find a space.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

See anything you like?

We had a sunny day so I made a few pictures of the front room.  The only treatment I've ever used on the floors was boiled linseed oil about 20 years ago. 
I'm still learning about crocks. Most of these are out of Bibb and Perry County.  I'm looking for a brown/mustard rug to replace the one under the table.  It's too new and too red.
This is my latest mule chest.  The unusual thing about it is that the inside till is on the right rather than on the left.  My cousin noticed this and said he had never seen one with the till on the right.
This is a view inside the cupboard.  I open the doors only for photographs, or for the curious who want a look inside.
I've grown to appreciate the grey painted dry sink.   The chair to the right has turned legs in the sausage pattern. Wallace Nutting calls it a mushroom chair.  The legs have lost several inches since 1680.
The dough bowls are in a 5-board box.  90% of the on-line dough bowls are repros,  new, or fakes. The worst fakes have tin nailed to the inside or outside as a "repair."
The camera flash causes the dull milk paint to appear bright red.
The dough bowl on the bottom is probably my earliest one ca. 1780.  The round one on top has a nice warp.
This pattern is popularly called The Fisherman's Hut.
A view of my Christmas Tree...dried orange slices.  Is that primitive enough?

I found this beauty a couple of weeks ago.  The seller is in Michigan and named him Dapple-in-Alabama. He is a Whitney Reed ca. 1905

Thursday, December 12, 2013

If the house is full, just put it on the porch...

This primitive blue pie safe just came out of a planter's town house in south-central Alabama.  The back is marked Selma, Alabama. I tried to work it into the house but the blue color stood out too much against the browns of the other furniture so I stuck it on the porch.
The wear on the front doors is original and not faked.  I know better than to mess with it.  
The inside is clean, solid, and unpainted.  And empty for now.
The piece next to it is also pine, put together with square nails, and has never been painted.  Both are safe from the rain as the porch is ten feet deep.  Both have been secured to the log wall for safety. 
Here is the colonial mule chest I found on line and had shipped down from New Jersey. Above it is a spool cabinet and on top of that is my Christmas tree decorated with dried orange slices.  I bought the pine corner cabinet about a month ago at a local sale. It is square nailed and original except for the inside milk paint job. Milk paint doesn't fade much so the color really looks bright in the picture but in person has a dull rusty hue.
Another corner is dominated by the large spinning wheel I got in a swap with my friend Charlie.  It is a walking wheel and is fully functional.  I grew a patch of cotton three years ago but decided to use it for a quilt rather than spin it.  My aunt gave me a quilt top and I have seen several old Alabama quilts stuffed with cotton straight from the field ( with the seeds still in the cotton- - that is, not ginned ) . 
I covered the farm table with a nice mustard and blue tapestry. The riser is blue and was a window shutter ca. 1840.  The dough box is dovetailed but I don't think they were common in the South.  I suspect it is New England, as Southerners did corn breads. 
I can't tell you how happy I am with my settle bench. I built it last summer from an oak armoire that was old but nothing special.   When I get some more 22" boards, I'm going to build another. 
Center stage is the 1680 mushroom chair from Massachusetts. My ancestor Joseph Towne's two sisters ( Mary Esty and Rebecca Nurse) were hanged as witches in Salem in 1692/3. Through the years, the chair has lost about 8 inches from each leg. The corner cupboard is about 7 ft. high and is also from an Alabama plantation home. To the right is a chest, a dough box, and the sugar chest from Kentucky.  Sugar chests were no longer needed after the 1840's. 
My little collection of silhouettes and miniatures has grown. I buy the ones with small problems because to people with primitive homes, small problems are no problem.  If you own a churn with a chip, you will understand.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Here is one of my favorite plants from literature... love-lies-a-bleeding.  My friend in Denver planted this and you can see how well it has grown.  The long flowers will dry and produce thousands of tiny seeds for next year.  The flowers can be anything from dark red to light rose.   These will grow longer and look like dreadlocks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Mule Chest

 My regular Ebay searches for hunt boards, sugar chests, and other antebellum furniture can pull up some really nice things.   When I saw this mule chest sitting in a old house in New Jersey,  I decided to bid on it.  
 I was the winner and it's slowly making its way from New Jersey to Alabama.  The moving company I use knows that I am in no hurry ( No one in Alabama is in a hurry about anything )  so I get a fantastic rate.  The chest will go from van to van as it makes its way South and should arrive here by the end of the month. 
Mule chests ( so named because colonial people kept their mules [shoes] in the bottom drawer ) are a combination blanket chest on top and chest of drawers on the bottom.  I have been looking for one for a long time. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A walk around the house, part one.

Welcome to my Alabama home, built seven generations ago by Benjamin and Hannah Wilson when they came to this county in 1816.  It was used as a house until 1906, then used as a barn until 1992 when I cleaned it out, put in a floor,windows, doors, heating, cooling, and everything else, and moved in. 
 It's a fine spring day and perfect to get a few pictures to inspire me to get out of the house and make some improvements around this place.  Here is a view from my porch across the field to the "old house" built in 1958.  My house is the "new house" built in 1817...perfectly logical in Alabama as I moved from the old house to my "new" one in 1992...hey, it was new to me. 
 These are my fancy steps to the spinning house. The mill stone came from Chilton County.  The marble was a found piece. 
 The spinning house has gotten a bit messy during the winter so a clean up/ clean out is in the plans. The loom in front is ready to load.
 But first I need to hang a door. 
 My father planted this pear tree and it has survived.  A very noisy bird was perched in it.
 On closer inspection it was a red bird who paid me no attention. 
 I bought some red bud trees at our local arbor day many years ago. They now bloom every spring despite Alabama's March weather. 
The nandina bush descends from one of my grandmother's. The birds spread these seeds everywhere.  Our local judge commented to me, " We've had so many weddings this spring that you can't find a nandina berry  or a camelia bloom anywhere in the town." 
 This is my friend Joe's tulip tree, my main marker for spring.  He planted it before he left the state to return to Denver over ten years ago. 
 My grandmother's oxalis is growing and spreading like weeds. I need to send some bulbs to all the cousins.  
 This is a very strong mint from my great uncle, given to me as a start in the 70's.   It's the type used for mint juleps. 
 I think the smell of iris brings back memories of my grandmother more than any other flower. 
The duck weed has once again magically reappeared.  I got a cup full on the side of the road in Louisiana in 1995.   This is growing in a ground container in the back yard, but I can fill a bucket with water in the front yard and a week later it will have made its way there.  

A walk around the house, part two.

 It's Saturday and the temps are in the 70's here in Bama. I'm out walking around the house seeing what all I need to be doing, but doing nothing except taking pictures for the blog.  I'm on the front porch and first up is this neat iron cook pot from Perry County I got last week for ten dollars. It was pitiful looking but a quick WD40 spray and the color is back.
 This ebay purchase was an old gear board that someone painted 
 My friend Charlie had this giant spinning wheel in his shop for over a year and I always liked it so two weeks ago he brought it to me with a yarn winder.  He looked through the furniture in the old house and picked out a cherry table, a small marble top table, and a mahogany hall tree.    He is happy because what he took home will actually sell in his shop.
 Of course, I'm very happy.  I think there are enough parts that it will  spin correctly. 
 Here are some egg gourds drying in the front yard.

 They are the size of chicken eggs.  The brown ones are dry and hard as a rock.   The white ones are still drying and will turn soon.
 My great uncle gave this to my father who tied a barrel to the top for hauling water.  This is my before photo, because I am going to build a box for the top and add handles to create a peanut or flower cart. 
 I'm looking at photographs of old vending carts now and have found some really nice ones to use as a guide. 
 These are the regular size gourds drying in the field. They have turned the best shade of tan. 
Here are more of them drying on what we call the bachelor bed, as it first belonged to a great great uncle who never married. 

Well, that's enough walking for now... I'm ready to go back inside and see if the Pickers have bought anything good.