PDT Staff Writer
Quilts are the focus of this years displays at the, Aaron Kinney Homestead, known as the 1810 House on Waller Street in Portsmouth.
“We’re featuring our old quilts, and some of them date way back,” Dorothy Justus, an 181o House volunteer, said. “Some are beautiful quilts. We have some coverlets that were made by a Pursell business in Portsmouth. That company was in business from 1837 to 1857. So this year, since we’re featuring quilts, we made quilt patches for our Christmas tree. We have spools, and we have tape measures and all on our Christmas tree.”
When you enter into the 1810 House you will see a Christmas tree decorated with snowflakes and beads, while the Christmas tree in the kitchen features salt dough cookies.
“Our Christmas trees are special this year,” Justus said. “The house was occupied until 1946 by the Kinneys. The granddaughter was the last to live here, and she may have put up a little tree, but I kind of doubt it. People didn’t celebrate Christmas greatly until after World War II. But we put up Christmas trees when I was a little girl which was in the thirties. We had a Christmas tree. But if you got one thing for Christmas back then it was special.”
Justus said it all started with celebrating the nativity.
“And look where we are today,” Justus said. “We’ve forgotten the nativity.”
Justus points at an overstuffed chair nearby.
“This chair belonged allegedly to Harriet Beecher Stowe,” Justus said. “It was left to us by the McConnell family in their will with that identification, but there was no paperwork.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play.
“This table over here is a five-legged table that we decorate for dining came from Connecticut. It was used by the British in the Revolutionary War, thus it didn’t get burned,” Justus said. “We have some very unique pieces.”
Justus next showed off a sewing chest sent from South Carolina by a friend from Portsmouth.
“She purchased it because it said it was made in Portsmouth in 1824, and it has the cabinetmaker’s names on the bottom of the thread drawer, and it’s the original,” Justus said. “We don’t have any records of these cabinetmakers in Portsmouth.”
In an upstairs bedroom there are scores of toys, mainly dolls, from many generations past, as well as little girls dresses hanging about. Miniature furniture, which Justus said were salesmen’s samples, also highlight the life of a little girl in the 1800s.
“The little girls who got those had something special,” Justus said.
Justus said the opportunities to see the Christmas displays are limited.
“Christmas will soon be here and we’re only open one more Sunday (Dec. 9), and then our open house weekend, Dec. 15 and 16,” Dorothy Justus said. “On that Saturday and Sunday we’ll have refreshments in the kitchen.”
Justus acknowledged her good friend John Lebrun’s recent gift to the 1810 House. Justus said Lebrun gave a sizeable financial donation. Lebrun, who was born in 1921 in West Virginia and came to Scioto County in the early 20s. He resides at Hill View Retirement Center. He first donated an early 1900s music box with metal records to the 1810 House, and later presented the House with a mantle clock. Justus said all of Lebrun’s working years were spent in the laboratory at the Steel Mill in New Boston.
“The gift he gave the 1810 House was a big surprise to me,” Justus said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org