Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Smallest Heirloom

As many of my readers know, my honey and I inherited many items from his mother Alice, who passed away last August. There are some items that he loves, some I love and luckily, most that we both love.

The smallest of these items is something I had never heard of before, a match safe. I had never really thought of a match safe before, except in the context of camping. And in today's outdoor world, most match safes are made of plastic or metal. They keep your matches dry.

But our heirloom match safe is a wondrous piece of folk art. It is made entirely of different kinds of wood. A small piece of paper inside reads: Box made by John T. Viley — mama's 3rd cousin. went west.

One side has a inlaid picture of Abraham Lincoln. Woods used include wahoo, ebony, manzanita, mulberry, and french walnut.

Apparently John T. Viley also scavenged some wood, as the accompanying list of woods states that the lines under the bust come from a "sliver from log of Mr. Lincoln's home."

There have been comments from the family that it is interesting that John T. Viley chose Lincoln as a subject. The family had land in Virginia, and there are stories about hiding valuables and sitting on the front porch when the Union soldiers rode by.

The other side has an East Indian face made of juniper, agua rita, maple, and cedar of Lebanon, among other woods.

It really is quite an amazing work of art. If the Antiques Roadshow ever comes by, I'd be tempted to take it in.

Another small note inside the box reads "Given to Romulus Payne (1859-1924) by his first cousin John T. Viley who made it."

There is even some art on the top of the box. The boy's face is made of wahoo, his hat camphor, and his tie navajo. The collar is supposedly made from "ash flooring from Henry Clay's house."

I think John T. Viley was very proud of his work and rightfully so. The final note reads: "Made on Staked Plains Texas 1894. Not an inkstain or pencil mark about it. All natural colored woods."

We are honored to have it in our home.

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