DESCRIPTION: Wainscot arm chair: Back formed by two vertical flat panels separated by ogee molded stile surmounted by a slightly indented crest board (possibly having been altered from a scalloped crest); seat set into the rails as a panel, similarly to the back frame; flat arms roll over the turned front posts which terminate in slight ball feet; the legs connected with an upper turned and lower flat stretcher on front, two flat stretchers on sides and one in back; trunnels throughout piece.
FORM: Often referred to as “wainscot” or “panel-back” chairs, armchairs of this type are direct descendants of chairs made in Scotland and later Ulster, the northern Irish home of almost all Scotish immigrants to Ireland. (Once this ethnic group had been in Ulster for many years, they and their descendants were called either Ulster Scots or the Scotch Irish.) Such sturdy armchairs were rare in the southern Backcountry and when part of a household made a statement as to the wealth and importance of their owners. As the most costly chair in a home, they were generally used by the patriarch of a family and represented authority and prominence.
This chair descended in the Lam family of Rockbridge and Augusta Counties, VA. MESDA purchased the Lam family chair from Ollie Mozelle Lam (1890-1960) of Rockbridge County. Miss Lam was born and died on Kerr’s Creek, approximately seven miles from Lexington. Her ancestors were part of the large Scotch-Irish Presbyterian community in the region, and she and many of her ancestors were buried in New Monmouth Presbyterian Chruch’s cemetery in Rockbridge County. Ollie’s ancestors can be traced to the beginning of the nineteenth century, approximately 50 years after the creation of the chair, when her great grandfather, Mathias Lamb, was born circa 1807 in Rockbridge County. Mathias’s son Joseph W. Lam (1832-1880) was Ollie’s grandfather, and George P. Lam (1858-1937) was her father. Although the chair descended through the Lam family, who the original owner was remains unclear. Most likely, all Lams in the region descended from the Scotch-Irish settler William Lam, who was in the area by 1744, when he purchased land in Augusta County.