Linen Press or Cupboard
CONSTRUCTION: A characteristic construction detail is the single heavy glue block, thinned at the center, traversing each side of the case from front to rear and providing massive support for the case. Similarly heavy are Gheen’s drawer frames, which have thick sides with slightly rounded top edges.
STYLE: Characteristic of Gheen’s style is the rather vertical pitch of the cornice cove, the broad case stiles surrounding the doors, the fluted case chamfers, the narrow bevels of the raised panels, and the heavy ogee feet with unusually long and heavy responds.
MAKER: This cupboard and approximately thirty other pieces, including desks, desks and bookcases, chests, chests of drawers, and tables, are attributed to the shop of James Gheen and his family members by virtue of a 1794 bill of sale found in one of the desks-and-bookcases. Made out to the Rev. Samuel McCorkle, the long-time pastor of Thyatira Presbyterian Church in western Rowan County, the statement listed cash, hinges, and lumber McCorkle had supplied to Gheen.
Based on the age of his wife, Elizabeth Gheen (1745-1832), James Gheen was born probably between 1740 and 1745, most likely in Chester County, PA. Gheen is first recorded in Rowan County, NC, in 1778, when he witnessed a deed there. In 1780 he purchased 270 acres on the north side of the Yadkin River, probably near Second Creek. In 1787 he took an apprentice “to learn the art of a shop joiner.” In 1791 he purchased 3 pewter plates from the estate of Elizabeth Steele, the mother-in-law of Dr. McCorkle, the Presbyterian minister for whom he made the 1794 documented desk and bookcase. In 1792 he purchased 500 acres on Second Creek. Based on the names of people James Gheen had business dealings with and the names of his children’s spouses, he appears to have been involved mainly with the Scotch-Irish Presbyterian community in western Rowan County. However, he may also have made furniture for the German community, whose members especially populated the southern part of Rowan County. Gheen made his will on April 26, 1796, leaving his youngest son, Joseph, his shop and all of his shop tools. James Gheen’s grandsons Levi and Warren were also in the woodworking business in the 1820s and 1830s. Thus, at least four Gheens–James, his son Joseph, and two grandsons, Levi and Warren–were involved in the woodworking trade in Rowan County.