Miniature Chest of Drawers
WOA: 19 1/2″
DOA: 10 3/4″
CONSTRUCTION: Although the extended glue block is a construction technique used elsewhere, it is especially associated with James Gheen’s shop in Rowan County, NC.
MAKER: This miniature chest of drawers 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 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 bill 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. This miniature was made probably by one of the later Gheens, as opposed to James.