Miniature Painted Chest
Grayson County Virginia United States of America
HOA: 10 1/2″; WOA 17″; DOA 9″
DESCRIPTION: Small dovetailed chest; lid has applied molding; chest resting on applied bracket feet that are one with the base molding; chest painted green with red accents and floral motifs, primarily tulips, in red and yellow on front and both sides.
This bright and boldly paint-decorated box was made for Dr. William Marshall Mitchell (1825-1888). It is part of a recently discovered group of similar boxes made in Grayson County, Virginia, during the second quarter of the 19th century. This example is the only one with both a name and a date. Born on September 1, 1825, William Marshall Mitchell was the son of Reverend Zachariah Mitchell (1791-1872) and Elizabeth (Newland) Mitchell (1798-1878). Reverend Mitchell was the founder of the Asbury Methodist Church, a physician, and a farmer who owned seven slaves in 1830. Dr. William Marshall Mitchell married Sophia Primrose Hale (1830-1910). Sophia appears to have brought a significant amount of wealth into the family: the 1860 census lists property worth $2000 on her line, not his, and the couple’s three slaves—a 25 year old woman and two children—were all listed as her property in the slave schedule of the 1860 Census. William enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant in Company F of the 4th Virginia Infantry Regiment on April 24, 1861, two weeks before Virginia officially seceded from the Union. Part of the “Stonewall Brigade” under General Stonewall Jackson, Marshall probably saw service at The First Battle of Bull Run, the first major conflict of the Civil War. He survived the war and is buried alongside his wife in her family cemetery in Grayson County, Virginia.
Though William Marshall Mitchell lived at various times in Wythe, Pulaski, and Grayson Counties, the existence of another inscribed box made for Granville H. Pool of Grayson county, suggests that these boxes originated in that county.