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Sugar Chest

Place Made:
Williamson County Tennessee United States of America
Date Made:
walnut –tulip poplar
HOA: 36″
WOA:21 3/4″
DOA: 17 1/4″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Sugar chest with a hinged lid with battens and a molded edge; removable interior liner made of tulip poplar; waist molding above a single drawer with original brass hardware and three-part drawer division; Hepplewhite-style tapered legs.

Its original iron hinges are stamped “Goddington” for the brass and iron foundry operated by James Goddington of Birmingham, England, during the late eighteenth and early nineteeth centuries.

POSSIBLE MAKERS: The sugar chest would have been made by one of Williamson County, Tennessee’s early cabinetmakers. Both John Gholson (d. 1817) and Francis M. Dean (d. 1829) were in Williamson County by 1805. A native of Brunswick County, Virginia, Gholson married Sarah G. Thweatt in 1811. He was later joined in the trade by his brother, Benjamin Gholson. John’s 1817 probate inventory and estate sale listed “1 Architecture book” and numerous woodworking tools – moulding, rabbit, and sash planes; chisels; gouges; a tool chest; a work bench; and several hundred feet of plank and scantling – plus a sugar chest. His widow, Sarah G. Gholson, purchased the sugar chest for five dollars. Interestingly, the Gholsons lived only about a mile from Nicholas T. Perkins’s plantation, Two Rivers. The county’s other early cabinetmaker, Francis M. Dean, married Mary (Andrews) Shule in 1808. Often in debt, he sold Lot 93 in Franklin to “satisfy three judgments” and left a small estate that included a few woodworking tools and a veneering saw. Dean was listed in the 1820 manufacturer’s census operating a cabinet shop that employed one man using 2000 feet annually of walnut, cherry and poplar to produce “sideboards, Bureaus, Tables, Cubbords, &c.”

HISTORY: Descended in the family of Nicholas Tate Perkins (1767-1843) of Two Rivers Plantation. According to his obituary, Perkins was born in Guilford County, NC, but moved with his family at the age of 10 to Pittsylvania County, VA, where he later married his cousin, Ann Perkins (1770-1839). By 1803, they were in Williamson County, and in 1805 he was elected to the Tennessee state legislature. His two-story brick house, known as Poplar Grove during his lifetime, is a national historic landmark still standing in Williamson County.

See Rick Warwick, Williamson County: More Than a Good Place to Live (Nashville: Panacea Press, 2005), p. 104.

Credit Line:
Partial gift of Robert Hicks