Stylistically, this table relates to the sulfur-inlaid furniture made by Quaker cabinetmakers affiliated with Cane Creek Meeting in present-day Alamance County. Some of the furniture in this group, attributed by June Lucas to the Piggott family, features similar line inlay with lunetted corners on the drawers. Only one high chest in the group, however, combines line inlay with lunetted corners on the drawers with sulfur inlay, featuring the year “1802” on the top center drawer. With its elaborate line inlay on both the drawer and the legs, the Jane Wood table is by far the most exuberant example of this regional style.
ANTHONY CHAMNESS—Chalk writing on the inside of the pine backboard of the table appears to be “Ch” followed by several indecipherable marks, and points to woodworker Anthony Chamness (1773-1858) as the probable maker. In 1820 Chamness lived on Sandy Creek in northeastern Randolph County, only a few miles from the Wood family, and he appears to have interacted with them on a regular basis.
Anthony Chamness was the grandson of Anthony Chamness (1713-1777) and Sarah (Cole) Chamness (1718-1765), who were among the founding members of the Cane Creek Meeting. His parents, Joseph Chamness (1740-1818) and Margaret (Norton) Chamness (1740-1784), were married at Cane Creek in 1763, but moved to Sandy Creek in northeastern Randolph County by the 1770s. Joseph and his second wife, Hannah (Beeson) Chamness (1748-1818), were married at Deep River Meeting in Guilford County. In 1797, Anthony Chamness married Amy Reynolds (1775-1829) at Center Meeting, also in Guilford County. After Amy’s death, he married Abigail Lee (1802-1876) in 1838. By 1850, when professions were first listed on the federal census, Anthony was 76 years old, had apparently given up woodworking, and was listed as a farmer. He and Abigail were buried in the Providence Meeting Cemetery in northeastern Randolph County.
When Anthony died in 1858, his estate inventory included the following: 2 jointers, smoothing plane, wood square, tenon saw, 2 beading planes, hand saw, vice, draw knife, hammer, 2 sash planes, 2 augers, plow and groove, Cornish plane, nail hammer, auger, compass, gouge, plane bit, file, walnut and pine plank, and a work bench. In addition, listed were several pieces of furniture: bureau, case of drawers, chest, clock, cupboard, desk, table, and a pair of high post bedsteads. Listed in the expenses charged to his estate was $3.25 owed to his neighbor and probable apprentice Zebedee Wood (an uncle of Jane Wood who owned the table); this amount is typical for the cost of a coffin. In the 1860 Federal Census, Anthony Chamness’s son William Chamness (1798-1873) was identified as a carpenter, probably following in his father’s footsteps. When William died in 1873, listed on his inventory were “shop tools” valued at $50. When William’s son David S. Chamness (1828–1883) died, his inventory listed many woodworking tools which his son Nereus Chamness (1859—1944) purchased. Woodworking appears to have been a tradition in the Chamness family.
ZEBEDEE WOOD: A probable apprentice for Anthony Chamness was the self-identified cabinetmaker, Zebedee Wood (1799-1874), Jane Wood’s uncle. Zebedee married Polly Davidson in 1819, so he was probably an accomplished cabinetmaker by that time. In 1827 he purchased 677 feet of plank at the estate sale of Randolph County wheelwright Christian Kime. In the 1830 Randolph County Census Anthony Chamness and Zebedee Wood are listed on successive pages. They are listed on the same page in the 1840 Census and by this time Zebedee was identified as “employed in manufacture and trade.” In the 1850 Census he was identified as a “Mechanic,” and in both the 1860 and 1870 Census as a “Cabinetmaker.” By 1870, he was listed in Guilford County rather than Randolph. When Zebedee died in 1874, David S. Chamness, son of William Chamness and grandson of Anthony Chamness, was paid $6.00 for making Zebedee Wood’s coffin. Chamness also purchased many woodworking items at his estate sale, including chisels, gouges, an axe, timber, and planes. Wood was buried in the Bethel Methodist Church Cemetery in northeastern Randolph County.
By roughly 1820, it is possible that Zebedee Wood could have made Jane Wood’s table in his own shop.
The Wood family of early Randolph County was a prominent one. Jane’s father John Wood was the son of David Wood (1759-1830), whose brothers Reuben Wood, Esq., (c. 1755-1812) and Zebedee Wood, Esq., (1745-1824) were legal scholars and political leaders in Randolph County. Both men attended North Carolina’s Constitutional Conventions in 1788 and 1789, and in 1791 the brothers were elected to represent Randolph County in North Carolina’s General Assembly. Although Reuben Wood’s burial site is unknown, Zebedee was buried at Shiloh Methodist Church, near Liberty, in northeastern Randolph County. These two men were great uncles of Jane Wood, the table’s owner, and perhaps the elaborate decoration (by Piedmont North Carolina standards) reflects the Wood family’s prominence in the region.
OWNER: Jane Wood’s life was short, and very little about her is known. When she died in 1827, she was not in Randolph County. Her grave is located in Hawfields Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Mebane, NC, approximately 45 miles northeast of her birthplace in Randolph County. Jane’s stone is among the oldest markers in what is today known as the Second Hawfields Burying Ground. She was probably in the Mebane area (then Orange County) because her great-uncle, the well known Presbyterian minister Ezekiel B. Currey (Currie) (1763-1851) was minister there in 1827. Rev. Currey was the brother of Jane (Currey) Wood (1760-1826), Jane’s grandmother. Educated by the famous Presbyterian minister and teacher Dr. David Caldwell (1725-1824) in Guilford County, NC, Currey served as the minister for both Cross Roads and Hawfields Presbyterian Churches from 1819 to 1843. Whether Jane was simply visiting Rev. Currey when she died or was in the region for some other reason is unclear. Jane’s parents and grandparents were buried at the Bethel Methodist Church Cemetery in northeastern Randolph County, suggesting that her branch of the family was Methodist.
OTHER OBJECTS: Acc. 5939.1-69 also descended in the Wood family.