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Historian’s collection goes up for auction

Historian’s collection goes up for auction
Historian’s collection goes up for auction
Paul Beckort of Beckort Auctions LLC removes items from a cherry corner cupboard made in 1799 by Squire Boone Jr. The cupboard, along with hundreds of other items, including a handgun, below, found after the Battle of Corydon, will be sold Friday and Saturday on the Corydon town square as part of Frederick P. Griffin’s estate. Photos by Randy West (click for larger version)

Hundreds of items in the late Frederick P. Griffin’s collection, including a corner cupboard made in 1799 by Squire Boone Jr., will be sold at auction Friday and Saturday. Beckort Auctions LLC of Corydon will conduct the sale of Griffin’s estate. Griffin, a former Corydon man who was a noted historian, genealogist and businessman, died in 2008 at the age of 93.
The two-day sale will take place on the Corydon courthouse grounds, within 50 feet of Indiana’s first state capital building. The site is across the street from Griffin’s home, built in 1913 and now the only private residence that faces the historic downtown square. That property will also be sold during the auction.
Auction items will be available for inspection tomorrow (Thursday) from 2 to 6 p.m. On Friday, approximately 500 lots will be auctioned beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday’s sale will begin at 9 a.m.
One of the most historically significant 18th-century pieces of American furniture to come on the market in years, the cherry corner cupboard, which Griffin acquired in 1944, has reeded pilasters to the outside edge of the glass in each of the two upper doors. Reeded pilasters also flank the doors on the upper section of the piece. The two lower doors contain chamfered panels, with ‘Squire Boon 1799’ carved on the inside of one door. The misspelling of Boone was a common occurrence at that time, even among family members.
Auctioneer Brian Beckort said the reeding matches that on fireplace mantels in the historic Daniel Boone Home in Defiance, Mo. Squire Boone helped his brother build that house in the first part of the 19th century. The property is now owned by Lindenwood University, which has confirmed the similarity of the reeding. Beckort believes the cupboard was made in Kentucky prior to Squire Boone’s time in Missouri.
‘It’s very Kentucky-style,’ he said.
Provenance also suggests a Kentucky origin for the cupboard, with the piece having passed through descendants of Squire Boone living in Southern Indiana.
‘The fact that this cupboard came from Boone Township, Laconia, Ind., the fact that it came from the right area, just adds a little bit to it,’ Beckort noted.
Of greatest importance is the cupboard’s direct connection to an iconic American pioneer.
A younger brother of Daniel Boone, Squire Boone Jr. was born in Pennsylvania in 1744 but soon moved with his family to North Carolina. He returned to Pennsylvania at the age of 15, where he spent five years as an apprentice to a gunsmith, then returned to North Carolina, where he married Jane Van Cleave. They would eventually have five children.
Between 1767 and 1771, Squire joined Daniel for several long hunts in the Kentucky wilderness. Beginning in 1775, he helped his brother and a group of men blaze the Wilderness Road, which stretched from Fort Chiswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap in central Kentucky.
Squire moved throughout Kentucky, living in Boonesborough and the Falls of the Ohio (what would become Louisville) before landing in Shelby County in 1780, where he established the area’s first settlement, Painted Stone Station. Due to financial losses, he left Kentucky in 1786, eventually moving back in the 1790s and then traveling with Daniel to Missouri about 1799. Several years later, he returned to his family in Kentucky, but land issues and financial troubles plagued him. Disheartened by the treatment he received in the state for which he had done so much, Squire took his family across the Ohio River to settle in Harrison County, where Boone Township is named in his honor. Squire died in 1815 and was entombed in a cave he credited with saving his life, having once hid there when fleeing hostile Indians. That cave is now part of Squire Boone Caverns and Village.
Squire Boone’s corner cupboard is just one of the historically significant artifacts in the Griffin collection. Other items in the September auction also have intriguing provenance, including a small Civil War cannon captured by Morgan’s Raiders.
Made in Owensboro, Ky., in the early 1860s, the 13-1/2-inch-long cannon was owned by Jacob Bennett, an abolitionist and red-hot Republican who lived near Diamond Rock, Ky. Bennett is said to have used the cannon to protect his family and livestock. In July 1863, as Confederate Gen. John Morgan and his cavalry troops advanced to the Ohio River on their way to the Battle of Corydon, the only Civil War skirmish fought on Indiana soil, members of Morgan’s Raiders took the cannon. As the soldiers prepared to cross the river and move into Indiana, they reportedly buried the cannon in the riverbank for safekeeping. Days later it was retrieved, and, after the war, the weapon was sometimes loaned out by the new owner. In one instance at Payneville, Ky., it was shot in celebration of the ratification of President Benjamin Harrison. The percussive force shattered house windows and sent liquor bottles crashing to the floor in a local saloon. After the owner’s death, the cannon was bought at auction by a Southern Indiana antique dealer who sold it to the Griffin family in 1927.
Other important items in the auction include a Civil War sword owned by Major William T. Jones and a handgun found after the Battle of Corydon. Also of interest are a George Washington engraving and signature, a 19th-century chest of drawers that belonged to Indiana’s first governor, Jonathan Jennings and a rolltop desk from Indiana’s first state capital building at Corydon.
From the Constitution Elm, the Corydon tree under which Indiana’s first constitution was drafted in 1816, comes one of the largest slabs known, measuring 30 inches wide by 6 inches deep. Also from the elm tree are approximately 100 handmade items, including a tilt-top table.
Miscellaneous goods include furniture and displays from Maurice Griffin & Co., the dry goods store the Griffin family operated in Corydon for nearly a century, beginning in 1897, antique furniture and accessories, Indiana memorabilia and books, including some of local significance, Indian artifacts and Indiana artwork, some by the late Sid Crosier who also hailed from Harrison County (his work is being featured at the new Artisan Center, located at 117 E. Chestnut St. in Corydon, which opens Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m.).
With the wealth of early and historical objects offered, all from the Griffin family and fresh to the market, the sale is expected to be as much an event as it is an auction, Beckort said.
Adding credence to the sale is Griffin’s reputation, which stretched well beyond Corydon. Three times ‘ in 1979, 1985 and 1998 ‘ he received the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest honor bestowed by an Indiana governor.
For more information, call Beckort Auctions at 738-9476 or visit online at