Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Primitive CT from Ohio

The United States series is primarily composed of primitive pieces. Most of them are rare, yet serious collectors will probably want to add one.
     Autence Bason listed 488 CTs from the USA. About three-quarters of them can be described as primitive -- mostly squares, rounds and straight rectangles. Over 100 of these are inscribed with the church denomination only: AP, AR, APC, ARPC, RC, RPC and so on. Eighty more have just one letter to designate the parish. Half of this amount more have no markings at all! This is not surprising when you consider that these simple pieces were handcrafted on the frontier. And of course, many of the churches started out as log meeting houses with leaky roofs.
     Like the early pieces from rural Scotland, primitive American CTs have a charm all their own. They were made to be used, not to be admired. But with a little research, you can discover some fascinating stories. The one I have to show you comes from the Ohio frontier and is part of the early westward movement.
This chunky piece is 10mm across
and 3mm thick. The B is deeply set.
You can imagine the parishioners on
 the Ohio frontier lining up to sit
at the Lord's Table just as their
forefathers did in the old country.
     This round piece with deeply impressed B is from Bloomfield, Ohio. It is cataloged as Bason-137 with the following notation: This token was made by Capt. Joseph K McClune, an elder, about 1825. So like the Scottish CT from Bolton (examined last week), we have a record that suggests a churchyard production. The Bloomfield piece is "roundish" and thick with rough, granular surfaces -- a native alloy of lead plus all sorts of impurities. A stylized B with pronounced serifs has been deeply sunk in the center.
     Bloomfield was first settled in 1815; the first settler was Lyman Ferry. The area was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, a large tract of land that was sold and distributed by the State of Connecticut following the American Revolution. Among the first wave of settlers from New England were many Presbyterians of Scotch-Irish descent. Due to the scarcity of resources, the Presbyterians joined with the Congregationalists (e.g., Methodists) to share meeting houses and ministers.
     The Reverent Giles Cole organized the first Presbyterian church in 1821. Up to about 1830, there were about 28 members in the congregation. The Presbyterians were extremely devout and rule-governed. They demanded a spiritual life and banned all frivolous activities on the Sabbath. We can assume that these simple CTs were carefully accounted for and used with the upmost protocol.
     According to Bason, Captain McClune was an elder of the church in 1825. If we accept that his name was alternatively spelled McCune, we discover that he moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania and established a tannery and farm in Bloomfield. He also raised a company of primarily Scotch-Irish neighbors to fight in the war of 1812; his troop served from February to August in 1813. Hence, he was referred to as Captain from that point on.
     So how many pieces did the Captain make?

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