Sunday, March 21, 2010

Royal Gov. Alex Spotswood of VA - Bible Desk

Today I parted with one of the oldest antique pieces of furniture I have ever owned. It was a c.1640's Bible Box (Nautical Desk) belonging to Royal Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia. Turns out the 8th great-grandson by the name of Todd E. Long had been researching the family history and came upon my site and is now the owner of this historic piece. My tenure of being the guardian of a slice of American history has ended after almost 15-years.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Todd Long - new owner of the Spotswood Bible Box

The Spotswood Family Reunion
Fredericksburg, Virginia

July 9-11, 2010


Friday, July 9
12:00- 3:00 p.m. Executive Lunch Meeting
2:00-4:00 p.m. Registration
6:30 p.m. Cocktail Reception
7:00 p.m. Buffet Dinner
7:45 p.m. Guest Speaker: Todd Long, “Ghosts of Salubria, Home of Lady Butler Spotswood”
This 270 year old home has been a source of “haunted” stories since the Civil War.
9:00 p.m. Adjourn

Saturday, July 10
8:30 a.m. Tour of Germanna Visitor Center, including colonnaded Memorial Garden, containing the
monument and grave of John Spotswood, son and heir of Governor Spotswood
These are the German Descendants of those indentured workers brought by Governor
Spotswood to Virginia to work his mines and iron furnaces, 1714 & 1717.
10:00 a.m. Tour of Spotswood Home Site, including footprint of both Spotswood’s Enchanted Castle
and Fort Germanna
Fort Germanna was built to house and protect Spotswoods’ German miners and iron
workers. He later tore down Fort Germanna and built Lady Butler Spotswood the largest
mansion in colonial Virginia, described as the Enchanted Castle by visitors.
10:45 a.m. Tour of Salubria
This mansion was built for Lady Butler Spotswood, widow of Governor Spotswood, by
the Rev. John Thompson, the widow’s second husband.
12:00 p.m. Lunch in Fredericksburg
1:00 p.m. Tour of Kenmore
Kenmore is the family home of Betty Washington and Fielding Lewis, Sr. Betty is the
sister of George Washington.
2:00 p.m. Rising Sun Tavern
Home of George’s brother, Charles, which later became a colonial tavern frequented by
the Spotswoods and Washingtons.
3:00 p.m. Tour of Mary Ball Washington House
This house was purchased by George Washington for his mother’s safety and because it
touched on the garden of Kenmore, the home of his sister, Betty.
5:00 p.m. Return to Hotel
6:30 p.m. Cocktail Reception (Open Bar 6:30-7:00. Cash Bar 7:00-8:00 p.m.)
7:00 p.m. Plated Dinner Banquet
7:30 p.m. Guest Speaker: Governor Spotswood in his full 18th Century attire
Governor Spotswood discusses his life and achievements. Question and answer session
8:00 p.m. Business Meeting
9:00 p.m. Adjourn

Sunday, July 11
10:00 a.m. Attend St. George’s Episcopal Church where the Spotswood and Washington families
12:00 p.m. Lunch cruise aboard City of Fredericksburg, a Riverboat on the Rappahannock River that
reaches from Fredericksburg to the Chesapeake Bay

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bible / Nautical Desk

The Bible Desk/Nautical Desk of Royal Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia

Royal Governor Alexander Spotswood's Bible/Nautical Desk

Bible Desk Box c. 1640 (English) with the stand added in early 1700s (most probably American). From the Spotswood-Cabaniss Family Estate. Acquired in Savannah, GA in 1995 at Auction.

History on the Royal Governor
Alexander Spotswood
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Born cir 1676
Tangier Garrison, Morocco
Died June 7, 1740 (aged 64)
Annapolis, Ann Arundel, Maryland
Residence Governor's mansion, Virginia, U.S.
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Butler Brayne
Children John M. Spotswood (1725 - 6 May 1756)

Anne Catherine Spotswood (1728 - cir 1802)
Dorothea Spotswood (cir 1729 - 23 September 1773)
Robert Spotswood (cir 1732 - 1758)
Parents Robert Spottiswoode and Catharine Maxwell

Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 - 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

Alexander Spotswood was born in the Tangier Garrison, Morocco, Africa about 1676 to Catharine Maxwell (c. 1638 - December 1709) and her second husband, Dr Robert Spottiswoode (17 September 1637 - 1680), the Chirurgeon to the Garrison. Through his father, Alexander was a grandson of Judge Robert Spottiswoode (1596-1646), a great-grandson of Archbishop John Spottiswoode (1565-1639), and a descendant of King Robert II of Scotland through the 2nd Earls of Crawford [1]). Alexander's older half-brother (by his mother's first marriage to George Elliott) was Roger Elliott (c. 1655 - 15 May 1714), who became one of the first Governors of Gibraltar. Following the death of Robert Spotswood, his mother married thirdly Reverend Dr. George Mercer, the Garrison's Schoolmaster.

On 20 May 1693, Alexander became an Ensign in the Earl of Bath's Regiment of Foot, and was commissioned in 1698, being promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1703. He was appointed Quartermaster-General of the Duke of Marlborough's army the same year, and was wounded at the Battle of Blenheim the following year.

In 1710, Alexander was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, under the nominal governorship of George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney. He was the first to occupy the new Governors Mansion, which many citizens thought overly extravagant (its 20th-century reconstruction is now one of the principal landmarks in Colonial Williamsburg). A Tobacco Act requiring the inspection of all tobacco intended for export or for use as legal tender was passed in 1713. The next year, he founded the First Germanna Colony, and regulated trade with native Americans at another of his pet projects, Fort Christanna. In 1715, he bought 3229 acres (13 km²) at Germanna.

In 1716 he led the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition up the Rappahannock River valley and across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap into the Shenandoah Valley to expedite settlement. The following year saw the foundation of the Second Germanna Colony and the Repeal of regulation of trade with native Americans. A Third Germanna Colony followed in 1719, and Germanna was made the seat of Spotsylvania County the following year.

Between 1716 and 1720, Spotswood built the Tubal Works which had a cold blast charcoal blast furnace and produced pig iron. It remained in operation for about 40 years and is possibly the first successful ironworks in the colonies (although Tinton Falls, NJ-late 1600s is another candidate). Pig iron from Tubal is in the collections of the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Area Museum and the NPS (Spotsylvania Courthouse). Tubal Works iron was exported to England by 1723 [2]. In May of the same year Gov. Drysdale reported to the Lords of Trade that Spotswood was selling "backs and frames for Chumnies, Potts, doggs, frying, stewing, and backing panns" at auction in Williamsburg. Around 1732 he built what may be the first purpose built foundry in the British North American Colonies at Massaponax. This was a double air furnace (usually used to make cannon) and was used to recast pig iron produced at Tubal into final shapes (kettles, andirons, firebacks, etc.). Neither of Spotswood's iron operations were at Germanna. Spotswood was not, as is commonly believed, involved in the Fredericksville Furnace.

Carving on desk top. Reveals the letters H S & E (unclear when this was added and what the significance). The bible/nautical box itself was manufactured in England c.1640's. The stand was added afterwards in America (by American craftsmen) in the early 1700's.

Desk hinge with hand hewn nails (rose head nails), notice the circular ink jar stain (ring)

It was in the fall of 1718 when Spotswood engaged in a clandestine expedition by privately hiring two sloops, Jane and Ranger, and a number of Royal Navy men to seek out the pirate Blackbeard, or Edward Teach. On 18 November 1718, Lt. Robert Maynard sailed from Hampton, Virginia to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. On 22 November 1718, Maynard and his men defeated Blackbeard and the pirates. On 24 November 1718, two days after Blackbeard's death, Spotswood issued a proclamation at the Assembly in Williamsburg offering reward for any who brought Teach and the other pirates to justice.

A Treaty with the Iroquois was arranged in Albany, New York during 1721. Alexander completed the Governor's palace in 1722, when he was recalled from the lieutenant governorship and replaced by Hugh Drysdale. Throughout his career, Spotswood had maintained an adversarial relationship with the Virginia Council, especially its most prominent member, James Blair. As the Bishop of London's representative in the colony, the President of the College of William and Mary, and a councilman in Virginia's highest legislative body, Blair was arguably the most powerful man in the colony. He successfully orchestrated the recall of three royally appointed governors, including Alexander Spotswood, who entered private life with 80,000 acres (324 km²) in Spotsylvania and three iron furnaces.

Returning to London, he married Elizabeth Butler Brayne in 1724, but was back at the 'Enchanted Castle', Germanna, by 1729. He served as Deputy Postmaster General from 1730 to 1739, and died on 7 June 1740 at Annapolis, Ann Arundel, Maryland (MD).

His Family

In 1724, Alexander married Elizabeth Butler Brayne (known as Butler Brayne) in London and had four children by her:

* John M. Spotswood (1725 - 6 May 1756) married in 1745 Mary West Dandridge {a cousin of Martha Washington}, daughter of William Dandridge, Esq., of Elson Green, King William Co., Va, a Captain in the British Navy. Their son Brig. Gen. Alexander Spotswood of the 2nd Virginia Regiment married to Elizabeth Washington - a daughter of Augustine Washington, President George Washington's older half-brother - a niece of George Washington.

* Anne Catherine Spotswood (1728 - c. 1802) married Col. Bernard Moore, Esq., of Chelsea, King William Co., Va, a gentleman seventh in descent from Sir Thomas More, of Chelsea, England, the author of Utopia, and became an ancestor of Robert E. Lee [1] and Helen Keller.

* Dorothea Spotswood (c.1729 - 23 Sep 1773) married in 1747 Mary Dandridge's brother, Col. Nathaniel West Dandridge, who was a first cousin of Martha Washington, a son of William Dandridge, Esq., of Elson Green, King William Co., Va, a Captain in the British Navy, a direct descendant of Governor John West, and an ancestor of Edith Wilson. She later married Patrick Henry, and they had 11 children.

* Robert Spotswood (c.1732 - 1758), who was a subaltern officer under Washington. In 1758, while with a scouting party, he was killed near Fort du Quesne.

* A descendant of this family was the great Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Front face with carvings and key hole

Inside desk top (mirror added in 20th Century probably functional and to help support structure), note original latch.

More recent history:

Several generations later a Robert Cabaniss moved to Savannah, GA and taking the family heirlooms of both the Cabaniss and Spotswood family. This bible desk being one of them. Robert was the son of Charles E. Cabaniss and Lucy Anne Spotswood (a descendant of Royal Governor Spotswood). He was born around 1884 in Victoria, Texas, and died on March 14, 1939 in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. He is buried in the famous Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. That is how this bible desk or nautical desk arrived in Savannah, GA from it's construction of origin in England. It remained in the Cabaniss estate until the death of descendants around the mid-1990s and many of the family belongings went on the auction block.

Inside desk. Notice compartments, wooden prop with notches in top to hold open, also 2 stickers featuring auction house provenance.

The desk was purchased by Dr. JP Saleeby and his wife Tonya for their Bed & Breakfast operation at 511 E. Broughton St., Savannah, GA in 1995. It remained a conversation piece in the Inn until it was sold in 1999. The Saleeby's at one time purchased 30 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the Barboursville Winery in Barboursville, VA with the intention of developing an Inn & Spa and returning this artifact to Virginia. They eventually sold the entire 30 acres to the winery owners after only two years. The piece remained with Dr. Saleeby and currently rests in his residence in Bennettsville, SC.

Provenance stickers placed by auction house in Savannah read:
"Cabanis-Spotswood family heirloom circa 1840 - English navigation chart and bible box - lower stand circa 1700's" is the text on the first sticker in black ink.

"Royal Gov. Alexander Spotswood's navigation desk and bible shipbox and at Williamsburg, VA 1710 - 1722. Heirloom Spotswood-Cabanis Family kept." is the text on the 2nd sticker in red ink.

The dimensions are: 38'' H X 23.3'' D X 26.5 '' W


History Of The Item:

A Bible box was an important item in English households of the Tudor and Jacobean years. Most households had one which was kept on a shelf or side table when not in use. A product of the joiner's skill, as were other forms of the 17th century, it was made primarily to hold one of the folio sized Bibles of the period and since there was room to spare, writing materials, valuable papers, and other small items of importance were usually included. Those of English provenance were of oak and rather lightly constructed. In time, someone thought of a more convenient writing arrangement and a box with a slanting lid was the result. This was about the middle of the 17th century. Except for the fact that the lid sloped upward and away from the person using it, and was hinged on the high side, it was not essentially different from the earlier boxes. The Bible box was now slightly larger with sides as well as the front being decorated with shallow carving.

Appraiser Comments:

The "H.S.E." in an ornate carved shield are the owner's initials. Most Bible Boxes have the owner's intials carved in them; the hinges, carvings, slant top of the box, and the construction indicate a Jacobean Bible box made of oak. The desk was most certainly added at a much later date, possibly a century or more; the desk lacks the usual English barley twist legs and crossed stretchers associated with the Jacobean period. Antique furniture must be at least 60% authentic (this also includes replacement wood) to be considered an original antique of the period in question.

17th century Bible boxes and desks are very prevalent in the retail and auction markets at this time, and this does dilute the value (principle of supply and demand as well as the principle of contribution). The three main criteria for an antique are: rarity, quality and demand, not necessarily age. I would date the Bible box/desk C. mid to late 17th century. The market comparison approach to value was used which estimates value by comparison with properties sold in the relevant market, with adjustments made for all differences that affect value, such as differences in characteristics of value, in market layer, and in time.

Kindest regards,

[name removed by editor]
American Society of Appraisers
Associate Member of the American Society of Appraisers, a Graduate of Ashford Institute of Antiques and Certified U.S.P.A.P. and the Code of Ethics.


The expert is of the opinion that this item IS authentic. Reason: The construction, carvings, pigeon holes and slanted lid are very good indicators of a 17th century Bible box and writing desk.

Asking:  $XX,XXX.xx  [figure removed by editor]  USD

**** New Blog:  Medical Antique Collection (Dr. Saleeby's) list of items and value (some pictures). Visit for more info.  Dr. Saleeby is also available for lectures on Civil War Medicine and  Surgery (see above link for more information)

eStatLabs is a direct-access-testing web site allowing anyone to order blood and urine tests online without a doctors visit or prescription.  This makes personal healthcare available at very low cost to consumer.  

AtroGene has launched an Internet web portal with a new paradigm in medical consultation via telemedicine, Skype and the internet.  Helping the ill away from home on vacation with in-hotel telemedicine to save time and money while on vacation.  Other services offered as well.