Newspaper: The Charlotte Gazette, Drakes Branch, VA., Thursday,
May 24, 1964
Submitted By: Bea Adams King
High Chair Holds Chunk
of County History
By Betty H. Tipton
One of Famous Johnson Chairs From Madisonville
A small high chair holds a big chunk of Charlotte county History, especially interesting in the 200th anniversary year of the establishment of the county.
Made in Madisonville about 1853, the chair now graces the dining room of a home in Drakes Branch and is a cherished possession of Mrs. A.H. Hamilton.
"The chair was made for my mother, Ella Watkins Crawley, the eldest of eight children,: Mrs. Hamilton revealed. "And it is one of the famous Johnson Chairs."
It happened to be made by Mrs. Hamilton's paternal grandfather, James Johnson, one of the Johnson brothers, who carved the wood for chairs in Madisonville during the middle of the nine-teenth century, fastening them together with wooden pegs.
Much later, Miss Ella Crawley grew up to marry Thomas A. ("Punch") Johnson, son of James Johnson, who had made the high chair for Ella and her brothers and sisters. The "Punch" Johnsons took the chair to their new home, and their ten children and grandchildren used it through the years.
"The chair came to me when my parents' home in Drakes Branch was broken up around 1930" Mrs. Hamilton, the third from the youngest child related. "My son and two granddaughters sat in it when they were small, and I was always careful to preserve it as my mother had before me.
Many tiny footprints have worn down the chair as the different generations of miniature feet have climbed up in the chair to have their meals. The lower rounds also show signs of use, where a succession of lively owners have dragged the chair across the floor, as children every where will do.
By far the most outstanding mark the antique chair bears denotes the most dangerous event in which the chair has been involved. This is a long burn on the left side of the front of the chair back, which was inflicted during the Civil War.
One night, Mary Crawley, mother of Ella, was writing to her husband, James Crawley, then fighting with Company K of the 18th Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States of America. Not having a candle, because of the wartime shortage, the woman had placed a burning torch in the split-bottom seat of her children's high chair. So intent was she in the letter she was writing, she did not notice what was happening until the back of the chair had caught a spark and burst into flames!
"I value this chair highly, of course, because of the family history it represents, Mrs. Hamilton concluded. "It's story is far from well known, but I want to tell it now, and preserve it in some manner on the bottom of the chair."