Thursday

Galli, Pia - portrait of Jane Bretney Lanier

Although this miniature portrait looks ordinary, it has proved to be a most interesting one to research. It came with no history, but there have been continually amazing discoveries, as the sitter has been found to link Pocahontas, George Washington, the Battle of Harper's Ferry, General George Custer, Matthew Brady, Patrick Henry, Dolly Madison, and even a possible 20C conman!

The portrait is signed on the front by Pia Galli. Inside the case the portrait is signed again by Pia Galli, Turin, Italy and the sitter is identified as Jane Bretney Lanier. Jane was born 15 Feb 1842 and died 1 Jun 1901. Working from the obituary for her son referred to below, Jane must have been a great-granddaughter of Patrick Henry and a great-grandniece of Dolly Madison.

On 3 Sep 1857 when she was only 15, she married Powhatan Bolling Cabell (17 Oct 1828-14 Dec 1859). Powhatan was a physician and a direct descendant of the famous Pocahontas and her father Powhatan. He died quite young and Jane was remarried on 23 Feb 1864 to James Barroll Washington (26 Aug 1839-1900).

James was a great-great-grandnephew of George Washington and the son of Colonel Lewis William Washington (30 Nov 1812-1 Oct 1871). The latter was one of the main hostages at the Battle of Harper's Ferry in 1859. In the opinion of some historians, this was effectively the commencement of the Civil War. For a detailed eye witness account of the battle see http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/jbrown/boteler.html and also http://flag.blackened.net/daver/1sthand/harpers_ferry.html


James Barroll Washington attended West Point and his name can be found there in the 1860 census along with 20 year old George Armstrong Custer, later General George Custer of the Battle of Little Big Horn see The Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876. The two were friends at West Point, but were on opposite sides during the Civil War. As Lieutenant Washington, James was an aide on General Johnston's staff, but was captured by Union forces in 1862 when carrying dispatches. Here he met Captain George Custer and the occasion was recorded in two well known photographs by the famous photographer, Matthew Brady. One photograph used a posed contraband ex-slave to illustrate the cause of the war.

After the Civil War, James had an apparently quiet career as an accountant with the Boston and Ohio Railroad Company. In the 1870 census, James and Jane are recorded in Baltimore with three children, William Lanier Washington (30 Mar 1865-11 Sep 1933), Benjamin, and Lewis. James only disclosed assets of $100 and was therefore not well off.

The NY Times of May 16 1906, published an obituary for their younger son Lewis William Washington (Nov 20, 1869-1906), who had died the previous day in Nice, France. The obituary stated he was, through his mother, a great-great-grandson of Patrick Henry and a great-great-grandnephew of Dolly Madison, the wife of President Madison. Lewis married Anne Cox, sister of John Watson Cox. Both Lewis and his elder brother William worked for the Pittsburgh Sheet Steel Manufacturing Company, as vice president and president respectively.

In the 1900 census, their eldest son William Lanier Washington (Mar 30, 1865-1933), gave his occupation as Steel Manufacturer. William married three times; firstly to May Bruce Brennan, on 6 June 1906 but they were later divorced, secondly to Ida Alice Holland on 7 Jun (Jul?) 1919, they had a son Winston Lanier Washington, who only lived for nine months. The third marriage was to Augusta Adeline Koblank on 3 July 1923. According to his obituary published in the NY Times of Sep 12, 1933 William died at his home, Wakefield, on Boston Road, Westport, Ct. Sep 11, 1933 and "in recent years he had been the head of the Washington family in the United States".

The most recent record found of his widow, Augusta Adeline Washington is her arrival in the United States on the "Queen of Bermuda" arriving in New York on 25 Sep 1933, two weeks after William's death.

William collected items associated with President George Washington, but there seem to be conflicting views of their authenticity. The NY Times of Sep 12, 1933 published a glowing account about him and his collecting, including the comment that he was a 32nd degree mason. However, another reference infers that William had forgotten the story about George Washington and the cherry tree, suggesting he was 20C conman who purchased various early 19C items and then fraudulently resold them with fake certificates of authenticity claiming they were genuine relics of President George Washington, see Mutterings of a Mad Bookseller: The Washington Candlesticks Which ...

Thus, it has been quite amazing and very interesting to research this miniature to find what can be discovered if the sitter in a portrait is known. 1189

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