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History Center Acquires Vintage Photograph of Historic Frontier Cabin

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 17th, 2015

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center was recently loaned the glass plates of Bruce Washburn, a photographer who lived and worked in Harrison County, West Virginia, at the turn of the last century (ca. 1900).  Discovered in the 1980s within a wall of Washburn’s former home, the plates were then preserved over the years by Robert Nichols, eventually finding their way to the History Center as a loan for copying.  Particularly significant in the collection is a plate documenting the late 18th century frontier home of Colonel William Lowther as it appeared in 1908:


Home of Colonel William Lowther (1742-1814) of Harrison County

Home of Colonel William Lowther (1742-1814) of Harrison County
from a photograph in the Washburn glass plate collection 


Although this image is known, and has been published on the internet, the loan of the original 5 inch by 8 inch plate, the large surface of which allows for the recording of a substantial volume of information, has allowed the History Center to capture in detail through digital scanning the architectural and material features of this home.


This photograph also has historical resonance, in that its owner and occupant played a significant role in the history of western Virginia.  The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia describes Lowther as effectively assisting the frontier population during the “starving year” of 1773.  He also defended the frontier against hostile Indians, first in Lord Dunmore’s War of 1774, and later during the Revolutionary War.  According to the website Hacker’s Creek Pioneer Descendants, “during the latter part of the [Revolutionary] war he had charge of the line of scouts along the Ohio River, covering the approaches to the settlements in the Kanawha Valley, …”  Similarly, during the Northwest Indian War in 1795, William Lowther commanded scouts to help defend Harrison County, as documented by this recently discovered Harrison County court record at the History Center:


Pay Abstract for Scouts hired by William Lowther to Defend Harrison County 

Pay Abstract for Scouts hired by William Lowther
to Defend Harrison County;
From A&M Collection No. 4105


Colonel Lowther also served as a Justice of the Peace in the District of West Augusta, the first Sheriff of Harrison and Wood Counties, and as a member of the Virginia General Assembly.


If this history related blog from the West Virginia and Regional History Center is of interest, then you may wish to check out additional blogs from the History Center, available at the Libraries News Page.

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