In our kitchen sits a chair . . .
It looks kind of simple, just sitting there.
A bit of research gives a hint, of a piece of the journey this little chair took.
Silas Purdy Tuthill was the man . . .
He was born in Landgrove, Bennington, Vermont on September 8th in 1812. According to Randolph County ILGenWeb, "Silas Tuthill came to the village in 1842 to make chairs." He died on February 15th, 1881 in Rockwood, Illinois at the age of sixty-nine.
Tuthill Chair in D.D. Collins House
Tuthill stamp on bottom of chair
Silas was a Quaker. He set up shop in a simple four room factory and began turning out chairs. He turned out so many chairs, that it was said that his became the only chairs to be found in the county as we learn from the following excerpt from Ancestory.com . . .
"Lulu Kelly, a Randolph County School teacher who was a good friend of Tuthill's daughter Ella, wrote before her death: "Many farm kitchens and porches were seated with homemade tables, benches and stools so when my father came home from Rockwood with a set of six shiny black chairs with gold trimming, it made a lasting impression.
S.P. Tuthill is faded but visible
As I remember every farm family that didn't use stools and benches had Tuthill chairs . . .
Mrs. Midjaas said her mother, Mrs. Alice Mann Bilderback, a friend of Lulu Kelly and Ella Tuthill, told of buying her own set of Tuthill chairs.
Young girls in their teens would begin savings for their own chairs and usually purchased them before they were married. Thus families with several daughters would have three or four sets of the chairs in the house."
Photos of his family . . .
Silas had a wife and three children. His daughter, Alice moved to San Francisco after marrying William Young.
Their son, Willard, remained a bachelor and became a Brinks Insurance Investigator and well-known Baritone in San Francisco.
Alice Orillo Tuthill
daughter of Silas Tuthill
Willard Young, son
of Alice Tuthill
Not so far away, unless you're traveling via horse and buggy . . .
A skilled horseman equipped with a solid buggy and a fine horse could possibly make it from Collinsville to Rockwood in one day if the weather was fine, the daylight hours long, and they could access a plank road here and there along their route.
Census over the decades . . .
Rockwood, Illinois census
from wikipedia - click image for link
Collinsville, Illinois census
from wikipedia - click image for link
2017 Map of route from
Collinsville to Rockwood
click image to enlarge
Silas P. Tuthill obituary
click image for zoomable PDF
The factory is no more . . .
Rockwood was and remains a tiny village. According to Ancestory.com:
"Miss Kelly wrote that during the big July 4 picnic of 1876 which was held near the building, it began to rain and picnickers took refuge in the closed factory.
She remembered the machinery was still there and there were two rooms full of new chairs which had not been sold since the elder Tuthill's death.
The Tuthill sons Charles and Eldridge, a school teacher, sold the remaining chairs and sold the factory.
Miss Kelly wrote: 'The Tuthill residence was on a small plateau just above the spring. The plateau or flat was large enough for yard and garden. The chair factory was below on the branch or creek.'
Today another house occupies the plateau and only small clearing marks the site of the factory. The Tuthill spring is almost lost in the underbrush that surrounds it."
Chair photos by Paul Welch
To read an excerpts from Mildred B. Midjaas' book, "Rockwood ~ Forgotten Glory" (1976)
click the button below:
More about the Tuthills . . .
Recently Alice Summerford visited the Collins House. When she googled Tuthill chairs the Friends of the D.D. Collins House website popped up.
You may be wondering what is so special about that. Well… Alice is the great, great, great granddaughter of Silas Tuthill, the maker of the chairs that are in the kitchen of the D.D. Collins House.
Alice currently lives in Alabama, but as circumstances would have it, she and her family were going to be in St. Louis for a graduation. She called Lavadna and asked if there were any way to visit the Collins House on a week day. Lavadna, who indicated that it would not be a problem, called Lois, and the two of them met with Alice and her family at the house.
As you may recall, Silas Tuthill lived in Rockwood, Illinois with his wife Desdimona, and their two daughters, Ella Elizabeth and Alice Orillia.
Alice is also the first cousin of Edward Finnell. His father was Alice’s mother’s brother. Edward forwarded an excerpt from a book by Mildred Midjaas referenced above.
Click image for zoomable PDF.
The genealogy of Silas Tuthill, and the photos of his family and factory were provided by Alice Summerford. Alice has a set of Tuthill chairs in her kitchen and said her family is proud to use them on a daily basis.