Last week journeyed to Ulysses New York to speak to local historians and villagers in Trumansburg (the village inside Ulysses) about the career of Jeptha H. Wade (1811-1890) as a portrait painter in Trumansburg (late May – September 1838). I was there at the invite of John Wertis, the Ulysses Town Historian and gave the presentation in his barn. I forgot to ask him how old the barn is, it occurs to me it might have been doing it’s barnly duties when Jeptha was painting portraits in the rooms above Henry Taylor’s Shoe Store (on the east side of the creek.
Advertisement placed by J.H. Wade in the Trumansburg Advertiser & Whig, May 1838
The folks gathered in John’s barn couldn’t have been more welcoming, interesting, and helpful. Everyone had suggestions for places to look for more paintings by J.H. Wade and I’m convinced that the group in the photos above, holding images of Wade family members and the few known paintings by Wade, will be fanning out across the Finger Lakes region and if there are Wade paintings to be found, they will find them! My only regret, which I hope to rectify in the near future, is I didn’t have a chance to sit down with this group of folks and hear about their ancestors. Every family has a story!
Helen McLallen and I spent an evening together discussing her family history. She is shown here holding a photograph of what was likely the portrait of her ancestor, John McLallen, painted by “Mr. J. Wade.”
John McLallen’s son James kept records of his life as a Trumansburg merchant. Helen went searching through the journals and came up with these two items noted in the fall of 1838.
- Tuesday, September 25, 1838 “In the evening purchassed some paints for Mr Wade the portrait painter, in Broadway.” [James is in NYC on his semi-annual trip to buy goods for his store]
- Thursday, October 11, 1838 “Brother Philemon brought Fathers & Mothers Portraits up to my house from the shop where they were painted by Mr. J. Wade. I paid him $25.00 for painting the two” [portraits of John McLallen and Maria Himrod McLallen]
I didn’t have photographs of the backs of any of the paintings I showed and promised the Trumansburgians (or are they Ulyssesians) I’d post some so they know what they are looking for. Here are examples of two different signatures on the back of known works:
Slowly but surely traces of Jeptha’s life as a young man are beginning to emerge to supplement the autobiography he wrote 50 years later in 1889. While Jeptha doesn’t mention Trumansburg by name, I hope his memories of the village and townspeople were as pleasant as mine our.
Thank you for all who turned out on a lovely Thursday evening in July. Special thanks to John Wertis, his family, and my fascinating dinner companions Carolyn and Marion. And thanks also to stalwart friends Robin Dowden, Scott A. Sayre, Kris Wetterlund for making the trip up from Corning, NY to hear the presentation (and Scott for serving as impromptu photographer for the event).