The Columbus Museum has purchased one of the lots from the historical collection of the late Russell County Circuit Court Judge George Greene.
During the auction Saturday at Case Antiques in Knoxville, Tenn., the museum bought the lot comprising items related to:
Col. John Crowell (1780-1846), an agent stationed at Fort Mitchell, Ala., and authorized to interact with the Creek Indians on behalf of the United States.
Philanthropist and slave trader Stephen Girard (1750-1831), the namesake of Girard, Ala., which consolidated with Phenix City in 1923.
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The winning bid, known as the hammer price, was $400. The estimated value was between $300 and $400. The buyer pays an 18 percent premium to Case, and the auction company also takes a 20 percent cut of the hammer price from the seller.
The lot's Girard grouping contains an engraving of him and a note for $1,917 pounds he signed in 1785. Girard is credited with saving the U.S. government from financial collapse during the War of 1812.
The lot's Crowell grouping includes an 1843 deed he signed to Gen. Samuel Benton. In 1819, Crowell became Alabama's first member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
History curator Rebecca Bush explained why the museum's committee targeted the lot's items.
"They're related to two important figures in Russell County history, and they fill a bit of a hole in our collection," she said Monday. " I'm pleased they get to come back home so people can enjoy them for generations to come and learn what these original objects and documents can tell us."
Whether other historical items from Greene's collection return home will be decided Feb. 4, when James D. Julia Inc. of Fairfield, Maine, will auction more than a dozen lots of local significance. Most notable among them is the Blind Tom archive, considered the largest collection of artifacts related to the autistic savant slave, musician and composer from Columbus.
Asked to rate the museum's interest in the Blind Tom lot - with an estimated value between $10,000 and $20,000 - Bush didn't tip her hand but acknowledged, "I think everyone realizes what a great archive it is. We also know the Smithsonian is likely to be in the mix."
At an auction in Cincinnati last year, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture paid $37,600 for Greene's silver and ebony flute with a gold engraved nameplate reading "Made for Blind Tom By Wm. R. Meinell, New York," one of the top flute makers of his era. The text in the Cowan's Auctions catalog speculates that the flute was the only item Blind Tom owned other than his clothes.
James Hall, a Phenix City attorney representing Greene's estate, said in a Jan. 9 Ledger-Enquirer story that the family hopes the Blind Tom archive ends up in local hands. Some area historians objected to auctioning the collection at all.
Bush made the bids on behalf of the museum via telephone Saturday. The museum sought two other Greene lots during the auction but was outbid by undisclosed buyers:
Miniature portrait of Benajah Smith Bibb, circa 1830, said to have been proud to be the first judicial officer removed by federal authorities after the Civil War, brother of the first and second governors of Alabama. The estimated value was $1,200 to $1,400. It sold for $2,900.
Archive and Civil War album of J.J. Slade, mayor of Columbus 1892-95 and Georgia Assembly member 1907-13. The estimated value was $400 to $450. It sold for $850.
"We set a maximum bid amount," Bush said, "and they went beyond our maximum." She declined to reveal those figures but added, "We were competitive on both of them."
Here are other Greene lots of local significance sold during the auction, also to undisclosed buyers:
Portrait of John Woolfolk (1781-1861), attributed to Rembrandt Peale. Woolfolk's land holdings in Columbus included what became the headquarters of Fort Benning. The estimated value was $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $3,000.
Columbus GA postmarked covers, 1842-44, and Civil War pass. The estimated value was $250 to $350. It sold for $175.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.
READ ORIGINAL STORY
Click on this article at www.ledger-enquirer.com for a link to the original story about Judge Greene's historical items going up for auction, including the controversy about his Blind Tom collection.