Vines-Collier-Hicks Cupboard, A True Family Heirloom in North Carolina Museum
Here is a true, authenticated Collier family heirloom. The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) of Old Salem, North Carolina is the repository of a court cupboard from the Collier family. The cupboard is one of only two surviving southern-made court cupboards and is a centerpiece in the MESDA collection. The cupboard’s connection to the Vines-Collier-Hicks family of York and Brunswick Counties in Virginia is intact.
This 17th century American cupboard was part of the estate of Thomas Vines and passed through the female line to his daughter Ann. Ann Vines married Isaac Collier and the couple had eight children. The cupboard passed to one of the daughters, Judith Collier, who married James Hicks, Sr. Vines Collier was the son of Isaac Collier and Ann Vines and the brother of Judith.
The cupboard is featured twice in articles of The Magazine Antiques – in March 2005 and again in January 2007. The January issue of Magazine Antiques was brought to the attention of CHF several years ago by Vines Collier descendant, the late William Ramon Collier. Vines Collier, brother of Judith Collier Hicks (one of the owners of the cupboard), removed from Brunswick County, VA to Wilkes County (now Oglethorpe County) Georgia around 1790. The Vines Collier home, constructed at about that time, is still standing and is occupied by Mr. Jack Howard who is a descendant of the Howards who purchased the plantation in 1836.
Known as the Vines-Collier-Hicks Cupboard, the item has long been a prized mainstay of the museum great hall exhibit. According to the publication, Magazine Antiques, the cupboard was purchased by an antique dealer in the 1920’s. At that time it was “used to store smoked hams and tools on the back porch” of the home of a Vines family descendant..
The papers of Jena Cuthbert (J C ) Collier show that he was aware of the cupboard in 1931 or earlier, as evidenced by this letter from the Clerk of the Circuit court in Yorktown, Virginia. The letter was in response to an inquiry by J C Collier who was trying to locate the owner of the cupboard.1931_01_19 Ltr Floyd Holloway to JCC cupboard
The Clerk referred him to Mrs. B. L. Brockwell, Petersburg, Virginia. J C apparently sent a letter to Mrs. Brockwell which resulted in this picture of the cupboard in its unrestored state and the accompanying letter.1931_03_03_ltr Mrs B L Brockwell to JCC sideboard
Here is J C’s response.1931_03_04 Ltr JCC to Mrs B L Brockwell re cupboard
Two other letters mention the cupboard. The first is dated March 13, 1931 from Martha Collier in Petersburg, Virginia. Here is the letter followed by the transcription.1931_03_13_cupboard Ltr M Collier to JCC
March 13, 31
Dear Mr. Collier,
I had a call on the phone today from a Mr. Brockwell (antique dealer) who has in his possession an old cup board he said it was owned by a Mrs. William Walker (Anne Vines) daughter of Judith Collier, who married Capt. James Hicks of Brunswick Co., Va according to the records I have of the Collier family and the one I sent you. She was the daughter of John Collier of Porto Bello, King & Queen Co., Va & Nancy Epps (am I not right) he says he has found the will, her father is Isaac Collier, and they are not related to this family. I cannot understand anyone to make such a mistake & I do not believe that they did – he phoned me about a year ago, & when I told him the date of her birth, he said it was about a hundred years too early, &, when he phoned today, he seemed to have another line, but my date did not ever to fit in (to suit him). Then he called again & said that you had sent him lots of data, was it what I sent you? He said your grand-father was Vines Collier, & a draper & the one I traced from was a weaver, but that was not the ones he wanted, in other words, he intimated he was going to link this antique up with royalty – Lord Dunmore. I know that Isaac is a branch of the same family, why should they say that Judith is John Collier daughter if she is not. Please do not mention to him that I have heard from you or written to you in regard to this but I would like to know the real dope (?) about Judiths father. I thanking you in advance.
Martha R. Collier
405 S Sycamore St.
In an effort to address Martha’s confusion about Collier genealogy, J C sent her a long letter detailing his work in Collier family history. No other mention of the Vines-Collier-Hicks cupboard has been found in the historical papers of J C Collier. The price quoted by Mrs Brockwell most likely tempered his interest in this family item.1931_03_16_Ltr JCC to Martha R Collier