Monday, February 26, 2018

Nella Fontaine Binckley: "Odds and Ends from an Artist's Life," Chapter IV, Part 1

Peter Carr Johnston (image care of Peter Binckley via William Myers)
[Nella Fontaine Binckley, "Odds and Ends from an Artist's Life," Chapter IV, part 1. From a transcription annotated by Patricia D'Arcy Binckley of typewritten original, February 25, 2005. Original "written some time after 1941 by Nellie F. Binckley, 1860-1950 or 51." Notes in brackets are mine, unless followed by the initials "P.D.B." Occasionally, additional paragraph breaks inserted for easier reading. 

Many thanks to William Myers, Mary Davy, Sally Young and Sue Davis for their ongoing research collaboration; specifically to William for providing a scan of the original document, and in turn many thanks to Peter Binckley and Patricia D'Arcy "Trish" Binckley (1951-2007), at the source.]

After living in the cold among strangers, to come back to the South and beloved kinfolk -- it was heaven! And to live with mountains again! [Abingdon] was Grandmother's birthplace. It's a lovely little town on the Western edge of Virginia only ten miles from Bristol, which town sits astride the State line. One side of its principal street is in Virginia and the other side is in Tennessee.

The old Johnston family mansion, Panicillo [Panecillo], where Grandmother was born, stands on a hill a short distance outside the town of Abingdon. When my great grandfather, Judge Peter Johnstone [Johnston], died the place was sold, as none of his sons wished to stay in a small town. He had fought through the Revolution on the staff of Light Horse Harry Lee.

At the time we came to Abingdon from Chicago, all of Grandmother's brothers were dead but two -- Uncle Peter, who was living there in Abingdon, and Uncle Joe, who was but six years older [than] Grandmother and who was living in Washington.* Uncle Peter was one of the older brothers, and was a geologist. [They] had dropped the final e from their name and it was now Johnston.

Grandmother's nephew -- the only one she had -- was then in Abingdon, or rather, living in his place, Eggleston, a few miles out of town. He was the son of her oldest brother, Uncle John, and was three [closer to seven] years older [than] she! He had never called her aunt, but always Jane. Uncle John [Warfield Johnston -- M.J.B.] had married Miss Lou Bowen of Tazewell County, a great beauty and belle. He died at twenty-three [twenty-seven], leaving a widow of nineteen and a baby boy. Aunt Lou lived to be ninety-six [into her seventies?], but never married again. When we came, she was still living with her son, who was now Senator John Warfield Johnston, Jr. of Virginia. She was a lovely old lady, as she had been a lovely young one.

Cousin John had married a daughter of Governor John B. Floyd of Virginia. Among his valued friends, Gov. Floyd counted an Indian chief. When a baby girl was born, the chief asked the privilege of naming her. He gave her an Indian name, Nicketti, pronounced Nickettye. 

The Floyds were Catholics; his wife converted cousin John and he became a devout Catholic, so his large family were brought up in the faith. There was a convent in Abingdon and Coralie, Cousin John's youngest daughter, used to take me to see Sister Benedicta, of whom we were both fond. She was young and pretty and I often wondered what had made her take the veil.      

[Ellen/Nellie/Nella Fontaine Binckley (September 1, 1860-April 27, 1951). Family names and dates were whimsically tweaked by their owners during their lifetime, adding mystery and sometimes causing confusion. For Binckley's "Artist's Life," I'm opting for the full artist's signature name, Nella Fontaine Binckley. 

Grandmother = Jane Johnston Mitchell/Michel (1811-1892).
Mother = Mary Louisa/Louise Mitchell/Michel Binckley (1838-1930).
Dad/Father = John Milton Binckley (circa 1831-1878).

Lighthorse Harry Lee (1756-1818). 
Peter Johnston, Jr. (1763-1831).
Peter Carr Johnston (1793-1877).
*Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891) was living in Savannah in 1875. He lived there at 
105 East Oglethorpe Avenue, with his wife (Lydia Milligan Sims McLane Johnston), from 1868 until 1876. He did live in Washington City later (and before the Civil War, also).
Dr. John Warfield Johnston (1790-1818).
John Warfield Johnston  (1818-1889).
Aunt Lou = Louisa Smith Bowen Johnston (1800-187?). Nellie's recollection suggests that she lived past 1873.
Nellie is conflating John Floyd (1783-1837) with his son, John Buchanan Floyd (1806-1863), brother of Nicketti Buchanan Floyd Johnston (1819-1908).
Coralie Henry Johnston (1861-1954) later served as a nurse and librarian. 
Sister Benedicta = Sister Mary Benedicta Fenwick, situated at the Villa Marie, Academy of the Visitation, in Abingdon. This institution was in operation here from 1867 until the early 1900s, when it was relocated to Wytheville.]

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