OXFORD – Village and Town Historian, Charlotte Stafford recently acquired a pair of watercolor portraits, estimated to be from c.1820, of Polly Knapp and Samuel Balcom, for the Oxford Historical Society Museum. This rare and treasurable pair of paintings, complete with provenance on the frame backs, was advertised on eBay from Central Point, OR. How they made the journey all the way to the coast from New York may remain a mystery, but the main thing is their importance to Oxford and that they’re back.
The portrait of Polly Knapp was the more important painting of the two, as she was the first “white” child in Oxford. (She appears to be around 40 years old in the painting.) Her husband was a deacon and a colonel, Samuel Balcom, the subject of the other portrait. He built the Stone House Farm and was one of the founders of the Oxford Baptist Church. Polly’s portrait is marked with the name, “George N. Cobb,” a famous Civil War photographer. He may simply have matted the painting or may even have painted them. It hasn’t been determined yet. Both paintings have complete detailed histories hand-written on the back of the frames.