Slat-back chairs

Made by enslaved craftsmen in Cass County

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These chairs represent a shared history of two Texas families. The chairs belonged to the Jordan Baker family in Cass County and were used in his home and the homes of his descendants. They have been handed down through four generations of the Baker family to Jordan Baker’s great-great-grandson.

These chairs were likely made by craftsmen enslaved to Baker in the 1850s and 1860s. It was common throughout the South for enslaved workers to make furniture for use in the main house, work buildings, and in their own living quarters.

Jordan Baker died in February 1865. An itemized list of possessions inherited by Baker’s second wife, Nancy, accompanied his will. The list included these chairs and the names of five enslaved men, women, and children — the workers who could have made the chairs.

The Civil War ended two months after Baker died and the enslaved men and women listed in his will were freed. Because the will listed them by name, it is easier to trace their paths forward. The path of Kinchen Baker (he later changed his last name to Banks) is illuminated through census records. Kinchen, his wife Harriet, and their children lived close by as neighbors to the Baker household until at least 1880. By 1900, the family was living on farmland Kinchen owned. In the 1910 census, the last in which Kinchen clearly appears, he was a widower living with a few of his children and several grandchildren.

As for Jordan Baker’s family, the chairs ultimately ended up in the possession of his oldest son Alfred. The Alfred Baker family and the chairs moved to California after 1910. There they stayed until 2018 when Jordan’s great-great-grandson Alan took possession of the chairs and moved them to Maryland. Alan brought the chairs to the Bullock Museum, returning them to Texas and closer to the hands of those who made them.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Slat-back chairs Artifact from Cass County, TX
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