I've heard from fellow Commissioner and MI CWS Committee Chairman Brian James Egen of the following amazing story ... with a request for help:
We found an oil painting of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade Monument at Gettysburg in our collections here at The Henry Ford. It is a great painting of a bucolic scene with sheaves of winter wheat shocked in piles around the monument with the Rummel Farm in the distance. We are very excited about this painting and have been frantically doing research trying to find the back-story of whom, when, where, and more importantly why – particularly the Michigan Cavalry Brigade monument of all the others on the main battlefield?
The painting was done, we believe in 1890, by Jessie C. Zinn (Lohr) who was born in Gettysburg (possibly in nearby York Springs to be exact) on July 4, 1863. She was married on July 15, 1891 to Lindsy [sic] Luther Lohr Lohr who was supposedly trained at the Lutheran Seminary in town. Since the painting was signed Jessie C. Zinn we presumably speculate that it was done between June 12, 1889 (Michigan Day at G-burg) and July 15, 1891 when she was married. We have found an amazing amount of information and tracked down her grandson, Lawrence Lohr. The family is not aware of any other military themed paintings that she did – at least that they are aware – except for one. Mr. Lohr told us his cousin John Zinn, who lives in Gettysburg, has another Jessie Zinn painting done around the same time of people out visiting the “High Water Mark”. He described it as “people on a Sunday afternoon stroll visiting the battlefield.”
Our painting, which is approximately 43” x 57”, is substantial enough and unique to the artist’s other works, that we are currently thinking it may have been a commissioned piece. That being said, someone from Michigan (probably from the Brigade) must have commissioned it. Russell Alger? Libby Custer? James Kidd? Custer family? Cavalry Brigade Association? Although the accession record contains very little about the particulars we understand it was donated to The Henry Ford with a Tecumseh, MI/Detroit connection. Although we have found a ton of material on the artist and her family from Gettysburg, the trail goes cold as to the Michigan connection and why. Here is what we know about the Tecumseh/Detroit connections at the moment: Joseph Elliot Gray was one of the founding family members of Tecumseh. His son Elliot was 1st Lt. Company B, 7th MI Cavalry. He was wounded at Gettysburg and discharged about 10 days later somewhere nearby. He apparently was instrumental in the GAR 140th Post in Tecumseh, MI. Alger, who just ended his term as Governor, mentions Lt. Elliot in his speech during the Monument’s dedication so we presume Elliot was in attendance – did he meet the artist during that time? Did someone commission her after the dedication? So many questions.
As you can imagine, it is pretty exciting and we are eager to find out more and have it displayed during Civil War Remembrance weekend. It is also has recently been published to our online collections web site - THF You will see it in the middle of the thumbnails.
Brian asks: Is anyone out there with more information?