Governor Duncan descendant donates two pieces of furniture to the Mansion

By Benjamin Cox on August 29, 2018 at 8:34pm

Putnam Barber and his wife Valerie Ward Lynch are no strangers to the Governor Duncan mansion.

Barber is a direct descendant of Governor Joseph Duncan, and both Putnam Barber and his wife Valerie’s names are displayed to commemorate their donation of the portrait of Elizabeth Caldwell Smith Duncan, Joseph’s wife, which hangs above a mantle in Mansion’s family parlor.

Barber and Lynch were both guests of the Governor Duncan Mansion Wednesday evening to celebrate the addition of two well-preserved pieces of furniture that are directly connected with the Duncan family history. The Mansion welcomes an armoire used by Elizabeth Duncan throughout her life and a couch, which is a remnant of the life led by Governor Duncan’s daughter Mary Louisa Duncan Putnam after she left Jacksonville.

Barber explains the two pieces of furniture donated Wednesday evening.

“The couch came from Mary Putnam’s house in Davenport, Iowa. The couch is a reproduction of the couch that sat in the Putnam home, called Wood-lawn, which was destroyed by a fire in 1877. She loved the furniture and hired someone at the time to do a reproduction of it. The armoire comes from the Caldwell family and presumably came to the Mansion originally when Elizabeth Caldwell Smith married Governor Duncan. Both of the pieces were inherited by my grandfather, then my mother, and then myself.”

Susan Hardin is the Curator of the Governor Duncan Mansion, which is owned by the Reverend James Caldwell chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Hardin says Barber has been incredibly gracious.

“Putnam Barber is Governor Joseph Duncan’s great great grandson, and he has helped the mansion considerably, and he and his wife Valerie have gifted us two more pieces of the Duncan family furniture, including an armoire used by Elizabeth Duncan even before she married Joseph, which would make it over 200 years old.”

Hardin describes why the Governor Duncan Mansion is an important piece of the puzzle in understanding the history of Jacksonville.

“It’s very much a part of what we as DAR members do for preservation of history, but it is also a critical part of Jacksonville’s history because the Duncans were among the early settlers, and this was in the same time period as the log cabins over at New Salem.”

Both of the pieces are currently on display on the second floor of the Governor Duncan home, on the western edge of State Street behind Duncan Park.