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Reviving a town father

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / March 10, 2021


Ahead of Chase City’s 150th anniversary in 2023, MacCallum More Museum and Gardens hopes to restore the portraits of the town’s founder, George Alfred Endly, and his wife, Narcissa Abigail Endly.

Local artist and MMMG board member Diana Thorpe is leading the effort to raise the $12,000 needed to restore both portraits and their frames.

Thorpe said the portraits were donated to the museum several years ago after having been stored in a basement belonging to a member of the Endly family. During that time, they suffered significant damage. Despite their fragile condition, they have been on display in the lobby at the museum in Chase City and they will be returned to that place of prominence once restoration is complete.

Work on the portraits will be overseen by the Richmond Conservation Studio and is expected to cost about $5,000, according to Thorpe. The frames, which are original to the portraits, also need to be repaired and have the 22 karat gold leaf reapplied. That costs between $2,500 and $3,500 per frame.

Thorpe said MaCallum More already has received a donation of $1,250 for the project from a descendant of the Endly family. A museum patron has agreed to match funds up to $2,500.

Robert Brinkerhoff, a professor at Western Michigan University and the great great grandson of George Endly, said he was excited by news of the project and provided some previously unpublished history of the Endly family and their ties to Chase City.

In 1868, George Endly, a banker in Pittsburgh, moved with his ailing wife to Christiansville, in search of a warmer climate. The healing waters in the area, particularly around the Buffalo Lithia Springs near present-day Buffalo Junction, had been drawing visitors as early as 1790.

It is not known if that is what attracted Endly to the area, but according to Brinkerhoff, Narcissa died from tuberculosis in 1869. The prevailing view of the day was that the mineral waters had curative powers for many ailments including tuberculosis.

Shortly after arriving in the area, Endly purchased a 1,325-acre estate in the community of Christiansville. He hired famed local architect and builder Jacob Holt to remodel a home on the property known as Shadow Lawn. The house, today owned by Glenn and Lisa Gillispie, remains standing. It is listed on the Virginia Register of Historic Places and is located on present-day Main Street in Chase City.

Endly remained in Christiansville following the death of his wife. In 1873, he laid out plats from the estate to form a new town which he named Chase City. Endly, who was originally from Ohio, chose the name to honor fellow Ohioan and then-chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Salmon P. Chase.

In addition to serving as first mayor of Chase City, Endly established and operated a general store and The Bank of Chase City. His other accomplishments include helping to found and serving as first elder of Chase City Presbyterian Church, and establishing and serving on the board of the Chase City Mineral Water Company.

Endly sold for a nominal cost the land that was used to erect two schools in the town, one for white children and the other a military school.

Endly died in 1912 and is buried in the town’s Woodland Cemetery along with his wife and other descendants of the extended Endly family. Without Endly, there would be no Chase City. Thorpe said that is one reason she is so passionate about preserving the portraits that were painted in the 1850s or 1860s.

“This is your opportunity to help rescue a part of Chase City’s heritage by donating to the restoration,” Thorpe said. “The museum is accepting contributions of any amount and that MMMG is a 501(c)(3) corporation and donations are tax deductible.”

Checks can be mailed or dropped off at MacCallum More Museum and Gardens, 603 Hudgins Street, Chase City VA 23924 or you can go online to http://www.mmmg.org and click the “appeal” link.

The museum asks donors to note on the check memo line that the donation is made to restore the Endly portraits.

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