Margaret McLure’s Story
Margaret McLure was a confederate sympathizer in St. Louis in 1863. The Union army accused her of smuggling Confederate mail, seized her property, imprisoned her and eventually exiled her from the state of Missouri to Mississippi. Hearing that Missouri soldiers were paroled from the fall of Vicksburg to Demopolis, she wrote to a family friend, Lieutenant Hall, and asked for help. He went to Mississippi, picked her up, and brought her to the camp at Demopolis. Lt. Hall searched to find respectable lodging for Mrs. McLure, and a visit with Bettie Whitfield provided just that. Mrs. McLure resided with the Whitfields for the next two years. After the war ended, Mrs. McLure returned home and became the founding President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Engineer’s Surveying Transit
The faceplate reads: “Manufactured Expressly for Capt. A. P. French C. E. Demopolis Ala. By Stackpole & Brother New York 886”. The instrument has no springs, as found in more modern instruments. Instead, opposing brass screws are employed to obtain micrometer adjustments. The cross hairs were periodically replaced with a strand of the web of a certain species of garden spider and attached to the reticule of the instrument with tiny spots of glue.
Tradition has it that this engineer’s surveying transit was left at Gaineswood in payment of a debt, presumable about the time of the War Between the States.
The transit was used by Jesse George Whitfield, Civil Engineer, grandson of Nathan Bryan Whitfield. J G Whitfield made the official map of the City of Demopolis and did most of the land surveying and map making in this area during his long career.
The transit was loaned to Gaineswood in 1981 by N B Whitfield’s Grandson, Thomas H. Whitfield a Civil Engineer.
Painting of the
“Burning of the Eliza Battle”
NB Whitfield painted this steamship accident on the Tombigbee River 1858. This event has been flavorfully told by Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh in “13 Alabama Ghosts AND JEFFERY.”
Portrait of Edith Winifred
A portrait of one of the Whitfield daughters, Edith Winifred, hangs above the piano in the parlor. This young girl was ten years old when she died of yellow fever, the third child that the family lost during an epidemic. General Whitfield painted her portrait ten years later.
In the center of the dining table at Gaineswood there stands a beautiful epergne. The word “epergne” is derived from a French word meaning “save” or “conserve”, and an epergne is designed to be a decorative and functional piece that saves space on the dining table. It holds candles aloft to illuminate the table while serving as a lovely centerpiece. Epergnes had bowls or baskets around the central column. The bowls were meant to hold fruits, nuts, and other food items. Most epergnes also included flower vases. Some elaborate epergnes might feature a central tureen or condiment holder like salts, cruets, or spice boxes. General Whitfield designed this particularly beautiful epergne featuring Greek maidens for his home.
In 1860, Mobile photographer Chauncey Barnes took a photograph of Gaineswood. The photo was sent to John Sartain in Philadelphia the premier engraver on steel in America. He created engraving plates from the photograph. The image shows Gaineswood at its finest, its landscaped grounds, members of the Whitfield family and enslaved workers.
805 South Cedar Ave.
Demopolis, Alabama 36732
$8 College and
$5 Children 6-18
Group rates are available for 10 or more. Call us at (334) 289-4846 for more information or to make an appointment.
Blue Star Museum: We proudly offer free admission to any active duty military personnel and their families between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Open: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Tuesday - Saturday
Closed: Sunday and Monday, unless by special appointment. Call us at (334) 289-4846.
Other tour times are also available by appointment.
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