Friday, August 31, 2012

Stories from Bovina's Cemeteries – A Bovina Artist

UPDATE - October 17, 2013 - A suspicion that I had for some time was confirmed this August when I verified that James A. Thomson was not the artist of these two paintings.  The fact that he never pursued a career as an artist was a strong clue.  Another was that nothing was mentioned in his obituary.  The final kicker was finding an old label on top of one of the paintings with the name Jack Elliott.  Mea culpa.

The Thomson connection comes from the fact that the painting of Johnson's Mill was done for James' parents, Andrew and Anna Thomson.  He inherited the painting and passed it on down to his daughter Ina, who bequeathed it to the Bovina Historical Society.  

Unfortunately, the information on Jack is rather sparse.  He was born in May 1850 and came to the United States from Scotland in the 1880s.  It does not appear that he is related to the Elliotts who settled in this area earlier in the century.  Jack settled in Bloomville and it was there that he died in September 1914 of heart failure.  The Andes Recorder reported his death in a brief notice: "Jack Elliott, a painter, died at Bloomville, September 6, from heart failure.  He was a native of Scotland; a man of middle age.  On coming to this country he spent some time in Bovina and painted numerous landscape pictures and portraits, and was a good artist."

We have identified two other paintings of his, one now owned by Pat Miele, the other held by the Delaware County Historical Association.  Since he painted 'numerous' pictures and portraits, I would love to find more of these. I have some feelers out but other thoughts are welcome.


  1. Absolutely beautiful paintings. Thank you for posting these!

  2. A suspicion that I've had for a couple of weeks was confirmed tonight - I've id'ed the wrong name on these two famous paintings of Bovina from 1888. My suspicions had started when I noted that the obituary of the reputed artist, James A. Thomson, never mentioned he was an artist. And the signature - just initials - 'J.E.' I took a look at Thomson's daughter's will when she gave the painting of Johnson's mill to the Bovina Historical Society and it said nothing about her father being the artist. Three arguments against the artist being Thomson.

    So today I took another look at the painting to see if there was anything on the back and found on top of the frame (and out of sight of inquiring minds) a label dating from 1978 that said the painting was by - Jack Elliott. I guess I'm happy that my instincts were right, but it would have been nice if they had been right when I did this blog entry.

    So now I need to figure out who this Jack Elliott was.....

    1. Ray, I have in my possession an "Autograph" book that I believe belonged to Jack Elliot. It was used for some sketches and writings. I also have a letter to my great grandmother, Ada Boyd Coan, wife of Emmet, written by Jack's sister Katie H. Elliot. It was dated days after his death. These and another letter were in my mother's belongings which I acquired after her death.

    2. Oh wow! I would love to see these. Are you local? If not could a scan be arranged? This would be SO interesting. Thank you.

  3. Ray - I don't always get to read your entire blog entries. However, I thoroughly enjoy what I do read, and even as a "part-time" resident of Bovina appreciate the stories and photos. Maybe not everyone takes the time to thank you, but I am sure that many enjoy your work! You must spend all of your time researching and writing the history of the town. I tried to respond through your blog, but am not sure what "URL" was expected. I tried my email address, and that said it required a URL. If you can tell me how to respond I will. Otherwise, please post my comment to your blog in appreciation of your work! Great stuff.