Made in Waterford

The Furniture of Chair and Cabinet Makers, John Mount, William T. Mount, and Lewis N. Hough

Waterford's commercial development peaked, with the exception of the war years, between 1850 and 1875. The village was home and work place to millers, tanners, carpenters, blacksmiths, wagon makers, wheelwrights and also cabinet makers and chair manufacturers.

Wagon load of chairs on Second Street in 1919 in Waterford Virginia

Wagon load of chairs on Second Street in 1919

Two 19th-Century Cabinet-Making Families in Waterford

by W. Brown Morton III

Historic Waterford, Virginia, has long been known as the home of a particularly distinctive and beautiful version of the ladder-back side chairs and rocking chairs that so characterized American 18th- and 19th-century furniture from the vernacular and folk tradition. "The Waterford Chair", as it is known to antique lovers and collectors throughout the country, is popularly recognized by design features common to both the side chairs and the less common rockers. Distinctive "Waterford Chair" features include acorn-shaped finials to the chair backs, wide, gracefully arched splats, and splint-bottom seats.

Waterford chair

Waterford chair

Until recently, there has been very little serious research into the history of chair making in Waterford, the history of Waterford cabinet makers or the scholarly identification of their furniture. Legend abounds with stories of Waterford chair and cabinet makers, especially the shops of John Mount and Lewis N. Hough, but few pieces of furniture could be accurately attributed to either shop. Several important pieces of furniture have been recently discovered to be of indisputable Waterford origin because they bear Mount labels. Also, at the present time, intensive new research has shed fresh light on unlabeled pieces of furniture that were almost certainly made in Waterford. This exhibition concentrates on the work of Waterford's two best-known cabinet-making shops: John Mount and Son, Chair and Cabinet Manufacturers, and the Lewis N. Hough Chair Factory.

Mount and Hough furniture shops on 1875 map

Mount and Hough furniture shops on 1875 map

John Mount and Son, Chair and Cabinet Makers

John Mount and his son, William T. Mount, made furniture in Waterford, separately and together, for over half a century. John Mount was born in Maryland in 1799 and died in Waterford in 1876.1 The earliest record of his being in Waterford is a deed dated May 16, 1827, dividing the slaves and real estate of Patrick McGavick among the McGavick heirs. The deed refers to "the shop occupied by John Mount in the town of Waterford with one half of the Lot One and half a lot in Janney's addition to Waterford".2 The deed suggests that John Mount rented the property and was already in business in May, 1827. The property and shop were located on the east side of Second Street between Church and Patrick Streets, behind the Waterford Baptist Church.

John Mount's wife, Eliza J., was born, probably in Frederick County, Virginia, on May 1, 1802; she died in Waterford of paralysis on August 9, 1860.3 John and Eliza Mount had two children, a son, William T., born 1829, and a daughter, Mary Virginia , born 1831.4

The year in which William T. Mount joined his father in the Mount cabinet-making shop is not yet known. However, both John and William are listed in the same household in the 1850 census as Mechanics. There is, to date, one surviving letter of John Mount, dated 1848, bearing his signature.5 It is addressed to Joseph Jackson, Winchester, Virginia.

Waterford Oct. 21st - 48
D. Sir I could not get your chairs finished to send by the wagon. I expressed some doubt about the matter when I saw you. I have got them made but not quite finished If you say I shall keep them for you I will do so. Perhaps there may be an opportunity shortly to send them up. If there should be it would afford me a pleasure to do so.
Very respectfully yours, etc.
John Mount

The 1850 census information indicates that William Mount had married. He and his wife Bettie C. had a one-year-old son, also named John. William Mount and his family lived in the same household with his parents and sister. In 1854, John Mount purchased the shop property on Second Street between Church and Patrick Streets that he had been renting for at least 27 years.6 The plan of Waterford included in the Yardley Taylor map of Loudoun County, published in 1855, suggests that J. Mount was living at that time on the south side of Main Street, four buildings west of the present-day Waterford Post Office.7 The Mount residence, which Mount probably rented but never owned, is no longer standing. The 1850 census of the Products of Industry that lists businesses producing articles to the annual value of $500 or more does not include the Mount business in the Waterford listings, indicating that the Mount shop's revenues were below that figure.8

The Loudoun County Land Books for 1851 through 1858 list John Mount as owning two slaves as part of his personal property. However, by 1859 the Land Books no longer show him as owning slaves.9

The 1860 census lists John Mount as a cabinet maker and his wife, Eliza, as being resident in Waterford. Their son, William Mount, and his family are not listed. Neither is his daughter, Mary Virginia Mount.10 The absence of William Mount in 1860 is not yet explained. Mary Virginia Mount, however, had married Casper Chandler of Montgomery County, Maryland, in 1854.11 On August 9, 1860, Eliza J. Mount died in Waterford of paralysis.12 By 1866, William Mount and his family are again resident in Waterford. But on July 14th of that year, William's oldest son, John, died of consumption at age 17 at the home of his parents.13

The 1870 census lists William T. Mount as the head of a household including his wife, their three surviving children and his father, John Mount. William Mount is listed as Cabinet Maker and John Mount as a Chair Manufacturer. The order in which the 1870 Census was conducted suggests that the Mount family was renting a log and frame house on the north side of Main Street constructed by Joseph Janney in the late 18th century. This house is still standing.14

No newspaper advertisements initiated by John Mount have been found thus far. William T. Mount placed several in his own name in local newspapers from 1871 to 1878, suggesting that about 1870 he assumed leadership of the family business. The earliest is dated January 13, 1871, and states that "W. T. Mount makes mahogany and walnut Coffins, Wardrobes, Bureaus, Tables, Stands, Cottage and French bedsteads, Chairs of every variety, etc., etc."15

John Mount and William Mount labeled some of their fumitory. To date seven pieces have been identified that bear a Mount label: three tables, two stands, one pie safe, and one plank-bottom chair. All known labeled pieces except for one table are in this exhibition. The labels are stenciled or printed on white paper. The design and text vary. Five of the identified labels have the text, J. MOUNT & SON, MANUFACTURERS, WATERFORD, VA. in three different formats. One label has the text, J. MOUNT & SON, Chair and Cabinet Manufacturers, WATERFORD, VA. and one label, W. T. MOUNT, Cabinet and Chair MANUFACTURER, Waterford, Va.

John Mount died in Waterford on July 12, 1876 "in his seventy-eighth year" at the home of his son. His obituary, probably composed by his son William, sheds some revealing light on John Mount's character and professional practice:

His long life was devoted to one of the useful industries, in which his scrupulous honesty of workmanship and his unflagging zeal had given him a reputation extending far beyond his own State. Eminently conservative in his tastes and habits, he clung tenaciously to the old landmarks, and thus denied himself the rich harvest open to him in the use of more modern improvements in his favorite work. 16

In his will, John Mount directed that the shop and lots be sold two years after his death and that his personal property be auctioned in sixty days. He died owning one half of the contents of the shop, one gold watch and chain, one wardrobe, and one splint-bottom chair.17

William T. Mount continued the family business. In an advertisement composed two months after his father's death, he urged potential customers, Encourage home manufacturers, Public Take Notice, UNDERTAKING CABINET AND CHAIR MAKING AT WATERFORD, VA. The undersigned will continue the business at the old stand in WATERFORD where it was formerly conducted by his father and himself He will kept constant on hand and make to order all kinds of Cabinet work, Chairs &c. Special care will be given to the undertaking department. Prices reduced ten percent. All articles manufactured by me have my card on them. Wm. T. Mount, Sep. 23.18

In February 1882, William Mount and his wife sold the Mount shop and lots to Lewis N. Hough.19 That spring they moved to Omaha, Nebraska.20

Lewis Hough Chair Factory in Waterford VA

Lewis Hough Chair Factory

Lewis Neal Hough's Chair Factory

Lewis Neal Hough manufactured furniture in Waterford for thirty years in the late nineteenth century. He was born in Waterford on October 2, 1829, in the same year as William T. Mount. He died May 10, 1900.21 He Was the eleventh and last child of Garrett Hough and his first wife, Elizabeth Gover. Garrett Hough was born in Maryland in 1795 and died March 27, 1851; he is buried in the Fairfax Meeting Cemetery, Waterford. Elizabeth Gover Hough was born August 18, 1785, and died October 13, 1836.22

The Yardley Taylor Map of Waterford of 1855 shows the houses and properties of Lewis N. Hough's older siblings concentrated on the north and south sides of Main Street Hill.23 The Loudoun County Land Book for 1851 lists Samuel Hough and his brother Lewis together, both being taxed for two white males over age sixteen, one slave older than sixteen and one slave older than twelve. At this time Samuel Hough was forty and Lewis, still a bachelor, was twenty-two. In subsequent Land Books, where he is taxed separately, Lewis Hough owns no slaves, but is taxed for "Free Male Persons" and "White Male Inhabitants" in his employ.24 In 1856 Lewis Hough married his first wife, Frances A. Rinker, known as Fannie.25

In the 1860 Census, Lewis N. Hough is listed as a carpenter and a head of household. Fannie is listed with him, as well as three young daughters and Fenton Rinker, a sixteen-year-old relative of Fannie's.26 In that same year Lewis Hough announced in The Washingtonian, a Leesburg newspaper, that he was expanding his business:

Notice, I take this method of informing the Public, that from this date, I will be prepared to manufacture COFFINS of any kind that may be desired, in the best manner, and on the most accommodating terms. Also Wardrobes, Wash Stands and Tables. Patronage is most respectfully solicited. Lewis N. Hough, Waterford, Va., March 20.27

Hough chair ad in the Loudoun Telephone 1883

Hough chair ad in the Loudoun Telephone 1883

Hough chair ad in the Loudoun Telephone 1883

In the 1870 Census, Lewis Hough is listed as a Cabinet Maker and Undertaker. He and Fannie have seven children, four daughters and three sons.27 The map of Waterford drawn in 1875 for Charles Phillips Janney of Leesburg, indicates that by this date Lewis N. Hough had achieved some very real success in his businesses. He had a store on the south side of Main Street, immediately west of the present Waterford Post Office, in the building now occupied by "The Peaceable Kingdom" gift shop. He also owned a large lot stretching between Main Street Hill and Second Street. On the Main Street Hill side was a brick residence and in the back yard, facing onto Second Street at the intersection with Church Street, was the Chair Manufactory. Both buildings are still in use. This exhibition is in the latter building.

Lewis Hough resided in 1875 on the northeast comer of Second and Patrick Streets, next door to the John Mount & Son shop and lots. This Hough Residence was torn down early this century to make way for the second office of the Loudoun Mutual Insurance Company, which, now a residence, still stands on the site. Immediately across Second Street in 1875, Hough's other neighbor was Jacob Scott, who is listed in the 1860 census as a Cabinet Maker and in the 1870 census as Secretary of the Loudoun Mutual Insurance Company. In 1870, four Waterford cabinet makers, the two Mounts, Hough and Scott, lived and worked within sight of one another.29 No Furniture attributed to Jacob Scott has yet been identified.

Hough chair ad in the Washingtonian 1880

Hough chair ad in the Washingtonian 1880

In the 1880 Census, two years before he purchased the Mount shop from William T. Mount, Lewis N. Hough, by now fifty-one, is identified as a Cabinet Maker only. He is listed at home with Fannie, aged forty-seven and the five younger children.30

On February 1, 1882, Lewis Hough purchased the old Mount shop and lots from William T. Mount for $750.31 At this time Lewis Hough's older brother John was in business on Main Street. John Hough identified himself as a "dealer and manufacturer of frames, sash, doors, blinds, mouldings, brackets [sic], etc."32

From 1878 to 1880, Lewis Hough advertised what he referred to as "The Old Dominion Splint Bottom Hickory Chair." This chair is not illustrated, but it is probable, if not certain, that this is the same chair type as the two examples attributed to Hough in this exhibition (Catalog Nos. 13 & 14 .33 In 1883, the year after purchasing the Mount shop, Hough advertises a "beautiful assortment of splint and perforated bottom fancy arm rockers.” 34 It is not yet known if Lewis Hough imitated some of the Mount shop designs after he purchased the Mount business. In 1889, The Loudoun Telephone carried the announcement that "Oscar James has purchased the old cabinet shop of Lewis Hough and is building a dwelling house."35 This referred to the former Mount shop facing on Second Street. The stucco house that replaced the old Mount shop is still standing.

There is a photograph taken in the 1890s that shows an elderly man standing with a cane to one side of a shop that preceded the existing Corner Store at Second and Main Streets. The man is believed to be Lewis N. Hough after he suffered a stroke.36 Lewis Hough married his second wife, Lucy Preston, on July 29, 1890.37 Seventeen days later, Lewis Hough's son Arthur advertised that he was in the business of undertaking and cabinet making "at my father's old stand."38 Lewis Neal Hough died May 10, 1900, at the age of seventy.

1 Obituary for John Mount. The Mirror, Leesburg, Va., Thursday, August 3, 1876.
2 Loudoun County Deed Book , 3 "O", page 375, August 14, 1827, McGavick to McGavick Report.
3 Tombstone of Eliza J. Mount in the Waterford Union Cemetery. See also The Mirror, August 8, 1860, Leesburg, Va.
4 1850 Census; Loudoun County Register of Marriages, No.1, 1852-1865, page 1, No. 13 & 14. Casper Chandlee and Mary V. Mount.
5 Photocopy in the private collection of John Divine, Leesburg, Va.
6 Loudoun County Deed Book 5M, page 178, August 4, 1854, Anderson to Mount.
7 Yardley Taylor Map of Loudoun County, 1855.
8 Products of Industry in the County of Loudoun, State of Virginia, during the year ending June 1, 1850.
9 Loudoun County Land Book, 1851, and 1856, 1857, 1858, 1859, 1860 List of Taxable Property Within the District of George K. Fox. to September 28, 1860 Census: Inhabitants in Waterford in the County of Loudoun, State of Virginia, enumerated by Henry G. Smith.
11 Loudoun County Marriage Records, Vol. 1, 1852-1865.
12 The Mirror, Leesburg, Va., August 8, 1860.
13 The Mirror, Leesburg, Va., July 25, 1866.
14 JUne 15, 1870 Census: Inhabitants in Northern Division in the County of Loudoun, State of Virginia, enumerated by John B. Dutton.
15 This advertisement bears the date January 13, 1871, in the text of the ad. It appeared in The Washingtonian, Leesburg, Va., June 8, 1872 and The Virginia Press, Hamilton, Va., Vol. 1, Number 12, November 8, 1873.
16 The Mirror, Leesburg, Va., August 3, 1876.
17 John Mount Will, Loudoun County Will Book 3A, pages 408 and 409; Inventory of Estate of John Mount, Loudoun County Will Book 3B, pages 35 and 36: Executor's accounts of Estate of John Mount, Loudoun County Will Book 3E, pages 424-426.
16 The Washingtonian, Leesburg, Va., December 9, 1876. This advertisement was repeated in 1877 and 1878.
19 Loudoun County Deed Book 6R, pages 431-433, February 1, 1882, Wm. T. Mount to L.N. Hough.
20 See news items in The Loudoun Telephone, January 27, February 24, and March 9, 1882.
21 Typewritten manuscript, "Hough Family of Loudoun County", researched by Mrs. Walter N. Jewell, Arlington, Va., 1955. Photocopy in collection of John Divine, Leesburg, Virginia, and the archives of the Waterford Foundation.
22 Ibid.
23 Yardley Taylor Map of Loudoun County, 1855.
24 LOudoun County Land Book, 1851, and 1856, 1857, 1858, 1859, 1860 List of Taxable Property Within the District of George K. Fox.
25 Ibid.
26 September 28, 1860 Census: Inhabitants in Waterford in the County of Loudoun, State of Virginia, enumerated by Henry G. Smith.
27 This advertisement ran with the March 20 date in The Washingtonian, Leesburg, Va. December 7, 1860.
28 June 15, 1870 Census: Inhabitants in Northern Division in the County of Loudoun, State of Virginia, enumerated by John B. Dutton.
29 Waterford, Jefferson District, Loudoun County, scale 200 feet per inch, map drawn in 1875 for Charles Phillips Janney of Leesburg, Reproduction Copyright, 1965, Melvin Lee Steadman, Jr., printed by The Turnpike Press, Inc., Annandale, Va.
30 June 25, 1880 Census: Inhabitants in Jefferson Township in the County of Loudoun, State of Virginia enumerated by me on the 25th day of June, 1880. E.B. Hamilton.
31 Loudoun County Deed Book 6R, page 431, W.T. Mount to L.N. Hough.
32 "Map Of Waterford", taken from the James Oden survey, 1875, with hand-drawn calling cards in the border, including ones for John and Lewis Hough as well as William T. Mount. Collection of the Waterford Foundation.
33 The Washingtonian, Leesburg, Virginia, July 31, 1881.
34 The Loudoun Telephone, Hamilton, Virginia, December 7 & 14, 1883.
35 The Loudoun Telephone, Hamilton, Virginia, May 17, 1889.
36 Waterford Foundation Photographic Archive.
37 Hough Family of Loudoun County, Jewell.
38 This advertisement, dated August 16, 1890, appeared in The Loudoun Telephone, Hamilton, Virginia, October 16, 1891.
39 Aldren A. Watson, Country Furniture (New York: The New American Library, 1976), Preface.
40 The Mirror, Leesburg, Virginia, August 6, 1876.