Artifact of the Month
Donated by Ada Lee Shook
A piggin is a small wooden pail or tub with a long stave for a handle. It was often used as a dipper. Piggins were brought to colonial America by settlers from the British Isles. As descendants of these early pioneers moved westward, so moved the tools of everyday life, such as a piggin.
This circa 1880 piggin belonged to Minnie Lee Blackburn Smith, who used it as a butter bucket. The piggin was handed down through her Blackburn family. Minnie's grandparents, Sylvanus and Catherine Brewer Blackburn, moved from Tennessee to the War Eagle area of Benton County in 1832.
By 1838, Sylvanus had built a log home, a blacksmith shop, a sawmill, and a grist mill on the banks of the War Eagle River. He was also a Baptist preacher. The Blackburns had nine children, and later adopted eight more children who had been orphaned during the Civil War.
When Catherine Blackburn died in 1890, Sylvanus gave instructions to dig her grave but not to close it. He began to pray that he might go with Catherine. Five days later, Sylvanus Blackburn died. The couple was buried together in Blackburn Cemetery at War Eagle.
Minnie Lee Blackburn, granddaughter of Sylvanus and Catherine, married Moses Elbert "Eb" Smith in 1887. Eb and Minnie lived in the Washington County community of Farmington, where he owned a general store. They had six children. Eb died in 1905 of pneumonia, and a few years later, Minnie moved her family to Fayetteville.
Sylvanus and Catherine Blackburn, circa 1880. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-85-323-36 )
As an adult, Lucy Smith, the oldest daughter of Minnie and Eb, became the keeper of the Blackburn piggin. Lucy moved to Washington, D. C., to work for the government and she took the piggin with her. When she died, family members discovered the piggin in Lucy's closet. It was then handed down to her niece, Ada Lee Smith Shook, who donated the piggin to the Shiloh Museum in 1987.
The War Eagle Mill is still in operation today, and the Blackburn home still stands nearby. The site is the location of the legendary War Eagle Fair, an arts and crafts show held each spring and fall.