2018-07-06 / Front Page

Columbia descendant finds home for Abigail and Thomas in their native state of Vermont

By Warren Hughes

Dr. Anna Smith Griswold with paintings of Abigail and Thomas Tabor Dr. Anna Smith Griswold with paintings of Abigail and Thomas Tabor Abigail and Thomas Tabor have traveled from their birthplace two centuries ago in Vermont to Alabama, then to Georgia, and later to South Carolina with other stays along the way, but they’re now back home, thanks to the stewardship of their great-great great granddaughter and Columbian, Dr. Anna Smith Griswold.

More specifically, the portraits of the Tabors who have peered down on family members from walls of dining rooms, stairways, and halls for generations are now in the Vermont Historical Society Museum in Montpelier. Anticipating an eventual downsizing move, Griswold began searching for a permanent home for the portraits. Like so many involved in similar undertakings, she realized beloved family heirlooms like ancestral portraits are not always eagerly embraced by younger potential heirs with their limited space and contemporary décor. Her success in finding the perfect home where they will reside for posterity is instructive for others with a similar dilemma.

As Griswold explains, “I’ve always been taught to be a responsible steward of my possessions, particularly those which have come from my family of origin. These objects were cherished for so many years by all the generations of which I was a part and those who came before me. Somehow, the dedication to one’s heritage and objects representing it have been lost among those who have come later.”

She doesn’t judge the younger generation for declining such bequests.

“I think life has become more complicated. It’s more difficult now to provide space and care for these objects. None of the Tabor descendants in my lineage wanted the portraits. Rather than sell them or give them to a distant relative of whom I know very little, I decided to locate a museum which may welcome and care for them after my lifetime.”

For Griswold, as a devoted descendant, the lives and portraits of Thomas and Abigail Tabor have held great meaning since her youth.

As she explained, “ They were my greatgreat great grandparents whom I’ve known all of my life through their portraits.

“As a child, they resided in my paternal grandparents’ home. As a young adult, I could visit with them regularly in my parents’ home. When my mother went into assisted living, Abigail and Thomas through their portraits came to live with me. My concern for their future compelled me to seek a permanent home for them when I realized there wasn’t any interest among the next generation for these family treasures,” she said.

The Tabors, whose familiar countenances Griswold had come to love, had a compelling story themselves. Thomas Tabor, born in 1786, and his wife, Abigail, in 1792, lived in Bradford, Vermont with a family of nine children.

A local history recounted that Thomas, was not only a poet but a former distillery owner who became a converted leader in the temperance movement.

Griswold now laughs, “I’m sure Thomas would turn over in his grave now if he knew the behavior of some of his descendants, not to mention any names.”

As a docent at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA), Griswold sought the advice of CMA Curator Will South in finding a home for the Tabors. He suggested approaching a museum in Vermont.

Initially, Griswold approached the Shelburne Museum to which her parents had donated a tablecloth once owned by Abigail Tabor. The curator there ultimately recommended the Vermont Historical Museum Society (VHMS) as a more suitable recipient.

Last December, Griswold was notified that the VHMS indeed would be a permanent custodian, thus completing a journey back home.

“As descendants of Thomas and Abigail, we are delighted they are now residing in their native state,” Griswold says.

Now residents of Shandon, she and her husband, Ed, plan to eventually join the Still Hopes Retirement Community.

Griswold’s contributions reflect a family tradition of civic leadership and service. On the community level, in addition to being a CMA docent, she is past president of the Symphony League of the South Carolina Philharmonic.

At Trinity Cathedral, she is a Eucharistic visitor, a lay chaplain, a member of the altar guild, and past chapter officer for Daughters of the Holy Cross.

A retired clinical psychologist, Griswold has served as president of the South Carolina Academy for Professional Psychology (SCPPA); chair of the Ethics Committee for the South Carolina Psychological Association (SCPA); and secretary and vice-chair of the Licensing Board of Examiners in Psychology.

Griswold is a graduate of Emory and she received a Ph.D. from Georgia State University.

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