A Family History Newsletter

Volume 2, Number 1

1st Quarter 2003

David L. Tullis (1808-1876): 
ďA Tale of Two PortraitsĒ

Photos and information supplied by Phillip A. Little, Wichita, KS

Editorís Note: This article is about David L. Tullis (1808-1876) of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and his family. Davidís portrait graces the cover of this issue. This article is based on information supplied by Phil Little, a great-great-grandson through Davidís daughter, Helen Mahr Tullis, who married Lewis Luther "Lute" Little in 1867. To me, the most interesting part is the story of the two portraits of David Tullis.

From The History of Champaign County, Ohio
Published by W. H. Beers & Co., Chicago, 1881
p. 900:

DAVID TULLIS (deceased); was born in Lebanon, Warren Co., Ohio, Oct. 17, 1808, and was the son of Ezra and Mary (Blue) Tullis, pioneers of Warren Co., and natives of Virginia. When David was a small boy, his parents pioneered their way into the wilds of Champaign Co., and here passed the remainder of their lives, raising their family of four sons and two daughters to honest toil. David was the second child of the family, and was reared, and inured to farm labor. Early in life, he learned the trade of a blacksmith, which he followed in Mechanicsburg for seventeen years. By his industry and careful attention to business, he won the confidence of the public and the reputation of a first-class workman. At the end of this time he purchased and moved on a farm, and began the pursuit of agriculture with the hope of improving his failing health. Here he remained successfully operating his farm for about twenty-one years, and then returned to Mechanicsburg, where his death occurred July 15, 1876. By his death the community suffered the loss of one whom it recognized as a valuable and honorable citizen. He was married, July 8, 1831, to Nancy Cartmell, who was born in 1812, near Mechanicsburg, her parents being natives of Winchester, Va., and pioneers of this county. They located in Goshen Township in 1805, and lived the remainder of their days on the place on which they first located. Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Tullis, seven of whom still survive; one died in infancy.

On April 29, 2003, after Phil and I had exchanged several email messages and he had sent me a photo of his portrait of David Tullis, I received the following message from him explaining the story behind the portrait(s):

"When I was young (many years ago) I spent every possible moment with Dad in his basement woodworking shop. Apparently they emptied his parentís home after Granddad died in 1931 and Dad inherited the portrait. It was prominent enough in the shop that it would come under discussion occasionally. Dad thought it was "Lute" Little and later so did his older sister. Dad died in 1956. In 1966 Mom had to go to a care home. The portrait became ours and was propped against a basement wall. Over the 90 years it had suffered ó one slit, paint missing on one eye, a few dents, etc. When our two sons decided they wanted the basement bedroom for their "wolfs" den as I called it, they would refer to it as "Moses in a business suit."

Years later I decided something must be done to preserve the portrait. I asked a very prominent interior decorator at our church for a recommendation. He gave me Mr. McArthur. I called him, told him what I had and what it needed and asked for an appointment to take it to his art "shop" for an estimate. He did and said it would take six weeks. I readily agreed and left it with him. Three weeks later he called and I thought, "Oh, &*%#, he has a problem." Mr. McArthur said he had removed all the dirt, crud, etc, cleaned it, and found the painterís name, Estella Mitchell, 1878. It was a very faint red. Did I want him to restore it? "Yes." To repair the slits, dents, etc, he had glued nylon net on the back. He called when it was finished. The portrait was propped up in his shop and I could tell by the looks on his and his brotherís faces that it had become a pet due to all the TLC they had given it. He said a wealthy lady had visited his shop, asked who it was and he said we do not know for sure. She asked to buy it. No deal.

When we visited Urbana, OH, Roger "Jack" Tullis took us to Emily and Lawrenceís home and showed us their portrait. We explained we had one just like it at home. That caused a lot of confusion! However, the date on theirs was 1873 and a different name. Our is an exact copy."

The original portrait, which Emily (Tullis) Little, a great-grandaughter of David Tullis through his son Henry Tullis, had inherited, was painted in 1873 by the noted portrait artist S. Jerome Uhl.

Phil Little and his 1878 portrait of David Tullis.

The original 1873 portait as displayed in Emily (Tullis) Littleís home in 1993.


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