Stories Behind the Portraits: Eliza Rollins

George Caleb Bingham, Mrs. James H. Bennett (Eliza Rollins), 1849 (202)

George Caleb Bingham, Eliza Rollins (Mrs. James H. Bennett), 1849
Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches
Present location unknown

The eldest daughter of Dr. Anthony Wayne Rollins (1783-1845) and Sarah Harris Rodes Rollins (1787-1856) was Eliza.  She was born in Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky, on February 4, 1814, two years after her brother, James Sidney Rollins (1812-1888).  In the spring of 1830, when she was 24, Eliza became engaged to Dr. James Harris Bennett (1880-1851), a distant cousin of her mother.

The record of their engagement and events that followed vary whether the storyteller is an historian or a family member.  According to an 1882 historian, when Dr. Bennett lived in Columbia, Missouri, and convinced Dr. A. W. Rollins, who was living in Richmond, Kentucky, to move west with his family for his health.  A family member stated that the Rollins family was the first to move to Missouri and that after Cousin James set up a practice there, he paid a social visit to his relatives.  Seeing his young cousin Eliza as an adult, he asked for her hand in marriage.  Whichever story is to be believed, the facts are that Eliza Rollins married Dr. James H. Bennett, 15 years her senior, on the 23rd of December 1830, in Boone County, Missouri. 1

Bennett became one of the founders of the towns of Rocheport and Smithton, Missouri. He and Eliza had three daughters: Sarah Rollins Bennett, born in 1834, Mary Bennett, 1837, and who lived only 14 months; and Helen Bennett, 1845.  Eliza died October 18, 1849.  She was 35.

George Caleb Bingham painted Eliza’s portrait in 1849.  Its current location is unknown.  A color photograph has never been published.

After his wife’s death, Dr. James H. Bennett lived with his daughters, Sarah, 16, and Helen, 6, in Boone County, Missouri.  The census records him with them on October 22, 1850.  Not long after, he must have left for California because he died of natural causes on October 11, 1851, in Hangtown (now Placerville), California.

Manuel Joachim de Franca, Mrs Thomas E Tutt (Sarah

Manuel Joachim de Franca, Mrs. Thomas E. Tutt (Sarah “Sallie” Rollins Bennett), 1860
35 x 28 inches
Private Collection

His daughters must have been in the care of relatives. Four years after Bennett’s death, daughter Sarah married Thomas Edward Tutt (1822 –1897) in Boone County, Missouri, on December 4, 1855.  Tutt was a prominent St. Louis businessman and banker. Her sister Helen lived with them until her death on July 9, 1863 at the age of 17.

In 1860, Sallie Bennett Tutt, 26, accompanied by her mother’s younger sister, Sarah (Mrs. Curtis Field Burnam) (1826-1904),  visited the studio of St. Louis’ most distinguished portrait artist, Manuel Joachim de Franca (1808-1865).   De Franca portrayed Sallie in a painting described by an art historian in 1976: Against a background shaded from dark green to amber, Mrs. Tutt was painted in a white evening dress, accented by a red scarf, a foil to her brunette beauty.  This portrait, too, is lost.  Sallie, like her mother, died young, at the age of 30 on August 19, 1864.

Thomas E. Tutt remarried in 1871.  His second wife was a first cousin of Eliza, Sallie Rodes (1842-1902).

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2018
All Rights Reserved

 

1 The historian’s narrative can be found in Western Historical Company, History of Boone County, Missouri…(Western Historical Company, 1882), 939.  The family narrative is related in Edna Talbot Whitley, Kentucky Antebellum Portraits, (National Society of Colonial Dames in Kentucky, 1976). 526.  The undated 1830 Boone County, Missouri Census for Columbia Township lists neither A. W. Rollins nor J. H. Bennett.

2 Whitley, op. cit.

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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