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Mike Watson: Fiddling around

There was a time when there were a lot of very old violins in prominent homes. This story tells of many in Adair, Cumberland, and Russell Counties, including some fiddles by an Italian, of Cremona, by the name of Antonius Stradivarius. History Cousin Mike Watson has delved deeply and diligently and has discovered some fascinating fiddle facts.
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By Adair County Historian Mike Watson

Once upon a time there was a search, of sorts, for the oldest fiddle in Kentucky. The short items below follow that search within the range of the Adair County News.

In 1901 and for two year following, the pages of the News carried several short articles on the merits and ownership of noted and aged fiddles, or violins, as the case may be. It appears there were several long-lived ones in the county and environs, as evidenced below... Miss Dixon, mentioned in one of the items, played her violin regularly and on at least one occasion, entertained, along with others of like mind, in the Columbia Courthouse.

Miss Mary Dixon owns perhaps the oldest and finest violin in Kentucky. It bears the name of "Antonius Stradivarius, Cremona, Italy, 1727," and has a tone that for sweetness and accuracy is un- exceled, and in the hands of its skilled owner produces strains of music that can stir the soul even of the most inattentive. It has quite an interesting history, It was purchased by her father from a lady by the name of Kirk, near Hillham, Tenn., for $35. She had kept it for several years in remembrance of her son, who had purchased it several years previous to the Civil War for $75, and dying or being killed in this, his mother kept it until the Doctor discovered it and knowing its value purchased it. Miss Mary has since been offered $200 for it, but would not part with it for any price. It is said to be a mate of one of the same make sold in Cincinnati about two years ago for several thousand dollars--Burk[e]sville Herald. 23 January 1901

Amandaville correspondent to the Burk[e]sville Herald writes: "Mr. Finis Baker, of this place, owns a fiddle of the Cremona make which was made in 1688 and is consequently 214 years old, and although it has been badly used and is shackly, still it sounds the sweetest and best of any fiddle in the whole country." 4 June 1902

T.A. Smith, of Russell Springs, is the proud possessor of the oldest violin in Russell County and one of the oldest in the State. Antonius Stradivarious Cremonenits is the make, and it was made in 1726. 10 September 1902

1721 Violin in Russell County Some time ago the News stated that the oldest violin in this country was in the possession of a gentleman in Russell County, but Mr. Emmet Goode, of Casey Creek, this county, has one made in 1721 about six years before the Russell County violin was brought into existence... 17 September 1902

Amandaville, Ky, Sept 18--Editor News: I see there are some very old violins in the country. I have one that was made in 1688, which makes it 214 years old. If any one has one older, I would like to have his address--Finis Baker. 1 October 1902

The oldest violin yet reported to the News was received last week. It is the property of Mr. Ed Stotts and was made in 1678 which makes it 225 years old. It is in good condition now and has as sweet a tone as the day it was made. Its history is unknown further than twenty-five years ago when Mr. Stotts purchased from a colored man. Doubtless this violin has made music for the crowned heads of Europe... 11 March 1903

This story was posted on 2014-01-23 06:48:14
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