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Two-century-old Lewis County portrait being restored at SUNY Buffalo

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LOWVILLE — A Lewis County portrait from the early 1800s is getting a not-so-extreme makeover from students at SUNY Buffalo.

“They’re highly thought of in the restoration field,” said Jerry E. Perrin, office manager at the Lewis County Historical Society.

Society members Hamish and Eloise Davey in September took a painting of then-children W. Hudson and Jane Camilliea Stevens — donated in 2011 by Jane’s great-great-granddaughter, Sarah Jane Medary of Eugene, Ore. — to Buffalo.

Restoration work by the college’s art conservation department will take up to two years to complete and cost an estimated $500 for supplies, Mr. Perrin said.

“It’s done by graduate students, and it’s free except for the materials,” he said.

SUNY Buffalo accepts only 10 paintings per year for restoration and, after being placed on a waiting list last year, the society’s painting was accepted this time around, Mr. Perrin said.

The painting includes a couple of large complex tears, one small complex one and nine other small tears or punctures, according to a condition summary conducted at SUNY Buffalo.

Treatment will include not only mending those tears, but a cornucopia of other measures designed to minimize the wear and deterioration over the past couple of centuries. However, the plan is to take the approach of minimal intervention to preserve the historical character of the piece.

Mr. Perrin said that Lowville native Michael K. Brown, who was curator of Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston until his death in early September, had recommended contacting SUNY Buffalo for the restoration work.

The society thus far has collected $150 toward the project from a descendant of the Stevens family and a memorial donation in honor of Mr. Brown.

Anyone else interested in helping to fund the restoration effort can call the society at 376-8957 or send an email to lewiscountyhistoricalsociety@gmail.com.

Also donated were paintings of the children’s parents, Apollos (1793-1867) and Lovinia Allen Stevens (1796-1843), and they are on display at the Lewis County Historical Society headquarters at 7552 S. State St.

“In the future, we’re going to restore the paintings of the parents,” Mr. Perrin said.

According to a short history of the family compiled by society President Marian M. Opela, the family of Apollos Stevens settled in Lowville in 1797, and he was a merchant in Copenhagen for many years. He also served as the town of Denmark’s clerk in 1825 and again from 1829 to 1833, then as town supervisor in 1838 and 1839. His wife, Lovinia, was born in Massachusetts, but little else is known about her. Mr. Stevens later married Betsey Moors in Copenhagen.

“Of Apollos it was said: ‘A fine penman and accurate accountant, he was scrupulously exact in all his deals. He was one of three merchants of Lewis County who, in a trade of half a century, followed without suspension mercantile pursuits,’” Mrs. Opela wrote.

As for the subjects of the painting, W. Hudson Stevens became a prominent Lowville attorney who wrote a history of the Number Four Tract in the town of Watson in 1864, was a member of the New York State Historical Society and sent meteorological data to Albany from 1870 to 1900.

Jane Stevens married Dr. Charles Earll of Syracuse and they moved to Myersville in the Wyoming Territory. “A kleptomaniac, Jane was convicted of stealing mail going through the post office supervised by her daughter, Stella, and her husband John Gatlin,” Mrs. Opela wrote. “Jane served a year in a Wyoming prison before being pardoned by President Grover Cleveland in 1894.”

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