Back row-James Harrison Coombs, Sarah Frances VanSciver Coombs, Mabel VanSciver Coombs Sever, Newton Stockton Sever, Middle row-Susanna Fenimore, Caroline Drinker Fenimore Sayre, Elizabeth Fowler Coombs, unknown man, Front row-Helen Fowler Coombs Browne

Saturday, January 2, 2010

the Coombs family creativity gene...
My mother was a very creative person. She decorated for all the holidays (Halloween, St. Patrick's Day etc.) in the 1950's and 1960's when very few people did so. We spent many hours when I was a child working together on embroidery and arts and crafts project. She had beautiful gardens. I did not inherit her love of gardening, but would consider myself a creative person.
Older relatives always said she took after her grandfather, James Harrison (Harry)Coombs, born in 1846. Granddad Coombs was a farmer for most of his life though at one point he ran a dairy in Beverly, New Jersey. He was referred to as "the boss Kiefer Pear grower" in the Burlington Gazette newspaper in the 1890's. I have an incredible doll's bedroom set he carved for a cousin, Martha Bishop, so she would stop sucking her thumb. It likely dates from the late 1870's and has a magnificent bed, bureau and baby bed.
Granddad was most known for the amazing displays he created for various farm fairs in New Jersey. The photograph above is undated, but includes a figure of Teddy Roosevelt, so this would likely date from his presidency. Harry sits to the left side (second from the left) looking tired, still holding one of the tools he used to create this wonderful display. I would think he had to feel enormously proud as well.
If you click on the photo, you can see a much larger view which will show all the details of this work of art. It is made from many Burlington County fruits and vegetables. I can't even begin to imagine all the hours it took to imagine this scene and then to create it!
Working with Grandad Coombs are his cousin, Howard "Howdy" Dobbins (seated next to him) and William Prickett on the right hand side. Mr. Prickett was Harry's best friend. William's son, Samuel Prickett was a professional photographer in Burlington, so I have many photographs of the Coombs family.

Though I never knew my great grandfather, I do feel a strong connection with him. We share the same love and joy of creating beauty. I wonder who will be the creative one in the next generation?

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