Miss Ella drawing by C.X. Carlson

"Miss Ella," a charcoal drawing by Lancaster County artist C.X. Carlson.

C.X. Carlson (1902-91), one of Lancaster County’s best-known artists, executed a charcoal sketch of a woman named “Ella” in the 1970s or earlier. The sketch shows an older woman, seated, holding a cane.

Mary Armstrong, of East Petersburg, has stored “Ella” under her bed for some time. She would like to haul her out from there and present her to relatives who might appreciate a drawing by a distinguished artist in their family.

“Ella” hung on a wall at 15 Market Square, Manheim, from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, Armstrong says, so many people saw her. Armstrong’s uncle owned the building, which held Weavers Natural Foods for many years.

“It was always assumed that the woman in the drawing was Dr. Ruth Brenner, a prominent doctor in Manheim, because she also had her office and home in the building,” Armstrong says. When Armstrong discovered the portrait was not of Brenner, she was surprised.

She was more surprised when she took the drawing out of the frame and found the signature “CX Carlson” and the name “Miss Ella” in the bottom right-hand corner. She had no luck finding more information through the Manheim Facebook page or by contacting the C.X. Carlson Cultural Trust.

Carlson, a Minnesota native who lived in Kirk's Mills near Quarryville after 1947, completed more than 15,000 paintings and innumerable drawings. His works hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other public and private collections. Many of his later works are historical: he illustrated the book “Old Lancaster.”

So “Ella” is a valuable find. Armstrong believes the drawing would be most valuable to Ella’s family. She is appealing to The Scribbler's readers “to find out who this woman is and find her a new home.”

Contact Mary Armstrong at dew4sea@gmail.com

203rd Pa. Volunteers

Of the writing of books on the American Civil War, there is no pause. Here's another.

Valgene Dunham, a retired plant biochemist and college teacher and administrator, has written the first comprehensive book on the 203rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. Organized in southeastern Pennsylvania late in the war, the regiment included numerous men from Lancaster County.

Dunham, who spent much of his life in South Carolina, retired to Garden Spot Village five years ago. He decided to write a book “as a newcomer wondering about the background of the men who enlisted when things were not going well for the North.”

The 203rd's defining moments occurred during the battle of Fort Fisher on the North Carolina coast in January 1865. The regiment took heavy casualties in the Union Army's ultimately successful effort to capture one of the Confederacy's primary forts. Dunham tells this part of the story well.

One of the book's more interesting sidelights concerns the 11 New Holland Band members who joined the regimental band. They were known at that time as the Earl Band Infantry and they comprised about half of the regiment's 20 musicians. When they weren't drumming and bugling, they served as messengers and stretcher bearers.

Unfortunately, a reader has to meander through pages of mush to get to the meat in “203rd Pennsylvania Volunteers: Southeastern Pennsylvania at War: 1864-65” (Dorrance Publishing, 2021). Early chapters discuss geological formations, American Indians and other subjects unrelated to the regiment or the war. Peripheral information intrudes throughout the narrative.

A straightforward telling of the regiment's history would have made a more readable book.

Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler'' column every Sunday. He welcomes comments and contributions at scribblerlnp@gmail.com.

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