Goble chairs are a cherished household fixture in the homes of many older Pike County residents. They are splint bottom and are the embodiment of homespun simplicity; and like their contemporary Wells Fanning Mills, are among the prized products of Pike County craftsmanship.
Samuel (Lemuel) C. Gobel came to this country in 1825 and settled on the Milford and Owego turnpike. He followed his vocation of chair maker and farmer, his one-man shop being a part of the barnyard. His son, Charles, continued in the business.
To Edward Dubois of Frenchtown, a neighbor of the Gobles, who in his boyhood had been a frequent visitor to the shop, we are indebted for this precise account of the making of these chairs:
The wood was maple or ash. Young trees, or poles as the natives called them, were required. The posts were turned while the wood was still green - then put in a rack to form the crook (for the back). While still somewhat green, holes were drilled for the chair rounds, and slots chiseled for the back rests (which had also been shaped in racks).
Rounds were turned to size from thoroughly dried wood, the ends shaped with a slight knob to snugly fit the post hole. As the green post hole shrunk on the dry round, an everlasting joint was formed, which without glue, nails or screws, has outlasted a lifetime.
The splints were obtained from 8 foot maple posts, 3 to 4 inches thick, cut in early spring as the frost was coming out of the ground. They were quartered and sized to 5/8 inch width with the heart wood removed. These sticks were then severely pounded with a wooden mallet on a hard surface, till the fibers loosened, and were ready to part in layers convenient to weaving.
The splints were wrapped across the seat round and then woven like a cloth, the joints ingeniously tied as not to be visible. (Ed Dubois also recalled Goble's sister used cattail reeds instead of splints.) The appearance of the shop must have been a sight to behold. From the ceiling of the shop, which covered an area approximately 30 X 15 feet, bundles of posts, rounds, splints and racks were suspended for drying and storage. There was a wood cutting lathe with a balance wheel and treadle drive. Can you picture Goble pumping with one foot while turning a post with his hands?
The finished product was in natural wood - unstained and unpainted. The price - about $6 or $8 a dozen. There was real value in a dollar in those days.
The "chair-maker" was Lemuel Goble, often mistakenly referred to as Samuel. The sister was most likely Sarah "Sally" Maria (Goble) Stidd.