The Puzzle of the Missing Portrait
One of the more interesting personalities among my distant ancestors and relatives certainly is Dr. Amos Pollard, head surgeon of the garrison at the Alamo, who perished with the rest of the defenders on 6 March 1836. Amos was born 29 October 1803, with the location usually given as Ashburnham, Worcester County, Massachusetts, even though the birth is not found listed in the published vital records of Ashburnham. His birth is recorded in Surry, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, where it is generally agreed that he grew up. The Surry record is a transcription made in 1905 of some earlier record. His father, Jonas Pollard, moved from his birth place of Ashburnham to Surry sometime around 1808 by most accounts. Mentions of him in town records of Ashburnham are known from 1802 and 1804, where he was at times appointed as hog reeve and to the school committee. Jonas later appears in town records from Surry from at least 1816 to 1822, often as a town selectman.
Amos studied medicine at the Castleton Medical College in Castleton, Vermont, founded in 1818. He graduated from the three year course of study in 1825, after which he practiced in Boston and New York City. New York City directories list him at several different addresses in Manhattan from 1828 until 1834. However, a letter he wrote in February of 1835 to the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison in Boston, editor of the Liberator, and published in that newspaper in May of 1835, states he had been in Texas for eightteen months, putting his arrival there about August of 1833.
He married Fanny Parker 26 October, (1828-1830) in Landgrove, Vermont (although the record, apparently a later transcription of the original, gives the year as 1820). His residence is listed as New York City. They had one daughter named Oeella. Her birth date is not known, but she was likely born in New York City. His wifes death is given variously as 1831 or sometime after his death at the Alamo. The exact fate of their daughter is unknown, though one source, Maurice J.Pollard, The History of the Pollard Family in America, 1960, 1964, says she died about 1907.
Of particular interest is the location, currently unknown, of a portrait of Amos Pollard done before his death at the Alamo. He is one of only four defenders for which such a portrait is known (the others being Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William Travis). According to Maurice J.Pollard, Oeella willed the painting to her cousin (although he mistakenly says second cousin) Fanny Oeella Chafin. She was the daughter of Amos sister Betsey Almira, who married Samuel Evans Chafin. Fanny Oeella in turn willed it to Ruth Chafin (Stockman) Johnson, daughter of Fanny Oeellas sister Eleanor M. Chafin, married to George Charles Stockman in Walworth, Wisconsin. Ruth Chafin Johnson and her husband, Edward Hjalmar Johnson lived in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where the painting was said to be hanging in their living room in 1932 (Maurice Pollard).
The Johnsons had three children, Eleanor Josephine, Wallace J. S., and Olive B. Eleanor was an actress who appeared in a number of films in the 1930s under the name of Eleanor Prentiss. She died in New York in 1979. Wallace was the mayor of Berkeley, CA from 1963 to 1971. He also owned a ranch in Healdsburg which became the Field Stone Winery run by his daughter Katrina and her husband John Straten. Their son Ben was running the winery up until about 2016, when it appears to have been sold. Olive married Carlton Coveny about 1935; they had three children named Burke, Richard and Carlton. It seems likely that one of these descendants of Ruth Stockman Johnson would have inherited the portrait, assuming that it stayed in the family.
At some point the painting was copied, and this copy is said to be located at the Alamo in San Antonio. However, on two visits, in 1997 and again in 2014, it was not anywhere on display. On the 2014 visit, the reconstructed Alamo hospital room did have an illustration of what it might have looked like during the seige, and the face of Dr. Pollard was clearly copied from that in his portrait.
Sources for all the above information can be found at the following website:
It is my hope that someone who knows the fate of the portrait will see this and contact me at the email address given on the above website.