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The Goulding Table: A Nineteenth Century Tale of Twists and Turns

This week the Georgia Historical Society highlights the newest Georgia Historical Marker, The Birthplace of Columbia Theological Seminary, located in Lexington, Georgia. In consideration of social distancing precautions, the marker’s sponsors, Columbia Theological Seminary, Historic Oglethorpe County, Inc., and City of Lexington, are participating in a virtual rollout of the historical marker in lieu of an in-person marker dedication. This week we will share blog posts examining the history of Columbia Theological Seminary. In today’s Collection Highlight, written by Lexington Seminary Committee member, Ashley Simpson, we look at the Goulding Table and its connection to the founder of Columbia Theological Seminary, Reverend Thomas Goulding.

“The Reverend Thomas Goulding” Image courtesy of C. Benton Kline, Jr. Special Collections and Archives, Columbia Theological Seminary.

Rev. Thomas Goulding (1786 – 1848) was a gentleman of refined taste, scholarly, and particular in every detail of life, including fine furniture.

In his twenties, Thomas owned property in several Georgia counties as well as a lot and house in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. After graduating from Sunbury Academy in Liberty County, Georgia, Thomas went to Connecticut to further his education.  There he met and married Anne H. Holbrook in 1806, and the couple began accumulating household furniture.

Returning to Georgia, Thomas and his growing family lived near the seaports of Darien and Savannah. They had access to imported furniture and may have acquired the table (pictured below) then. Empire tables with spiral turned legs were at the height of their popularity from 1810-1820. This practical table could be placed against a wall to take up little space. Moved to the center of the room, with both leaves extended and supported by gate legs, it would seat six adults.

Image courtesy of George Arthur Harwood

The Gouldings made three major moves, in which the table may have traveled with them. In 1820 they moved from Chatham to Oglethorpe County.  In 1830 they moved to Columbia, S. C., and in 1835 they moved from Columbia, S. C., to Columbus, GA.  Each time, Thomas Goulding made provisions for his furniture. In a letter dated Columbia, [S.C.] March 4, 1830, he wrote:

My dear brother,

I arrived here with my family today about 12:00.  My furniture has not yet arrived, but is expected within a few days.  I am at a publick house. . .

At his death, Thomas willed his household furniture to his wife. An unknown donor gave it to the Columbia Theological Seminary (CTS), where in 1994 the table became an emblem for The Thomas and Anne Holbrook Goulding Society at CTS, in Decatur, Georgia.  The plaque above it read:

Image Courtesy of the Columbia Theological Seminary Annual Report (1993-1994).

Twenty-five years later, through the generosity of President Van Dyk and the Trustees of Columbia Theological Seminary, this Empire table completed its circuit. The table was presented to the City of Lexington on October 21, 2019. On display in the Old Seminary Building across Church Street from the Lexington Presbyterian Church, it stands as a reminder that here Rev. Thomas Goulding prepared young men for the ministry almost 200 years ago.

Additional Resources Related to Rev. Goulding and the Columbia Theological Seminary:

The Birthplace of Columbia Theological Seminary Marker Text

Columbia Theological Seminary 

Columbia Theological Seminary Archives 

GHS Blog: The Theological Seminary: 1825-1829

GHS Collection Item: Thomas Goulding letter

Lexington, Georgia 

Off the Deaton Path: Q & A with Erskine Clarke

Visit Oglethorpe County