Boone County Historical Society gifted portraits of Missouri's influential Rollins family

Lauren Tronstad
Columbia Daily Tribune

The Boone County History and Culture Center announced this week that it received a sizable art donation in the form of three portraits connected to one of the county's most well-known families.

The gift included portraits of members of the prominent Rollins family, with the collection appraised at a value in the low-to-mid five figures.

"Their significance is immeasurable," executive director Chris Campbell said of the donated pieces in a news release.

The portraits are an asset to the organization both historically and artistically, he added.

The art was gifted by Nance Stephens of Mobile, Alabama. Her late husband, Edwin S. Stephens III, was a descendant of James Sidney Rollins.

The three masterworks are portraits of Mary Elizabeth Hickman, the wife of James Sidney Rollins; the couple's daughter, Florence Rollins Gray; and Gray's husband, Joseph Ridley Gray.

Mary Rollins

The portraits will help the center provide its visitors with a richer context of the story of the Rollins family and their local legacy.

Lorinda Bradley, director and curator of the Montminy Gallery at the center, said the donation was one of the biggest received in her time as director and helps in achieving the goal of expanding the historical society's permanent collection.

The pieces stand out from other contemporary pieces that are typically showcased, due to their age and historical significance, she said.

Florence Gray

"Their age adds breadth to our collection," she said.

Bradley plans to have the pieces in an exhibition slated for next year. 

The Rollins family settled in Boone County in 1834.

James Sidney Rollins was elected to represent Missouri at both the state and national level from 1838 through 1870. He also served as president of the University of Missouri Board of Curators for more than 20 years. He is often recognized as "the Father of the University" for his efforts.

Joseph Gray

George Calder Eichman, a notable Missouri portraitist who studied under George Caleb Bingham, is the artist of all three portraits.

The paintings are believed to have been completed between 1880 and 1890. 

“It is not every day that we receive a donation of this caliber, let alone one that has direct ties to a founder of this community and a member of the Boone County Hall of Fame. We are very proud to safeguard these treasures for all Boone Countians to enjoy," Campbell said.