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Column: Finding Dumpy

Posted: March 19, 2018 3:53 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2018 1:00 a.m.

The female staffers at the Camden Archives and Museum are all “dog people.” Our homes are blessed with the companionship of our various breeds of canine family members. Sarah has two -- a beagle and a Jack Russel mix. Windy’s little buddy is a miniature schnauzer. Rickie, who at times has had as many as four furry friends at her house, presently has what she calls “two mutts.” One is a Labrador retriever mix and the other is a golden retriever and “something.” At my house, two miniature “tweenie” dachshunds are my constant companions -- the “girlies.” Don’t tell any of our puppies, but at work we are Boykin Spaniel ladies. The Camden Archives and Museum is the official home of the Boykin Spaniel exhibit, which we mounted in late 2014 as a welcome gift to the visitors here in Camden for the Boykin Spaniel Society’s 2015 National Field Trials. Throughout the Archives are cutouts of Boykin Spaniels which certainly make a statement that Camden is proud to be the home of the little brown dog.

We worked with Dawn Crites of the Boykin Spaniel Society to mount the exhibit. On loan from the society is the original conformation stand used in the days just after the breed standard was written. Also on exhibit are records from the foundation stock phase of the society’s work, complete with the breeding lines -- what we would call Boykin Spaniel genealogies here at the Archives! In all of the research that the society and the Archives and Museum did through the years, no one turned up a photograph of the most famous of the Boykin Spaniel line -- little “Dumpy,” the founding sire of the breed.

The story goes that Alexander Lawrence “Alec” White was befriended by a little brown spaniel on the way to First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg one Sunday sometime between 1905 and 1910. Alec kept the dog and named him “Dumpy” for his small size when compared to his other hunting dogs. After seeing his promise as an excellent retriever, Alec sent him to his good friend Whit Boykin, in Camden, for training. Lemuel Whitaker “Whit” Boykin, of Pine Grove Plantation, was a land appraiser, farmer, and consummate hunter. Whit agreed with Alec’s opinion of Dumpy -- he was an excellent little retriever and also a loving, companionable dog. A very important bonus was that he could retrieve game from the Wateree River and return to the boat without capsizing it. Dumpy went after any fowl that Whit hunted with an intelligence uncommon for a retrieving dog. Whit’s youngest daughter remembered that Dumpy was “the only dog in her father’s kennel ever to gain house privileges.”

Whit bred Dumpy with a small, curly, reddish-brown dog which had been shipped to the Camden train depot and never claimed. She and Dumpy became the progenitors of all Boykin Spaniels, thanks to Whit’s careful breeding of their offspring.

Fast forward to the 2015 National Field Trials. We invited all of the visiting Boykin Spaniels to view the Archives and Museum exhibit with their humans. There was an enthusiastic turnout for the exhibit during the trials and long afterward. So much so that we decided to leave the exhibit up as a long-term offering for the public.

Since it was a small exhibit in the main gallery, we never made a video about it as we normally do for the larger exhibits mounted in the Whiteley Room. Since the 2018 Boykin Spaniel Field Trials are coming up in April, we decided that it was time to produce a video to accompany the exhibit. So, as Rickie, the Archives’ masterful video producer and curator, began looking for photographs of Whit Boykin for a Boykin Spaniel video she remembered that Henry Boykin had put together a slide show years ago on quail hunting which contained excellent photos of the Boykins and their friends. Henry donated those slides to the Archives and Museum. As she looked through the slides for photos of Whit, she came upon one with a small dark spaniel sitting front and center with a group of people on the steps of a house.

In the photograph, four women are seated on the steps and five men stand on the steps and porch. They are in clothing dating circa 1900. We began comparing the photo with identified images of Whit Boykin and found that three of the men on the porch are Whit and his brothers. Whit’s wife, Ellen Cantey, sits on the uppermost step with the other women. That little dog -- could it possibly be Dumpy? Who else could it be? Wouldn’t the only dog allowed in Whit’s house be the dog sitting with the people in a posed photograph on the porch?

We will never know for sure whether the little dog in the photograph with Whit and Ellen Boykin is Dumpy. But I’ll place my bet on it!

If you would like to view The Archives and Museum’s Boykin Spaniel video, go online to YouTube, then search for the Camden Archives and Museum. Click on our name and you will see the seven videos that we have posted. Click on “The Story of the Boykin Spaniel.” Enjoy!

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