In 2002 an unusual cast-iron child’s coffin buried in a subterranean brick crypt (c. 1860) had been accidentally disturbed by a family in Lee County. That the child was re-interred and Lee County’s first Episcopal minister, an Irish missionary named Edward Denniston and his wife, Josephine Davis Denniston. The Dennistons came to the Opelika/Auburn area around 1859.
Mrs. Denniston was a classically trained harpist who had two fine harps in her home when she died in 1922. According to local sources, these harps were purchased at that time by Mr. Jesse Smith, owner of the Park Hotel. Twenty-two years later. Mr. Smith sold one of the harps to the Alabama Department of Archives and History where Archivist, Marie Bankhead Owens was assembling a Historic Alabama Musical Instrument Collection.
The Museum of East Alabama contacted the State Archives and discovered that the harp was still on their inventory after fifty-two years! Upon learning of the harp’s Lee County provenance, the Board of Directors of the State Archives decided to de-accession this beautiful, mint condition 1900 Leyon and Healy harp, and deed the harp to a more appropriate institution, namely, the Museum of East Alabama. The Denniston harp arrived at our museum on August 2, 2002 along with a fine mahogany and glass exhibition case made for the harp in the 1940’s.