Artisans, New and Olde, Create Long-Lasting Investments by Susan Holden 
Artisanry has often been devalued in our heavily consumer-oriented society with mass production, often coming from overseas. Yet all around us throughout the Blackstone Valley, we have skilled craftsmen (or women) who can create a long lasting and unique piece customized to serve your specific need and style. Not only is the artistry and work superior, it is backed by local customer service, fine reputations and durability.
One fine antique that is still cherished today was created early in the Blackstone Valley, in Hassanemessit now known as the township of Grafton. It is a mahogany veneered secretary. The skilled craftsman was Levi Leland, a sixth generation of Henry Leland who was born in England in 1625 and died in Sherborne in 1680. Leland's grandson, Henry, had acquired a large parcel of land along the Miscoe brook in Grafton.
The Leland family was well-respected and often appointed to public office. However, their lives were not always peaceful as quarrels often arose with local Indians over the stream dams which were constructed to create water power for the small mill where Kitts were manufactured. Kitts were small wooden boxes manufactured to hold shoes. Leland's relatives were in the leather and shoe manufacturing business, so this was a natural extension of their business. 


But the millpond caused by the Kitt dam created acres of wetlands in the "Great Meadows" still recognized today for its significant diverse wildlife. However, an Indian graveyard also became inundated which desecrated the Indian graves and caused the Indians to curse the dam and mill for all time. In fact, the curse seemed to have an effect as twice the Kitt mill was burned to the ground over the next several years. But Levi's father built the mill a third time and by 1807, Levi Leland, the cabinet maker was born. When of age, he married Experience Taft of the President William Howard Taft family with roots in the Millbury and Uxbridge communities.
By now, a small settlement, including a school, had sprung up in the Kittville section of town. The Levi Leland family raised seven children in the historic house and workshop still intact. But Levi (Jr) was not entirely content just making Kitts. His knowledge of wood and craftsmen tools allowed him to delve into further study into various wood grains, techniques and superb woodmaking skills. It is presumed that he crafted this fine furniture as a sideline business, during the quiet dawn hours or winter evenings in his workshop.
Though Levi did not craft hundreds or perhaps even dozens of fine pieces of furniture, what he did build is highly esteemed today for its careful craftmanship, fine woods and excellent detail. Some of the pieces known are a beautiful mahogany bureau with knobs of Cambridge glass. Also known are an attractive table with snake feet and several graciously shaped Windsor chairs. But perhaps the most well-known piece is just under five feet in height and a little more than three feet in width. This mahogany chest is exquisitely constructed with incredibly skilled mahogany veneers covering a pine interior. The scroll top has two cyma (wavelike) curves and three fine brass ornaments. There are three large drawers with Cambridge glass handles and the two small drawers have small wooden knobs. In the top drawer is the promise and signature of the artisan - "Cabinet Furniture" Levi N. Leland In Grafton. Informs his Friends and the Public in general, that he will furnish them with all kinds of Cabinet Furniture, and of the neatest workmanship, and newest style, at fair prices. Also-
A good assortment of Kitchen and Dining Chairs, of various qualities."
Old Time New England, SPNEA, October 1946