Cultural Objects, Tools

Four-Harness Loom

Maker/Creator: Asa Bishop
Associated Person: Elizabeth Dodd Bishop
Associated Person: Beulah Shelor
Floyd (Courthouse District)




  • Width: 64 inches
  • Depth: 45 inches
  • Height: 75 inches

Built to accommodate four harnesses (also called shafts) holding heddles through which the loom is warped, this barn loom is currently set up with two harnesses. Its wooden beams are pegged and the corners of the upper frame are reinforced with hand-forged iron bracing. Wooden treadles attached to ropes raise and lower each harness allowing shuttles carrying weft threads to be passed easily through warp threads. The cloth beam, located in the back of the loom, can be tightened or loosened by moving a pole from hole to hole in the wooden ratchet wheel (pictured at left) which has an iron rim.

Loom, Four-Harness Loom, Weaving, Barn Loom
Bio Sketch

Asa Bishop (1813-1889) and Elizabeth Dodd Bishop (1823-1890) inherited one of the finest farms in the county from her parents Benjamin and Mary Dodd. The family homestead was on the hill behind what is now Slaughters’ Supermarket. They reared nine children, including eldest son Burdine who served in the Virginia Legislature. The loom was passed down through their daughter Emily Bishop Harmon’s family. Beulah Mae Harmon Shelor (1897-1992), the final family member to use the loom, wove rag rugs and runners as late as the 1960s.

Asa Bishop owned slaves. Family oral history mentions the loom being housed in a building near the outside kitchen where slaves did the cooking. It appears likely slaves also handled much of the weaving in addition to the labor-intensive preparation of wool and linen threads needed for weaving coverlets and linsey-woolsey cloth.