I snipered it off ebay for fifty bucks with the intention of either restoring it (if the tree is solid which it seems to be) or just getting new leather on it and having something cool to look at on my awesome wood saddle stand.
I can't for the life of me figure out what the heck it is though, other than it's obviously some time of plantation-style saddle. It's not a Buena Vista, not a Minihan, pretty sure it's not a Wilbourne (seat is too narrow) and although it looks close to some Kentucky rollbacks I've seen I'm not really sure if it's one of those either. All I know is it came from Virginia.
It is smiply an old style plantation saddle with a trapunto or "quilted" seat. It is not a KY stitchdown because the seat leather does not appear to be stitched down like the KY Stitchdowns or the so-called Minnihan saddles (KY stitchdown is a style of "plantation" saddle, Minnihan was a particular saddlemaker known for his Ky stitchdowns.)
There were many many independent saddlemakers all over the country with small shops, particularly in the South and old northwest (now the midwest). The each had their own "version" of the "plantation" saddle.
If you can see the tree and how it is constructed, that could help you get an idea of the age. What does the underside look like? Does it have two billets on each side dor just one wide one? Is it rigged English style with billets, or western rigged for a cinch?
Many of the older saddles had heavy ticking stuffed with hair on the underside or some other material - not leather. I have a lady's saddle that is similar to this one and it has brown velvet stuffed with horse hair on the underside.
I also have a restored Ky Stitchdown and a rolled cantle plantation saddle.
Of course, I have several "Genuine Buena Vista" saddles. The Buena Vista is a particular pattern of plantation saddle that was developed by one saddlemaker from Buena Vista who sold the "pattern" for his saddle to saddlemakers all over the country. He also sold the stamp that said "Genuine Buena Vista" for them to mark their saddles made from his pattern. Many people think that the number 317, 318 or 319 often found above the "genuine" oval is the number of the saddle or the style. It acually menas the saddle has a 3 inch gullet and a 17, 19 or 18 inch seat. The saddles with the 3 inch gullets are the most common.
At one time the Bona Allen saddle company even made "Genuine Buena Vista" saddles, but that was in the mid-20th century, not the 19th century. Of course, many people are familiar with the Buena Vista saddles made by Simco and and othe small modern saddle companies.
If you go to the website for Hillcrest Saddles, there is a very good brief history of plantation-style saddles on that site. Just type in "Hillcrest Saddles." Hillcrest makes custom Buena Vista and Ky stitchdown saddles by hand and they are each a work of art. The are pricey but well worth it.
The saddle has a wooden tree covered in what looks like some kind of cloth but I haven't got far enough into it to be 100% sure. It's got single-billet rigging. The underside is not padded, it's just leather over the bars. The padding under the seat is horsehair and straw, and the cantle roll is stuffed with horsehair.
I've seen the Hillcrest saddles and absolutely LOVE them and my stepdad is actually thinking about custom ordering one (it's a toss up between them and High Cotton, he hasn't decided yet). I was considering ordering one myself but I lucked into a used Eli Miller Buena Vista that I found on ebay and since it turned out the seller was only 10 miles from me I bought that instead (and made a new friend too!)
I also purchased an original Minihan saddle, you can still even make out the faint maker's mark on it. What a neat saddle! The original seat still has all the stitching in it and the only thing that has been replaced on it is the canvas on the bottom and the stirrup leathers.
Unfortunately I've been unable to find a mark on the other saddle though. Maybe I'll find something on it while stripping it down to the tree.
Thanks for all the info on the Buena Vistas! I've been on the hunt for another one, I love the way they ride. The Eli Miller is too wide for my base narrow, slab-sided, high withered horse. He must be built like the horses of long ago because those old saddles from the late 1800's-early 1900's fit him like a glove.