Saturday, January 21, 2017

Alamance County Donates Quilts to the Cause 1862

Union Hospital

Much of the information about women and quilts for Civil War soldiers is about the Union states, due to the extremely organized Sanitary Commission, which recorded so much about donations.

Detail of a flag of the 6th Infantry, North Carolina

I found a Southern reference from the Raleigh, NC Semi-Weekly Standard in December, 1862, which listed "Donations to Company K 6th Reg't, N.C. State Troops by Pleasant Grove District, Alamance, collected and carried to Virginia by Lieutenant Levi Whitted."

This may be the Levi Whitted who delivered the donations
to the soldiers in Virginia.

"Mrs R S Barnwell, 1 quilt [This is probably Mary Barnwell 1833-1878]
L W Simpson, 1 quilt
Smith Rasco, 1 quilt
Mrs W A Walker, 1 quilt
Egbert Corn (free Negro), 1 quilt
Ned Corn (free Negro) 2 quilts
Dixon Corn " 2 blankets
Mrs. K Tate, 1 quilt
Mrs. A Harvey, 1 quilt"

Now of course we want to know more about those people, particularly that Corn family. Fortunately, Lisa Y. Henderson has done some genealogical work:

In the 1860 census, Alamance County:
Egbert Corn, mulatto, no age given, farmer, shared a household with 
Lem Jeffries, mulatto. 

Also, in adjacent households: 
Ned Corn, 60, and children 
Martha, 28, 
Ebra, 27, 
Thos., 24, and 
L. Corn, 22, 
C. Anderson, 23;

Dixon Corn, 64, 
Wife Tempy, 65, 
A.J., 27, 
Giles, 24, 
Frank, 18, 
J. Mc. Corn, 5,
 Bill, 15, 
Haywood, 12, J
John, 18, 
Jackson Heath, 26.

You know Dixon did not really donate those two blankets. It was wife Tempy. And Ned did not make the two quilts. Perhaps daughters Martha and Ebra did the sewing.

Women workers at the Alamance County Cotton Mill

Alamance County was home to one of the largest Southern cotton weaving mills. Edwin Holt's Alamance County Cotton Mill was established in 1837. They specialized in plaid and striped woven fabrics. Perhaps the donated quilts contained fabric from the local mill.

Late 19th-century quilt of Alamance plaids from
the collection of Colonial Williamsburg:

Much more about the Jeffries/Corn family

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Yankee Diary: Introduction to Carrie

Caroline Cowles Richards Clarke (1842-1913)
 at the time of her diary.

Next Wednesday we begin the 2017 Block of the Month:
Yankee Diary. Here's some information about the diarist.

The United States before the Civil War

Carrie lived in upstate New York, under the red arrow by the Canadian border. The light blue states are the Free States, the dark blue the Slave States, and the gray areas were the "West".

Kansas was a frequent topic in the Ontario [County]
Repository newspaper in the late 1850s.

Where I come from in Kansas we think the Civil War began in 1854, the year Congress established the Kansas/Nebraska Territories and gambled their future as slave states or free states on the votes of the first citizens. 

By 1854 the U.S. had become two cultures, a North focusing on industry and a South on agriculture based on slave labor. Extending either culture into the Western territories brought a crisis to a head. Within seven years the two cultures were at war.

Carrie and Anna soon after their mother died.

Caroline Cowles Richards grew from a girl to a woman in those seven years.

Carrie's Maternal Grandparents

In 1854 she was twelve, living with her younger sister Anna and her mother's parents Abigail Field (1784 -1872) and Thomas Beals (1783-1864).

Carrie's Parents
 Elizabeth Beals Richards (1814-1846) & James Richards (1813-1875) 

The girls' mother had died when Carrie was almost five and Anna was an infant. Both parents suffered from chronic diseases. Elizabeth had tuberculosis and James was an alcoholic with bi-polar disorder. A peripatetic Presbyterian minister, he left them to be raised by their grandparents who were in their early seventies.

Carrie and Anna were fortunate in their mother's parents who raised them with the steady hand of old time Congregationalists confident in the ways of their religion.  Brothers James and John were not so lucky and spent their childhoods in a home with a bedridden mother and their adolescence following their father as he alienated congregation after congregation with his drinking and manic episodes.

Older brother John Morgan Richards (1841-1918) wrote an autobiography
in which he recalled his father's death from a fall in Scotland in 1875.
Daughter Pearl Richards Craigie (1867 – 1906) was a well-known 
English novelist who wrote under
the name John Oliver Hobbes

Family disgrace was not mentioned in Carrie's diary, at least in the version published a century ago. But her extended family was remarkable and written records about them abound. (See the books & documents below.)

Newspaper accounts and a pamphlet warned 
congregations against hiring Carrie's father.

Her father Reverend James Richards II was publicly censured. The problem was not only his alcoholism but also his refusal to accept responsibility. His manic periods were as outrageous as his alcoholic binges.

James II was the son of a well-known minister and chose to follow in his father's footsteps after he met Elizabeth Beals who had vowed to marry a minister and only a minister. An old school friend of Elizabeth's told Carrie: 

"She hoped we would be as good as our mother was. That is what nearly every one says." 
A bust of Elizabeth Beals Richards who died at 32.

After being compared to her mother once too often Carrie wrote,
 "I think children in old times were not as bad as they are now."
How much did Carrie know about her father's problems?  He visited. When Carrie was about 10 he took the girls "to the store and told us we could have anything we wanted---stick candy, lemon drops, bulls' eyes, rubber balls, jumping ropes with handles, hoops and jewelry.

They corresponded often. When she was 13 he sent a box of fruit from his post in New Orleans. She wrote "a little 'poetry' " back. He sent her money and Gulliver's Travels with a gold image of Gulliver on the cover. "Grandmother did not like the picture so she pasted a piece of pink calico over it so we could only see the giant from his waist up."

Welcome to Canandaigua
Photo from the New York Public Library collection.

The diary begins in 1852 when she was 10 and settled in Canandaigua, a prosperous city only a few decades older than she. Her grandparents were well-to-do community founders. Aunts, cousins and other relatives lived there comfortably to give Carrie and Anna an extended family.

Aunt Ann's house still stands

Carrie's diary. published to give us a nostalgic view of small town American life, reveals glimpses of contemporary issues before and during the Civil War. With careful reading we can see slavery's resonance in a Yankee state, family tragedies and the importance of New York as a center for women's rights and abolition.

Like her niece Pearl Craigie, Carrie had a talent for writing and a sly wit. Her diary is full of fun as well as sorrows. Following her will be an enjoyable mid-19th-century journey.

Links to publications about Carrie & her friends and family:

Diary of Caroline Cowles Richards, 1852-1872
The diary is still in print and has been published many times under different names. You can buy it as a printed, bound book and in chldren's editions. The first publication was 1908, I believe.

I like this 1908 digital version with photographs:

A 1913 edition at Google Books:
Village Life in America, 1852-1872: Including the Period of the American Civil War. as Told in the Diary of a School Girl.

Download it in various forms here:

And this is just plain text for a quick search.

About Carrie's Immediate Family:
Her Father

The Documents in the Case of James Richards.

Her Brother John's Memoir:
With John Bull and Jonathan. Reminiscences of Sixty Years of an American's Life in England and in the United States by John Morgan Richards.

Her paternal grandfather's family:
Before the Throne of Grace: An Evangelical Family in the Early Republic by Laura S. Seitz and Elaine D. Baxter. This is available only as a bound book. It contains letters from her parents.

Pearl Richards Craigie in 1902

Niece Pearl Richards Craigie's biography by her father, Carrie's brother:
The life of John Oliver Hobbes: told in her correspondence with numerous friends

To say nothing of the Fields Family, her grandmother's distinguished brothers....

About Carrie's Friends & Their Quilts:
Jacqueline Atkins, Shared Threads (New York: Viking Studio Books, 1994)

Shelly Zegart Old Maid/New Woman.

The Ontario County Historical Society has some of the quilts and many photos related to Carrie, plus her piano.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Slave Trade Toile

Traite des Negres [The Slave Trade]
Designed by Frédéric Etienne Joseph Feldtrappe
1820s. France.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This roller-printed toile with scenes of the slave trade is rather rare. You can tell it is roller printed due to the shorter repeat of about 15-18" rather than the full meter or yard repeat you'd see in a copperplate print.

The Met's online catalog shows it the best I have seen it pictured.
The colorway might be described as plum or purple.

From the catalog at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Frederic Feldtrappe produced this textile in the early nineteenth century during a moment of intense debate in France over the viability and morality of the slave trade. Of the four narrative scenes, two reference earlier paintings by English artist George Moreland and contrast the brutality of European slave traders with the kindness of Africans who minister to a shipwrecked European family. The other two scenes, based on engravings by Frenchman Nicolas Colibert, juxtapose a happy African family with the appearance of European traders in Africa. Their cache of trade goods (including textiles) ominously foreshadows the horrors of the traffic in human beings."

Bed with brown hangings in the pattern.
at the History Museum in Nantes, France

Read Cybèle T. Gontar's A Fashion for Abolition
And more about it in French

Here's a blurry example in a gold.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Traditional Sets for Westering Women

Barbara Schaffer's blocks in two pictures
Lots of stitchers have finished all 12 Westering Women blocks.
But few have got their tops finished.

Jeanne, however, whipped this out soon after the last block posted last month.

And Rina in Catania, Italy is finished with hers.
She doesn't have access to many repro prints in Sicily.

Both used the "official set" although Rina added an inner border to pick up the lighter colors in her blocks (looks like it might finish to 1-1/2" or 2"). A good balance of darks, mediums and lights.

Denniele's almost done.
She used 2-1/2" finished sashing strips.
Blue strips cut 12 1/2" x 1"  (Cut 62)
Cream strips cut 12 1/2" x 2"  (Cut 31)
Blue cornerstones cut 3" square (Cut 20)

Links to other posts on sets:

I have turned the patterns into a PDF for those of you who would like it in a simpler format. All 12 patterns and two sets are available in my Etsy Shop. See the section:

Patterns PDF & Paper

I'll mail you a 15 page paper pattern for $22.50 (US Postage) at this link:

Or you can download and print a PDF here for $15.

Do note I have used photos of your quilts to advertise the pattern. Check out the listings to see if you recognize anything.
Thank you very much, quiltmakers.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Birds in the Air Pattern & A Poetic License

Birds in the Air
See the free pattern below.

Question from a beginning quilter:
"I'd like to do an Underground Railroad quilt but I am confused about the Quilt Code. I don't want to fall into the trap of assuming escaping slaves used quilts to help them with maps, etc. Can you suggest a simple pattern with some meaning?"
The problem with using symbolism and Underground Railroad quilts is that there is no evidence anyone ever made a quilt as a map or guide for escaping slaves. This doesn't mean we cannot make quilts with meaning to us about historical issues. I wrote a book about ten years ago called Facts & Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery to give quilters ideas on how to use traditional patterns to tell the story of slavery. One of the blocks is Birds in the Air.

Birds in the Air
Pieced and appliqued by Barbara Brackman
Machine Quilted by Rosie Mayhew
2006, 47" Square.

The pattern is a traditional design that goes back to the 1840s. One name, published about 1940, was Birds in the Air, a perfect theme to recall the idea of freedom.

Coats and Clark or Spool Cotton
published the pattern and the name.

During the 1930s the WPA project interviewed people who'd been born into slavery. One of my favorite quotes is from Edward Taylor who remembered the last days of the Civil War.
 "I used to hear the white folks reading the paper about the war and reading the Yankees beat them, and I wondered what in the world is Yankees. I thought they were talking about the birds of the air or something."
Perhaps the blue birds are the Yankees and emancipation.

Read more about the history of the quilt block and its names at this post:

You could print this poetic license, which is on page 9 of Facts & Fabrications.
It gives you permission to add a layer of symbolism to your quilts.

The block is a good one for a beginning quilter because it's simple piecing and simple applique. It would look good in Baltimore Blues, my recent reproduction fabric collection.

Here's the pattern from the book:

To Print:
  • Create a word file or a new empty JPG file.
  • Click on the image above. 
  • Right click on it and save it to your file. 
  • Print that file. 
  • Add seam allowances when you cut the leaves.
Cutting a 15" Block
A. Cut 4 squares 4-1/4" x 4-1/4"
B. Cut 4 rectangles 4-1/4" x 8"
C. Cut 4 squares 3" x 3" and 5 contrasting squares the same size for the center 9 patch.
D. Use the template to cut 12 leaves.

47" Square Quilt
4 Blocks Finishing to 15"
3" Finished Sashing.
    Cut 4 strips 15-1/2" x 3-1/2"
    Cut 1 Square 3-1/2"

7" Finished Outer Border
    Cut 2 strips 7-1/2" x 47-1/2"
    Cut 2 strips 7-1/2" x 33-1/2"

See the quilt on page 94 of Facts & Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery , by Barbara Brackman (C&T Pub. 2006)

Here's a short preview of the book.

You can buy a print edition here:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Way West Set for Westering Women

Diane's set for her Westering Women blocks.

She used her own version of the alternate Way West set.
See the instructions here:

This set was inspired by several images. One is an old pattern which is usually seen going North instead of West

Fourth Corner Molly calls it Tree House and says that pattern historian Wilene Smith traces it to a 1907 issue of Hearth & Home magazine, which published it as Toad Stool.

A new trend is the idea of putting all the sampler blocks on one side of the quilt and doing something else (or nothing) on the other side of the quilt.

Like Liesel Rautenbach's Modern Sampler.

Split Personality by Thomas Knauer

Way West

More sets next Wednesday.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Small Civil War Battle in Winchester

This week's post concerns a smaller battle than the other three for which
Winchester, Virginia is known.

Abby Gibbons

Sarah Gibbons Emerson recorded this story about a problem with local Secessionists during the Union Occupation of 1864 in her book about her mother Abby Gibbons. Abby worked with the Sanitary Commission bringing relief supplies to Union troops in Virginia, Winchester residents had stolen some of their supplies.

Market Street in 1861 with Confederate Soldiers marching.
The town was occupied and  re-occupied.
"A friend called to say that stores deposited by me at the Relief Rooms in Market Street, had been taken by one Atwell Schell, a member of the church and greatly respected by the Secessionists of the town. We called on the Provost Marshal and stated the facts. He was prompt in giving assistance and allowed us two of his guard, bidding us to use them as we thought best. It was his first day of command."

Abby and her daughter are the seated women here at Fredericksburg

It was not Abby Gibbons's first day of command.
"Accordingly, upon reaching the house of Atwell Schell, and, after being denied a quiet surrender of the stores, I took command and directed one of the guard to remain with my companions below, while I accompanied the other upstairs; the lady of the house being of the party by invitation, to see that we  took our own property only. 
"While I turned out chests and trunks, and dragged out large bags from under beds and lounges, Atwell Schell put in an appearance, stationed himself against a panel of a door, but not a word did he say. Our goods had been packed with much neatness and care, and covered with their own quilts. Everything was turned out, and package upon package rolled down stairs, until a high stack was formed in the centre of the parlor. There was every variety of garment, bedclothes, delicacies for the sick — such as sugar, tea, chocolate, farina, arrowroot, gelatine, and corn-flour and barley in large packages.  
"We found many of our [liquor] bottles (empty, of course, but such as were not to be found in all Winchester). They had been filled with the best stimulants for the sick, but not any of it had been so appropriated — not even to their own Rebel men. No. The citizens of Winchester had stolen it ;  
"As I drew out the many heavy packages, the female present — who was either daughter or daughter-in-law of the said Atwell, and, as I afterwards learned, an accomplice in the theft — exclaimed with great vehemence,  'Did you ever hear of such an impudent woman?' 
Abby replied:
'And what do you have to say of the woman who took these goods and appropriated them to her own purposes? In New York, we should pronounce it theft and punish the transgressor!' 
 "Enough, perhaps, that we once more possessed our goods. We were not long in making them over to the 32nd Ohio Regiment, whose guard came to the rescue, and whose sick so much needed them.... Prudence admonished us to retreat the next day."
I couldn't find an Atwell Schell but perhaps the battle was with the Shell or Shull Family of Winchester.
UPDATE: Suzanne did a little genealogical work and found:
"Atwell Shell appears in the 1860 federal census in Winchester VA born in 1819 in VA, a day laborer by occupation owning real estate valued at $2600 and personal property valued a $300. He is not a man of wealth. He lives with wife Louisa b. 1817, son William H b. 1841 (the perfect age for the Civil War draft), daughter Mary born 1844, son Atwell V born 1849 and son Strawther b. 1856. He does not appear as a slave owner in the slave schedules."

Drawing of Winchester by James E. Taylor
Collection: Western Reserve Historical Society

See more about Abby Gibbons at this post from the past year: