Saturday, September 18, 2021

Charlotte Varnum Cutter's Civil War


Log Cabin quilt attributed to Charlotte Varnum Cutter (1803-1880)
Vinland, Douglas County, Kansas
Collection of the Watkins Community Museum

Charlotte Varnum was born in Dracut, Massachusetts early in the 19th century. In 1830 she married John Pierce Cutter of New Hampshire and gave birth to several children on their Dracut farm. Two boys died before the age of three but George, Alfred, Charlotte, Martha, John and Sarah survived into adulthood. 

When youngest daughter Sarah was born in 1845 John was listed as a Yeoman, a small farmer. A few years later he joined the Forty-Niners in California and died there in January of 1850 (possibly in a cholera epidemic that year.)

George Cutter (1830-1874)
Photo from Kansas History

Son George went west in the 1850s himself, spending time in Oak Grove, Wisconsin but as his obituary tells us: "Loving liberty...abhorring wrong...the Kansas Nebraska bill and the subsequent...slavery crusade in Kansas set him all ablaze."

He arrived in eastern Kansas in March, 1856 ready to fight for a free Kansas state. He also hoped to establish "a home for a widowed mother and his young brothers and sisters." He later recalled:

"I came on my own hook, by the river route. I took a Claim as soon as I got into the Territory on Coal Creek about ten miles from Lawrence. I went to work immediately and made the following improvements, to wit – built a Cabin – broke 6 acres."
George claimed land near Coal Creek
building this two-story frame house begun in the mid 1850s on
a hill east of what is now Vinland.
Photo from Kansas History

George succeeded in his goals, fighting in small battles in the Kansas Troubles, riding to Osawatomie with James Lane and John Brown family members in 1856 where he was shot several times, lucky to survive with just a limp for the rest of his life.

Charlotte and the younger children joined him in 1859 and by the 1860 census she was listed as a 56-year-old farmer with her five children.

The two older boys George and Alfred enlisted in the 9th Kansas Volunteer Infantry formed in March, 1862 along with several neighbors including Seth Kelly.

Alfred Cutter (1837-1915)
Portraits are from Kansas History

Corporal Seth Kelly (1836 -1868)

The 9th Kansas served in Missouri, Colorado, Montana and Arkansas over three or four years. Seth's diary for 1864 has survived in the family and great-granddaughter Anne E. Kelly Hemphill published the journal in Kansas History, Autumn, 1978.

The log cabin quilt, probably made after 1870, is pieced of
wool and combination wool/cotton fabrics, scraps from the fashionable
clothing of the 1850-1880 era.

Seth and possibly the Cutter boys spent winter 1863-4 not far from home, reinforcing Douglas County after the disastrous raid by Confederate Missourians a few months earlier under William Quantrill. 

A crude and fanciful depiction of Quantrill's Raid by
an artist who'd apparently never seen Lawrence, Kansas.
Nearly 200 men & boys were killed.

Seth's diary begins with his account of spending New Year's Eve, 1863 at Mrs. Cutter's and then a cold month in camp. On February 22, 1864 he was back at Mrs. Cutter's "at sundown. There I always find a welcome and kindness for which I fear I cannot be able to show sufficient gratitude."

Army life was slow that winter, drilling and waiting for Confederate threats. Seth spent free time reading---Wilkie Collins's novels and Bayard Taylor's travel book. Those New England transplants took pride in their literacy and Charlotte Cutter's home was the site of a lending library run by the young people, still in business in the neighborhood. 

In 1900 the library moved out of the Cutter house into its own building.

In spring the regiment went to Arkansas by way of Missouri seeing little action but some "beautiful little rebels" near Clarksville, Arkansas. In November they were home again. He and Alf Cutter "arrived about 8 o'clock at Mrs. Cutter's." He mentioned staying at Charlotte's home several times in December. "Saw several of the friends." That little house must have been packed to the roof with young people. We get a glimpse of Charlotte Cutter's role in the war, welcoming the neighborhood soldiers with meals and hospitality.

Charlotte's war, while undoubtedly full of worry for her sons, was relatively calm. Her postwar family crises, however, must have caused her a good deal of grief. Daughter Martha married Seth Kelly in 1866.

Martha (1841-) about the time of her marriage in 1866

Seth began this stone house in 1866 but died of cancer soon after, leaving
Martha with a year-old baby George, named perhaps for his Uncle George. 
The photo of  the seated women with Martha's sister Sarah and her
 is from about 1911.

Book still in the Coal Creek Library, perhaps a Christmas gift to Martha's son
George many decades later.

Charlotte's son George, who seems to have been a very popular man, died in an accident fording a stream (Coal Creek or the larger Wakarusa River?) in  November, 1874. The wagon overturned, he struck his head. People were still talking about it a hundred years later when I first spent time in Vinland.

The log cabin quilt has layers of pattern, alternating
darks and lights in complex fashion.

Charlotte died in her late 70s leaving many descendants in the

The house on the Cutter's land today was begun in 1913.

Read a PDF of Seth Kelly's diary in Kansas History in 1978:

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hands All Around: Color Schemes and Set Schemes


Heidi's using eye-popping primaries with black.

I did some screen shots from our Hands All Around BOM
Facebook page. And a little photoshopping.

Shawn is alternating a nine patch and making doubles.
Some set and color ideas as we finish Block #9.

Nancy redrew the corners for a consistent triangle.

Lutgarde is making two sizes.

Laura is mixing color.

Elsie's adding drama with an alternate block.

Diane is sticking with neutrals.

Dena is piecing an alternate stairstep.

Carrie has been consistent in her backgrounds, not easy
to do when you don't know what the next block is going to be.

Ask to join the Facebook Group:
Post pix.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Susanah Day Bodie Plunkett's Civil War

Quilt attributed to Susanah Day Bodie Plunkett (1836-1899) 
Aiken County, South Carolina

Recorded in the South Carolina project in 1985

Family who brought this quilt in to the South Carolina project for documentation believed it to have been made about 1855 by Susanah Day in her late teens, but after looking at many more quilts since 1985 most of us would guess it to have been made 20 or 30 years later or more. Susan, as she was called, was then in her later years.

We can't see the fabrics too well but the style with the triple sashing
and 9-patch cornerstone is a hallmark of Southern quilts after 1870 into the
20th century. 

The maker died in 1899 so this might have been her work in her 60s
or made by a younger relative and attributed to Susan. 

The Civil War, a huge event in the lives of Susan's generation, often becomes the pivot around which family stories revolve. Families think of quilts surviving the war as many of their ancestors did.

The end of the war in 1865 was a milestone. Family thought
this crazy quilt attributed to Susan was made in 1865, although
the style is post 1880.

Her Civil War must have been traumatic. She was about 25 when the war began, married to farmer Michael Bodie with whom she had two young children and looking to "be confined" soon, as they called giving birth. Three months after the war began she had a son Emory Fuller Bodie (Bodie is a hard name to spell, so we see it as Brody, Body and Brodie.)

Eldest daughter America Bodie Randall

For generations the family has lived close to Aiken's Shiloh Baptist
 Church (here in its current incarnation.) 

Private Michael Bodie, 28 years old, was killed August 8, 1864 in Virginia while serving with General Johnson Hagood's Brigade in the Siege of Petersburg.

Fortifications for trench warfare at Petersburg
He also has a marker in the Shiloh graveyard.

General Hagood survived to become a 
post-war governor.

After the war Susan remarried local farmer David Plunkett.

The 1870 census shows that Darling Plunkett is a boy.
David must have had children from a first marriage, Fuller & Mitchell.

In 1880 the census shows the family complete with youngest
son Lovie E [Lovett Everett Plunkett] four years old.

The Plunketts never seemed to be prosperous farmers. Susan and her quilts are of the yeoman agricultural class of the rural South. The Quilt Index shows two that family brought in.

Her great granddaughter inherited these two and told the interviewer they were "kept for years carefully folded between mattresses" and recalled many others with four "in good condition....This owner has two, sister has two. Another just like [the flying geese quilt] owned by...another great-grandson....Could have made one for each child"

Aiken about 1860, Aiken County Historical Society

The crazy quilt's owner seems to have had a lot of family
emotion invested in the quilt she thought made by a widow with
three small children right after her husband was killed in the war.
She characterized her heirloom as
"Beautiful, Special - shows courage of maker."

So we are not going to tell her that the utilitarian crazy quilt with its mixed fabrics of wool, combination fabrics and cotton prints with minimal embroidery is far more likely to be from 1900 to 1940. And that makes it unlikely to have been made by Susan Day Bodie Plunkett who never saw the 20th century. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Hands All Around #9: Hemstitch for Sophia Peabody Hawthorne

Block #9 Hemstitch by Denniele Bohannon

Block #9 was published as White Hemstitch; we'll use it to recall the Hawthornes, the Alcott's next-door neighbors in Concord. 

Mid-century seamstress

"24 January. Sewed all morning....I hemmed handkerchiefs for ( nephew) 
Horace (Mann), who is going to Cambridge."

In her 1862 diary neighbor Sophia Hawthorne recorded many days sewing for her family, women's common occupation whether married to well-known authors or carpenters, carriage builders or curates.

Sophia & Nathaniel Hawthorne during the Civil War in front of their
Concord house The Wayside, which they bought from
the Alcotts and expanded. Nathaniel added the tower study.
The house sat on a 17-acre parcel.

The 1865 Massachusetts state census pictures the neighborhood along Concord's Lexington Pike. Adjacent to the Alcotts with Louisa and May living at home were the Hawthornes. Sophia, now a widow, lived with her three children 14 to 21 and two young Irish women who were live-in servants. (Note: No servants at the Alcotts---Louisa hadn't made any money yet.) 

Sophia Amelia Peabody Hawthorne (1809-1871)

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804- 1864) by Charles Osgood, 1841
The Hawthornes married in 1842 and spent their
honeymoon years in Concord's Old Manse, a situation
arranged by Ralph Waldo Emerson (who liked arranging Concord.)

Hemstitch by Addison

Concord in 1865

Concord indeed was a magical place with so many artists, authors and philosophers. We can look at the town as a work of art concocted by Waldo Emerson who used his inherited money and persuasive powers to locate just the kind of neighbors he wanted. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) shortly before the Civil War

If like the Alcotts you couldn't pay the rent he'd pay it for you. If you needed a place to stay he'd put you up in the guest room as he did Henry Thoreau and Margaret Fuller (not together!)

Emerson's house was across the road on the way into town.

And what a wonderful town Concord must have been! But when you gather that many creative people together you are bound to have a little friction. A few were rather high-strung, or shall we say, bi-polar and afflicted with anxiety disorders---plus a couple on the shaky edge of psychotic.

Concord looks bucolic. That is probably not Nathaniel Hawthorne
waving to the neighbors here. He is remembered as very shy,
perhaps a man with severe social anxiety.

About 1860 neighbor Louisa Alcott wrote her cousin Adeline May after the Hawthornes were home at Wayside after a year in Europe.

"Mr H is as queer as ever and we catch glimpses of a dark mysterious looking
man in a big hat and red slippers darting over the if he
expected the house of Alcott were about to rush out and clutch him."

Bronson, always looking for an audience, was likely to do so. 

Hemstitch by Janet Perkins

Louisa refers to Mr. H as Byronic and he was--- an extremely handsome man who wrote romantic poetry and prose. On Hawthorne's first visit to the Peabody sisters' home his future sister-in-law Elizabeth ran upstairs to tell her younger sister Sophia: "He is handsomer than Lord Byron. You must get up and dress and come down." Sophia, who had her own issues, stayed in her room.

Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894) at Bronson Alcott's Concord
School of Philosophy at Orchard House,
1880s. by Alfred Winslow Hosmer, Concord Library
She eschewed conventions of female fashion and hair dressing.

Did Sophia and Nathaniel break sister Elizabeth's heart when they married five years later? The marriage was fortuitous for Sophia and Nathaniel who produced three handsome offspring in a union  Margaret Fuller described as a "happy duet."

Una, Julian and Rose Hawthorne in the 1860s
Una was often in a "high state of wrath and woe," as Louisa noted.

Louisa gossiped a bit about Sophia, telling her cousin, "Mrs. H. is as sentimental and muffing as of old..." (Muffing, Alcott biographer Harriet Reisen tells us, means clumsy.) In turn Sophia disparaged Abba Alcott's tendency to overdramatize the war news.
"Mrs Alcott is the most appalling sensationist. She frightens me out of my five senses from time to time with telling me one thing and another---and suggesting blood-curdling possibilities." 

Sophia about the time of the Civil War

Hemstitch by Pat Styring

Despite occasional spitefulness the Alcotts and the Hawthornes spent much time together according to Sophia's 1862 diary, sharing corn and apple harvests, a cloak pattern loaned by Louisa and many evening games of whist. Una, born in 1844, was friends with May, four years older. Julian, six years younger than May, is thought to have had a crush on that most glamourous Alcott.
"Louisa and Abby [May] go with Una and Julian to see the review of the colored regiments in Readville." Abba Alcott journal, May, 1863.
Sophia's diary drifts off in 1863. The neighbors were helpful in getting Louisa off to her nursing experience in Washington and in her return as an invalid. They sent Louisa's poem mourning Henry D. Thoreau to a newspaper for publication. Nathaniel himself remained aloof. As Sophia wrote: "Mr Hawthorne's abomination of visiting still holds strong... His vocation is to observe and not be observed." 

Franklin Pierce (1804-1869)
14th President 1853-1857
Louisa's nursing matron Hannah Ropes called him  
"The most unmitigated calamity Heaven ever suffered upon the earth." 

The Hawthornes' attitudes about abolition were at odds with her sisters' views and with their literary Concord neighbors. Nathaniel's life-long friend from Bowdoin College years was recent President Franklin Pierce, considered a "doughface," a Northerner with Southern principles. Campaign biographer Hawthorne echoed Pierce's sentiments. Pierce's visits to Concord during the war could not have been welcomed by the neighbors. Franklin Sanborn characterized him as "a copperhead of the worst kind," a synonym for doughface.

Hawthorne's decision to dedicate his 1863 book Our Old Home to Pierce was controversial. “My friends have dropped off from me like autumn leaves,” he acknowledged. Waldo Emerson ripped the laudatory Pierce dedication pages out of his copy.

In the fall of 1862 Sophia recorded spending time at an early wartime endeavor, raveling linen fabric to create "lint," linen threads to send to hospitals to pack wounds. 

Exhibit showing "Lint Scraping," which probably would communicate 
better to us if it were called "Linen Raveling" 
Framingham History Center, Edgell Memorial Library

Waldo's daughter Ellen Emerson wrote her cousin: "We have an institution here called 'lint parties'...Just now all we are sure of is soldiers' sewing one day a week and Lint party Wednesday evenings." Earlier in the year Ellen wrote of a "Mass-meeting of sewers here on Thursday to make clothes for the negroes at Port Royal," people freed by Union occupation of South Carolina's sea islands. Sophia and the children attended several such wartime aid society meetings in the diary year of 1862.

Block #9 Hemstitch by Becky Brown

The Block

Looking for interesting sawtooth stars in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and BlockBase+
we find White Hemstitch from a 1930s pattern source named "Grandma Dexter."

BlockBase #2151

Grandma (the art department at the Collingbourne Mills in Illinois) suggested you applique the block (all of it.) Piecing is a more practical option.

You need
4 A squares
4 B squares
12 C triangles
4 D triangles
4 E squares
8 F triangles


8” Block (2” Grid)
A—Cut squares 2-1/2”
B—Cut squares 5-1/4”. Cut each into 4 triangles with two diagonal cuts.

C—Cut squares 2-7/8”. Cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut.
D - Cut 1 square 3-1/4". Cut into 4 triangles with two diagonal cuts.
E Cut 4 squares 1-1/2".
F Cut 4 squares 1-7/8". Cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut.
12” Block (3” Grid)
D - 4-1/4"
E - 2"
F - 2-3/8"

16” Block (4” Grid) 
D - 5-1/4"
E - 2-1/2"
F - 2-7/8"


Post Script

Nathaniel Hawthorne about 1860

Sophia's letters and diaries detail problems with her well-loved husband's health in 1862, '63 and '64. Stomach pain and lethargy were two major symptoms but he was also unsteady on his feet and uncoordinated, a "devastating array of symptoms," according to biographer Brenda Wineapple. Nathaniel had watched two favorite uncles die of some kind of familial neurological disorder with similar symptoms. He kept it to himself.

In May, 1864 Hawthorne and Pierce proposed a vacation to Boston, Andover and Plymouth, New Hampshire, Hawthorne in such bad health he had to be carried to the carriage. Even the impractical  Bronson Alcott thought the trip a bad idea, but Sophia placed hopes in restorative travel. Did Nathaniel have a plan? 

Pemigewasset House, a New Hampshire resort

Wineapple gives us a glimpse of the morning Pierce found Hawthorne dead in his room in a Plymouth hotel. Sophia's sisters Elizabeth and Mary were deputized to break the news to his wife. Several intimates including Elizabeth suspected suicide by self-administered poison but Hawthorne was a sick man and might very well have died peacefully in his sleep far from home.

The family stayed on at Wayside. Julian who'd been failing at Harvard dropped out and came home. Rose almost thirteen and Una about 20 were consolation to their mother although Una seems to have been emotionally overwrought with lifelong tantrums requiring restraint.

Sophia on the west side of Wayside in the 1860s, 
wearing the dress seen in the portrait above with her husband. 
Several family pictures come from Harvard's Alcott files.

Una suffered through a broken engagement in 1867 and the following year the family moved to Europe where Sophia edited Nathaniel's writings for publication. She sold the Concord house in 1870 and died of typhoid at the age of 61 in England. 

Sophia's marker in Concord's Sleepy Hollow cemetery.

In a reprise of the rivalry between their mother and Aunt Elizabeth, Una and Rose fell in love with the same man George Lathrop. 

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (1851-1926)
After George's death Rose became a Catholic nun.

Rose won him; they married in 1871 and bought back the house in Concord where their only son Francis died in 1881. The distraught couple left Wayside and moved to Boston. 

Julian and Una Hawthorne

The Hawthornes had more than their share of mental illness's grief. Una died suddenly at the age of 33 after a life marked with intermittent periods of psychosis. Julian lived a long life as a writer but his reputation was rather unsavory and he served time in jail for his financial dealings in a mine.

The Alcott/Hawthorne House over the years.
The Alcotts called it Hillside and sold it to the Hawthornes who called it Wayside.
When considering Little Women it's important to keep in mind that most of the remembered March family events took place at Wayside in the house at top left here ---not next door at Orchard House, a later Alcott purchase. If I were the historian on a Little Women film I'd dictate filming in a Wayside reproduction (historical consultants don't get to dictate however.)

Wayside Set 

Here's a set for 12 star blocks with a little neighborly space for some fancy quilting. The center finishes to 2x the block size and the border to half the block size.

8" = 40" square quilt.
Cut center 16-1/2" square. Cut borders 4-1/2" x 32-1/2" for sides and 4-1/2" x 40-1/2" for top & bottom.
12" = 72 " square quilt.
Cut center 24-1/2" square. Cut borders 6-1/2" x 48-1/2" for sides and 6-1/2" x 72-1/2" for top & bottom.

16" = 80" square quilt
Cut center 32-1/2" square. Cut borders 8-1/2" x 64-1/2" for sides and 8-1/2" x 80-1/2" for top & bottom.

My inspiration was Klonda Holt's and Dorry Hurska's prize-winning collaboration at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival last June.

Extra Reading

Mary Peabody Mann (1806-1887)
The three Peabody sisters Elizabeth, Mary and
Sophia were extraordinary women.

 Mary's boys about 1855: Benjamin, Horace Jr. & George. 
Mary's husband educator Horace Mann left her a widow in 1859.
 Horace went to Harvard; his aunt Sophia sent hand-stitched
 handkerchiefs with him. He died of tuberculosis at 24 soon after graduation.

The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism by Megan Marshall. Marshall's story ends with Sophia's 1842 wedding. Preview: 

An older book: The Peabody Sisters of Salem by Louise Tharpe Hall, 1988

Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple. Preview:

Read Sophia's Civil War journal:
"With Hawthorne in Wartime Concord: Sophia Hawthorne's 1862 Diary" by Thomas Woodson, James A. Rubino and Jamie Barlowe Kayes, Studies in the American Renaissance, 1988.