Saturday, April 19, 2014

GAR Feathered Star

G.A.R. Feathered Star
82" x 81"
Maker unknown
Nebo, Pike County, Illinois, 1894

To add to your list of Civil War Commemorative quilts:  a terrific feathered star with appliqued shields. The Illinois Quilt Research Project found this quilt during their search and pictured it in Duane and Rachel Elbert's book History from the Heart: Quilt Paths Across Illinois.

Their caption derives from the family story that veteran Colonel Asa Carrington Matthew purchased this fundraiser quilt at Nebo in Pike County, Illinois at a GAR reunion encampment in 1894 or 1895.

Col. A.C. Matthews (1833-1908)
The quilt descended in his family.

 See more at the museum's blog post here:

I believe the feathered star quilt will be on display in the Illinois State Museum's show Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois, on loan from a private collector.

The exhibit originated in Chicago, traveled to Springfield last year, and will open in Lockport, Illinois on May 6, 2014.

More information on the exhibit:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Yipes Stripes!

#1 by Becky Brown

I have never forgotten this advertising slogan for Fruit Stripe gum
about 50 years ago.

So when I check the Flickr page I often say "Yipes..."

#1 By Dustin Cecil 
Dustin's ticking vision has been inspirational.

He is using heavy weight ticking like for pillows.

Moda's Indigo Crossing Wovens by Polly Minnick & Laurie Simpson

I noticed Minnick & Simpson did a great line of wovens last year and
they have a quilt-weight ticking.....if you are inspired.

Here are a few of the striped blocks I've found on our Flickr page.
#1 By CLMTQuilter

#1 by Rosemary with sashing already begun.

Block # 1 with its frame around the star just asked for stripes,
mitered one way or the other.

#1 By Denise in Texas

#1 By KVMQ

#1 By Susan

#1 By RCCheryl

#1 By Terry at Honas52

#1 By SuzieK OzFarmer
Red and white stripes.

#2 By SuzieK OzFarmer
She's used stripes in Block 2 too.

#2 By Dustin Cecil
It's hard to even see the star here. The complexity is amazing.

#1 By Denise in Texas
I think Dustin inspired Denise too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

GAR Fundraiser Quilts

GAR Fundraiser quilt by Anna Black Hutchin, 1924-1927.
Collection of the Kansas Museum of History

Hutchin embroidered 300 names on this quilt over three years and earned $198 charging by the name. She donated the quilt and the money to the GAR chapter in LaCygne, Kansas. The pattern is called Primrose Path.

Read more about this quilt here:

It's on display now in Topeka at the Kansas Museum of History in the exhibit: “Speaking of Quilts: Voices from the Collection and Community,” which runs through Aug. 31, 2014.

Detail of a Women's Relief Corps quilt
from Pennsylvania, recently offered online.

Many of the surviving quilts with a link to the Union veteran's ladies' organizations were made to raise funds for their charitable and memorial work. Written references to these fundraisers are included in meeting accounts.

The headquarters of the Kansas G.A.R.
and Woman's Relief Corp about 1910

At a Joplin, Missouri encampment (as the summer retreats of the veterans' groups were called) a quilt was in the works in 1893:

"I have found women all along the line trying to do something for the soldiers. And now the ladies of Missouri have prepared a quilt, and you see they know something about military affairs for here are the Corps badges; they have spread upon it with loving hands these emblems; and now what they want is the name of every comrade that can give as much as twenty-five cents, and your name will be recorded upon this quilt, with the regiment and corps to which you belonged, and then the quilt will be put on exhibition, and sold, and the money used for the relief of the comrades."

GAR parade in Toledo, Ohio

At an 1885 get-together in Bristol, Connecticut the reporter found:

"One of the most unique schemes for aiding the Grand Army, is that represented by a large, though incomplete, bed Quilt hanging on the east side. In the center are the badges of Gilbert TW Thompson Post  GAR and the Ladies’ Relief Corps, No 4. Every third block---all the blocks being three inches long by one wide---is white, on each of which Miss Keziah Peck, of the Corps, has written in indelible ink the name of some person who has paid a dime for that purpose. The ladies have done all the sewing. There are now nearly seven hundred names on the quilt, which is to be finished in time for their fair next winter. The  blocks are red, white, and blue."

The encampments and reunions continued into the 1930s and later,
and so did the fundraising quilts.
And if you will notice in the comments on the March 22 post many groups continue.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Threads of Memory 3: New Garden Star for Catherine White Coffin

Block #3
New Garden Star by
Jean Stanclift

New Garden Star layers the classic eight-pointed star atop a four-pointed star. 

New Garden Friends' Meeting House, Indiana
About 2008

The new star pattern is named for the New Garden Meeting House where Catherine Coffin, her family and friends offered help to many fugitive slaves. Their surviving minute book records the day-to-day financial details of the Underground Railroad, as in an 1849 entry about efforts "to procure a home for Marian Danse." The committee reported that "she has been removed to Canada at an expense of $20."

Catherine White Coffin in her 70s,
 portrait from her husband's 1876 book.

In 1826, young Catherine White Coffin, husband Levi and baby Jesse moved from New Garden, North Carolina, to Indiana for reasons that remain a bit mysterious. Like other westering couples they hoped to prosper. Levi flourished on the frontier, first as a merchant and later as a manufacturer of linseed oil. They chose the town of Newport because Quaker family and friends from Guilford County had also moved there, establishing a nearby meeting house they named New Garden after their old home.

In a speech towards the end of his life Levi said North Carolina had become dangerous for the antislavery Quakers. In his autobiography he claimed to be surprised that the highway near his new home was a branch of what came to be known as the Underground Railroad. His protestation of ignorance has a false ring, however. For years members of their North Carolina community had been cautiously smuggling runaway slaves north to Friends in Richmond, Indiana. Catherine and Levi must have carefully chosen their new home north of Richmond. Thanks to their generosity, courage and organizational skills, the number of fugitives escaping through eastern Indiana increased significantly.

The Coffin's Federal-style brick house, built in 1839, overlooks highway 27 in Fountain City, Indiana, the town they knew as Newport. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, restored and opened as a public museum in 1970 under the Indiana State Museum System

 The yellow star on the eastern border of Indiana is
the general location of the Coffin's Indiana home.

Block #3
New Garden Star by
Dustin Cecil
(I FORGOT to post this yesterday, sorry you fans of D.C)

Levi Coffin loved the metaphor of an underground railroad for the network of neighbors who helped escapees travel north. Of Newport he wrote, "The roads were always in running order, the connections were good, the conductors active and zealous, and there was no lack of passengers."

"Aunt Katy" Coffin (1803-1881) was at the heart of the Newport trunk line. "There never was a night too cold, or dark or rainy, for her to get up at any hour, and prepare a meal for the poor fugitives….many a time 12, 15, and even 17 sat down," recalled her husband at their fiftieth wedding anniversary party. In the twenty years they lived in Newport, Catherine gave birth to five more children, two girls and three boys, so there was always a baby or toddler to care for in addition to numerous houseguests. She organized a sewing society that stitched clothes for fugitives. Agents would meet ragged runaways to assess clothing needs and sizes and then choose garments from the Antislavery Sewing Society depository at the Coffin house.

Catherine was a woman "who wouldn't scare worth a cent," Levi bragged. Despite death threats, "they were never in the least terrified." As the years passed, the Quakers' Underground Railroad activities became accepted and they had little to fear in Newport. The "conductors" were politically and financially powerful and their Quaker neighbors, even those who felt no call to harbor ex-slaves, were not inclined to report fugitives to the sheriff.

New Garden Star by
Becky Brown

Nathan Coggswell remembered transporting refugees in his ox cart north towards Canada. Most came to him from the Coffins' organization. "When there were women and children we had to rig out a covered wagon. We sometimes hung chairs, spinning wheels and other articles on the wagon to give the outfit the appearance of movers."

Coggswell described the network of friends. "I knew every person between Richmond, Indiana and Michigan who would take us in and keep us all night….We talked over the situation freely among ourselves, but said little or nothing to others. We had no signs or secret words." During the 1840s and 1850s as national consciousness of slavery's evils developed, the need for secrecy in eastern Indiana subsided. "It was soon considered a disgrace to interrupt a colored person. The danger was about over."

New Garden Star by
Becky Brown

By then the Coffins had moved on to Cincinnati, again for vague reasons. Their 1847 visit was planned to be temporary but became permanent. Antislavery leaders requested Levi's help in running a store selling goods made by free labor there. 
Kentucky runaway Henry May had escaped, says the ad,
"in all probability to Cincinnati, Ohio." 1838.

But Cincinnati was the center of Underground Railroad activity along the Ohio/ Kentucky border. Unlike Newport, where the community agreed to ignore illegal activities, the river town was divided between antislavery and proslavery activists. Refugees crossing into the city were followed by masters who enlisted the authorities to return their human property and arrest anyone who helped in the escape.

Levi Coffin, 1865

It seems that the Underground Railroad needed the Coffin's leadership and courage not so much for a store, but for the more dangerous job of smuggling refugees. Again Catherine fed and clothed people during their first days of freedom, but her Cincinnati house had a larger attic than the one in Newport. The 1860 census finds them maintaining a boarding house for 29 men and women ranging from 2 to 50 years old, an excellent cover for a underground railroad station.

The Quaker standing in the back row is thought to be Levi Coffin
and the bearded man at top right Jonathan Cable,
who assisted Coffin. The runaway family may be a group Coffin
recalled in his memoirs.

Read the excerpt from Coffin's book here: 
Read more about the photo at the Fulton Sun:

In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published Life Among the Lowly, the newspaper serial that came to be known as Uncle Tom's Cabin. Like many fiction writers, she drew composite characters based on real people. Her kind Indiana Quakers named Simeon and Rachel Halliday have much in common with the Coffins. The couple known for their secretiveness became public figures.

Rachel Halliday from Uncle Tom's Cabin

 During the Civil War, the Coffins changed their focus to aiding freed people living in refugee camps. After the War, with their work done, the 1870 census counts them as living alone. The year before he died Levi published his autobiography, which added to their reputation as champions of freedom. Levi died in his eighties in 1877 and Catherine followed a few years later.

The Coffin's tombstone, raised as
 "A Tribute from the Colored People of Cincinnati,"
remembers Catherine with
"Her Work Well Done."

Block #3
New Garden Star by
Dustin Cecil in last year's Moda collection
Civil War Jubilee
(Forgot to post this too yesterday)

Cutting a 12" Block
A: Cut 1 light and 4 background squares 4 1/2" x 4 1/2".
B: Cut 4 light squares 2 7/8" x 2 7/8", then cut each with one diagonal cut to make 2 triangles. You need 8 triangles for the star points. 

For pieces C and D use the templates or you may prefer to paper piece the overall shape C + D + C. See
the pattern page below.

C: Cut 4 backgound pieces. Reverse the pattern and cut 4 more background shapes.
D: Cut 4 medium pieces.

Print out the templates by saving this picture to a  JPG or Word file,
then printing it out 8-1/2" x 11". The paper pieced unit should
measure 4" across or 4-1/2" with seams (some seams may be in the margins.)

More info on printing.
  • Left click on the picture
  • It should open up in another window larger.
  • Right click on the picture.
  • Choose from the menu "Save Picture As....."
  • Save it under My Pictures somewhere you can find it.
  • Open it up again in your picture program
  • Print it and if it's too large measure it and resize it.


Or try this PDF at Acrobat Workspaces

If you can't adjust the size of the image for your printer then draft pieces B,C and D yourself.
In EQ 7 or a piece of paper:

1.  Draw a 4 inch square.
2. Mark the 2 inch lines on each side with dots.
3. Mark a dot 3/4 of an inch form the left and right corner on the lower line.
Connect those dots as above.

4. Erase two lines to make the pattern.
5. Use these pieces for your templates and add seams.

Make a Quilt a Month

Set nine New Garden Star blocks side by side with a 3" border to create a 42" quilt. Alternate five blocks with one background and four with another and you will get a checkerboard effect behind the stars.

What can we learn about the Underground Railroad from Catherine Coffin's story?

The Coffin network of conductors was based on personal acquaintance, a chain of stations. As Nathan Coggswell wrote, "I knew every person between Richmond, Indiana and Michigan who would take us in and keep us all night….We had no signs or secret words."

Levi Coffin House is an Indiana State Historic Site, open to the public.

Read about the free-labor cotton business at the Quaker Quilts blog by and Mary Holton Robare & Lynda Salter Chenowith:

Catherine Coffin's husband Levi published his autobiography in 1876. Many online book sites contain the full text of Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad (Cincinnati: Western Tract Society, 1876) Click on this link to see an 1880 version of the book.

Documenting the American South ( is a digital publishing initiative sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with full text versions of materials from their collection and others. 
Click this link to their home page and search by authors, titles or collections.
Levi Coffin's cousin Addison also wrote an autobiography about his work on the Underground Railroad. See the full text of Life and Travels of Addison Coffin Written by Himself (Cleveland: W, G. Hubbard, 1897) by going to Google Books.

You can read about the Coffins in their friend Laura Smith Haviland's autobiography, A Woman's Life-Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Haviland. (Walden & Stowe, 1882) which is also available online at Google Books.

The Indiana Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) has a remarkable collection of online manuscripts including the "Record of the Minutes of the New Garden Branch of the Committee on the Concerns of People of Color." To read these handwritten records, which begin after the Coffins moved to Cincinnati, click

The PALNI website also has more information about Catherine Coffin in the local history collection filed under the name of Robert Nixon Huff. Look  for her obituary among the other materials from Wayne County.
Click on the above link, which will bring you to the search page for PALNI and type the name Catherine Coffin in the search box. Then hit search. Click on the Huff collection (article 5). On the next page, scroll down the menu on the left until you see her name.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ladies' Auxiliaries Gift Quilts

Crazy Quilt about 1887

"A Massachusetts unit of the Women’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the Civil War veterans’ Grand Army of the Republic, made this quilt as a gift for a sister organization in Peace Dale, Rhode Island."

The quilt is in the collection of the Rhode Island School of Design, Gift of Mrs. Patricia Barrett #80.280

The Womans Relief Corps (also spelled Women's) was a ladies' auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, the major Union veterans' organization. Making quilts was part of WRC activities and several quilts survive with an obvious link to the group.

Parade float about 1910

As with the RISD quilt above, members made gift quilts to honor hard-working officers and groups.

Crazy Quilt, 1890-1891, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library 

"Mary Eliza C. Knowles received this quilt in recognition for her service as president of the Massachusetts Women's Relief Corps in 1890....Each of the 64 blocks of this quilt bears the identification number of the Women's Relief Corps' local chapter and, in some cases, the chapter's name and location."
See more here:

I found mention of a similar gift quilt in the minutes of a WRC meeting in Minnesota in 1887.

"At this juncture Nettie A. Lewis, in her merry, loving way, presented Lulie A. Becker with a beautiful silk quilt, composed of embroidered eight-inch silk blocks, each Corps being represented by a block, their own handiwork."

There is another GAR Ladies' Auxiliary, the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Center of a quilt in the collection of the 
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

"Made by the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic
Anna Ella Carroll Circle No. 1, San Jose, California
For Hattie Burgess Shattuck, December 1892"

For more about GAR auxiliary quilts see this post:

I can see I have made mistakes in the past assuming the WRC and the Ladies of the GAR were the same organization. I now realize they were competing organizations with LGAR founded in 1881 as the Loyal Ladies League and the WRC in 1883. The older group required members to be relatives of Union veterans, while the newer group did not. In 1886 the Loyal Ladies League changed their name to the Ladies of the GAR.

Now that the editorial we have this sorted out we can look around for more quilts by the LGAR.