Saturday, August 6, 2016

Rebecca Fuller Decker's Quilt at the Staten Island Historical Society

Here's an intriguing glimpse of a Civil War pictorial quilt
in the Staten Island Historical Society/Historic Richmond Town collection in New York.

The quilt is said to have been made in Illinois during the Civil War.

See their online record here:

It looks like a repeat block applique
with eagles above cannons and crossed flags.
The pictures are copyright of the Historical Society.

The catalog record:
"Pieced and appliqued bed cover decorated with patriotic and wartime motifs. Constructed from blue and white printed background fabric and multicolored appliques. Appliqued motifs include eagles, flags, light rays (sometimes called glories or sunbursts), cannons, pyramids of cannonballs, and shields. Machine stitching is visible over the appliques.

Staten Island Historical Society records state that this bedspread was made during the Civil War by Rebecca (Fuller) Decker (1827-1907). The bedspread was presented to the Historical Society in 1967 by Rebecca’s granddaughter, Dorothy Decker Randall (Mrs. John A. Randall) of Staten Island.
Rebecca Abigail Fuller and Rev. Michael Decker married in Illinois in 1850. The 1860 census shows Michael and Rebecca and their 6 children (including some from Michael’s previous marriage) living in the town of China, Illinois. Rev. Decker, a Methodist preacher, served as a chaplain during the Civil War, and because of his knowledge of medicine, also assisted in the care of wounded soldiers."

Rebecca's husband was a Methodist minister.
Plaque on the Decker grave at the Belvidere Cemetery in Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois

During the Civil War he was
chaplain of the Thirty Fourth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry.

In December, 1863 the unit was near Loudon, Tennessee. The regimental historian records:

"We were at Johnson's mill a few days.... This mill was not far from Chilhowee mountain. The family living near the mill went into ecstasies over our regimental colors, which the colonel kept floating so long as we remained. The people of the community were loyal and kind-hearted, but they had been overrun with both armies passing through the country, and were more or less destitute. About two miles from the mill was an unfinished church, to which our chaplain, Decker, was invited to hold services on Sunday. A squad of six or eight men went with him as a precaution against mischief from a band of guerrillas which had for a long time infested the country. The church building was only enclosed, and not finished or seated. The citizens occupied a long bench on the left side of the speaker, and the guards, with guns in hand, occupied a bench on the opposite side of the house. It is questionable whether the chaplain or the two rows of audience received the most attention from each other."
Rebecca Abigail Fuller Decker (1827-1907) was born in Pennsylvania and became the second wife of Methodist minister Michael Decker (1814-1874) in May, 1849 [or 1850]. They lived in northern Illinois, where he was a preacher in the Rock River Conference.

Rebecca Decker was apparently a model minister's wife. Obituaries comment on her piety and enthusiasm for the missions.

She died at her granddaughters home in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1907
at the age of 80.

Rebecca and Michael are buried in the Belvidere Cemetery as are four of their children.
Frank H. died in March, 1862 at the age of 2.
Charles, no age given
Kate, no age given
Sarah E, no age given

Belvidere about 1910.
Another obituary for Rebecca Decker:
Northwestern Christian Advocate, Volume 55 June 1907

"DECKER.——Rebecca A. Decker, nee Fuller, was born in Orville. Pa., January 12. 1827, and died March 7, 1907, at Marshalltown. Ia., while on a visit to her granddaughter, Mrs. BW Sinclair. In 1850 she married Rev. Michael Decker, a member of Rock River Conference. During the Civil War Mr. Decker was chaplain of the ThirtyFourth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He died November 21, 1874. After her husband"s death Mrs. Decker, with her family moved to Chicago, where she lived for the space of ten years. She then went to Rockford, Ill., where for twenty-three years she had had her home. She held her membership in the Centennial Methodist Episcopal Church where she was greatly respected. 

Methodist Episcopal Church in Rockford.
 "In the Sunday School, missionary society, and temperance cause she was active and proficient. As a pastor’s wife she was a devoted helpmeet. She was a teacher in the Sunday School for the past fifty years. Mrs. Decker,for her means, was exceedingly generous. For several years she contributed largely to the support of a Bible woman in India. She was a woman gifted in prayer and rich in religious experience. Her testimony was always helpful and full of good cheer. She believed in the triumph of Christ's kingdom and rejoiced at every advance made by his Church. Mrs.Decker died after a brief illness resulting in paralysis. She leaves two sons and a daughter. "


Suzanne A said...

I'm not understanding this. Your top image is of a small fraction of a folded quilt top or "spread"? I clicked the link to the Staten Island website and saw no image of the full piece. Am I missing something? Do these fabrics and flag images really look like the Civil War period to you? They must, or you wouldn't present this to us as a Civil War piece.

Liz D said...

The large flag in the photo has 42 stars...There were only 34 states in the Union when the war began, followed by number 35 in 1863. So if these Flags are part of the textile it cannot date from the Civil War.The 42nd state was admitted to the Union in 1889.[also---those polka dots?!].

Barbara Brackman said...

Some New Yorker should ask to see that quilt. Is it a commemorative quilt? which makes more sense. There's just not enough of it visible to do anything but make us want to see more.

Suzanne A said...

Well Barbara, I'm not a good photographer, but I'll give them a call and see if I can arrange something. They are a tiny operation. I'll let you know what they say to me.

That strange flag actually has 39 stars on it, I originally miscalculated as well. The rows alterate (from top)
7 stars, 6 stars, 7 stars, 6 stars 7 stars, 6 stars, and the stars in the 7 star rows are slightly smaller than the stars in the 6 star row, making the count seem most deliberate. According to American Flag Timeline, there never was an official flag with 39 stars but manufacturers incorrectly anticipated such a flag and made some which still show up (1889). The next official flag had 43 stars.

Liz D said...

I miscounted too, but the information about the amount of stars still postdates the CW, as Suzanne says. I really hope you get to see this textile, Suzanne! Keep us posted.

Leslie Stephens said...

Interesting post! Just FYI - Rebecca Fuller Decker was a sister to Civil War General Allen C. Fuller.

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