Saturday, October 7, 2017

Picture Rocks Ladies' Aid Society


Winslow Homer's drawing of a Ladies' Aid Society in Harper's Weekly, 1862

During the Civil War women all over the Union formed Ladies' Aid Societies that were branches of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The women of Picture Rocks, Pennsylvania, left a record of their activities in Lycoming County.


Picture Rocks in the Muncy Valley is named for some long-gone
Native American pictographs in the hills

The women were tentative about organizing and doubtful as to the good they were able to do.

1864 Letter to the Secretary of the Woman’s Branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission:
“ I am happy to inform you that, at length, after two or three failures from stormy weather, we have a ‘ Soldiers' Aid Society’ at Picture Rocks. There seems quite a general desire to engage in so noble a work, although, with a few, I have found a feeling of distrust as to the good the ‘Sanitary' is doing, and the necessity of its work. More light is needed on the subject. I do not expect that our contributions will be anyways large, for, with few exceptions, our people number their wealth by hundreds instead of thousands. But we can be one of the little rills that, drop by drop, make the vast ocean.

A portion of the 1864 minutes were published in the 1873 Lycoming County Atlas.
"Voted to meet Thursday afternoons, and to each bring material for quilts, etc., until we could gain sufficient funds to purchase flannel. " [We conducted]  a few fundraising activities to buy flannel for the quilts and calico to make hospital wrappers." 
March 17, at house of Mrs. J. B. Drake...Voted to bring together contributions ready for a box. Put together blocks that members had pieced and quilted. 
 At meeting, April 10, we packed in barrels the following articles: Dried fruits..., eight pairs of socks, one quilt, six shirts, one pair of drawers, one undershirt, two sheets, two dozen of pocket handkerchiefs,... etc.


The flannel was perhaps cotton flannel. The quilt could be pieced of household scraps but they may have used brushed cotton yardage for the backing or filling. The women in the town of a few hundred people finished one quilt for one soldier in a hospital in 1864. One welcome quilt, we'd guess from an account in Kentucky at this post:


Below is the full account of the society from the Atlas.

"SANITARY COMMISSION.
The fact has been painfully realized that our history would be incomplete without some account of the doings of the women of Lycoming during the War of the Rebellion. A strong effort was made to secure full data of the Ladies' Aid Societies throughout the County, but only in part have these efforts been attended with success. Through the kindness of one of the active workers, in the lower part of the County, a report has been received for that section, which is published in full.

RECORD OF THE PICTURE ROCK’B AID SOCIETY, AUXILIARY TO THE UNITED STATES SANITARY COMMISSION, WOMEN'S PENNSYLVANIA BRANCH.

In the summer of 1861, many of the loyal sons of the Muncy Valley responded to their country’s call. The daughters of the valley could not do battle for their country's honor and life, but they could speak words of encouragement and cheer, and they could see that every soldier in the ranks was equipped with all the comforts that busy fingers and loving hearts could devise. And from the time the first company “ took up its line of march," they were watchful and alert to anticipate the needs of those who were risking their lives in their country's service. Many barrels and boxes, filled with dried fruits, jars of apple-butter and pickles, socks and mittens, reading-matter,——in fact, everything that motherly love could suggest, were sent forward from time to time, reaching them in good condition when in winter-quarters, at other times lost by the way, from a sudden removal of camp. This was discouraging, and convinced us of the necessity of united, systematic effort, before we could be really helpful to the sick and wounded.

But we were so few in number. Was it really worth while for us to organize? Not until March, 1864, in response to an earnest appeal for help from the W. B. S. C. of Philadelphia, did we effect an organization at Picture Rocks. Our first meeting convened March 10, at the home of Mrs. Eben Sprout. Present, Mrs. A. Burrows, Mrs. J. B. Drake, Mrs. J. Little, Mrs. E. T. Sprout, Mrs. L. B. Sprout, Mrs. A. R. Sprout, Miss Rosa Little, Miss Martha Little, Miss Jane Whipple. The following oficers were elected: Mrs. Ellis Bryan, President; Mrs. Jesse Blaker and Miss Ann Rymarson, Vice-Presidents; Mrs. A. R. Sprout, Secretary and Treasurer. Appointed committee to solicit funds, Misses Mary Bryan, Rosa Little, and Jane Whipple. Voted to meet Thursday afternoons, and to each bring material for quilts, etc., until we could gain sufficient funds to purchase flannel. From a rough draft in the Secretary’s book, I copy the following letter:

SECRETARY of Woman’s BRANCH or UNITED STATES SANITARY COMMISSION :—

“ I am happy to inform you that, at length, after two or three failures from. stormy weather, we have a ‘ Soldiers' Aid Society’ at Picture Rocks. There seems quite a general desire to engage in so noble a work, although, with a few, I have found a feeling of distrust as to the good the ‘Sanitary' is doing, and the necessity of its work. More light is needed on the subject. I do not expect that our contributions will be anyways large, for, with few exceptions, our people number their wealth by hundreds instead of thousands. But we can be one of the little rills that, drop by drop, make the vast ocean.”

Next meeting, March 17, at house of Mrs. J. B. Drake. Present, Mrs. A. Burrows, Mrs. Eben Sprout, E. T. Sprout, A. R. Sprout, Miss Ann Rynearson, Mary Rogers, Jane Whipple, Rosa Little, Martha Little, Minerva Little, Martha Krause, Jane Saunders. Heard reports of Soliciting Committee. Appointed Jane Saunders on committee, in place of R. Little, resigned. Instructed the, committee to continue their labors for another week. Voted to bring together contributions ready for a box. Put together blocks that members had pieced and quilted.

At meeting, April 10, we packed in barrels the following articles: Dried fruits, eleven pounds of huckleberries, nine pounds of cherries, six and one-half pounds of blackberries, three pounds of raspberries, one pound of currants, five pounds of ‘ apples, eight pairs of socks, one quilt, six shirts, one pair of drawers, one undershirt, two sheets, two dozen of pocket handkerchiefs, four towels, one linen coat, two pillows, two bags of hops, several bundles of old linen, cotton, and lawn, etc. includes minutes of the meetings, accounts of a few fundraising activities to buy flannel for the quilts and calico to make hospital wrappers."

https://books.google.com/books?id=7X1BAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA100&lpg=RA1-PA100&dq=1841+quilt+pennsylvania&source=bl&ots=dUR565nEaK&sig=if4EkN0pGK9OGlxzGNayzd8JmqU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSs53rqMXSAhWD6iYKHXQ8C3A4HhDoAQg9MAY#v=onepage&q=1841%20quilt%20pennsylvania&f=false

6 comments:

Peggy said...

I wonder when quilters began to use flannel for batting. I would expect that by the end of the war all cotton goods were scarce and expensive. Of course an old worn-out quilt could be used for batting if the flannel was for the backing. Is the backing on quilts of this era ever made of smaller pieces than yard goods? Interesting to think of the quantity of dried fruit and textiles that they sent. And of course, the hops, for a little home brew. Thank you for the interesting post.

Danice said...

The ladies of the Sanitary commissions were so awesome. Helpful and caring. Definitely a good mark on US history.

Phyllis in Iowa said...

Thank you for your blog posts.

The woman in the upper left of the first photo appears to be using a Wheeler & Wilson curved needle treadle sewing machine. These 1860s sewing machines moved the fabric from left to right as did a right handed seamstress. She placed her feet on the foot shaped treadle and under the leather "bracelets" that held her feet in place.

Sewing machines were a marvel and saved women many hours of hand sewing.

Kerry said...

What a pity the pictographs were removed. We still are lucky enough to have a couple still intact over here. Then there are also some military badges carved into the chalk in Wiltshire.

Thank you - I enjoy seeing the old photos and reading all different aspects of life in those times. I have no recollection of how I stumbled onto your blogs, but I'm so glad I did.

Barbara Brackman said...

Kerry---wind and water eroded the pictographs. I should have said that. You probably have fewer thunderstorms than they do in Pennsylvania.

Kerry said...

That's very true, Barbara. It does seem that the storms are to the extreme compared with here thank goodness! Weather watching is another passion of mine, so I like watching satellite imaging to see what is heading in our direction. Not exactly a storm chaser - more like what horrid stuff is being thrown at us - good for the garden or good for sewing - and batten the hatches! LOL.
I think we also have very dedicated people that have kept their drawing alive, like the Uffington White Horse.