Saturday, September 1, 2018

Marion Family Quilts in Carolina's Low Country

(1) Chintz Applique Quilt date-inscribed 1848-1849, 
attributed to Mary Videau Marion Yeadon (1811-1871), 
South Carolina, International Quilt Study Center and Museum #2006.003.0005

Mary Videau Marion Yeadon was born in the river plantation area known as the Low Country near Charleston, South Carolina on Mt. Pleasant Plantation, St. John’s, Berkeley County.

1911 Map with the plantation areas in pink and the city of Charleston
at the red arrow. Much of the neighborhood is now under Lakes Moultrie & Marion.

Changed watersheds since Mary's time

Her father Francis (Dwight) Marion was the great-nephew and adopted son of South Carolina's Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, nicknamed the Swamp Fox for his guerrilla tactics. Mary Videau Marion was named for the wife of the first Francis Marion.
Richard Yeadon II,  (1802-1870)
This exquisite miniature portrait is in the collection of the Gregg Museum

In December, 1829 she married Richard Yeadon II, a Charleston lawyer who became a partner in the Charleston Courier in 1833. Richard was a prominent voice for reason in Charleston, opposing the bloated anti-Union rhetoric of nullifiers and secessionists known as Fire-Eaters such as Robert Barnwell Rhett, owner of the Charleston Mercury, and John C. Calhoun, ("the most majestic champion of error since Milton’s Satan," according to historian David Potter).

A biography of Richard mentions Mary as having "a disposition of mildness and courtesy," standard praise for a Charleston matron, but also "an intelligent mind." Life with the outspoken Richard must have been interesting, to say the least. After years of Courier circulation decline due to his opinions considered traitorous to Charleston culture, Richard announced his "retirement" in 1844 due to ill health (he was 42). He was well enough to make a good deal of money in his law practice. The 1860 census valued his assets as $100,000.

Charleston before the war in 1860
Library of Congress

Mary and Richard had no children, but when her sister Gabriella Marion Kirk died in 1842 after giving birth to Mary Videau Marion Kirk, the older Mary took in her infant namesake and seven-year-old Phillip Sydney Kirk to raise as her own.

Their relationship is indicated on a label on the reverse of the quilt: "To Mary V. Kirk from her Mama M.V.M. Yeadon." Curator Carolyn Ducey believes the label says 1885, which may be when the quilt was given to the younger Mary but then again her Mama died in 1871.

Mary Kirk's birthplace Loch Dhu (Black Lake in Scottish) near Eutawville in 1939.
The house built about 1812 survives to this day.

The 1850 census indicates that the Yeadon home in Charleston was full of children as well as politics. Teenage nieces Charlotte and Elizabeth Palmer lived there too, perhaps while enrolled in a Charleston school. 
Fish bowls!

Fish bowl chintz bordering a South Carolina quilt

The appliqued album dated 1849 might have provided much entertainment to the family. Blocks are signed with names of Mary's nieces and sister-in-law.

The Marion family of seven sisters and mother Harriet Kirk Marion (1782-1856) is associated with at least six quilts, four of them in the collection of the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts, purchased as a group in 1972.

(2) Album dated 1847-1848, attributed to
 Catherine Couturier Marion Palmer (1807-1895)
MESDA #2534.3

Catherine Marion Palmer was Mary Marion Yeadon's older sister. The blocks are signed by 20 friends and relatives of Catherine and daughter Harriet Marion Palmer (1830-1896) for whom the quilt was made.

IQSCM block on top compared to MESDA quilt block

(3) Hexagon quilt with chintz border by Harriet Kirk Marion and daughter
Catherine Marion Palmer, about 1840, MESDA.

The light brown borders are similar chintzes. The family
history is that Catherine added the floral border to her
mother's hexagon patchwork.

(4) Tree of Life attributed to Catherine Marion Palmer,
 MESDA collection, estimated date 1840

Another of the quilts purchased in 1972 has a label on the reverse, "Harriet M. Palmer from her mother,” indicating Catherine's daughter Harriet Marion Palmer Dwight (1830-1896) was the keeper of this quilt. The estimated date 1840 is late for a palampore-inspired chintz quilt but the fabrics are consistent with the 1830-1850 period and the colors reflect Catherine's taste for light brown and simple square grid quilting.

The Bird of Paradise and the six-lobed flower are common
fabrics in chintz quilts of the 1830-1860 period.

(5) A fifth Marion family quilt. MESDA collection.
 Pieced quilt with a label on the reverse:
“Quilt made by
Harriet Kirk Marion for her granddaughter Harriet Marion Palmer
1830 St. Johns Berkley.”

Harriet Marion Palmer was born in 1830. The label may have been added later, as all of those on the reverse of the Marion quilts seem to be. The younger Harriet married Francis Marion Dwight in 1858 (another Francis Marion---Carolina family trees are difficult to keep straight) and moved to Dalton, Georgia. This quilt stayed with her Palmer family in South Carolina.

MESDA's cataloging files tell us of a sixth Marion quilt: "Another related chintz album quilt was sold at Christie’s (Lot 319) in New York in January of 1992. There are nine signatures that matched the MESDA quilt including Harriet Marion, Catherine Palmer, and Mary Videau Yeadon. The current location of this quilt is unknown."

Returning to Mary Videau Marion Yeadon's quilt: How the quilt descended and was sold out of the family is unknown. If the quilt remained in Mary Kirk's hands its survival seems miraculous after reading more about her life. Brother Phillip Kirk was a surgeon for the Confederacy during the Civil War and the family home Loch Dhu was used as a hospital. He married and had several children. Mary never married and had no children. Late in the century she became a missionary in Brazil. 

She contracted leprosy there and came to a sad end after her return when neighbors in Aiken, South Carolina found out she had the disease about 1909. In a case of what one medical journal called Chronic Leprophobia the citizens and health department decided she was a threat to Aiken and ruled she should be quarantined in the City Pest House.

She sued (Kirk Vs. Board of Health, 1909) and got an injunction against removal to the city hospital for infectious diseases. But it seems she was isolated in a small house on the edge of town and the city intended to confiscate and destroy her house and "all its contents."

Aiken, about 1910

Whether that ridiculous order was carried out is unknown but Mary died, still in quarantine, about two years later at the age of 67. 

Sarah Morgan & Frank Dawson

And one last footnote: After Richard Yeadon died the Courier was sold to Frank W. Dawson, husband of Sarah Morgan Dawson, the subject of a B.O.M. quilt we did here a few years ago called Dixie Diary. Frank changed the paper's name to the News & Courier. It's still publishing as the Post & Courier and considers itself the oldest newspaper in the South.

Mary Kirk is buried in Aiken.

"Her mama" Mary Videau Yeadon is buried in the yard of the 
Circular Congregational Church in Charleston.

Read more about the Kirk family home Mount Pleasant here:


Chantal said...

As always, so interesting. Thank you for sharing this post and these gorgeous quilts. ;^)

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Having been to Charleston many times it makes this article more poignant, seems I need to go back to Charleston and take this story with me and go look at the house and headstones. Thank you ! Linda from the UK