Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Freedom's Friends #11: Apple Pie for an Unnamed Cook

Block #11 Apple Pie for an unnamed cook by Becky Brown

Apple Pie Ridge is a regional pattern popular in Maryland and Virginia before the Civil War. We can remember an unnamed woman agent who worked as a cook or maid on a Richmond/Philadelphia ship.

Was she free or slave?

We hear a sentence or two about her in the tale of Miles Robertson, a 22-year-old who escaped to Philadelphia in 1858. We tend to think of fugitives as unschooled field hands running on impulse through swamps ten steps ahead of the bloodhounds.

Drama and terror demand more of our attention

Miles's story, less dramatic, reveals the workings of the Underground Railroad near the Mason-Dixon line as described by William Still. Miles escaped from Richmond, Virginia, where he'd been "hired out" by his owner, the widowed Mrs. Roberts from York County who lived on his salary. He may have been permitted to keep some of the money, savings to facilitate an escape. Miles did not tell us his occupation in Richmond; he might have worked in a restaurant as he later opened one in Philadelphia. He may have earned some money as a musician. William Still tells us he was a gifted banjo player. His mother, sisters and brothers also lived as slaves in Richmond, probably hired out too. 
"He had not been treated harshly. He was not contented, however."

One always faced the uncertainty of sale
to worse conditions far from family.

Mrs. Roberts must have needed money. Miles heard that he was to be sold and "resolved to escape by the first convenience [finding] an agent who communicated his wishes to one of the colored women running as cook or chambermaid on one of the Philadelphia and Richmond steamers, and she was bold enough to take charge of him...."

Laura Dolly Johnson's kitchen
Library of Congress

She "found him a safe berth in one of the closets where the pots and other cooking utensils belonged. It was rather rough and trying, but Miles felt that it was for liberty."

 Assisted by Philadelphia's Fugitive Committee he went on to Boston, where he educated himself, worked in food-service and saved his money. He and two friends returned to Philadelphia where "being first-class waiters and understanding catering, they decided to open a large dining saloon."

Was Miles the only fugitive the cook stashed in the pantry? We certainly wish we knew more about the woman "conductor" as William Still termed the people who moved fugitives along the path.
The Block
Apple Pie  
Block signed Henrietta Frizell from an online auction
Apple Pie can remind of us the unknown cook as well as Virginia, where this particular pattern has been called the Apple Pie Ridge design in recent years, named for a neighborhood near Winchester, Virginia.

Here it is in my Encyclopedia of Applique with a couple of names. It looks to me like a conventional fleur-de-lis pattern made from a folded paper design, snipping gone awry and winding up as a strange symmetry. But the design was quite the popular thing---not just one mistaken cutting job.

From a sampler in Debby Cooney's collection

Quilt historian Mary Robare and her much missed partner in research Lynda Salter Chenoweth spent a lot of time on this pattern, called in Virginia The Apple Pie Ridge Star or Guadalupe Dance. They discussed a Virginia sampler quilt dated 1858 with the block a family member pointed out: “My Grandmother called that an Apple Pie Ridge Star.” 

For the applique figure you are going to need a fat quarter of print as it's cut out of one piece of fabric. Print the pattern on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet. Note the square inch for scale.

Apple Pie by Georgann Eglinski.
Those dots are hard to resist.
But I did.

Apple Pie by Barbara Brackman

And so has Denniele Bohannon---for now.


Susie H said...

What a beautiful block!

Denniele said...

Georgann, those dots! Love them! I may have to add some. Denniele

Susan said...

What a great block to include in an album quilt. It's the kind I particularly like to make with a large center cut piece. Polka dots ... don't know if I can resist them!

JanetG said...

I simply couldn't understand this block for a long time. Then I kind of got it. Now I really get it, after finding in my own archives a saved cover of Quilter's Newsletter, No. 40, 1973. It's a quilt of these blocks, listed as Kansas Pattern, DenverArt Museum. It obviously struck me since I'd saved it, wish I could post a photo. Now I can't wait to make it. Thanks, Barbara.