Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Civil War Quilt?

From the Wyoming Project and the Quilt Index: A Civil War Quilt?

The family story passed through 4 generations tells us:

"According to [the informant's] mother-in-law, Mary Grace Skeels Way [1912-2003], it was made for her maternal grandfather, Orrin Adolphus Augustus Gardner by his first wife, Mary Stone Gardner. The patterned blocks were made by neighbors, including one man. Mary pieced and quilted and bound it and sent it to Orrin, who was fighting in the Civil War. After the war, Orrin decided to move to Kansas and Mary refused to move. They divorced. This is the only mention of Mary, she is not even listed in the family Bible or any family trees."
Orrin Gardner's handsome gravestone in Washington, Kansas

Orrin Augustus Adolphus Gardner (1833-1915)
From His Obituary

O.A.A. Gardner is well-documented. Born in Meigs County, Ohio, he grew up in Davenport, Iowa and enlisted in the 11th Iowa Infantry (Company A). He spent much of the war stationed in Mexico, Missouri as a telegrapher. The women in his life are also fairly well recorded so we can figure out who likely made the quilt (and who refused to go to Kansas.)

The family farmed near Belleville and retired to town in their later years.
The quiltmaker given credit by her great-granddaughter is
 Mary Stone Gardner (1810-1891) who came to Kansas in the early 1870's
 with sons Orrin and C.O. (Charles) Gardner. 

1850 Census Scott County, Iowa
Orrin's father Dr. Caleb H. Gardner was a physician in Iowa,
and as he is only worth about $200 in 1850, not a very prosperous doctor.

Mary---Orrin's mother, not a wife--- was born in Athens County, Ohio and spent many years in Iowa. She made a temporary stop in Indiana as a daughter Phebe was born there. The quilt seems likely to have been made by her, perhaps the applique blocks begun in the 1860s for Orrin while he was in the Army and possibly finished later in Kansas. Did the quilt accompany him during the war?

Orrin married three times.

1) Louisa Elizabeth West (1843-1933) of Mexico, Missouri, married 1863. This is the woman who may have refused to move to Kansas. Her obituary tells us she was a life-long Missourian, leaving Audrain County for Columbia for a few years but no farther west. Louisa never remarried after their divorce (she was a Catholic, religion that viewed remarriage as spiritual bigamy.) 

The 1880 census shows Louisa working as a music teacher to support their two sons James and Ernest Gardner, living with her mother, brothers and sisters. Louisa may have made some of the applique blocks during the war, but the quilt that passed down in Orrin's second family was unlikely to have been finished by her. Her obituary tells us she "was married in 1863 to O.A.A. Gardner, provost marshal for the Union Army. Mr. Gardner was an officer under General U. S. Grant who later became President of the United States and the General and members of his staff in this section at the time of the wedding, were present at the ceremony."

General U.S. Grant was busy in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863 and probably did not attend the wedding.

2) Emma Beauchamp -(About 1856-1888), married in 1876, died at almost 33 years old.

3) Maria Bailey (1825 - 1902), married 1890.

These last two Kansas wives probably had nothing to do with the quilt. 

The quilt with its 10 blocks alternating with plain white squares and a red strip border doesn't tell us much about when or where it was made, except that we wouldn't be surprised to see such a quilt in Ohio, Indiana or eastern Iowa when Mary Stone Gardner lived there.

Quilt attributed to Ohio with blocks dated 1852.

Most of the blocks were common around the country mid-century.

3 versions of a flowering tree

A standard applique style done with a little more grace here.

So while the family story got a little muddled as to who was a wife and who
was a mother, the basic actors were recalled and now we have them straightened out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Freedom's Friends #4: The Dove for Jane Johnson

Freedom's Friends: Block #4
The Dove by Denniele Bohannon

The dove recalls Jane Johnson, a freed woman who became famous in the 1850s.
Jane Williams (?) Johnson (Born about 1830–1872)

In July, 1855 William Still at the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee offices received a hand-delivered note:

Still ran to get help from fellow Committee member Passmore Williamson. One of the group's prime duties "when hearing of slaves brought to [Pennsylvania] was to immediately inform such persons that they were not fugitives...were entitled to their freedom without another moment's service [and] advice of counsel without charge."

(1806-1882) 1863 portrait

Jane Johnson was the Washington-born slave of John Hill Wheeler, a North Carolina politician living in Washington City. He had purchased her about 1853 with sons Daniel, about 10, & 9-year-old Isaiah. (Her previous owner sold another son.) The Wheelers and Johnsons had taken the train cars from Washington and spent some time with the parents of Wheeler's wife Ellen, the Thomas Sullys. 

Ellen Oldmixon Sully Wheeler (1816-1896) and her own two sons, 
painted by her father Thomas Sully

The Sully House
Library Company of Philadelphia

The Wheelers were on their way to Nicaragua where Wheeler was U.S. Minister for three years. 
While waiting for a ferry, the next step in their journey, they spent a few hours in Bloodgood's Hotel with Jane locked in a room while the Wheelers ate a meal. Jane had a plan---in her trunk was a new dress, the clothing of a free woman to wear when she got to New York where she planned to escape. But seeing an opportunity in Philadelphia, she communicated with hotel employees who knew just the people to contact.

Library Company of Philadelphia
Bloodgood's Hotel on the Delaware River

Jane was legally free in Pennsylvania despite the 1850 federal Fugitive Slave Act. William Still was one of many writers who told of her journey.
"Slave-holders fully understood the law...Consequently they avoided bringing slaves beyond Mason & Dixon's line....But some slave-holders were...too arrogant to take heed. [Wheeler] received a terrible shock at the hands of the Committee." 

Williamson second from left, Jane, her boys and probably
William Still in the top hat from Still's 1872 book The Underground Railroad.

The Pennsylvania Anti Slavery Society published Jane's tale too.

As the ferry was loading Williamson found: 
"Jane and her children seated upon the upper deck [inquiring] 'You are the person I am looking for, I presume.' Mr. Wheeler, who was sitting on the same bench, three or four feet from her, asked what Mr. Williamson wanted with him. The answer was, 'Nothing, my business is entirely with this woman.' Amid repeated interruptions from Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Williamson calmly explained to Jane that she was free under the laws of Pennsylvania, and could either go with Mr. Wheeler, or enjoy her freedom by going on shore."
There were various assaults, alleged and otherwise, with Isaiah screaming and five dockworkers guarding her exit:
"Wheeler...clasped her tightly round the body. Mr. Williamson pulled him back and held him till she was out of danger from his grasp. Jane moved steadily forward towards the stairway leading to the lower deck. It was at the head of the stairway, if we may believe Mr. Wheeler, that he was seized by two colored men and threatened by one of them; but the most careful and repeated examination of witnesses has failed to elicit any testimony to a threat except one made on the lower deck. She was led down the stairs of the boat and her children picked up and carried after her; one of them cried vociferously. She and her children were conducted ashore, and put into a carriage, and, amid the huzzas of the spectators, were driven off to a place of safety."
Some accounts say that place of safety was Letitia and William Still's boarding house. Abigail Goodwin, a New Jersey "agent" worried about Jane.
 "You will take good care of Jane Johnson I hope, and not let her get kidnapped back to Slavery. Is it safe for her to remain in your try to impress her with the necessity of being very cautious and careful against deceivers, pretended friends. She had better be off to Canada pretty soon."
With his political clout Wheeler soon had Passmore Williamson arrested. He was held in jail for 100 days for contempt because he refused to tell the court the Johnsons' hiding place.

Passmore Williamson (1822-1895) in jail
Chester County Historical Society

Williamson said he didn't know and he was probably truthful as the Vigilance Committee operated on a "need to know" basis. His imprisonment and trial became a useful tool in abolitionist public relations.

Not everyone in Philadelphia was sympathetic to the antislavery cause. An 1855 cartoon showing "The Follies of Philadelphia" includes Williamson telling Jane Johnson: "While I engage your Master in conversation you will have a fine chance to escape." Jane did not really "escape." She walked away, exercising her rights.

Jane took her boys first to New York and then to Boston but she bravely returned for her rescuers' trial, which resulted in acquittal or reduced sentences for William Still and his accomplices.

 The Block

A simple dove from an 1858 album recorded by the Connecticut project.

The slide has shifted color over the past 30 years
so I've color corrected it but it is not this red.

The Dove by Barbara Brackman

The pattern measures 8" and will fit into the center area of the block with space around it for more applique or your name, the date, a sentiment etc.

 An inked inscription (drawing better than the poem!)

Nadal Quilt/Smithsonian/1847

We find many doves in mid-century applique from Baltimore to Connecticut and parts South.

Baltimore/Jeffrey Evans Auction
There are two pattern sheets. Print each out 8-1/2" x 11". See the inch square for scale.

Now the model makers thought my pattern (designed to fit the paper) was a bit sparse. 

The Dove by Georgann Eglinski
But we encourage addition....

Denniele solved the space problem with a ring of fussy cut dots. Georgann says she is stealing this idea and you can too.

Jeanne Arnieri added a few leaves to her small scale block.

Becky Brown moved the image from the diagonal and added more

And then there is Robyn Gragg!

Further Reading

Jane's story has been told often. See a summary at the Library Company of Philadelphia's webpage:

The P.A.S.S. published an account of the Williamson case in 1855 with Jane's testimony beginning on page 14.
Several novelists have used the tale, among them Lorene Cary in The Price of a Child.

Here's our Facebook group: Freedom'sFriendsQuiltBOM. It's public so you can join or not.

If you'd like to buy all the patterns now for $12 in a PDF to print yourself here's a link to my Etsy shop:

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Dolly Stidham's Civil War

Dolly Bruner Tobler Stidham (1830- 1926)
From the Gateway to Oklahoma History

This elegant photo taken in the early 20th century by Jennie Elrod Elrod (1869-1961) of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, pictures a woman who was African-American, possibly part Creek. Dolly was born in the early 1830s in Alabama as a slave in the Grayson family, members of the Creek/Muscogee nation. As a child she went with the Graysons to what was called Indian Territory after the Creeks were forcibly displaced by The Trail of Tears. 

She is thought to be the daughter of Mary Ann Grayson and Jake Bruner. She lived with this couple in Coon Creek near North Fork Town, Indian Territory, now under Lake Eufaula. When her son Robert Tobler married in 1893 he listed his mother as Dollie Bruner.

She spent most of her life north of Okmulgee,
which is south of Tulsa and once the Muscogee Nation.

When the Civil War began Dolly was about 30, a slave in the Watt Grayson household. The Creeks were divided in their Union/Confederate loyalties, resulting in violence, killings and displacement, a legacy that endured in the local culture.

Albert Pike (1809 – 1891)

After the Confederate government appointed Albert Pike as Confederate Commissioner of Indian Affairs he negotiated alliances with various Oklahoma tribes but resistant groups favoring the Union or neutrality gathered under Creek leader Opothleyahola. Confederates pursued the rebellious Indians who sought refuge in Union Kansas.

Opothleyahola (1778-1863)

Carrie Clabo Fudickar tells us that in August, 1863 Confederate troops captured Jake Bruner who was imprisoned with a group of Blacks, Creeks and Seminoles to be force marched to Texas. He escaped and refugeed at the Union Fort Gibson where he died from an illness. Opothleyahola also died in a refugee camp during the war.

Stand Watie (typo above) (1806-1871) a Cherokee 
was a Confederate General

Dolly is listed as a "Freedwoman" in the early-20th-century photo's caption because that was her official classification in Creek records. Once freed she remained with the Watt Grayson family. During the war and the post war years she gave birth to ten children, perhaps, with the older seven being the children of James "JimBoy" Tobler. She had three with a man named Morris Coleman or Morris Stidham.

Was Dolly living at the Grayson home when he was robbed in 1873?
At some point she kept a boarding house.

The war-torn territory continued to be a place of almost incredible violence if we can judge by Dolly's family history. Of those ten children nine died deaths related to gun brutality. Four of her boys were said to have been hung for murder; a daughter and four boys were shot (one by his wife.)

1890, Leavenworth Times
 Shifting population as outsiders moved into the post-war territory contributed to the chaos.

From Grinde & Taylor, Red Vs Black: 
Conflict & Accommodation in the Post Civil War Indian Territory

Robert Tobler, Dolly's son listed above on the 1893 marriage document was imprisoned in an Ohio penitentiary according to this 1899 record from what is known as the Dawes Rolls. As Indian Territory prepared for statehood a list of the "Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory" was compiled between 1898 and 1907.

Tribal settlers and the "Freedpeople" were allotted land. Through allotments, inheritance and litigation Dolly seems to have owned quite a bit of land.

Applying for allotments in Muscogee

Dawes Rolls card of Dolly's family. If she was 59 this would have been about 1889. Son March is listed as 12---he was born in 1887 so 1899 is more likely and Dolly and Morris's ages are wrong.

We interpret this woman, perhaps seated in her farm yard, according to our
own perceptions and prejudgements. She looks poor in our eyes, but
she was said to have been wealthy, living alone in a comfortable home.

1922 Okmulgee Times
She testified at several trials.

1922, Muskogee Democrat
A woman with some power in her community.
How she dealt with the violence and loss she lived with is harder to understand. 

The final chapter in Dolly's life is also dramatic. She was killed in a 1926 tornado when she was 96.

Her house collapsed; she lingered for a few weeks.

It would seem that only a tornado could vanquish her.

Her quilt top seems to have looked like this EQ8 sketch. The block has been published many times
but in Dolly's time the Clara Stone catalog of newspaper patterns called it Fish or Whirligig.

More Reading:
The WPA interviews of former slaves in the 1930s include Mary Grayson's who describes Indian Territory life. Dolly was probably a relative.

Mary Grayson, interview with Robert Vinson Lackey, summer 1937, Tulsa, OK, in The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives, ed. T. Lindsay Baker and Julie Philips Baker (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996)

Donald A. Grinde & Quintard Taylor, "Red Vs Black: Conflict & Accommodation in the Post Civil War Indian Territory," American Indian Quarterly (Summer, 1984)