Saturday, April 26, 2014

Threads of Memory 4: Canada Star for Lucie Blackburn

# 4 Canada Star by Becky Brown
12" Block

Canada Star is a new 9-patch with an old-fashioned look. The star recalls Canada and the hope offered to runaways by a legally protected refuge north of the U.S. boundary line. By the time of the Civil War, an estimated 35,000 escapees were safe across the border in Canada.

 The patterns were free online for two years but now I am offering them for sale in two formats
at my Etsy shop. Buy a PDF or a Paper Pattern through the mail here:

Canada Star by Jean Stanclift

In June of 1833 Ruth Blackburn, a black woman imprisoned in a Detroit jail, welcomed two visitors who offered consolation about her imminent return to slavery in Kentucky. Although Ruthie had lived as a free woman in the Michigan Territory for two years, the slaveholder who caught up with her possessed legal rights to reclaim her. He'd sent an agent who had booked passage on a ship back to "the States." 

Two women left the cell sobbing, handkerchiefs to their faces, but they were not the same two who had entered. Caroline French, a free black woman, had traded places and clothing with the fugitive. Ruthie Blackburn boarded a boat to Canada and the courageous Caroline French paid a $25 fine for her part in the escape.

The following day Ruthie's husband Thornton also left the jail but as the Sheriff's prisoner. Thornton's journey back to Louisville was interrupted by an irate crowd of free blacks, escaped slaves and white citizens. 

Detroit's Blackburn Riot of 1833, as it became known, was actually well-planned civil disobedience. Women secretly disabled the wheel on the slave owner's carriage while men readied a second cart to carry the prisoner away to the border crossing to meet a ferryman. On the jailhouse steps, Thornton caught a gun tossed from the crowd and aimed it at the sheriff. When Thornton shot into the air, chaos ensued.

Several young men threw the shackled Thornton into a wagon. After a horse-cart chase at furious speed and a run through the woods hobbled by his chains, Thornton and seven other young men crossed the river into Sandwich, now called Windsor, Canada.

The Thorntons traveled from Louisville (arrow at lower left)
to Detroit in the Michigan Territory, then south from Detroit into Canada.
This map shows undergound railroad routes in red.

Free people like Caroline French and runaways under the illusion they were safe in the Michigan Territory followed the Blackburns across the Detroit River into today's Ontario, then known as Upper Canada, which had outlawed slavery in 1791.

Canada Star by Becky Brown in the Ladies' Album prints

The Blackburn's Kentucky owners refused to give up, challenging Canada to return the criminals who had stolen themselves. Canadian diplomats were still smarting from the British/American War of 1812. Eager to assert independence from their southern neighbors, Territorial authorities established a landmark law forbidding extradition for fugitives and refused to extradite the Blackburns.

International Underground Railroad Memorial.
Bronze sculpture by Ed Dwight at
Hart Plaza in Detroit, recalling the passage to Canada.

The British colony's shaky position as a refuge for runaways acquired a firm legal foundation. The Detroit-Sandwich ferries across the Detroit River became one of the most traveled trunk lines in the Underground Railroad.

Sandwich, a tiny settlement in Upper Canada, 
south across Lake St.Clair from
Detroit, 1821 by John Elliott Woolford

Toronto in the 1840s by John Gillespie, who captured an image of Thornton
Blackburn's cab in the center. Collection of the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Blackburns moved on to York, eventually named Toronto, and Ruth changed her slave name to Lucie by which she was known the rest of her life. Thornton ran a horse-drawn cab service and she kept house. They prospered and lived into the last decade of the century, years after the end of the American Civil War.

Descendants of the Blackburn's generation in Toronto
in the early 20th century.

Canada Star
When you shade B and A triangles like this
you get a frame around the star.

Canada Star by
Dustin Cecil

Here's Dustin's ticking version with a pieced center square.

The Sackville School was built on the site of the Thornton's home.

Ninety years after the Thorntons died, archaeologists excavated the school playground and one of the team, Karolyn Smardz Frost, became fascinated by the Thorntons' story. To add to the material evidence sifted from the house site--- a button, fragments of a dog collar, a needle and crochet hooks---Frost compiled court cases, newspaper accounts, memoirs and the Kentucky newspaper advertisement offering a $25 reward for "Thornton…about 5 feet, 9 or 10 inches high, stout made, and a yellow complexion; light eyes and of good address…" She tells the story of the Blackburns and their Canadian refuge in her book I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad.

Here's a preview:

And a review in the New York Times:

A monument in Louisville, Kentucky

What We Can Learn About the Underground Railroad from Lucie Blackburn's Story
We tend to think of the Underground Railroad as a series of secret journeys, but it was also a sequence of very public court cases. The Blackburns fought slavery by actively fighting extradition. Through their resistance they established a legal precedent that sheltered thousands of escaped slaves.

Links to More Information
Two organizations, Lansing Newspapers in Education and the Michigan Historical Center, cooperate in a webpage with an entry about the Blackburns and photographs of the sculptural pieces on both sides of the Detroit River that commemorate the Underground Railroad link between Detroit and Windsor.

Make a Quilt A Month

Set 13 of the Canada Star blocks on point to make a bed quilt. Make 4 blocks with light corners and 9 with dark to get a layered look. With a 6" finished border you'll have a 63" square quilt. For the edge triangles cut 1 square 18 1/4" and cut it into 4 triangles with 2 cuts. For the 4 corner setting triangles cut 2 squares 9 3/8" and cut each into 2 triangles with a single cut.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

GAR Feathered Star

G.A.R. Feathered Star
82" x 81"
Maker unknown
Nebo, Pike County, Illinois, 1894

To add to your list of Civil War Commemorative quilts:  a terrific feathered star with appliqued shields. The Illinois Quilt Research Project found this quilt during their search and pictured it in Duane and Rachel Elbert's book History from the Heart: Quilt Paths Across Illinois.

Their caption derives from the family story that veteran Colonel Asa Carrington Matthew purchased this fundraiser quilt at Nebo in Pike County, Illinois at a GAR reunion encampment in 1894 or 1895.

Col. A.C. Matthews (1833-1908)
The quilt descended in his family.

 See more at the museum's blog post here:

I believe the feathered star quilt will be on display in the Illinois State Museum's show Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois, on loan from a private collector.

The exhibit originated in Chicago, traveled to Springfield last year, and will open in Lockport, Illinois on May 6, 2014.

More information on the exhibit:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Yipes Stripes!

#1 by Becky Brown

I have never forgotten this advertising slogan for Fruit Stripe gum
about 50 years ago.

So when I check the Flickr page I often say "Yipes..."

#1 By Dustin Cecil 
Dustin's ticking vision has been inspirational.

He is using heavy weight ticking like for pillows.

Moda's Indigo Crossing Wovens by Polly Minnick & Laurie Simpson

I noticed Minnick & Simpson did a great line of wovens last year and
they have a quilt-weight ticking.....if you are inspired.

Here are a few of the striped blocks I've found on our Flickr page.
#1 By CLMTQuilter

#1 by Rosemary with sashing already begun.

Block # 1 with its frame around the star just asked for stripes,
mitered one way or the other.

#1 By Denise in Texas

#1 By KVMQ

#1 By Susan

#1 By RCCheryl

#1 By Terry at Honas52

#1 By SuzieK OzFarmer
Red and white stripes.

#2 By SuzieK OzFarmer
She's used stripes in Block 2 too.

#2 By Dustin Cecil
It's hard to even see the star here. The complexity is amazing.

#1 By Denise in Texas
I think Dustin inspired Denise too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

GAR Fundraiser Quilts

GAR Fundraiser quilt by Anna Black Hutchin, 1924-1927.
Collection of the Kansas Museum of History

Hutchin embroidered 300 names on this quilt over three years and earned $198 charging by the name. She donated the quilt and the money to the GAR chapter in LaCygne, Kansas. The pattern is called Primrose Path.

Read more about this quilt here:

It's on display now in Topeka at the Kansas Museum of History in the exhibit: “Speaking of Quilts: Voices from the Collection and Community,” which runs through Aug. 31, 2014.

Detail of a Women's Relief Corps quilt
from Pennsylvania, recently offered online.

Many of the surviving quilts with a link to the Union veteran's ladies' organizations were made to raise funds for their charitable and memorial work. Written references to these fundraisers are included in meeting accounts.

The headquarters of the Kansas G.A.R.
and Woman's Relief Corp about 1910

At a Joplin, Missouri encampment (as the summer retreats of the veterans' groups were called) a quilt was in the works in 1893:

"I have found women all along the line trying to do something for the soldiers. And now the ladies of Missouri have prepared a quilt, and you see they know something about military affairs for here are the Corps badges; they have spread upon it with loving hands these emblems; and now what they want is the name of every comrade that can give as much as twenty-five cents, and your name will be recorded upon this quilt, with the regiment and corps to which you belonged, and then the quilt will be put on exhibition, and sold, and the money used for the relief of the comrades."

GAR parade in Toledo, Ohio

At an 1885 get-together in Bristol, Connecticut the reporter found:

"One of the most unique schemes for aiding the Grand Army, is that represented by a large, though incomplete, bed Quilt hanging on the east side. In the center are the badges of Gilbert TW Thompson Post  GAR and the Ladies’ Relief Corps, No 4. Every third block---all the blocks being three inches long by one wide---is white, on each of which Miss Keziah Peck, of the Corps, has written in indelible ink the name of some person who has paid a dime for that purpose. The ladies have done all the sewing. There are now nearly seven hundred names on the quilt, which is to be finished in time for their fair next winter. The  blocks are red, white, and blue."

The encampments and reunions continued into the 1930s and later,
and so did the fundraising quilts.
And if you will notice in the comments on the March 22 post many groups continue.