Saturday, July 26, 2014

Threads of Memory 7: Oberlin Star for the Oberlin Rescuers

Block # 7: Oberlin Star for the Oberlin Rescuers by Jean Stanclift

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:

Twenty of the Oberlin Rescuers (also called the Oberlin/Wellington Rescuers.)
Oberlin College has extensive information about the topic at their website. See below.

The tale of the Oberlin, Ohio "Rescuers" was told in the newspapers of the day. It began near Oberlin:

"On Monday, Sept. 13, a young man residing two or three miles from town was hired to decoy a colored man from the village, upon the pretence of employing him in labor. As they were riding on the way to the work, as the colored man supposed, about two miles from the village he was seized by three men – one an official from Columbus, the others Kentuckians – and hustled into a carriage. They drove at once to Wadsworth’s Hotel in Wellington. 

From the American Antislavery Almanac, 1839

 "A resident of Oberlin met them on the way and reported in town his suspicions that an arrest had been made. Companies of men, students and citizens, armed and unarmed, at once followed in pursuit and were joined on the way by others.

"A Mob" from the children's periodical The Slave's Friend

 At Wellington they found the hotel already surrounded by crowds of people, while the man-hunters with their victim had taken refuge in the garret and had barricaded the passages. The gathering increased hourly and the excitement grew more intense, until at last the doors themselves gave way before the moral force that was brought to bear upon them, and the poor fugitive walked forth to the crowd who bore him off in triumph. Not a shot was fired, nor a blow struck, nor a bolt broken. It was not possible to resist the demand for the release in the name of the Higher Fugitive Law, backed by such an executive force.---The Oberlin Evangelist, September 29, 1858

The "Higher Fugitive Law" was the principle that the nation's Fugitive Slave Law was trumped by antislavery's moral law. 
Oberlin in 1874

Oberlin was such a hotbed of antislavery that the Kentuckians hoping to retrieve 17-year-old runaway John Price realized they had to trick him out of town before they could kidnap him. They took Price to nearby Wellington, but soon over a hundred protesters from Oberlin and Wellington demanded his release.

Wadsworth's Hotel in Wellington

The Rescuers managed to free Price without bloodshed, return him to Oberlin and send him on to freedom in Canada. Thirty-seven of the lawbreakers who rescued him were indicted and jailed. Only two went to trial. 

The two rescuers in front holding their hats are
Simeon Bushnell and Charles Langston, who served short sentences.

Charles Langston later moved to my home town Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife Mary Sheridan Langston.
Mary married twice, both husbands Oberlin Rescuers.
Read more about the Langstons and their grandson Langston Hughes here.

Ohio Star and Wanderer's Path

Oberlin Star is a new block combining an old-fashioned Ohio Star with the easy-to-piece curve popular in end-of-the-nineteenth-century designs called Drunkard's Path or Wanderer's Path in the Wilderness. The block honors the town and the college that offered education and hope to African-Americans.

Oberlin College, 1860

Oberlin Star for the Oberlin Rescuers by Becky Brown

Dustin's version in Civil War Jubilee prints

What We Can Learn About the Underground Railroad from the Langston's Story
When the stories of the Underground Railroad were recalled at the end of the nineteenth century, American memory tended to view the heroes primarily as white. Charles and Mary Langston's story emphasizes the free-black community's commitment to freedom, how they both broke the law and used the law to assist slaves. A dozen of the indicted Rescuers were free blacks.
Oberlin Star
48" x 48"

 Make a Quilt a Month
The Oberlin Star block could represent the North Star on a cloudy night. To emphasize that look create a small quilt with a starry sky by alternating 5 Oberlin Star blocks with 4 plain dark blue squares cut to 12 1/2" x 12 1/2". Border with a 2" finished inner border of dark blue to highlight the blocks and then a 4" finished outer border of medium blue to create a square quilt finishing to 48" x 48".

Read newspaper accounts at Oberlin College website here:

Read a history of the town and its role in the Underground Railroad movement.
Nat Brandt, The Town That Started the Civil War. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990.

Dustin's ticking version, curves and all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Daughters of the Confederacy Memoir

United Daughters of the Confederacy members
in Jackson, Tennessee, 1909

The ladies associations North and South built monuments and assisted veterans and their families. Another task was preserving memories of the Civil War. In 1903 the South Carolina State Committee of the Daughters of the Confederacy published South Carolina Women in the Confederacy, collecting reports and memories of women's work and experiences.

A meeting in Tacoma 1922

Quilts are occasionally mentioned in the many accounts of sewing rooms and organizations. 

Typical is the "First Quarterly Report of Soldier's Relief Association of Charleston," October 28, 1861.
The lists noted 262 packages (barrels, boxes, baskets, etc) sent to the soldiers containing 209 blankets, 32 quilts, 145 comforts, 134 needlebooks....

"Report of the Greenville Ladies' Aid Association," January 10, 1862
The women sent boxes and bales containing five counterpanes, seventy comforters, ten bedticks, fourteen blankets, two quilts...

A mid-20th-century meeting

Read the book here at Open Library. (I couldn't get a search function to work but perhaps if you download the PDF....)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maria Spear's Quilt: Fundraiser for Confederate Memorial

Silk Quilt made by the ladies of Fayetteville, North Carolina,
led by Maria L. Spear (1804-1881).
Collection of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia
97" x 99"

Detail of the quilt
Maria L. Spear, born in England, is said to have drawn each of the black squares for the Fayetteville women to embroider.

Post-Civil-War women's groups worked to memorialize local soldiers. A quilt in the Museum of the Confederacy collection is well documented as a fundraiser to build the memorial at the Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Ann Kyle headed the Fayetteville's Soldiers' Aid Association and determined to build a marble monument.

The Cross Creek memorial is North Carolina's first 
Confederate memorial,
according to Douglas J. Butler.
It was dedicated in December, 1868

Spear, a skilled needlewoman and teacher, volunteered to organize a quilt to be raffled for the cause. The women met every Friday afternoon to sew for months, but after Spear moved to Chapel Hill little work went on without her. After two years Spear lamented, "When I saw the Quilt this evening, I felt overwhelmed, how I am to get it done, I don't know."She finished it in six months and the ad below in the Fayetteville News described it as "elaborately embroidered...beautiful silken quilt of the richest and finest material."

"The designs are all of a different pattern and worked, many of them, on a ground not exceeding a square inch; the colors are contrasted and blended with true artistic skill---beautiful sprays and bouquets of flowers and various emblematical designs combine to make up an article which for elegance of design, fineness of materials and superiority of execution has never been surpassed in this or any country...
The ladies acknowledge their indebtedness to the indefatigable industry and inexhaustible taste of Miss Maria L. Spear who invented the unique style of making up the quilt. She also invented and stamped all the beautiful and varied designs with which it is embellished."

The quilt raised $300 in dollar raffle tickets and was won by Martha Lewis who gave it to Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederacy. After his death, Varina Davis donated it to the Museum.

Find the catalog page in the online quilt exhibit at the Museum of the Confederacy website here:
Load the exhibit and scroll through.

Read the story here in Douglas J. Butler's: North Carolina Civil War Monuments: An Illustrated History:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Gunboat Quilts

One of the "Gunboat Quilts" attributed to 
Martha Jane Singleton Hatter Bullock (1815-1896).
66" x 66"
Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art.

 Quilt attributed to Martha Singleton Hatter, 71" x 68"
Collection of the First White House of the Confederacy, 
Montgomery, Alabama, Gift of Mary Hutchinson Jones.

The current exhibit at The New-York Historical Society, Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, features the "Gunboat Quilt" (directly above) one of two attributed to Martha Jane Singleton Hatter Bullock of Greensboro, Alabama. 

The lighter quilt, descending in the Hutchinson family, must be the "Civil War Relic" described in the 1899 newspaper clipping below from the Anderson Intelligencer, December, 6, 1899. The article appears to have originated in a  Dallas paper. I found the clipping at the Library of Congress site Chronicling America.

"Civil War Relic.

At the headquarters of Camp Sterling Price, Confederate veterans, was exhibited to-day an interesting war relic. It was the "gunboat quilt," noted in the South during the war between the States. The quilt was made by Mrs. Hatter, a widow of Greensboro, Ala., whose husband had been killed in the war and who had at that time two sons fighting in the Confederate army. Mrs. Hatter gave the quilt to be sold at auction in every town in Alabama to raise a fund with which to build a gunboat to be named for the State.

This was done and the war vessel procured was the noted Confederate cruiser Alabama, sunk in the last days of the war by the Federal warship Kearsarge in the great sea fight off the coast of France. As fast as the "gunboat quilt" was sold in one place it was redonted by the purchaser and resold in another place. Several hundred thousand dollars was raised in this way and was applied to paying for the Alabama.

The CSS Alabama  (left) losing a sea battle near Cherbourg, France with
the USS Kearsarge, 1864, J.B.H. Durand-Brager

The quilt was finally given to J.J. Hutchinson, of Greensboro, Ala., to recompense him for his services as auctioneer. It has remained in his family ever since. The "gunboat" was forwarded to Mrs. Ben Melton, of Dallas, daughter of Mr. Hutchinson, recently, to be placed on exhibition at the Texas State Fair and Dallas exposition, but because of delays did not reach Dallas until near the close of the fair. The relic is well preserved and attracted much attention to-day. ---Dallas (Tex.) Cor. St. Louis Republic."

Detail of the First White House of the Confederacy's quilt.
The quiltmaker had a distinctive style, appliqueing and stuffing florals cut
from prints and outlining the applique with black embroidery.

Details of the Birmingham Museum of Art's quilt

See the First White House of the Confederacy's quilt at the New York venue of  Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, curated by Madelyn Shaw and Lynn Z. Bassett and organized by the American Textile History Museum (up through August 24, 2014). Catalog available.

Read Bryding Adams Henley's 1987 article "Alabama Gunboat Quilts" in Volume 8 of Uncoverings, the papers of the American Quilt Study Group here at the Quilt Index: