Saturday, August 30, 2014

Threads of Memory 8: Jacksonville Star for Emily Logan

Block # 8 in Threads of Memory:
 Jacksonville Star for Emily Logan by Jean Stanclift

In 1838 a girl living in JacksonvilleIllinois gradually realized she'd been duped. Although she lived in a free state, Emily Logan and her brother Robert were treated as slaves by Elizabeth and Porter Clay. The Kentucky-born children were ignorant of their murky legal status.

Freed children during the Civil War.
Photo sold at Cowan's Auctions, 2008.

Illinois had been platted from the Northwest Territories where slavery was banned, but the state's many southern immigrants established two exceptions to the concept of a free state. One was that slave owners like the Clays could continue to enslave people as long as they returned them to a slave state for a short period each year. With an annual return visit to Kentucky the Logans were technically residents of a slave state and thus slaves.

Abraham Lincoln
Illinois lawyers like Abraham Lincoln might argue (and Lincoln did argue in an 1847 case) that according to the law such Illinois blacks were slaves in transit rather than free Illinois residents. The other technicality created a system of indentured servitude---in essence slavery.  Once registered as a servant, a girl like Emily could be indentured for twenty-eight years.

Jacksonville is the yellow star, west of Springfield, Illinois
with Kentucky in the lower right

Elizabeth Logan Hardin Clay and her second husband brought the Logan children with them to the western Illinois town of Jacksonville, which attracted a "considerable admixture of people," remembered an early settler. "A very large and influential part of the population was made up of Kentuckyens having a strong proslavery bias." Many of those Kentuckians were kin to Elizabeth Clay's first husband Martin Davis Hardin, a third cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln's family.

Martin Davis Hardin
 Elizabeth's second husband Porter Clay was politician Henry Clay's youngest brother.

Jacksonville Star by Becky Brown in Ladies' Album prints

The Porter/Clay house, drawn in 1935,
from the Library of Congress

Jacksonville also had a share of New England settlers whose cultural center was Illinois College, a western mission of New England ideas created by Yale's antislavery graduates. Southerners regarded the college as an "engine of abolitionism."
Illinois College still stands

Abraham Lincoln’s future law partner and biographer William Herndon attended Illinois College for a short time before his father demanded he come home. “My father was thoroughly pro-slavery in his ideas, believing the college was too strongly permeated with the virus of Abolitionism….” Although New Englanders made up less than ten percent of Jacksonville’s population, their antislavery notions gave the town a reputation as a radical outpost.

Mid-19th-century view of the Opera House
from the collection of the New York Public Library

In a county history published fifty years later, several of the "Old-Time Abolitionists" recalled the town's early years. Although they might be remembered as heroes at the end of the century, in the 1830s and '40s antislavery activists were  "the most hated and despised of men….Once when…a noted preacher was addressing us at the Congregational Church, some malicious person threw a black rag baby straight at his head."

Charlie King, redeemed from slavery
about 1862. Images of Charlie and his
sister Alice were sold to fund the anti-slavery cause.

After two years in Illinois Emily and Robert had talked to enough abolitionists to believe they could walk away from the Clay household.

The Porter/Clay house photographed in 1935
from the Library of Congress

When the Clays realized their intentions they made plans to ship them to Kentucky. The children escaped into "Africa"---the local name for Jacksonville's free black community.

Alice King

One of the New Englanders remembered the fury of the three angry men who knocked at the door of a neighbor "demanding to know the whereabouts of Bob and Emily Logan." Despite the threats, "courage…suddenly possessed the mind of the man who was not afraid to do right, and the early callers had to go elsewhere." But the men soon found Robert and shuttled him to a boat on the Mississippi River heading south. He disappeared into the slave state of Missouri. A Clay relative named Marcus Chinn and another man were indicted for kidnapping Robert, but the courts of Morgan County refused to convict them.

Elihu Wolcott (1784 - 1858) as a young man.
He was in his fifties when he helped the Logans

Emily sought shelter with several of the town's abolitionists, among them Connecticut-born Elihu Wolcott who sued for her freedom in her name. The Clays transferred her ownership to Chinn and the case of Emily Logan, a woman of color, vs. Marcus A. Chinn languished in the Morgan County justice system. After two years the trial was moved to Sangamon County where a jury declared that Emily was indeed free and awarded her damages of one dollar.

The dollar damages were a token and so, unfortunately, was the case. African-Americans in Illinois remained in legal limbo under the state's  "Black Laws" until the end of the Civil War.

Today Emily Logan is remembered primarily as a case name. Re-enactors in Jacksonville tell her story in Underground Railroad tours of the town's historic houses, but we know little about her life after 1840. She represents an important---if neglected---chapter in the story of freedom's fight. African-Americans sued their owners and the state for relief from slavery. Although most lost their legal fights and those who did win rarely established positive precedents, their ambition to use the law was a step in developing methods of peaceful resistance.

Jacksonville Star by Jean Stanclift

Jacksonville Star is a new block featuring a traditional nine-patch star with elongated points. The square inside a square inside a square can recall the layers of different cultures in a town with so diverse a population.

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:

Jacksonville Star by Becky Brown

Becky added seams and fussy-cut her center square A.

What We Can Learn About the Underground Railroad from Emily Logan's Story
Today we tend to recall the pre-Civil War United States as two regions: free states and slave states. This neat dichotomy of good and evil allows us to forget the gray areas where "Black Laws" demeaned African-Americans. The Underground Railroad had to operate within a free state like Illinois because Southern immigrants brazenly brought their slaves with them. 

Jacksonville Star

Make a Quilt a Month

Piece 13 blocks to create a dazzling fireworks display. Make 9 blocks with one background (here blue) and 4 identical except for a different background (here red.) The border is 6 inches for a 63" x 63" quilt. You will need 8 large triangles for the edge and 4 smaller ones for the corners.

For the side triangles cut 2 squares 18-1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts.
For the corner triangles cut 2 squares 9-3/8". Cut each into 2 triangles with a diagonal cut.

Read more about slavery in Jacksonville in Mark Steiner's Abolitionists and Escaped Slaves in Jacksonville:


jes1776 said...

Question for you....considering it seems the entire length of the quilts were stretched out on these frames,how ever did they manage to quilt the centers? I wouldn't have thought their arms would be long enough to reach.. It must have been back breaking to lean in so far.....

jes1776 said...

Sorry--- their arms would NOT be long enough to reach....

Barbara Brackman said...

This is a little late but the photos of the frames are when they are just about done.
The frames roll up so you start in the middle with a narrow width and as you complete the center quilting you unroll the quilt so it's larger and larger.