Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Cradle-Quilt's Journey

Cradle Quilt
Historic New England

Click on the link to see more:

I've been writing posts about the Boston crib quilt in the collection of Historic New England. I've discussed the likely source of the quilt and of the poem. There's another story in what happened to it after the December, 1836, Antislavery Fair.

The cradle quilt on display

Francis Jackson (1789-1861)
Photo from the Boston Public Library

The quilt was purchased at the bazaar by Francis Jackson for $5 (over $100 in today's dollars.) Jackson was a wealthy real estate developer and politician who volunteered as treasurer for Boston Vigilance Committee.

Number 31 Hollis Street, Boston.
Jackson lived here in the last decades
of his life. He died just before the Civil War.

His daughter Eliza Francis Jackson (1816-1881) had married Charles Danforth Meriam in November, 1836. The curators at Historic New England record that Jackson bought the crib quilt with its abolitionist message as a gift for the bride. She'd surely be needing it.

Eliza and Charles had three children, the eldest named Francis Jackson Meriam for his grandfather. Charles Meriam died in 1845 leaving Eliza with baby Charles Levi, four-year-old Eliza Frances and Francis Jackson, about eight. We don't know if any of the Meriam children actually slept under the crib quilt with the poem.

It was created to carry on the abolitionist message and it did its job.

Francis Jackson Meriam (1837-1865)

Eliza's son Francis Jackson Meriam's commitment to the antislavery cause drove him to Haiti and the Kansas Territory in the mid-fifties.

Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas
The town was founded by antislavery activists from

When he was 22 he arrived at a Virginia farmhouse near Harper's Ferry, where he'd heard that John Brown and several others were plotting to begin a slave uprising by attacking the federal arsenal there.
Portrait from R.J. Hinton's 1894 book John Brown and His Men.

The plotters had accepted Meriam's $600 inheritance as a donation and asked him to buy ammunition in Baltimore, where he'd almost been arrested.

The Booth Kennedy Farm was headquarters for the conspirators in 1859.

Brown and his men left Meriam at the farm to guard the ammunition while they went to Harper's Ferry to start a war by terrorism. Meriam's fighting skills (he had a glass eye) and judgment might have been factors in his staying behind. He has been recalled as erratic and emotional. The decision saved his life.

Meriam was one of the few of Brown's men to escape.

After Brown and the raid's survivors were arrested, Meriam fled the farm, made his way to Canada through Boston and returned after the Civil War began to become a Captain in the 3rd South Carolina Colored Infantry.

The quilt remained in his family. His mother had remarried when he was about 11. With husband James Eddy she had four more children. The youngest Amy was about five when her brother's name made newspaper headlines in 1859.

Amy Eddy (1854-1938) inherited the crib quilt and in 1923 as Mrs. Edward M. Harris she donated it to a historic house that became part of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, later Historic New England.

Read a first person account of the raid on Harper's Ferry by one of co-conspirators, Richard J. Hinton.
John Brown and his Men, 1894
Over on the left do a search for Merriam (with 2 r's) to read specifically about Francis Jackson Meriam.


WoolenSails said...

I like this story, and if quilts could talk, I can imagine the stories they would tell. Our library has a room that you can sit in, that has books and diaries from the local area, would be fun to sit and read some, maybe a fun winter activity.


Chirs Z. said...

I am ever so delighted to find your blog e-mail in my in box! All the fascinating lives, hardships and beliefs that people from this time period forged to make our history. Keep up the fantastic work you do with teaching and giving me the opportunity to learn. You are a gift.

Anonymous said...

How interesting to see the history connected to the people who owned the quilt! I love the stars. Thanks for sharing this.