Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Westering Women 6: Hill and Hollow

Block 6 
Hill and Hollow by Becky Brown
"July 27, 1857. Traveled the distance of about two and a half miles over sand hills the most terrible I ever beheld. Encamped on the banks of the Platt river for dinner.
August 2 1857.Our camping place for dinner was Ash hollow a splendid and romantic place."
Sarah Mousley

As we follow the Westering Women across the American continent we see the landscape change in Nebraska's panhandle. Ash Hollow Park is the red arrow on this N.P.R. map that shows
the dominant tribes along the trail.

After weeks of uneventful days following the Platte River, travelers came upon a series of landmarks. Windlass Hill, a formidable descent, was the first. Teams and wagons were unhitched and inched down the hill. 

Ruts and swales are still visible near Windlass Hill and 
California Hill on the Platte. 

Keturah Belknap wrote in 1848 that the men “were lifting the wheels to ease them down the steps for it was solid rock steps from six inches to two feet apart so it took all day but we all got thru without accident.”

"Bloomer Costume Put to a Severe Test"
Wadsworth's 1858 guide pictures a wagon careening downhill with
a woman holding on behind. 

Once the hill had been navigated immigrants rested in Ash Hollow, some staying a few days to enjoy the water, the best on the journey. After weeks of sifting the mud out of Missouri and Platte River water, spring water was a delight.

The hill and hollow are well marked in a Nebraska park near Highway 26 and Llewellyn. This is a great place to see ruts left by the wagons.

Hill and Hollow

The Nancy Cabot column in the Chicago Tribune published this classic block and named it Hill and Hollow in 1937 (BlockBase #1276), but it's divided by 10 so would make a poor 12" block.
I changed the proportions---leaving a lot of triangles in there---many hills and hollows still to cross from Ash Hollow to the Pacific.

Cutting a 12" Block
A - Cut 20 squares 2-7/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal line to make 2 triangles. You need 40 small triangles.

B - Cut 4 squares 4-7/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal line to make 2 triangles. You need 8 large triangles.

Bloomers on the Trails

The unfortunate woman pictured in Wadsworth's guide is wearing trousers under her skirt, but is it a long skirt or a more practical short skirt?

Kenneth L. Holmes, editor of the Covered Wagon Women series, noted in Volume 5 about trips in 1852 that he saw a pattern of women adopting the "Bloomer Costume," trousers. Seventeen-year-old Eliza Ann McAuley:
"My sister and I wear short dresses and bloomers..."

Eliza Ann McAuley [Egbert] (1835-1919) at the time of her 
California marriage, 1854

Dr. Mary E. Walker in bloomer costume soon
after the Civil War. One could borrow a 
pair of pants and trim off a ragged skirt...

making a more functional costume as worn by these female gold seekers.

Becky Wants to Know:
"Are we there yet? Well I guess we are half-way!"

Keturah Belknap about 1910,
over fifty years after her western journey.

See Keturah Belknap's journal in volume 1 of Covered Wagon Women and Sarah Mousley's in Volume 7.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Graveyard Quilts for Mourning

Quilt by Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell (1799-1857)
Collection of the Kentucky Historical Society,
Donated in 1959 by her granddaughter Nina Aura Mitchell Biggs (1866-1968), 
a local historian and writer.

I've been asked if the Kentucky Graveyard quilt would be an appropriate design for a Civil War reproduction quilt. I shall ramble on here.

47 pieced stars and 20 coffins in the Kentucky Historical Society's quilt.

This famous mourning quilt is unusual but not unique. For years Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell's medallion quilt picturing a cemetery and coffins in the center was described as one of a kind. But it isn't. There are two of a kind.

One of my theories is that people rarely make an amazing quilt like this out of the blue.There are sources and inspiration, possibly earlier and/or later quilts with related ideas.

In the case of Elizabeth Mitchell there are two related quilts:

The graveyard in the center of the second Mitchell family quilt
(thought to have been made earlier than the other)
with two coffins, 45 stars and the words
"Mitchell School Clothes"

Quilt historian Linda Otto Lipsett found another quilt in the collection of the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center in Ashland, Kentucky. Another Biggs descendant had donated that quilt in the 1980s, but the link had not been established by the museums.
A mural showing the diagram of the second Mitchell quilt, painted in 2008 by 
Denise Spaulding, Melanie Osborne, Gary Preston and 
ABC Quilt Alley on the flood wall in Ashland, Kentucky, .

The mural artists took some liberties, according to the Herald-Dispatch:
"That quilt is 172 years old and it's really fragile, almost crumbling. So now people can see what it would look like and it looks really good. They reproduced it like it would have looked if it was new. It was as close as we could get to being the real quilt."

The actual quilt top shows the border of V shapes and the cemetery path
of dog-tooth applique along the bottom border.

Family tradition is that Elizabeth Mitchell began the first quilt after she lost two-year-old John in 1836 and buried him in Monroe County, Ohio. Dissatisfied she began a second, similar version, perhaps when a second son died in 1843 at the age of 19. She made coffins for herself and other family members and basted them in the border. When they died she moved their coffins to the central graveyard. When she died in 1857 her daughter Elizabeth (1830-1867) moved Mother's coffin to the center.

The second version is quilted while the first is a top. 

The top on the left looks like it has a blue paisley fabric in the alternating squares, but this is just a glare in the photo. Both quilts seem to be set with the same brown print.

Kentucky Historical Society quilt.
The green calico binding seems in better shape than the rest of the quilt.

Linda Otto Lipsett with the Kentucky Historical Society's quilt.

Coffin labeled "Father" in a photo from the Quilt Index.

How old are the quilts? Much of the online history dating them to the 1830s seems to be adapted from a five-page typed paper that Nina Biggs donated with the quilt to the Kentucky Historical Society. That quilt is pictured on the Quilt Index where the Kentucky Quilt Project dated it as 1850-1875. If so, it is the right era for a Civil War mourning quilt,although there seems to be no Civil War symbolism in the original pair. Certainly it is an effective and authentic mid-19th-century mourning image.

Silk embroidered, framed memorial for a man who died in 1833.
from Stephen and Carol Huber's online shop

See Lipsett's 1995 book Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell's 
Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga, book here:

Detail of Polly Mello's interpretation of the 
Kentucky Historical Society's quilt.

Donna in SW Pennsylvania's interpretation.

Detail of a copy by Hollis Taylor.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wendy's Potholder Stars Headed for AQSG Auction

Stars in a Time Warp---
6" Stars in period prints

Wendy at the Constant Quilter has been turning her stars
into potholder blocks,

which means she is binding and finishing out each block as a unit
and then joining the blocks.

This method was a common technique used for 
Civil War soldiers' quilts in New England.

She made two sets of period stars in our 2015 Quilt Along.

She intends to get the potholder version finished in time to donate it to the fund-raising auction at the American Quilt Study Group's annual meeting in Tempe, Arizona, in September.

Check it out here:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Amanda Spering's Irish Chain Quilt

In my paper files of Civil War quilts I have a picture from the magazine Traditional Quiltworks #82 in 2002.
The caption:
"The Civil War Quilt (100" Square) is an Irish Chain made in the colors of the Union flag. Amanda Saurman Spering worked on this quilt in 1861 and 1862. While reading chronological events, we are plunged into the emotions provoked by the escalating war. Amanda's great granddaughter presently owns the quilt."

Amanda inked a sort of a journal on this quilt.
In the center:
"The Quilt is intended as a memento of the present times of civil strife and as such it has been made a brief record of the events of the War...February 22, 1862."
The Spering quilt was shown in a 1991 exhibit Made to Remember: American Commemorative Quilts when museum Spokesperson Lucinda Laird was interviewed: "One of the most unusual quilts is one that was made by Amanda Spering of Philadelphia, which was completed in 1862....It is a huge 102-by-102-inch quilt with 60 blocks. It chronicles the events from Lincoln's election in 1860 to December 1861."

Amanda Saurman Spering (1836-1922)
A portrait from Traditional Quiltworks

The quilt is also pictured in the 1991 exhibit catalog Made to Remember: American Commemorative Quilts.

The Philadelphia Sperings were in the dry goods business.

A token from the Spering Good & Co,
Wholesale Dry Goods. No 158 Market St.

Corner of 6th and Market in 1859

Amanda's diary quilt is a popular pattern we'd call Irish Chain. It's two alternating blocks, one a checkerboard of 25 squares; the other with squares in the corners. She included a few patriotic symbols and many inked words. 

I found an article in the Philadelphia North American, September 2, 1899 that describes the quilt in detail.
"Perhaps the most valued relic of the civil war in this city is possessed by Mrs. Samuel Spering of 2226 Oxford Street...Two thousand patches placed in chain-link pattern....At the time this novel historical work was begun indelible ink was unknown [Not true]  and to inscribe each event in silk with a needle was a greater task than Mrs. Spering cared to begin...."

So she made her own ink.

"The last time this valued relic was displayed was in the Woman's Building at the Centennial Exposition of 1876. At that time it attracted wide attention, but its owner has declined to place it on exhibition since."

The Woman's Pavilion at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Block 3 x 16

Block 3 from Westering Women
The Sweet Gum Leaf is one of my favorites.

You may recognize your block in this collage
I did of pictures from our Flickr group.

A  grid of 4x4 would make a 48" quilt.
Just enough applique to keep you entertained
during baseball season.

And it gives me an excuse to show you this mid 19th century version from the Pat L. Nickols
collection at the Mingei Museum.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jemima Cook's Secession Quilt

"Secession Quilt" by 
Jemima Ann Thewitts Williamson Cook (1808- ?). 
Fairfield County, South Carolina. 
108" X 108"

In my book Quilts of the Civil War I mention but do not show the above quilt. Showing a whitework quilt is always problematic. What I can see in the above photo is eagle wings on either side of a shield and below those a pair of cornucopia. There are stuffed stars and a good deal of fruit.

Patsy and Myron Orlofsky pictured the quilt in their 1974 book Quilts in America. Their photographs show the back-lit stuffed work, which gives us more information about the design.

The quilt has a knotted fringe around it.
It was sold out of the family in 2003.

From the Orlofsky book
A palmetto tree drawn from the traditional
state seal

The Orlofskys based their information on a newspaper story about the Secession quilt published on November 24, 1916, in the Union Times of Union South Carolina. This U.D.C. Edition (United Daughters of the Confederacy) celebrated the annual convention of the South Carolina organization and printed a long feature on the quilt.

The story below:


This quilt was designed and made in 1860 by Mrs. Philip Drury Cook of Fairfield County, S. C. Mrs. Cook was the grandmother of Mrs. John W. Cunningham and Mrs. Jesse Hix, both of Union county. Her maiden name was Jemima Ann Threwitts Williamson. She was born in Virginia, but in early youth came with her parents to Fairfield County. S. C., and was there married to Philips Drury Cook, who in the 60's was Gen. Cook of the Coast Artillery of the C. S. A.

Mrs. Cook was the mother of four children, one son and three daughters. The son, Capt. John W??? Cook of the United States army, was killed in the Mexican war, Of the daughters, the youngest died at the age of nineteen. The oldest married Walter Blount Williamson, the second married Col. Wm. Alston, both of Fairfield county.

While Gen. Cook was in service or the coast, Mrs. Cook carried on the plantation work with the help of an overseer. She spent the year 1860 in designing and making this historical secession quilt, which was given to her oldest grandaughter who is now Mrs. John W. Cunningham of Union county.

Later on she made a quilt of very beautiful floral design, which she gave to her second granddaughter, Mrs. Jesse Hix, of Union, but when Sherman's men burned the Alston home in Fairfield they cut up this quilt and used it for saddle blankets Mrs. Jesse Hix, who lived with her grandmother when a very little girl says she remembers that her grand mother put the quilt into the frame then rolled a big table under it and so sketched the entire design, and she remembers what a long, long time "Grandmother was making on it and how often the big frame had to be pushed to one side to make way for some other work." 

The quilt is three yards square, and is made of fine white cambric, with very thin wadding and quilted in tiny stitches to form the outlines. The cotton picked from the seed by hand and bleached to snowy whiteness and carded by hand was stuffed with a bodkin through the sheer thin lining to raise the figures. This gives it a beautiful appearance and makes it really a work of art.

The design is historical and original. The centre represents an eagle whose outspread wings rest upon the inverted horns of two cornucopias from which are falling fruits and flowers. From the beak of the eagle floats a streamer hearing the motto "E pluribus unum." Upon the baclk of the eagle stands the Goddess of Liberty bearing a flag staff in her right hand, a sheaf in her left. Back of the Goddess to the right of the flag staff and just above the starry background is the word "Secession", beneath which is the date 1860. Or the left of the Goddess is the name ,Yamey, [Yancey?] while the ten letters in the name Washington form an arch over her head. Beneath this picture is the name P. D. Cook, the husband of the designer. In the beautiful border of flowers and beadinggs [?] that surrounds this centrepiece four arches are inserted, each bearing the name of the four governors belonging to the Nullification Period b1830-1837 Above the Goddess is "Butler,' below "Hamilton," to the right "McDuffie," to the left "Hayne." Around all this is a wide band of grapes and roses and in each corner two large cornucopias filled with fruit and flowers. Midway on each of the four sides is the State emblem, the Palmetto tree and shields, and on each shield there are two cunning little figures.

On the approach of Sherman's army this quilt was packed in a box with other family treasures and buried deep in the earth. When taken up it was badly stained and discolored, and repeated washings were necessary. This, no doubt, has made the letters and figures less distinct. It was on exhibition at the Charleston Exhibition in the Union county exhibit in 1902 as the following clipping from The News and Courier will prove:

"Union is without a doubt ahead in historical exhibits; the beautiful handmade quilt surpasses anything in design and workmanship on exhibition." Exposition Committee on Awards.

Mrs. Cook also made a dress for herself out of woolen threads ravelled from scraps of black cloth, carded and recarded by hand with white home-grown wool and woven on a hand loom into a beautiful gray cloth. They trimmed it with rows and rows of tiny buttons cut out by hand from a gourd and covered with black silk. After the close of the war when the women of Columbia got up a bazaar for the benefit of the disabled Confederate soldiers, Mrs. Cook attended this bazaar and wore this dress. It attracted much attention and Mrs. Cook at once donated it to the bazaar. It was sold for $50.00 in gold and the entire amount given to the fund for the soldiers."

From Chronicling America, the Library of Congress newspaper site

See the newspaper here at the Library of Congress site:

And read the text here: