Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Antebellum Album #7: Chimney Sweep

Antebellum Album #7 Chimney Sweep by Becky Brown

Southerners anxious to establish schools in the antebellum years had difficulty finding qualified teachers, so they were motivated to offer handsome salaries to well-educated Northerners who agreed to emigrate. Caroline Matilda Seabury, a single 27-year-old with a good New England education, accepted a position teaching French at the Columbus Female Institute in northeastern Mississippi.

Caroline Russell Seabury (1827 -1893)

Brooklyn, New York to Columbus, Mississippi

Caroline had been living with her few surviving relatives, sister Martha and brother Channing, in their uncle's Brooklyn home. The family was prosperous (Uncle Edwin was a dry goods wholesaler) but cursed by tuberculosis. After Mary's father and most of her siblings died of the disease her despairing mother Caroline Plimpton Seabury committed suicide. 

Caroline left Brooklyn in fall, 1854 seeking an independent life, a difficult step.

Columbus Female Institute
about 1880 when it became a woman's college
"O, the loneliness of that great half furnished place, it overpowered us both. Miss S. who had just left school & for the first time tried a life among strangers---far from home---I with no home felt----both of us utterly heartsick." Sister Martha joined her but Martha was ill too and would soon die.
Caroline made friends in Columbus, earning local minor celebrity for her brave care of a young small pox victim in 1857. She maintained ties with some of those friends over her lifetime.

 Chimney Sweep by Mark Lauer

The Block
Chimney Sweep

Variations on this block must be the most popular friendship pattern.

Quilt dated 1852.
"The Quilt of Friendship"

"The quilt of Freenbship"

Mrs. Cowperthwaite wasn't much of a speller
but we are glad she tried.

You can construct the block in many ways. BlockBase #3266
is easy to cut and piece in diagonal strips.

Cutting a 12" Block

A-  Cut 2 squares 2-3/8". Cut each in half with one diagonal cut. You need 4 small triangles.

B- Cut 3 squares. 4-1/4".  Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 12 triangles.

C- Cut 6 rectangles 4-3/4" X 2-5/8".
D- Cut 3 rectangles 6-7/8" X 2-5/8".
E- Cut 4 squares 2-5/8"--- 2 light/2 dark.

Chimney Sweep by Denniele Bohannon

A Sentiment for July

You have a little more room in this block so here's an
extravagant flourish---perhaps a music book.

Chimney Sweep by Pat Styring

During the War & After

When Civil War came Caroline stayed at her position in Columbus, ambivalent as to where she belonged.
"When will this agony be over?—From the hour when I first saw the Confederate flag flying to this evening there has been a conflict of feeling—personal attachments struggling against inborn principles."
She'd made friends in Mississippi; she was dependent on her salary; her sister was buried there. To some degree she'd become a Southerner but never a secessionist. Through her war years she always saw the folly of the Confederate cause and the fallacies in Confederate propaganda, ideas she could confide only to her diary.

In 1862 the Vermont-born principal, wary of Northern-born teachers, fired her. She found work tutoring the daughters of George Hampton Young at Waverley Plantation, seven miles from town on the Tombigbee River. 

Mid-20th century photo of Waverley's Plantation House built in 1852.
"My home is pleasant with two little girls to teach---plenty of time for sewing, reading, walking or riding---a great deal too much for thinking..."
A year later:
"This summer time hangs heavily on my hands...with nothing to sew, because there is no material to be had...Even after learning to twist on a 'great [spinning] wheel' there is nothing left to twist...I have been reduced to the last semblance of occupation---patch-work---in company with my friends here---a last resort in the hour of extremity."

 Chimney Sweep by Mark Lauer

She yearned to go North but could not get a pass to legally cross the lines. In late July, 1863 after the fall of Vicksburg, friends arranged an "opportunity," an undercover wagon ride northwest across the state to Union-held Mississippi River banks with four men, four mules and some cattle.

Edwin Forbes's drawing of a four-mule team with an 
African-American driver, similar to the wagon that took Caroline northwest 
across Mississippi.  Her driver was named Jack.
Library of Congress.

Caroline's account of the two-week trip through ravaged Mississippi is a classic adventure tale. Her saviors deposited her on Buck Island on the Arkansas side of  the river where she feared remaining "a prisoner condemned without a trial." How to catch the attention of the Union army?
"A thought came to me---that in my trunk were some pieces of red white & blue silk---remnants of a Union flag....I made as large a flag as I could with them, cut paper stars out of a blank leaf in my note-book---and soon had a Star spangld---though small-sized--national emblem---With a cotton-wood stick for staff, it was tied on---the stars down---in token of distress."

Mississippi river steamboat with paroled prisoners aboard, 1865

She waved her flag at a passing boat carrying Union troops from Vicksburg. They stopped and picked her up. She made it to Cincinnati and then back to New York.

Channing Seabury's late-19th-century house in St. Paul

Caroline's life is known through her diary and her post-war letters, which were included with the papers of her brother Channing, a gilded-age success in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Seabury papers were donated by Channing's wife to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Channing Seabury taking the first shovel of dirt at the ground-
breaking ceremony for the new Minnesota capitol in 1896.
Photo from the Minnesota Historical Society

Caroline died in Washington D.C. in 1893 and is buried with her brother and his wife in St. Paul.


The Diary of Caroline Seabury, 1854–1863, edited by Suzanne L. Bunkers is still available from the University of Wisconsin Press. See more here:
Sarah Elizabeth McKinley's flourish
on the 1852 quilt of friendship above

Turkey red and white sampler from French72 
Antiques with five examples of this month's album block

One happy ending in Caroline's story:  Waverley's resurrection.
It's been restored to its antebellum glory. Here is where she was reduced
 to "the last semblance of occupation---patch-work."

 Chimney Sweep by Denniele Bohannon

4 comments:

Gina B said...

I am getting back into quilting and decided to research Civil War-era quilts after years of reading Eugenia Price's historical novels and many diaries on the subject.
I stumbled upon your blog and appreciate your posting of the history behind each block.
I've collected my fabric, packed up the sewing machine and am taking it all on our annual SSI, GA vacation! Thank you!

Janie said...

I like that block and the examples are beautiful.
She was a brave woman wasn't she? We aren't guaranteed an easy ride.
Thanks for that story.

Denniele said...

Great story this month. I can't even imagine her struggles. The blocks look great, too.

Susan Nixon said...

Such an interesting life. Thanks for sharing it and access to her journal. I will never look at this block in quite the same way again.