Saturday, March 23, 2019

Margaret Banks Eason's Civil War

Quilt dated 1844-1845, Charleston Museum
Made to celebrate the Charleston marriage between 
Margaret Thompson Banks and James Monroe Eason

This beautiful quilt, one of a group of Eason family quilts from South Carolina, has been well-documented. I became interested in it while writing about the printed panel used in some of the blocks for the blog Merikay Waldvogel and I do on chintz panels.

The red bird is cut from panel number 11. See a post here:

When I did a little looking into the quilt I found the family has recorded seven chintz quilts attributed to the Banks/Eason/Dodderer families of Charleston.

Enough to keep a quilt historian busy for a while.

But in this post I am going to focus on Margaret Thompson Banks Eason (1826-1886) who was married March 23, 1847 at the age of 19. We assume this quilt has something to do with that event as the names inked on the blocks included members of her extended family and in-laws and the bride and groom's blocks are central. 

Margaret was a member of Charleston's business/merchant class. Her father Hugh Rose Banks (1799-1878), born of a Scottish immigrant, has a block right above the bride's and groom's in the quilt. Is that a camellia, a magnolia? Camellia, says Amy in the comments.

Mother Caroline Thompson Mann Banks (1804-1884) has a block with a camellia
similar to her husband's in the bottom center of the photo below. 
Her age is there too: 40 years at the time of the wedding.

The Bankses were in the dry goods business with a store at 41 Haynes Street at the time of the wedding.

The store was right around the corner from King Street,
Charleston's main shopping street.

In 1850 South Carolina had the highest per capita income of any state in the Union (we are counting free people with income here, ignoring the hundreds of thousands of slaves) and a good deal of that money was spent on King Street. The Banks were probably doing nicely.

King Street in 1870, rebuilt after the war.
F.A. Nowell, photographer

James Eason in 1859
From Find-a-Grave

Groom James Monroe Eason was Margaret's second cousin-once removed, son of the founder of the iron foundry Dotterer and Eason, which built railroad engines in the early days of railroading (the 1830s).  He and his brother Thomas Dotterer Eason inherited the firm on the Cooper River and changed the name.

The Eason foundry was the largest in the state.

The Dotterers married the Easons.
Charleston was a town of cousins.

From Find-a-Grave

Between 1848 and 1861 Margaret gave birth to at least six children.
The year the Civil War began her last child Leon Eugene died as an infant.
One more hardship in a difficult year.

Is the border a single striped print from which the sashing's been cut?

When the war began the Eason Brothers foundry turned to war manufacturing---cannons and iron-clad gunboats. Radical Confederate James was elected to the South Carolina legislature where he served throughout the war. Margaret was busy with housekeeping and those five surviving children. She left a receipt book/recipe book that was sold on eBay several years ago. Writer Deb Barshafsky bought the manuscript and has written an article about it for Augusta magazine. See "Cannons & Confederate Cakes" at this link:

James's block is cut from the border of panel #11.

Meeting Street in the last year of the war

The Easons lived at 15 Drake Street when the war began. Charleston soon became the center of Union shelling from ships off shore and guns on the islands with the Eason works a major target. Margaret, like many Charlestonians, evacuated to the country while Charleston underwent nearly 600 days of siege atop a disastrous fire in 1861.

J M Eason & Bro was a target because it was probably the largest,
most efficient foundry in the South, building two ironclads to defend Charleston
from the Union shelling. They succeeded in setting the buildings afire in 1863.

What looks like a dock here with a ladder on it is actually the iron-clad
CSS The Chicora, an Eason-built ship.

The second, larger Eason iron-clad finished in 1863 was named CSS Charleston. These innovative ships cost a fortune, whether ordered from Richmond, Charleston or England. 

A gunboat festival in Charleston

Women raised money to buy them with Gunboat Fairs. Bryding Adams Henley cites the Charleston as one of the boats built with the women's contributions. Among the donations she found mention of six quilts from Alabama, three (?) of which survive in Alabama museum collections.

Gunboat quilt
Collection of the Montgomery museum
The First White House of the Confederacy

The Charleston, one of the ladies's gunboats, defended the city from 1863 till the Union occupation of Charleston in February, 1865 when the Confederate navy deliberately burned and sunk her.

The Eason home
from a Guide to Charleston in 1875

The Easons remained at their Drake Street home after the war. Daughter Maggie Eason Whilden was married there in 1882, according to her obituary. Her husband Frank Fleetwood Whilden wed her sister Lily after Maggie's death in 1923.

Perhaps a photograph of the same house, long gone now.
Margaret probably died in this house in 1886.

Read Bryding Adams Henley's paper "Alabama Gunboat Quilts" in Uncoverings Volume 8, 1987 at the Quilt Index by clicking here:

And see a post on the topic from 2014 here:

I'm collecting information on quilts made by families in the dry goods business like the Banks/ Easons. See a post:

Block closeups are from a digital book by Eason descendants Virginia Eason Winn and Julie King Winn Sellers who donated the remarkable quilt, which they found in a box in a family attic, to the Charleston Museum. Click to see The Eason-Banks Family Quilt :A Long Journey Home

See Margaret's Find-a-Grave file here:


Amy said...

It's a lovely quilt. Oh, to have those skills. And Hugh's flower is a camellia. They grew in our Mississippi neighbor's yard and bloomed this time of year. Magnolia's have a big, broad, hard leaf and large white, tulip-like petals that bruise when you touch them. They smell heavenly, like a cross between vanilla and lemon.

Lin McQ said...

I have spent the better part of today reading and enjoying the book. It is so fascinating, the story of the quilt, the lives of its descendants and the history of Charleston SC all intertwined. Thank you for posting the link. I learn so much from your posts.

Kerry said...

What a super quilt. I did enjoy reading about the return to the family link too. Thank you.