Saturday, February 29, 2020

Clarissa Steadman Gross's Confederate Memorial Quilt

Well, you wish you could have seen this quilt at the Atlanta, Missouri fair in 1917.

It was a large silk quilt with a map of the Confederate states and 161 autographs of "prominent women of the Confederate states." Then there was a "monument to the memory of the heroes of the Battle of Wilson Creek." The Battle of Wilson's Creek was a Missouri battle early in the Civil War fought on August 10, 1861, an early Confederate Victory. The exhibitor was Dr. James Franklin Gross, who lived 9 miles west of Atlanta at the time.

James Franklin Gross 1842-1921

J.F. Gross fought at the battle when he was a 19-year-old after enlisting in the Missouri State Guard, Company B, 1st Regiment. He was mustered out after six months on December 3, 1861.The MSG was affiliated with the Confederate army in the strange loyalties of that first year of the war. 

The 1917 article says he "conceived the idea of collecting the autographs in 1898."

1915 article on the famous Confederate quilt

"It...represents a vast amount of research and deft work with the needle. The lower part of the quilt is made of small pieces contributed by noted women of the South, whose husbands were in the Southern Army."
While Dr. Gross may have done some of the research he did not do the deft work with the needle, despite the article telling us he'd "been working on [it] for many years"

On the way to the Huntsville, Missouri Old Settlers' Picnic
Dr. Gross showed off the quilt in Sharp's Mercantile Company.

Macon 50 years later
The Gross family lived in various small towns near Macon Missouri
in Macon and Randolph Counties.

The local papers were enthusiastic over Dr. Gross's famous quilt, but
you know he didn't make it. 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
This article was copied in numerous papers, particularly
in Kansas where the news undoubtedly grated on a few nerves.

The earliest article mentioning the quilt gives credit where it's due.
In July, 1897 he may have been showing it off when he was in Macon "in the interest of a souvenir quilt his wife and daughters are making of the 'Lost Cause' and successfully securing operation (whatever that means?) They planned to exhibit it at a Confederate Reunion at Wilson's Creek in August. The piece seems to have been finished with the map in place and then "blocks of silk" containing donor's names. (Was this a fundraising project?)
The names will include "the most prominent people and ex-Confederates of Missouri."

The anonymous wife and daughters probably did not want their names in the papers---it was all so unseemly.  However, we do see the Doctor's wife as a prize winner at local fairs with her needlework. At the 1917 Atlanta Fair Mrs. J.F. Gross displayed a silk quilt (this one?) and a cotton quilt, a pair of pillow cases and a tray cloth.

She was Clarissa Steadman Gross (1844- 1938) married to James in 1864. They had 8 children. The two daughters who may have worked on the quilt were probably Maryetta Magdalene Gross Wood (1870 – 1899) and Nora Percy Gross Thurman (1874-?). Maryetta had tuberculosis and died in Wyoming two years after the silk quilt was begun  

Clarissa was born either in Wisconsin or Ohio. Trying to figure out anybody's loyalties in rural Missouri is difficult, but we must assume she was a Southern partisan---or at least deferred to her husband.

Survivors from the Confederate Missouri Infantry regiment who'd fought at
Wilson's Creek at the 1897 Reunion.
Photo from the Wilson's Creek Battlefield archive.

The 1897 reunion in Springfield was a Blue & Gray reunion welcoming old soldiers from both sides but apparently the Confederate veterans felt they were not given the respect they felt they deserved.

Lawrence Kansas Daily Journal
August 1897

Longton Kansas newspaper

No Confederate flags were to be displayed in the parade.
The Gross quilt with it's Confederate map probably did not foster the spirit of reconciliation.
But it must have been a wonder.
I wonder if it survives.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #2: Mulberry Wreath for Mary Boykin Chesnut

Cassandra's Circle Block #2 
Mulberry Wreath by Denniele Bohannon
Denniele changed the proportions of leaf to rose, which
meant she could fit only 5 leaves in her wreath.
You get the idea.

Painting of Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (1823-1886)

Mary Chesnut is the Cassandra of our Circle, cast as a figure in a Greek tragedy, a woman who could predict the future only to be ignored by those around her in the Confederate court.

Five of the women in Cassandra's Circle

I had fun Photoshopping dresses and color into a silly background. Mary is in the green dress to the
right of the central figure Varina Howell Davis.

Mary spent a good deal of her life at her husband’s family’s plantation Mulberry in Kershaw County near Camden, South Carolina. The block recalls the place, home to one of the South’s richest families before the war and to hundreds of slaves (including Molly on the right above).  

The Chesnut's house at Mulberry, built by Mary's father-in-law about 1820.
When Mary lived there the plantation occupied 5 square miles,
one of the state's largest.

Mulberry Wreath by Becky Brown
There's a lot of variation possible here---longer stems to fill the corners.
Notice Becky's pieced background.

South Carolina Historic Properties photo of
the entrance hall at Mulberry house

As it was never really her home, Mary did not care to live there. Other houses in more lively places beckoned.
Mulberry about 1900. Broken shutters indicate 
post-Civil-War poverty continued at Mulberry for many
decades. The house stood empty for years in the late 19th-century.

Mary and James Chesnut, 1840
Read more about Mary's youth here:

Mary Boykin Miller married James Chesnut II in April, 1840 when she was just 17 years old. His family was one of the wealthiest in the United States. He became a United States Senator in 1858 but walked out after South Carolina seceded to become an aide to General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard and then to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Mary and James were at the center of the Confederate government throughout the war.

The Block
Mulberry Wreath

A simple wreath with six repeats and the classic rose in the center

Mulberry leaf & fruit

I couldn't find a mulberry wreath in traditional applique.

Here's a sassafras and clover (?) that was the inspiration.

The Pattern

How to print:
Create a word file or a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11".
Click on the image above.
Right click on it and save it to your file.
Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". Note the inch square block for reference.
Adjust the printed page size if necessary.
Add seams.

The rose in the center is the same 6" rose from
Block #1 Washington's Plume.

Mulberry fruit appears in three colors, purplish black, red and white.

Mulberry Wreath by Pat Styring
Pat changed the fruit to dots and made the leaf edges more complex.

Becky is working on her border. She's setting the blocks
with aqua strips. That darker background triangle in the Mulberry Wreath goes in the lower corner.

Mulberry about 1910
Mary & James had a second-story corner bedroom at his parents' home.
"My sleeping apartment is large and airy--has windows opening on the lawn east and south; in those deep window seats, idly looking out, I spend much time. A part of the yard which was a deer park once has the appearance of the primeval forest--the forest trees having been unmolested...are now of immense size. In the spring the air is laden with opopanaz (myrrh), violets, jasmine, crab apple blossoms, roses....And yet there hangs here as in every Southern landscape the saddest pall."
The front porch, no date. 
Mulberry, a private home, is on the National Register of Historic Properties.

Mulberry Today

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dolly Keys McClanahan's Civil War

Dorothea Keys McClanahan 1802-1892
Her quilt was recorded in the Texas project and pictured in their book Lone Stars.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Dolly Keyes McClanahan had been living in Lee County, Texas for about 15 years. She and her husband John Milton McClanahan, known by his middle name, had immigrated from Danville in North Central Alabama to Texas in 1846.

Huntsville Alabama Democrat, 1841

Milton, a veteran of the War of 1812, had been an Alabama state senator in the early 1840s but family stories implied he left for Texas due to a weariness for politics. With their children and enslaved people they settled in the new state northeast of Austin, which eventually became Lee and Burleson Counties...

...Somewhere close to the red star near Yegua Creek.

Yegua Creek land today

Southerners brought a version of the Old South to the Texas plains, planting cotton and corn
on small plantations worked by slaves. The year the McClanahans settled 866 white people and 330 enslaved African-Americans lived in Burleson County.

1860 Census from

All nine McClanahan children were born in Alabama where
Dolly and Milton met and married.

Dolly's son John Milton McClanahan II ready to fight 
Yankees with two guns and a Bowie knife

In 1861 Dolly had just turned sixty; in the fall of that year her 65-year-old husband Milton died.

John Milton McClanahan (1796-1861)

She was apparently living in comfort on the "old homestead" in what was then Burleson County with sons James and William Henry, daughters and servants and farm workers still in slavery. Both James and John Milton II had joined the Confederacy. Oldest John, married and farming nearby, served in Waul's Legion, Commissary Division and may have gone to Vicksburg with them. Second son John served for a short while with the 2nd Texas Infantry Company H in Galveston, but became disabled enough to be sent home. He is recalled as missing a leg.

Dolly's 1864 Tax Assessment 

War and widowhood may have reduced Dolly's fortunes and increased her anxieties but the 1864 tax records for Burleson County indicated she owned 321 acres worth about $1,000. Her greatest wealth was in her "Negroes" 17 people worth $5,100. In that last year of slavery there were 2,905 slaves in the county.

The family who've handed down her quilt believe it to have been made for the occasion of daughter Nancy's wedding to Samuel Pinkney Peebles on March 18, 1864. Nancy did not live long after her marriage, dying at 40 in 1877. Son Eugene, about 12 when he lost his mother, inherited it and passed it to his granddaughter.

The quilt looks to have a border of four strips of Turkey red, chrome orange and the overdyed green common in mid-19th century fancy quilts.

The quilting is triple parallel diagonals, also typical for the time, with some quilting following the rose design and leaves.

What is most interesting about the quilt is that much of the floral is pieced, rather than appliqued. Quilting highlights the circular repeat. See last week's post for another pieced floral that looks appliqued.

Leaves are pieced in there and the rose and buds may be too.

Tennessee quilters were fond of stuffed work quilting

The pattern is unusual but not unique. A similar Texas quilt is in the collection of the Sam Rayburn house near Bonham, Texas. Curators believe their Prairie Rose quilt to date from the 1850s, inherited by the Rayburn family from Tennessee ancestors.

This one, perhaps set later, is in the collection of Texas's
American/International Quilt Association. The peach may
have once been a red, fading in the characteristic manner than
synthetic red dyes after 1880 often did.

Quilt from Tennessee that remained in Tennessee.
Tennessee project & the Quilt Index

The pattern, pieced or appliqued, was popular and has many names. Rose Tree, Missouri Rose, etc. See a post here:

Dolly lived to be 89 years old, apparently still wearing the fashions of the early 19th century as her portrait in a cap above shows. Youngest son Henry never married. He and brother James and his family lived with their mother in the house. The story about Henry is that after his mother died he refused to leave the house because he was content with the "slaves" who waited on him there. By the 1890s those people had not been slaves for 30 years but some must have stayed on as paid servants.

Anytime we find a quilt attributed to a woman with 20 slaves on a cotton plantation we have to wonder who had a hand in the quilt.

Here's Dolly's Find A Grave site with a photo of her quilt included:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Problem With Samplers

....IS the blocks never turn out the same size.

Reasons---inadequate pattern drawing (Sorry!)

Variations in sewing seams.

Trying to fit blocks based on a division of five into a 12" block.

It is all part of the equation.

If this causes you anxiety consider a face-saving set that will disguise any inadequacies in planning, patterning or sewing.


Cut strips large and piece around each block.
When all blocks are finished cut to the same size.

Set side by side; differences will be so small no one will notice.

Set with sashing. Choose fabrics of similar value to
minimize visual differences.
Do not trim any of the blocks until the end.


Cut large triangles and turn blocks on point

Make triangles large enough that blocks will float inside.
Don't forget to leave that seam allowance when you trim.

Trim the square-in-a-square blocks to the same size. Set on point and your blocks will be on the square. And you will have a very large quilt.

Again, do not trim the triangles until all the blocks are done.

Any other ideas?