Saturday, December 12, 2020

Elizabeth Grisham Brown's Crazy Quilt

Crazy Quilt from the Brown Family of Georgia

"M.V.C. 1874"

When we see a date before 1880 on a crazy quilt we guess it is probably commemorative recalling an important event such as a birthdate or wedding.

Mary Virginia Brown Connelly (1850-1927)
in her wedding dress

This quilt was made after 1874 but the date remembers Mary Virginia Connelly's wedding day.

It's attributed to Elizabeth Grisham Brown (1826-1896)
and daughter Mary. A bas-relief sculpture of
Elizabeth from her tombstone.

The crazy quilt was shown a few years ago in a special exhibit
at Georgia's Old Governor's Mansion Museum
in Milledgeville, once capitol of the state.

The Browns were caught up in the crazy quilt fad of the
1885-1900 years, which is when the quilt was likely made.

Elizabeth & husband Joseph Emerson Brown (1821-1894)
Monument on the grounds of the Georgia state capitol

Quiltmakers do not get many sculptural monuments and Elizabeth has two, due to her position as wife of Georgia's Civil War governor Joseph E. and mother of  early 20th-century governor Joseph M. Brown.

Their history as members of a Georgia political dynasty
explains the two Confederate flags on the quilt.

What explains the rabbit and urn below the flag?

An American flag.
Initials on the blocks indicate various contributors.

Governor Joseph Brown Senior (1821-1894)

Elizabeth Grisham was born in South Carolina in 1826. In 1847 she married Georgia attorney Joseph Brown, who'd recently completed a year at Yale's Law School. They established a life in Canton, Georgia, 40 miles northeast of Atlanta. She gave birth to eight children between the years 1848 and 1865, years when Joe Brown was cultivating a reputation as Georgia's "Mountain Boy," and moving up Georgia Democrat's political ladder.

 (Note son named Franklin Pierce born in 1853, the year Democrat Franklin Pierce was inaugurated as president.)  

From Joseph E. Brown of Georgia by Joseph Howard Parks

Brown played the part of Mountain Boy successfully contrasting himself to established politicians. Quilts even entered into his campaign for Governor in 1857 when women from his home county presented him with a "calico bedquilt" symbolic of his humble station.

Elizabeth was a small person, weighing under a hundred pounds.
She left a diary that reveals more sophistication than she
and her Yale-educated husband presented as their public faces.
Her diary includes abusive episodes from her husband, which
she could only respond to by hoping to be more submissive.

Brown was serving his third two-year term when the Civil War began and Georgia seceded. He  became one of Jefferson Davis's foes opposing him at every turn.

Elizabeth's Uncle William Grisham built a house in Canton in the 1840s, one of the few that's survived fires, including a raid by Union troops under General Sherman in 1864. Canton's place as Georgia's Governor's home town is said to be a motive behind the city's burning in which the Brown's house was destroyed.

Canton's Civil War memorial is on the site of
Elizabeth's house.

The memorial's dedication in 1923

After burning Canton, Sherman's troops occupied the Governor's Mansion in Milledgeville for several days in November, 1864 before continuing on to Atlanta. The Browns had fled to Macon. A few weeks after the Civil War was over Union troops arrested Joseph Brown back in Milledgeville for treason. He was released on the condition that he resign the governorship and for several years he was affiliated with the Republican party.

His post-war career included decades as a Georgia political power in the U.S. Senate and becoming one of the state's first millionaires.

Elizabeth and Joseph with family about the time the crazy quilt was made.

Small scraps of one woman's life.


KAT said...

her life must have been very hard and sad, her quilt is stunning thou, thank you for posting this information

Gail Piper said...

Fascinating! Thank you!