Saturday, June 27, 2020

Hannah Reynolds's Civil War

Hannah Elizabeth Reynolds 1851

The cross-stitched name of Hannah E. Welch Reynolds (1822-1890) is on a block in an appliqued album quilt in the collection of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. In 1851 she was 29 years old, mother of five living children and probably pregnant with her eighth.

The floral blocks are done in a curious, organic style and look to be the design, if not the stitching, of one hand. Hannah's contribution to the quilt is hard to determine. Did she sew a block or stitch her name?

Perhaps this was a fundraiser and she sponsored a block. The story accompanying the quilt indicates it was made for a wedding at Hannah's home in 1851, so maybe her name on a block was a gesture of good will and best wishes.

The blocks and the names are quite large.
The quilt is named for Hannah's home, Mount Ida.

Ann. Wallace. Shelby. 1851
This may be Willie Ann Wallace Welch, born in 1843

Walker E. Reynolds (1799-1871) 

Hannah was the second wife of a rich man in Talladega, Alabama. Her husband, a cotton planter, politician and railroad investor, was in his early fifties when the quilt was made.

Mt. Ida or Rendalia plantation house, begun about 1840
Sylacauga, Talladega County. The porch was added in 1859.
Photographed in 1935 by Alex Bush, Library of Congress

Hannah's father, a Baptist preacher, brought the family and a group of Virginians to the former Creek Indian territory in 1832 soon after the tribe gave up their rights.

When the Civil War began Hannah's husband owned land worth $62,000 and personal property worth $370,000, including hundreds of slaves. They'd just built a four-room addition to the house, adding the Greek-revival style porch and decorating with new furniture chosen in a New York shopping trip.

Her husband was too old to fight, her only son too young so Hannah's life in the war years was relatively stable. Maude, the last of her ten children, was born in 1862. Confederate soldier John W. Headley traveled through the country in 1863 on the railroad with troops and horses riding in the cars.
"There were no marks of war in this section, and everything indicated a prosperous population of planters. We were passing elegant homes all along the road from Talladega."

They stopped at the Reynolds's house.
"We enjoyed every attention and comfort here and the family seemed to appreciate the acquaintance of volunteers from Kentucky....Mrs. Reynolds invited us to remain until after dinner and we accepted. During the forenoon we were delightfully entertained by her daughters, Misses Eppie, Pink, and Bessie, who were about twenty, sixteen and fourteen years of age...the first day of real pleasure...after our troublous wanderings."
Walker Reynolds's railroad carrying Confederate troops and supplies became a target of Union raids in summer, 1864. Talladega was occupied, the railroad depot burned, track destroyed and food and other supplies confiscated. More of the town was burned in a second raid as the war ended.

The quilt is bordered with a Turkey red stripe.

Talladega in 1875.
University of Alabama Libraries

The Reynoldses were undoubtedly affected by the Confederate loss but they managed to hold on to the plantation till Hannah died in 1890. The 1870 census indicates Walker's net worth was almost $53,000. He died the following year.

Great-niece Mary Welch Lee remembered visiting the women who lived at Mt. Ida after the war. 
"On the upper floor, the 'ladies rooms' were on the front with a solid wall separating them from the rear of the house, where the men stayed, and which of course has a separate stairway up from the backporch. Still another stair goes up in Aunt Hannah’s room to the room above where the girls stayed until they were considered 'young ladies'. Later it was occupied, in turn, by two widowed daughters who returned to the old home: Cousin Eppie McGraw and Cousin Maude McLure."

Hannah's obituary

Her house was struck by lightning in 1956 and burned to the ground, leaving
only the columns.

The quilt known as the Mt. Ida Wedding Quilt was shown in 2017
at the Montgomery Museum of Art.

Sarah Bliss Wright and friends have recently made their own version.

See Mary Welch's Lee's story and more of the 1935 photos by Alex Bush here:


Kerry said...

That could have been such a lovely house in its heyday. I can't even begin to imagine 13,000 acres either!

The appliques are beautiful.

Danice G said...

Wow, they owned a lot of land. Pretty quilt. I love your history information, especially when it's about my home state of Alabama.

Anonymous said...

I’m just finding out this information about the Reynolds family. Now I’m trying to make the connection to my Reynolds.
The quilt is awesome. I’m also a quilter.