Saturday, August 29, 2020

Miller/Van Winkle Quilt: #2 The Civil War & After

Eight blocks by one hand, one by another?

"Made by Gradma (sic) Miller In 1858 - Given To Grand (sic) Steele In 1902 
From Her Mother Temperance Van Winkle" 
Inked inscription.
See more about dating the quilt last week:

Temperance Van Winkle is the likely seamstress for the quilt we examined last week, appliqueing eight similar blocks to finish out a quilt based on an older pattern block. Her daughter Mary Van Winkle Steele (Grandma Steele) probably inherited it when Tempy died in 1902.

Map. Benton County's Van Winkle Hollow in relation to today's geography.
 Jamie C. Brandon & James M. Davidson have 
published much archaeological work on the family.

By the time of the Civil War in 1861 Tempy was living in a large house with her eight children, their tutor and at least one mill worker near War Eagle, Arkansas on the White River. The 1860 census lists the Van Winkles with 12 slaves, included in his property worth almost $43,000. Their wealth came from the slaves, thousands of acres of Arkansas land and two mills that Peter Van Winkle built.

Daughter Mary, another Molly, married the mill's former lathe carpenter
 John Belle Steele of the First Arkansas Calvary 
after the war in 1866.

Arkansas was tortured by guerrilla warfare and shifting loyalties during the Civil War. The Van Winkles were Confederate sympathizers, milling lumber for the Confederate Camp Benjamin and naming their war-born children after Southern heroes. 

Peter & Tempy in the 1860s
Two of the boys born during the war: 
Jefferson Davis Van Winkle and Robert E. Lee Van Winkle.
 Tempy gave birth to 12 children; 9 lived to adulthood.

In 1862 frightened by harassment and worried about losing their slave property when Union troops took over (they lived about 15 miles from the Union state of Missouri) they moved the slaves and what they could carry to Texas where Tempy had many relatives. Two of her children died in Texas. While they were gone eldest son Calvin died in the Arkansas fighting.

While they were refugeeing in Bowie County, Texas Confederate sympathizers burned the saw mill to prevent the Union from using it. Their house went too. The story often retold is that Peter Van Winkle buried $4,000 in gold in Van Winkle Hollow but like most caches of Civil War gold it has never been found and probably didn't ever actually get buried.

Southern refugees by Thomas Nast ,1863

Refugee's stories were often sentimentalized to the point that the actual unhappy stories are forgotten. Tempy's is one of them. She lost three children during the war and nearly everything she owned.
And what of the enslaved people forced to walk to Texas? Who stayed and built new lives after the war. Who went home to Arkansas?

Post-war lumber mill

When the white Van Winkles returned to their burned out businesses and home they rebuilt. Peter's new mill was modern, efficient and successful, becoming the largest lumber mill in the region, supplying building material into Missouri and Kansas until it closed in 1890 eight years after his death. Daughter Ellen's husband James Blackburn bought it but he apparently didn't have Peter's financial skills. An obituary notes: "This investment almost proved to be his financial Waterloo in later years but he finally pulled through and left his estate in order. He lived at the mills until 1890...." Ellen died in 1884.

The post-war House with 11 rooms was destroyed in 1969.
The site, Van Winkle Hollow (also called Van Hollow), is now Hobbs State Park

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
This photo of the family in the newly built house in the 1870s
shows the landscape. The Van Winkles fit a plantation-style house
into a narrow Ozark "hollow," a rocky river valley

Men who'd been slaves in the mill before the war returned to work for wages and worker housing was constructed in the hollow. Local historians have identified at least two:  Lathe turner Aaron Anderson Van Winkle and his wife Jane and teamster Perry Van Winkle and wife Agnes. Each family had nine children who grew up in Van Winkle Hollow.

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
Temperance in the white cap with her family
on Mary's front porch in Rogers, Arkansas in 1901,
the year before she died at 77 years old. 
Aaron Van Winkle is the black man standing behind her. 
Mary may be the woman on the top left.

Mary and her husband built a house modeled on her parents' country home
 at 303 South 1st Street in Rogers, Arkansas; recently demolished.

See Aaron Van Winkle's grave and obituary here:

Van Winkle family quilt in the Rogers County Museum collection

We can guess this quilt was stitched by Temperance Miller Van Winkle (1825-1902) given to her daughter Mary Van Winkle Steele of Rogers, Arkansas. 

Mary Van Winkle Steele (1841-1922)
from her Find-A-Grave site

One of Mary's grandchildren inked the inscription years later, recording what was remembered of its origins.

The mill on the White River's been recently rebuilt as the 
War Eagle Mill, a grist mill.

Van Winkle men have been extensively examined by historians and archaeologists looking at the material culture of the place. Here we try to link the quilt, women's work.


"The Landscape of Van Winkle's Mill: Identity, Myth, and Modernity in the Ozark Upland South,"
Jamie C. Brandon and James M. Davidson. Historical Archaeology. Vol. 39, No. 3, 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #8: Molly's Cotton Boll

Cotton Boll for Mollie (Chesnut?)

One reason Mary Boykin Chesnut's book that reworks her Civil-War diaries is such a classic is her skillful development of character in the dialogue. The reader falls for a few of the dramatis personae, among them Molly her personal maid during slavery and a long-time friend and business partner.

Molly, probably photographed in the early 1860s at the
Quinby Studios in Charleston, from 
Mary Boykin Chesnut's photograph album

In 1860 Kershaw County, South Carolina had 8,000 black inhabitants and 5,000 white.

It's so hard to get even a glimpse of the African-American life during slavery
but Molly's story as told by Mary gives us much.

Mary's manuscripts at the South Carolinia Library 
University of South Carolina

Despite her professed distaste for slavery Mary was totally dependent upon slaves, particularly at Mulberry plantation---doing just about nothing all day but reading and a little sewing of slave clothing for her mother-in-law, the plantation mistress. During the war when Mary's world expanded to Richmond and Columbia Molly often was in attendance, the behind-the-scenes genius of the Chesnuts' fabled parties.

"My Molly" ran Mary's household, took care of her clothes, cooked her meals in gourmet fashion and gave her much advice, welcome or not. On a train trip in 1863 Molly decided to take on the bad manners of the Chesnut plantation overseer Adam Team. The train was crowded. Team got Mary two chairs, the extra for her feet and she slept. Molly got the floor with her head against a chair. She woke up when she heard Team bragging about the Chesnuts:
" 'Listen, Missus, how loud Mars Adam Team is talking. And all about old Master and our business, and to strangers. It's a old old Master is and how rich he is and all that. I am going to tell him stop.' Up stalked Molly. 'Mars Adam, Missus say please don't talk so loud. When people travel they don't do that away."
The Yard

Molly, married to Lige, had several children, mostly cared for by her mother while she and Mary traveled. Mary mentioned a sick baby in 1861 and  Molly had a six-month old in February, 1865, meaning she could not accompany Mary in her post-war escape from South Carolina. Instead young  Ellen went as Mary's personal maid with Laurence, James Chesnut's valet. Molly was probably sorely missed as Ellen was new at the personal maid business, although enthusiastic to learn.

Cotton Boll by Pat Styring

Molly stayed behind with her children at the Mulberry plantation. "She remained to look after my things---Mrs. Preston's cow, etc.etc." 

Woman in the egg business

Molly and Mary had been in the dairy business for a while. An 1861 entry in the manuscript diary:
Molly come...the chicken business goes on finely. If I can only raise eggs & chickens & butter---a great fall off for a cotton planter. [Molly] says the negroes say nobody shall touch my poultry. 'Missis' things,' nobody shall meddle with.' " 

Plantation scene by the Quinby & Company Studio in Charleston

In the fall Molly reported that the poultry business paid splendidly, but there was a problem with  overseer Adam Team (she didn't like him--with good reason we can assume.)
He took the best of their butter and "will not pay her for it." "Gesticulating round the room like the orator she was born...'He takes my butter and your things. His wife has grown so fat she has to go through the big gate---the little one too narrow for her now. No wonder Sundays they put two of your hams on their dinner table. Bless god! Two hams they eat." 

Sketch of a woman on the street in New Orleans

In the butter and egg partnership Mary seems to have paid for the livestock and feed; Molly made butter, collected eggs and marketed them to their mutual benefit. This partnership on shares lasted long after the war, giving both cash in the terrible post-war economy. In the Chesnut's 1878 account book Colleen Glenney Boggs found an entry for Molly's wages: 3 dollars.

Freedpeople outside their cabin near Camden, 1880s.
Much of the Chesnuts' postwar income was based on rent for the
 former slave cabins at Mulberry to the former slaves.

Portraits from Quinby's in Charleston

Quinby Studios background includes a monumental column, a studio setting often seen in Southern portraits from the war years. Molly's has the column but a painted railing different from the rail seen in most Quinby photos like Mary Chesnut's on the left. We can guess Mary who collected photos commissioned Molly's portrait there.

Block #8 Cotton Boll by Susannah Pangelinan

Two of Mary's albums

The Block

Mary & Molly's joint endeavor, the butter and egg business, was certainly a step down for people connected at any level with an enormous cotton plantation. Molly's status was also connected to the extremely wealthy family she served. A cotton boll to recall the antebellum days seems appropriate. 

Late-19th/Early 20th Century Cotton Boll
The Cotton Boll is a traditional regional Southern design. Quilters
felt free to interpret it in many ways.

20th-century cotton boll

Frances Johnston, North Carolina Museum of History
Late 19th century
Note the partial blocks.

Applique to an 18-1/2" square or cut it larger and trim later.

The Patterns

One way to print these JPGS.

  • Create a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11" or a word file.
  • 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. Do not use tools like "Fit to page."
  • Make templates.
  • Add seams when cutting fabric.

One block in a small quilt found in the Minnesota quilt project.
Photo from the Quilt Index

Pat Styring's center
No rose but a bee.

See a post on Cotton Boll quilts here:

And Kathlyn Sullivan's chapter on the pattern in Mary W. Kerr's Southern Quilts

An Issue with Molly

The important issue with Mary Chesnut's diaries is that there are several versions---some edited by others, one drawn from Mary's actual manuscript diaries and the most famous her reworking of her memories and diaries into the large book Mary Chesnut's Civil War, published in 1981, edited by C. Vann Woodward.

Molly's role (and name) varies from book to book.
The first published edition (1905) tells us of an encounter with a runaway on March 8, 1861. The actual manuscript diary:
"Yesterday I met Mr. DeSaussure run away William. He dodged into a shop---but I saw him peeping at me from behind the door. He looked old and weather beaten & the very expression of his face has changed for the worse."
The first edition was edited by friends after Mary's death from her reworked manuscript in which Mary enlarged upon the story, recording her memories of William and his skills and a remark Molly made.
"Met a distinguished gentleman... William, Mrs. de Saussure's former coachman.... Night after night we used to meet him as fiddler-in-chief of all our parties. He sat in solemn dignity, making faces over his bow, and patting his foot with an emphasis that shook the floor. We gave him five dollars a night; that was his price.... Now he is a shabby creature indeed. He must have felt his fallen fortunes when he met me - one who knew him in his prosperity. He ran away, this stately yellow gentleman, from wife and children, home and comfort. My Molly asked him 'Why? Miss Liza was good to you, I know.' I wonder who owns him now; he looked forlorn."
In the 1981 book Molly is called Polly and William replies to Molly's impertinent question.
"My Polly asked him "Why? Miss Liza was good to you, I know."
I wonder who owns him now; he looked forlorn.
'Yes, but Marster was so mean. He was not bad. He was mean. In the twenty years I lived in his yard he never gave me a fourpence---that is, in money.' "
 Well, what are we to make of this? What actually happened and who is "My Molly"? who appears so often in the reworked book and less often in the actual diary, which refers to Molly 6 times in the index. The 1981 Woodward version has 67 references in its index.

Some critics think of the final Molly character as a conduit for Mary's thoughts (particularly those on slavery), an effective literary device. Imaginary Molly or not, she is one of the most endearing characters in a book rather sparsely populated with them. 

An 1883 letter to Varina Davis from Mary tells her to be grateful for her children.
 "I have nothing but Polish chickens---and Jersey calves."
Sue Garman had a pattern
The original sketch 1-8

Extra Reading

Read about Mary's photo albums here:

Mary Chesnut's Illustrated Diary Mulberry Edition Boxed Set: Volume 1: A Diary from Dixie and Volume 2: Mary Chesnut's Civil War Photographic Album by Martha Deniels, Barbara McCarthy & James Kibler.

In her book Teaching the Literatures of the American Civil War Colleen Glenney Bogg has a  thoughtful discussion of Molly and the meaning of Molly's photo in the album.

A Post Script: Another Mollie Chesnut


Two 20th-century documents, a 1921 death certificate for a baby named Jessie Mae Jackson who died of  "colitis" at 11 months; her mother's maiden name Mollie Chesnut---perhaps a descendant of the earlier Mollie. The younger Mollie and husband Willie Jackson were not lucky. Another daughter was stillborn in 1925.


The Jacksons lived in Cheraw, about 100 miles northeast of Columbia.
On this form Chesnut is spelled with two T's. 

Temperance Neely Smoot's version of the cotton boll.
Alamance County, North Carolina, late 19th century?

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Miller/Van Winkle Quilt from Arkansas #1

Appliqued quilt attributed to Mary (Polly) Roberts Miller,
Washington County, Arkansas.
Collection of the Rogers Historical Museum

Mary Roberts Miller (1799-1880)

The Iowa project recorded this quilt in 1988, noting an inked message in the border:
"Made by Gradma Miller In 1858 - Given To Grand Steele In 1902 From Her Mother Temperance Van Winkle"
The family later donated it to the Rogers, Arkansas museum. Temperance Miller Van Winkle lived in War Eagle, near Rogers.

The nine-block quilt has one odd block with different fabrics and a different rotation in the arms. This may have been the quiltmaker's pattern block from which she copied the other eight. Who was that quiltmaker? Our first question has to be: How old is the quilt?

The inked message was added long after the quilt was made. It traces the assumed ownership from 
Grandma Miller (Mary Roberts Miller -1799-1880) to her daughter Temperance Miller Van Winkle (1825-1902) to her daughter Grand(ma) Steele (Mary Van Winkle Steele 1841-1922).

Mary Van Winkle Steele in her early twenties during the Civil War
Most of the period photos here are from the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
with extensive information on the Van Winkles.

The inked message was added when the younger Mary was someone's Grandmother---long after 1858. That 1858 date of origin doesn't seem likely. The applique has none of the grace one would expect to see in those first decades of the art. The casual design is more typical of the years 1880-1920.  Mary Roberts Miller died in Arkansas in 1880 so it is possible she made it towards the end of her life. Her daughter Temperance or granddaughter Mary Steele may also have been the maker as both lived into the twentieth century.

 Whig Rose 
[A family with a son & brother named Andrew Jackson Miller would
not have called this pattern a Whig Rose. Democrat Rose
might be a better name for the Southern quilt.]

We shall assume the quilt is post Civil-War, probably from about 1900. The odd block may have been Mary Roberts Miller's handwork but the others, done with less skill, seem end of the century. The family is well-documented in their Find-A-Grave files, by their descendants and in local histories in Arkansas. But it is the men who get the attention. We can look at the women's lives during the Civil War, a harrowing experience that all three lived through. We'll begin with Mary Roberts Miller.

The eldest Mary Miller known as Poly (Polly) was born in Fayette County, Kentucky in 1799 and moved to Indiana with her parents where at about 15 she married John B. Miller in Gibson County during the War of 1812. John Miller had been a private during the war in the Indiana Territorial Mounted Volunteer Rangers and also fought in the frontier Black Hawk War.

The Millers were members of the Providence Church there, a Primitive Baptist denomination with several members who migrated to Fulton County, Illinois "to claim War of 1812 bounty lands," according to a church history. Family history also says John worked in the lead mines near Galena, Illinois. 

In 1833 John, Polly and the eldest eight of their 13 children went to Arkansas. The ninth child Andrew Jackson Miller was born in Fayetteville, Washington County, Arkansas in 1836.

Abandoned church in West Fork, Arkansas

Church leader Stephen A. Strickland seems to have directed a few of these moves from Kentucky to Arkansas.

Ten years later the Millers moved on to Bastrop County, Texas where the 1850 census finds them. Polly and John returned to Arkansas in the '60s, leaving many of their grown children in Texas. They were not wealthy people. The 1870 census records John, a farmer with $300 worth of personal property. A pension as a War of 1812 soldier must have helped.
The family's Arkansas years were spent in the northwest corner of the state,
Missouri on the north, Indian Territory on the west.
Temperance Miller Van Winkle (1825-1902)

Daughter Tempy was back in Arkansas in 1840 where she married New Yorker Peter Marselis Van Winkle when she was about 15. His first wife had died in Fulton County, Illinois and it may be that she knew this 26-year-old widower through the church in Illinois. Her daughter, the younger Mary in our story, was born in 1841 on their farm outside Fayetteville.

Van Winkle's War Eagle Mill in Benton County towards the end of the 19th century.
The area was known as Van Winkle Hollow.

Peter Van Winkle was an engineer, a blacksmith and an entrepreneur, inventing improved wagons and plows and operating a ferry across the White River. In 1851 he built a sawmill in Benton County and in 1858 a second lumber mill in War Eagle, hiring an engineer to apply steam power.

1850 bill of sale from Peter Van Winkle for a "Negro woman named Mary
 aged about eighteen and her child a boy of the name of Marquis Lafayette
 aged about three years." Missouri Digital Heritage Collection

Peter & Tempy Van Winkle before the war.
Tempy was more affluent than her parents.
She may indeed be the seamstress for the 
appliqued quilt, stitched before her
death in 1902.

Her Find-A-Grave site:
Next week: Tempy Van Winkle & The Civil War