Saturday, October 31, 2020

1866 Southern Relief Association Fair Missouri

Elizabeth Bacon Custer (1842-1933) about
the time she attended St. Louis's Southern Relief Fair.

Elizabeth Bacon Custer, traveling west with her soldier husband after the Civil War, stopped in St. Louis for a few days of festivities in the fall of 1866. She enthused about a Tournament, a medieval re-enactment that appealed to southern fans of Sir Walter Scott, already framing the war as "The Lost Cause." The Tournament was the highlight of the weeks' long fundraising event The Southern Relief Fair.

 Libbie Custer to her cousin:

"Oh, Rebecca, how delighted you would have been! It was something so novel to us and reminded us of "Ivanhoe" and other descriptions of olden days... Thousands of people sat around the arena on the spectators stand. The Judges Stand is a three story temple built building in the centre, with fountains on the lawn around it. The costumes of the riders and the excitement of each tilt was so new to us..... In the evening the Queen of Beauty was crowned by the successful chevalier at a ball given at the Southern Hotel.... "

Based on successful war-time models of women's fundraisers The Southern Relief Fair was organized by the city's Missouri Southern Relief Association. Organizers solicited gifts and war souvenirs, among them a lock of Robert E. Lee's hair, which he apparently sent with a letter.

"The object of the Association---the aid of destitute widows and orphans,"
as Lee was informed, motivated him to take a scissors to his locks.

Requests for Lee's hair were probably often received.

We hope Mrs. Custer got a chance to look at the Turkish Table inside the hall. It was one of the most successful areas raising over $10,000.

Oddly enough, the Turkish Table was where quilts were sold and raffled. Several silk quilts were mentioned and one "famous quilt" that had been around the fundraising events that year, won and then re-donated.

We'd like to see more this "most elegant, chaste and beautiful piece of work," which caused some controversy. Apparently made for a woman known for her charitable work in Jefferson City, Missouri's capitol, the quilt was made by Mrs. Tyree with many fabric donations (in a time of scarce fabrics.)

I would guess the maker was Sarah Chiles Tyree (1828-1894) of Jefferson City who also won a prize that fall at the Cole County Fair on a silk quilt (perhaps the same quilt.)

The fair raised about $134,000 with
expenses of $10,000 according the treasurer's report.

President of the Association was Rebecca West Chouteau Sire, who'd inherited the once extremely lucrative American Fur Company. After her widowhood in the 1850s she spent her own money and raised funds for good causes like the city's Home of the Friendless.

Dr. William Marcellus McPheeters, returned to St. Louis after banishment from Missouri (officially a Union state), was on the committee to disburse funds to the suffering Confederates throughout the South. He'd been chief of Confederate General Sterling Price's medical unit. His wife was a fair organizer.

Sallie Buchanan McPheeters (1830-1912) spent a few days in a 
Union jail with her children and was banished from St. Louis
for refusing to sign the Union loyalty oath.

William's brother Presbyterian minister Samuel B. McPheeters and wife were also banished for "unmistakeable evidence of sympathy with the rebellion,'' but after a personal interview Lincoln stayed that order.

The McPheeters post-war loyalty to the Confederacy is not in doubt either. An 1870 Jefferson Davis letter was sold recently in which Davis thanks Colonel G.W. Alexander & Mssrs Fife & McPheters for their assistance. William designated $3,000 of the funds to the relief of Jefferson Davis living in Memphis a few years after the war.

McPheeter's brother, probably Samuel, delivered the money to Davis at his rented house on Court Street
Finding more about other disbursements of the funds raised in St. Louis leads to dead ends.

Read more of Elizabeth Bacon Custer's letter:
Minnie Dubbs Millbrook, "Mrs. General Custer at Fort Riley 1866" in the Kansas Historical Quarterly

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #10: Carolina Rose/Miriam De Leon Cohen

Cassandra's Circle Block #10 Carolina Rose
by Becky Brown. She simplified the stems and pieced the star.

Mulberry, mid-20th-century view of the main house.
Mary Boykin Chesnut spent time during the war at her in-laws' plantation 3 miles from Camden
in South Carolina's midlands.

Mary was not fond of the small town of Camden where she lived most of her life. She didn't like the neighbors and they apparently didn't care much for her either.

Kamchatka, Library of Congress photo
Before the war Mary and James Chesnut built Kamchatka, a house
  so far from Camden's center they named it after the
remote Russian peninsula. They sold Kamchatka in 1858
when they moved to Washington and James entered the Senate.

In 1851 his Charleston law mentor James Louis Petigru visited the town.
"It is a stationary place. Some planters have good houses and there are 3,000 or 4,000 inhabitants.... My old student James Chesnut is obliging and attentive...a man of consequence here and in Columbia."

Susannah Pangelinan's Carolina Rose

One bright spot for Mary was friend Miriam De Leon Cohen, "My Mem, dear," just about the same age. "I have known her intimately all my life." Like her peers Mary had a hard time referring to Jews without bringing up their religion, actually their caste group. In the diary rework she introduces her: "My Hebrew friend, Mem Cohen, has a son in the war."

Camden's 1826 Kershaw County courthouse, a Robert Mills design, photographed in
 the 1930s by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Library of Congress

These portraits may now be in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Mem's maternal grandfather Benjamin Nones accompanied the Marquis de Lafayette from France to fight in the American Revolution and later settled in Philadelphia. The child in the painting is thought to be Mem's mother Bilma Nones de Leon at the age of two or three.

Portrait with puppy
Bilma's Americanized name was Isabel

Mem was named for her grandmother Miriam Marks Nones. Her father's family were Sephardic Jews, leaving the Iberian peninsula for Jamaica and then to the Carolinas. Grandfather Jacob de Leon, born in Jamaica, also fought in the American revolution and settled near Columbia, South Carolina.
"Dr. De Leon (late of the Hospital Dept. of the U. S. Army) tenders his services in the line of his profession to his friends and the Public."Camden Gazette April 3,1816:
Miriam's father Dr. Abraham de Leon, associated with the army during the War of 1812, practiced in Charleston before moving to Camden. Miriam de Leon was born in Sumter in 1822.

Camden, about 1915, fifty years after
Mary and Mem spent their Civil War years there.

Several of Jacob de Leon's sons (Miriam's uncles) were doctors and Miriam herself married a doctor from nearby Sumter, Lawrence Ludlow Cohen in 1840.

Collection of Judith Shanks
This album made for Rebecca Solomons has several blocks dated 1852-1853
made by women named Cohen, perhaps relatives of Mem's husband.

Dr. Cohen did not live long, dying in his early thirties in 1847, leaving Miriam with two children under five: Lawrence Ludlow (called Ludlow) and Isabel.

Miriam's father died the same year she married.

Miriam seems to have been financially stable, a gentlewoman, perhaps left assets by father and husband. As the widowed Jewish wife of a small-town doctor she would have left few records but for her friendship with Mary Boykin Chesnut.

Carolina Rose
by Pat Styring

Mary's circle included several Camden and Columbia Cohens, Mem's first cousins. During the war Mary visited "my Columbia school friend Agnes De Leon (1819-1902), She is fresh from Egypt, and I wished to hear of the Nile, the crocodiles, the mummies, the Sphinx, and the Pyramids. But her head ran upon Washington life...."

Edwin de Leon (1828-1891)
"Mem tells me her cousin, Edwin de Leon, is sent by 
Mr. Davis on a mission to England."

Agnes's younger brother Edwin was the antebellum consul in Egypt, resigning when South Carolina seceded to become a Confederate diplomat. Agnes must have accompanied him on one of his Egyptian trips. Perhaps she was sworn to silence about their travels.

Mem, Agnes and Mary likely met at school. In the darkest days after the war when she was looking like the penniless refugee she was ("dirty, tired, tattered, and torn") Mary reminded a "haughty and highly painted" hotel keeper who she was.
"My home is in Camden."  
"Come, now, I know everybody in Camden."

 "Do you take me for a spy? I know you perfectly well. I went to school with you at Miss Henrietta de Leon's, and my name was Mary Miller."
David Camden de Leon (1816 – 1872)
Portrait by Solomon Nunes Carvalho 
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian

Another of Agnes's brothers Dr. David Camden De Leon became the Confederacy's first surgeon-general. He also visited Mary during the war's first weeks in Montgomery, Alabama:
"Dr. De Leon called, fresh from Washington, and says General [Winfield] Scott is using all his power and influence to prevent officers from the South resigning their commissions"
Mem's son Ludlow enlisted at 19, serving in Boykin's Rangers under Mary's favorite nephew Captain John Chesnut.
Captain John Chesnut
"Mem Cohen, has a son in the war.... She has long fits of silence, and is absent-minded....The son is the mother's idol." 
The women undoubtedly shared concern about their boys in the same battles. Fears worsened when Ludlow began fighting under Stonewall Jackson. Mem "persistently wept since she heard the news. 'It's no child's play,' she says, 'when you are with Stonewall. He don't play at soldiering.' "

 As Sherman's army threatened South Carolina Mary "packed my valuables one sleety day." On her way to North Carolina she "called to see Mem Cohen who I found on the wing for York and Charlotte."

Both Johnny Chesnut and Ludlow Cohen survived the war but not the peace, both killed before they were 35 by gunfire. Mem died in Sumter in 1869, eight months before Ludlow's death in a Savannah duel at 28.

The Block

The block is drawn from a tattered antique.
We're skipping the reverse applique in the rose.

A sketch of the block, a Rose of Sharon variation, classic old Testament name....
With a six-pointed Star of David.

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.


Becky's nicely balanced set

Rose far from Carolina in an 1860 New York album sampler
made for Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Smith, Elmira.
Chemung County Historical Society Collection.
Extra Reading

It's always difficult to read how bigoted people were in the past and how free the felt to express that nastiness in letters and diaries. Dale Rosengarten in her essay in Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History writes about the relationship between Mary Chesnut and Mem Cohen.
Mem: "You despise a Jew in your heart....You like me but that is in spite of my being one."

See Dale Rosengarten's chapter "Jewish antiques roadshow: religion and domestic culture in the American South." at this preview.

Read more about Mem's French grandfather here:

My #10. I have my nine-block mini pin basted for hand quilting. I think I'll echo quilt.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Union Quilt in Virginia

A pair of embroidered flags and the words

Six-pointed Star Quilt, Albemarle County, Virginia
92" x 75"
Collection of Ash Lawn Highland, the Monroe House Museum

The embroidered vignette is along the right border here, second space up from the bottom right corner. There is also a Masonic embroidered image in the opposite edge.

The Virginia Consortium of Quilters set about documenting quilts in museum collections around the state, a rather daunting task in an area with so long a history. This one is pictured on page 126

They pictured this quilt which is pieced of cottons and wools and embroidered
but not much is known about it.

We can see from the closeups that the star clusters are pieced and then
appliqued to a background that looks to be wool. It's back with a pink
silk that sounds like it's one of the machine quilted fabrics sold as coat lining.

They thought the piece might date to 1810-1850 but the Union image inclines
one to guess more like 1850-1870.

We wish we knew more about the quilt and who in Albemarle County was such
a strong advocate of the Union in the mid-19th-century.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Yankee Notions Blocks: Free Patterns


2020's pieced monthly pattern at CivilWarQuilts was Yankee Notions, in which we looked at cultural ideas across the Mason Dixon line and some tangible Yankee Notions, consumer necessities. Here are links to the monthly patterns so you can catch up with sewing and history.

Blocks 1-10 by Becky Brown
Introduction, Yardage and Set

Block #1 by Jean
Open Book

Block #2 by Cindy

Block #3 by Dena
Water Wheel

Block #4 by Stacy
New Water Wheel

Block #5 by Laura
New England

Block #6 by Sara
Improved Nine Patch

Block #7 by Elsie
Liberty Star

Block #8 by Sharon
Union Star

Block #9 by Susan
Yankee Puzzle

Block #10 by Dorry

Block #11 by Elsie
Modern Broken Dish

Block #12 by Catherine

You can also buy a 26-page color PDF and print it yourself for $12 at my Etsy shop.