Saturday, April 10, 2021

Flora Outhwaite Ginty's Civil War


Quilts in this album pattern were often made for Civil War
soldiers in hospitals; a couple like this came from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Flora Beall Outhwaite Ginty (1839-1907)

Flora Ginty was a new bride in the first months of the Civil War. Born in Cooperstown, New York, she moved with her family to Green Bay as a child. At about 20 she married George Clay Ginty, a Canadian newspaper man who founded the Oconto Pioneer in 1859. Oconto is about 30 miles north of Green Bay.

Green Bay is the yellow star

George spent a year in the Wisconsin Legislature. At 24 he enlisted in the 39th Wisconsin Infantry in 1864 and re-enlisted in the 47th during the war's last year.

Major George Clay Ginty, later General Ginty (1840-1890)

Flora gave birth to two daughters Fannie and Bessie during the war. In her early twenties she volunteered at the local Sanitary Commission where she inscribed verses on blocks for quilts to be sent to the soldiers. Flora was a writer and became a journalist and editor herself. Her writing skills (both poetic and her script) must have impressed the older ladies in town.

"Many 'Album quilts' (as they were called) were sent out..."
Is Flora talking about quilts like this one dated 1862
in the Iowa State Historical Society, Mary Barton Collection?

She recalled the days of the local Soldier's Aid.
"[The first album quilt] was the inspiration of dear, sainted Mrs. Daniel Butler.... I wrote on my block one afternoon in my little old house on the four corners and 'Aunt Kitty' Follett sat by my side as I penned the lines. I had seen the other blocks and said, 'I  am afraid Mrs. Butler will not think my verse dignified enough,' as most of the other verses were quotations from the Bible, but 'Aunt Kitty' said ---'oh! give them something to cheer them up, they need not all be dignified.' "

1865 Sophronia Clark, New York
"One afternoon during the last year of the war I went into the sanitary[Commission] meeting at the residence of Mrs. H.S. Baird, whose doors were open always for the work and the flag raised on a staff in the yard told the regular meeting day, each week."

(More about Mrs. Baird later.) 

Quilt made in southern Wisconsin.
The inked inscription: "Made by the members of the Young Ladies 
Soldiers Aid Society Hazel Green, Wis. 1864."

The "dignified dames" must have appreciated her first verse and told her: " 'If you will take these blocks home and write a verse in each one, you may sign any of the ladies' names to them that belong to the Sanitary Society,' 

A "dignified verse" from Mary Ann Burley in 1848
Conner Prairie Collection
 "I said I would do my best, at the same time thinking it would not be my fault if some of these dignified dames did not receive a tender missive from some 'bold soldier boy.' "
One of her verses:
Sweet be your dreams
Beneath this quilt,
Of Home may it remind you---
"God & Our Country"
Peace & love,
And the "girl you left behind you."
Flora signed the older ladies names to her saucy verses... "Did any of these matrons receive tender missives?"

New York album dated 1865

Apparently so but Flora and Lydia Ellis conspired to keep the matrons unaware that "some unknown admirers that had rested under the quilt [intended to come] up north to storm our hearts." They also discouraged those soldiers from personally thanking the women who'd written the (flirtatious?) verses.

On another of their album quilts she wrote:

If rebels attack you, do run with this quilt.
And safe to some fortress convey it;
For o'er the gaunt body of some old secesh
We did not intend to display it.

Flora's short memoir for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1887 is a glimpse of one group's method for signing their donations to the Sanitary Commission (probably not followed by less daring matrons.) Amazingly enough one of their quilts did come back to Green Bay.

Album quilt dated 1864 made for Mary Elizabeth Hitchcock Seamans, 
possibly in Wisconsin

In December, 1886 C.N. Remington of Stevens Point shipped a quilt to J.M. Schoemaker , commander of the T.O. Howe Post of the Green Bay GAR. Or rather he sent parts of a worn quilt "that the ladies of Green Bay sent to the boys in blue in Dixie." 

In 1884 he'd made a nostalgic trip to North Carolina to visit the Bentonville battlefield where his regiment the 13th Michigan Volunteer Infantry had fought in the last days of the war. In the home of North Carolinians who'd once been slaves he came across the fragment of a quilt that he guessed had been given them by a Union soldier.  Only 8 inked blocks remained. He brought the pieces home and "Mrs. R said I ought to send them to you."

The quilt was featured in an article in Flora's husband's paper the Star-Gazette and she wrote a letter to the editor with the memories above.

The first story about the quilt

The second article about the quilt by Flora

Where those blocks are now is a mystery.

Flora was quite a writer and journalist, taking over the paper for a year or so after her husband died. She had three children, the most remarkable of whom was Elizabeth Ginty who moved to New York to become a playwright, producer and long-time unmarried companion of famous producer David Belasco in the early 20th century. 

Collection of the Lincoln Shrine Museum
Signatures on this New England Sanitary Commission quilt
led the soldier who received it to visit the signer and marry her sister. This is not the
only example of a matchmaking quilt.

We'll digress into the life of Elizabeth Baird who hosted the weekly Sanitary Commission Meetings next week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Anna's Choice in a Monument Square Set


I took several Anna's Choice blocks (#3 in our Hands All Around BOM)
and popped them into the Monument Square setting.

Used the models and some of your blocks from our Facebook page:

It makes for a scrappy quilt but the set pulls it together nicely.

See the instructions for the square in a square alternate block set here:

And Lori at Humble Quilts shows you how she makes this block here:

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Venus & Destiny: Plantation Cloth in Florida

Venus was an enslaved woman in Florida, living at the Jones family plantation near Tallahassee. The place---over 7,500 acres of cotton farm---was known as El Destino, Destiny. A glimpse of her life is preserved in the work records kept by the overseers from 1847 until the Civil War ended in 1865. 

See a link below to an online version of the "Florida Plantation Records from the papers of George Noble Jones" by Phillips & Blunt.

In 1929 Mariah Carr of Marshall, Texas, showed
traditional cotton spinning on a wheel.

In the spring of 1847 the overseer recorded Venus spinning day after day, perhaps on a large wheel as in the above photo where Mariah is spinning cotton. Venus may have been spinning wool as they raised sheep as well as cotton at El Destino. An 1854 list of tools there counts 6 spinning wheels.

Woman and child wearing typical garments of coarse cloth,
called slave cloth, negro cloth or osnaburg, often
spun and woven on the plantation but also produced commercially.

The spinners, weavers and seamstresses had been busy in 1850.

Collection of Shadows on the Teche, New Iberia, Louisiana
Simple pants for a boy spun, woven and stitched on a
Louisiana plantation.

Richmond's Valentine Museum owns this quilt
that came with the story it was made by enslaved women.
The coarse fabrics look to be similar to what was produced on the plantation.

Fabric summary from Phillips & Blunt

In May 1847 after day of spinning, "Venus at Mr. J[ones's] house helping Jane," who was a cook.

We have no idea how complex a loom the plantation had.
This imaginary illustration is from the 1970s.
Venus's other tasks were weaving and "sewing for negroes," at which she, Winey (or Winney) and Tempy spent many days in May. The usual division of labor on plantations was that the plantation's white mistress cut the slave's clothing (she did not want anyone wasting cloth.) The actual sewing was then delegated to white family members (Mary Chesnut in South Carolina spent her plantation time sewing for her mother-in-law) or in Venus's case to enslaved seamstresses. As there was no "Plantation Mistress" at El Destino we wonder who cut the cloth. 

On the owners' occasional visits Venus was assigned to Mr. Jones's house to cook or serve as a maid to Mary Nuttall Jones (1812-1869)  During those brief festive times the Joneses apparently entertained Tallahassee's rural aristocrats.

Mary Wallace Savage Nuttall Jones (1812-1869)
the Plantation Mistress.
Widowed young, she married George Noble Jones
as his second wife in 1840. Was this portrait taken soon after her wedding?

Kingscote, the Jones's Newport house of 
Gothic design begun about the time
they married in 1840 still stands.

Mary Wallace Jones and George Noble Jones were rarely at El Destino. They spent most of their time at their Georgia houses and plantations and during the fever seasons when malaria and yellow fever raged they spent summers in their Newport, Rhode Island home.

Wormsloe, a Jones family home near Savannah.

George was rich, Mary was richer and it seems to be through her family that Venus and her brother Aberdeen were brought from Georgia to El Destino (the word also means Destination). Venus was probably born at Silk Hope on the Little Ogeechee River near Savannah, a colonial Georgia plantation owned by the Habersham & Savage family. 

One gets a glimpse of plantation work in these records but also a view of Venus's personal life. Doing a digital search for her name in the online edition tells us a little about her.

In April, 1847 Venus was ill, in the journal notes "confind" to the sick house. She may have been delivering a baby, an event often described as a "confinement," but several other women were "confind" that month too and it may be that they had to all-too-common, contagious infection. Venus remained confined for over three weeks from April 4 to the 27th when she returned to her usual task of spinning. 

Venus is recorded as having at least three children in 1847: Jack, Julia and Peggy; by 1854 she'd added Hariat and Amey. Her husband was likely the man named Pleasant, who worked in the blacksmith shop and on the cotton wagons. On April 30, 1852 Overseer John Evans wrote George Jones: "I reckon that you have heard of the Death of Pleasant."

Ouch! We hadn't heard.

Venus may have spent her summers doing field work when the cotton and corn needed tending, joining other women at hard labor. 

 Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sketchbook, Maryland Historical Society

August of 1854 was a hot one and the overseer D. N. Moxley did not know or care about heat stroke. Four women fainted in the fields and to punish them (or foolishly try to make up for lost work) he required extra labor in the fall. 

Tallahassee in the 1830s by Francis Castelnau,Florida Memory

In October the women rebelled and ran away to Tallahassee seeking refuge with Tom Blackledge, father of one of the runaways. His wife Delia (some spelled it Dealier or Dealer) was also enslaved at the Jones's place but Tom worked in town. Tom's employer Dr. Davis wrote a letter backing up the women's protests. They were jailed in Tallahassee for running away and it cost Moxley "about $13 to get them out" .

During this time Moxley came upon Venus on the road to town. He caught her and tried to strong arm her into the plantation's lock-up but she broke away. He grabbed her again and and her brother Aberdeen defended her by threatening Moxley with an axe. The African-American foreman Prince Habersham fortunately calmed everyone down.

There were "bastings" from Moxley for everyone involved. He also forbid Tom Blackledge to visit his family at the plantation and curtailed any visits to town by anybody.

Overseer's house at El Destino
Duke University Collection

Because George Jones was rarely at El Destino his overseers sent him journals of the work being carried out daily, a boon for anyone with an interest in the lives of the people held in slavery there.

The "Big House" is not the Hollywood version. With no resident
aristocracy, El Destino was a plain working cotton farm. 
 Phillips and Glunt took this photo on a visit in the 1920s
and the building burned soon after.

After the war the former slaves were listed. Here is Venus's brother's family:

Aberdeen - Laborer at Mill - 36
Martha - Weaver Prolapsus Uteri - 32
Whatley - Plough boy - 14
Minie - hoes, ¼ hand - 11
Mary - Water carrier - 10
Daphne - 9
Ben - 7
Stephen - 6
Venus - 4
Ellen - 2

Aberdeen was 36 in May, 1865. He'd named a four-year old for his sister. His poor wife Martha, also a weaver, is described as unable to work, having a prolapsed uterus after eight children born from the time she was about 18. Aberdeen and family continued to live in the area as a tenant farmer. 

 1880 Census for the Habersham family

Prince Habersham whose parents had been born in Africa was also living nearby with his wife Nancy, children and grandchildren..

But where is Venus? We can certainly hope she lived to see emancipation.

More on these Floridians:

See an online version of a 1927 study of the records by Ulrich B. Phillips & James David Glunt, "Florida Plantation Records from the papers of George Noble Jones"

Related publications:

Slavery & Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida 1821-1860 by Julia Floyd Smith:

"Slave Cloth and Clothing Slaves: Craftsmanship, Commerce, and Industry" by Madelyn Shaw:

"Clothes for the People, Slave Clothing in Early Virginia" by Linda Baumgarten:

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Ladies Aid NY Sampler #1: Ellen Collins & A New York Tulip

Block #1
New York Tulip by Barbara Schaffer

A tulip begins our 2021 appliqued BOM quilt, focused on New York's samplers and the women's work during the Civil War. Each month we look at one woman and one town's war efforts.

The woman at the center of the colorized photo is Ellen Collins
(1828-1912) working on her ledgers at the Woman's Central
Relief Association, one of the many New York Ladies' Aid organizations
we will be discussing.

The town this month is Manhattan.

New York Tulip by Becky Brown
She used repros from my Ladies's Legacy line.

When the Civil War began newspapers around the Union printed a list of items the
Sanitary Commission needed for hospitalized soldiers, 
"Quilts of cheap materials, about seven feet long by fifty inches wide,"
was a request.

Women mobilized and formed Ladies' Aid organizations, often affiliated with the national Sanitary Commission (ancestor of the Red Cross.)

The Soldiers' Aid Society of Queens sent 300 articles:
Sheets, quilts, pillow-cases and cash ($200) in the first year of the war.

New York City's Woman's Central Association for Relief (WCAR) coordinated the work of smaller regional Ladies' Aid societies like the group in Queens. Ellen Collins was second in command, in charge of supplies and funds, keeping track of incoming donations and outgoing shipments to hospitals and warehouses.

Ellen's office shipped over 20,000 quilts in the first two and a half years of war.

One of the men shipping boxes of hospital supplies
from the Cooper Union building offices
is probably Samuel Bridgham (1813-1870),
Ellen's boss. The other is probably porter George Roberts.

Bridgham was once the owner of this
quilt made at the Cooper Union art school
 for a hospital bed... 

... signed
"School of Design
Engraving Class

I am the fortunate owner of this Civil War souvenir, the source for the prints in my new Moda fabric collection Ladies' Legacy. Each print is named for a volunteer in the Woman's Central offices of the Cooper Union.

The quilt's backing is the document print for our
reproduction called Ellen's Comfort----
A very popular calico at the time,
small stars on a textured background.

We reproduced it in three colorways

Ellen Collins was a "reformer and philanthropist," 48-years old and single when the Civil War began. She came from a family of wealthy Quakers; her grandfather Isaac Collins established the family's successful printing business.  
The Collins family lived at 41 West 11th,
in what we call the West Village, 
not far from the WCAR offices.

In their 1867 account of Women's Work in the Civil War, authors Brockett, Vaughn & Bellows described Ellen's wartime role:
 "The members of the Woman's Central worked incessantly. Miss Collins was always at her post. She had never left it. Her hand held the reins taut from the beginning to the end. She alone went to the office daily, remaining after office hours, which were from nine to six, and taking home to be perfected in the still hours of night those elaborate tables of supplies and their disbursement, which formed her monthly Report to the Board of the Woman's Central. These tables are a marvel of method and clearness."
The office bought or accepted donations, "assorting, cataloguing, marking, packing, storing and final distribution of nearly half a million of articles" over the years of the war.

#1 New York Tulip by Barbara Brackman
This is the center which measures about 7" x 7"
on a 15-1/2" square block. I've left room in the
corners for the secondary pattern.

Louisa Lee Schuyler was Ellen's assistant. Louisa in an obituary for her friend recalled the office systems:
"Every day old Roberts, the faithful porter...would place the [incoming] boxes in a long row and raise the lids; every day would come a corps of young lady 'Volunteer Aids' to unpack the miscellaneous articles, sort and place them in designated bins, stamp them with the stamp of the Sanitary Commission, and repack the same boxes (one kind of article only in each box now), after which they were nailed up by Roberts, appropriately marked, and wheeled off to the store house, ready to be shipped at shortest notice. A system was adopted whereby each box could be identified and traced. Miss Collins saw to it that each was acknowledged; conducted a large correspondence; made out and sent weekly lists of supplies in hand to the headquarters of the Sanitary Commission in Washington."

When the war was over Ellen's work wasn't; she continued her philanthropies with emancipated Southerners through the Freedman's Bureau and advocated tenement reform in her neighborhood by buying decaying buildings and acting as a responsible landlord.

The Block

From a New York sampler dated 1851
We've done this tulip before---in our Yankee Diary sampler a couple of years ago.

Here's Becky's.
All I can say about the floral is it seems to have been typically New York...
a mysterious importance.

One Way 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.

If you are using the Hearts in the Corners set you
will want to position it like this.

Above: Pattern for the Hearts.
Print it 8-1/2" wide.

New York Tulip by Denniele Bohannon

You might want to buy and print a PDF of all 12 patterns now. 

See this listing in my Etsy shop:

New Yorkers loved using images in the corners to link the different blocks. 
Sampler with leaves in the corners from the New England Quilt Museum.

Denniele Bohannon's version from the Yankee Diary.

More about the tulip here:

Links to More Information

Read Louisa Lee Schuyler's biography of Ellen Collins:

Over the first four years of the war, someone (probably Ellen)
counted almost 32,000 blankets and bedquilts shipped out of New York.