Saturday, July 31, 2021

Mary Perry Norwood Decker's Silk Quilt


Crossed flags in a Louisiana quilt.

The family thought this might be the "Flag of the Republic,"
an American flag showing Unionist sentiment in Louisiana, but three stripes in that
flag on the right....

Historic New Orleans Collection
The "first flag" of the CSA.
First are always slippery---but that is NOT a Union sentiment.

An overall view:
Quilt by Mary Perry Norwood Decker
Briscoe Center Collection

The flags are in the light blue diamond near the center of the quilt,
attributed to Mary Perry Norwood Decker (1845-1928)

Christian symbols for virtues Faith (cross), Hope (anchor),
& Charity (heart)

The quilt is pieced of elegant silks both plain and patterned. The tan pieces above might have been fussy cut from a woven dress silk...

or embroidered just for the quilt

Flag of Louisiana's Company A, 24th Regiment, the Crescent Regiment

Mary Perry Decker's quilt descended in her family to another Mary Decker
who with her family donated it to the Briscoe Center in Texas.

The family believed it to have been made by Mary E. Perry (1845-1928) of West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana before her first marriage in 1866. Style and fabrics (and that flag) back up the story. Mary certainly had access to a good deal of lovely silk in the 1860s. 

While writing this post I happened across a book of the papers from the 5th David B. Warren Symposium at the Bayou Bend Museum, which included one by Katherine J. Adams, Quilts the Democratic Art. At the time Kate was curator of Texas's Winedale Collection at the Briscoe Center. She addressed the availability of silk in Jackson---there are 60 different fabrics in the quilt. She found out some biographical details about Mary Perry who, like many other post-Civil-War Southerners turned to sewing to make a living after the war.


Kate also noted the remarkable similarity between Mary's center embroidery and this 1861 sheet music cover. The flag on the left is "The Bonnie Blue Flag," which was adopted as a secessionist symbol but also had history as representing Texas, the Lone Star state. The flag on the right the three-stripe Confederate flag with 11 stars representing the seceding states.

Jackson, right on the line between East & West Feliciana,
south of the Mississippi border.

I found out a bit about Mary Perry. When she was about 21 she married Rufus King Norwood (1828 -1868). Less than two years later he was killed in what looks to have been a duel with a man named Moses Bloom.

Her second husband was Charles E. Decker (1847-1894) also of Jackson. She and Charles had six  children but only two lived to adulthood. Charles served two years as a Louisiana state senator (1890-1892). After his death Mary joined her only surviving daughter Sally Decker Whiteman in Alto, Texas. The quilt descended in Sally's family in Alto although Mary returned to Louisiana. 


She is buried in the Jackson cemetery.
See her FindaGrave file

And the quilt at the Briscoe Center:

Read Kate's paper in Creators & Consumers: Women & Material Culture & Visual Art.....

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Ladies Aid Album #5: Union Flag


Block #5 Union Flag
by Bettina Havig

In July, 1862 Potsdam, New York celebrated 
Independence Day during the Civil War's first full year.

The Potsdam Ladies' Sanitary Association asked those attending ceremonies to bring
a used item from home to donate to the soldiers, "one or more articles of apparel or bedding."

How many charitable families gave up a valuable quilt for the soldiers' comfort?

This well-worn sampler once belonged to Lt. George Anson Stocking
of Connecticut. Did his family send it to him or did he obtain it in in the field in Virginia?
See more about his quilt:

Ellen Collins keeping her ledgers in New York City

Although executives in the Sanitary Commission and the Ladies' Relief societies prided themselves on their bookkeeping Virginia Gunn in her authoritative AQSG paper "Quilts for Union Soldiers in the Civil War" notes that nobody kept totals of all the donated quilts during five years of war. Gunn's best estimate is 250,000, which includes quilts stitched just for the war effort and those family bedcovers sent to the front.

Block #5 Union Flag
by Becky Brown

One imagines pre-1860 quilts carried away in all their chintz glory. Gunn found records of a "Blanket Raid" in the early weeks of the war in which women in Cleveland, Ohio went door to door gathering 729 bedcovers for soldiers:  "Delicate rose blankets, chintz quilts, thick counterpanes." Who could refuse their neighbors?

What happened to those quarter of a million Union quilts?

Gunn hypothesized that most "made for soldiers did not survive the war or hard use in the years which followed. Many became lost or destroyed in the heat of battle....When field hospitals moved, they often left behind piles of quilts and comforts caked with blood and dirt."

Potsdam in 1870

Potsdam in St. Lawrence County is about 100 miles southwest
of Montreal, Canada

Potsdam Public Museum Collection

Members of Potsdam's Ladies Auxiliary Relief Association posed in 1861; most are unidentified but Mrs. Henry Knowles, Mrs. C.W. Leete (Directress) & Mrs. H.N. Redway are listed among them. As widow of a Methodist minister Sophronia Stone Leete (1806-1899) was the perfect figure to direct the Ladies' Aid organization. We wish we knew which woman she is in the photo but as she was 55 when the war began perhaps she is the tall woman in the top row.

Block #5 Union Flag
by Denniele Bohannon

Son Charles II with his son and grandchild about 1912.

Sophronia (1799-1857) was minister Charles Ward Leete's second wife, marrying him in 1833 and taking on his two young boys. She then had two boys and two girls with Charles. As a Methodist minister, often transferred, Charles worked in many northern New York towns such as Vernon in Oneida County where he probably met Sophronia. Potsdam was their principal home. Charles died in 1857 at 57 years old leaving Sophronia to worry about several sons and stepsons.
"The articles [the ladies] forwarded to the camps and to the Sanitary Commission in New York were extremely generous..... "
On Thanksgiving Day, 1861, the ladies of Potsdam earned $100 by giving a supper for the benefit of the Ladies Aid Association. The members of the Relief Association met at the Fireman's Hall every Thursday and Friday. 

Fireman's Hall, 1909

From Potsdam Public Museum blog

Accounts of the Women's Central Relief  1863

 The Potsdam Ladies' $5 may seem small compared to banker August Belmont's $100 donation but in 1860 that $5 was worth what $150 is today.

117th Regiment Silk Battle Flag
New York State Military Museum Collection

Sophronia's charity work must have been a distraction from worry over youngest son William who enlisted in Co. A, 117th Regiment, N. Y. Volunteers in August, 1862 when he was 17. Fortunate enough to survive three years of  battles like Cold Harbor and Petersburg he returned home in June, 1865.

The Block
Union Flag

The block is drawn from one in a New York sampler
known as the Oneida Community Best Quilt
made in the late 1870s at the communal living society.
(There was a second best quilt too.)

Sashing has faded to a pale tan.

UPDATE: Found Barbara Schaffer's block in the email quagmire. It's too good not to post.

The pattern. Print it out 8-1/2 x 11".
Applique to a square cut 15-1/2"

Robyn Revelle Gragg's Union Flag has a few additions.

Notice that Bettina appliqued her stripe to a piece
of white and then appliqued that to the background.

Denniele's Blocks 1-5

More About Sophronia

Sophronia's descendants cared enough about her
memory to frame this piece of toile from her furnishings
and write a few notes.

"This bit of chintz 
1st Sophronia Stone
2nd William Stone Leete
3rd Adaline Leete ?
Original frame from ?? Grandma Leete's Vernon house where I saw it as a child "

This Leete memorabilia is for sale in Glee Krueger's online shop:
Perhaps someone should buy it and donate it to the Potsdam Public Museum.

The Potsdam Public Museum has several quilts in their
online catalog. Here's an unfinished top (1880-1910?) is an unusual applique
with typical New York style linking the blocks in a secondary pattern .

Read more about the Oneida Community Best Quilt here:

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Civil War Quilt from the Dutch Fork?


An album sampler from Newberry County,
South Carolina, documented in the South Carolina project in 1984.

James Adam Rikard (1845-1930)

The woman who brought it in (she lived to be 102) believed it to have been made by a group of women for "Adam Rikard and was carried into the Civil War." She had a note with the names of the signers. But we don't have access to that so all we can guess is that Adam Rikard, J.A.R., was indeed James Adam Rikard of Newberry County who enlisted in Company F of the 20th South Carolina Infantry Regiment.

When the war ended James Adam was just 19.
He couldn't have served for more than a year or two.

Many of the blocks are conventional patterns such as rose wreaths,
fleur-de-lis and cherries arranged in a group of four.

But others are rather, shall we say, organic.
Is this a Christmas cactus?

South Carolina's McKissick Museum owns a sampler with
a similar cactus and an identical red and green star wreath.
From the Edgefield District, about 50 miles south.

The Rikard quilt with its striped border.

A floral that looks to be chrome orange, a dark blue
or teal and a red fading to pinkish-brown.

It is interesting that the fabrics in the blocks all appear to be solids and that some of them are losing color as in that pinkish brown above, which might be a late-19th-century synthetic dye called Congo red that faded just like that. Many of the former reds are pinkish-brown today.

Expensive Turkey red cottons stayed true;
cheaper Congo reds faded to browns and pinkish tans.

Which makes me think that the quilt could not have been made in the early 1860s and did not go to war. Another clue to a later date is in the culture of Newberry County and the places the Rikards lived like Pomaria, Prosperity and Newberry, which are in an area called the Dutch Fork, settled by many Germans.

Town of Newberry, the county seat, about 1900

The Dutch Fork

The Rikards or Rickards were of German descent. When Laurel Horton analyzed quilts in the Dutch Fork region for the South Carolina quilt project she was disappointed to find, "Nearly all the quilts surveyed dated from the late 19th or early 20th century, none from the first half of the 19th."

The German-Americans made their beds in completely different fashion from neighbors of British descent until later in the century. 

Typical feather bed cover in the Landis Valley Museum
in Pennsylvania.

Plantation owner Anna Calhoun Clemson who lived in the area remarked on the bedding style of a German couple she hired as live-in servants after the Civil War. They slept under a feather bed, appearing to have a mattress below them and one above.

Laurel found that the Dutch Fork families adapted Anglo-American bedding style about 1880 and began making quilts. One Rikard who made quilts was James Adam's wife Mary Lillus Summer Rikard.

This unusual quilt was also found in Newberry County,
attributed to Mary Summer Rickard (spelled with a c.)
Mary was born in 1850 and lived till 1921.
This quilt descended through Mary and Adam's daughter Addie.

Regional pattern in calicos with a chintz-scale border.
South Carolina style. The documenters and family thought
it made about 1870.

Mary is the likely maker of James Adam's sampler album too.
She was about 12 when the Civil War began.

The 1860 census shows Mary Summer at 11 living with her parents, who
were probably not German-Americans. Her sister has the
wonderful name of California Summer.

So here we have two quilts probably by the same woman, whose
descendants spelled her name differently. One wonders if Mary made others.

For more about this regional Southern pattern see this post:

Marys grave:

Laurel Horton wrote about Dutch Fork: “Textile Traditions in South Carolina’s Dutch Fork,” in Bits and Pieces: Textile Traditions, editor Jeannette Lasansky (Lewisburg, PA: Oral Traditions, 1991), 72-79.