Saturday, August 28, 2021

Family Quilts North & South

Paper templates dated 1813 and 19.....

The University of Rhode Island has a treasure for textile historians in their Cushman Collection, a donation of three paper-pieced hexagon quilt tops plus 500 other items from a Rhode Island family, children of Emily Williams & William Jenkins Harris of Providence.

The Cushman siblings. 

The donation began as trunks packed for Susan McPherson Sibley William Crouch in South Carolina about 1837 when she returned to her childhood home in Rhode Island after husband Hasell Wilkinson Crouch died. 

Photos are all from the University of Rhode Island.
See links below.

The contents, reportedly undisturbed for 80 years until 1917, must have held bittersweet memories for Susan who lost her 2-year-old son to a head injury in May, 1836 and then her 28-year-old doctor husband to yellow fever the day after Christmas. She soon left Charleston with baby Emily Hasell Crouch (1836-1926) for Providence Rhode Island, living with her parents until their deaths during the Civil War. 

The family home at 102 George Street, Providence
Built in 1795, the house was torn down between 1917 & 1925.

The 1880 census shows Susan and Emily in the family home running a boarding house
for (Brown University?) students on George Street in a neighborhood of women.
 Irish-born servant Mary McGee also lives with them. Emily was a drawing teacher; 
several of her watercolors are in the Cushman Collection.

Center of Quilt Top #149

The three quilt tops, as you can see from the papers at the top of the page,
were a work in progress, what we might call a multi-generational quilt.

The trunks contained a partially-finished top hexagon mosaic top and the fabric that Susan planned to use to complete her quilt. (And probably rosette blocks). Her younger relatives, particularly great-nephew Franklin Cushman, reworked the original hexagon top, creating three tops of old and new stitchery. Dates on the paper templates: 1775 - 1940.


Susan and Hasell married on October 11, 1832, and this is considered the occasion for which Susan began the original top. Charleston native Hasell graduated from Rhode Island's Brown University where he must have met Susan and her brothers. After he earned a medical degree at the University of South Carolina, he returned to Rhode Island to marry Susan.

 Hasell is said to have helped with
design and piecing in South Carolina.

Franklin R. Cushman (1870-1952) of the younger generation taught
history and industrial design. He made scrapbooks with notations
from the family collection and donated those along with the three tops he'd
reworked, garments, etc. to URI.

Franklin added other fabrics to his collection.

The abundance of pre-1837 fabrics in the trunk is amazing. Like many quiltmakers, the original stitcher Susan Crouch had family in the fabric business. Her father Jason Williams (1774-1863) was in the oceanic shipping trade for a short time and a Rhode Island merchant. The fabric must also reflect Charleston's spot as a leading port for English cotton prints.


We don't know what Susan and Hasell planned for their mosaic design as the top has been re-stitched, but the choice of a paper-template mosaic is typical of Charleston at the time. Notes on the collection refer to quilt historian Laurel Horton's observation that early-19th-century Charlestonians from “families of wealth, education and influence” favored the design. In the Cushman collection are letters telling of Susan Crouch's Charleston sisters-in-laws working on similar needlework (and probably exchanging prints.)


This top has later papers behind the hexagons and is thought
to have been continued into the 1930s.

#150 center

The Cushman textiles in context offer many opportunities to look at history. The University's Textile Department and graduate Rachel May have viewed Susan Williams Crouch's life North and South from the perspective of the slavery she lived with in Charleston and the New England cotton trade's "unholy union of the Lord of the Lash and the Lord of the Loom" as Charles Sumner termed it.


A search for Cushman in the URI Textile Collection:

URI Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design Forum & 2018 exhibit inspired by Rachel May’s book ‘An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery.’  
Forum: Tales of North and South in Antebellum America: A Complicated Web

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery, 2018.
"May envisions the world of the urban enslaved women owned by the Cushman ancestors in Charleston, South Carolina, and explores the oft-silenced connections and economic benefits of slavery to [northerners.]"

Rachel May & Linda Welters, The Cushman Quilt Tops: A Tale of North and South:

Hasell W. Crouch's grave:

Susan Williamson Crouch's grave:

Quilt Index Files for the three tops:

Susan never remarried. Her 1902
death certificate from FamilySearch.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Ladies' Aid Album #6: Calico Cats & A Calico Ball


Block #6 Calico Cat by Barbara Schaffer

International Quilt Museum
One of two cats in a quilt dated 1867 by Lucinda Honstain
of Brooklyn, New York.

Calico cats can remind us of Calico Balls, a Civil War fundraiser. The idea was that women came in cotton dresses, thereby saving money that would have been spent on finery, money that then might be donated to the cause.

In 1862 African-American women of New York hosted a Grand Calico Dress Ball in Mozart Hall on Broadway to benefit refugees in Beaufort, South Carolina, recently occupied by Union troops after white citizens had abandoned their homes and their enslaved people.

"Contraband people," the abandoned "property" of the South in
coastal South Carolina were hungry and dressed in rags.

Timothy O'Sullivan photo of the newly free people of  Beaufort

#6 Calico Cat by Becky Brown

Ella Forbes in African American Women During the Civil War tells us they raised $156 plus clothing sent "direct to the contrabands, who must know that they have friends of their own race at the North." The committee include Miss C. Bruce and the Mrs. C. Hopewell, J.H. Jackson, E. Odell, E. Parker, L.Shad & P. Williams.

Mozart Hall

Calico balls were all the rage for fun and profit (to be donated.)

An invitation to an 1881 Calico Promenade in Watertown, New York
was printed on a polka-dot calico. Someone cut it
up for a log cabin quilt sold at Fourth Corner Antiques

The Block

Cat from a block signed Rozanne Evans,
Stella Rubin's inventory

This view of a cat was popular with mid-19th
century quiltmakers in New York & Connecticut.

Madison County Historical Society, Connecticut

Here's a spotted cat from a Connecticut tile quilt that Julie Silber showed
in Episode 6 of our Six Know-It-Alls show. 

The pattern for Ladies' Aid Album #6.

#6 Calico Cat by Bettina Havig

Manhattan's Broadway in 1861

Early-20th-century crazy quilt.
Bet it's from New York or Connecticut.

Another calico ball fundraiser two months later, note from the New York Times,
this one aiding soldiers' families.

See posts about cats on quilts:
And more on calico balls:

English reporter George Sala on a Civil-War-era  tour of the U.S. came across the Calico Ball phenomenon:
Molly Mogg was the subject of an 18th-century poem about
a lower class girl and the tragedy of love---the classic Cinderella tale ---
 part of the appeal of the calico ball.

Calico Cat by Denniele Bohannon

For Rebecca: The link to our Facebook group:

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Stuffed Quilts: Rhea County, Tennessee & Sisters in Law


Quilt attributed to Victoria Darwin Caldwell,
Rhea County, Tennessee
Estimated date: Late 1850s?

Victoria Darwin Caldwell (1839-1919)

Her stuffed and fringed Turkey Tracks quilt was documented
by Merikay Waldvogel, Bets Ramsey and the Tennessee quilt project
and pictured in their book
Southern Quilts: Surviving Relics of the Civil War 

Victoria's family brought her quilts in for documentation in 1985 and told the story
that this special quilt spent the Civil War years underneath the
floor boards in Victoria's house with other valuables.

It may have been her wedding quilt. She was married in 1859
when she was 21 to a rather wealthy man, Jonathan Moore Caldwell, 40,
a farmer who was also Rhea County Sheriff.
But then it might be later.

The 1850 slave schedule indicates Jonathan as a single man owned 3 adult and 3 minor slaves.

When the Civil War began Victoria had been married for two years but had no children. (She'd eventually have 12.) 

She lived in the northern part of Rhea County in rolling hills along the Piney River in a community now called Spring City, once known as Walnut Grove and Sulphur Spring. Much of her neighborhood was flooded by the Watts Barr Lake in the 1940s.

Spring City in 1910

Tennesseans had divided loyalties in the Civil War. Rhea County's were decidedly Confederate, raising 7 CSA companies and only one Union. Jonathan Caldwell served in Company B, 43rd Infantry Regiment CSA ("Piney Boys") under Captain Andrew J. Cawood. A popular man Jonathan was elected Lieutenant. They went off to defend Vicksburg, Mississippi, which fell to the Union in July, 1863. Captain Cawood was killed; the Regiment was captured and later exchanged. Their final posting was as escorts to Jefferson Davis in the last weeks of the war until his surrender in May, 1865 in Georgia.

During the war Victoria gave birth to her eldest child Audley Walter. After the war Jonathan operated a grist mill near Spring City. As noted Victoria had 11 more children.

The 1880 Census
Next door: two Black women, Manerva and Jane Caldwell.
Was 55 year-old Manerva one of the enslaved women listed on the 1850 schedule?

 In the 1880 census 9 are living at home. Catherine (Kitty) was a year old and Victoria was pregnant with Cecil. Edwin, the last, would be born in 1883.

Reunion of a 43rd Infantry Company

The Tennessee project saw a second stuffed quilt attributed to Victoria Caldwell, pictured in their book Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life.

The Feathered Star was shown the Tennessee
State Museum a few years ago.

Rhea County quilts are exceptional.
There was definitely something going on there after the War.
Although most stuffed work quilts date to 1860 or earlier
Merikay and Bets believe these to be from the 1870s and later.

Here's a second Rhea County feathered star, this one attributed to 
Adelia Gillespie Darwin (1839-1889)
of Evensville in Rhea County.

The slides have changed color over the years but this detail seems
to show the true shades. Is that a claret red?
Adelia was married to William Perry Darwin, Victoria Darwin's

1893 Darwin family reunion in Evensville at Adelia's house after her death.
 Is that her in the framed portrait?

We have noted the irony in a family of Darwins in Rhea County home to Dayton, Tennessee and the Scopes Trial denying free speech to a teacher of evolutionary theory. Some of the Rhea County  Darwins believed they were close cousins to Britain's Charles Darwin, but a little genealogy shows they were very distant cousins at most.
These feathered stars have a cousin found in a Cass County Missouri
documentation project. The mind gets boggled.
What was going on in Rhea County?
Did the sisters-in-law Victoria and Adelia make these quilts?
If not who did?

Read more about the Missouri quilts probably made in Rhea County at these posts: