Saturday, August 7, 2021

Mattie McCaslan Lindsay's "Civil War Quilts"


Quilt in a regional Carolina pattern by Martha Clark McCaslin (McCaslan) Lindsay. 
South Carolina project & the Quilt Index

Martha Clark Lindsay 1842-1920
Read more about the pattern at this post:

The inscription in ink on the reverse:
"A.B.C. Lindsay No 8
Presented by his wife"

That may be a date between the lines in the scroll. "186?" thought the documenters at the South Carolina project. The dark fabric appears to be a generic dot on a green background (the documenters tell us it's green) not too useful for dating. I'd guess, however that the quilt is later than the 1860s, maybe the 1870s or beyond.

Abbeville is the county seat of Abbeville County

Martha Clark McCaslan was in her late teens when the Civil War began, the youngest of seven children of Susanna Clark Foster and Presbyterian Elder Moses Oliver McCaslan. She was born in Calhoun Falls, Abbeville County, South Carolina. 

Calhoun Falls was named after the famous family
of John Calhoun who'd been born in Abbeville County in 1782.

Mattie's only brother Captain Robert Foster McCaslan was a member of  Co. H, 19th South Carolina Infantry Regiment, Manigault's Brigade, which must have caused her much anxiety as his obituary noted he'd been through many "trying battles." One estimate is that half of Abbeville's men were killed in the war but Robert survived as did her future husband Private A.B. Calvin Lindsay of Carolina's 7th Regiment.

Their marriage took place on March 27, 1864.

The Lindsay Bell house in the town of Due West is said to
have been built for Mattie's husband Calvin Lindsay (1839-1910)
by his prosperous father.

When Calvin returned he put his medical training to use as a dentist. They had no children but adopted Addie Lowry and nephew William Lindsay Wilson. (Her obituary tells us there were three of her sister's orphans.)

Calvin's father was active in the founding of Presbyterian school Erskine College in 1839 in the town of Due West.

Erksine College

Mattie and her family were competitors in the local agricultural fairs. In 1873 she won $20 for her display of 31 handmade articles at the county fair, including patchwork.

The same year she won a prize for a quilt at the state fair, perhaps
for the green and white quilt at the top of the page.

In 1878 she won $2 for a "mosaic quilt."

Grandniece Dr. Maryland Wilson Shytles (1916-2007) brought six of Mattie's quilts for documentation in the South Carolina project in 1984. She'd inherited them through her grandfather W. Lindsay Wilson. 

Dr. Shytles was a professor of communication.

She told documenters the family tale about the appliqued quilt, which was stitched:
 "while her husband served in the Confederate army. Family stories say she was possessed of much nervous energy and could never sit a moment without her fingers flying as she worked on some project." (See Fair account above: 31 items.)

The other five quilts are easier to date as they have many prints or the style is a good clue.

Three are pieced with the claret red so popular after 1890.

Maryland Shytles believed this star to have been made during the Civil War
but the black ground cotton prints are a good clue to about 1900.

A four-patch that may be from the teens

The same period when the wool rectangles quilt was likely made.
Family memory:
"There was a little store on her parents' plantation, where orders were taken for men's suits. This quilt is made from the swatches in the sample books used in taking orders for the suits."
Maryland may be thinking this is a Civil-War-era quilt but the embroidered suit sample style was definitely popular in the early 20th century and not before. At least two of her six quilts had an inscription on the reverse:

The appliqued quilt was No. 8 with her husband's name.
"Presented by his wife."

The star was numbered 2. Why and when these were inked is a mystery.

The ever-busy Mattie must have made many quilts over her nearly 80 years of life. The pieced quilts recorded look to have been from her last years before she died in 1920--- not the mosaic quilt that won a prize in 1878.

 In fact they are not prize-winning quality at all but rather utilitarian bedcovers very typical of the times. Her great-grandniece believed that some were made during the war but like most of the "Civil War Quilts" story there is no basis in the material evidence. Other family members may have inherited the earlier quilts.

The town of Abbeville claims the war started and ended there. Its reputation as the “Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy” is based on a May 2, 1865 visit by fleeing Confederate president Jefferson Davis who is reported to have dissolved his government at the town's Burt-Stark mansion. Mattie Lindsay at 23 is supposed to have served a meal to the Davises at her father-in-law's home on that visit.

July, 1920

1 comment:

Jerilea Hendrick said...

I've been curious about signatures on historic quilts. At the time women were prolific needle artists. How come quilters didn't make more use of embroidering their labels and such instead of using ink? I prefer to embroider labels but will write the info in a pinch.