Saturday, October 30, 2021

Small Mysteries: Lincoln Rail Fence Quilt

What we'd call a Rail Fence pattern, early 20th-c?

October 25, 1878, Paw Paw, Michigan
The True Northerner

At Michigan's Van Buren County Fair in 1878 Mrs. Joseph Dodge won a quarter for her "Lincoln rail fence quilt." One mystery is what the quilt looked like. Was it the same design we think of when we say Fence Rail as at the top of page and below?

I have my doubts. Mainly because all the quilts in my picture file that look like this strip arrangement seem to date after 1890.

The front

The back

It seems more likely that Mrs. Dodge's quilt was what we'd call a Log Cabin, strips arranged in concentric squares like Susan Messenger's 1876 quilt. We have many published and other written refences to Log cabin quilts in the 1870s but the Michigan reference is so far the only Rail Fence reference I've found. I'm guessing her quilt in our view would be a Lincoln Log Cabin to and not a Lincoln Rail Fence.

Interesting that there is not one "Lincoln Log Cabin" reference in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns describing a geometric log cabin design. Hearth & Home magazine in the early 20th-century published the name Lincoln's Cabin Home for what we'd call a Schoolhouse---not the same thing at all.

There are many newspaper references to Log Cabin quilts beginning in the 1860s but I have not yet found that combination: Lincoln Log Cabin.

We associate the popular pattern with Abraham Lincoln and we just take for granted it's a Lincoln Log Cabin. 

Lincoln Logs
One of my favorite toys in the 1950s.

But log cabins had other associations.

Rail Fence, early 20th century
No mysteries solved.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ladies' Aid Album #8 : Social Butterflies in Westchester County


#8 Social Butterfly by Barbara Schaffer
A block for the ladies of Sing Sing, New York and their
 Union Relief Association, which sent 9,000 
garments to clothe Union soldiers and raised $3800.

When looking at women's work during the Civil War it's relatively easy to track women at the top of the social pyramid. For example, accounts of  the Ladies' Union Relief Association in the town of Sing Sing, Westchester County, New York often let us know just who is in charge.

"Ladies' Union Relief Association.
At a meeting of the Ladies' Union Relief Association, of Sing Sing, held August 14th...The meetings will be held as usual every Friday at 4 p. m., at the Franklin Academy. Donations of Jelly and Pickles are particularly requested. 
The Managers have received an urgent call from Memphis for books and magazines, the library consisting only of a few testaments, and some old newspapers, they hope sufficient reading matter will be sent in to enable them to send off a box without delay. 
By order,
Secretary and Treasurer"

Catherine Elizabeth Beck Van Cortlandt (1818-1895)
in the 1840s when she was in her twenties.
 She married into a wealthy old Dutch family in 1836.

Social Butterfly by Becky Brown in Ladies' Legacy repro prints.

One cannot fault the ladies for asking Catherine Beck Van Cortlandt to assume a prominent perch in their hierarchy. If she belonged it must be a genteel organization and joining would give a social climber the opportunity to hobnob with society every Friday afternoon---to say nothing of Mrs. VC's personal fortune as a fundraising backup.

One can visit Catherine's home Van Cortlandt Manor in what is now Croton-on-Hudson, the house built by her husband Pierre Van Cortlandt III's family as early as the 1730s. Their money came from land. The early American Van Cortlandts received a Dutch grant of 86,000 acres of Hudson River real estate,
which they farmed with slaves until the state abolished slavery in the early 19th century.

Ossining, about 1910

Now you may recognize the name Sing Sing and have a hard time imagining any upper crust in a prison town. The residents noticed that problem themselves and changed the town's name to Ossining in 1901.
Social Butterfly by Denniele Bohannon

Finding out information about the dozens of other Westchester County women who worked for the Ladies' Union Relief Association---or for that matter any middle or working class women there--- is more difficult unless someone might have by chance left some paper records, such as the will and inventory left by Phebe Hine of New Rochelle, who died in 1864.

Phebe was a dressmaker who probably owned a shop. Her executor Eliza Osborne wrote pages and pages listing Phebe's belongings, e.g. 2,000 Needles $5; 9-1/2 Thousand Needles $19. The whole estate, all of it needlework related, was worth almost $11,000. 

48-3/4 yd Blk Calico @ 20 $9.75
Her inventory mostly includes higher quality goods than the cottons we'd see in quilts.

Phebe's obituary in the New York Times, 1864
That's "74th year of her age."

See the pages of Phebe's inventory and will here at the Westchester Historical Society.

Social Butterfly by Robyn Revelle Gragg

Nancy Burns (1800-1849)
Portrait by Ferdinand Boyle
Collection of the American Museum in Britain

Another Sing Sing resident's story (and her headscarf---a replica?) are preserved in this portrait of Nancy Burns who was born a slave in Albany to Catherine's Beck family and after being freed remained with Catherine at Van Cortland Manor the rest of her life. When Nancy died over a decade before the war Catherine commissioned this watercolor. As Catherine's mother died when she was five, Nancy may have been the woman who raised her. 

Phebe and Nancy were obviously not social butterflies, and neither was Lucinda Ward Honstain, born in Sing Sing, a Manhattan "tailoress" when she stitched her amazing New York album quilt in 1867.

Lucinda scattered butterflies throughout her blocks.

Although rooted in New York applique fashion, Lucinda's quilt is extraordinary. We've used one of her butterflies to recall the upper class. (Probably should have found a worker bee for the working women.)

Album quilt by Lucinda Honstain who lived in Brooklyn in 1867
International Quilt Museum

The Block
A butterfly of Prussian blue rainbow stripe

Sampler dated 1851, New York project & the Quilt Index.

The pair of trees: Another New York favorite 

Blocks from a quilt attributed to Sarah Ann Wilson, 1854, Westchester County
Art Institute of Chicago

Social Butterfly by Barbara Brackman

Butterflies or moths (lepidopterans) on an embroidered sampler
 By Mary Lynn, 1834, Massachusetts.
 Philadelphia Museum of Art

Many of the conventional patterns in album appliques are also seen in earlier samplers.

Giant Lepidoptera in a block by Lucinda Honstain

And to prove my point that it's easier to find out about rich women than others, here's a post on Catherine's recipe book and her pumpkin dumplings.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Rachel Teaches an 8-year-old to Piece Hexagons

Quilt begun when Sarah Winifred Cobb Phelps (1842-1917)
was about 8 years old in 1850, Kentucky.

Colonial Williamsburg is showing this recent acquisition in a new exhibit The Art of the Quilter in their Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, a 3-year rotation of 12 quilts each year from the collection.


Sallie Cobb's teacher was her African-American nurse Rachel according
to a note once stitched to this quilt.

Sarah's daughter Katherine Phelps Caperton attached the 1934 note:
"Quilt pieced by my Mother, Mrs. Thos. Phelps (Sarah Winifred Cobb, 1842-1917) when eight years of age, under the direction of Rachel, the slave of her father's family who presided over the nursery for two generations at 'Cobb Hill' - and to whom my mother was very devoted.
May 17th, 1934
90 years old [the quilt]
Date of this quilt. 1850 -"

Katherine Phelps Caperton (1866-1945)
about 1900

Amberley, Katherine's last Richmond home, still stands on Main Street.

Sarah Cobb Phelps's memory of Rachel was recorded by Katherine on "March 29, 1917 in her room at 'Blair Park', age 74 years and 3 months...when reminiscing as elderly people are want to do."
"Among the slaves inherited by my father was Aunt Rachel, who had been brought out from North Carolina by Jesse Cobb, Sr., having belonged to his family there. Aunt Rachel nursed all of the children of Jesse Cobb and his wife, Edith Oldham, including my father Richard Cobb, Sr., the youngest. She kept house for my father at Cobb Hill from the death of his father and mother in 1836, until his marriage in 1842, and lived to nurse all of his children, except the last."
Blair Park in Richmond, Sallie's last home, also
still standing.

Did Rachel ever pose with one of her charges
like this anonymous woman?

That last child, the one who missed out on Rachel's care, must be Richard Oldham Cobb II born in 1860. Seventy years of child care! Enslaved girls were often set to caring for children when they were children themselves. We might guess she began with twins (?) Milly & Elizabeth born in 1792 so Rachel could have been born about 1780 and died in the late 1850s when Sarah was an adolescent and the last girl Henrietta a baby.

Rachel also was recalled as housekeeper in the 1830s and '40s at Cobb Hill while the the senior Richard Cobb's orphaned children were growing, going out on their own and raising their own children at Cobb Hill. As Rachel aged she went to live with a daughter in Estill County after the house was sold. She died at her daughter's, probably in the 1850s.

The well-worn quilt is pieced of several cottons an 8-year-old girl like Sarah
might have worn in the 1840s' and '50s. Was that brownish plaid once a pretty lilac?

Those inexpensive purples were prone to turn tan over time.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Sophia Kenner Seaman #2: Her Civil War

Last week we looked at Sophia Kenner Seaman's quilt,
using clues in pattern, style and fabric to date it as about 1900.

I'm posting details today of other Chips & Whetstones based on five.
This one from North Carolina looks early-20th century.

Sophia's life story has a few inaccuracies in the family memory but we're lucky to have so much information about her and her life in Arkansas and Missouri during the Civil War. The purpose of this
blog is to illuminate women's lives using their textiles and she is a perfect subject. With today's genealogy and digital records we can find much about her.

Some records indicate she was born in the Arkansas Territory in 1823 but her siblings, older and younger, were born in Tennessee to Dorcas Buram & Colonel (that's his given name) Kenner. Her obituary tells us she was born in Hawkins County, eastern Tennessee up by the Virginia line. In 1832 the family went west to Carroll County, Arkansas Territory near the Missouri border, settling in Osage, named for the native tribe who were forced to leave at the time.

The 1850 Arkansas census found Sophia living in Huntsville in Madison County
about 25 miles southwest of Osage with her husband Dr. John Frank Seaman
 (known as Frank) a New Yorker, daughter Sophia and baby John.

Brother Samuel and his wife Matilda Kenner lived next door in 1850.
 Samuel was a dry goods merchant and politician.

This quilt may be the oldest example of a 5-pointed version in my files, 
but red & green is hard to date. Look at the way it's pieced into a circular repeat.
Examples after 1880 or '90 are usually pieced
into square blocks.

Son John grew up to merit a biography in A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region where we find out more about father Frank, who was born in Saratoga County in 1812 and became a driver on the Erie Canal as a young man.

I imagine the "driver" drove the horses and mules that
pulled the flat boats on the canal.

Frank then became a Methodist-Episcopal minister, missionary to native tribes, which is how he wound up in Arkansas in 1838 or so. He studied medicine in Huntsville and practiced for a few years. Being a doctor was not often a profitable occupation at the time so he became a merchant in Carrollton. He married Sophia on August 18, 1846.

1860 Census

The year before the Civil War began, Frank and Sophia were living in Carrollton with three children, one-year-old Charity and her older sister and brother. Frank is listed as an M.D. and a Mercht and an M.E. ? (Methodist-Episcopal Minister). He owned substantial property: $4,250 in real estate and $7,777 in other property, investments, I guessed, not likely to be slaves as Frank soon joined the Union Army.

But I was wrong. The 1860 census schedule of slaves lists John Seaman as owning one unnamed 11-year-old boy. (Always have to corroborate!)

Oregon project saw this from the Schiller family. Fading green
 a good clue to after 1880 and probably after 1900.

According to a Carroll County history, "When the Civil War began, most Carroll County residents sided with the Confederacy and voted for secession." But then another tells us, "Public sentiment at the opening of the Civil War was almost unanimously opposed to secession." Son John's biography tells us that Frank Seaman remained in Arkansas "until 1862, when, on account of his Union sentiments, it became unpleasant for him and he moved to Lawrence County, Missouri." That seems a nice gloss on terrible times.

We learn more from Sophia's story:
Like the county the Kenner family was torn. Sophia's brothers Samuel and James Wick Kenner were Confederates, Samuel in the 31st Texas Cavalry; Wick in Missourian Jo Shelby's troops. Husband Frank joined the Union Army. Few records of his military career remain.

Carrollton was poorly positioned: too close to Union Missouri and Kansas that could send troops to corral and intimidate Confederate guerillas, regular troops and sympathizers. A local history tells us that 3,000 Kansas troops under General James Blunt camped near town in the spring of 1863. "It cannot be said that this visitation is remembered with gratitude by the people of the vicinity."

Everybody tiptoes around Carrollton's Civil War history. Partisanship and revenge must have been so divisive no one wanted to talk about decades later. The Seaman's house was burned but it seems the whole town was destroyed. "By the end of the war, all of the town’s buildings, excluding two stables, had been burned."

Kansan Samuel Reeder recorded Kansas troops raiding in Texas.
Kansas Museum of History

Realizing the hopeless, dangerous situation in northwest Arkansas Sophia packed her children and what was left of her belongings and headed to Missouri. When she got as far as the James River in the Missouri Ozarks she encountered James H. Berry (1841-1913) a young Confederate soldier from Carrolton who'd lost a leg at the Battle of Corinth. She indicates they did some kind of real estate trade, land in Missouri for land in Carrolton. 

Frank Seaman, probably putting his family first, deserted the Union Army and they settled near the Ozarks town of Aurora where they farmed in an area called Buck Prairie, eventually moving to town---Marionville in Lawrence County, south west of Springfield. Eldest son John F. Seaman II joined the Union's 46th Missouri when he was 17.

Carol Butzge's collection. Use of a dotted shirting print
for the neutral indicates date after 1870.

1870 Census
Sophia gave birth to her last child Emma about 1868 in Lawrence County. 
Father Frank had died suddenly just a few months before the 1870
 census at 55. Doty (a boy) was 9, listed as a girl here.

The Chips & Whetstones quilt was probably made in Lawrence
County, Missouri about 1900. Sophia lived about 40 years there dying in
her late 70s in 1903, shortly after breaking her hip.

Sophia's 5-pointed Chips & Whetstones. The blacks and grays
in this quilt indicate a date after 1890 and into the 20th century.

Sophia's obituary October, 1903

Rhoda Ana Brookshire McKinney
Angelina County, Texas. East Texas Digital Archives
Rhoda's choices, light cadet blue and wine colored
red were fashionable from about 1890 - 1930.

So looking at the files of 5-pointed Chips & Whetstones it would
seem to be a pattern popular with Southerners after 1880---
1890, 1900.

Arkansas Made

Sophia's grave in Lawrence County, Missouri
    Note her daughters died in the 1890s.

Sophia's mother grave in Arkansas: Dorcas Kenner 1788-1857

Letters from Sophia's brother Samuel Eskridge Kenner at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies: