Saturday, October 9, 2021

Sophia Kenner Seaman #1---Her Quilt

The great Facebook page Arkansas Made shows this classic Southern quilt attributed to Sophia Eskridge Kenner Seaman (1823-1903.) Their sources are the Quilt Index and Find-A-Grave. A family member brought it for documentation in the Arizona project and recorded family stories. Sophia's grave site tells us a little more about her life. 

A five-pointed Mariner's Compass. Maybe a better name would
be Chips & Whetstones.

Caption: "Sophia Eskridge Seaman (1823-1903) most likely made this Chips and Whetstone quilt prior to the start of the Civil War. According to family history, the quilt was made when she was in her 30s." Arkansas Made.
Colors in this block look to be a black (?), maybe a dark green solid,
a reddish taupe solid probably called oxblood brown at the time set into
square blocks with a dark blue solid, which the Quilt Index records
say is a wool, possibly hand loomed.

Family histories are always a good place to start (we're fortunate to have so much about this quilt) and we will see what we can do to corroborate family memory. Maybelle Taylor, the quilt's Arizona owner in 1988, was cousin to Sophia's grandson E.D. Seaman ( (1903-78). When he died she inherited the quilt, so her relationship to Sophia is rather distant.

We have the quilt for basic evidence. Clues to age in the fabrics and style tell us, however, that it is not from before the Civil War, from the 1860s or even the 1870s as the grays in several blocks are just not a cotton produced before about 1890.

We only have a photo for fabric evidence, but
it looks like the patches are cut from clothing scraps. 
The plaids above could be either cotton or wool.

Pattern and style are easily seen in photos, however. 
The unusual pattern seems to have been a favorite of Southern quiltmakers (even those living in Southern border states like Indiana and Missouri.) The center quilt is attributed to Elizabeth Jennie Roach Witherington & Lydia Chapman Roach with North Carolina family history indicating it was made about 1900, when this style the thing.

Style = bold blocks in complex patterns based on wheels, blocks set on the straight rather than the diagonal, strong primary colors particularly red (and red-brown), blue, gold and shades of green. Susan Brackney Clayton's great-great niece thought she pieced it in 1848 when she was 10. Susan (1848-1941), actually born in 1848, lived a long life and this quilt was probably made when she was closer to 60 (but Susan's is another story.)

From Susan's Find-A-Grave site
The quilt was probably made about the
time the photo was taken.

One more style characteristic in Sophia's quilt is the use of asymmetrical borders, in this case two different pieced borders but only on the top and bottom in the photo. The first border looks as if it is pieced of parts of 5-pointed stars. The bottom border may also be part of the binding (not typical.)

I hate to tell Arkansas Made that this knock-out quilt was not made in
Arkansas before 1860 but is a Missouri quilt from about 1900. Next week more
about Sophia Seaman's life in both states and her Civil War experiences.

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