Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Hands All Around #11: Indian Star for Alf Whitman

Hands All Around #11: Indian Star by Pat Styring
This was once #7 but I switched the order.

Indian Star can represent Alf Whitman who left his friends in Concord, Massachusetts to settle a little west of the Shawnee tribe's land in what had just recently been Indian country, the new Kansas Territory.
Alfred Whitman (1841-1907)

In the fall of 1857 Alf's father Edmund Burke Whitman (named for an Irish political philosopher) had enrolled his 15-year old son in Franklin Sanborn's secondary school in Concord. Alf's mother had died leaving E.B. Whitman with four children. He went west with a new wife and younger children, leaving Alf to board at the Pratt farm (Pickle Roost the boarders called it) near Punkachusetts Hill, where he became a "favored friend" of the Alcott family.

Concord's Town Hall in the 1870s

In his memoir of Concord Thirty Years Ago another Sanborn boarder Frank Preston Stearns recalled that the Alcotts "received" friends on Monday evenings in the rooms they rented, a half a house on Bedford Road near the town hall, while they readied the old house that would become Orchard House.

 "Favored youths from Mr. Sanborn's school would go to there to play whist, make poker-sketches and talk with the ladies." 

Illustration by Frank T. Merrill
Laurie hiding in a closet on the ragbag at the Marches.

Whist was a popular card game much like Bridge and poker-sketches were drawings on wood incised with a red hot poker---an art May enjoyed.

One scholar would play chess with Abba and "Louisa usually sat by the fire-place knitting rapidly with an open book in her lap... 

Clara Miller Burd's illustration of Jo reading and knitting
for a 1926 version of Little Women

"Just after ten Mr. Alcott would come in with a dish of handsome apples and his wife produce some ginger cakes." 

Indian Star by Janet Perkins

John Brown's daughter Anne boarded at the Alcotts while attending the Sanborn School.

"[Mrs. Alcott] had a theory, and she practiced it too, that it is the duty of every mother in the land to invite a few young men to spend their evenings at their home, and so fill them with quite rational amusements that it would draw the young men away from bad places."
Indian Star by Becky Brown 

During the year he spent in Concord Alf formed close friendships with Louisa, her sisters and the Pratts: John, Frederick, Carrie and Theodore. John Pratt was courting Anna who loved the theater in those months. Amateur theatricals were an important part of their social life. Alf and Louisa never forgot their turn playing the married Tetterbys in a production of Charles Dickens's The Haunted Man (precursor to A Christmas Carol) for the Sanborn School.

Lu played Sophie Tetterby & Alf, Dolphus, names they used for each other 
the rest of their lives.

Edward Emerson remembered the dances at the Sanborn school:
"Every other week we could have a dance...the music furnished for a trifling fee by the odd and gifted ex-turnkey of the country jail, who played by ear, calling the figures smartly...Portland Fancy, Steamboat Quickstep, All the Way to Boston...."

"So close was this friendship, and so hearty and genuine the way in which I was taken into companionship by these gifted people [most ten years older than he]. Concord the only place that I think of as home. It is hard for me now to realize that I lived in Concord not quite one year." Alfred Whitman
Illustration by Frank T. Merrill

Louisa, Anna, John Pratt and May wrote to Alf for decades after that year. Alf saved the letters, now at Harvard's Houghton Library where most of them are available online.

March family theatrical by Frank T. Merrill

Indian Star by Denniele Bohannon

E.B. Whitman published this 1856 map of Kansas Territory
showing the reservations assigned to the tribes driven from
the east into the short lived Indian Territory.

Alf moved west to my town, Lawrence, Kansas.

1860 census showing Edmund B. Whitman, his
third wife and children including 17-year-old Alf 
living on a farm in Douglas County a few miles from Lawrence.

Alexander Gardner photograph from Mount Oread, 1867

The Whitmans farmed in the Wakarusa Valley south of Lawrence. 
If there were no trees today this would be the view from Mount Oread.

The Whitmans went to Kansas to fight for abolition. Settlers in the new Territory would decide: Free or slave. E.B. Whitman intended to cast a vote for freedom. He did much else (some of it shadowy) to advocate antislavery settlement here in the years of the Kansas Troubles. When the Civil War commenced he became a quartermaster and Alf assisted him.

Edmund Burke Whitman (1812-1883)

After Appomattox E.B. was appointed Superintendent of National Cemeteries, deciding on locations for soldiers' graveyards and Alf again was his clerk. Alf's occupations included teaching, cattle driving, insurance and real estate. In 1867 he married Mary Brown, another Lawrence pioneer. Among their five children John Pratt Whitman and Waldo Whitman recalled connections to Concord.

They raised their children in Kentucky and when Alf retired in 1883 returned to Lawrence.

 In 1888 Alf founded Lawrence's Associated Charities (now the Social Service League) where I volunteered for several years and discovered his connection to the Alcotts. 

Laurie & Jo in Little Women

Alf's most important connection to the Alcotts is his transformation into the March girls' neighbor Laurie. Laurie is a fictional composite of at least two men close to Louisa May Alcott. 

Alf from his 1907 obituary

An Acrostic based on the letters in your name was a
thoughtful gift from a literate friend.

Indian Star by Addison
It's BlockBase #2155
(Note: This is pattern #7 if you have the full pattern PDF. I switched #11 and #7.)

The Block

The name recalling the Indian Territory in Kansas was published in the 
Kansas City Star in 1937. A Missourian named it Indian Star. Did
she see arrow heads in it?

Another shading as "The Winged Four-Patch" from the Star's
Weekly Star Farmer.

You need:
8 A squares
4 B triangles
4 C triangles

8” Block (2” Grid)
A—Cut 4 squares 2-1/2”
B—Cut 1 square 5-1/4”. Cut into 4 triangles with two diagonal cuts.

C—Cut 2 squares 2-7/8”. Cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut.

12” Block (3” Grid)

16” Block (4” Grid)


Ladies' Legacy prints

 Western Star Set

This month's set is a variation of  #6 set Lucky Star with the blocks on point. You need 12 sampler blocks and 6 alternate blocks of a smaller star.

Alternate blocks of smaller stars

8" blocks will give you a quilt approximately 34" x 45"
12" = 51" x 68"
16" = 68 x 91

See the June post for the pattern for the smaller star.
Scroll down to the bottom.

The edge & corner triangles:
I consulted the All People Quilt chart from American Patchwork & Quilting here:

For the edge triangles:

Cut 3 squares
8" = 12-5/8"
12" = 18-1/4"
16" =  23-7/8"
Cut into four triangles with 2 diagonals cuts.
You need 10 triangles.
For the Corner Triangles:
Cut 2 squares
8" = 6-5/8"
12" = 9-3/8"
16" = 12-1/4"
Cut into two triangles with one diagonal cut.

Further Reading:
See Susan W. Bailey's post on Whitmans & Alcotts at LouisaMayAlcottisMyPassion:
Susan includes a link to a Ladies' Home Journal article with letters from Louisa to Alf.

(Wrong novel)

Denniele's top is done and at the long-armers.
One more block to go!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Barbara,
I read with great interest your blog on Alfred Whitman. Can you tell me in exactly which obituary you found the photograph of Whitman? I am working on a book of the Alcott letters to Whitman, and would love to use this photograph in the book. Would you possibly be able to send me a copy of the photo? Thanks for your help!
Lis Adams