Saturday, May 14, 2022

Another Quilt Stolen & Rescued

The United Daughters of the Confederacy organization in
 Franklin, Tennessee in 1900.

Veterans from the Union and the Confederacy supported periodicals catering to their interests in the late 19th and early 20th century. We've discussed the Union paper The National Tribune that printed wartime memories. 

The Southern equivalent was The Confederate Veteran published from 1893 and 1932. A search for quilt brings up some stories.

Here we have an account of a Confederate soldier confiscating a bundle of bedding from a Yankee lieutenant and returning a quilt to a pretty lady who claimed it was her Cousin Jane's quilt. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the pretty lady: I'd have told him anything to get that quilt in the last days of the Civil War in Virginia.

1894, some Birmingham beauties.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

American Stars #5: The Allstons: Mariner's Compass


Block # 5 Mariner's Compass by Becky Brown
Mariner's Compass recalls a Southern family, the Alstons who lived near the Atlantic.

Charleston, South Carolina under siege in 1780 by Alonzo Chappell

The Revolutionary War came close to home for the (Alstons) Allstons of Georgetown, South Carolina in fall 1780 when a skirmish took place near their plantations on the Waccamaw River. The British controlled the area but Colonel Francis Marion of the Continental rebels wanted local supplies and hoped a victory would inspire more revolutionary loyalty in the neighborhood.

Georgetown County north of Charleston on the Atlantic.

"Many of my people has left me & gone over to the Enemy, for they think we have no army coming in & have been Deceived, as we hear nothing from you in a great while...." Francis Marion to his commander.

During the short encounter Marion lost his nephew and the battle to the British. 

Several family plantations were on the Waccamaw Neck
between the river and the coast.

The Allston men may have been off fighting their own battles. John Allston (1741-1795) headed a small band known as the Raccoon Company of fifty Native American rebels from the Catawba tribes. They secured Sullivan's Island in Charleston's harbor for the Americans.

John's son William Alston (1756-1839) who spelled the surname with a single L, also served with Francis Marion, a relative through marriage. (Figuring out any Alston/Allston genealogy is a challenge worth trying as they are an interesting family.)

Mariner's Compass by Denniele Bohannon

After the war William built Clifton Plantation and became so rich he was known as King Billy. President George Washington visited Clifton in 1791, impressed by the estate:
"Large, new and elegantly furnished. It stands on a sand hill, high for this country, with his rice fields below, the contrast of which with the lands bank of it, and the sand and piney barrens through which we passed, is scarcely to be believed."
Theodosia Burr Alston (1783-1813) & Joseph Alston (1779−1816)

The Alstons' position as wealthy planters and descendants of Colonial governors meant access to political power with two South Carolina state governors named Alston. King Billy's son Joseph Alston (1779−1816) served for two years during the War of 1812. He'd attended the Southern aristocracy's choice Northern school, the College of New Jersey in Princeton, where he met Theodosia Burr, daughter of the era's unsuccessful candidate for President. They married in 1801 just before Aaron Burr became Vice-President under victor Thomas Jefferson. 

The new capitol in 1800.
William Birch, Library of Congress.

The young couple's honeymoon included a trip to the inauguration in Washington, the first in the new city. Theodosia, whose mother had died when she was a child, was close to her father. 

Theodosia and Joseph resided with his family in the Miles-Brewton house in
Charleston when living in town.

She missed Burr in South Carolina where the climate and probably the culture held little appeal for her. Her one joy was son Aaron Burr Alston.

After her boy died in 1812 (probably of malaria) Theodosia fell into a deep depression with the only bright spot on her horizon a reunion with her father. Despite January's rough Atlantic she determined to sail for New York aboard the Patriot with her maid and her father's friend Timothy Green as escort.  
"Mrs. Alston is fully bent on going. You must not be surprised to see her very low, feeble, and emaciated. Her complaint is an almost incessant nervous fever."                            Timothy Green to Aaron Burr
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Washington Alston, Rising of a Thunderstorm at Sea, 1804

The ship was lost at sea in a storm off Cape Hatteras. Her husband, mourning wife and child, died within three years.
The Block

The pattern was popular with many published names in BlockBase+ (#1237.) 
Mariner's Compass is probably most appropriate---if a sad reminder of a storm at sea.
Print the pattern on an 8-1/2 x11" sheet of paper. Note the inch square block for scale.

Associated Allstons

Washington Allston (1779-1843), self-portrait in 
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts

A happier branch of the Allstons descended from another William Alston and wife Rachel Moore. Their son Washington Allston became a proficient artist (see his ship painting above). 

MESDA Collection
Washington Allston's mother Rachel Moore Allston 
Flagg (1757-1839) by Henry Benbridge

Rachel married twice; her second husband was Rhode Island native Henry Collins Flagg. She's  reported to have told disapproving relatives she'd "married the first time to please her family, the second to please herself."

Time, Afternoon with a Southwestern Haze
Allston was a popular figure in the romantic school
of painters. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts 
owns a number of his paintings.

Washington went north to school in Newport, Rhode Island and on to Harvard. He spent years studying painting in Europe, returned to New England in 1818 and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts along the Charles River. One legacy is the Boston neighborhood across the Charles named for him in 1868. 

Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882) in 1842

Washington's second wife Martha Remington Dana was aunt to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. author of Two Years Before the Mast, a popular account of a voyage around Cape Horn to California then part of  Mexico.

Quilt probably 1820-1840, associated with Mary Brewton Motte Alston.
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
Gift of her great-grandson Pierre Pinckney Alston Trapier.

With all their money and homes the Al[l]stons owned many high-end luxury items including a quilt in the Smithsonian's collection, probably purchased from a Charleston workshop.

Elizabeth Waties Allston Pringle (1845-1921)

Well, we have to stop with some Allston or another and our last will be author Elizabeth Allston Pringle, daughter of the other state governor Robert Robert Francis Withers Allston and Adele Petigru (we are absolutely NOT getting into the Petigrus---yet.)

After the Civil War the widowed Elizabeth managed an unprofitable rice plantation. To pay taxes, mortgages and living expenses she began writing weekly articles under the name Patience Pennington for the New York Sun describing her place and the life of the people who worked there in the early 20th century. The pieces were gathered in a popular book A Woman Rice Planter that solved her financial problems.

Alice Ravenal Huger Smith illustrated the book with portraits
and pictures of the hard work.

 A second book Chronicles of Chicora Wood was published after Elizabeth died in the early '20s.  As one might expect Pringle's books were condescending, shaded by the persistent myth of the Lost Cause. Elizabeth D. Schafer writes at the South Carolina Encyclopedia webpage:
"Like her first book, Chronicles of Chicora Wood depicts an aristocratic view; the book gives the impression that white southerners heroically endured traumatic social changes and, incorrectly, assumes that slaves enjoyed their servitude."

More about Theodosia Burr Alston:

Read A Woman Rice Planter by Elizabeth Allston Pringle:
Or at least enjoy Alice Smith's drawings.

Becky's putting what we call a Piano Key border of rectangles on her American Stars.
Her blocks are 9 inches and the border is 5"; quilt is 48" x 60."  The alternate squares are hand-dyed fabrics from Colorways by Vicki Welsh.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Amelia Hightower Calhoun's Civil War


A quilt that is difficult to date.

The pattern, generally called a Double Irish Chain, was popular in red & green for decades from 1840 into the 20th century. The fabrics, described as a green solid and a red print with a green pattern, offer little help as we can't see that print. The quilting, a border of shells and a close diagonal grid, are not of much use as clues either.

84" x 97"
The quilt is in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
(MESDA), attributed to Amelia Arnold Hightower Holt Calhoun (1811-1889) of Georgia.

The museum caption indicates it was made between 1830 and 1850. The donor, a descendant of Amelia's sister Elizabeth Leggett Hightower White (1816-1886), gave the name as Double Chain.

James Montgomery Calhoun (1811-1875)

While Amelia Calhoun's Civil War experiences are not well documented, those of her second husband
James M. Calhoun's are. He was the wartime Mayor of Atlanta, one of the committee of men who surrendered the city to General William T. Sherman in 1864 after weeks of shelling and the retreat of Confederates led by General John Bell Hood.

Library of Congress
Atlanta in 1864, photographed by 
George Barnard after surrender.

When the Civil War began in April, 1861 Amelia had been married to James for just a few months. At their December, 1860 marriage she was a widow of about 50 with no living children; he a widower the same age with at least two daughters and two grown sons. Amelia's first husband Tarpley Tillman P. Holt (1808- 1854) had died in Upson County a few years earlier. 

The 1850 census shows Tarply Holt with 8 slaves, most
of them children.

That year Amelia at 35 is living with her husband, a modest farmer in Upson County,
and two teen-aged daughters. Only Amelia would survive the decade.

Tombstone of daughter Caroline Holt Richardson (1833-1853) in
the Hightower family cemetery in Upson County. Caroline had
been married two years at the time of her death.

1860 tax records show the widowed Amelia with considerable assets: real
estate worth $2,500 and other property worth nearly $44,000,
 probably the value of the enslaved people.
That wealth did not survive the 1860s.

Calhoun/Holt marriage record

James Calhoun's first wife Emma Eliza Dabney Calhoun (1810 – 1860) had died in February, the year of his second marriage. James was a lawyer and a politician, not very successful at politics before the war as he was a Whig in the Democrat-voting state of Georgia. 

From his obituary

John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850)
was a leading advocate of slavery and states' rights,
inspiring political sentiments that led to the war ten
years after his death.

His father William's cousin, fire-eating Democrat John C. Calhoun, advised him to switch parties but James's Whig principles would not be compromised. Whigs were in favor of spending money on what we'd call infrastructure, rather inconsistently opposed to the economic system of slavery and its expansion into new territories and strongly in favor of the national union and an active central government. Tariff taxes on imported goods to support Northern industries infuriated the South.

James was considered a moderate and a Unionist in a Secession-determined city. But once the war began and the ranks of Democrats thinned to join the Confederate army James won enough mayoral votes to be elected to 4 one-year terms from 1862 through 1866.

Atlanta burning from Harpers Weekly

Confederate transportation hub Atlanta became Sherman's target in 1864. James and a committee of city leaders found Union Colonel John Coburn marching into town on Marietta Street on September 1st and formally handed over the city.

The Mayor recalled saying: "Colonel Coburn, the fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As Mayor of the City I come to ask your protection for noncombatants and for private property."

Sherman shocked Atlanta by declaring that all civilians must evacuate the city. Neither noncombatants nor private property would be spared. The Mayor wrote asking for mercy but Sherman refused to change his orders. All civilians must leave. In the reply he made his famous (and wrongly quoted) "War is Hell" comment. "War is cruelty" were his words.

Leaving Atlanta, Harpers Weekly

By then Amelia, like most Atlantans, had left the city, perhaps returning to her Hightower and Holt families in Thomaston and Upson. Did she take the green and red quilt with her?

After the peace in the spring of 1865 Atlantans returned to rebuild the city. There was money to be made and James prospered. The 1870 census found them living in Atlanta with 20-year-old Black servant Henrietta who may have been one of the children recorded 10 years earlier. After James Calhoun died in November, 1875 Amelia moved back to Thomaston.

The 1880 census lists her in Thomaston living with a boarder.

Thomaston about 20 years after Amelia's death there in 1889.

Members of the Hightower family founded the Thomaston Mills 
at the end of the 19th century.

Back to the mysteries of the quilt....

From the caption: "This quilt was given by the maker, Amelia Hightower Holt Calhoun, to her sister, Elizabeth Leggett Hightower White (1816-1886). Elizabeth gave the quilt to her grandson, John White Gardner (1857-1936) and he to his daughter, Mildred Gardner Kelley (b.1892). Mildred gave the quilt to her sister, Priscilla Neal Gardner Hamrick (d.1962), who was the grandmother of the donor."
If Amelia made this quilt she would have done so between 1840 and the late 1880s. The family tale: She gave it to her sister Elizabeth Leggett Hightower (1816-1886) who died a few years before Amelia. Elizabeth married twice. Her first husband was John Martin White (1806-1850); the second Allen Gates Fambro (1800-1880). Elizabeth had children with both husbands. The quilt went to John White Gardner (1857-1936), son of her eldest daughter Mary Antoinette White Gardner (1835-1912). John White Gardner went west and presumably so did the quilt. Next in line was his daughter, Mildred Gardner Kelley (1892-1976), born in Texas, died in Missouri.

After Mildred the chain is confused. Notes say it went next to Mildred's sister Priscilla Neal Gardner Hamrick (1866-1962) born in Tennessee. But Priscilla is Mildred's aunt. The quilt then went to Priscilla's grandson Ralph Anderson Brown, son of Priscilla's daughter Gertrude Hamrick Brown (1896-1951) who was back in Georgia.  Ralph A. Brown donated the quilt and the story.

Similar Double Irish Chain quilt dated 1881
from the North Carolina project & the Quilt Index.

The chain of ownership shows some impressive family record keeping with only one link not corroborated. The well-worn quilt must have warmed many family members. On the other hand six owners from Amelia to her great-great-etc. grand nephew may have been mostly accurate about genealogy but not the quilt's origins. 

The inscription on the North Carolina quilt: "Jak Tucker/1881"

Without examining it in the cloth I'd be inclined to date the quilt as last quarter of the 19th century.  Amelia Hightower Holt Calhoun may have made it later in life but it remains a link to important events in Georgia's history.