Saturday, February 26, 2022

Matilda Cosley Barber Blood's Civil War


In 1854 Matilda Barber entered her needlework in the
 Preble County Fair in Ohio. A year later the 
Civil War and all its heartbreak began for her. 

Kansas State Historical Society
Lawrence's main street about 1860, full of traffic.

We in Lawrence, Kansas claim dubious credit for the first casualties of the war over five years before the killing began at Fort Sumter. Matilda and her husband Thomas Washington Barber came to Kansas from New Paris in Preble County, a nest of antislavery sentiment. Inspired by the Kansas-Nebraska Act opening up the possibility of a new slave state if enough Kansas men favored it, forty Ohio families emigrated to vote against the idea.


The Barbers were farmers. Thomas raised Suffolk hogs, which he entered in the agricultural fairs and Matilda entered her prizewinning quilts in Ohio and Kansas competitions.

Fall, 1855 brought hundreds of illegal, proslavery voters to camp in the Lawrence area. Thomas Barber, his brothers and neighbors formed the Barber Guards, a militia to protect the town from the self-appointed "Law & Order" party of vigilantes headquartered in Missouri. Returning home after a few days guarding the town they encountered a group who attempted a "citizens' arrest."

Dismissing them Thomas turned his horse away and they shot him in the back.

Matilda's loss became a national rallying cry for the free-state cause when New England poet John Greenleaf Whittier published "The Burial of Barber" in spring 1856.

Despite public attitudes about the widow's role, Matilda was not one to wait in widow's weeds for heavenly happiness. She remarried to Vermont-born free-state settler Newman C. Blood in 1861 and raised their girl Katie, her only child. When her second husband died in 1876 she left Lawrence to earn a living as a matron at the state asylum for the mentally ill. Matilda died in Keokuk, Iowa in 1902 spending her last years with Katie and her husband.

Block from a Preble County, Ohio sampler album.
International Quilt Museum

We can guess that Tilly Barber Blood brought her prizewinning Ohio quilt with her when she came to Kansas although no trace remains of it. (Bedding an important requirement on the frontier.)
What might it have looked like?

Block from a Preble County, Ohio sampler album.
It may have been a red and green appliqued sampler, done in a style fashionable on the Ohio/Indiana state line in the 1850s.

Block signed Susan Elizabeth Vanskiver,
Westfield, Preble County, Ohio, 1851

Everyone everywhere in the U.S. was making album samplers in the 1850s but there is a certain Ohio/Indiana style.

International Quilt Museum

Blocks are placed on point as in this one by friends of Margaret Morton of Preble County.

Online auction, blocks dated 1852 from Preble 
County with the name Reeve
(set together and bordered later?)

Clinton County Historical Society

And this one with a block dated 1842 and names from Clinton County in western Ohio and Wayne County in eastern Indiana, including Rebecca Harvey Hadley and her daughters. The Harveys and the Hadleys were Quakers who came to the area from North Carolina early in the 19th century to escape the Southern slave system. Quakers became an important cultural force on the state line. Quaker austerity may explain a certain plain look to the local setting style.

In this one made for Mary J. Manning the blocks are
on the straight, but the austere setting is typical.
Mary lived in College Corner in Preble County, just on the Indiana line.

I am just imagining Matilda's quilt but....there is a regional style.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Ladies' Aid Sampler #12: Birds They Sow Not


Ladies' Aid Sampler #12: Birds: They Sow Not by Denniele Bohannon

Our final New York album block recalls the women of Rochester who organized a Soldiers' Aid Society during the Civil War. They published a professional looking newspaper after 1862 but apparently
neglected fundraising and treasurer's reports.

Augustus Hoppin's llustration in The Tribute Book

One day in 1863 they discovered they had one penny in the bank.

Frank Goodrich in his 1865 Tribute Book found this amusing enough to devote a few pages to the Rochester group in his Record of the Munificence, Self-sacrifice and Patriotism of The American People..... 
 Birds: They Sow Not by Becky Brown

The Rochesterites may have sewed but like the Biblical birds, "The fowls of the air:...they sow not, neither do they reap."

Once financial facts became clear:
"The energy, zeal and ingenuity, which had thus far lain dormant in the Rochester breast, now awoke to action. A standing committee on finance was appointed, whose duty it was to invent, devise or otherwise procure, the means of raising money, and a Christmas fair was unanimously decided upon."
The fair raised over $10,000--- above a list of the various

Rochester Public Library Collection
The December, 1863 fair was held in Corinthian Hall.

#12 by Barbara Schaffer

Followed up by a fundraising Strawberry Festival in summer, 1864.

Treasurer's Report 1864. Fair earnings were invested in bonds. 
Perhaps this very competent Mrs. George Gould was Rachel Carpenter Gould (1823-1899)

The Block

Robyn Revelle Gragg added four red dots

Simple birds in profile were popular imagery on album quilts.

Inspiration is Mary Barnard Hill's quilt by Presbyterian church members
 in Maltaville, New York, in the Smithsonian's Collection.

Similar bird composition drawn from an album quilt in
Woodard & Greenstein's inventory

Barbara Schaffer's New York Ladies' Aid Album complete
with the red sash they liked so much.

#12 Birds by Barbara Brackman, who is
appliqueing stars in the corner of the blocks.

Ladies' Aid Album Sampler by Becky Brown

And we are finished!
Be sure to post your progress on our Facebook group page:
Ask to join, we'll let you in pronto.

Further Reading:

Goodrich's The Tribute Book online:

And see more about Mary Benton Bernard Hill's 1847 quilt:

Robyn Revelle Gragg's

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Miriam Moses Cohen's Civil War


Star block with Miriam Moses Cohen's inked name in a quilt
made for Eleanor Solomons in Savannah, Georgia, in the early 1850s.

Temple University
Sisters Rebecca and Rachel Gratz

Miriam Gratz Moses (1808-1891) lost her mother Rachel Gratz Moses when she was about 15, but gained another in her aunt Rebecca Gratz. Rebecca and her Philadelphia brothers and sisters took on the pleasant task of raising Miriam and her siblings. Their closeness is shown in a letter Rebecca wrote to her sister-in-law in 1837 when Miriam left Philadelphia to live with new husband Solomon Cohen (1802-1875) in Georgetown, near Charleston, South Carolina.

Rosenbach Museum & Library
Aunt Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869) by Thomas Sully, early 1830s
"It will be long ere the loss of My dear Miriam's society can be made up to part with a daughter---one whose mind has been trained under your own eye and...has endeared to your heart....this parting has been a severe sorrow to me, and yet I rejoice in her happiness."

Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection
Miriam and Solomon Cohen with son Gratz
 and daughters Belle and Miriam, about the time 
the quilt was made.

By then the Cohens had moved to Savannah. Solomon had family money and land; he was postmaster and city alderman and after the Civil War a US Representative from Georgia. Miriam volunteered at city charities such as the Needle Woman's Friend Society that enabled women to sew items to support themselves.

When the Civil War began in 1861 Miriam had two young girls and a 17-year old boy Gratz. Her Aunt Rebecca in Philadelphia was probably not pleased to hear Gratz's opinions about secession. He claimed it was the duty of every Southern state to leave the Union. His father was an enthusiastic supporter of slavery. How could one have an aristocracy without a servant class? 

Gratz Cohen (1844-1865)

Gratz joined the Savannah Artillery and returned home a few times as "incapacitated" with chronic foot trouble and sickness. He enrolled in the University of Virginia, only to re-enlist, joining General P.G. Harrison's forces as they backed into North Carolina under General Joe Johnston.. On March 19, 1865, a few weeks before the South's surrender he was shot in the head at the Battle of Bentonville.

John Branum was killed in the same battle. See a post here:

Gothic memorial to Gratz

We know what the men in the family believed but nothing of northerner Miriam's private opinions during the war. Did she agree with her aunt who trained her mind or with her Southern-born men? 

Letters between Confederate and Union states were rare once the war began. Rebecca was glad to report to her Kentucky sister-in-law:
"I had the rare treat of a letter from Miriam Cohen through a private opportunity to N.Y. which was forwarded to me---her family are well, and in her own sweet way she uttered kind thoughts that made my heart glad....She tells me there is not a young man at home in all their large connection---of course they have all gone to fight against us."

Miriam's husband Solomon died suddenly in August, 1875.

Five years later the census found Miriam at 71 "keeping house" with daughters Miriam, unmarried at 29, and Belle who'd married childhood friend Frank O'Driscoll. Frank died at 28 in 1875 leaving Belle with 3 daughters (They lost baby Aimee in her first year in 1869.) Their house full of women could support three servants, two women from Georgia and an Irish woman with the wonderful name of Mary Quilty (a not uncommon Irish name.)

Daughter Miriam (Mamie) married James Dent that year and this home on Liberty Street
down the block from her mother's house is said to have been a wedding gift from her family.
Mamie's house still stands. Her mother's' is gone.


Blocks include names of relatives from South Carolina, Georgia and New York

The quilt with the older Miriam's name on a block descended in the family and is now owned by Judith Shanks who has done much work into its history. The gift to (Solomon Cohen's cousin?) Eleanor Solomons (1794-1856) upon her move from South Carolina to Savannah is typical of mid-19th-century Southern album or friendship quilts. Names are inked (not signatures) on the blocks---Judith believes inked by Eleanor herself who assembled the blocks. The wide range of sewing skills indicates different stitchers worked on the blocks. Perhaps Miriam pieced her own star.

The combination of piecing, applique designs of calico and blocks with
images cut from chintz furnishing fabrics is typical of the times.
Two blocks are cut from this floral arrangement in a fountain.

The Charleston Museum has a single block
cut from the same chintz.

Peacock and a pair of birds in the center block with the initial "C." 
were cut from a popular English chintz in the 1820-1850 period.

Peacock and Chicks in a wholecloth quilt

Read Judith Shanks's research on her family quilt:

More on Miriam's husband:

More about the quilt in a McKissick Museum catalog, A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life: