Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Civil War Quilt: Puh-Leaze


Oh Boy! A Civil War quilt advertised on EBay.

I say Oh Boy! because it is a great opportunity to discuss why this is NOT from
the years of the Civil War (1861-65).

"Antique Civil War quilt. Hand sewn. Professionally cleaned and dated by textile expert. On point square in a square design appropriate to the period. Civil war squares date to 1864, joined with red and yellow fabric from 1877 to form the quilt top. Backing is also 1877. Note the two-color leaves, which were common to the era."

"Dated by textile expert"

The best clues to quilt date are in the fabrics and the general style of pattern and set. The pattern here is a nine patch on point, what I've heard called a Diamond Nine Patch in the South. The patchwork pattern is not really a useable clue, though, too popular for too long. As the seller says it might be appropriate to the Civil War period, used in the 1860s, but also seen into the 20th century.

The backing or lining
The fabrics in colors and design are excellent clues to
date, however.

"Backing is also 1877. Note the two-color leaves, which were common to the era."

Those of us with experience with early-20th-century quilts will recognize the style of
this multicolored leaf print as what was called a "cretonne," a furnishing print, often seen on the
back of quilts from about 1890 to 1930.

"Civil war squares date to 1864, joined with red and yellow fabric
 from 1877 to form the quilt top."

I'd describe this block as pieced from chambrays and shirting weaves, probably dyed with the synthetic indigo that created so much variety in colorfast, inexpensive blues from about 1890 on. The Nine Patch is set here into a black ground stripe, as described in this 1895 catalog from Montgomery Ward's. Cotton with true black was hard to obtain and one does not see it before 1890.

These black prints are one of the best clues to date in antique quilts. You can really count on them to date a quilt as after 1890 and into the 1930s.

1908 sample book

The triple strip border is what we might call a typical early-20th-century ditsy
or "bread & butter" print, the kind of inexpensive, nostalgic calicoes that were the
staple product of several mills.

I hope the seller didn't pay that textile expert too much to tell them the blocks dated to 1864 and the setting to 1877. I think what we have here is a quilt from about 1900 to 1930. Do note I give a range and not a specific year. Unless a quilt is dated you want to be accurate within a range of decades.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Freedom's Friends #12: Bitternut Hickory for Anna Trusty Scott

Block # 12 Bitternut Hickory by Denniele Bohannon

 Bitternut Hickory recalls Anna Trusty Scott, a runaway from Maryland.

"Sold to Go South"

William Still recorded the names of her family whom she left behind in Maryland in his records of Anna & Samuel Scott's journey from Cecil Cross-Roads to Philadelphia: "Father Jacob Trusty, Sisters: Emeline, Susan Ann, Delilah, Mary Eliza, Rosetta, Effie Ellender and Elizabeth; brothers Emson and Perry." 

Still mentions that the slave owner Ann Ward Porter Lusby had sold a brother and sister away from the family. 

Emson (Empson) Trusty is an unusual name and we find her brother's death certificate at FamilySearch. He died at 78 in 1885 in Maryland with his father listed as Jacob Trusty (illegible) "Slave" and his mother Delia Trusty also once a slave.

Empson's mother was officially Henrietta, as shown in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Cecil County. Delia may have been his sister.

Bitternut Hickory by Georgann Eglinski

The 1860 census lists Empson, Rosetta, Effie (Ephalinda) and Perry, siblings mentioned in Still's account, plus Jacob II, Raymond, Arabella and Rebecca. It's interesting that the Trusty family is counted twice before the Civil War. Slaves are not usually enumerated in this fashion. It may be that Jacob and Henrietta were hired out, permitted to live together independently with wages going to their owner. Or maybe they were free. It's rather mysterious and is just one of the questions about the Scott account in Still's records. 

For one thing he recorded owner Ann Ward Lusby's name as Lushy ( a typo perhaps.) He also tells us that Anna Scott held a dream of Canada due to her hateful mistress. After better treatment when she was hired out she continued to believe "escape was the only remedy." Ann Scott was married to Samuel Scott who was a free man and much less inclined to take a chance on running away. The issue of whether Samuel was free is confused by another account of the Scott's escape.

Sydney Howard Gay, editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard in New York City, assisted fugitives as William Still did and kept short accounts of people who came through the city including Anna. He did not publish his records but his notebooks are online at the Columbia University Library.

Gay also had trouble with Ann Lusby's name (Luchy/Leslie) but he tells us Anna Scott had lived in Sassafras Neck at Cecil Crossroads, where there were many Lusbys.

"Jany. 4th, 1856. Sam Scott + his wife, Sassafras Neck, Cecil Co. Md. James Magee, Master = widow Leslie, mistress of wife. Walked to Middletown, 12 miles + took y cars for Phila. 8.50"

Bitternut Hickory by Barbara Brackman
I put the dots over seam intersections
I needed to hide. 

Was Sam free or slave? The Master mentioned was probably James McGee who owned a pottery in Elkton, Cecil County's county seat. Perhaps Sam worked there as a slave or free man. Gay and Still are at odds about his status, showing that the records need verification.

Northern Maryland to Philadelphia

Gay says the Scotts took "the cars," we'd say "the train," from northern Maryland to Philadelphia, and then we assume on to New York and Canada. 

Revealing a fugitive railroad passenger's mourning veil disguise
illustration from Still's book. Still doesn't tell us how 
fugitives managed to buy tickets, etc. 

Other discrepancies in the Scott account: Anna mentioned the brothers and sisters she left in 1856, including Perry who appears to have been born in 1859 from the 1860 census.

 Harper's Weekly, 1866

Once Anna's nemesis Ann Lusby's name is spelled correctly researchers found more about her. Anna, like many other runaways, was driven to run by abuse from a woman who left many records. Ann Lusby lived on a "farm of her own" with fifteen slaves. Husband Zebulon Lusby and a first husband Mr. Porter had died so the 1840 census, which only mentions heads of households, named her. She's recorded then as between 30 & 40 years old with two boys and a girl living with her. No mention of slaves in the 1840 census.

Anne Elizabeth Ward Porter Lusby (1807-1876)

"She was accustomed to rule with severity, being governed by a 'high temper,' and in nowise disposed to allow her slaves to enjoy even ordinary privileges, and besides, would occasionally sell to the Southern market. She was calculated to render slave life very unhappy."

Blogger Milt Diggins identified Ann Lusby's farm on this 1858 Cecil County map. She and Anna Scott lived not far from Cecilton (once Cecil Crossroads.) One dot indicates two Lusby farms; the other the church where she is buried, St. Stephen's Episcopal north of Johntown.

Cecilton, fifty years later

Bitternut Hickory by Becky Brown

The Block

Vintage Version

1842-1843 Quilt for Charlotte Gillingham, Philadelphia
Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Our last block is a very popular pattern dating back at least to 1830.The basic block could be pieced or appliqued and has several names, mostly commonly Reel.

Encyclopedia of Applique

One could add all manner of applique to the corners, expanding on the simple leaf. Then it's "Oak Leaf & Reel" or "Hickory Leaf & Reel." The Bitternut Hickory is a native Maryland hickory, particularly apt for Anna's story.

Hicoria cordiformis, Bitter-Nut Hickory

Becky Brown's 12 Blocks for Freedom's Friends

And we are FINISHED with Freedom's Friends 12 blocks. Check our Facebook page for finishes and post your own there.

Georgann Eglinski's 12 blocks for Freedom's Friends

Beckys Brown & Collis have collaborated on this quilt.
B Brown combined two projects we've been working on....
Freedom's Friends & Southern Spin pieced blocks.
B Collis quilted it.
Here is the view in B Brown's sewing room.
When it's bound we will show it!

Further reading:
Gay papers:

See Eric Foner, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad (W. W. Norton and Co., 2015)

Bitternut Hickory by Robyn Gragg

Freedom's Friends
Robyn's view. Remarkable.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Rebecca Holiday Pomroy's Civil War


Massachusetts Project & the Quilt Index
An "Album Quilt" with dates of 1858-1861
made in Edgartown, Massachusetts

Rebecca Rossignol Holiday Pomeroy (Pomroy) (1817-1884)

Massachusetts-born Rebecca became a skilled nurse in Washington City during the Civil War.

She spent most of the war at the large building, a college commandeered for a hospital.
Surrounding Columbian College Hospital were tents & barracks converted into what 
was called the Carver General Hospital.

As we have learned the catch-all job title "nurse" included varied job descriptions ranging from Clara Barton's excellent administrational oversight, to women who supervised meals and supplies and Hospital Matrons like Rebecca who comforted men as she organized daily operations. She also scheduled activities for those healthy enough to participate but still too ill to return to the fight or their homes. 

In her biography she mentions an "album quilt" sent by "some ladies from the East" with inscriptions in the white center of each bright-colored square.

Jokes and puns:
"Why are soldiers like tea? Because, when in fire,
they are well drawn out."

Center of a soldiers' album from the International Quilt Museum collection

We don't know what became of the album quilt or what it looked like but there were some classic styles
with a spot for a name or a message in the center. Perhaps it was a Chimney Sweep design like this one.

Blocks Dated 1856-1862
New York

Aside from the necessary and emotionally draining work of comforting
teen-age boys dying of typhoid, measles and gastrointestinal disorders, Rebecca
organized the recovering patients into a nightly sewing circle where they
darned their fellow patients' socks.

She was a born nurse, having tended her own husband with chronic lung problems and sickly children.

Album quilt dated 1865, Pennsylvania

Album/sampler 1863
Elizabeth, New Jersey
One can imagine how much entertainment a sampler might provide to patients.

Spelling was variable but Rebecca's husband
Daniel's name seems to have been spelled "Pomroy."
Her maiden name: How many L's in Holliday?

When Daniel was healthy enough to work he was an upholsterer. He died a year before the Civil War began, leaving Rebecca with one surviving son. Like many others the family was probably afflicted with tuberculosis.

Dorothy Dix, who supervised Union nurses, kept an eye on Rebecca. A crisis at the White House when  the Lincoln children caught typhoid fever in winter, 1862 inspired Abraham Lincoln to ask Dix to recommend a nurse to help out. She chose Rebecca with her typhoid experience and notable empathy. Rebecca complained about leaving her soldiers but she was the perfect choice.

William Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862)

No one could save 11- year old Willie Lincoln who died at the end of February. Younger son Thomas (Tad) survived and Rebecca won the trust of both grieving parents who asked her to stay at the White House, which she did periodically throughout the war. Mary Lincoln, who suffered from what we might today call Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, lay abed in agonizing grief for three months. 

Mary wore ostentatious mourning the rest of her life.

The President told Rebecca that Willie's death was his hardest trial. He found comfort in talking to a woman who'd lost two children and husband yet found peace and strength in Protestant principles. Rebecca went back to her hospital boys but periodically visited the White House when they needed her or she needed a rest.

Lincoln's assassination brought her back to the traumatized widow. Rebecca must have needed  consolation herself as she and the President were close friends, but once again stoical religion was her support. With the war over she returned to Massachusetts. Two years later she felt well enough to become matron at a home for girls, which became her work for the rest of her life.

The fate of her colorful album we do not know. Thousands were made to warm the soldiers; thousands lost.

Read more about the remarkable Rebecca: