Saturday, July 29, 2023

Lucy Lewis's Civil War


Ambrotype, Unknown woman and baby about 1855 
Library of Congress

At the Civil War's beginning Lucy Lewis was one of  about 14,000 enslaved people in the city of New Orleans. She was a domestic servant who lived in the home of Solomon P. Solomon on Hercules Street (renamed Rampart Street.)

Historic New Orleans Collection
This 1895 photo of a rare snowstorm shows the kind of
 elegant houses one might see on North Rampart Street
35 years earlier. 

Lucy lived in the top floor of the house with her daughter Adelle (Adella) about 5 years old. Lucy, born about 1832, was in her late 20s when Louisiana joined the Confederacy.

Solomon Phineas Solomon (1815-1874)
A New Orleans merchant when the war began
he traveled to Virginia to open a sutlery, a
store for Confederate soldiers.

Lucy was born in South Carolina as was Solomon and his wife Emma. Perhaps the Solomons brought a young Lucy with them when they moved to New Orleans soon after their marriage.

Clara Solomon ( 1845-1907)

The Solomons had six daughters at home when the war began. Baby Josephine was born in 1860; the eldest Alice in 1842. Second daughter Clara kept a detailed journal in which we learn much about the household and a little about Lucy and her daughter Dell.

The 1860 census in July lists the free people on Hercules Street, omitting Lucy and Dell.
Solomon, a Com Merchant, is a Commission Merchant, a wholesaler,
 worth only $1,000 (and that includes Lucy and Dell's value.)

Lucy's duties were typical of a housekeeper---cleaning, cooking, marketing and answering the door. She ran errands and got up first, waking the girls early with a shake and a word or two (or more if they didn't want to get up.) She dressed the younger children and dressed the older girls' hair. 

Frances (Fanny) Solomon (1847-1881) in the 1870s when 
elaborate hair styles (often incorporating switches and 
false hair) were the rage.

Hair braiding was a common daily occupation for Lucy and the older girls. Fanny's rather elaborate look above is typical of national fashion in the 1870s but apparently girls in New Orleans sported a version the style during the war too. Clara, never satisfied with her appearance, relied on Lucy to "comb" her. "How dependent I am. Unable to look nice, if L. does not 'have a hand' in my toilette."

Yale University Library
Unknown woman and child

Childcare was another duty shared by all. Josephine was a year old as the war began and she and her tantrums kept Clara and Dell busy. A hired girl Ellen Deegan about 11 years old came in daily to manage Josie. Ellen was young and not very reliable so how much assistance she offered Lucy or sister Clara is questionable. 

With father gone, hoping to make his fortune, the women were suddenly poor in the fall of 1861. Until cash arrived from him they took in sewing, constructing "drawers" for the Confederate Army. Sixteen-year-old Clara reported that a local merchant had received an order for 600. Seamstresses earned $1.25 per dozen.  

Unknown woman and machine 
Clara: "The machine has been useless as it has the greatest kind of fits."

Lucy seems to have taken no part in the sewing. Her housekeeping and child care labors gave the Solomons time to sew the underwear, which "are not much work but Ma only made three pair, as Josie was was so very bad, we found it impossible to sew. In ordinary times we could make about 10 pairs." Ellen's mother Bridget Deegan also sewed drawers but had no machine so earned less per hour than the Solomons.

Clara and her mother Emma seem to have been the chief seamstresses. Despite the machine's "fits" Clara mastered it and spent the rest of the war contentedly sewing utilitarian family clothing and fashion for herself, Alice and Fanny.

Lucy had a life away from the family with daughter Adelle as primary evidence. Clara noted that Lucy "as usual went out" after bidding her good night. By the time Clara's diary ended in summer 1862 Lucy may have again been pregnant with son Robert born in 1863.
In the fall of 1861 Lucy's friend Jacksine brought a gift from a man named Solomon, living in Covington on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. He was "crazy to see Lucy; he thinks the world of her." But we do not hear of him again.

Union troops remove the state flag at City Hall 1862

The Union Army occupied New Orleans in 1862. Although "They say they do not intend to interfere with slavery" the Solomons worried about Lucy's loyalty. "Ma is quite troubled about her, as so many (her acquaintances some) have run away and sought the protection of the Yankees."

Lucy must have stayed throughout the Union occupation and into the next decade as she and her two children remained with the Solomon family for the 1870 census.

The Solomons, troublesome as they were, represented the only family Lucy had ever known. Lucy  disappears from the records after this census.

1880 Census, Hot Springs, Arkansas

After the war Clara married twice, the second time to George Lawrence, a Pennsylvania veteran of the Union Army. They lived for a time in Hot Springs, Arkansas, next door to Lucy's daughter Adele and  baby James, Lucy' grandson whose father was born in Tennessee.

1883 Hot Springs Directory

Hot Springs about the time Dell lived there

Read excerpts from The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon:

Solomon, Clara. The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon. Edited by Elliot Ashkenazi. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press. 1995. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Herbarium #5: Clover Wreath for Almira Lincoln Phelps


Herbarium #5 Clover Wreath by Becky Brown
The block recalls Almira Lincoln Phelps.

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884)
UPDATE: The more I look at this photo the less likely I think it's Almira. The dress style is circa 1860 I am guessing and Almira would have been 67. Not her style. See next photo.

Almira Hart and her older sister Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870), innovators
in women's education, were from a family of 17 in Berlin, Connecticut.
Emma founded the Troy Female Seminary, New York school in 1821.

In 1829 Almira, then married to publisher Simon Lincoln, began publishing science textbooks for schoolchildren and teachers. Familiar Lectures on Botany went through many editions in the 19th century under her two married names Mrs. Lincoln & Mrs. Phelps. After Simon Lincoln's death the widowed Almira, mother to 2 daughters, taught at her sister's Troy school.

Clover Wreath by Becky Collis

Account of sisterly rivalry in 1884

Almira then married Vermont lawyer John Phelps. In 1841 she was offered a position near Baltimore at the Patapsco Female Institute and the family moved to Ellicott Mills, Maryland. Botany was an important part of the curriculum and they planted a formal garden for the botanizing and herbariums. 

Enoch Pratt Library
The Institute's classical revival building overlooked the Patapsco River.

Virginia Museum of History & Culture

Maria Jerdone's herbarium, collected at Patapsco, came with slots for stems. Here's her page for wild indigo. The restored gardens at Patapsco today are named for Maria, a student from Virginia.

Maria Ann Glanville Coleman Jerdone Pettus (1833-1879)
Maria seems to have been fond of botanizing.
From her Find A Grave files:

John Phelps died in 1849; Almira retired in 1856, succeeded by principal Robert Archer in the years right before the Civil War. He went off to join the Confederate armies and then Sarah Randolph, a great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson, took over the school.

Robyn Gragg turned her Clover Wreath into a pentagram.

Almira made money off all those textbooks, enabling her to retire with $50,000 in real estate and $75,000 in other wealth according to the 1860 census. Her assets in  Baltimore---all too common at the time--- included slaves. Here 2 Black women and a man are living at her residence in the city. They must be free people as the census did not name slaves.

The 1860 Slave Schedule shows four enslaved people, 2
 unnamed women, a man and a two-year old boy. 

Despite her acceptance of the Southern economic system Almira remained true to her Connecticut culture as a Union sympathizer in Union Maryland.

Students at Patapsco in the late-19th century.
The school closed in 1896.

In the pre-preservation 20th century the magnificent school building fell to ruin
but the shell been rebuilt as a monument in a park.

The Block

Three similar wreaths from the 8 herbarium quilts
The quilt in the Shelburne Museum's collection tells
us it is a Clover Wreath.

Almira shows the Clover and explains the inflorescence.

And the ternate leaves. 

Red Clover Tryfolium pratense from about 1800

Working on a more balanced composition: larger ternate leaves,
rounder sessile flowers.

Clover Wreath by Denniele Bohannon

Print the pattern on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet. Note the inch square for scale.

You might want to shade the clover blossoms by piecing
green and red strips

And placing your templates over the seam line.

My Clover Wreath, glued up and ready to stitch.

Almira gave a talk about her own Herbarium in 1874 at the Maryland Academy of Sciences where she seems to have donated the collection. It was quite an honor to be considered scientist enough to be a female member. She died on her 91st birthday ten years later.

Almira's Find A Grave files.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Martha or Mary Bowden Gasters' Chintz Quilt


The Drew County Museum in Monticello, Arkansas, owns a chintz quilt attributed to Mrs. Stephen Gaster, about 1840. Who made it and when? We'll see if we can answer any questions.

The quilt looks to have been done in the 1840s or '50s with its
cut-out chintz technique and the fabric in sash and border.

The red sash and blue striped border fabrics are from that era
when block style quilts became the fashion.

Dated 1851, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
The sashing stripe is of a type called Pompeiian, inspired
by wall paintings in the excavations at Pompeii.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts Collection

These red ground stripes were popular in Baltimore with
album quiltmakers in the 1845-1855 decade.

Cut-out-chintz or Broderie Perse block dated 1844 in Jeana Kimball's collection
The technique was becoming old fashioned in the forties and we have to say the
Gaster quilt is not as skillfully done as this sampler of chintzes.
But the date of 1840-1860 seems like a good estimate.

Family biographies tell us Stephen Gaster (1800-1860) was "a large planter who came to Arkansas soon after his marriage" from Catahoula Parish, Louisiana in 1832, settling on the Bayou Batholomew near what is now Monticello. It seems Stephen was married twice to sisters Mary Bowden (1802-1843)
and Martha (1799-in the 1860s.) Daughter Catherine was born to Stephen in Arkansas in 1841. Mary Bowden Gaster died in 1843, the year her son Stephen was born.  All these birthdates, Bowdens and places are a bit confusing so we have no idea which Mrs. Gaster was responsible for the quilt---if either.

Stephen Gaster was likely born in Georgia. The 1850 census tells us Martha was born in MI, which has been interpreted to mean Missouri---it's possible that she and sister Mary were born in what was the Louisiana Purchase about the time Jefferson bought it from France, but it's more likely MI meant Mississippi. Martha died sometime before the 1870 census in Arkansas.

Drew County outlined in red on the bayou

The Bowdens may have brought the quilt with them. Time frame and style indicate it could have been made in Arkansas in the '40s or '50s. Drew County might really qualify as a "backwater" in the mid-19th-century, so it's also possible that the available fabric was somewhat out of date. A local history tells us, "For many years the peddling wagon of Ben Martin was the sole dependence of the citizens for dry goods. New Orleans was the distributing point, goods being landed at Pine Bluff."
In the 1840s Gaster established Gaster's Landing on the bayou for
steamships carrying the local cotton.

The Gasters were slave owners on a rather large scale. After Stephen's death right before the Civil War sons his John & Stephen II listed the freed people with whom they had labor contracts for the Freedman's Bureau in 1869, a good genealogical source for people interested in Drew County history.

"Names" of the freedpeople

The quilt speaks of the Gasters' wealth and perhaps of the household's enslaved needlewomen. 

One more clipping: In 1895 long after Martha's death her son James and his wife gave a quilt and a rocking chair to a newly married couple.