Saturday, August 26, 2023

Emma Hardin Burris's Civil War

Wreath quilt attributed to Emma Hardin Burris (1855-1902) of
York County, South Carolina. Her granddaughter brought 5 of Emma's
quilts for the South Carolina project to record.

Emma Hardin was about 5 years old when South Carolina seceded from the Union so most of her Civil War was in the years after Appomattox, while her neighbors in York County framed a durable narrative about the "Lost Cause" and created a post-war society where Black people standing up for their rights were liable to be hung by the Ku Klux Klan.

Emma is buried in the Olivet Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

She was daughter and wife to farmers in rural York County up by the North Carolina line in the Piedmont region, living near various settlements such as Bullocks Creek where she and husband John T. Burris (1853- 1924) were recorded in the 1880 census farming and caring for 2-year old daughter Mabel. Other names associated with the area were McConnells or McConnellsville and Olivet. Hardins and Burrises were numerous. 

McConnellsville a few years after Emma died in 1902

An uncle of husband John opened a store in the community about ten years before the Civil War. Moore and Burris sold drygoods and millinery and maintained the pre-war post office there. Like much of South Carolina, York Countians were ardent Confederates. The county is said to have the highest number of casualties of any county in the state.

In 1875 Moore & Burris were still hoping to collect on old debts.
Southern retailers typically kept accounts for customers who
paid annually at the end of the year. "Pay Up."

After the war the federal post office tried to re-establish the McConnells station, but government employees were required to take a loyalty oath. No one in the neighborhood dared swear and McConnells did without a post office for a while.

In 1871 members of the local Klan went on trial for terrorizing Black and white people in York County. Witness/defendant William Johnson testified:

"Visit of the Ku-Klux," Frank Bellew, Harper's, 1872
Bob Burris gathered nearly 20 vigilantes into a "Klan."

Emma's Bow-Tie quilt that looks to have been made for cover but
Southern woven cottons give it an almost elegant look.

When Emma died in the winter of 1902 she left at least three children, Mabel Alcora Burris (1878-1963), Thomas Ellie Burris (1883-1967) and J. Pratt Burris. Mabel didn't marry so the quilts might have descended through her sons' children.

February, 1902, Yorkville Enquirer

A rather unique Four-Patch requiring a lot of easing united nine patches and pinwheels.

Read more about the activities of the Klan in York County here:

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