Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Herbarium #8: Two Open Wreaths for Susan Fenimore Cooper


True Lover's Knot & Poke Berries by Becky Collis.
You get two similar blocks this month.

Two patterns this month, one with leaves & a floral and one with berries. You'll need 13 blocks if you follow the "official set," on point. Or if you put the blocks side by side on the square and only need 12 you can stitch your favorite of these two.

True Lover's Knot & Poke Berries
Remembering Susan Fenimore Cooper

Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper (1813 - 1894)
a "naturalist"

Daughter of one of America's most popular novelists, Susan Cooper spent much of her life in Cooperstown, New York, her father's hometown.

Fenimore Art Museum Collection
Susan's grandmother Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper (1751-1817) 
 with her sewing, a servant and an indoor nursery of botanical projects
 probably at Otsego Hall.

The Family Home Otsego Hall
Samuel F. B. Morse, artist and inventor, assisted friend
James Fenimore Cooper in remodeling his parents' house about 1830.

Becky Brown's True Lover's Knot

And her Poke Berries. These go in opposite corners of the quilt in the official set.
See a post about the "Official Set" here. Scroll down:

The James Fenimore Coopers had spent time in New York City, Italy and France where daughter Susan was schooled, probably learning natural history, an appreciation put to good use living in the gothic house near the Susquehanna River.
In 1851 she was the anonymous "lady" who published
Rural Hours, a meditation on nature illustrated with her paintings of
birds and botany. The nature book was her second; the first a novel.

"The following notes contain, in a journal form, the simple record of those little events which make up the course of the seasons in rural life, and were commenced two years since, in the spring of 1848, for the writer's amusement."
In her thirties then Susan was a single woman living with younger sister Anne Charlotte (1817-1885) and her parents, who died within weeks of each other soon after the book was published. More loss: Otsego Hall burned in 1853. 

Byberry Cottage still stands
She and Charlotte commissioned a smaller house on River Street, constructed from the rubble, where they lived the rest of their lives joined by their widowed sisters as time went on. 

Susan published many books and articles over the years, dying at the age of 81 of "apoplexy," a stroke, in 1894. Her Rural Hours is considered one of the early appreciations of nature and its fragility, especially notable in that it was written by a woman.

Rural Hours was preprinted several times. Not everyone was
a fan. Above an 1887 review in the Boston Evening Transcript.

The Blocks

Blocks based on an open wreath from the sampler 
in the collection of the Shelburne Museum

Five of the 8 samplers feature similar open wreaths with leaves.

And six show the same structure with berries, red poke berries.

Poke Berries by Denniele Bohannon

 True Lover's Knot by Denniele Bohannon

The True Lover's Knot may not be the best block for the single Miss Susan F. Cooper. Rather than representing any love, lost or not, the pattern pictures a plant common in Europe, called True Lover's Knot, Paris quadrifolia.
German illustration from 1796.
Einbeere implies one berry, true love.

Are we quibbling here to note that the quadrifolia means four leaves and petals? Whether our quilt pattern designer paid attention to the number of red petals, the way the root is shown above seems to have had some influence on the applique design.

An 1818 botanical painting from Barton's Vegetable Material Medica
showing the poke berry, the flower and the leaf. You may be familiar with
poke plants as they are a hardy American weed. 
 The berries hang down as in the Shelburne Museum's quilt.

See a post about poke weed symbolizing the 1845 Presidential
 campaign of James K. Polk here:

The sampler quilt recorded in the New York project, attributed to Florence
Thompson Strutz, has some romance added with a pair of love birds,
rings and a heart (although it could be the Odd Fellows lodge symbols.)
Go back to Block #1 and see some birds and heart patterns you could add.

Regarding Miss Susan Cooper and the romance in her life: Her chief loyalty was to her father who decided she should stay single, serving as his assistant. While in Europe, "a Frenchman of good fortune, noble family, and very fair looks" proposed but James turned him down---no foreigners. There were also rumors that Samuel F.B. Morse, twenty years her senior, considered Susan second-wife material. Her father denied any "connexion with Mr. old friend of mine, but neither of my daughters would dream of making a husband of him."

Looking for shortcuts I got 8b the Pokeberries done.
Pieced in an oval print.

Robyn Graff's five-sided Poke Berries, top right.

Becky Brown's 9 blocks 1 to 8a & 8b.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Mary Shawhan Dudley's Civil War


Mary made a wondrous quilt but we have no idea what it looked like or where it is today. It seems, however, to have included everything. When the Civil War began Mary Birch Shawhan was living in Missouri, working on a monumental quilt project she apparently began in Kentucky in 1852.

Her first draft, perhaps, was mentioned in 1856 in a small feature widely copied around the country. Is her quilt pieced of simple strips of inked linen? Could find no record of it at any 1856 Kentucky fairs.

Augusta, Georgia, a little rewriting.

In 1852, possibly inspired by a fashion for quilts celebrating Whig politician Kentucky's Henry Clay, she'd begun writing to noted men, asking for their autographs. 

Like many determined autograph hounds she could be a pest and poor Henry Clay, two months short of dying from tuberculosis, explained he could no longer gather signatures from colleagues like President Fillmore. He did ask friend John Crittenden to take over the task, however.

When the war began Mary seems to have sent out another round of letters. Correspondents responded with Union sentiments. The quilt evolved into a pictorial extravaganza.

Descriptions of Mary's quilt in 1880

It is interesting that Mary is using her maiden name.

Mary Magdalene Birch Shawhan Dudley (1818-1909) about 1900

In 1861 Mary Shawhan (1818-1909) was a widow. Husband Joseph Shawhan (1802-1850), whom she married in 1835, had gone to California with the gold-seeking '49ers where he died, leaving her with a young son John Erskine Shawhan (1838-1905). A girl Anna had died as a child in the 1830s.

Mary's father-in-law built this house near Cynthiana in 1816.
The Shawhans were prosperous land owners.

Mary's father Jamaica-born Thomas E. Birch fought in the Revolution under John Paul Jones, family history that entitled her to be honored as a "Real" Daughter of the Revolution by the D.A.R. She was one of the last surviving actual daughters of a revolutionary soldier.

The Virginia Birches moved to Kentucky where Mary was born. Like many Kentuckians, Birches moved west to Missouri. Mary's brothers and sisters were established in Clinton County, north of Kansas City where she joined them in the late 1850s.

James Harvey Birch (1804-1878)

Brother James went to St. Louis in 1826 to edit a newspaper and wound up in Plattsburg, Missouri as a distinguished judge, politician and Union sympathizer during the Civil War, despite his slave ownership. 
With his second wife Elizabeth Carter Frost Birch (cousin to Robert E. Lee) he held 9 people in slavery at their farm Prairie Park in 1860---6 males and 3 females ranging from 11 years old to 38. Elizabeth  probably brought that human property with her from her first marriage.
Brother Thomas owned a store in Plattsburg where Mary's son John became a young partner and then owner. Her son's 20th-century obituary called him Plattsburg's "leading merchant." 

The 1860 census found Mary Shawhan in Plattsburg, listed in a boarding house
as "Dom"---probably meaning Domestic. Was she the house servant in
the home? Son John was married to another Mary Shawhan and father of a
baby boy in that Missouri census.

Plattsburg in the early 20th century

We often find quilt feats accomplished by women who have family in the fabric business.

2 quilts, wool and cotton---premiums of cash.

The Birch family with their Virginia and Kentucky attitudes were like many Missourians during the war, conflicted about loyalties. James advocated a Constitutional right to own slaves but he was enough of a Unionist that Confederate guerilla fighters attacked their home.

From the Clinton County history.
All-star bushwhacker cast: Quantrell, Gregg, Andersons and James boys.

Another Confederate attack "plundered our merchants, Mr. John E. Shawhan being robbed of more than $10,000."

After the war in 1870 Mary remarried to farmer Abraham F. Dudley (1808-1875). She was a devout Baptist and his uncle was a well-known Baptist preacher. Religion must have been a common interest. 

In the 1870s after moving over 100 miles east to his farm in Audrain County she continued working on her quilt, soliciting autographs and obtaining one from Missouri Unionist James S. Rollins. We find her winning certificates at fairs like this one in Mexico, Missouri, the Audrain County seat where she entered both a cotton and a silk quilt.

We'd certainly like to see Mrs. W. H. Cartwright's work
who bested her in both categories.

Abraham Dudley did not live long after their marriage, suffering a fatal attack at the beginning of a train trip to California.

November, 1875

Mary spent the last three decades of her life as a Missouri widow, cared for by relatives as she aged. The quilt and its prizes, which continued to occupy her, was celebrated in an article in the St. Joseph Gazette in 1880 (Scroll down to see the whole article.)

How could such a quilt disappear?

The 1880 article in the St. Joseph Gazette