Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Herbarium #9: Laurel for Harriet Beecher Stowe


Herbarium #9: Laurel by Denniele Bohannon

Laurel from the Shelburne Museum's sampler

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
Photo by Southworth & Hawes, about 1850.

FlorenceChristmas Day, 1859.

"My dear Husband,—I wish you all a Merry Christmas, hoping to spend the next one with you...we shall have quite a New England party, and shall sing Millais' Christmas hymn in great force. Hope you will all do the same in the old stone cabin. Our parlor is all trimmed with laurel and myrtle, looking like a great bower, and our mantel and table are redolent with bouquets of orange blossoms and pinks."

Laurel by Becky Brown

 When I visited the Stowe house in Connecticut I was impressed by the period look of house plants climbing the walls. Harriet Stowe, pictured above as a young woman, was quite a gardener. She may have learned her affection for botany at the Pierce's Litchfield Academy where she was a student of John Pierce Brace in her girlhood years there (1820-1824). She caricatured the botany teacher as Mr. Rossiter of the Cloudland Academy in her New England novel Old Town Folks.

See Block # 1 Civil War Quilts: Herbarium Block #1 for the Litchfield Female Academy

Harriet in Hartford

Harriet was not so much a botanizer or a student of natural history as an avid gardener. She and husband Reverend Calvin Stowe had a few arguments about her gardening extravagances and how to co-exist with her indoor gardens before she became wealthy from royalties on Uncle Tom's Cabin and Old Town Folks, among many other books.

Letter to husband

After the money began to accumulate she planned a dramatic glass conservatory on their new house in Hartford.

Account of a trip to the European mountains

Harriet, the romantic, was not a botanist with an urge to classify and learn the Latin names. Looking up a snow flower with a fringe: "I opened an herbarium and there were three inches of name...piled upon my little flower. I shut the herbarium."

 The Block

Laurel by Becky Collis

Laurel Flowers, far more complex than the simple block this month.
But we need a simple block this month.

Five of the 8 samplers show this 8-lobed floral; two have
birds in the corners. See the birds in Block #1 at the link above.

Our pattern puts the stem on the diagonal but it's up to you.

Asa Gray's discussion of the Laurel.

Robyn Gragg added more petals in her prize-winning version
Gloria based on pentagrams.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Mary Ellen Neese's Civil War


Quilt signed Mary Ellen Neese (1838-1906), dated 1861
Collection: Kansas Museum of History
The donor thought it might have been made in Shawnee County, Kansas.

In looking through quilts dated in the Civil War years I remembered this one in the collection of the Kansas Museum of History. When we began the Kansas Quilt Project in 1985 we looked at it as an example of a Kansas-made quilt and we expected to find many more like it.

Signature and date in a red chain stitch

We were quite disappointed to find that Kansans were really not making quilts in the first years of the Territory and Statehood (1854-1870). They brought their bedding with them. A little genealogical research on Mary Ellen Neese in the 1980s found she did not arrive in Kansas until 1872. She probably made the Civil-War-era quilt in Ohio.

So much for quilts made on the frontier.
Mary Ellen Hullinger Neese was 22 in 1860, living with husband David Neese, a bricklayer in Champaign County, Ohio. They had a 4-month old baby Albert at the time. She apparently went by the name Ellen. The Civil War began a year later. 

In the fall of 1862 forty-five men in Mad River Township, including David Neese, were drafted in an early version of the conscription act. The township had not sent the required number of volunteers so some residents were forced to enlist. Ellen's worries during the war included several soldiers named Neese and Hullinger.

Fortunately David came home.

By the 1875 census the Neese family was in Kansas. Son Albert recalled they had emigrated west when he was 12 in 1872. Many Union veterans looked to Kansas with its available Homestead land as a place to start over. The family farmed in rural Monmouth Township in Shawnee County.

Kansas Museum of History. Albert is in the center left.

When Albert grew up he opened a store in Richland. He also went
into banking and land management. 

Albert and wife Ella had two daughters, the youngest Georgia born in 1898. Georgia became an actress in New York but when her father became ill during the Great Depression she returned to Kansas. After his death in 1938 she inherited his business interests in Richland. Ten years later President Harry Truman nominated her for Treasurer of the United States, the first woman to hold the office.

Kansas Museum of History
An autographed five dollar bill by the woman whose printed signatures
appeared on the paper money for several years.

Further Reading:

Read this PDF file of "Quilts on the Kansas Frontier" in the Kansas History Journal, Spring, 1990, in an issue devoted to the findings of the Kansas Quilt Project.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Label for Atlanta Garden


Print this label out on treated fabric. It's about 4" x 6".
There's plenty of room for your information.

Wendy Coffin finished her version for her guild show.

Becky Brown put her I Spy black and white blocks
side by side.
See more  projects over at my Material Culture blog:


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Atlanta Garden #11: Stars & Stripe


Atlanta Garden #11: Stars and Stripe by Denniele Bohannon

Marietta Street, fall, 1864

Atlanta's city flagpole was bare when George Barnhard recorded the Union occupation in the photo above but several months later a Union flag, the stars and stripes, would be unfurled over the city.

At the end of the Civil War in April and May, 1865 the official
Union flag had 35 stars.

Local legend tells us the first post-war Union flag was raised on the public square by Unionist James L. Dunning who had owned the Atlanta Machine Company and spent time in prison during the war for refusing to supply Confederate machinery.

In 1868 Dunning was making political speeches for General Grant,
reminding Atlantans he was "a Union man and always had been," a memory
the editorial staff at the Atlanta Constitution did not care for.

Stars and Stripe by Becly Collis

Dunning may have raised a flag but the city history tells a different story of the official return to the Union with a flag on May 16th, 1865, stitched by the women of Atlanta, hung at half-staff to mourn Abraham Lincoln's assassination in a public ceremony.

Carrie Berry resumed her diary in May when "all hostility has seaced for a while and we hope we will have peace." She was back in school (her spelling no better) and enjoying time with her friends.

"The people say that piece is made and we are back in the union."

Stars & Stripe can celebrate Carrie's "Piece"


Stars and Stripe by Becky Brown

The Block

Once again block seams have been modified to make
it easier to piece and consistent with others in the series.
The inspiration block Star & Stripe (BlockBase #1982) is
 another Nancy Cabot design
from the Chicago Tribune's quilt column of the 1930s.

BlockBase shows several variations of the nine patch with a star in
the center.

Above the cutting instructions for 10" and 15" blocks.

Jeanne Arnieri is doing two versions of Atlanta Garden

Becky Collis's, quilted and bound.
One more block to go.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Lucy Proper Thompson's Civil War


Lawrence, Massachusetts, a New England mill town, 1854

When the Civil War began in 1861 widowed Lucy Proper Schuyler, 48 years old, had recently married John Thompson and was living in Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts.

She'd had at least three children with first husband Peter Schuyler who died in 1856. Arilla, born in 1850, and Rodney, born in 1839, are recorded as dying as children but she'd probably given birth to others and lost them before her youngest son Arthur was born in 1847. Arthur was about 14 or 15 when he decided to lie about his age and enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

Arthur was not as young as the drummer for the 54th
but was certainly younger than the bearded members of the African-American troop.

John G. Thompson's son George S. P. Thompson, two years older than step-brother Arthur, may have been living with his father and stepmother during the war. The Thompsons are hard to track as they'd changed their name when they escaped slavery in Missouri. John was originally George Brown before he fled to Canada and returned as a free barber John Thompson.

Lucy was descended from Black and Native American New Englanders. The Schuylers lived in Albany, New York before moving to Worcester, Massachusetts and then to Lawrence.

Lucy was known as Dr. Lucy Thompson as she had learned medicine
and healing from her indigenous ancestors. Here she is advertising
her services under her new married name.

Lucy is said to have had Pequot and Narraganset ancestors, the people who lived
north of the Long Island Sound before English colonists created New England.

Common Street in Lawrence in the 1920s

Slavery destroyed many African-American families but the Thompsons tried hard to keep theirs together. Before he married Lucy, John living in slavery, had a Missouri wife Ellen Turner who tried to join him in Canada and New England. Worried about losing his freedom-seeking investment the slave holder sold Ellen and her two children to a Kentuckian in Louisville. Mattie, Ellen's eldest born in 1847, was the same age as John Thompson's son George. Mattie Jane Jackson apparently was not John's biological daughter, but he cared enough about her to search for her when the war was over.

Arthur Schuyler probably contracted tuberculosis in the army and was sent home during the war to his mother whose herbal medicine could do nothing to save him. He died of consumption when he was 18, a year after the fighting ended.

Tuberculosis or consumption, easily spread in crowded conditions and among family members, was a common cause of death in the 19th century. No herbalist, water cure doctor or physician trying to adjust the body's "humours" with a mustard plaster could treat it. Arthur seems to have spread it to his stepbrother George who died of consumption about ten years later.

The stepbrothers are buried in Bellevue Cemetery overlooking Lawrence. 

John Thompson contacted stepdaughter Mattie Jackson in Kentucky after the war and she joined Lucy and John in Lawrence in 1866, the year Arthur died. Her 11-year-old half-brother also found a home with the Thompsons. Mattie was not a blood relation of either parent but they called her their stepdaughter and sought to give her the family and education the 16-year-old hoped for. Lucy listened to Mattie's stories of slavery and decided to record them in a book with the profits going for Mattie's schooling. 

Mattie J. Jackson
A True Story
Dr. L.S. Thompson, 1866

Mattie's preface:
"I feel it a duty to improve the mind, and have ever had a thirst for education to fill that vacuum for which the soul has ever yearned since my earliest remembrance. Thus I ask you to buy my little book to aid me in obtaining an education, that I may be enabled to do some good in behalf of the elevation of my emancipated brothers and sisters."
Freedpeople's school in 1866

A few years later Mattie returned to her former home in St. Louis and her birth mother Ellen. 

At 27 she married Union Army veteran William Reed Dyer (1846–1912) with whom she had nine children. She died in a small town in St. Charles County west of St. Louis in 1910.

The Dyers in the 1880 census in St. Louis. William is a musician and they have four children plus a boarder who may be helping Mattie with the children. Her wonderful name: Christmas Easter.

Twenty years later the Dyers are living in St. Genevieve south of St Louis on the Mississippi.

Lucy seemed to have a generous and affectionate nature expressed in raising other people's children. We can guess there were more who found love and education at her Massachusetts home before she died in 1881 at 61.

A little glimpse of her son Arthur's service in the 54th Massachusetts is also a window into that famous regiment recalled in the film Glory.

Memorial to the GAR women by Alexander Johnson of New Bedford, 
Massachusetts who was one of the drummers for the 54th Massachusetts.

Detail of Auguste Saint-Gaudens's bronze memorial to the 54th Massachusetts
Read Mattie Jackson's story as told to Lucy Thompson.

Arthur's grave