Saturday, February 17, 2018

Serving Time & Keeping Busy

Crocheted collar in the collection of the Library of Congress
by Antonia Ford Willard, made for her mother Julia F. Ford

"This collar was was made in the old Capitol prison during Antonia's 
incarceration there by herself and presented to her ma."

“This collar my Mamma must wear,
And she must wear alone,
I've made it in my prison cell,
Don't think me quite a drone.”
Antonia Ford Willard (1838-1871)
She probably made her collar.

Antonia Ford was jailed in this building in Washington City during 1863 for spying for the Confederacy. 

Antonia caricatured in Harper's Weekly

Confederate John S. Mosby's Rangers made a nighttime raid into Union-held Fairfax, Virginia on March 9, 1862, capturing 3 Union officers, 30 soldiers and 58 horses. The highest ranking officer taken was Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton who was kidnapped from his bed and imprisoned in Richmond's Libby Prison for two months.

Edwin H. Stoughton (1838-1868)

Mosby recalled, "I drew up the bedclothes, pulled up the general’s shirt, and gave him a spank on his bare back, and told him to get up.”

Stoughton's embarrassing capture ruined his military career. President Abraham Lincoln is said to have regretted the loss of the horses more than the 25-year-old General. After he was exchanged for a Union prisoner Stoughton resigned from the Army.

How did Mosby know where to find the General?

Stoughton's mother and sister had been visiting Edward R. Ford in Fairfax and the General attended a party at the Ford's the evening of the raid. Ford's 25-year old daughter Antonia apparently had been communicating information on Union activities to the Southern armies for months. She and her father were arrested and held in Washington, where one of their jailers was Major Joseph Clapp Willard.

In civilian life Major Willard owned the famous Willard Hotel with his brothers.

Joseph C. Willard (1820-1897)

Willard was married to Caroline Moore Willard but they had obtained a separation a year before Antonia's arrest. Antonia and Willard began a romance while she was his prisoner. She was released in September, 1863.  Shortly after Caroline divorced Joseph and Joseph resigned from the Army, Antonia and he married in March, 1864.

The Library of Congress has a large collection of Willard family papers, which includes two lace collars attributed to Antonia. The fancier collar above and lady's cap were probably worked during happier times.

 After resigning from the Army Joseph returned to managing the Willard Hotel. Antonia and Joseph had three children but only one lived beyond his first year. Antonia died at the age of 33 on February 14, 1871.

Antonia, lithograph from 1871

The crocheted collar looks to have been worked with a simple
cotton yarn---perhaps string---the kind of material a prisoner might be permitted.
Antonia appears to have been
someone who made the best of her circumstances.

There are many views of Antonia's life.  Amy Murrell Taylor offers a recent perspective in her book
The Divided Family in Civil War America
Here's a preview:
And another from the Washington Post:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Social Media Sites: Antebellum Album Quilts

Me (or a close facsimile)

Trying to be more with-it lately I have been doing
some social mediating or whatever the proper verb is.

Here are some sites to post pictures from the quilt-alongs we've been doing:

Block 1: Wandering Lover
Judy C is using all Kaffe

Pinterest page I am using to keep track of links to each monthly block:

Lizzie at LittleJewelQuilts

Instagram: The tag: #antebellumalbumquilt

NC Gleason

Facebook page just for this project

And that page has a group, a select group. You request to join; I approve your request and I will try to do that quickly:

You can also search other people's pages by using the tag

Cathy at Big Lake Quilting

Flickr Group Civil War Quilts

Dorry ColvinKiwi

And just post them on your own blogs with the words
Antebellum Album Quilt and I can find them by doing a web search,
which is how I found some of these.


I keep a list over on the left here on this blog page but if you
view the posts as an email or on your phone you don't see that left hand column.

Jeanne @ Spiral

I love this photo I saw in an online auction.
 She looks perfectly set up for winter. 
  • Lots of warm clothing.
  • A good chair.
  • A sewing table well equipped. 
  • An interminable hand project to keep those arthritic fingers moving.
  • And some books behind her for later.
If she had a dog snoozing under the sewing table it would be perfect.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Mary Lincoln Quilts???

The label on this old photograph of a silk crazy quilt
is hard to read but it definitely says
"Quilt made by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln"

I've been reading about Mary Todd Lincoln and I was surprised to see this attribution. She did have a thing about collecting fabric, especially expensive silks, perfect for a high-style silk crazy quilt a national fad in the 1880s. But....

The first thing I did to check out the story was look up the date of Mary Lincoln's death. She died at 63 in Springfield, Illinois on July 16, 1882. Some biographers believe she had untreated diabetes; she was an invalid who lived in shaded rooms for months before her death at her sister Elizabeth Edwards's house. Her vision was poor and she complained of headaches and the light hurting her eyes. I feel confident she was not doing any sewing in 1882.

1871 Photo of Mary Lincoln with
the late Abraham Lincoln superimposed.

Mary Todd Lincoln could not have made this quilt based on the dates of her death and decline and the advent of the crazy quilt style, which is about 1882 or 1883.

See a post on the beginning of the crazy quilt fashion here:

Did Mary Lincoln make quilts? You know, everybody quilted in the years she was a young housewife in Springfield raising four boys. Her first son Robert was born in 1844 when pieced and appliqued cotton patchwork was the fashion.

I have another old photo, a photocopy of a newspaper clipping from the Detroit News, showing a nine patch child's quilt with the caption:
"MRS. VIOLET AVEY, of Milan, Michigan, showing quilt which she has entered in The Detroit News Contest. This quilt was made by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln for Mrs. Mary Grimsley of Springfield, Illinois."

Edith Crumb, women's feature writer for the newspaper, mentioned the quilt in two articles in October, 1933. Here's the second article from the Quilt Index.
"EVERY day something more interesting happens in regard to the quilts to be entered in the Contest. Last week I mentioned that there was to be a quilt which had been made by Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and Friday the processor of this quilt laid it on my desk (and it had not been out of moth balls very long), so I thought you might like to see what this quilt is really like. In the illustration you see Mrs. Violet Avey of Milan, Michigan, who now owns the quilt. It is in red and white, although the red is somewhat faded from hard use and age. Originally I imagine it was a bright turkey red, and the design is a single Irish chain. This quilt, which is crib size, was made by Mrs. Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, for Mrs. Mary Grimsley, who was a lifelong resident of that city and was a daughter of Richard Burch, a member of one of the pioneer families of Springfield. She was also the great niece of Jesse B. Thomas, one of the first two United States senators from Illinois. The last meal of which Mrs. Lincoln partook before leaving for Washington in 1860 was prepared by Mrs. Grimsley. Mrs. Grimsley gave the quilt to Mrs. Avery (sic?)who is generous enough to exhibit it so that those who are interested in historical pieces may see it. The quilt is very ragged but there is still evidence of fine workmanship and careful cutting and planning."
The quilt's purported recipient Mary Grimsley was born Mary Frances Burch in 1846 in Springfield, the same year as the Lincoln's child Eddie who died at 3 years old. The Burch family lived across the street from the Lincolns. Mary Frances known as Fannie has a file at Find-a-Grave that mentions that she knew the Lincolns.
"She played with the Lincoln children and when the family was leaving for Washington, Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln visited her just before going to the train."
This Turkey red and white quilt is a style that could well have been made in the 1840s. I've had no luck in finding out where it is today. It was rather worn in 1933. Has it survived? Did Mary Lincoln actually make it?

Questions with no answers.

Julia Cook Edwards Baker (1837-1908)

The only mention I've yet found of quilts in Mary Lincoln's published writings is in a September 20th, 1857 letter to half-sister Emilie Todd Helm, in which she mentions Julia Edwards Baker, their sister Elizabeth's daughter. Mary did not care for this niece, who turned out to be as eccentric (a polite term) as Mary.
"Julia & Mr. Baker are in Peoria, at the fair, from thence go to St. Louis. At the county fair, here last week, Julia's last quilt (which makes her third one) a very handsome silk one took the premium, she trusts for the like fate at Peoria & St. Louis---she has nothing but her dear Husband & silk quilts to occupy her time. How different the daily routine of some of our lives are...."
The snideness seem to relate to Julia being childless (she was only 20)---or perhaps vain about her needlework. 

Julia won a prize in Peoria the next day, the highest amount given in the category of Needle, Shell & Wax Work---$8. (Hah! Aunt Mary)

The letter is in Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, edited by Justin G. Turner & Linda Levitt Turner.

Quilts made by Mary Todd Lincoln???

Pretty doubtful.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Correction to Block 2 Antebellum Album

Yes, I know most of you haven't even seen Block 2 (scheduled for posting February 28th) but if you bought the patterns 1-4 there's an error. See above.
Thank you Nancy

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Label for Your Yankee Diary Quilt

Tonko's got her tiny top quilted and bound.

Here's a label for your Yankee Diary quilt from 2017.
If you print it as is it should be 5" giving you plenty of room to write.
Note I didn't put a date on it. You can do that.

The shield is from a Union envelope graphic in the collection
of the Library of Congress

Read more about those envelopes here:

Rina in Italy is finished with her top
She added a 3" plain border.

And Jeanne has finished her top with a border of her own design.

Tonko's finished miniature

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Buried with the Silver: Temperance Smoot's Quilt & A Sad Tale

Quilt attributed to Temperance Neely Smoot by
her great-granddaughter in 1986.
Temperance Smoot's descendant brough this quilt
to a documentation day in Alamance County, North Carolina.

The pattern is known locally as cotton boll.
North Carolina documenters saw several.

Is that a chrome orange plain-colored cotton in the applique and sashing?

The family story passed on with the quilt was that it was "hidden with other valuables in a trunk in a swamp during the Civil War." Documenter Erma Kirkpatrick thought it had never been washed. We can see there are two large stains on it, perhaps water stains, which might have been caused by being stashed in a swamp.

See the file here:

Thirty-one years later we've seen a lot more antique quilts and I have to say I doubt this one was buried with the silver to keep it from marauding Yankees---mainly because it looks to have been made after the Civil War.

The major clues to a post-1870 date are the inexpensive, fugitive, plain-colored cottons typical of Carolina and other Southern quilts in the last decades of the 19th century and into the twentieth.

Similar construction in a pieced 4-block quilt
made in North Carolina by Thelma Drake
about 1935. North Carolina project & the Quilt Index.

The triple strip sashing and border with a nine-patch cornerstone is also a post-war style characteristic not seen so much before the war.

Tempy Smoot's block
Chrome orange was common in post war Southern quilts.

I thought I might be able to find corroborating information about the life of Temperance Neely Smoot as the name is so odd, but I was surprised to find it's not unusual in Rowan and Davie Counties.

This grave in Mocksville, North Carolina has been misread as Temperance Nefly Smoot but that's not an F, it's an E. If this is our Temperance she would have been of a good age to have made such a quilt about 1890 to 1910. She was born and died in Calahaln, southwest of Winston-Salem. Tempy Smoot is her maiden name. According to Find-A-Grave she never married.

Davie County Court House in Mocksville, about 1925

There are many members of the Smoot family in the area then and now. Another Temperance Neely Smoot was born in 1810. Temperance Neely of Salem in Davie County married Alexander Smoot in the 1820s. She died in either 1887 or 1897 so could  have made the quilt before or after the War. The family story that accompanied the quilt recalled the seamstress as married to Sanford Smoot, another re-occurring name in the area. Perhaps Alexander was mis-remembered as Sanford.

This Temperance and Alexander had a daughter Rebecca Providence Smoot (1837-1890) about which more later.

A Temperance Elizabeth Smoot seems to have died as a child before the Civil War in Tennessee. And Tempie Jane Smoot was born and died in Texas (1886-1951). She was probably related but is unlikely to have been the seamstress. And then there is a Temperance Neely Smoot born in 1891---leaving very few records. 

Temperance Elizabeth Neely (1830-1922) of Rowan County married a man named Gustavus Aldophus Bingham. I believe she was Rebecca Providence Smoot Neely's daughter. A little poking around found a very sad story.

Unidentified woman and daughter

Two months after the Civil War ended Temperance Elizabeth shot a freedwoman who had once been a slave on the Neely plantation. Twenty-four year old Galina had not been free long enough to have a last name. She was in a difficult place on July 1, 1865. Having recently learned she was free she hoped to leave the Neelys but persuasion from the white women, particularly Temperance, discouraged her from striking out on her own with her children, so she stayed (she had five children including ten-year-old Ellen.)

Women at the Fripp plantation after the war. 
Library of Congress photo.
Galina's family and the Neelys could not persist in the old ways but they had no experience in the new. Temperance Neely's mother, known as Providence, became furious when Ellen refused to follow instructions as if she were still a slave. Providence sharpened a switch and began to beat Ellen.

Escapees (contraband) women during the war

Galina jumped to protect her child. Temperance ran into the house and grabbed a pistol kept on the fireplace mantel. "We were helpless women," testified Providence later, "We kept a pistol there to defend ourselves." Temperance shot a bullet over Galina's head. The second shot hit her in the chest. Galina ran for help, saying "Miss Temperance has shot me." She died that day.

Temperance Neely probably could have avoided any disciplinary action at all for shooting Galina had she killed her a few months earlier when Galina was a slave. But the case became an example of post-war justice. As the New York Times phrased it in August, 1865:
"A new era has dawned... The trial of Miss TEMPERANCE NEELY, of Davie County, in this State, for the murder of a negro woman, GALINA, formerly her slave, has just been concluded before a military commission, convened at this place by order of Brevet Brig.-Gen. G.W. SCHOFIELD."
Temperance was convicted in a military court. The Times continued:
"Miss NEELY is in town awaiting sentence....In case of conviction involving anything beyond fine, a strong effort is to be made to secure a pardon from President JOHNSON. Little doubt is entertained by the rebels of obtaining this. "
The sentence was a fine of $1,000, which Temperance apparently had no difficulty paying. Confederate sympathizer President Andrew Johnson did not have to pardon her.

Read the New York Times story here:

And see more about cotton boll quilts here:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Antebellum Album #1: Wandering Lover

Block # 1 Wandering Lover by Becky Brown

The first block in our 2018 series Antebellum Album features Indiana Fletcher whose family tells us much about cross border relationships North and South before the Civil War.

Unknown class and teacher

Throughout the year we'll explore women's academies and signature quilts in the 1840s and '50s. We'll look at school girls whose lives were interrupted by the American Civil War and examine album quilts. Each month I'll post a free pattern for a favorite signature block from those early friendship quilts.

Indiana Fletcher 1828-1900

Indiana Fletcher was a woman whose ties to North and South were tightened during her school years. Born in 1828, Indiana's unusual name celebrated her Uncle Calvin's new home on the western frontier. Calvin and Elijah Fletcher were Vermonters who refused to stay put. Seeking opportunity far from his parents' New England farm, Indiana's father Elijah wound up as a Yankee school teacher near Lynchburg, Virginia. He married well-to-do student Maria Antoinette Crawford and in short time became a Southerner--- a slave holder at his Sweet Briar plantation.

Indie and sister Betty benefited from their mother's family money and father's faith in education---"the best fortune we can give our children." Indiana traveled north to St. Mary's Hall in Burlington, New Jersey and the class of 1843.

Indie attended school across the Mason-Dixon line, 
which runs between Maryland and Pennsylvania
southwest of Burlington New Jersey, the star at the top.
Sweet Briar is the lower star.

The Episcopal school overlooking the Delaware River was five years old.  St Mary's was later named Doane Academy after founder George Washington Doane, who believed girls' curricula should be the same as boys'. He and wife Eliza built Riverside, an Italianate mansion next to the school, with Eliza's money from her first husband. Eliza also used that inheritance to support the school in the early years while it became established as a women's academy with a national reputation.

 Doane Academy still provides an education for young men and women.

The Doane's home, Riverside.

St. Mary's influenced Indiana in many ways. Perhaps the most concrete was the makeover she and Betty planned for their Virginia family home, improving the brick farmhouse with a tower on either side, ala Riverside. Father Elijah wrote, "This is a project of my Daughters, and as I rarely deny to gratify any of their desires, have consented this." Remodeling also dictated travels to New York City to buy furniture and keep in touch with friends made in school.

Sweet Briar in Virginia in the early 20th century.
 One can see the bones of
a Southern plantation between the towers.

Burlington, New Jersey was not only home to important 19th-century boarding schools but also to some of the earliest album quilts. We have no evidence that Indie Fletcher ever contributed to a quilt but as a fashionable young woman in Burlington she must have been aware of the new fad for patchwork albums. Our first signature block---just like Indie---has links to Indiana and New Jersey.

The Block

Block 1
by Mark Lauer
We have four modelmakers this year and two
of them are making two sets so you're going to
get lots of ideas. Mark's doing one traditional
red, yellow & green set.

1843 Signature quilt from Burlington, New Jersey
Collection of Conner Prairie Museum in Indiana

A nine-patch variation is not something we might pick for an album block but in the antebellum years that white center square was seen as the perfect spot for a name and sentiment. No applique in this block of the month! But you might get ideas. Those buds stitched in the corners are pretty cute. 

I've seen two albums dated 1842 and 1843 with the pictured pattern---both from New Jersey and both attributed to Quakers. The quilt directly above with sashing is the cover quilt on the New Jersey Quilts book. Variations were common for albums from the complex version above to a simpler version below.

Online Auction. Quilt looks to be about 1880-1910.
The pattern is BlockBase #1700

I've picked a pattern of medium complexity: #1700 in BlockBase. (#1702 is for the ambitious---54 small HST's per block.)

Late 19th-century version of #1702

The oldest published name I've found is Wandering Lover, published in Hearth & Home magazine in 1895, an appropriate name for Southerner Indie and a certain New York minister, two people divided by Civil War.

Mark's second set is done in the bright and black
repros we call neon prints today---black novelty
prints from about 1910.

Cutting a 12" Block
A—Cut 3 background squares 4-7/8” Cut each in half diagonally. You need six large triangles.

B— Cut 9 dark and 3 light squares 2-7/8”. Cut each in half diagonally. You need 18 dark and 6 light of the smaller triangles.

C--- Cut 3 squares 4-1/2”.

Block 1 by Pat Styring
Pat is doing her distinctive collage-like interpretation: a little applique,
a lot of fussy-cutting.

The Civil War & After

Indiana Fletcher Williams, perhaps in the 1880s.

When Civil War broke out Indie was a rich single woman, a 33-year-old slave-holder living on the family plantation. Her personal war was less painful than that of many Virginians. Sweet Briar remained safe from fighting so many of her trials were just tribulations. The railroads no longer ran; food and goods were scarce. And she missed her Northern travels.

Pass for travel in Virginia right after the War.

Indie applied for a pass to cross into the Union from Virginia. In 1864 she asked Uncle Calvin to recommend her, hoping to escape the South where "fortunes are vanishing like the glories of the setting sun." Calvin Fletcher refused to vouch for her loyalty, fearing she'd try to get her hands on the Vermont family farm, but I would guess Indiana's motivation to cross the lines was more romance than greed.

James Henry Williams 

Frustrated travel plans may have included a visit to Dobbs Ferry, New York, where J.H. Williams was an Episcopal minister. Once the war ended Williams visited Sweet Briar and married Indie soon after. Daughter Maria Georgiana (Daisy) was born in 1867. The Fletchers' fortune did not vanish with the  Confederacy's setting sun and she and Williams continued to prosper throughout the century, dividing their time between New York and Virginia, while Daisy attended Manhattan schools.

Daisy Williams (1867 -1884)
Sadly, their only child inherited a debilitating disease and died at the age of 16.

Her broken-hearted parents moved permanently to New York. In 1889 when J.H. Williams died his will requested Indiana use their fortune and Virginia land to establish a women's school in Daisy's memory. You may be familiar with Sweet Briar, a private women's liberal arts college on 3,000 acres near Lynchburg.

Sweet Briar College in 1914, fourteen years after 

Indiana Fletcher Williams's death.

Indie's mansion still stands
Sweet Briar College was recently named a top 
ten small school in Forbes' Magazines survey.

Denniele Bohannon is also doing two sets in
high contrast brights. This is from her pink set.

And this one with more triangles is from
her blue set. BlockBase #1701.

Sentiment for July

Each month I'll show an inked flourish from
a mid-century album. You might want to print it
and trace it. 
Or try some free-hand grape vines with your signature.

Information about the Fletcher/Williams family is abundant. I first read Indie's tale in a group biography of her father's family. Our Family Dreams is by Daniel Blake Smith.

Album sold at Hindman Auctions about 15 years ago
with a variation of this month's block on the top row next to the willow tree.

If you'd prefer you can buy the patterns for Antebellum Album in my Etsy shop. I've packaged blocks 1-4, which you can buy as a PDF to print yourself  for $5. Or I'll print it on my black & white printer and mail it to you for $9. You'll be getting patterns January through April ahead of everyone else so don't be telling anybody. Here are the links: