July 28, 2015

History Comes to Life on a Quilt - Part 3

Part 3.  Three Intertwined Families

(Part 1 tells the background of a quilt inscribed with many names, and how I started my search for the details of its history.  Part 2 details some of the interesting family stories.)

Here's the most complex and hard to research story I've found so far.  Eunice B. Phinney nee Dyer had married Erastus Phinney in 1876 in Boston.  At that time, Erastus was 66.  This was his second marriage.  Eunice was 42, her first marriage.  By the time the quilt was made, Eunice was a widow and living in Melrose with Mary Ives Hersey, a spinster.

I started noticing the same family names in their ancestry.  It took a bunch of head scratching and searching, but I figured out that the two women were related.   Mary's mother, Mary Knowles Dyer Hersey, and Eunice were sisters - so Eunice was Mary Ives Hersey's aunt.  Then I found, on the 1900 census, that Nehemiah Mayo Dyer was also living in their house.  I looked at some older records, and found that Nehemiah was Eunice's brother and Mary's uncle.  He was a Civil War veteran and captain of the US Navy, who moved in with his family members after his retirement.

Back on the 1870 census, I found Mary Knowles Dyer Hersey, as head of household.  Living with her were her children - Mary Ives Hersey (our Mary, on the quilt), George, and Henry.  M.K.D.H.'s father, Henry Dyer, was also living there, and - surprise! - so was her sister Eunice Dyer (our Eunice Phinney, on the quilt).  So our Mary Hersey and Eunice Phinney had also lived together before Eunice's marriage to Erastus.  At that time, Eunice was a teacher.

And from there, my searching got even more complex!  You may recall that Erastus Phinney's marriage to Eunice was his second marriage.  Lo and behold, I saw that his first wife was named Eliza Dyer! I spent a long time, a very very very long time, looking back in the Dyer family, but never did find out where Eliza fits in.  In any case, Erastus had married two Dyer wives.

As I searched back, I found several more unsolved mysteries, and a ton of Dyers and Herseys.  For one thing, they both tended to have very large families.

Both families are structured so as to make research really confusing.  Many, many names were reused across generations, both first names and family and maiden names used as middle names.  Sometimes the first and middle names are even used in the same combination, so there are more than a few people in different generations with exactly the same name.  Several times, a child had died young and the name was reused on the next child.  (Eunice was in such a pair, having been born in the same year as the first Eunice B. Dyer died.)  One family used a name twice before a third baby survived and carried the name to adulthood.  Around 1750, two Dyer brothers married two sisters from an Atkins family.  After a while I just stopped looking, but I peeked at records in the Dyer family back into the 1600s, and stopped from exhaustion before I'd gone all the way back.  In those years, many of the listings are on a source called "Mayflower Births and Deaths."  Exciting!  This was long before the US census system, obviously.

And there's one more thing.  Several years after the quilt was made, Mary Ives Hersey went on to marry in 1912.  Like Eunice, she married a widower, Abbott Adams Davis.  She was 59 at the time, and he was 56.

Some general thoughts and observations follow in Part 4.  Part 5 sums up my research.  Part 6 shares the first information from librarians and historians in Melrose.  And a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.

July 24, 2015

History Comes to Life on a Quilt - Part 2

Part 2.  Stories, Stories, and More Stories

(Part 1 tells the background of a quilt inscribed with many names, and how I started my search for the details of its history.) 

Families with several children have been most useful for narrowing down the dates.  The Dorchesters, Chester O. and Edith G. nee Kimball, for example.  Their daughter Alice Jean was born in 1896, and her name is on the quilt.  Their son Kenneth was born in 1899 and is not on the quilt.  Similarly, Eva and Harry Thompson's daughter Virginia, born in 1891, is on the quilt, as is their son Kenneth, born in March 1897.

Between the Pickles (their story is in Part 1), the Dorchesters, and the Thompsons, I had pretty quickly placed the date between later in 1897 and sometime in 1898.  I will toot my own horn and say that my first guesstimate on the age of this quilt was late 1800s or early 1900s, or perhaps an older top that was finished some years later.  This was based on the old-fashioned, 19th-century-style penmanship being combined with the polka dot backing and ties rather than fancy quilting, which point to something a bit more recent.

Also, I found that the great majority of the names appear on census pages for a town called either Melrose City or Melrose.  So now, I am sure the quilt was made in Massachusetts, and can add that to the search criteria.

Nearly every person I've found via Ancestry.com has hints of an intriguing story in their census records.  This process is incredibly fun!

Spinster sisters Lizzie and Christie Lunt shared a house.  Lizzie's occupation was "crocheting."

Herbert Weeks and Hattie Orcutt's names share a square.  They were married on June 1, 1898.  (So the quilt was made after Kenneth Thompson's birth in March 1897 and before the Weeks' marriage in June 1898!)  Herbert was a clerk for a grain dealer as of the 1900 census.  As of the 1910 census, he had become a wholesale grain merchant, and he and Hattie had two children.  Moving up in the world!

Gertrude Jones and Walter DeHaven Jones had been married in 1885 at the M.E. Church in Melrose, MA by......John D. Pickles!

Newlyweds Ralph and Elisa Wilbur, just married in 1898, were living with Ralph's mother and sister.

Jenny Howes was a widow in 1880 when she was 37 years old.  She lived with her father and 12 year old son.  In 1885 she is listed in the Melrose directory as owner of a millinery shop in nearby Upham, located "opposite the Baptist church."  Jenny Howes is so far the only female business owner I've come across.

Here's a sad story.  There are four Eversons named on the quilt - Charles, Georgina, Lucy, and Grace.  Charles and Georgina are husband and wife.  They appear on several census forms with their children Lucy and Charles, but never a child or mother or aunt named Grace.  I finally did find Grace, but only as a death record.  She was indeed Charles and Georgina's daughter.  She lived from March 1897 to September 1898.  I feel that maybe her short life has been given at least a little bit more meaning, by helping with more precise dating of this quilt.  (Charles was born in 1902, after the quilt was made.)

In 1900 Sarah Hanson was 72 years old.  She was living with her daughter and son-in-law, and with their daughter, son-in-law, and 9 month-old grandson.  So Sarah was a great-grandma, and all the generations were under one roof.

George A. Whidden was a carpenter, 59 years old in 1900, married to Susie Whidden.  He had fought in the Civil War and was wounded in 1861.  His sister Angelina and her husband George Anderson are also on the quilt.  By the 1920 census, George, Angelina, and George were sharing a home.

I can only wonder at the story of Mary Peirce.  She is listed in 1880 in Boston at age 38 in her father-in-law's household, along with her husband, two teenage daughters, and brother-in-law.  In the Profession column, Mary is noted as "in insane asylum." In 1900, the family is found in Melrose.  At this point, her husband was living with one of the daughters.  The two of them are on the quilt.  I have found no further mention of Mary.

Sarah Lavender was 73 years old on the 1900 census.  She had been married to John R. Lavender, a sea captain and had 5 children.  She was living with her youngest daughter Carrie and her husband Russell Sawtelle and their daughter Dorothy, who are also on the quilt.  Dorothy was born in 1895.  Their other children, born in March 1898 and 1899, are not on the quilt.

Frederick Saltmarsh was a sewer inspector on the Melrose 1900 census.  By 1910, he and his family had moved to Solano, CA, where he had become a submarine inspector for the US Navy.  By 1920, his career is listed as "shipfitter, helper."  A few years later, he and his wife returned to Massachusetts, this time living in the town of Waltham.

Part 3 tells the story of the Phinney, Dyer, and Hersey families.  Part 4 has general observations on life in the late 1890s.  Part 5 sums up my research.  Part 6 shares the first information from librarians and historians in Melrose.  And a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.

July 21, 2015

History Comes to Life on a Quilt - Part 1

This quilt was sent to me, in need of repair.  It's a special quilt, because all the white pieces are inscribed in ink with names.  I am thinking that it may very well have been a fund-raising quilt, since the names are all written by the same hand.  But there is no dedication or date, so there really is no way to know for sure.

The quilt has some tears at the edges, both on the front and on the polka dot back.  Most happily, none of the names are affected.

(Note the difference in the whites, between the yellower antique fabrics in the quilt, and the bluer modern sheet that the quilt is lying on.  This is why finding a match for old whites is a bit tricky, and why a light cream or pale tan may end up being the best.  This is also why an old quilt that looks a bit yellow is not necessarily dirty.)

There is one block where two small tears were previously repaired.

The Pattern Name
The pattern is now known as Old Italian Block.  I've posted about a gorgeous mid-1800s version, with a wonderful collection of prints.  

This time, I read more carefully in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  I noticed she has documented that name via the Nancy Cabot 1930's quilt pattern column, much after both these quilts were made.  The name she has for the time these 1800s quilts were made is either "Old Italian Design", published in the Farm Journal which began publication in 1877, or "Snowflake", published as pattern #277 in 1897 by the Ladies Art Company. 

Dating the Quilt
I mentioned to my husband how cool it would be to be able to know who all these people were and what their lives were about.  He reminded me that we've just signed up for a membership with Ancestry.com - and I started searching.

I hit pay dirt almost immediately!  What's proved most useful is choosing what appear to be the names of a husband and wife.  When I find that last name with the matching two first names, I can be more certain that I have the right folks.

I started with John D. Pickles and Elizabeth Pickles.  In the same block, there is also a Helen Pickles.  I found John and Elizabeth on the 1880 census, living in Lawrence, MA.  John was a minister, age 36, and Elizabeth was 32.  Elizabeth's maiden name was Seavey.  They had been married on June 14, 1877.

Then, on the 1900 census, I found John, living in Westfield, MA.  He had a daughter named Helen who had been born in 1885.  But instead of Elizabeth, his wife's name is given as Lucia, and there are two more children, Katharine born in 1899 and Marion born in 1900.

So I could deduce that the quilt was made at some point after Helen was born in 1885, and before Elizabeth (presumably) died and John remarried.  He most likely remarried at least a year before Katharine was born, so sometime before 1898.  So the quilt was made between 1885 and 1898 in Massachusetts!

I told all this to the quilt owner, who happily informed me that she had bought the quilt at a garage sale in Massachusetts!

So I was off and running.

End of Part 1.  Part 2 details how I've narrowed down the dates, and relates some of the interesting family stories I've been finding.  Part 3 tells the story of the Phinney, Dyer, and Hersey families.  Part 4 has general observations on life in the late 1890s.   Part 5 sums up my research.  Part 6 shares the first information from librarians and historians in Melrose.  And a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.

July 17, 2015

Favorite Quotes #9 - Chatter, Chatter, Chatter

Aren't these little crafty women just so sweet?  Heads bent over their needlework, a nice cuppa tea on the way.

They are an illustration for the poem "Shoes and Stockings" (in the book When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, artwork by E. H. Shepard.)  The original artwork is pen and ink; the color was added by my mom.

My mom always loved a good, freshly sharpened pencil.  One of my coziest memories is cuddling next to her on a lazy morning.  She'd read a poem, and then I'd watch her color, bringing the illustrations to life, just for me.  Looking back now, I see one more indication that I was meant from early on to be an artist.  

Little did I realize then, as a child, how much I would come to resemble these little ladies as an adult!  I now spend my winter days wearing my shawl and drinking cup after cup of tea to keep warm while I sew.  Not to mention that the sewing circle is a preferred mode of socialization!

Here's another example of my mom's work.  This illustrates a poem called "Waiting At The Window" from Now We Are Six, in which the rainy day game of watching raindrops is introduced.  They collect smaller drops as they slide down the window; the game is predicting which will win by getting to the bottom of the pane first.  I must admit to still playing this game, not only on windows but also on the shower wall!

My mom was a big fan of A. A. Milne and Winnie The Pooh (and really any sort of English humor)(and really any sort of English anything).  The last line from this poem, about the crisis that ensues when the palace kitchen has run out of butter, became a standard at our breakfast table.  I also just love these two royals!


Sometimes my Mom would get to giggling so much while reading the Pooh stories to me that she couldn't get the words out for quite a while.  Here's one that never failed to get her going for a long time (from the story in which Pooh and Piglet set a trap for a Heffalump, and actually catch one……):

"Help, help!" cried Piglet, "a Heffalump, a Horrible Heffalump!" and he scampered off as hard as he could, still crying out, "Help, help, a Herrible Hoffalump!  Hoff, Hoff, a Hellible Horralump!  Holl, Holl, a Hoffable Hellerump!"

She'd end up just as breathless as little Piglet!

July 10, 2015

Fans, Color Blocks, and Bricks

Today I am debuting the three new quilts in my "Something From Nothing" series!  (To read more about how this series works, see this previous post or visit the whole set on my website.)  This is a just-for-fun project, and I am definitely having fun!

31.5 x 31.5
Inspired by a little roll of four brocade fabric samples found at an estate sale.  The borders are the reverse of each of the fabrics.  I added some other brocade scraps from worn out clothing and a roll of wide purple ribbon.

Color Blocks
25 x 50.5
This is made mostly of two fabrics with very large stripes, plus a few other smaller samples.  In other words, there is not nearly as much piecing as it seems.  The shape of the quilt was totally dictated by the width of the fabric samples.  The binding (on just the two long sides) is a bold, wide-brushstroke print in black and tan.  Basically, this quilt combines the fabrics with prints too large to be used with anything else.

44 x 23.5
This design was totally inspired by color.  I had lots of different, well, "brick red" prints, mostly one-of-a-kind, i.e. not part of a colorways set.  The mortar fabric was an upholstery remnant from the giveaway table at my guild.


And now…… Trumpet fanfare!  Here's a sneak peek of the next quilts, still in the design stage.  I always end up working on the something-from-nothings a few at a time.  As I go through the bin of fabrics, I just can't help seeing more than one inspiring fabric combo!  I really enjoy letting the fabrics dictate what I do - this is a series all about the fabrics.

1. The pale four-patch on the left utilizes a couple of sets of colorways of striped fabrics plus a couple of other bits.

2. The planet will probably be called Gas Giant, and will have rings.  The rings will be made of some non-fabric, found-object "nothings", but I'm keeping their identity a secret at this point.  I'm really excited about this one!  Thanks to my daughter for initiating the design inspiration for this piece.

3. The red striped squares quilt is based on the 9-patch at the center, which is actually a woven checkerboard fabric.  I used the size of those squares as a basis for the rest of the design.

4. There's another set of fabrics draped over the back of my chair that you can't see here, still waiting for inspiration for how to set them.

5. (You can read about the camel panel on my post about Egyptian appliqué.  The vest is a baby gift, soon to be packaged up and shipped.)

And finally, just for a giggle:
Here's what happens when you try to spray dampen a stain-resistant treated fabric prior to ironing!  So pretty!

July 7, 2015

The Tapestries of Stirling Castle

A friend posted a link to this amazing tapestry story.  There's been a 14-year project (yes, that's right, 14 years) to create new work based on the famous unicorn tapestry series held by the Metropolitan in New York.

The originals were made around 1500.  The new tapestries are being hung at Stirling Castle in Scotland.  James V is known to have had unicorn tapestries there (of some sort, not necessarily the ones at the Met) during his reign in the first half of the 1500s. 

The artists worked according to all that is known of the weaving methods and materials of the time.

The video is a must-see!  (Follow link at the bottom of the main page.)

(I continue to be fascinated by tapestries ever since my experience a while back with helping conserve one.)