September 1, 2015

History Comes to Life on a Quilt - Part 5 - Research Done!

I did it!  I worked my way through researching all the names I could find on the Melrose, MA quilt!

(You can read the story of all the researching from the beginning - 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.  Part 3 tells a long story about three intertwined families.  Part 4 has general observations on life in the late 1890s.)


I found info (at on 150 people named on the quilt.  I couldn't find 77 of the names, most of them because they were listed with only initials and somewhat common last names, eg. "E. P. Holmes".  Even less likely to be found were women listed by their husband's names, or worse yet their husband's initials, eg. "Mrs. H. A. Austin".  Many were probably widows, who possibly moved since their husband's deaths.

But still, I think 150 people is quite a lot!

There are 64 families represented.  58 of them were living in Melrose around the time the quilt was made.  6 families were living nearby.  One was a minister and one a doctor - both professions that could serve a wide area.  Two were housekeepers who apparently traveled to Melrose for their jobs.  And there are two whose information gives me nothing out of the ordinary to hypothesize about.


This latest research added to the list of careers represented among the men:
hotel keeper
traveling salesman, asphalt
dry goods salesman
manufacturer, ships' compasses
glass awning builder (Yes, I believe this is really what the census sheet says.  And yes, there were glass awnings being built at this time, and still are.  Up until now, I'd have said that awnings are always made out of heavy cloth!)

And a 14 year old boy, Lester Russell, worked as an errand boy for a dry goods store.

And for the women, not much to add to the career potential for women.  One was treasurer for the local WCTU chapter, and ......

Best of all professions: "stitcher on a sewing machine"
I was confused for a while by the family members living with David and Sarah Wiley.  Turned out it was a second marriage for both of them, and so some children had Sarah's first married last name.  Well, anyway, in following the families back a while to figure this out, I found a Susan Wiley, living in Lynnfield with David's parents and her two young daughters in 1880, apparently the young widow of one of David's brothers.  And Susan knew how to sew on the sewing machine, still so relatively new that it ranked being part of her job title!


And I added to the list of wonderful period names:
Climena Parker
Gideon and Patience Aldrich
Maud Kennerson
Reginald Wooldridge
Dettmar and Stella Jones

Family Stories

Probably the best new story I found is this one, about Henry and Jane Osborne:

Henry immigrated from England in 1859 when he was 18 years old.  He served in the Civil War from 1861-63.  He married Elizabeth, who apparently went by her middle name of Jane.  They had no children.  Elizabeth Jane died in 1900, possibly in Cornwall England, where I would guess they were visiting Henry's family.  In 1903 Henry married another Elizabeth, this one named Elizabeth D. Thomas nee Hawkins.  It was her second marriage also.  She had been married to John Thomas, and they had had 7 children.  In 1900, she was a widow living in Boston with a married son and his family.  When Henry and this Elizabeth married in 1903, he was 76 and she was 63!  On the 1910 census, Henry had retired after working at a variety store.  He and Elizabeth had 3 young boarders with the last name Russell, ages 14, 13, and 9.  That sounds like they took in orphaned siblings.  They could be children of one of Elizabeth's married daughters, but finding her children proved to be confusing.  Henry died in Melrose in 1914.  There is a photo of his gravestone in his Ancestry records.  He was buried with his first wife, Elizabeth Jane.  I'm guessing his second wife was buried with her first husband, John Thomas.

And the grande finale - dating the quilt!!!!

The quilt was made sometime after the birth of Kenneth Thompson on March 2, 1897.

The quilt was made sometime before J.O. Littlefield's death on May 1, 1898 and Clara Sievwright's birth on May 3, 1898.

There is only one anomaly to all the people and marriages that are on the quilt, and all the new children and marriages that are not on the quilt.  And that, ironically, takes us back to the very first family that I located, the Pickles.

John D. and his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Helen (born 1885) are all on the quilt.

But Elizabeth died on October 25, 1895.  John remarried sometime in 1898, though I haven't been able to find a more exact date.  John and his second wife Lucia had two children, born in 1899 and 1900.  None of them are represented on the quilt.  All I can imagine is that Elizabeth's name was added as a memorial, as John was preparing to remarry.

So there you have it.  Next step - where to go with the information from here.  My first contact with librarians and historians in Melrose is written up in Part 6.  I've written a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.  And, since the quilt did initially come to me for repair, and I did eventually stop reading census forms and do the repair work, and wrote up the techniques and choices involved.  And then I went back to the research, and continued to find lots of great information.  And also, a summary on the occasion of the exhibit about the quilt, December 2018, in Melrose.  After the events, I described the homecoming experience and the exhibits, and wrote about the little quilt I made that was inspired by the historical quilt.  A set of summaries of the data and stories that brought the quilt to life.  And a very astonishing coincidence with another quilt and a family tree.  I was given a photo of one of the people named on the quilt. 

1 comment: