Saturday, July 26, 2014

Threads of Memory 7: Oberlin Star for the Oberlin Rescuers

Block # 7: Oberlin Star for the Oberlin Rescuers by Jean Stanclift

Twenty of the Oberlin Rescuers (also called the Oberlin/Wellington Rescuers.)
Oberlin College has extensive information about the topic at their website. See below.

The tale of the Oberlin, Ohio "Rescuers" was told in the newspapers of the day. It began near Oberlin:

"On Monday, Sept. 13, a young man residing two or three miles from town was hired to decoy a colored man from the village, upon the pretence of employing him in labor. As they were riding on the way to the work, as the colored man supposed, about two miles from the village he was seized by three men – one an official from Columbus, the others Kentuckians – and hustled into a carriage. They drove at once to Wadsworth’s Hotel in Wellington. 

From the American Antislavery Almanac, 1839

 "A resident of Oberlin met them on the way and reported in town his suspicions that an arrest had been made. Companies of men, students and citizens, armed and unarmed, at once followed in pursuit and were joined on the way by others.

"A Mob" from the children's periodical The Slave's Friend

 At Wellington they found the hotel already surrounded by crowds of people, while the man-hunters with their victim had taken refuge in the garret and had barricaded the passages. The gathering increased hourly and the excitement grew more intense, until at last the doors themselves gave way before the moral force that was brought to bear upon them, and the poor fugitive walked forth to the crowd who bore him off in triumph. Not a shot was fired, nor a blow struck, nor a bolt broken. It was not possible to resist the demand for the release in the name of the Higher Fugitive Law, backed by such an executive force.---The Oberlin Evangelist, September 29, 1858

The "Higher Fugitive Law" was the principle that the nation's Fugitive Slave Law was trumped by antislavery's moral law. 
Oberlin in 1874

Oberlin was such a hotbed of antislavery that the Kentuckians hoping to retrieve 17-year-old runaway John Price realized they had to trick him out of town before they could kidnap him. They took Price to nearby Wellington, but soon over a hundred protesters from Oberlin and Wellington demanded his release.

Wadsworth's Hotel in Wellington

The Rescuers managed to free Price without bloodshed, return him to Oberlin and send him on to freedom in Canada. Thirty-seven of the lawbreakers who rescued him were indicted and jailed. Only two went to trial. 

The two rescuers in front holding their hats are
Simeon Bushnell and Charles Langston, who served short sentences.

Charles Langston later moved to my home town Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife Mary Sheridan Langston.
Mary married twice, both husbands Oberlin Rescuers.
Read more about the Langstons and their grandson Langston Hughes here.

Ohio Star and Wanderer's Path

Oberlin Star is a new block combining an old-fashioned Ohio Star with the easy-to-piece curve popular in end-of-the-nineteenth-century designs called Drunkard's Path or Wanderer's Path in the Wilderness. The block honors the town and the college that offered education and hope to African-Americans.

Oberlin College, 1860

Oberlin Star for the Oberlin Rescuers by Becky Brown

Cutting a 12" Block

A B & C – Use the templates to cut 4 of each.

To print:
  • Create a word file or a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11".
  • Click on the image above.
  • Right click on it and save it to your file.
  • Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". The top side of piece A should measure 4" on the dark sewing line. Adjust the printed page size if necessary.

D -  Cut 3 squares 5 1/4" x 5 1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 cuts.
You will need 12 triangles.

E – Cut 1 square 4-1/2" x 4-1/2".

F -  Cut 1 medium square 2-3/16" x 2-3/16". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 cuts.
You will need 4 triangles.

The curved pieces (C) in the Oberlin Star can be pieced or appliquéd. Jean Stanclift, who made the block pictured at the top, loves to appliqué so rather than cutting template piece A she cut 4 extra squares E. She machine appliquéd piece C onto E to make the corners. 


What We Can Learn About the Underground Railroad from the Langston's Story
When the stories of the Underground Railroad were recalled at the end of the nineteenth century, American memory tended to view the heroes primarily as white. Charles and Mary Langston's story emphasizes the free-black community's commitment to freedom, how they both broke the law and used the law to assist slaves. A dozen of the indicted Rescuers were free blacks.
Oberlin Star
48" x 48"

 Make a Quilt a Month
The Oberlin Star block could represent the North Star on a cloudy night. To emphasize that look create a small quilt with a starry sky by alternating 5 Oberlin Star blocks with 4 plain dark blue squares cut to 12 1/2" x 12 1/2". Border with a 2" finished inner border of dark blue to highlight the blocks and then a 4" finished outer border of medium blue to create a square quilt finishing to 48" x 48".

Read newspaper accounts at Oberlin College website here:

Read a history of the town and its role in the Underground Railroad movement.
Nat Brandt, The Town That Started the Civil War. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Daughters of the Confederacy Memoir

United Daughters of the Confederacy members
in Jackson, Tennessee, 1909

The ladies associations North and South built monuments and assisted veterans and their families. Another task was preserving memories of the Civil War. In 1903 the South Carolina State Committee of the Daughters of the Confederacy published South Carolina Women in the Confederacy, collecting reports and memories of women's work and experiences.

A meeting in Tacoma 1922

Quilts are occasionally mentioned in the many accounts of sewing rooms and organizations. 

Typical is the "First Quarterly Report of Soldier's Relief Association of Charleston," October 28, 1861.
The lists noted 262 packages (barrels, boxes, baskets, etc) sent to the soldiers containing 209 blankets, 32 quilts, 145 comforts, 134 needlebooks....

"Report of the Greenville Ladies' Aid Association," January 10, 1862
The women sent boxes and bales containing five counterpanes, seventy comforters, ten bedticks, fourteen blankets, two quilts...

A mid-20th-century meeting

Read the book here at Open Library. (I couldn't get a search function to work but perhaps if you download the PDF....)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maria Spear's Quilt: Fundraiser for Confederate Memorial

Silk Quilt made by the ladies of Fayetteville, North Carolina,
led by Maria L. Spear (1804-1881).
Collection of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia
97" x 99"

Detail of the quilt
Maria L. Spear, born in England, is said to have drawn each of the black squares for the Fayetteville women to embroider.

Post-Civil-War women's groups worked to memorialize local soldiers. A quilt in the Museum of the Confederacy collection is well documented as a fundraiser to build the memorial at the Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Ann Kyle headed the Fayetteville's Soldiers' Aid Association and determined to build a marble monument.

The Cross Creek memorial is North Carolina's first 
Confederate memorial,
according to Douglas J. Butler.
It was dedicated in December, 1868

Spear, a skilled needlewoman and teacher, volunteered to organize a quilt to be raffled for the cause. The women met every Friday afternoon to sew for months, but after Spear moved to Chapel Hill little work went on without her. After two years Spear lamented, "When I saw the Quilt this evening, I felt overwhelmed, how I am to get it done, I don't know."She finished it in six months and the ad below in the Fayetteville News described it as "elaborately embroidered...beautiful silken quilt of the richest and finest material."

"The designs are all of a different pattern and worked, many of them, on a ground not exceeding a square inch; the colors are contrasted and blended with true artistic skill---beautiful sprays and bouquets of flowers and various emblematical designs combine to make up an article which for elegance of design, fineness of materials and superiority of execution has never been surpassed in this or any country...
The ladies acknowledge their indebtedness to the indefatigable industry and inexhaustible taste of Miss Maria L. Spear who invented the unique style of making up the quilt. She also invented and stamped all the beautiful and varied designs with which it is embellished."

The quilt raised $300 in dollar raffle tickets and was won by Martha Lewis who gave it to Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederacy. After his death, Varina Davis donated it to the Museum.

Find the catalog page in the online quilt exhibit at the Museum of the Confederacy website here:
Load the exhibit and scroll through.

Read the story here in Douglas J. Butler's: North Carolina Civil War Monuments: An Illustrated History:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Gunboat Quilts

One of the "Gunboat Quilts" attributed to 
Martha Jane Singleton Hatter Bullock (1815-1896).
66" x 66"
Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art.

 Quilt attributed to Martha Singleton Hatter, 71" x 68"
Collection of the First White House of the Confederacy, 
Montgomery, Alabama, Gift of Mary Hutchinson Jones.

The current exhibit at The New-York Historical Society, Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, features the "Gunboat Quilt" (directly above) one of two attributed to Martha Jane Singleton Hatter Bullock of Greensboro, Alabama. 

The lighter quilt, descending in the Hutchinson family, must be the "Civil War Relic" described in the 1899 newspaper clipping below from the Anderson Intelligencer, December, 6, 1899. The article appears to have originated in a  Dallas paper. I found the clipping at the Library of Congress site Chronicling America.

"Civil War Relic.

At the headquarters of Camp Sterling Price, Confederate veterans, was exhibited to-day an interesting war relic. It was the "gunboat quilt," noted in the South during the war between the States. The quilt was made by Mrs. Hatter, a widow of Greensboro, Ala., whose husband had been killed in the war and who had at that time two sons fighting in the Confederate army. Mrs. Hatter gave the quilt to be sold at auction in every town in Alabama to raise a fund with which to build a gunboat to be named for the State.

This was done and the war vessel procured was the noted Confederate cruiser Alabama, sunk in the last days of the war by the Federal warship Kearsarge in the great sea fight off the coast of France. As fast as the "gunboat quilt" was sold in one place it was redonted by the purchaser and resold in another place. Several hundred thousand dollars was raised in this way and was applied to paying for the Alabama.

The CSS Alabama  (left) losing a sea battle near Cherbourg, France with
the USS Kearsarge, 1864, J.B.H. Durand-Brager

The quilt was finally given to J.J. Hutchinson, of Greensboro, Ala., to recompense him for his services as auctioneer. It has remained in his family ever since. The "gunboat" was forwarded to Mrs. Ben Melton, of Dallas, daughter of Mr. Hutchinson, recently, to be placed on exhibition at the Texas State Fair and Dallas exposition, but because of delays did not reach Dallas until near the close of the fair. The relic is well preserved and attracted much attention to-day. ---Dallas (Tex.) Cor. St. Louis Republic."

Detail of the First White House of the Confederacy's quilt.
The quiltmaker had a distinctive style, appliqueing and stuffing florals cut
from prints and outlining the applique with black embroidery.

Details of the Birmingham Museum of Art's quilt

See the First White House of the Confederacy's quilt at the New York venue of  Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, curated by Madelyn Shaw and Lynn Z. Bassett and organized by the American Textile History Museum (up through August 24, 2014). Catalog available.

Read Bryding Adams Henley's 1987 article "Alabama Gunboat Quilts" in Volume 8 of Uncoverings, the papers of the American Quilt Study Group here at the Quilt Index:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Threads of Memory 6: Salem Star for Charlotte Forten Grimké

Block #6: Salem Star for Charlotte Forten Grimké 
by Jean Stanclift

In May, 1854 a sixteen-year-old school girl in Salem, Massachusetts sat down with her diary:
 “Did not intend to write this evening, but have just heard of something which is worth recording….Another fugitive from bondage has been arrested….I can only hope and pray most earnestly that Boston will not again disgrace herself by sending him back to a bondage worse than death…”
Charlotte Forten Grimké  (1837-1914) about
 the time of her marriage in 1878

Charlotte Forten wrote about Anthony Burns, an escaped slave who had lived as a free man in nearby Boston for several months before he was arrested by slave catchers aided by local authorities. During that week Charlotte described growing outrage at Burns’s imprisonment in the heart of antislavery Massachusetts.

 The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act strengthened cooperation between slave states and free, obligating police, courts, the Army and private citizens in any state to assist slave owners in reclaiming their human property. It also set up a separate court system for blacks and set aside any rights to evidence a black person might claim. A slave owner’s statement was the only testimony necessary to send one into bondage.

On Friday evening, while most of Boston’s attention focused on a protest meeting at Faneuil Hall, several men stormed the courthouse in a vain attempt to free Burns, leaving a Deputy Marshal bleeding to death.

On the day Burns was marched through the city streets to board a ship for Virginia, Charlotte only mentioned it. “I can write no more. A cloud seems hanging over me, over all our persecuted race, which nothing can dispel.”

The Burns Affair, as it became known, was one more rent in the fabric of national unity as Northerners became increasingly frustrated with a legal system that favored the slave owner.

Charlotte Forten was witness to many other events in the late 1850s that led to the Civil War. As a free black girl growing into womanhood she felt obligated to devote her time to the abolitionist cause. A few weeks after Burns’s arrest a friend overhearing her conversation, “said she believed that we never talked of or read anything but Anti-Slavery....”

Charlotte's diary is in the collection of Howard University

Her diary recorded her studies, her friends and her reading, but primarily her attendance at antislavery events, lectures, meetings, sewing circles, and fundraisers. While attending Salem’s Higginson school as the only black student, she boarded with the Remond family, important antislavery advocates whose home was a gathering place for local and visiting activists.

Sarah Parker Remond offered to board Charlotte
so she could get an education in Salem. Charlotte's hometown
Philadelphia schools were closed to black girls.

Charlotte’s hostess had been active in forming the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1832, one of over 100 antislavery organizations in Massachusetts in that decade.
The Salem Gazette announces a fundraising fair by the Salem
Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1837.
"Those who wish to contribute articles for this Sale are requested to leave them at
Mr. Wm. Phelps...."  Quilts, perhaps????

Salem Star for Charlotte Forten Grimké 
by Becky Brown

Salem in 1854, about the time Charlotte arrived

Although New England’s antislavery army lost the battle to prevent the United States Army from returning Burns to Virginia, they formed the support troops in the long-term war against slavery. Girls like Charlotte contributed by sewing for the annual fairs. A few weeks before the 1854 Christmas fundraiser she wrote:

“Went to a sewing party, or ‘bee’ as the New Englanders call it---Such parties possess not the slightest attraction for me, unless they are for the anti-slavery fair. Then I always feel it both a duty and a pleasure to go.”
Handmade needle case of calico printed with an antislavery motto and image. 
Collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

The money earned at tables selling penwipers, pincushions, embroidered slippers and quilts added to the balance sheets carefully kept by dedicated treasurers. Few account books survive because they were so carefully kept that they could provide excellent evidence of conspiracies to deprive slave owners of their legal property.

Account book of the Boston Vigilance Committee, 1857,
lists expenses for fuel to keep fugitives warm, passage to Toronto
for one and postage for petitions.

Once the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act imposed a thousand dollar fine on anyone anywhere assisting a runaway, the Underground Railroad destroyed its paper trail. The surviving ledger above give a glimpse of how the organizations spent the money so earnestly raised by women like Charlotte. Cash was disbursed to attorneys who defended resisters, to doctors who treated sick fugitives, to landlords who rented rooms to hide them and to newspapers publishing advertisements looking for landlords willing to provide shelter.

Money went to printers for copies of antislavery speeches and posters warning of slave hunters. Funds paid for train fare and carriage rental to carry people north and for $3 cash grants---pocket money for the first few weeks in Canada.

In the 1830s the women of the Forten and Remond families were among the first females to see themselves as active agents in social change. Charlotte continued in their footsteps for the rest of her life. When the Civil War began she traveled south to teach freed slaves in South Carolina and after the War worked for the Treasury Department in Washington where she married Reverend Francis J. Grimké. She died in 1914, lauded as an exemplary minister’s wife and a poet, writer and lecturer in her own right.

Salem Star by Becky Brown in Ladies's Album

Salem Star is a new way of looking at traditional quilt design to recall the old colonial town on the
Massachusetts coast. By 1850 Salem was home to the state’s third largest African-American community.

Cutting a 12" Block
A – Cut 12 squares 2" x 2".

B – Cut 4 rectangles 9 1/2" long by 2".

C – Cut 4 rectangles 6 1/2" long by 2".

D -  Cut 4 squares 2 3/8" x 2 3/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal cut.

You need 8 triangles.

E - Cut 1 square 3 1/2" x 3 1/2".

F – Cut 1 square 4 3/16". Cut into 4 triangles with 2 cuts.
You need 4 triangles. Christine in France says:  I think for F it's 4 3/8 ? Couldn't hurt to cut it larger.


What We Can Learn About the Underground Railroad from Charlotte Forten Grimké's Story

The Underground Railroad was not an all-volunteer organization. Reading the ledger of Boston’s Vigilance Committee makes us aware that wages, rents, and fees were paid to people willing to defend and care for fugitives. A good deal of that money was raised by women, particularly at the Ladies' Fairs. 

See selections from the diaries at the National Humanities Center:

To read the account book of the Boston Vigilance Committee, now in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society, click on this link:

Click on the scan of the document as well as both tables. You’ll note many disbursements to Lewis Hayden, an important Boston agent in the Underground Railroad. You may recall that it was the escape of Hayden and his family that caused the imprisonment of Delia Webster and Calvin Fairbank described in issue # 5. Lewis Hayden’s activism during the 1850s must have been some consolation to Fairbank who spent those years in a Kentucky prison for helping him.

Unidentified woman photographed in Salem about 1865
 from the collection of the Library of Congress.

Find Out More In Print

Charlotte Forten Grimke’s diaries have been published in several forms. The most comprehensive is edited by Brenda Stevenson: Journals of Charlotte L. Forten Grimke. (Schomberg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers. Oxford University Press, 1998)

Christy Steel, Kerry Graves and Suzanne L. Bunkers have edited a version for young children of the events in the exciting year of 1854. A Free Black Girl Before the Civil War: The Diary of Charlotte Forten, 1854. (Mankato, Minnesota: Blue Earth Books 1999)

Ray Allen Billington published selections from her diaries in The Journal of Charlotte Forten: a Free Negro in the Slave Era. (New York: Norton, 1953).

Salem Star
81" x 81"

Make a Quilt a Month
Sash 25 Salem Stars to make an 81" by 81" bed sized quilt. The sashing and corner stones finish to 1 1/2" just like piece A (cut 2"). The blue outer border finishes to 6" (cut 6-1/2"). Recolor the block with small yellow squares and you'll get a strong diagonal grid.