June 23, 2017

A Fictitious Detective Story: The Completely Made-Up Case of Elma's Quilt Blocks

This is a tale of pure fiction, yet one that presents an opportunity to share some pictures of pretty, historical quilt blocks.  We also hope it will provide a little entertaining instruction for researching historical Quakers.
Recently, Mary was given a set of twenty, nine X nine inch, unfinished quilt top blocks.  According to the gift giver, the blocks were purchased from a dealer about twenty years ago.  At that time, the dealer explained that the previous owner lived in Ohio, and that the pattern was called "Losses and Crosses."
One of the blocks is marked by a faint name, inscribed in pencil.  Another has what looks like a manufacturer's mark "49".
Much like some actors who develop their characters by asking questions as "who, what, where, when  and why", we can approach even simple objects in the same way.
1.  WHO made the (WHAT) unfinished blocks?
The blocks contain one name, inscribed in pencil.  After examination under magnification, looking at a digital photograph, manipulating the photos to make it clearer, and tracing it to see if duplicating the process of the original inscriber shed light on the name, the name was still unclear.  Even if we could decipher the name, it would not mean that that person made the blocks.  The name could indicate an intended recipient, or . . .   We just don't know. But we can PRETEND the name indicates a maker, and that (since our blog is about Quaker quilts and history) that the maker was a member of the Religious Society of Friends.  We have chosen to call the mystery block maker "Elma Howel"  (with all of its various spellings). 
To find any historical Quaker, we like to begin with William Wade Hinshaw.  (See our Hinshaw's Records tab at the top of the page.)  If you do not have access to Hinshaw's records, they can be found in hardbound volumes at some libraries and also accessed on www.ancestry.com for the price of a short term subscription.
Ancestry access is provided by scrolling down to the bottom of ancestry's  drop-down menu under "SEARCH" and clicking on "Card Catalog."  Once that page opens, an entry of "Quaker" in the "TITLE" field pulls up numerous listings including Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Geneaology.  Hold this thought for a moment.
2.  WHERE did the blocks come from?
The blocks' oral history is that they were purchased from someone who lived in Ohio.  Hmmmmm.  That hardly narrows things down but let's PRETEND that is where the maker lived at some point in her life.
Now, back to ancestry.com.  After finding the list of Quaker records, we see Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. IV, (Ohio).  After clicking on that link, we enter the surname "Howel" and after examining several entries on the returned list, we end up on page 687.  According to records of the Salem Monthly Meeting: On 1830, 8, 25, Elma Howel (formerly Cadwalader) was "dis" [disowned] for "mcd" [marrying contrary to discipline].
Now we can search ancestry's Public Member Trees for clues, although to make a positive identification requires much more meticulous, time-consuming research.  Continuing on our fictional journey, the first name to pop up when searching Public Member Trees by name is Elma Cadwalader.  This Elma was the first of seven children born to Jonah and Ann (Catel) Cadwalader who appear in Quaker records from Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Elma married Elias Howell on 17 November 1829, just months before Elma Howel (Howell) was disowned for "marrying contrary to discipline."  (Disownment events were normally recorded by Monthly Meetings some time after the "transgression" occurred.)  Later, in 1854, Elma's membership in the Religious Society of Friends was reinstated, with permission of the Salem Monthly Meeting, by the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting in Ohio.
Elma was born in Pennsylvania in 1800 and died in Ohio in 1870, eight years after the death of her husband.  To research more about this very real person, we would then explore her name, cross-referencing it with birth/marriage/death dates and the names of her relations in census data, social histories, and other records.
As we begin to place any name in relationship to others, a portrait begins to emerge which, in turn, can allow us to IMAGINE quilts in their original place and time.
3.  WHEN were the blocks made?
Research by the person who gave the blocks to Mary suggests their fabrics date ca. 1860-1880.  Since the fabrics, thread, and style fit this time frame, we can PRETEND this is an accurate time frame, pending further research.
On page 176 of her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, Barbara Brackman lists the following names for pattern #1316a: Double X #2, Fox and Geese, Bow Tie Variation, Goose and Goslings, and Crosses and Losses.  This last is the last name the previous owner used for the pattern but we do not know what the original maker called it.
4.  WHY were the blocks made and why was the quilt never finished?
The dealer sold the pieces as "Civil War" blocks although some later fabrics suggest that at least some of the blocks were made after the Civil War.  Was this a quilt being made for an event that never happened?  Was it abandoned because the maker had other priorities, became ill, or even passed away?  Had something happened to the intended recipient?
Despite becoming slightly attached to dear Elma, we must conclude by admitting we know almost nothing about the true history of these blocks.  However, we can definitely say that we are glad these relics of the past survived.
Special thanks:  Karen Colley and to members of the Facebook groups "Quilts-Vintage and Antique" and "Antique Signature Quilts."
Ancestry.com Quaker meeting records and Public Member Trees.
(c)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017.


May 24, 2017

Esther Coates Wileman: An Unscripted Life

Esther Coates Wileman's quilt has been the topic of our last three posts and will be covered again, this time, by telling the story of the woman for whom it was made.  But first, we have good news about the disposition of the quilt and the archival material related to it.

Judy Kerr, the descendant who inherited Esther's quilt, has generously donated the quilt and related family material to The Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.  She could not have made a better choice for the quilt's now permanent home.  The quilt will be carefully preserved there and many historical records concerning the Coates family reside at the Friends Library.  Now the quilt and its archival documents have joined other Coates family records, making them available to the public for research purposes.

Detail.  Esther Coates Wileman Quilt.  A holding of The Friends Historical Library of
Swarthmore College.  Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Esther Coates was the fourth child of Quakers Samuel (1786-1825) and Margaret Cherrington (1790-1852) Coates of Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Born on October 19, 1815, her birth was noted in the records of the Bradford Monthly Meeting in West Bradford Township.
Bradford Monthly Meeting House, New Bradford Township, Chester County,
Pennsylvania.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
Esther grew up in Caln Township in the family home that originally belonged to her great-grandparents, Thomas and Sarah Coates.  The property was left to their son, Samuel, who deeded half of the farm and the house to his son, Samuel, Esther's father.
The Thomas and Sarah Coates house.  Their son Samuel lived here his entire life. 
He left half of the farm land and the left half of the house to Esther's father when he
passed away.  Image from A Genealogy of Moses and Susanna Coates.
The Coates household must have been a lively one.  Esther had three older sisters, and by 1824, one surviving younger brother and two younger sisters to play with and occupy her time as an active nine-year-old.  We have no details about her education, but the Quakers routinely educated both their girls and their boys.  The girls, and sometimes the boys, also received instruction in needlework.  A sampler made by Esther in 1827, when she was twelve years old, demonstrates perhaps her first attempt at this type of needlework.
Sampler made by Esther Coates in 1827.  Image courtesy of Judy Kerr.
We know little about Esther's  life as a young woman although one of the blocks in her quilt is inscribed:  "Thy pupil M.A. Brinton."  This may indicate that Esther taught school while still in Chester County but, except for the quilt block, we have found no evidence for this.
We do know that by the time she was in her late twenties, she had made the acquaintance of Abraham G. Wileman (also known as Abram) of Stark County, Ohio.  Family tradition relates that they met through a group of Quakers around Massillon, Ohio, at the Marlboro Monthly Meeting.  We do not know why Esther went to Ohio or when, but Abram Wileman was soon to be her husband.
Abraham G. Wileman (1821-1863) in uniform after enlisting in the
Union Army in 1861.  Photograph courtesy of Judy Kerr.
On August 10, 1844, Esther wrote to the Fallowfield Monthly Meeting where she had been attending and requested to be released from her membership in this meeting.  She and Abram, six years younger than she, were married the following November.  
Esther Coates Wileman.  Photograph courtesy of Judy Kerr.
Esther's mother Margaret Cherrington Coates, had a dozen serving spoons of coin silver engraved with her initials.  As a wedding gift, she gave six of these spoons to Esther with Esther's new initials added to the engraving.
Handles of three of the spoons given to Esther by her mother showing her mother's
 initials at top and the added "to ECW" below.  Photograph courtesy of Judy Kerr.
Esther also received the quilt made by family and friends bearing forty-five inscriptions and fifty-six legible names.  The spoons and the quilt accompanied her to her new home in Ohio.
Up until this time, Esther's life had followed an expected nineteenth-century script of events and relationships.  Then, in 1850, almost six years into their marriage, Esther and Abram had a daughter they named Floretta.  In 1853, Floretta  died of scarlet fever and her death changed everything.
Painting of Floretta Wileman at about two years of age.  A quilt made by
Esther, possibly for Floretta, was donated by a member of the Kerr family to the
National American History Museum at the Smithsonian Institution.  A link to a
photograph and description of this quilt is provided under "Sources" at the end of this
post.  Photograph of painting courtesy of Judy Kerr.
In an undated letter to his sister-in-law, Mary Coates Cutler, Abram described the details of Floretta's passing.  She complained on a Saturday to Abram:  "Pa, baby's head's tired."  Abram and Esther attended to her all that day and, when evening came, she seemed to be stable and alert, so they left her with a sitter and attended a lecture in town by Joel Tiffany, a famous local lawyer and orator.  When they returned, Floretta again complained about her head being tired.  Her temperature increased during the night and Esther and Abram applied ice to her head and body in an attempt to bring the fever down.  "At four o'clock in the morning she scrambled up over me reached  her little hands to her mother saying 'Oh Ma, Oh Ma' in the most tender and endearing accents of which she was capable.  She then laid down immediately and never spoke intelligently again."
The next morning Abram contacted a doctor who visited Floretta in the afternoon, telling the Wilemans that she had congestion of the brain and could not be saved.  As a last effort to save her, he recommended that they immerse her in hot water and keep wet snow to her head.  This they did until six o'clock when they could see that she was dying.  "She stopped breathing without a single struggle or a single contortion of her face, which was attributable to her being kept in the bath."
Both Abram and Esther were devastated by Floretta's death.  Esther's response was a decision to pursue a medical degree, an ambition that Abram did not support.  The result of their disputes about Esther leaving to gain a medical education eventually resulted in her leaving him the year Floretta died and going to Philadelphia.  She refused to return to Abram, instead choosing to live at the home of her sister, Mary Coates Cutler.
Mary Coates Cutler.   Photograph courtesy of Judy Kerr.
When Esther arrived at Mary's home, she discovered that she was pregnant and, on January 3, 1854, she gave birth to a son she delivered herself when the doctor did not come when summoned.  She named her son Erasmus Darwin Wileman.
Erasmus Darwin Wileman.  Photograph courtesy of
Judy Kerr.
In the meantime, Abram had moved from Stark County, Ohio, to Pendleton County, Kentucky.  Here he filed official divorce papers in 1858 stating that he and Esther had not lived together since 1853 when she "became discontented and disposed to isolate herself from the company about the home of the plaintiff to such a degree as to render the married state to both miserable."  (Jones, 2.)  Esther did not show up for the divorce hearing and the divorce, a civil suit, was granted by the Pendleton Circuit Clerk's Office in Falmouth, Kentucky.
Esther had turned over her son to Abram's sister, Hannah Wileman Brooks, to raise while she attended the Pennsylvania Medical University of Philadelphia.  She had completed studies there in 1855 in the arts and humane letters and then continued on to earn a medical degree.  She is listed in the University year books of 1858, 1860, and 1863 as a graduate pursuing a thesis titled "A Thesis.  What is it?"  Esther was one of the earliest women to graduate from the Pennsylvania Medical University with a degree that permitted her to practice medicine.  With this in hand, she opened a medical office in Vineland, New Jersey, where Erasmus was occasionally sent to visit her.
Esther practiced medicine for the rest of her life, spending each winter in Florida and often staying with her sister at Mary's farm on the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Esther died while visiting Florida in 1873.  Her body was returned to Pennsylvania and she was buried at the Druemoore Friends Burial Ground in Lancaster County.
As for Abram, he married a local Pendleton County woman, Parthenia A. Race, in 1858, the year he obtained his divorce from Esther.  In October, 1861, he enlisted in Company D of the 18th Kentucky Infantry, rising to the rank of Major of the Regiment by 1863. He was wounded in the arm at the battle of Chickamauga in Georgia that same year and requested a leave to recuperate in the Officer's Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.  By October 1863, Abram had returned home to recuperate further surrounded by his family.
While visiting in his parlor with his wife and some neighbors the evening of October 5th, a group of "guerillas" (who represented themselves as belonging to Breckenridge's Command) barged into Abram's home demanding money and that he accompany them to Falmouth.  Abram refused both and was taken from his home, stripped of all clothing but his boots and shirt, and shot in the head.  The person who shot Abram was identified as Jim Keller, a well-known and murderous "Rebel" who was killed while being captured.  
Major Abram G. Wileman was considered a hero by the people of Pendleton County who openly mourned his passing.  His body was taken to Alliance in Stark County, Ohio, and buried in the Marlboro Cemetery.

1850-1860 Esther Coates Wileman's Child's Quilt, Smithsonian National Museum of American History object description accessed 5/20/2017 at http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_556428.

Ancestry.com census and Quaker meeting records.
Coates, Truman.  A Genealogy of Moses and Susanna Coates Who Settled in Pennsylvania in 1717.  Compiled by Truman Coates, M.D., 1906.
Index, Fallowfield Monthly Meeting records.
Jones, Marjorie Stith. "The Life and Death of Major A. G. Wileman" in the Pendleton County Historical and Genealogical Society Newsletter, Vol. 1, Issues 4 & 5,  Pendleton, Kentucky.  Accessed 5/20/2017 at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ky/state/counties/pendleton/military/civilwar/wileman.htm.  
Letter (undated) Abram Wileman to Mary Coates Cutler provided by Judy Kerr with a notation that it was written in 1853.
Letter (dated October 8, 1863) Colonel W. A. Warner to the Western Citizen newspaper titled "Particulars of the Murder of Major A. G. Wileman of the 18th Kentucky Infantry.' The letter was published by that newspaper on Friday, October 23, 1863.
Valentic, Judy Kerr.  Ancestors of Judith Kerr Valentic.  This was previously posted at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/-kypendle/Pages/wileman_abram.htm but is no longer accessible.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017.



April 20, 2017

Daniel Smith Harris: A Notable "Catch"

Sarah Coates Harris, whom we covered last time, had a life-changing experience when she inadvertently met the widower Captain Daniel Smith Harris while traveling by Mississippi river boat on a lecture tour.

Daniel Smith Harris (1808-1893).  Photograph courtesy of
Judy Kerr, Ashland, Oregon.
Sarah and Daniel were married on August 25, 1851, probably in Galena, Illinois, where Daniel lived with his five children by a prior wife.  Although Sarah was a birth-right Quaker, and it was said that "[...] her whole life would prove a testimony to Quaker beliefs [...]", there is no indication that Daniel was a Quaker or that they married according to Quaker tradition.  (Oestreich, Winter 1999, 2.)  In fact, Quaker records indicate that prior to Sarah leaving Chester County, Pennsylvania, to join her sister Esther in Ohio, Sarah was disowned by the Fallowfield Monthly Meeting for "absenting herself from religious communion with Friends."
Sarah's husband, Daniel Smith Harris, was one of thirteen children born to James and Abigail Bathrick Harris at Kortright Station, Delaware County, New York. He was born on July 24, 1808,the sixth of their children and the first son.  Eight years later, the Harris family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where James eventually found it difficult to support his family.  In 1823, he decided to join the Moses Meeker colony to the Fever River lead mines near Galena, Illinois, and took his fifteen-year-old son Daniel with him.
Daniel rejoiced in the adventure of traveling by river on the Colonel Bomford  keelboat along the Ohio River and then the Mississippi.  Once on the Mississippi, Daniel took note of the swifter steamboat Virginia which quickly overtook the keelboat as it plied its way ahead.  This sight began his interest in steamboats and a career on the Mississippi River that would make him famous.
A year after beginning work at the lead mines, three of Daniel's younger brothers joined him and his father on a farm James had purchased for the family.  They industriously worked to produce vegetables and other crops that were in great demand by the local mining community, making a prosperous living from that alone.  Daniel and his brother, Scribe, continued, however, to work the mines and one Sunday they happened upon an old deserted mine shaft that contained one of the richest leads ever found in the area.  They named the mine West Diggings and ultimately removed 4,000,000 pounds of mineral that made and kept them wealthy their entire lives.
Lead smelter at the Galena mines.  Source of image: Mining History Association.  Visit
mining photos and an article titled "History of the Upper Mississippi Valley Zinc-Lead Mining District."
Daniel's success and aggressive ambition attracted the attention of Captain David G. Bates, a steamboat captain who transported lead from the Galena area on the upper Mississippi to St. Louis, Missouri.  He offered Daniel a position in the pilot house as cub-pilot of the steamboat Galena in 1829 and a year later took on Daniel's brother Scribe as an assistant engineer.  This fortuitous happenstance laid the groundwork for Daniel's and Scribe's later steamboat design and building activities and Daniel's career as a steamboat Captain.
By the time Daniel met and married Sarah Coates in 1851, he had amassed sufficient wealth to indulge his passion for steamboat design and construction and also, in 1855,  provide a large home in Galena, called The Steamboat House, for their growing family.
The Steamboat House.  Source of image: web site for The Steamboat House B&B at

While Sarah pursued her interests in homeopathic medicine, anatomy, hygiene, physiology and women's rights, as well as raising a growing family and entertaining on behalf of social causes and for their own pleasure, Daniel built and piloted a variety of steamboats on the Mississippi, always striving to produce the fastest and most efficient.  He seldom piloted a single steamboat for more than a year or two, always building or purchasing new ones to test their speed and competitive edge on the river.  His competitive tendencies were renowned and his competition with the Minnesota Packet Company, which continued for years, almost ruined them both.  This finally resulted in Daniel being asked to join the Packet Company. This did not, however, reduce his competitive drive to pilot the fastest steamboat on the river.
The first fast boat Daniel built was called the War Eagle.  Completed in 1845 before he met Sarah, it remained the fastest steamboat on the upper Mississippi for five years, setting a record from Galena to St. Louis.  Ten years later, in 1855, Daniel brought out the Grey Eagle which he had built in Cincinnati with his own money at a cost of $60,000.  (This amount converts to $1,568,365.96 in 2016 dollars.)  It was aboard the Grey Eagle that Daniel's most notable exploit took place.
When the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was installed in 1858, newspapers and the populace eagerly anticipated the first cable transmission from England.  This came in the form of a telegraph message from Queen Victoria that reached Dubuque, Iowa, on August 16th.  There were no telegraph  lines from the Atlantic seaboard to St. Paul and the Mississippi River towns in Minnesota at the time, making these communities reliant on the steamboat to bring them the news.  Daniel Smith Harris resolved to be the first to deliver this news to St. Paul as Captain of the Grey Eagle.
1858 map of the route of the trans-Atlantic cable from England to the United States.
Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.

Harris set out from Dunlith at 8:30 a.m. on August 17th carrying copies of Dubuque and Galena newspapers that contained the message from Queen Victoria.  The steamboat Itasca, piloted by Captain David Whitten, had left nine hours earlier for the same purpose.  With extra fuel aboard and despite making some deliveries along the way, the Grey Eagle traveled one hundred and fifty miles by 9:30 p.m., cutting Whitten's lead by almost two-thirds.  Delivering papers to the towns along the way by slowing the Grey Eagle enough to throw them ashore, Daniel managed to catch up with the Itasca about one mile from St. Paul.  Captain Whitten, by this time, perceived what Daniel was trying to do and the two steamboats essentially "raced" toward St. Paul with the Grey Eagle soon pulling alongside the Itasca.  Whitten's boat, however, had the inside track and pulled into the wharf first.  While the crew of the Itasca was occupied with tying up and getting ready to unload the papers they carried, the Grey Eagle pulled alongside with a deck hand on a swinging stage carrying a number of newspapers.  These he flung to one of Daniel's agents on the dock.  The news reached St. Paul before papers from the Itasca could be delivered ashore.  With the speed of the Grey Eagle and fast thinking , Daniel had won what became known as "The Race of the Grey Eagle."

The Grey Eagle had given Captain Daniel Smith Harris the "victory" of his lifetime but it would soon be his undoing.  On May 9, 1861, Daniel was piloting the Grey Eagle when it crashed into a pier of the Rock Island Bridge and sank in twenty feet of water.  Some of the people aboard drowned and several were injured.  This was Daniel's only accident in his thirty-two year career on the river but the incident and the loss of the Grey Eagle devastated him, resulting in his retirement from river activity.

Old newspaper clipping showing the Grey Eagle.  Source of image: Iowa History Project.

Daniel Smith Harris returned to his mining business and related activities after he left the river.  He and Sarah raised Daniel's children by his first wife plus had seven more of their own, two of whom died in infancy.  Theirs was a busy household that often hosted people of note such as Ulysses S. Grant and Susan B. Anthony.  Sarah passed away in 1886, leaving Daniel to live on without her until his death in 1893.  He is buried with Sarah in Galena, Illinois, at the Greenwood Cemetery.


Ancestry.com census and Quaker Meeting records.

Merrick, George Byron.  Old Times on the Upper Mississippi, The Recollections of a Steamboat Pilot from 1854 to 1863.  Cleveland:  The Arthur H. Clark Col, 1909.

Oestreich, Kathryn.  "Sarah Coates Harris: A Woman of History" in Miner's Journal Published by the Galena/Jo Daviess County Historical Society, Winter and Spring, 1999.

Petersen, William J.  Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi.  New York: Dover Publications, 1968.

(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017.

March 25, 2017

Sarah Coates Harris

This post is the first of several that will reveal the lives of people whose names appear on the Esther Coates Wileman Quilt introduced to you last time.  (The long absences between these posts is indicative of the research we are conducting to fully understand the quilt and the community it represents.  Please bear with us!)

Sarah Coates Harris was Esther's youngest sister, born in Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, on March 7, 1824.  Her birth was duly recorded by the Bradford Monthly Meeting and she was the last of eight children born to Quakers Samuel and Margaret Cherrington Coates between the years of 1809 and 1824.

Sarah Coates Harris (1824-1886).  Photograph courtesy of Judy
Kerr, a direct descendant of the family.
Sarah grew up in a large family home near Caln Station on the Pennsylvania Railroad, surrounded by rolling farm land and forests.  Her fondness of her home is reflected in a watercolor of the house and land she painted in 1841 when she was seventeen years old.
Coates house and land painted by Sarah Coates at age seventeen.  Source of image:
A Genealogy of Moses and Susanna Coates who Settled in Pennsylvania in 1717 by
Truman Coates, 1906.
Three years later, in November 1844, Sarah's sister Esther married Quaker Abram G. Wileman and moved to Marlboro Township, Stark County, Ohio.  During the time leading up to this marriage, Sarah and Coates family members and friends made the quilt that Esther took with her to Ohio.  Sarah Coates was one of the many family members named on the quilt.
Badly faded inscription with the name Sarah Coates on the Esther Coates Wileman Quilt
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Sarah, herself, moved to Ohio either with Esther or about the same time that Esther's marriage took her there.  According to an article about Sarah in the Miners' Journal published by the Galena/Jo Daviess County Historical Society in Illinois, she spent her early twenties in Ohio where she cultivated her interest in physiology, by enrolling in a lecture series on the topic at the Marlboro Ladies Academy during 1849-1850, natural history, through extensive reading, and the women's movement and its belief in the equality of women.
Sarah appeared with in-law Elizabeth Wileman and other representatives from Marlboro at the Salem, Ohio 1850 Women's Rights Convention after calls to attend were published over their names in the Anti-Slavery Bugle and the Salem Homestead Journal during March and April, 1850.  The call read, in part: "The undersigned earnestly call on the Women of Ohio to meet them in Convention on Friday, the 19th day of April next, at 10 o'clock, A.M., in the town of Salem, to concert measures to secure to all persons the recognition of Equal Rights, and the extension of the privileges of Government without distinction of sex or color."  (Later in life, Sarah presided over a Woman's  Suffrage Convention in her home in Galena, Illinois, that featured Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.)
Mississippi River steamboats.  Source of image: Wikimedia Commons.
Sarah began giving public lectures about physiology, anatomy, and hygiene as part of her interests in these subjects.  It was on a river steamboat traveling between St. Louis and St. Paul on one of her lecture tours that she met the wealthy widower Captain Daniel Smith Harris.  (Much more will be written about Daniel Smith Harris next time.)  They married in 1851 and she moved to Galena, Illinois, to become the mother of his five young children by his prior wife.  There, they built, in 1855, an elegant home they named The Steamboat House and produced seven children of their own, two of whom died in infancy.
The Steamboat House in Galena, Illinois.  Former residence of Daniel and Sarah Coates
Harris, currently an historic B&B.  Source of image:  Galena Jo Daviess County web site.
Sarah and Daniel raised their ten surviving children in The Steamboat House which has three floors, 7,000 square feet, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and seven fireplaces. Sarah's interest in botany produced fifty varieties of roses nurtured in the conservatory of the house, and beneath it runs a tunnel used to hide fugitives on the Underground Railroad until they could be moved north to Canada.  Their home also served as a place for entertaining and receptions were given there for General Ulysses S. Grant, Susan B. Anthony, and British physician Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to be given a medical degree in the United States.
Elizabeth Blackwell (181-1910).  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
According to a guest who visited the Harris home, Sarah was "[...] a noble woman, tall, fine-looking who moves about among her household gods like a queen.  Although she has a large family of black-eyed rosy-cheeked children, pictures, statuary, a cabinet of rare minerals, a conservatory of beautiful plants, and a husband who thinks her little lower than the angels, she still demands the right to vote, and occasionally indulges in the luxury of public speaking.  She is the moving spirit in every step of progress in Galena."  (Oestreich, Winter 1999, 6.)
Hahnemann Medical  College, Chicago.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
Sarah had attended many medical lectures and had practiced homeopathic medicine for five years before entering Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in 1878, graduating with a M.D. the following year.  Her past training and experience were accepted as the equivalent of a year of lectures at the medical school, enabling her to graduate in just one year.  She set up a medical office contingent with her home only to find that the State Board of Health would not give her a certificate to practice medicine in Illinois without passing a Board of Health examination.  Such an examination was required of any medical school graduates who had not attended two full years of lectures at their medical school.
Newspapers and citizens reacted in Sarah's favor and she, too, wrote in the public media about the circumstances and unfairness she was being subjected to. An article in The Daily newspaper on July 23, 1879 had this to say about Sarah's public rebuttal to the State Board of Health:  "Mrs. Sarah Coates Harris, of Galena, Ill., who has been debarred from medical practices under her Hahnemann College diploma by the State Board of Health, defends herself in a very lively article, which, whatever her medical attainments may be, show that she is amply qualified to hold her own in a wordy argument.  In Fact, from the way she quotes law and hurls English, the Inter Ocean [a Chicago newspaper being quoted] fancies  that she has mistaken her calling, and that her place is at the bar or on the lecture forum."  It turns out that Sarah was never disbarred, as stated above, but instead subjected herself to the State Board of Health examination and passed it with the highest grade ever granted by that organization.  She opened her medical office and practiced medicine in Galena for the rest of her life.
Sarah passed away on February 22, 1886 at The Steamboat House.  She was sixty-one years, eleven months, and ten days old at the time. Her cause of death was cancer.  Sarah's obituary reported that she had left behind her husband, Daniel, four married daughters, and a seventeen-year-old son.  She was buried at Greenwood  Cemetery, Galena, Illinois.
The tombstone of Sarah Coates and Daniel Harris, Greenwood Cemetery, Galena,
Illinois.  Source of image:  www.findagrave.com.
Our heart-felt thanks to Judy Kerr for providing archival sources for much of this post.
Ancestry.com Quaker Meeting Records.
Audretsch, Robert W. (ed.).  The Salem, Ohio 1850 Women's Rights Convention Proceedings.  Salem, OH: Salem Area Bicentennial Committee & Salem Public Library, 1965.
Coates, Truman.  A Genealogy of Moses and Susanna Coates who Settled in Pennsylvania in 1717. Compiled by Truman Coates, M.D., 1906.
Nineteenth-century newspaper articles provided by Judy Kerr from her family archives.
Oestreich, Kathyrn.  "Sarah Coates Harris: A Woman of History" in Miners' Journal published by the Galena/Jo Daviess County Historical Society, Winter and Spring, 1999.
The Steamboat House Bed and Breakfast, Galena, IL" at http://www.thesteamboathouse.com/history.html.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017.


February 24, 2017

A Serendipitous Find

We spend a lot of our time looking for Quaker quilts that we can research and write about.  Several months ago, one such quilt "fell into our laps" when one of our blog viewers left a message on a post about Quaker causes, woman's rights, and suffrage.  Our post lamented that there seemed to be few suffragette quilts, partially because quilt making was considered a domestic activity rather than one that represented the growing movement for woman's rights and the vote.  The note posted by Judy Kerr said in reference to the quilt we described: "I have one in my closet."  This was followed by her phone number.

Lynda called her immediately and found that Judy lived in Ashland, Oregon.  She is a direct descendant of the Coates family of Pennsylvania - a noted Quaker family based in and near Philadelphia whose male members were merchants, in the shipping business, and farmers.  The "quilt in her closet" displays fifty-three names of family members and friends, and forty-five inscriptions, one of which is illegible.

The Esther Coates Quilt.  Photograph courtesy of Judy Kerr.

The quilt measures 114 X 116 1/2 inches and is comprised of eighty-one alternating pieced and single fabric blocks that measure approximately 12 1/2 inches square.  The pattern of the pieced blocks has various names cited in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns including Grandmother's Pride, Nine Patch Checkerboard, Old Mail, The Queen's Favorite, and Checkerboard.  (Brackman, 303.)  The checkerboard blocks are comprised of small triangles (half squares cut on the diagonal) and 2 3/4 inch whole squares.  The names and inscriptions are found on the center square of the checkerboard blocks.

Block bearing an inscription of part of a poem titled "Remember Me" by Quaker
poetess Elizabeth Margaret Chandler (1807-1834) along with the name
Margaret Coates.  Photograph courtesy of Judy Kerr.
The quilt was made by family and friends for Esther Coates, daughter of Samuel and Margaret Cherrington Coates of Chester County, Pennsylvania, and active members of the Bradford Monthly Meeting.  The quilt was a gift for Esther in celebration of her marriage, in 1844, to Abram G. Wileman of Stark County, Ohio.
During conversations about this quilt with Judy, Lynda expressed interest in seeing it in-person and transcribing the names and inscriptions displayed on it.  It turned out that Judy had a friend who was coming to California to visit friends in a town close to where Lynda lives.  Judy arranged for her friend to bring the quilt with her and Lynda was able to pick it up and bring it home for study.  With Judy's permission, Lynda has had the quilt in her possession for close to three months during which she has been able to decipher all but one of the names on the quilt as well as most of the inscriptions.
This work has revealed the quilt to be an important social and historic record.
There is a great deal to be written about Esther, her family members, her friends in Chester and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and the inscriptions recorded on her quilt.  This will be forthcoming in articles, future blog posts, and perhaps eventually a book.  For now we simply want you to know about this historic treasure that represents a time and community activities that helped shape the history of this country.
Brackman, Barbara.  Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  Paducah, KY: American Quilters Society, 1984.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017

January 20, 2017

Will the Real Mary Ann Dewees Please Stand Up?

In one of the posts about Joy Swartz's red and white "circle" quilt, we mentioned the difficulty of precisely identifying a person named on a quilt when there are several people found to have the same name who lived in the same geographical region during a time period in which the quilt could have been made. A prior post about an inscriber named Jane Biddle posed this problem and we ended up writing about three of the Jane Biddles who may have been the one referred to on the quilt.  Well, this situation has arisen again.

The Joy Schwartz red and white "circle" quilt.  Photograph courtesy of
Barbara Brackman.
One of the inscriptions on Joy's quilt is "Mary A. Dewees, Philadelphia Pa."  We've found four most likely, possible candidates for this Mary A. Dewees.
Block inscribed with the name "Mary A. Dewees" and the city of "Philadelphia, Pa."
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The first candidate was born on January 11, 1812 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to William and Deborah Hoopes Dewees.  The birth of this Mary Dewees was recorded by the Bradford Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Chester County.  No records of her whereabouts could be found until she married a man named Robert Hall on November 23, 1848 at the Chesterfield Monthly Meeting in Athens, Ohio.  She later married a man named Robert Miller in Columbiana County, Ohio, on October 25, 1867.  She was fifty-five years old at the time.  Quaker records show that she attended the Sandy Springs Monthly Meeting in Hanover Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, and the census of 1880 refers to her as Mary H. Miller living with her husband Robert in Salem, Ohio. Mary died at age eighty-five on August 13, 1897 in Berks County, Pennsylvania according to a record of the Exeter Monthly Meeting.  So far as could be determined, Mary never lived in Philadelphia, the city name inscribed on her block. 
The only two dates on Joy's quilt are 1848 and 1867.  Mary was living in Ohio in 1848, the year she married Robert Hall, and was still in Ohio in 1867 when she married Robert Miller.  We don't know when all the blocks of Joy's quilt were made because it seems to have been added to generationally.  It appears that this Mary A. Dewees lived most of her life in Ohio after leaving Pennsylvania (date unknown). This does not exclude her from having inscribed the block that bears her name sometime before she moved to Ohio and married in 1848.  Without evidence that she had once lived in Philadelphia, however, the case for her having inscribed the block is greatly weakened.
A second candidate for the "real" Mary A. Dewees was born December 11, 1818 in Philadelphia to Dr. William Potts Dewees and his wife Mary Lorain Dewees.  This Mary's father was a prominent physician on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, holding the position of Professor of Obstetrics and Chair of Obstetrics from 1834 to 1841.
Entrance to one of the quads at the University of Pennsylvania.  Source of image:
Wikimedia Commons.
Dr. William Potts Dewees circa 1833 by artist John Neagle (1799-1865).   This portrait hangs in
the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  Source of image: Wikimedia Commons.
Dr. Dewees published three important books during the 1820s, each of which went to ten editions.  These were System of Midwifery (1824), Treatise on the Physical and Medical Treatment of Children (1825), and Treatise on the Diseases of Females (1826).  He is described in American Medical Biographies as a "[. . .] Philadelphian obstetrician [that] was so famous that no parturient woman of the time considered herself safe in other hands."  Dr. Dewees., born in 1768, passed away in 1841.
Dr. Dewees and his wife, Mary, had nine children between 1803 and 1823, their daughter Mary Ann Dewees being the next to the last.  She became the second wife of Charles William Ogden from New York City in 1843 and had five children by him.  Their only son, Dewees Ogden, fought in the Civil War and died in July of 1863 from wounds inflicted at Gettysburg.
It appears that Mary Ann and Charles lived in New York City some or all of the time after they were married.  Charles died in Manhattan in 1859.  Mary died in Brooklyn on August 29, 1861 and is buried at Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Hezekiah Pierrepont Memorial in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
Source of image: Wikimedia Commons.
If Mary Ann Dewees Ogden is the Mary whose name appears on Joy's quilt, her block would have been inscribed prior to her marriage in 1842 while she was still unmarried and living in Philadelphia.  It is possible that this Mary is the "real" Mary but, not yet knowing what the people named on the quilt had in common, it is not possible to say for sure.  Most of the people on the quilt seem to be German Baptists and Lutherans.  Mary was Roman Catholic so religion is unlikely to be the common thread.  Also, this Mary was from a wealthy, prominent Philadelphia family while the others identified so far were from middle class families and most lived outside of Philadelphia.
This brings us to the third and fourth candidates for Mary A. Dewees.  The third was the daughter of John and Mary Boyer Dewees, born in Philadelphia in 1822.  In 1842, this Mary's brother, Jacob Dilworth Dewees, married another Mary Dewees (parents unknown) born in Pennsylvania in 1813. 
Census records indicate that Jacob was a farmer and that the couple lived in Philadelphia.  They had three children: Sarah H. in 1847; Franklin in 1850; and, Mary Annie in 1853.  Both Jacob and Mary lived into old age and were listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as being eighty-six and eighty-seven respectively.  Both are buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
The Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.  Source of image:
The reason that Jacob's wife Mary might be the "Mary A. Dewees" inscribed on Joy's quilt is her relationship to Jacob's sister.  However, Jacob's sister (her sister-in-law) is an even stronger  candidate because she points to other relationships between people named on the quilt.
One ancestry.com record indicates that Jacob's sister, Mary A. Dewees, married a man named Henry Day.  (No record of this marriage or its date has yet been found.)  There are two members of the Day family named on the quilt: Margaret Day and Lititia Day.  Both of these women are the daughters of Samuel W. Day and his wife Rachel Haas.  They lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, about six miles from Philadelphia.  In addition, the central block of Joy's quilt is inscribed with a drawing and a verse dedicated to Eliza Faringer.  This block is inscribed by Augusta Haas.
Finding potential familial connections on the quilt between Mary A. Dewees Day, the daughters of Samuel W. Day, Rachel Haas Day, and Augusta Haas makes the Mary A. Dewees who married Henry Day a strong candidate to be the "real" Mary A. Dewees.  More research into these families and their possible connections is needed to come to a conclusion, one way or the other, but it is an important start and illustrates the amount of family research needed and the process of elimination required to identify people whose names are inscribed on nineteenth century quilts.
Selected Sources:
ancestry.com census, Public Member Tree, Quaker Meeting, North American Family Histories, and other ancestry data bases.
Busey, John W. and Travis W. Busey.  Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg, A Comprehensive Record, 4 Vols.  Jefferson, NC: Mac Farland & Co., 2017.
Kelly, Howard A. and Walter L. Burrage, eds.  "Dewees, William Potts" in American Medical Biographies. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company, 1920.
The Dewees Family, Genealogical Data, Biographical Facts and Historical Information Collected by Mrs. Philip E. LaMunyan.  E. Roberts, ed.  Norristown, PA: William M Roberts, 1905.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017.


December 31, 2016

"Boots on the Ground" Reprised

We have recently been asked what some of the most important factors are in revealing and telling the stories that are represented by the names and inscriptions on inscribed quilts.  Much of the work is done on the computer using genealogical web sites, family histories, public record data, and information provided by others who have researched and written about the families in question.  However, the most useful and informative way to discover the lives of people whose names are inscribed on quilts is by walking the ground they walked, visiting the homes they lived in (if they still exist), seeing the communities in which they lived and died - all of these activities bring into better focus their stories. 

As researchers, one on the west coast and the other in Virginia, we are usually far away from the towns and communities represented by the people named on Quaker quilts.  This is especially true in Lynda's case who found the concept of "boots on the ground" particularly useful in researching the people and places named on Philena Cooper Hambleton's quilt.

What follows is one of our posts from 2012 that describes the benefits of finding others who are willing to help you discover the intimacy of places you are unable to visit and to shed light on the lives you are researching.


"When asked what I think are the most valuable research tools I've come across, I always answer Tina Frantz and Pat Rowell.  These two remarkable women contributed more to my research into Philena Cooper Hambleton's family and life than any other sources available to me.  I highly recommend to any of you who are trying to research a signature quilt, whether Quaker or not, to seek the help of willing "boots on the ground" - people who live in the geographical areas of your quilt's inscribers.  They can do leg work you cannot do from your home, and discover information you will never find in books or on the Internet.

When you find someone willing to assist you, be aware that research usually involves costs.  Always ask about charges or fees before formally requesting research work of others.  It is a fair expectation that you will have to pay someone for time spent searching files, copying documents, and mailing.  This is just good research etiquette. Sometimes all that is asked is a donation to an organization in whatever amount you wish to pay.  And sometimes fees are waived altogether, particularly if  there is a potential for a scholarly publication or presentation that will bring positive publicity to the research provider.

I became acquainted with Tina Frantz in 2002 when I first ventured to Columbiana County, Ohio.  She was recommended to me by the owners of the B&B where my husband and I stayed just outside of Lisbon.  On our first trip, Tina referred me by phone to local historical societies and libraries where I might find records I was seeking.  In 2004, when we returned to Lisbon, Tina spent three days with us in her SUV negotiating flood-ravaged roads to take us to cemeteries, old houses, open land, and archives pertinent to the lives of the people named on Philena's quilt.

Lynda and Tina Frantz "showing" Philena's quilt to past members of the Dutton
family, including Philena's sister-in-law Rachel Hambleton Dutton.  Dutton Family
Cemetery, McCann Road, Hanover Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, 2004.
Photograph by Theodore H. Chenoweth.
Tina Frantz and Theodore H. Chenoweth using chalk to highlight the names on a
tombstone where the children of William and Hannah King Ward are buried.
King Family Cemetery, McCann Road, Butler Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, 2004.
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Tina Frantz and Lynda examining the names on tombstones rolled by vandals down
the hill from the Sandy Spring Meeting cemetery outside of Hanoverton, Ohio, 2004.
Photograph by Theodore H. Chenoweth.
Tina not only knows the "ground" of Columbiana County but has long worked with the Ohio Genealogical Society, local historical societies, and county offices to develop historical information about the early residents of this part of Ohio.  Through her "day job" working with the county court in Lisbon, she has access to 19th century legal records.  These include wills, land purchases and transfers, cases heard before the Court of Common Pleas, probate records, suits, and other legal transactions that she has graciously searched for me outside of work hours.  Of particular interest to me have been the 19th century probate records related to the settlement of estates.  These provide an inventory of every item owned by the deceased and, when sold at the traditional "crying sale", an account of who bought each item and how much was paid for it.  I have urged Tina to co-author an article on probate records with me - titled something like "Probate Records are a Gas!!" - because these records give such insight into the personal lives of people and also show, through recorded purchases, relationships with neighbors and family members who bought items from the estate.  One day we just may do it.  [Although this has not happened as of 2017.]
I found Pat Rowell by chance one day while trying to follow up on some vague information about where most of the Hambletons were buried.  Pat volunteers at the Poweshiek County Historical and Genealogical Society in Montezuma, Iowa, performing research for members of the public seeking information about their families or just interested in the history of the area.  Pat volunteered to visit local Quaker cemeteries for me to see if she could find the graves of Philena, her husband Osborn, and other immediate members of the Hambleton family. Find them she did at the Friends Cemetery just outside of Lynnville, Iowa, in Jasper County!
Pat Rowell standing next to one of several Hambleton tombstones located in
the Friends Cemetery, Lynnville, Jasper County, Iowa.  Photograph courtesy of
Pat Rowell.
Poweshiek County Historical and Genealogical Society in Montezuma, Iowa.
Photography by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Pat them volunteered to comb through the files of the Poweshiek County Historical and Genealogical Society looking for items related to the Hambletons and their in-laws, the Cravers.  She found Osborn Hambleton;s probate records, several articles in various publication about Hambleton family members as Iowa pioneers, old land maps with properties identified by owner names, obituaries about Hambleton family members, an article about the anti-slavery society founded by Osborn and Philena at Forest Home, and a wealth of other information.  We were able to find the house that Philena and Osborn built in 1855 using the maps, and all of these sources helped to bring the Hambletons' lives in Iowa into biographical focus.  My greatest regret is that I was unable to meet Pat in-person when we traveled to Iowa after visiting Ohio in 2004.
Lynda in front of the stone marking the graves of Osborn, Philena, and Lorilla Hambleton.
Friends Cemetery, Lynnville, Jasper County, Iowa, 2004.  Photograph by 
Theodore H. Chenoweth.
So, how do you find wonderful people like Tina and Pat to help you with your research?  The easiest way is to contact historical societies in the cities, towns, or counties where you know quilt inscribers lived.  This can be done by searching the Internet for historical societies in a particular area (i.e., Ithaca Historical Society, Columbiana County Historical Society, Chester County Historical Society).  You usually don't have to know the society's exact name to find them.  If a relevant society does not have its own web site or email address, you will usually find at least a street address and telephone number that you can use to contact it.  Then call or write asking if they have any volunteers who are available to assist you find local records or visit local cemeteries.  You will be surprised at how willing volunteers are to help you, especially those associated with small, rural societies and libraries."
Lynda Salter Chenoweth
Meantime, two "new" old Quaker quilts have come into our lives in the past couple of months.  Lynda is feverishly researching one from Chester County, Pennsylvania, that accompanied a newly married woman to Ohio, and is about to see and photograph another whose maker originated in Virginia and ultimately moved to Ohio. You will be seeing and hearing about these in the months to come.  Both are historically interesting and significant.
We wish you all a Happy New Year.