March 1, 2013

Philena Cooper Hambleton

Philena Cooper Hambleton was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, on September 13, 1822.  Her father, Whitson Cooper, had migrated to Brady Township in Clearfield County after being disowned by the Chester County Bradford Meeting for fathering a child out of wedlock.  Her mother, Rachel Bonner Erskine (also pronounced Askey) was from a Presbyterian Scots-Irish family who had homesteaded on the Susquehanna River near the town of Curwensville.

Philena Cooper Hambleton in 1903.  Photograph courtesy
of the Jerome Walker family.
 
In April of 1835, when Philena was thirteen years old, her father drowned in a rafting accident while transporting lumber on the river, leaving her mother alone with two daughters, two sons, and a third son who was born a month after Whitson's death.  Unable to support her family, Rachel sought the assistance of two of Whitson's sisters who had migrated from Pennsylvania to Columbiana County, Ohio.  Family correspondence indicates that Rachel soon moved to Columbiana County where Whitson's sisters Phebe Cooper Hall and Lydia Cooper Windle shared responsibility for caring for Rachel and her children.
 
Rachel met Reuben Clemson of Lynchburg in West County shortly after the move and they married in 1837.  Reuben had migrated to Ohio from Pennsylvania where he had been a member of the Bradford Meeting along with Whitson Cooper and Whitson's sisters.  Reuben was condemned by the Bradford Meeting for marrying Rachel, who was not a Quaker, but he was later reinstated and continued to follow his faith at the New Garden Meeting nearby in Hanover Township. 
 
Philena and her sister, Phebe, moved into the Clemson home after their mother's marriage and seem to have begun attending meetings of the Religious Society of Friends with their step-father.  It was at the New Garden Meeting that they met their future husbands, Quakers Osborn and Joel Garretson Hambleton.  Philena was the first to marry on March 24, 1842.
 
Philena and Osborn moved to Osborn's parents' property in Butler Township after their marriage.  There, Osborn had rented the mill owned by his father, Benjamin Hambleton, and served as its manager and operator.
 
 
Home belonging to Benjamin and Ann Hanna Hambleton where Osborn and Philena moved
after their marriage.  The home is built of brick but is  now covered by modern siding.  It is located
on the corner of Butler Grange and Winona Roads in Butler Township.  Photograph by Lynda
Salter Chenoweth, 2004.
 
 
The Hambletons were avid abolitionists and members of the New Garden Anti-Slavery Society.  Their house was a station on the Underground Railroad and many were the nights that the family ushered fugitive slaves into their basement under the cover of darkness and up an interior stairway to the attic where they would stay until transported by Benjamin and Osborn to the next "safe house".  Philena probably helped her mother-in-law, Ann Hanna Hambleton, feed and care for the fugitives while they were at the house.
 
Philena and Osborn had two daughters, Angelina and Lorilla, between 1843 and 1847.  When the Hambleton mill burned to the ground sometime around 1850, Osborn decided not to rebuild it but to move the family farther west where land was opening to settlers and inexpensive to purchase.  This he did in 1854 but, before leaving, Philena, members of her family, and her dear friends made her a friendship quilt inscribed with the names of those she would be leaving behind.  Poignantly, one block of the quilt is inscribed:  "Whitson Cooper Died in the Year 1835" -- a testimony to the love Philena still felt for her father almost 20 years after his death.
 
 
Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Tina Frantz "showing" the quilt made for Philena  to
past members of the Dutton family, including Osborn's sister Rachel Hambleton Dutton,
at the Dutton Family Cemetery, McCann Road, Hanover Township, Columbiana County,
Ohio, 2004.  Photograph by Theodore H. Chenoweth.
 
Philena and Osborn migrated to Poweshiek County, Iowa, in 1854.  In 1855, they purchased government land near Searsboro and built a house.  Osborn built and operated a steam mill at nearby Forest Home but it, too, was destroyed by fire after about three years of operation.  (Osborn may have been injured in this fire because local records in Iowa state that he had only one arm.)  After losing the mill, Osborn retired to his land and continued to farm it until his death.  He and Philena remained devoted to the anti-slavery cause while in Iowa.  Osborn founded the Forest Home Anti-Slavery Society in about 1858, serving as President while Philena served on its executive committee.
 

Osborn Hambleton (1818-1882) and Philena Cooper Hambleton (1822-1915). 
Probably taken in Ohio before they left for Iowa in 1854.  Photographs courtesy
 of the Jerome Walker family.
 
 
Two of Osborn's brothers and one of his sisters eventually joined him and Philena in Iowa, and Osborn's parents also migrated to Poweshiek County in 1864.  After Osborn's death in 1882, Philena and their daughter Lorilla, who never married, moved to Illinois to stay with daughter Angelina and her husband Charles F. Craver.  They all moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1907 where Philena died on March 20, 1915.  Her body was taken back to Iowa, to be buried next to Osborn, his parents, and her sister and brother-in-law, Joel G. and Phebe Cooper Hambleton, in the Friends Cemetery at Lynnville in Jasper County near Searsboro.
 
The quilt Philena took with her to Iowa in 1854 remained in the family and was passed down to Philena's daughter, Angelina Hambleton Craver, then to Angelina's son, Arthur Hambleton Craver, and then to Arthur's daughter, Florence Philena Craver Oberholtzer.  When Florence died in Danville, California, in 1995, the quilt was sold as part of an estate sale and ended up in an antique shop in Petaluma, California.  Lynda Salter Chenoweth bought it and spent the next five years researching Philena's life and the lives of those who had inscribed her quilt in 1853.
 
Philena Cooper Hambleton, her grandson Arthur Hambleton Craver, her daughter Angelina
Hambleton Craver, and her great granddaughter Florence Philena Craver Oberholtzer.  Taken at
Harvey, Illinois, 1903.  Photograph courtesy of the Jerome Walker family.
 
 
Source:
 
Chenoweth, Lynda Salter.  Philena's Friendship Quilt: A Quaker Farewell to Ohio.  Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2009
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2013.
 
 






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