Eight-Pointed Star Quilt. Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
The quilt is comprised of 42 twelve-inch square blocks placed seven across and six down. These blocks are surrounded by a white border measuring approximately three inches on each side and five and a half inches at top and bottom giving a measurement of approximately 88 by 80 inches. Three additional blocks, not incorporated into the quilt, came with it. Documentation obtained with the quilt states that it was Quaker-made in the 1840s and that it was assembled and quilted in 1955 in Milwaukee. The red binding would have been added at that time.
Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
The quilt blocks were paper-pieced using eight diamonds and a center octagonal piece. Most of the octagonal elements are inscribed, either free-hand in ink or stamped, with the names of members of families living mainly in Delaware and Maryland as well as Philadelphia, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri. The dates inscribed on the quilt are 1843 and 1844.
Extra block showing paper-piecing technique. Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
The fabrics comprising the stars are cotton prints. Two of the stars, which were dark brown printed with roses, have deteriorated and are partially worn away, revealing the cotton batting beneath.
This and the next three photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Extra block with attached names to be inscribed on it and perhaps another of the extra blocks.
The names are R.T. Davenport and Sarah Davenport. None of the blocks in the quilt are
inscribed with two names even though it was common Quaker practice to inscribe the
names of both husband and wife on a single block.
This and the next three block photographs courtesy of Christine Bowman.
Preliminary research into the names inscribed on the quilt revealed the presence of three particularly prominent Delaware families. All settled in or around Wilmington, Delaware, where the Brandywine and Christina Rivers converge.
Map of the Brandywine and Christina River watershed. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The first of these is a family of Quakers by the name of Richardson who settled near what-is-now Wilmington in the late 17th or early 18th century on the Christina River. John Richardson (1679-1755) migrated to the New World from England and amassed a considerable fortune from his operation of a gristmill and from foreign trade. He had two brigantines plus a sloop that sailed with cargo from his own wharves and storehouses selling grain, flour, lumber, and barrel staves, returning with sugar, molasses, rum, and salt which he sold locally.
When John died in 1755, he left his mill property to his son Richard Richardson (1720-1797) who, in 1765, built a large stone house overlooking Newport Pike. One year later, Richard married Sarah Tatnall, the daughter of a wealthy Brandywine miller, and moved her into this house. The house is still standing and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Richard Richardson House in 2010. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.
One of Richard's sons, Ashton Richardson (1776-1852), inherited the mill property and continued to pursue several milling operations in the area. Ashton, a prominent and wealthy Quaker, was considered one of the area's most eligible bachelors. In 1804, he built Ashley Mansion on his inherited property and three years later married Mary Wood. They had eight children and lived in Ashley Mansion until their deaths in the early 1850s.
Ashley Mansion. Photograph by Bill Pfingsten, Bel Air, Maryland.
The names of two of Ashton's and Mary's daughters, Hannah W. (Wood) Richardson and Mary Richardson, are inscribed on the Eight-Pointed Star Quilt. Both blocks indicate they were living at Ashley Mansion at the time the blocks were inscribed.
Block inscribed by Hannah W. Richardson. Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoeth.
Note the Quaker-style date of 1sr mo 1sr 1844.
The second early family living in this same area were the Shannons who resided in what became known as Christiana. The names of five Shannon family members are inscribed on the quilt, including that of William T. Shannon. William T. Shannon was a descendant of William Shannon, an innkeeper who owned the Shannon Hotel, a popular inn located at an important colonial crossroads that linked Christiana with Philadelphia and the then-province of Maryland. The hotel was constructed about 1766 and was purportedly famous for the quality of its food. Local lore has it that George Washington, Lafayette, Benjamin Latrobe, and Mason and Dixon all stayed there at one time or another. The Shannon Hotel still exists but is in disrepair.
Shannon Hotel, Christiana, Delaware. Photograph from
The names and an inscription related to a third family represented on the quilt may give a clue as to who made the quilt and for whom it was intended. One of the quilt blocks, bearing the name James Height, displays this inscription:
I send a square,
To Mary Corse,
Mary is named on the quilt as are her mother, Rebecca Morris Corse, and two of her six siblings, William H. Corse and John R. Corse.
Rebecca Morris (1780-1864) married James Rigbie (also spelled Rigby) Corse in 1803 at Friends Meeting, Duck Creek, Kent County, Delaware. The couple had seven children: Sarah Ann, Elizabeth Morris (French), Susan Cassandra, James Morris (an M.D.), Mary Berry (Oliphant), John Rigbie, and William Henry (also an M.D.). James Rigbie Corse died in 1822 before his family settled in Wilmington, Delaware. His wife Rebecca lived until 1864.
The quilt's inscribed blocks naming John R. Corse and William H. Corse show that they were in St. Louis, Missouri, in the mid-1840s, the time during which the quilt blocks were inscribed. William H. had returned to Wilmington by the time of the 1850 census, but John R. does not appear in any census records after 1840.
Christine's superior sleuthing turned up a notice, published in The Friend Quaker publication on Twelfth Month 28, 1845.
"Died on the seventh of last month [November 7, 1845], at Rock Island, Illinois, in the 28th year of his age, John R. Corse, son of James R. and Rebecca Corse of Delaware -- his life was characterized by conscientious integrity and uprightness; his death was resigned and peaceful."
We know from the inscription on the James Height block that John's sister, Mary Corse, was collecting blocks for a quilt. We know that the quilt top was completed but that it was not backed and quilted until 1955. It would not be unreasonable to speculate that the quilt was being made for John, who had moved to Missouri, to remind him of his loving family and friends back home in Delaware. His untimely death perhaps explains why the quilt remained unfinished after its top was assembled.
Alternatively, the blocks could have been made for a quilt for Mary, herself, to commemorate her wedding to James Morris Oliphant which took place in April, 1845 prior to John's death. This supposition leaves unexplained, however, why the quilt remained unfinished.
The other family names inscribed on the quilt are Height, Wilson, England, Simmons, Black, Morris, Latimer, McDowell, Griffin, Pinkney, Sutton, Harmon, Clemen, and Haymond.
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Further research is needed to reveal the lives of the others named on the quilt, identify their relationships to one another, and understand why they were included as part of the "community" represented by the quilt. It appears that the Corse family was central to the quilt making effort and, if so, all of the others named on the quilt may have had some kind of relationship to them.
Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
This beautiful quilt has several stories to tell about colonial Delaware, its early history, and its inscribed identities. If you are interested in purchasing it and continuing the research necessary to reveal the stories it has to tell, contact Christine Bowman.
Our thanks to Christy for her research contributions to this post and for her permission to feature this wonderful Quaker quilt on our blog.
"A Partial Genealogy of the Family of Caleb and Rebecca C. Davies," accessed 10/15/2014 at http://www.mlloyd.org/gen/davies/text/partgen.htm
Ancestry.com census data, Tait Public Family Tree, and Berger Forest Public Family Tree, accessed 10/14/2014,
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/de0048/
National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form, Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. (Richardson properties.)
The Friend, Twelfth Month 28, 1845.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.