Large portions of this post were first published in the American Quilt Study Group quarterly newsletter, Blanket Statements, in 2008.
This week we continue last week's post about The Quaker Valley Quilt given to Menallen Meeting in honor of William and Roseanna Wright.
Detail of The Quaker Valley Quilt. Photograph by John Herr.
Last time we told you about Mary Payne, the former slave whose name is inscribed on The Quaker Valley Quilt, and how her family was kidnapped from Pennsylvania for return to Virginia. Researcher Debra McCauslin explained, "on July 24, 1845, Kitty Payne and her three children were kidnapped from Bendersville's Bear Mountain by five armed men. Enslaved in Virginia and later manumitted by owner Mary Maddox, they lived freely in Adams County [Pennsylvania] for two years until the Maddox's nephew, Sam Maddox, Jr., and four other men took them from their slumber, beat them and dragged them back to Virginia with the intent to sell them on the auction block to pay off debts. The nephew thought he should inherit them so he hired Tom Finnegan, of Hagerstown, MD and three other armed men to help him."
Finnegan was identified as "the same individual who acquired notoriety in this area last fall when he kidnapped and carried back into slavery a family of freed, colored persons." A warrant was issued in the state of Pennsylvania for his arrest, along with others who helped him in the Payne kidnapping. In Virginia, the Payne family was taken into custody for safekeeping until the perpetrators were captured and tried. There were lengthy court proceedings and much publicity surrounded the 1845 case.
One of the Quakers involved in aiding the Paynes' return to Adams County, Pennsylvania, was a recognized Quaker minister, Louisa Steer. (This is the same Louisa Steer mentioned in our blog post of January 4, 2012 for frequently hosting quilt maker Mollie Dutton when she was a child.) Steer's name is inscribed on a block of The Quaker Valley Quilt.
Louisa Brown Steer (1800-1870). Photograph courtesy of the Waterford
The Quaker Valley Quilt, detail of block inscribed with the name
"Louisa Steer." Photograph by John Herr.
Louisa's "parents were not members of the Society of Friends but her training was in that direction." At the age of twenty-two, she joined Hopewell Monthly Meeting and "the same year was united in marriage with William B. Steer, and became a member of Fairfax Monthly Meeting."
One article about the case of the Payne family kidnapping appeared in The Adams Sentinel Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, August 11, 1845. (Gettysburg is just seven miles from Biglersville, the location of Menallen Meeting.) Two days later at Fairfax, "Louisa Steer laid before this meeting a concern she had felt to pay a visit to some of the inhabitants of Gettysburg, Pa, which being considered she was left at liberty to attend thereto as truth may direct.." On October 15, 1845, Louisa Steer once again "laid before this meeting a concern to visit some of the inhabitants of Gettysburg, Pa." It is difficult to know the exact nature of her visits, but if she was visiting Quakes in the Gettysburg area, she would have most likely heard about the kidnapping which was big news in the Quaker community there. She also would have had opportunity to associate with some of the Menallen Friends represented on The Quaker Valley Quilt.
Eventually, according to the November 20, 1846 issue of the Gettysburg newspaper, The Star and Banner, kidnapper Finnegan was "convicted at the August term on the charge of kidnapping a family of free colored persons from this county." The Payne family was now helped to travel from Virginia to the Free State of Pennsylvania for the second time, and Louisa Steer had a role in providing them aid. As the Payne family journeyed north in the spring of 1847, they stopped at the Steer's country home in Virginia, "Corby Hall," which is about one mile outside of Waterford. "Louisa received them warmly, and there they spent the night."
The next morning Louisa's husband, William B. Steer, traveled with the family as far as New Market, Maryland. He stayed with them until two other Quaker men arrived to escort them farther. Demonstrating the mid-nineteenth century tradition of having one's name inscribed on quilts, William's name is inscribed on a different quilt, the c. 1850 Quaker Friendship Quilt in the collection of the Loudoun Museum, Leesburg, Virginia.
William B. Steer (1794-1881). Photograph courtesy of Jane Russell Johnson.
Quaker Friendship Quilt, c. 1850, detail. Collection of the Loudoun Museum.
Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
Following their return to Pennsylvania, Kitty Payne did not have means to support her children, so they were placed in various homes. In the 1850 Federal Census of Menallen Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania, Mary appears in the household of John Wright. The family consisted of the widower John Wright and three of his grown children. His daughters, Ruth and Jane, were teachers who maintained a Quaker school called "Mountain View" in their home. The name of Jane Wright is also on The Quaker Valley Quilt.
The Quaker Valley Quilt, detail including block inscribed with the name of
Jane Wright on top, far right.
According to her granddaughter's account, Mary Payne was raised by the Wrights in the Quaker faith, attended Meetings with them, and "was treated as a member of the family sharing in household duties." Mary's childhood experiences with Friends were so strong that they carried over into her adult life. After her marriage to William Jackson, the couple "continued with the Quakers when they moved to Michigan (Raisin Valley Seminary) and became members there." The family always stressed that their daughter, Minnie Jackson Goins, was a birthright Quaker.
With much left to explore, the search continues for the reasons The Quaker Valley Quilt was conceived, made, and inscribed with the names of nineteenth-century members of the Religious Society of Friends. The traveling Quaker minister, Louisa Steer, and former slave, Mary Payne, are just two people whose names are on The Quaker Valley Quilt, but their stories are worth telling as powerful examples of some fascinating American history.
The authors of this post wish to thank Christopher Densmore, Curator, Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, for providing research materials, and historians John and Bronwen Souders for sharing transcriptions of related materials.
The Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, August 11, 1845.
Duncan, Patricia. Transcriber of "Louisa Steers mentions in Fairfax Monthly Meeting Minutes," from microfilm reels MM618, Albuquerque, New Mexico, compiled from transcriptions provided to Bronwen C. Souders, Education Committee, Waterford, Virginia.
Gandy, Mary Goins. Guide My Feet, Hold My Hand. Canton, MO: The Press-News-Journal, 1987.
Memorials Concerning Several Ministers and Others, Deceasel of the Religious Society of Friends within the Limits of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Baltimore: Innes & Company, Printers, 1875.
Notes in Albert Cook Myers Collection Box 132, file 15 (Steer), Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania. Transcribed by Bronwen C. Souders, Education Committee, Waterford Foundation, Virginia. Sent by Souders via e-mail.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.