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 The Quaker Valley Quilt given to Menallen Meeting in honor of William and Roseanna Wright.
The Quaker Valley Quilt, c. 1850, detail. Collection of Menallen Meeting.
Photograph by John Herr.
There are many stories reflected in the inscriptions on The Quaker Valley Quilt, but one is especially riveting. In particular, there is a block most likely inscribed with the name of former slave Mary Payne.
The Quaker Valley Quilt, detail of block inscribed "Mary Payne." Collection
of Menallen Meeting. Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
Although there is no direct evidence to confirm that the "Mary Payne" whose identity was attached to the quilt's inscription was the former slave, there are two reasons we strongly suspect it. First, a search for "Mary Payne/Pain" in the communities where the other inscribed Quaker identities were known to reside in the mid-nineteenth century does not produce other probable candidates among neighbors. Second, Mary Payne (1840-1928) had an intensely intimate relationship to the people whose names are inscribed on The Quaker Valley Quilt.
Mary Payne (1840-1928). Photograph courtesy of Sandra Kasabuske.
Mary Payne was born into slavery in Rappahannock County, Virginia. Her granddaughter Mary Goins Gandy detailed her family's harrowing plight of manumission, kidnapping, court proceedings, and eventual return to freedom in the book Guide My Feet, Hold My Hand.
Gandy based her book on family history she heard from her grandmother, whom she knew until the age of fourteen. She relied heavily on the research papers of Dr. Albert Cook Myers. His papers are known as "manuscript collection number 100" at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In addition to collecting documents related to the case, Dr. Myers also recorded the oral history of the Payne family ordeal during interviews with his own Adams County, Pennsylvania, relatives.
On February 25, 1843, Mary, her mother Kitty Payne, and her siblings were freed by Mary Maddox, the widow of their former owner. Their Deed of Emancipation states: "Know all men by the presents that I Mary Maddox of the County of Rappahannock and State of Virginia for divers [several] good causes have this day emancipated and forever set free and by these presents do emancipate and forever restore to perfect freedom free from control, claim or demand of any and all person or persons whatsoever the following slaves [. . .] Kitty aged twenty seven, Eliza Jane aged five years, Mary aged four years, Arthur aged two years and George aged two months." According to Gandy's book, the family was personally escorted to Pennsylvania by Mary Maddox.
Rappahannock Co. VA Deed Book E p. 176, detail of the Manumission of Slavery showing
Mary, age four, and the rest of the Payne family group being restored "to perfect Freedom."
Courtesy of Debra McCauslin.
Following the widow's return to Virginia, her husband's nephew, Samuel Maddox, Jr., convinced the aging woman to deed her estate to him. Deciding the freed slaves were his rightful property as part of his newly acquired estate, Maddox hired a professional slave catcher, a man known as Finnegan, to help him retrieve them. Finnegan, "aided by a part of bad and reckless citizens from an adjoining county [. . .] in the dead of night approached the house where dwelt the unsuspecting victims, seized the mother and two children, gagged them, placed them in a covered wagon, and made their escape before measures could be used to arrest their progress." (Gandy.)
Early in the trip the carriage passed by a Quaker farm. The witnesses quickly spread the news of the kidnapping. The Quaker community rallied to aid the Paynes, including Cyrus Griest. The name of Griest's wife, Mary Ann Griest, is inscribed on The Quaker Valley Quilt.
The Quaker Valley Quilt. Detail showing block at bottom, furthest right inscribed
"Mary Ann Griest."
The Griests are buried in a burial site listed on the National Parks Service's website as "National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom." The burial site was approved for the recognition largely because of Cyrus Griest's role in the rescue of the Paynes.
We'll continue our posts about the The Quaker Valley Quilt next time.
The authors of this post would like to thank researchers Debra McCauslin and Judy Pyle for so generously sharing their significant research concerning the family of quilt block inscribed-identity Mary Payne, as well as the historical community of Menallen Meeting, Biglerville, Pennsylvania. You can read more about this community in McCauslin's book, Yellow Hill: Reconstructing the Past Puzzle of the Lost Community at Yellow Hill (For the Cause Publications, 2007).
The authors are also grateful to Barclay Brooks, Clerk of Menallen Meeting, for access to The Quaker Valley Quilt and related research materials, and to Gaye Ingram for editing the original article.
Deed of Emancipation, Rappahannock Co. VA Deed Book E p. 176, sent via e-mail from Debra Sandoe McCauslin.
Randolph J. Harris and Kelly M. Britt, application preparers, in the "Application for the Inclusion of the Burial Ground at Menallen" as a Site recognized by the National Parks Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Mary Goins Gandy. Guide My Feet, Hold My Hand. Canton, MO: The Press-News-Journal, 1987.
Mary Holton Rolbare. "As Truth May Direct: The Quaker Valley Quilt" in Blanket Statements, 92, edited by Gaye Ingram. Lincoln, NE: American Quilt Study Group, 2008.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.