February 29, 2016

"Too mean are all earthborn delights/Pure heavenly joys my soul invites . . ."

Eliza Naudain Corbit's name accompanies these words inscribed on one of thirty-one quilt blocks she made for family and friends to sign, annotate, and return to her.  The date inscribed on her block was 2nd month 1844.  In December of the same year, Eliza passed away at the age of thirty-four.

Eliza Naudain Corbit Quilt.  Collection of the Winterthur Museum, Gardens and
Library.  Photograph courtesy of the Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library,
Winterthur, Delaware.
 
Two other Corbit quilts are held by the Historic Odessa Foundation in Odessa, Delaware.  One of them is a quilt top comprised of eighty-one blocks of the same pattern and some of the same fabrics as those used for the Winterthur quilt.  Like the Winterthur quilt, this top displays names and verses, including a center block bearing Eliza Naudain Corbit's name with a lengthy verse implying the coming of death.  This top was discussed by Jessica F. Nicholl in Quilted for Friends, Delaware Valley Signature Quilts, 1840-1855 (pp. 12 and 13) and we will revisit it in a future post.

The Winterthur quilt measures 77 1/4 X 67 1/4 inches with the blocks set en pointe.  A green patterned fabric is used for the four elements of all of the crosses except four, on the outer edges of the second and fourth rows, that are solid green.  All of the crosses have white center squares that display a name inscribed in ink and various leaf, floral or urn motifs for embellishment.  All but four of the blocks have outer triangles of a small leaf print that gives them a pink hue.  Four of the blocks have white center squares and white triangles (instead of pink) where lengthy verses have been inscribed on all four sides of the blocks.  (These blocks are symmetrically placed in the center of rows three and five.)  All blocks are separated by a white sashing and the quilt is quilted with white thread, seven stitches to the inch.

Detail of block inscribed with the name Mary Naudaink, the town of Wilmington, the date
Feb 13 1845 and four verses in it's white triangles.  Photograph courtesy of the
Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library, Winterthur, Delaware.
 
Two of the quilt's blocks are memorials to Eliza Naudain Corbit's sister-in-law and niece.  These blocks are in the center of the first row of blocks and their inscriptions are placed in ink-drawn urns.  The first inscription reads: "In/Memory of/my dear sister Virginia Naudain/who died Feb/28th/1844."  Virginia (maiden name Chambers) was Eliza's youngest brother Andrew's wife.  The second inscription reads: "In/Memory of/my dear niece/Ann E Naudain/who died April/20th 1843."
 
In an interview with the great granddaughter of Eliza Naudain Corbit in 1985, Jessica F. Nicoll was told that Eliza had had a lingering illness during her last two years of life.  The verses on the block inscribed with Eliza's name reflect her anticipation of what was to come.  They include:  "May the words of my/mouth and the meditations of my heart/be acceptable to thy sight/O Lord!  My strength and my redeemer."  "Nor gilded roofs, nor regal state/Nor all that can be fancied great/Or wise, or fam'd, my soul desires/Far higher still my wish aspires."  "In the multitude/of my thoughts within/me, Thy comforts delight my soul."  "Too mean are all earthborn delights/Pure heavenly joys my soul invites/And asks while prisoned in this clod/A nearer union with my God."
 
Detail of block inscribed with the name Lydia Eddewes (one of Eliza's sisters).
Photograph courtesy of the Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library.
 
The first emigrant to America in Eliza Naudain's family was Elias Naudain (born 1657), a French Huguenot native of La Tremblade, Santonge, France.  He was married to Jael Armand (1652-ca. 1720) of the same town and they both fled to the safety of London to avoid the persecution of French Protestants that was rampant in the 1680s.  There, both were naturalized in 1682.  They had four surviving children before Elias passed away in London.  Shortly thereafter, in 1688, Jael and her children arrived in America, becoming some of the first settlers of the Narragansett Colony in Rhode Island.
 
"The Towers" of Narragansett.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.  This
structure was not built until 1883 but stands to this day as a venue for weddings and other events.
The Narragansett Colony that Jael and her children joined was disbanded in 1691.  She remarried
after that and moved to New York.  After she was again widowed, she lived with her
son Elias in Delaware.
 
One of Jael's surviving children was her last-born, named Elias after his father.  Elias (1680-1749) married Lydia Leroux in Philadelphia in 1715 and, by 1717, he was living in Delaware as a mariner and a resident of Appoquinimink Hundred.  He purchased farmland known as the "old Naudain homestead" in 1735, land that remained in the family (except for the period 1816-1827) into the twentieth century.  His son, Arnold, was Eliza's grandfather.  Arnold married Catharine Allfree and Andrew, Eliza's father, was their son.
 
Andrew Naudain (1758-1819) married Rebecca Snow (1770-1813) in 1786.  Rebecca's family owned land near Leipsic, Delaware, of which she inherited 300 acres.  They named this land, and the home that was built on it in 1790, Snowland.  The property was also known to locals as "Naudain's Landing."  The home is preserved to this day and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
 
Snowland (Leipsic, Delaware), 2012.  Source of image:  Wikimedia Commons.
 
The Historic American Buildings Survey description of the structure says the following:  "Snowland is a good example of the simple Delaware plantation house built after Georgian Symmetrical arrangement had come into favour.  While many of the external features characteristic of the Middle Georgian manner are absent, the fundamental feeling of the composition is unquestionably traceable to Georgian precedent."
 
Andrew and Rebecca Snow Naudain lived at Snowland their entire lives, died there, and are buried there.  Further, it appears that their eleven children were all born on the plantation.  The tenth of these children was Eliza Naudain.
 
Eliza was born on October 10, 1810.  She grew up at Snowland with a wealth of siblings, including her brother Arnold Naudain who served as a U.S. Senator from Delaware from January 7, 1830 until June 16, 1836.  In 1833, Eliza married Quaker Daniel Corbit (1796-1877), a member of the Duck Creek Monthly Meeting.  Daniel lived at Cantwell's Bridge, Delaware, where his father William had established a tannery.  Daniel inherited the tannery business in due time, became the Director of the Bank of Smyna, and also engaged in mercantile businesses with success.  He and Eliza had six children in twelve years before her life ended on December 18, 1844.  Three years later, Daniel married a cousin and a neighbor, Mary Corbit Wilson (1811-1880), at Wilmington Monthly Meeting.
 
We know little of Eliza Naudain's married life other than that she was a mother, a Quaker by marriage, and evidently a kind and loving person.  Conrad, in his History of the State of Delaware, tells us that Daniel "[. . . ] was accustomed to say his wives were the best of the good gifts of a kind Provience, and all who heard agreed with him."  After Daniel wrote to Mary Corbit Wilson proposing marriage, Mary wrote back in part: "I feel quite at a loss how to express myself on this to me most important subject, my first feeling was one of entire incapacity to fill the place made desolate in thy Heart and Home by the loss of thy incomparable Wife, remembering her worth as I do.  I feel the more deeply the great compliment thee pays me in thinking me worthy to fill her place."  (Letter Mary Corbit Wilson to Daniel Corbit cited below.)
 
Detail of block inscribed with the name Ann M. Murphy.  Eliza Naudain Corbit Quilt.
Courtesy of the Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library, Winterthur, Delaware.
 
Our thanks to Linda Eaton, Curator of Textiles at the Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library, for sharing the photographs and object record of Eliza's quilt.
 
Sources:
 
Ancestry.com Public Member Family Trees, census records, and Quaker meeting records.
 
Conrad, Henry C.  History of the State of Delaware, Vol. III.  Wilmington, DE: published by the author, 1908.
 
Letter Mary Corbit Wilson to Daniel Corbit, Hopewell 8th mo 8th, 1846.  The Winterthur Library, The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Folder 4, Daniel Corbit Papers, .308.
 
 "Miner Descent: Tracing each branch back to their arrival in America" at http://minerdescent.com/page/29/?iframe.
 
Nicoll, Jessica F.  Quilted for Friends, Delaware Valley Signature Quilts, 1840-1855.  Winterthur, DE:  The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1986.
 
Object Report for object 2010.0022, quilt.  Winterthur Museum, Gardens and Library, Winterthur, Delaware.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.
 






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