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.
 






February 18, 2016

Sarah Wistar and the House of Industry

We first discussed Sarah Wistar's quilt in our post of October 30, 2012.  We revisited the quilt in our last two posts when we explored the lives of two of Sarah's relations, Caspar Wistar, her great-grandfather, and the author Owen Wister, a distant cousin.  It is time to turn to Sarah, herself, and her remarkable life in the service of others.

Sarah was born of Richard Wistar (1756-1821) and Sarah Morris (1758-1831) in Philadelphia during the year 1786.  She was their third child, having been preceded by her sisters Catherine (1783-1822) and Rebecca (1784-1812) and followed by a brother Richard (1790-1863).  Neither Sarah nor her two sisters married, spending their lives in Philadelphia as spinsters in a well-to-do, prominent Quaker family.  As such, they devoted much of their time to charitable works.

Sarah's quilt at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, is comprised of ninety-nine blocks inscribed in ink with names, drawings, and sentiments.  Some of the blocks cite charitable organizations with whom Sarah associated during her life.  These included Widowhouse, Pupils of the Deaf and Dumb Institution, Aimwell School, and the House of Industry.

Detail of block in the Sarah Wistar Quilt that refers to the House of Industry.
Photograph courtesy of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska.
 
The inscription concerning the House of Industry reads as follows:  "In grateful remembrance of the many pleasurable hours spent at the House of Industry.  The social intercourse of its members and the friendships commenced there, which we fondly trust may be mature'd in a brighter world, where, when done with Time, our spirits together with those whom we have endeavor'd to aid, may through Eternity join the ransomed and redeem'd of the land.  This circle of blocks prepared by the members are united by their friend Sarah Wister."
 
This dedicatory block is surrounded by blocks signed by members of The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor (who established and ran the House of Industry), and by Ann Oliver Burns who served as Matron to the House for forty years.  (Refer to our posts of June 15 and July 1, 2015 about Ann Burns and The House of Industry Signature Quilt.)
 
Detail of block in the Sarah Wistar Quilt bearing the name of Ann Oliver Burns, Matron of
the House of Industry at the time the quilt was made.  Photograph courtesy of the International
Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska.
 
Ann Parrish, along with twenty-three other Quaker women, began what would result in the House of Industry by founding The Friendly Society in 1795.  The House of Industry, itself, was established in 1798 by a group of these women and others who appear in the minutes of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.  When this group decided to incorporate to increase their funding potential, Sarah Wistar was one of the forty-six unmarried women who obtained a Charter or Act of Incorporation on first month, 12th, 1815.  They called their corporation The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.  Relief and employment were provided by the House of Industry where poor women could spin and sew for pay, receive two meals a day, and bring their children along to be cared for in what became the first "childcare center" in America.
 
Copy of the incorporation document enacted in 1815.  Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
The women's work at the House of Industry was overseen by House Managers.  These women were appointed on a rotating, weekly basis from the membership of The Female Society for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.  House of Industry records obtained from the Quaker and Special Collections at Haverford College indicate that Sarah Wistar was actively engaged as a House Manager from at least 1840 through 1845, the years for which records were requested.  The duties of a House Manager included preparing the materials to be sewn, overseeing the work of the seamstresses to ensure quality, and providing weekly reports of all items produced.  These items were itemized in House reports and include "shirts", chemises, wrappers, bed clothes, pillow cases, petticoats, "comfortables", and quilts.
 
The names of several of Sarah's 1840-1845 fellow-Managers appear on the blocks of her quilt.  These include Mary Bacon, Mary Beesley, Annabella Cresson, Mary Foulke, Margaret Hart, Eliza Hopkins, Hannah S. Johnson, Martha Morris, Sarah Morris, Anna Morton, Elizabeth Paul, and Julianna Randolph.  Some of the other names on Sarah's quilt are those of additional members of The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor (who may or may not have served as Managers at the House of Industry).
 
The Sarah Wistar Quilt, 1842-43.  Photograph courtesy of the International
Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska.
 
Quaker inscribed quilts normally display the names of many of the recipient's family members.  Sarah's quilt is no exception, but the number of people named on her quilt who were associated with The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor and its House of Industry points to a group of friends, and an organization, that must have featured largely in Sarah's life.
 
Sarah's sisters and both of her parents passed away by 1823.  Her brother, Richard, married Hannah Owen Lewis in 1824.  It is not clear where Sarah lived, or with whom, after 1824.  She was not found living in Richard's household at the time of the 1850 census but some early 1860s tax records name both Sarah and Richard and give an address of 1313 Filbert Street in Philadelphia.  The death notice cited below lists this address as her residence at the end of her life.  Wherever Sarah lived at various times in her life, it is clear that she devoted much of her life and time to charitable causes and especially to the House of Industry and The Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor.
 
Sarah Wistar's grave stone at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.  Source of
photograph: Find A Grave web site.
 
Sarah passed away on September 21, 1866 at the age of eighty-one years.  She was buried on September 25th at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.  Her brother, Richard, had predeceased her by three years.  The Philadelphia Inquirer published notice of her death on September 25, 1866 as follows:  "WISTAR - On the 21st instant, at 'Oakland', in the 81st year of her age, SARAH WISTAR.  Her relatives and friends are invited to attend the funeral, this (Third) day, 25th at 10 o'clock, without further notice, from her late residence No. 1313 Filbert Street.  To proceed to Laurel Hill."
 
Sources:
 
Ancestry.com Public Member Family Trees and census records.
 
Anonymous.  Wistar Family: A Genealogy of the descendants of Caspar Wistar, Emigrant in 1717.  Compiled by Richard Wistar Davids, Philadelphia, 1896.
 
Chenoweth, Lynda Salter and Mary Holton Robare.  "A Memento of Our Old Matron:  The House of Industry Signature Quilt."  In Blanket Statements, Spring 2014, published by the American Quilt Study Group.
 
Ducey, Carolyn and Jonathan Gregory.  What's in a Name?  Lincoln, NE: The International Quilt Study Center & Museum, 2012.
 
Find A Grave web site at http://www.findagrave.com.
 
Roberg, Madeleine and Joan Laughlin.  Research notes: The Sarah Wistar Quilt (International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska). 
 
(c)  Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.
 
 
 


 




February 1, 2016

Before the Sarah Wistar Quilt: Researching Her Ancestors

One of the unique features of the Sarah Wistar Quilt at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum is a block displaying an annotated, pen-drawn family tree.

Portion of the Sarah Wistar Quilt showing her family tree between two eight-pointed
stars.  International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2005.059.0001.
Photograph courtesy of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.
 
Detail of the Sarah Wistar Quilt showing the pen-drawn, annotated family tree block.
Photograph courtesy of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.



The large circle on the trunk of the tree contains the names of Caspar Wistar, the progenitor of this line of the Wistar family, and his wife, Catherine Jansen (Johnson) Wistar.  Sarah Wistar, recipient of the Sarah Wistar Quilt, was the daughter of Richard Wistar, Caspar's grandson and Richard's wife Sarah Morris Wistar.

Caspar immigrated to Philadelphia in September, 1717 from a small farming community called Hilsbach in Baden, Germany.  His father made his living as a forester and huntsman to the Elector Palatine and, by tradition, had the authority to pass his position on to his oldest son.  Caspar, however, had greater plans for himself and embarked for the New World at age twenty-one hoping to establish himself there as a man of wealth and distinction.  Just how he was going to do this, with only nine pence in his pocket upon arrival and lacking knowledge of the English language, remained to be seen.

Caspar went to work on the docks of Philadelphia hauling ashes to earn a little money.  Somehow, he encountered someone who taught him how to make brass buttons and he developed a successful button business catering primarily to the working classes of Philadelphia.  His buttons, a necessary and highly sought after eighteenth century product, gained renown for their durability and the quality of their workmanship.  When sold outside of Philadelphia, Caspar's buttons were referred to as "Philadelphia buttons."

Within four years after arrival, the success of Caspar's button business enabled him to purchase a house and a lot on Market Street in Philadelphia and, by 1724, he was engaged in a secondary career buying and selling real estate to German immigrants.  He was also ready to start a family of his own.  In 1725, he joined the Religious Society of Friends, not only to marry Catherine Jansen, a member of a prominent Germantown Quaker family, but also to become closely associated with the Philadelphia community of wealthy Quaker merchants.  He and Catherine were married at the Abington Monthly Meeting house in 1726.  Over the years, they had seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood.

Early print of the Abington Meeting House.
 
After his marriage, Caspar continued to expand his entrepreneurial activities by importing goods from Germany for sale in Philadelphia and, in 1739, establishing a glass manufacturing business in partnership with four glass blowers who had emigrated from Germany.  They called their enterprise the United Glass Company.  There had been other attempts to establish domestic glass making in the Colonies, but these failed for various reasons, not the least of which were the pre-Revolutionary trade restrictions imposed by the British government to prevent competition with goods manufactured in Britain.   
 
Caspar located the glassworks on a 2,000 acre parcel of land he purchased in 1738 along Alloways Creek near Salem, New Jersey.  Before long, a small town named Wistarburg grew up around the glassworks and the glass manufactured there became know as Wistarburg glass.
 
Road sign placed where the Wistarburg factory once stood.  Source of
image: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic; author Nancy Chambers.
 
The manufactory produced mainly window glass and bottles, for which there was high demand.  Ensa Kummer (see sources) reports that the glassworks produced 15,000 bottles a year.  Needless to say, Wistarburg bottles are highly collectible antiques - many were produced but many were also broken and those that have survived fully intact are greatly sought after.
 
Examples of Wistarburg glass bottles displayed at the site of the old Wistarburg glassworks.
Source of image:  "The United Glass Company located at Wistarburgh," Part 1 by Stephen Atkinson
published on the Internet by Ferdinand Meyer V, President , Federation of Historical Bottle
Collectors and Peachridge Glass,
 
Caspar Wistar passed away in 1752 and the glass business and its sixty employees were taken over by his son Richard.  It continued operations in the early years of the Revolution but seems to have been shut down for a time in 1776 or 1777.  In 1780, Richard put the manufacturing complex up for sale and the Wheaton Arts Center article cited below provides this sales description of the property and glassworks.
 
"The GLASS MANUFACTORY in Salem county, West Jersey, is for sale, with 1500 Acres of Land adjoining.  It contains two Furnaces, with all the necessary Ovens for cooling the Glass, drying Wood, &c.  Contiguous to the Manufactory are two flatting Ovens in separate Houses, a Store-house, Pot-house, a House fitted with tables for the cutting of Glass, a stamping Mill, a rolling Mill for the preparing of Clay for making of Pots, and at a suitable distance are ten Dwelling houses for the Workmen; as likewise a large Mansion-house containing six Rooms on a Floor, with Bakehouse and Washhouse.  Also a convenient Store-house.[...] There are about 250 acres of cleared Land within fence, 100 whereof is mowable meadow, which produces hay and pasturage sufficient for a large stock of cattle and horses employed by the Manufactory.  There is Stabling sufficient for 60 head of cattle, with a large Barn, Granary, and Waggon-house.  The unimproved Land is well wooded, and 200 Acres more of meadow may be made.  The situation and conveniency for procuring materials, is equal if not superior to any place in Jersey."
 
Richard died in 1781, before the property sold, and it then passed to his widow and children The manufactory had, by then, begun to produce glass once more but all production ceased in 1782.
 
Caspar Wistar, the German forester's son who hoped for a better life in the New World died at age fifty-six a wealthy and prominent merchant of Philadelphia.  His button manufacturing business was still thriving at the time of his death, as was the United Glass Company he founded with four fellow-German immigrants.  He owned several farms and large parcels of land in three counties of Pennsylvania and had assets totaling 60,000 pounds, close to three times the amount held by most of Philadelphia's wealthy merchant class.  Further, Caspar took his membership in the Religious Society of Friends seriously, producing a line of Quaker descendants who contributed much to the city of Philadelphia and the history of the Religious Society of Friends.  Sarah Wistar, as a member of the Female Society of Philadelphia for the Relief and Employment of the Poor, was just one of these descendants.
 
The Sarah Wistar Quilt.  International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska. 
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
 
Sources:
 
Anonymous. Wistar Family" A Genealogy of the Descendants of Caspar Wistar, Emigrant in 1717.  Compiled by Richard Wistar Davids, Philadelphia, 1896.
 
Author not cited.  "The Wistars and Their Glass 1739-1777."  Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, 1989. 
 
Kummer, Ensa  "Caspar Wistar (1696-1752". At Immigrant Entrepreneurship, February 16, 2011. 
 
Palmer, Arlene.  "Glass Production in Eighteenth Century America: The Wistarburgh Enterprise."  In Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 11 (1976), pp. 75-101.
 
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2016.