January 20, 2017

Will the Real Mary Ann Dewees Please Stand Up?

In one of the posts about Joy Swartz's red and white "circle" quilt, we mentioned the difficulty of precisely identifying a person named on a quilt when there are several people found to have the same name who lived in the same geographical region during a time period in which the quilt could have been made. A prior post about an inscriber named Jane Biddle posed this problem and we ended up writing about three of the Jane Biddles who may have been the one referred to on the quilt.  Well, this situation has arisen again.

The Joy Schwartz red and white "circle" quilt.  Photograph courtesy of
Barbara Brackman.
One of the inscriptions on Joy's quilt is "Mary A. Dewees, Philadelphia Pa."  We've found four most likely, possible candidates for this Mary A. Dewees.
Block inscribed with the name "Mary A. Dewees" and the city of "Philadelphia, Pa."
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The first candidate was born on January 11, 1812 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to William and Deborah Hoopes Dewees.  The birth of this Mary Dewees was recorded by the Bradford Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Chester County.  No records of her whereabouts could be found until she married a man named Robert Hall on November 23, 1848 at the Chesterfield Monthly Meeting in Athens, Ohio.  She later married a man named Robert Miller in Columbiana County, Ohio, on October 25, 1867.  She was fifty-five years old at the time.  Quaker records show that she attended the Sandy Springs Monthly Meeting in Hanover Township, Columbiana County, Ohio, and the census of 1880 refers to her as Mary H. Miller living with her husband Robert in Salem, Ohio. Mary died at age eighty-five on August 13, 1897 in Berks County, Pennsylvania according to a record of the Exeter Monthly Meeting.  So far as could be determined, Mary never lived in Philadelphia, the city name inscribed on her block. 
The only two dates on Joy's quilt are 1848 and 1867.  Mary was living in Ohio in 1848, the year she married Robert Hall, and was still in Ohio in 1867 when she married Robert Miller.  We don't know when all the blocks of Joy's quilt were made because it seems to have been added to generationally.  It appears that this Mary A. Dewees lived most of her life in Ohio after leaving Pennsylvania (date unknown). This does not exclude her from having inscribed the block that bears her name sometime before she moved to Ohio and married in 1848.  Without evidence that she had once lived in Philadelphia, however, the case for her having inscribed the block is greatly weakened.
A second candidate for the "real" Mary A. Dewees was born December 11, 1818 in Philadelphia to Dr. William Potts Dewees and his wife Mary Lorain Dewees.  This Mary's father was a prominent physician on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, holding the position of Professor of Obstetrics and Chair of Obstetrics from 1834 to 1841.
Entrance to one of the quads at the University of Pennsylvania.  Source of image:
Wikimedia Commons.
Dr. William Potts Dewees circa 1833 by artist John Neagle (1799-1865).   This portrait hangs in
the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  Source of image: Wikimedia Commons.
Dr. Dewees published three important books during the 1820s, each of which went to ten editions.  These were System of Midwifery (1824), Treatise on the Physical and Medical Treatment of Children (1825), and Treatise on the Diseases of Females (1826).  He is described in American Medical Biographies as a "[. . .] Philadelphian obstetrician [that] was so famous that no parturient woman of the time considered herself safe in other hands."  Dr. Dewees., born in 1768, passed away in 1841.
Dr. Dewees and his wife, Mary, had nine children between 1803 and 1823, their daughter Mary Ann Dewees being the next to the last.  She became the second wife of Charles William Ogden from New York City in 1843 and had five children by him.  Their only son, Dewees Ogden, fought in the Civil War and died in July of 1863 from wounds inflicted at Gettysburg.
It appears that Mary Ann and Charles lived in New York City some or all of the time after they were married.  Charles died in Manhattan in 1859.  Mary died in Brooklyn on August 29, 1861 and is buried at Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Hezekiah Pierrepont Memorial in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
Source of image: Wikimedia Commons.
If Mary Ann Dewees Ogden is the Mary whose name appears on Joy's quilt, her block would have been inscribed prior to her marriage in 1842 while she was still unmarried and living in Philadelphia.  It is possible that this Mary is the "real" Mary but, not yet knowing what the people named on the quilt had in common, it is not possible to say for sure.  Most of the people on the quilt seem to be German Baptists and Lutherans.  Mary was Roman Catholic so religion is unlikely to be the common thread.  Also, this Mary was from a wealthy, prominent Philadelphia family while the others identified so far were from middle class families and most lived outside of Philadelphia.
This brings us to the third and fourth candidates for Mary A. Dewees.  The third was the daughter of John and Mary Boyer Dewees, born in Philadelphia in 1822.  In 1842, this Mary's brother, Jacob Dilworth Dewees, married another Mary Dewees (parents unknown) born in Pennsylvania in 1813. 
Census records indicate that Jacob was a farmer and that the couple lived in Philadelphia.  They had three children: Sarah H. in 1847; Franklin in 1850; and, Mary Annie in 1853.  Both Jacob and Mary lived into old age and were listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as being eighty-six and eighty-seven respectively.  Both are buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
The Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.  Source of image:
The reason that Jacob's wife Mary might be the "Mary A. Dewees" inscribed on Joy's quilt is her relationship to Jacob's sister.  However, Jacob's sister (her sister-in-law) is an even stronger  candidate because she points to other relationships between people named on the quilt.
One ancestry.com record indicates that Jacob's sister, Mary A. Dewees, married a man named Henry Day.  (No record of this marriage or its date has yet been found.)  There are two members of the Day family named on the quilt: Margaret Day and Lititia Day.  Both of these women are the daughters of Samuel W. Day and his wife Rachel Haas.  They lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, about six miles from Philadelphia.  In addition, the central block of Joy's quilt is inscribed with a drawing and a verse dedicated to Eliza Faringer.  This block is inscribed by Augusta Haas.
Finding potential familial connections on the quilt between Mary A. Dewees Day, the daughters of Samuel W. Day, Rachel Haas Day, and Augusta Haas makes the Mary A. Dewees who married Henry Day a strong candidate to be the "real" Mary A. Dewees.  More research into these families and their possible connections is needed to come to a conclusion, one way or the other, but it is an important start and illustrates the amount of family research needed and the process of elimination required to identify people whose names are inscribed on nineteenth century quilts.
Selected Sources:
ancestry.com census, Public Member Tree, Quaker Meeting, North American Family Histories, and other ancestry data bases.
Busey, John W. and Travis W. Busey.  Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg, A Comprehensive Record, 4 Vols.  Jefferson, NC: Mac Farland & Co., 2017.
Kelly, Howard A. and Walter L. Burrage, eds.  "Dewees, William Potts" in American Medical Biographies. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company, 1920.
The Dewees Family, Genealogical Data, Biographical Facts and Historical Information Collected by Mrs. Philip E. LaMunyan.  E. Roberts, ed.  Norristown, PA: William M Roberts, 1905.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2017.


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