The Valley of the Shadow

Antebellum Quilts from the Upper Shenandoah Valley

This is a selection of quilts from an exhibition held at the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum during the spring of 1995. While the exhibition displayed quilts from the nineteenth century through the present day, we are only including quilts from the mid-1800s.

Introduction to the Exhibition (from the gallery guide)

Click on the quilt blocks to bring up an image of the entire quilt. Some quilts have detail shots as well.

Diagonal Tulip

1. "Diagonal Tulip"
Mary Jane Fix Kesterson

(Augusta County), c. 1848
84.5" x 88"

A swag border with ties surrounds a field of diagonal tulips that separate in the center into a mirror image. (Diagonal tulips are also seen in No. 16, also made in Augusta County.) A variety of quilting designs covers the piece, including feathers, hearts, berries, and flowers.

Wild Goose Chase

2. "Wild Goose Chase"

Verona (Augusta County), third quarter nineteenth century
76" x 90"

This quilt is difficult to date due to its smaller size (usually a later characteristic) and use of a long-standing pattern, the Wild Goose Chase. However, the overall arrangement of alternating white blocks with green squares helps to place it in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, and the fairly intricate quilting, including alternating blocks with wreaths and hearts with a feather border, may indicate a date closer to 1850-60.

Cockscomb and Plume

3. "Cockscomb and Plume," variation
Made by Effie Zigler (d. 1842)

Timberville (Rockingham County), third quarter nineteenth century
82.5" x 106"

Fantastic and imaginative, this quilt is organized into strong diagonals with an asymmetrical border that repeats the plume-like leaf and the yellow center of the cockscomb. The reverse applique in the plumes is noteworthy. The white spaces are filled with quilted feather patterns that integrate the entire design, showing a strong German influence.

Whig Rose (Rose of Sharon)

4. "Whig Rose" (Rose of Sharon)
Signed in quilting stitches "ACP (or R)" in corner

Keesletown (Rockingham County), third quarter nineteenth century
86" x 91"

The centers of this Whig Rose applique illustrate the curved and sunburst patterns frequently found in quilts of this region. The large size of the blocks, the vine border, the Wild Goose Chase sashing, and the use of the Whig Rose pattern places it in the early part of the third quarter of the nineteenth century. The red fabric may be a coleco red, a brown-red color popular in the mid-1850s.

Whig Rose (Rose of Sharon)

5. "Whig Rose" (Rose of Sharon)
McCutheon (sic) family

Staunton area (Augusta County), third quarter nineteenth century
96" x 104"

Bordered with a four-color strip that is "woven" in the corners, this graceful Whig Rose applique contains a sunburst type of center instead of the more typical rose.

Flower Basket

6. Flower Basket
Rebecca (b. 1820) or Ruth (b. 1812) Brown

Valley Mills (Augusta County), mid-nineteenth century
84.5" x 95.5"

This basket pattern is tied together by an inner Wild Goose Chase sashing similar to that found in the Rockingham County Whig Rose quilt (No. 4) and is bordered with a serrated swag and ties similar to that of the Augusta County Tulip quilt (No. 1). The large blocks that compose the piece are quilted with three different and alternating designs: wine glass, clamshell, and crossed diagonals, surrounded by a double feather swag border.

Oak Leaf and Reel

7. "Oak Leaf and Reel"
Signed Elizabeth/Ella (Ellen? Eleanor?)

Goshen (Rockbridge County), dated October 2, 1852
102" x 100"

This quilt was made by two sisters-in-law of Henry Judy of Goshen who raised silkworms and spun thread at a time when the state of Virginia was promoting the silkwork industry. It was pieced and beautifully quilted using a mixture of cotton and silk threads.

Crossed Laurel Leaves

8. Crossed Laurel Leaves"
Mary Jane Shoemaker

Rockingham County, dated 1849
88" x 92"

Signed and dated to 1849, this quilt continues earlier eighteenth century practices including the use of a fringed border and the tradition of whitework seen in its beautifully quilted stuff-work flowers in the white spaces between the crossed laurels.

Oak Leaf and Reel

9. "Oak Leaf and Reel"
Massie family and friends

Waynesboro, ("Prospect Hill"), dated 1852
96" x 101"

Although in poor condition, this quilt is significant because it is an early example of the "quilt as you go" method. Each square is pieced and quilted before being stitched together. The name "Mrs. Elizabeth F. Massie, Waynesboro, Augusta Cty, VA March 10, 1852" is signed nearest to the center. This placement indicates to the quilt historian that this was most likely Mrs. Massie's quilt.

Detail shot

Diagram of signed quilt squares

Unname Pattern

10. Unnamed pattern
Made by Sarah Jane Robertson (b. 1815, d. 1895)

Augusta County, dated 1845
94" x 97"

This original design is based on an eight-point star surrounded by a sawtooth triangle with floral striped sashing quilted with concentric rectangles. Signed on the back in cross-stitch (SJR 1845), it is an unusual quilt that has been passed down through the family and remains in pristine condition.

Detail shot

Sampler album friendship quilt

11. Sampler album friendship quilt
Patrick and Massie family and friends

"Locust Isle," "Walnut Hills," "Poplar Grove," Waynesboro (Augusta County) dated 1849-50
100" x 100"

This remarkable quilt top is unusual in its overall size, the large blue sashing that divides the piece into 64 small squares, and the variety of delicate and graceful patterns. It is inspired by the Baltimore album-type quilt of the period, but is a local and very personal interpretation.

Diagram of signed quilt squares

Sampler album friendship crib quilt

12. Sampler album friendship crib quilt
Patrick family members

"Locust Isle," Waynesboro (Augusta County), 1852-53
37" x 50"

The small blocks and grid-like arrangement organized by brown sashing relates this crib quilt directly to the Patrick family quilt top (No. 11). Both are signed by R(ebecca) C. Patrick and include identical fabrics and motifs. Miss Patrick (b. 1818) may have been the artistic inspiration behind the quilt which includes the signature of S(arah) I(sabella) (Patrick) Richardson, wife of the minister of Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church, as well as family members in Lynchburg and Richmond. The corner blocks are signed by the latter and may have been pieced and signed separately and mailed upon completion.

Mariner's Compass

13. "Mariner's Compass"
Stamped "P.C. Ervin"

Buena Vista (Rockbridge County), mid-nineteenth century
90.5" x 94"

This quilt is unusual in that it has no border, but it shared similar characteristics with other mid-nineteenth century quilts from Augusta and Rockbridge counties: a preference for curved piecing, white background, and a liking for chrome (antimony) orange. It is quilted with an overall clamshell design which is also found frequently in this region.

Eight-Point Star

14. "Eight-point Star," variation

Middlebrook (Augusta County), mid-nineteenth century
90.75" x 102"

Like the Mariner's Compass, this quilt combines characteristics that are found frequently in the upper Shenandoah Valley. Curved patterns, a white background, and combinations of yellow and orange have been found in Augusta County and Rockbridge County quilts.

Wild Goose Chase

15. "Wild Goose Chase," variation
Zimmerman family

Newport (Augusta County), mid-nineteenth century
83" x 98"

The Wild Goose Chase pattern is an early piecing pattern. In this quilt, multi-color triangles are arranged diagonally within white circles, organized by a green field. The chrome orange strip border is a prominent feature.

Diagonal Tulip

16. "Diagonal Tulip"

Spring Valley, Walkers Creek, Newport, Greenwood, (Augusta County) dated 1850-51
90" x 107"

This single pattern friendship quilt is signed and dated and includes several Biblical verses, indicating that it was probably a gift presented to a minister. It is quilted in an allover pattern that ignores the tulip appliques that were obviously made by a variety of hands.

Detail shot

Diagram of signed quilt squares

Rose and Plume

17. "Rose and Plume," variation

Deerfield (Augusta County), mid-nineteenth century
79" x 83"

In this small, graceful quilt the maker has merged a rose center with a Princess Feather-like leaf and repeated this single motif throughout, surrounding it with a swag border accented with varicolored fleur-de- lis. Note the reverse applique detail in the roses and the lovely freestyle quilting designs around the appliqued blocks.

Caesar's Crown

18. "Caesar's Crown"
Elizabeth Armentrout Johnson

"Stone House," Lexington, VA (Rockbridge County), second quarter nineteenth century
99.5" x 100"

This pattern, commonly called Caesar's Crown, further demonstrates a regional preference for curved designs, this time incorporated as melon shapes within the crown's center. The quilting is noteworthy because of the small serrated edges on the plume design.

Orange Peel

19. "Orange Peel"

Collected in the area. Second quarter of the nineteenth century
93" x 98"

A creative expression that uses a great variety of fabrics with a white background, this quilt was probably lavender in color, now faded to brown, and was no doubt placed for show rather than utility. It is backed with homespun fabric.

Chintz applique quilt

20. Chintz applique quilt
Jane McCullough Mosby (b. 1785, d. 1877)

Staunton, second quarter of nineteenth century

This quilt is an example of a technique called broderie perse that was popular in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. It also contains later characteristics that point to the newly fashionable album quilts of the mid-nineteenth century. The quilt maker, Jane McCullough, was born in Baltimore and moved to Staunton as a young girl where she later married Armistead Mosby. Her quilt was stolen by federal soldiers during the Civil War, given to a black family, and purchased back by Jane's daughter. It is now owned by her great-great-great-granddaughter.

Album quilt

21. Album quilt
Made by Melinda McCorkle Bumgardner

"Bethel Green," (Augusta County) dated 1855
89" x 96"

This quilt is a tour de force in an individual interpretation of the Baltimore album style. Melinda Bumgardner made it for her daughter Eugenia's fifteenth birthday. Inscribed with the names of Eugenia's parents and siblings, it is an important family document which continues to be passed down through the family to each succeeding Eugenia.

Detail shot

Closeup of the detail shot

Text of the medallions

Single pattern friendship quilt, album block

22. Single pattern friendship quilt, album block

Augusta County and New Market, dated 1849-52
66" x 72"

Single pattern friendship quilts were at their height of popularity in the 1840s and 1850s when this quilt was pieced. Composed of 56 blocks, it bears 38 signatures, most with Augusta County locations. It also includes several "remember me" sentiments addressed to "cousin (and Friend) Susan." It may have been pieced for a young woman about to be married and leaving the area. Its flannel backing, machine assembly, and wide machine-sewn binding indicate that it was probably assembled at a later date.

Detail shot

Diagram of signed quilt squares

square in square

23. "Square in Square"
Coiner family

Augusta County, second quarter nineteenth century
74" x 90"

English in character, this earlier small quilt is composed of indigo resist-dyed fabric surrounded by a wide roller print border. It provides a strikng contrast in size and composition to the later eight-point star pattern in the Middlebrook quilt (No. 5) that also includes indigo-dyed fabric.

Unnamed floral pattern

24. Unnamed floral pattern
Stillings family

Staunton area (Augusta County) third quarter of nineteenth century
79" x 105"

This quilt shows German influence with its striking pattern and solid, possibly home-dyed colors which include turkey red, chrome orange, and green that may be chemically-dyed, thereby placing this quilt after 1860.

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