My name is Ashley Trainor, and I am a junior at SUNY New Paltz. I am currently pursuing a major in history with a minor in anthropology. I have returned for another semester to intern at Historic Huguenot Street. My projects from past semesters have varied. During my first semester as an intern, I did extensive research on textiles, more specifically, on coverlets. My second semester was a little different. I worked in the archives learning how to catalogue rare books into PastPerfect museum software. I am back, but working on something a little different.
In the beginning of the semester, I was shown a friendship quilt. It was donated to the Permanent Collection at Historic Huguenot Street but there was no information of its provenance. The quilt has 72 blocks on it, with 63 of these blocks having signatures. The first thing that stood out to me was that there were three signatures of famous individuals. “Abraham Lincoln President of US America 1865,” “Mrs. Abraham Lincoln,” and “Gen. U.S. Grant” each had their own block. Several signatures on the quilt are repetitive and are repeated throughout such as: Snyder, Shaw, and Readon. Other last names that appear on the quilt are Thomson, Russell, Fuller, Suderly, and Schoonmaker. The name Snyder appears on thirteen separate blocks. Some of the names had towns signed along with names. Most of the towns are located in Ulster County, such as Saugerties, Kingston, and High Falls.
As I continued my research on the quilt, it became more and more obvious that all of the people who signed the quilt were intertwined. My research methods consisted of using ancestry.com to find census and voting records, as well as marriage and death announcements. I also spent quite a bit of time searching for gravestone and cemetery records at Findagrave.com. My research started with the Snyder family since the Snyder name was repeated many times on the quilt. I spent hours reading through census and voting records in Saugerties hoping to find information on the Snyder family. I was lucky enough to find records and a family tree that matched names on the quilt. Leah, (b. 1799) and Noah Snyder (b. 1797) were married until Leah’s death in 1843. Noah and Leah had eight children, all names found on the quilt. Their children were Sarah Elizabeth, Christopher, Susan M., Nelly A., Rachel C., William A., Leah, and Martin. Daughter Susan, married a man named Thomas S. Thomson and had two children, Orrin and Ianthe. Both of the children’s names appear on the quilt.
Several names on the quilt such as: Sarah Elizabeth Snyder (1807 – 1810), Leah Snyder who died in 1843, and Rachel C. Snyder who died in 1862, are of people that died before the quilt was made. According to the 1850 and 1860 Federal Census, the entire Snyder family along with Orin and Iantha, Susan’s children, lived in one household.
It seems as though the biggest challenge of identifying a quilt that lacks any information is dating it. Luckily after looking at the census records for these people, many of these names had birth, death, and marriage dates attached that made it easy to date the quilt from during or a bit after Lincoln’s presidency.
As I mentioned earlier, another last name repeated on the quilt is Readon. It is repeated on seven blocks. Through census and voting records from 1870 and 1880 from Kingston, New York, I found some key people on the quilt. Nellie A. Readon was born in 1827 and was widowed by 1880. Her husband’s name was Hiram S. Readon, known as H. S. Readon. His name appears on the quilt. In the 1880 census, Nellie was widowed but according to a United States City Directory, H. S. resided in Kingston with his family and worked as a machinist in 1873. Nellie and her two daughters, lived at 52 Bowery Street in Kingston, New York. Elnora was born in 1861, and Lottie was born six years later in 1867. Lottie, however, is not featured on the quilt. The fact that Lottie’s name was not written on the quilt helps us date the quilt between 1865 and 1866.
Intertwined with Snyder, Readon, and others in between, the Shaw family takes up eleven blocks on this quilt. I found information on these people on the New York census. Of the eleven names on the quilt, there are two married couples along with their children. What becomes confusing, however, is that some of these children according to census records are found on the quilt while others are not. The Shaw family is a confusing web that I am in the process of untangling.
There are three names on the quilt whose story still remain a mystery. The grave sites of John Rapp, Jane M. Shaw, and John B. Readon are all inscribed on the same gravestone in the High Falls Cemetery. According to the gravestone, John Rapp fought in the Mexican War and was married to Jane M. Shaw. John Readon was listed incorrectly on the census of 1870, with his last name written as Reddin. As this confused me, I learned that mistakes were and still are often made while taking census. John worked on the D & H Canal and lived with the Rapp family. In the time I have left here this spring, I hope to find more information regarding John B. Readon.
As you can tell, these webs of intertwined families can become quite complicated. Although I do not understand the entire family history, finding these connections are truly exciting. When given an artifact with virtually no information attached, it becomes your mission to find associations between the people and families on the quilt. An aspect that has excited me most was that now I can give an estimate of the date this quilt was made based on the political names on the quilt as well as by knowing marriage, birth, and death dates. As my research and interest continues to grow, it is clear that the history attached to these friendship quilts is vast. My ultimate goal with this quilt and any other unidentified friendship quilts that I am given, is to discover who the quilter was. Expanding on this and discovering why this quilt was made would be even more exciting. That would be the most fulfilling part of my research.