In 1841 a large group of related people in Burlington County, New Jersey and Philadelphia did a rather innovative thing---they contributed their names, affections and sewing skills (and perhaps some cash if they had no sewing skills) to make an album quilt, converting the popular idea of a bound autograph album to a bedcovering.
The recipient of their stitched efforts was Ella Maria Deacon (1811-1894), a single woman about 30 years old. The occasion for the gift is unknown. The caption at the Art Institute reads: "The quilt may have served as a farewell gift on the eve of the recipient’s marriage and ensuing move."
But Ella never married and she never left Burlington County, common events associated with album quilts as gifts.
When she died there in 1894 Charles H. Deacon, perhaps her nephew born the year the quilt was begun, administered her estate. Was her beautiful gift in the inventory?
Who were these people from Mount Holly and Rancocas who contributed to one of the earliest album quilts? Many were Friends or Quakers; many seem to be part of Ella's large extended family.
Photos available online are too small to read the inscriptions but the Art Institute has transcribed them in this order: Right to left; column 1) bottom to top; Column 2 ) top to bottom, etc.
These people came early to Burlington County and they stayed, intermarrying among their faith and their cousins to create an intricate web of genealogy. Many are buried in the Friends' Burial Ground in Mount Holly. Ella who is probably buried there cannot yet be found.
"Spent the afternoon at Deacons, Mrs Deacon a fine old woman one of her daughters very hansome had a dance in the evening."
Block #17:"Oft in tender recollectionCall to mind thine absent friendCherish for her that affectionWhich I trust will never endMartha Buzby8 Mo. 20th 1841"
This may be Martha Buzby Taylor (1810-1878.) Martha Buzby married Thomas Taylor, Jr. November 8, 1843.
Several Buzbys signed the quilt.
"Ella Maria Deacon was born Dec 27, 1810 and died on June 30, 1894. I've spent countless hours down the genealogy rabbit hole and can't locate any solid information about Ella. I believe she was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Mount Holly, NJ. She died in Burlington, NJ and was buried by Perinchief Funeral Home in Mount Holly but I don't know which cemetery and cemetery searches have proven futile. I haven't been able to find any birth or marriage information either. The one census clue I had from 1870 showed Ella living in the household of William G Deacon but the presumed spouse for William is Sarah Deacon which I also believe is true. Giving up for the moment..."
"The group...fixed upon signature quilts as a way of countering the disruptive forces that were weakening their networks of social interdependence."
"Friendship's purposes preservedMay this forever beAnd as a mirror it will serveTo show thy friends to thee."
Looking at Ella Maria's quilt we can make a couple of observations:
The Hicksite Quakers in the Delaware Valley were certainly important in the genesis of the album/sampler style.
We should not jump to the conclusion that every recipient of an album quilt was either leaving town or getting married. Ella Maria did neither.