Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quilts in the Dutch Fork

The New Jersey quilt project came across this quilt far from its original home.

Estimated date 1875-1900

The New Jerseyite who brought it in for documentation had inherited a group of quilts from an uncle. She attributed this one to Mrs. John Kennerly Kneice of Batesburg, South Carolina.

Similar quilt from the same group, same time period.
Attributed to her grandfather Mr. John Kennerly Kniece, Batesburg
Two of these quilts had labels on the reverse indicating they'd once
been exhibited in a museum in "Raleigh South Carolina."
Surely a typo as there is no Raleigh in South Carolina.
It's undoubtedly North Carolina.
But the rest of that label remains a mystery.

 This Capital T attributed to Mrs. John Kennaly Kneece.
Brown prints again indicate 1875-1900 period.

The transition from word of mouth during the interview to computerized information seems to have been iffy.
Nine-patch with neon black prints, grays and an
emphasis on blue rather than brown. Looks later, early 20th century.

We call these pink and green and black prints Neons today.
In the early 20th century they were "Black Novelty Prints"

Attributed to Mrs. John Kannerly Kneech
This Endless Chain is obviously later, from the color scheme and prints
1940 - 1960?

Kneice, Kneech, Kneece
What can we find out today about Mrs. K in Batesburg?

It didn't take long to find Louisa Drusilla Kneece
(That's a c at the end of Kneece)

Louisa Lowman Kneece 1834-1916
Her husband was Dr. John Kennerly Kneece (1818-1898)

The latest quilt could not have been made by Louisa
as she died in 1916, but it is likely she made the others
(even the one attributed to her husband.)

She must have married John when she was in her mid teens as her eldest child was born in 1850 when she was only about 16. She gave birth to eleven children, the last born in 1876 when she was about 42. From the quilts attributed to her we'd have to guess her quiltmaking didn't get started until that last boy was out of diapers. But it may have been more culture than time dictating her needlework choices.
When one of her sons was married the local newspaper
described the Kneeces as one of Lexington's
oldest and most prominent families. Dr. John Kennerly Kneece
was a well loved physician. Many of the Kneeces were

Batesburg a few years before Louisa died

Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville) is a town in two counties Lexington and Saluda (Towns straddle county lines often in South Carolina.) Louisa's Kneeces lived in Chinquapin township
in the general area of the red dot on the map. They attended church at St. Peter's Lutheran Church southeast of town and must have lived nearby.

More important to the geography is the location in the cultural region known as The Dutch Fork, settled by Germans---Deutsch Volk.  Louisa's parents were Nancy Hiller & Daniel Lohrman (changed to Lowman), both born in South Carolina.

MESDA (Museum of  Early Southern Decorative Arts)
has a family piece in their collection, a rare South Carolina
Taufschein (baptismal certificate) for Louisa's father.

Batesburg train depot, photographed a year or two before Louisa's death.

Louisa lived a long life. Born in 1834 she was of the generation that took up quiltmaking enthusiastically in the years before the Civil War. It would be great to find earlier quilts by her. But she was a woman of The Dutch Fork.

Laurel Horton analyzing quilts in the area for the South Carolina quilt project was disappointed that "Nearly all the quilts surveyed dated from the late 19th or early 20th century, none from the first half of the 19th." Louisa being so German in culture may have made her beds in completely different fashion from neighbors of British descent until later in the century.

Pennsylvania Germans began to make patchwork quilts about 1850

Like Pennsylvania Germans these Deutsch Volk probably slept under comforters of various kinds, particularly heavy "feather beds" until they adopted Anglo-American bedding style. In the case of The Dutch Fork that seems to have been about 1880 when Louisa began making quilts.

Feather-filled comforters were typically covered with
homespun linen or cotton covers (what we call duvet covers.)

Louisa's death certificate was signed by one of her family, a physician who said he'd
been caring for her for about six years as she had a "Progressive Paralysis,"
which probably meant she was not doing much quiltmaking after 1910.

Laurel Horton wrote about Dutch Fork: “Textile Traditions in South Carolina’s Dutch Fork,” in Bits and Pieces: Textile Traditions, editor Jeannette Lasansky (Lewisburg, PA: Oral Traditions, 1991), 72-79.

Louisa's Find-A-Grave file:


  1. Kneece is still a very common name in the midlands of South Carolina. I lived in a Newberry County for seven years and encountered several people (and businesses) of that name.

  2. You know its relatively common in an old German community around here too but we pronounce in Nice.