Monday, August 31, 2015

My New/Old Quilt: Family History

I've been writing about this antique quilt I purchased.

with the Feather Crown in the center that was popular in Maryland

Once I realized Nancy Hornback used to own it
and had done some research on it I had a good starting 
place to find out where it was made and by whom.

On Page 75 of Quilts in Red and Green by Nancy Hornback and Terry Clothier Thompson:
"This quilt came with a story that it was made by the Queen City, Missouri, Methodist Quilters for the 25th wedding anniversary of Henry and Francis Barr Brenizer, and that the fabric was purchased at Charlie Sweeney's dry goods store in Queen City... 
Queen City is near the Iowa/Missouri border
in Schuyler County, Missouri

[They] married in 1863, a date that would put their 25th anniversary in 1888. However, the style, fabric and techniques...makes us think it surely was made before this date....perhaps the top was made by Frances Brenizer before her 1863 marriage [and quilted in 1888]."
I certainly agree with Nancy. It does not look like a quilt from 1888.

Frances is buried near her farm.
"Frances Wife of H. H. Brenizer
Dec 13, 1842
Dec 4, 1922"

Frances was born in 1842 so she could have made the quilt in the early 1860s in Ohio. The style is something you see between 1840 and 1870.

Below are several red and green applique quilts dated in the early 1860s, made in eastern states.

1861, possibly from Fulton County, Pennsylvania
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum

An Ohio sampler

1863, Cowell Family, Schenectady, New York

1864, made for Robert Wilson, Westmoreland, New York

The quilt might also have been made for Frances as a gift from relatives. Were there any Marylanders in Frances's family?

Frances was born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1842. Her mother Emaline Schofield Barr was born in New York in 1816 . Emaline was the age to have made such a quilt in Ohio in her thirties when she had two young children, Frances and older brother Dudley. So the sampler may be an Ohio quilt from the Barr family. Emmaline Barr died in Schuyler County, Missouri in 1901. Apparently she lived with Frances and Henry in Queen City towards the end of her life. Mother Emaline might have brought the quilt with her when she moved west. In that case it would also be an Ohio quilt.

But there was a Maryland connection in Henry Benizer's family. His mother Margaret Griffith Benizer was born in Maryland in 1803 and married Jacob Benizer there in 1821. Jacob's family was from Pennsylvania; they moved to Maryland (some sources say Baltimore) after the war of 1812.

Too many Griffiths, here's one family in an 1888 ad

 I couldn't find anything about Margaret's Griffith family, too many Griffiths in Baltimore in the early 19th century.

The quilt may have been made in Morrow County,
in central Ohio.

Jacob and Margaret took two children to central Ohio in 1829. They settled in Westfield Township along the Whetstone River in what is now Morrow County. Between 1829 and 1850 Margaret gave birth to eight more children. She may have made the quilt in Ohio when she was in her late thirties or forties when the applique sampler style was so popular.

During the Civil War at least two of her sons, Henry and Cicero, served in Union forces.

Henry's brother Cicero Brenizer's grave is in 
Delaware County, Ohio.

In 1863 Henry married Frances Barr in Morrow County, Ohio, and the following year bought eighty acres of land in Schuyler County, Missouri, near Queen City.

The 1870 census finds widowed Margaret at 67 living with son Cicero in Ohio. Margaret Brenizer died in 1879 and is buried in the Mound Cemetery near her Ohio farm. If Margaret made the quilt it is an Ohio quilt.

The quilt or quilt top went west to Missouri, possibly with Henry and Frances as a gift from either side of the family---possibly brought by Frances's mother Emmaline Barr later. It stayed in Schuyler County, Missouri, for quite awhile until Nancy Hornback purchased it for her collection of red and green quilts, possibly in the 1980s.

I know a lot more about my quilt. I still don't know where it was made or by whom or for whom. I have to give up on my Maryland idea. It's probably an Ohio quilt.

I think I'll call it the Brenizer applique quilt, date it 1840-1870 and say likely made in Ohio.

Nancy and Terry drew patterns for the quilt, so you can make one too.


  1. I love reading the family stories and how they are tied to this quilt. If only this quilt could speak, all our questions would be answered. Love it.

  2. How about making the Robert Wilson quilt your pattern of the week for 2016? That is a lovely old quilt. I would love to have a pattern set for it.

  3. Mary---I don't have the rights to that quilt. That's why we buy them--- to pattern them. We buy the rights as well as the quilt. I was so relieved Terry and Nancy had already patterned my quilt. That would have been a big job.

  4. Hi Barbara
    I am hoping you may be able to help me with a piece of information. In your book Facts & Fabrications-Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery: you wrote about Ellen Morton Littlejohn she made the Quilt Star of Bethlehem with her sister and was a slave.
    My question is where does the name Littlejohn fit into her Genealogy ? The reason I ask is that as I am a quilter and my maiden name is Littlejohn it is of great interest to me. Thank you so much in advance for any information you can offer me on this topic.
    Warm Regards