Monday, March 18, 2019

Garnhart Group of Quilts #2: Life in Frederick, Maryland

Quilt shown in the 2014 exhibit Eye on Elegance at the DAR Museum.

A detail shows style characteristics typical of the quilts attributed to Catherine Garnhart. Here we see leaves done in reverse applique, a distinctive leaf shape and a border of triangles with a final chintz strip.
The unusual leaf

Anna Catherine Hummel Markey Garnhart (1773-1860)
Photo from the DAR Museum

Anna Catherine Hummel Markey Garnhart is a rare nineteenth-century quiltmaker, known not only for the elegant style in quilts attributed to her but also for the number attributed to her hand. Few of her peers left us more than two or three quilts but eleven quilts (8 full-size and 3 crib quilts) are attributed to her and there are several more in similar style.

We are calling her Catherine Garnhart, her last incarnation.

Over the years curators at the DAR Museum have done much biographical research into Catherine’s life in Frederick, Maryland, using family genealogies and histories as well as curatorial notes about quilts donated to museum collections. As internet access to information increases, I thought it might be a good time to revisit her biography and consider again how she came to bequeath those quilts to her grandchildren.

Frederick pictured two years after Catherine's death.
The wide main street is Market, where her house was located.

Catherine was a lifelong resident of Frederick City, Maryland. Christened Anna Catharina Hummel, she was born April 27, 1773, to Johann Jacob and Christianna Catharina Hummel, a subject of King George III in the British colony of Maryland. Her childhood was spent in a colony rebelling against that King. 

The German community in Frederick (named for King George III's father) was initially loyal to the British ruler who was linked through complex dynastic webs to the central European duchies from which they emigrated. Father Johann Jacob Hummel (1751-1781) may have been born in Pennsylvania; mother Christianna Catharina Gründler (1747-1849) was born in Baden-Wuerttemberg and came to Frederick when she was a child with her family in 1754.

Schifferstadt, still standing, was built of stone in 1758
during Christina's childhood in Frederick

Because the quiltmaker’s mother Christianna lived to be 101, dying when her daughter was 79 years old in 1849, a look into the older woman’s life may be relevant to research into how the quilts came to be made. Catherine’s grandmother, Christianna’s mother Maria Elizabeth Christina Finckenberger Gründler died on the sea voyage from Baden, leaving her husband with five young girls. Once in Frederick, Gründler placed his youngest with the Wittmanns, relatives who raised her. She used the last name Wittman as well as Gruendler. The Wittman's had one other child Johann Jacob Hummel, Mrs. Wittman's son by a previous husband. The children, eight years apart, were raised together until Johann left home to work and marry twice to women who died young.

In 1771 when about 24 years old Christianna married her foster brother 28-year-old Johann Jacob Hummel, recorded as a farmer, miller and land investor in family histories. Hummel operated a lumber and grain mill powered by the water in Tuscarora Creek north of the town, the basis of the family's long-term economic stability. This marriage lasted only about ten years as Hummel died at 30 leaving Christianna with three children, eldest Catherine about 8, Johann Fridrich 6 and John 4. But he also left Christianna with the lumber mill and some land.

Hessians, soldiers in the British armies

By the time Hummel died the new American republic had been at war with Great Britain for five years. Short of English troops the British army contracted with the German duchy of Hesse-Cassell to supply an army of Hessian soldiers, comprising about 1/3 of the men fighting the American rebels.

The rear building of the Hessian Barracks still stands in Frederick

Frederick, Maryland became home to the Hessian Barracks. When Loyalists ruled Frederick the building housed occupying Hessians. As loyalties changed it became a prison for Hessians captured by the Rebels. 
"While the Hessians were there some of the more intelligent became enamored with the beauty and the advantages of the country, and made their escape, so that they were left behind when their fellow-prisoners were marched off, and from this stock descended a numerous and vigorous progeny."
John Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland
In 1782, after a year as a widow, Christina wed one of the turncoat Hessians Johann Philipp Fiega of the Kassel Grenadier Regiment.

A wheelwright

Philip Fiega, described as a millwright or wheelwright (we might call him a carpenter or a mechanic) bought the land and improved Christianna's mill, which became known as the Fiega Mills. They had four children, two boys and two girls, adding to the family in which Catherine grew to adulthood. In 1825 Fiega owned 28 acres with a log house and a grist and saw mill. Christianna's second marriage lasted until 1829 when Philip died and she moved into town to live with Catherine's younger half-sister. The mill went to their son George, probably bought from the estate. 

Grist Mill (Grain Mill) drawn by Edwin Forbes in 1871
Library of Congress

Christianna Hummel Fiega lived to be 101 years old, supported by mill-running husbands for only 29 years of her eight decades of adulthood. In its various identities Christianna's mill provided some kind of livelihood  for her and her daughter Catherine who spent most of their adult lives as widows. It seems obvious the business was Christianna's although ownership passed by law and custom to the men in her life. 

Catherine Hummel left the Fiega home in 1796 to marry David Johann Markey when she was 23 (he a year or two older). David Markey was also described as a wheelwright and may have worked in the family mills. He was also employed as constable and a clerk in the sheriff's office. He served in the War of 1812 defending Baltimore during the second British war. She gave birth to Frederick Augustus Markey in early December, 1796.

In the years of their marriage these German Marylanders assimilated into the new United States, becoming bi-lingual, anglicizing names from Catharina to Catherine and naming sons John and Frederick rather than Johann and Friedrich. The Markeys had three children; Frederick Augustus, David John Philip Markey, born in 1809, and Christina, born in 1812 who died as a young child.

Husband David Markey died in 1820 leaving Catherine with grown son Frederick in his twenties and 11-year-old John. She remarried within a few months to Henry Garnhart, a local business man. She wed 66-year old widower Henry Garnhart on May 23, 1820. The 1820 census that summer lists Henry Garnhart's household with six residents:
1 white male adult over 45 (Henry)
1 white female adult (Catherine)
2 white males between 16 & 26 (perhaps Frederick Markey & Henry's son Henry D. Jr.)
1 between 10 & 16 (David John Markey?)
1 free black female between 14 & 25 (a young servant)
No slaves
2 people were engaged in manufacturing
Catherine undoubtedly had known Henry for a while as he had loaned money to her and her husband. Researcher Suzanne Antippas believes their marriage to be one of convenience (the loan and other financial matters) and one of affection. Henry spent much of their marriage in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) where his children lived, and where he owned land and a tavern [an inn].

Great-grandson Frederick Gibson wrote a family history manuscript in 1919 in which he translated an 1825 German letter from Henry to his wife asking her to "Close your house, and come to me ....You will not be sorry for it, if you come. As soon as I am well again I will go home with you..."  Despite that letter Frederick Gibson believed the second marriage to be unhappy, with little evidence. (Family stories carried on by children loyal to the first husband, perhaps?)  Catherine was an independent woman; she had her house in Frederick; Henry had interests in Charles Town. Henry died there in 1828.

Detail of an eagle quilt that descended in the family of
eldest grandchild Anna Catherine Markey Mantz Jones (1824-1907)
Frederick's eldest.

Catherine's eldest Frederick Markey married Elizabeth Dill (1800-1866) and fathered four children, one of whom died before her third birthday. Frederick died at 31 in 1827 and five years later Eliza married Levin Thomas (1786-1842). Elizabeth also spent a many years as a widow. Did her first husband's family of widows, Catherine and Christianna, help with raising their grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

DAR Museum #91.463 
Gift of Willard Markey family 
This magnificent quilt, about 90 inches square,  
descended in the family of  Catherine's grandson 
John Hanshew Markey (1835-1899), David’s son. 

Catherine's younger son David John Markey II (1809-1885) outlived her. He married Susannah Catherine Bentz in 1823 and they had eight children. David continued in the family mill business. A biography at his Find-A-Grave site tells us:
"While still in his twenties, he perceived the need for a planing mill to produce window sashing, doors and moulding in the city. Trained as a carpenter and familiar with lumber milling which was the business of his mother's family, he partnered with John Hanshew to build and operate a highly successful planing mill at the northeast corner of North Bentz and West Second Street."

The Markey family mill from an 1887 Sanborn map.
The name was Wilcoxon & Markey Planing Mill

A nearby flour mill on Bentz Street. David married a Bentz.
The mills diverted the water in Carroll Creek to run the machinery.

He was also described as a carpenter, and what we would call a contractor, building houses and pubic buildings. David seems to have been a prosperous, civic-minded business man, listed in an 1851 directory as a partner in Hanshew & Markey, and twenty years later as sole operator of a Planing Mill. His first son was named John Hanshew Markey, presumably after his partner. The 1850 census finds the Markeys and the Hanshews living in adjacent dwellings, both listed as carpenters. David in 1880 is a "retired lumber dealer."
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Freight Station
built in Frederick in 1832

In 1833 Frederick City was described as the "county town of Frederick County...situated on the turnpike, from Baltimore to the western county, forty-five miles from the latter city, by the turnpike road, at the end of the lateral railroad."

Baltimore and Ohio Routes, mid-19th century

Lumber milled in Frederick on the left went west to Pittsburgh and east to the port of Baltimore. After 1832 the railroad connected land-locked Frederick with the world of imported goods, for example, English chintzes.

Catherine who lived to be 87 years old was, like her mother, a wife during about 30 years of her adult life. In 1844 she lived at the southeast corner of Third and Market Streets, according to a story about a lightning strike at her home. Suzanne found many references to her house, the red house mentioned in a will.

Suzanne believes this row of houses built after Catherine's death
is where her house was located on land she'd inherited from
her father.

Adjacent to the Volt Restaurant

Catherine's house is the orange arrow here; son David's is the yellow arrow
where the Methodist Church is now and his mill was across Bentz in what is now Baker Park.


and mother of
Died 1860"
In the 87th Year
of her life"

Do note Mr. Markey senior and Mr. Garnhart are unmentioned.

In summary, our needlewoman Catherine Garnhart was a German-American whose first language was probably German, who lived a long and comfortable life in the place she was born, primarily as a single woman, with two sons and twelve grandchildren. Her economic resources included family land, a house and mills, business passed from her mother and through Catherine to her son. 


  1. These posts are killing me! Just got fired for using too much internet time at lunch! Oh wait, that means I can go home and quilt full time. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful research.

  2. I've noticed you seem to be commenting during working hours. I reported you to your boss.

  3. Fascinating! Enjoying these histories.