Friday, July 24, 2020

Early Quilt in Indiana?

Pieced & Appliqued Quilt, estimated date 1790-1810
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Pictured in Quilts of Indiana, page 12

Mary Stewart Carey (1859-1903)
Her branch of the Slauson/Tarkington/Stewart family
prospered in Indianapolis

This early quilt descended in the family of Indianapolis Children's Museum founder Mary Stewart Carey, born in Greensburg, Indiana, who spent most of her life in Indianapolis. At some point a label with family names was attached going back to "Martha Wood Stamson 1800" according to the Quilts of Indiana book. 

The white strip here, added later, has the inked names of 5 women in the family.

The maker is probably Martha Wood Slawson, born in 1786 in New York. She married Simeon Slawson (Slauson) April 6, 1805. They moved to a farm near the Ohio River town of Rising Sun, Switzerland County, Indiana in 1818. The family thought the quilt was made in Indiana but it's probably one of many early New York quilts. 

The Ohio River is the Southern border of Indiana

Karen writes me that I have made a geographical error. As a volunteer at the Ohio County Indiana History Museum she corrects me: "The map of Indiana included in your blog has Switzerland County incorrectly identified.The shaded county is Ohio County and Rising Sun is the county seat. Switzerland County is just south of Ohio County. When the Slawson’s arrived Ohio County did not exist. Rising Sun was in Dearborn County." 

The work seems to be rather free-form florals and a wreath
framed by nine-patches and a few appliqued X blocks.
Fabrics appear to be the indigo blues & variety of browns typical of 
circa-1800 American quilts.

Quilt's descent:
Martha Wood Slauson 1786-1866
Maria Slauson Tarkington 1806-1889      
Martha Tarkington Stewart 1836-1930
Mary Stewart Carey 1859-1938

Martha Wood Slawson's grave in Switzerland County, Indiana.
The genealogy on that site is a bit confused.

And that would be all we know except that Martha Wood Slauson's daughter Maria Slauson Tarkington wrote an "Account of her Early Life," which was included in her husband's 1899 book
Autobiography of Rev. Joseph Tarkington, One of the Pioneer Methodist Preacher of Indiana.

Portrait of Marie Slanson Tarkington (sic), 1832

Photograph of the original in the collection of 
University Libraires IUPUI
(Slauson has been a hard name to read over the centuries.)

Maria Tarkington was famous Indiana author Booth Tarkington's grandmother and he seems to have inherited a flair for writing from her. Hers is not a polished account but tells us a lot about her family, their trip from New York to the wilds of Indiana and this quilt's journey west. Martha and Simeon brought three girls (Maria, Malissa, Mahala) and she was probably pregnant with Simeon Jr.  Maria's account of Martha bringing a good deal of bedding (although she does not mention quilts specifically) is typical of westering pioneers. We can guess Martha brought the quilt and used it for years with her growing family.

Autobiography of Rev. Joseph Tarkington,1899
Page 152
Martha Wood Slauson's daughter Maria Slauson Tarkington 1806-1889  

"My father, Simeon Slauson, Sr., was from Stamford, Connecticut.....My mother [Martha Wood] was born near Ballston Springs, New York. She was at her Aunt Sally Brown's, in Orange County, New York, when my father saw and courted her [married 1805]; although I have heard that they first met at a sleighing party on North River. They bought and lived on a farm in Orange County, New York, three miles from Middleton, where we used to go to the Presbyterian Church...

My father was a cooper, and made wooden canteens for the soldiers in the War of 1812. I remember holding a light at night for him to see to make them...He did not work much on the farm; but attended to his coopering, making mostly butter firkins, meat and whisky barrels, well-buckets, etc. The farm was in Orange County, New York, twenty-five miles from Newberg, nine miles from Goshen, and three miles from Middleton.

We came West. I was twelve years old... [Distant cousin] Ezra came West before we did, and wrote back bragging up the country. He had some land near Hartford, back of Rising Sun, Indiana. He married, but I think his wife would not live with him. Father sold out his share of the [New York] farm to [his brother] Elihu, and had about $3,500 when we came West. We moved in the fall of 1818. We brought no furniture, and came to Pittsburg in a two-horse and a one-horse wagon. We brought featherbeds with us, and on our way to Pittsburg, at night, took our bedding into a room in a hotel or other house which was rented for the night. We never saw any one camping out until we came West. We did not know we could do so. At Pittsburg, father bought, for forty-five dollars, a “family boat,” in which we loaded our goods, wagons, and horses, to carry us down the river to Rising Sun....

Mother herself had made and moved with us thirty pairs of linen sheets, never used, and fifteen pairs for common use. She intended five pairs for each of her girls. We could have done well enough in New York, but father wanted land for his children. We could have gone from Pittsburg to Rising Sun in three weeks with our horses and wagons; by the boat we were seven weeks, the water was so low in the river. Arrived at Rising Sun, father rented a house, in which we spent the winter. [Following spring] we moved over to what was afterwards our home-place, nine miles north of Vevay,
Switzerland County, Indiana, about a mile south of what is now Bennington. After living for three years in [a borrowed] cabin, we moved into a house father had meantime built...a hewed-log house, of one large room, about twenty feet square, and a shed room on the first floor, and a room up-stairs over the large one. We had two large beds, with a trundlebed across one end of the large room, and in that room we cooked at a large fireplace; the shed and the room up-stairs were bedrooms. 

Joseph Tarkington
Photograph of the original in the collection of
University Libraires IUPUI

"My husband, Rev. Joseph Tarkington, came as a Methodist preacher on the circuit where we lived in 1830. One Sunday in the spring of 1831, as I was on horseback, riding home from [a] wedding, he rode up by my side, and asked me if I had any objections to his company, and I said I did not know as I had....We were married on September 21, 1831, as will be seen, without a long engagement, and the life of an itinerant Methodist preacher's wife may be imagined from the narrative of my husband."

Maria Slauson Tarkington probably inherited the quilt brought from New York. We can guess it was made in Orange County. Interesting early quilt and a well-told life story.


  1. I enjoyed this post. Lovely early quilt. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for telling us these stories of Indiana people & quilts. I live close to Vevay & Rising Sun. It's so nice to know more about this area where I know so many quilters and quilt shops & shows.

  3. Love reading the history that you find to share!

  4. Am I the only one that sees a face in the first photo of The Tarkington Quilt? Interesting story.

  5. Now you come to mention it - yes, with eyes closed. LOL!

    Am so happy to testify about a great spell caster that helped me when all hope was lost for me to unite with my ex-girlfriend that I love so much. I had a girlfriend that love me so much but something terrible happen to our relationship one afternoon when her friend that was always trying to get to me was trying to force me to make love to her just because she was been jealous of her friend that i was dating and on the scene my girlfriend just walk in and she thought we had something special doing together, i tried to explain things to her that her friend always do this whenever she is not with me and i always refuse her but i never told her because i did not want the both of them to be enemies to each other but she never believed me. She broke up with me and I tried times without numbers to make her believe me but she never believed me until one day i heard about the DR. EMU and I emailed him and he replied to me so kindly and helped me get back my lovely relationship that was already gone for two months.
    Email him at: Emutemple@gmail.com  
    Call or Whats-app him: +2347012841542