Thursday, December 3, 2020

Alice Catlett Vance & Her Quilt


Quilt dated 20 August 1879 with initials MAC in lower left corner here
Attributed to Mary Alice Catlett Vance
Documented by the North Carolina project & shown in
North Carolina Quilts on page 118.

Mary Alice Catlett Vance (1863-1948)
Alice married in November, 1879 when she was 16.

Her quilt is an unusual design, but not unique. The center "Wheel of Fortune" or "Sunburst" was a popular Southern pattern and this striking version with the "white petals," as Kathy Sullivan described them, is also occasionally seen. 

Attributed to Lois Cordelia James Wright Jarrel
Example from about 1900 recorded by the Arizona project.

Kathy Sullivan's chapter in the North Carolina book tells us a bit about Alice Catlett Vance who married David Mitchell Vance (1852-1926? ) of Asheville, North Carolina, son of  Confederate General Robert Brank Vance and nephew of North Carolina's Civil War Governor Zebulon Vance. 

The quilt must have been her wedding quilt. 

The Asheville Citizen teased the 27-year-old groom, noting the
bride (and her quilt) were from South Carolina.

From Anderson north to Asheville is about 75 miles on today's roads.

Alice was from Anderson, South Carolina, one of six children of Lucy Tucker Catlett and John Pinkney Catlett. Her father owned a livery stable in the town of Anderson.

Anderson on market day a few years before Alice left for North Carolina.

Alice & David Vance had three children: Robert B. Vance (1881-1908), John Catlett Vance (1883-1963), and Lucy Mary Alice Vance Twiford (1888-1974). Lucy was the keeper of her mother's wedding quilt; her descendant brought it in for documentation in North Carolina.

Alice's match into a prominent Confederate family may have seemed promising but the groom disappears from the public record after baby Lucy's birth. Family history is muddled (Find-A-Grave has Alice married to her father-in-law.) David Vance (1859-1926) looks to have had a first cousin who was as elusive as he.

The North Carolina quilt book tells us Alice and her husband separated some time after Lucy's birth. In early-20th-century directories she is listed as a widow.
 "She owned and operated...a drygoods store in Asheville, and was the first female member of that city's chapter of the Retail Clerks International."

1909 City Directory

City Directories tell us that Alice was vice-president of the Peerless Dry Goods Company at 51 Patton Street. They sold dress goods, ready made clothing and Ladies's Home Journal patterns to make your own.

1912 Advertisement

A later name was Peerless Fashion Company. Alice seems to have prospered.

1912 photo of her house at 147 Haywood Street, 
designed by Thomas E. Davis. Women posing may have been daughter Lucy 
and friends in their early 20s at the time.

Alice lived near the Vanderbilts in the 1909 city directory (if not in real life) with two unmarried children Lucy and son John, a plumber. Son Robert had died at 27 in Idaho working for a mining company a year earlier.

1908 state tax records  for the Peerless Dry Goods Co. indicate a worth of
 $10,000 in stock, and another $10,000 in real estate and other property.

Lucy Vance married Lloyd Delton Twiford

The 1930 census finds Alice still living with her two children, Lucy's husband Lloyd and daughter Sylvia plus a boarder. The Great Depression was just beginning but Alice was worth a good deal of money.

Ten years later we do not see what Alice is worth. Children John and Lucy still live with her on Haywood Street but Lucy's husband Lloyd D. Twiford has disappeared (moved to California perhaps.)

Alice died at in 1948 at 85.

Her obituary, a gem of her contemporary culture, tells us who her husband's relatives were
and what church she attended but nothing about her work or career. (Better forgotten that she was forced by circumstances to work?)

We might add a sentence or two:
"Finding her husband of little help she raised her three children well by running an Asheville dry goods store at which she was quite successful."

Memorial to three generations of Lucy Catlett's North Carolina descendants

More about family quilts tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment