Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Parnel Grumley's Peony & Prairie Flower Quilt


Quilt dated 1847 by Parnel R. Grumley Pierce (1820-1898)
95" x 92" 
Shelburne Museum

The Shelburne Museum owns a quilt in a familiar design. We might call it Carolina Lily or Cleveland Tulips but the maker inked her name for the pattern on the reverse.

The Peony and Prairie Flower No 6 " Somewhere she also put her name and the date "Parnel R. Grumley, 1847."

It may be that the block is the Peony and the border the Prairie Flower

Ruth Finley called a similar quilt The Peony in her 1929 book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them. She borrowed this one from a New York relative.

The Shelburne's quilt was found in a New York antique shop in the 1930s by Margaret Thorne Parshall of Millbrook, New York, who donated it to the museum. Somehow she knew the maker was from North Greenwich in Washington County.

North Greenwich is the pink rectangle

Parnel Rebecca Grumley is an unusual name so we can find her in New York records. She was born in Connecticut in 1820 and married on October 14, 1847 in North Greenwich, Washington County, a town near New York's border with Vermont. This elegant quilt must have been made for her wedding. Did the #6 mean there were five others or more?

Parnel Grumley (also spelled Grumbley) married Juline Pierce (1809-1879), again an unusual name, also spelled Julius or Julian.

Juline was a farmer in Hamilton, Madison County, over 100 miles from Parnel's home in Washington County so how they met is only one question of many.

The 1850 census taker got Juline's name right but made a hash
of Parnel's. They look to be middling farmers with a resident farm hand.

Juline and Parnel apparently never raised any birth children but the 1855 state census shows them living with a nine-year-old adopted son named E Remington, perhaps written as Eugine. An Edmond Remington (about 9 in 1855) grew up in Madison County. This boy may be Parnel's nephew, born to a sister Elizabeth Hannah Grumbley Remington who died in Wisconsin in 1853. 

The Grumleys and the Pierces did not make much of a mark, except for this impressive quilt and a pretty tombstone in Hamilton's Woodlawn Cemetery.

Juline retired from farming, according to the 1875 state census and died in 1879. 

In 1880 the census found Parnel, a widow, living with two other women, dressmaker Susan C. Moore and Lucy Allets and Lucy's son. Perhaps the census taker caught them when Susan was living in with Parnel, making a new wardrobe for the new widow. Parnel lived into her late seventies. 

Hamilton a few years after Parnel's death.


  1. If only quilts could tell us so much more!


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