Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Capture of the Bride

We're serializing this Old Fort News piece from July-September, 1960. Here's the first part of the story:


On June 15, 1777, the entire population of Boonesborough, Kentucky, met at the home of Captain Luther Miller to celebrate the wedding of his daughter, Martha, to Samuel Vance. How their day of feasting and celebrating ended in tragedy is related in this paper.

The article appeared in the INDIANAPOLIS NEWS, October 19, 1898, and was signed by Edward F. Colerick. The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society presents the story, as it appeared, hoping it will entertain the readers.

Alene Godfrey, editor

The Capture of the Bride

            Boonesborough, Kentucky, the home of the renowned backwoodsmen, Daniel Boone and his brother ‘Squire Boone, was protected by a strong palisade fort, with blockhouses, designated and erected by Daniel Boone. It was regarded as safe at that time. On account of the great protection afforded by this fortification, many emigrants settled there.
            A wedding was announced to take place June 15, 1777, at the home of Captain Luther Miller, three miles from Boonesborough, on the main trace. His oldest daughter, Martha, was to be married to Samuel Vance, a young man of the neighborhood. As was the custom, the entire population, old and young, was invited to be present and partake in the festivities.
            About the 2nd of the month Indians made their appearance in the settlement, having killed and scalped a boy who was in the woods hunting for a cow and a calf. This created much uneasiness throughout the settlement, as it was not known how many Indians were in the vicinity. The intention of making the approaching wedding a public one was about abandoned, when it was reported that the savages, being few in number, had made a hasty retreat from the settlement. When the wedding day arrived confidence was restored and the Indians about forgotten. Yet, two of the older settlers, who, from habit, were always on the alert, came with their rifles on their shoulders and scalping knives and tomahawks in their belts, prepared for any emergency. 

Retired to the cabin
            In the presence of a large and joyous assembly the two were united. The ceremony consisted of the contract, with witnesses, and religious vows administered by Daniel Boone’s brother, ‘Squire Boone, who was an occasional preacher of the persuasion popularly known as “Hard Shell Baptists.” The formal license from the county court was not waited for, as the courthouse of Fincastle, of which county Kentucky was a part, was distant more than six hundred miles.
            After a day of feasting and pleasure the older persons, with their children returned to their homes before nightfall, while the young folks kept up the festivities during the evening. About nine o’clock, while the dancing was still going on, the bride slipped away, accompanied by her sister Sarah, age sixteen and her aunt Eve (an elderly maiden aunt, her father’s sister), and a neighbor lad of fifteen years, went over to the Vance cabin, distant about five hundred yards, to put things to rights. The neighbors had erected them a one-room cabin, which was furnished and ready for occupancy. They swept the floor and adjusted the bed, which had been used through the day by the mothers as a place to deposit their babies while they slept, away from the noise and confusion.
            Having completed the object of their visit, the four were about to join the merrymakers. Says the aunt:
Being in a hurry, I started first. The night was very dark and cloudy. I had reached about halfway between the two houses, when I saw in the darkness figures approaching ahead of me. I supposed they were some of the young folks coming after us. I stepped to one side, soon the figures came so near that I saw they were Indians. I had on a dark dress, and they did not observe me. I started in a roundabout way through the woods, screaming as I ran “Indians! Indians!” In the excitement I ran against a tree with such force it knocked me down. It was some moments before I regained my senses. As I lay on the ground I could hear the dear creatures at the cabin, shrieking in the greatest agony. Then all became as still as death. I supposed the fiends had murdered them all. I now regained my feet, and hurried in the direction of the dim lights, which I could see all the time, and soon reached the house, giving the alarm.

To be continued......

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The study of history via textiles

After the Festival of Gingerbread was over, Registrar Karen Butler-Clary moved into our board room to photograph and otherwise document 135 large textiles that belong to the Historical Society. The effort required setting up a slant board the approximate size of two double beds, unfolding and positioning each textile on the board, taking several hundred photographs, verifying the information about each item and reattaching tags to many for the data base of items in our collection.

According to Karen, “Each artifact in the Historical Society’s collection is assigned a unique three part registration number. This number connects that artifact to all the information about it. We can search by the number in our database to pull up the information or look through hardcopy information in the register books and files which are organized by registration number.

“Each artifact number begins with the year the object was donated, the order the donation was received during that year and the object number within the donation. For example, a quilt with the registration number 91.17.1 was donated in 1991, it was the 17th donation the historical society received during that year and it was the first object from the donation to be cataloged and added to the records.

“The database is used to organize and access information on the Historical Society’s collection. We can look up artifacts by registration number, date, location, object name and several other categories.  It is an essential tool when you are trying to organize information for almost 30,000 artifacts.”

Due to the nature of textiles, particularly those that are “bed-sized”, displaying these items is difficult in our building due to the cost of properly hanging or displaying the works on slant boards and the amount of space they would take up.

“Many of our large textiles are too fragile to be hung and would require their own platform for display,” said Karen. “Fabric is also particularly sensitive to damage from light exposure and environmental pollutants so not only do we have space limitations, there is also concern for providing the proper environment to safely display textiles without causing harm.”

Michelle Oberly, writing for the web site, discusses the significance of studying history via textiles.

“We can learn much about the past by studying textiles. People slept under them, ate on top of them, and even peered from behind them to observe what was going on outside, just as we do today…By studying the textiles we can learn about the lives of the people who owned or made them and compare their beliefs and lifestyles with ours.”

Oberly says that the textiles given to local historical societies most often date from the Victorian Period. As you can see from the photo below, one of the earliest pieces Karen photographed is dated 1839, two years after Queen Victoria began her reign. The Industrial Revolution spurred a wider use of fabric as it became more cost affordable. Prior to that time, cloth was spun and or woven by hand. Can you imagine having to weave the cloth to make a dress or coat? No wonder so many of the garments people wore were plain.

Much of the handmade fabric is now lost to historians because of the advent of dry goods stores all over the country that could provide ready-made fabric produced in the Eastern United States and delivered by train to points west.

This was a time when all girls learned to sew and a woman was not considered well educated if she could not handle needle and thread with grace. Samplers were a way to record family history and learn basic stitches while also providing artwork for the home.

“Textiles played a very important role in the Victorian household. Expensive fabrics were used to cover windows, beds, and tables, while the rags washed dishes and cleaned up spills. It is not the hardworking textiles that one finds in the local history museum, just as one is unlikely to save a dish rag or paper napkin. Instead, one finds textiles that were hand-made or expensive and pretty and decorative. These were the artistic pieces of the home, lovingly made, treasured, saved, and valued from one generation to the next.”

Two of the pieces that we photographed for this blog post are “friendship quilts”. The quilt of blue and white contains the signatures of parishioners of a pastor who was the recipient of the quilt. This quilt was given to Reverend George Davies and his wife Mabel from their first congregation, Bethany Presbyterian Church, in 1899 as a parting gift. It was made by the ladies of the church.

The other quilt is a Friendship Quilt (91.17.1), pieced together by Katie A. Weiler from 1914 to 1917. It includes the names of friends and relatives, many of whom are from the Lakeside Neighborhood. This is a wonderful example of how no scrap of fabric was wasted!

Oberly writes, “This style of quilt served the same purpose as an autograph book. The squares contained signatures of family members or friends that were usually embroidered with brightly colored floss on a light-colored ground so the signatures will stand out. Often the quilt was a group project, each person being responsible for decorating and returning her square. When pieced together, the finished quilt would be a wonderful, sentimental keepsake. It was a memento of friends living far away or a creative way to record your family tree.

“Making friendship quilts was a popular activity for women's groups. (quilts)… may have been made to celebrate a church anniversary by recording its members names or used for a fundraising raffle. (Quilt raffles were good money makers for the church.) .. Quilting parties, or ‘bees’ as they were called, brought women together and allowed them to exchange ideas and socialize. Many hands not only speeded up the sewing process, but provided a bit of fun to an otherwise time-consuming, repetitious process. Although quilting bees were organized for a practical purpose, they were also a good excuse to get together, talk, and enjoy each other's company.”

Quilts are still popular as an art form but in days gone by they were made for a more practical purpose. Because quilts are two layers of material with “batting” in between, they are warmer than a standard blanket and in houses that were heated with a wood stove or fireplace, those extra layers kept you warm while you slept. The layers are stitched together either with a design or simply to hold the fabric in place and sometimes “tied” whereby small pieces of yarn are drawn through the fabric at regular intervals and tied in a knot.

Not being one to waste anything, the housewife of the 1800s through the Depression often made quilts from left over fabric. My grandmother would make two new house dresses every spring. The oldest of her dresses became aprons, the oldest aprons became the fabric of sunbonnets for her gardening and the oldest of the sunbonnets…well, I’m not sure she threw them away because she was the ultimate recycler, but you get the drift. She also took worn out clothing and made quilt pieces from the best spots. Seldom did she make a quilt with new fabric, but I do have a wedding ring quilt that she made from what I have to assume is new material.

“The most common type of quilt is called patchwork...These quilts were often called ‘scrap’ quilts because they were made using a great variety of fabrics, usually odd bits left over from clothing construction projects. It was considered wasteful to throw away even oddly shaped fabric pieces because they could be put to good use by making a quilt.”

Oberly says, “In different regions, some patterns became so popular that historians can tell by its appearance and quilting technique where the quilt is from.”

The American Textile History Museum, on its website,  shows a photo of a stamped bed coverlet similar to one in our collection. It was made (hand sewn, stenciled and block printed) by Mrs. Reason (Frances) Tucker c. 1812 and donated to the DAR (who later donated their collection to us) in the 1920s or 1930s. It was donated by the Nathaniel Fitch family heirs and they refer to Mrs. Reason Tucker as “Granny.” On it appears Mrs. Reason Tucker was born in Maryland, moved to Ohio and had chidlren there and then moved into Perry township. Nathaniel Fitch was a blacksmith on the canal and a farmer in Perry township.

And just because they are beautiful, here are a couple of closeups of other items that were photographed:


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A brief overview of Chief Richardville

We're adding more pictures to our web site and moving some of the copy to our blog. Below is the copy that has been on the website regarding the Chief Richardville House.

Jean Baptiste de Richardville
When it came to negotiating with the United States government, perhaps no Native American ever did it better than Miami Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville. The home he built in 1827 is silent testimony to a strong business sense that resulted in his being the richest man in Indiana at the time of his death in 1841. Today his house is recognized as the oldest Native American dwelling in the Midwest and the first Greek Revival style house in northeast Indiana. Recently restored, the site affords visitors an opportunity to truly walk in the footsteps of history.

Born in 1761, Richardville was the son of a French fur trader father and a Miami Indian mother - Tacamwa, sister to the Miami war chief Little Turtle. Richardville and his mother were among the earliest entrepreneurs native to the Fort Wayne and Allen County area. Together they built a trading empire based on control of the "long portage" between the St. Mary's and Wabash rivers, joining two water systems and thereby completing a pathway for commerce that extended from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

As American settlements spread through the Old Northwest Territory, it became clear that the United States government intended to remove local Indians and inhabit their land. Richardville, through clever negotiation, was able to maintain a Miami presence in Indiana long after other tribes had been forced to leave the area, notably the Piankashaws in 1805 and the Wea in 1820.

In 1818, through Richardville's intervention, individual families were given legal land grants as small parcels of privately held reserves scattered throughout northern Indiana. Richardville himself eventually controlled over twenty square miles of choice property along the St. Joseph, St. Mary's, Mississinewa, Salamonie and Wabash rivers. This act provided the means for half of the Miami people to remain in Indiana after their official removal in 1846, five years after Richardville's death.

His House
In recognition of his role as a principal chief among the Miami people, the U.S. government provided $600 toward construction of a house for Richardville along the banks of the St. Mary's River. The chief contributed some of his own wealth toward the house that eventually cost $2,200 when it was built in 1827. In his spacious and elegant home, he reportedly entertained some of Fort Wayne's earliest civic leaders like Samuel Hanna, Allen Hamilton, and William Rockhill.

Following Richardville's death in 1841, the house was bequeathed through several generations of his descendents until 1894 when it passed out of the family. By the 1940s, it was owned by the Spy Run Gravel Company that mined much of the surrounding area, ultimately leaving the house
on a one-acre pedestal of land. The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society acquired the property in 1991 and within recent years has restored the building's exterior.

Today, The History Center maintains the property and opens the house to the public on the first Saturday of each month from May until November, presenting a variety of programs that celebrate Miami culture and tradition. Visitors may tour the interior of the house, see the room where Richardville died, view the large safe in which he stored his wealth estimated to be $23 million (in today's currency) at the time of his death, and to learn more about the rich Native American history of this area.