Wolcott History
Wolcott Historical Society

Wolcott Historical Society History for March 2015

By Florence Goodman

In January of 2015, Walter Atwood invited me to accompany he and his wife, Sue to Washington, Connecticut. They were meeting with Sue Reich, a quilt appraiser, to have several of the family's antique quilts appraised, one of them being a friendship quilt with many well-known Wolcott residents' signatures on it. To my surprise, at the end of the appraisal, they informed me that the signature quilt was being donated to our Historical Society.

The Wolcott Historical Society is indebted to the Atwood family for the numerous donations of artifacts to our Schoolhouse Museum and once again we must thank them for this most recent donation. With that stated, this month I will revisit a topic I wrote about in June 2011 and May 2013 discussing friendship quilts and the history of the most recent acquisition that will be on display in our museum this spring.

In the mid-19th century a particular type of quilt, the Friendship quilt, became very popular. These quilts came in two forms: the signature quilt and autograph quilt. Both were usually made of a single quilting pattern, which meant that each square was the same design and made up of different scrap materials. Usually one person sewed each square together to form the large quilt. The difference between the signature quilt and autograph quilt was what was put on the squares. The squares of the signature quilt contained only the signature of the person who made that square while the square of the autograph quilt had a short verse as well as their signature. All of these signatures and verses were written in indelible ink. Judy Anne Breneman, a researcher of historical quilts, states, "Friendship quilts took time collecting fabric or blocks from each person, piecing them together and quilting the layers. Individual blocks on a quilt may have been made over several years and sometimes they were not put together into a quilt until years later. No matter how they were made they all had the same purpose, to record memories of cherished friends and family members."

This 1860s signature quilt from the Atwood family measures approximately 7' by 6' and is in excellent condition. Sue Reich felt that it was probably made after the Civil War because the brown fabric colors and particular quilt pattern are typical of that time period. The quilt block pattern is called Chimney Sweep, Album Block or Christian Cross, which is the most popular design used in signature quilts.

It was an education in itself to watch the appraiser as she examined the quilt. She noted that the quilt blocks were hand stitched, but it had been assembled by machine. She also felt that the backing material as well as the binding around the quilt were of a later date so the actual quilt may not have been finished until the later part of the 1800s. She stated that the newer binding might have replaced an older worn out binding. She pointed out that the few repairs that had been made to the blocks were well done and probably with the original fabric.

We questioned Sue Reich about why this quilt may have been made and she felt it might have been a housewarming gift since they moved into the house circa 1845. We also discussed that there were several unmarried women listed on the quilt and it could have been for one of them if they were getting married in the near future. Martha A. Upson who was one of the ten Upson's listed on the quilt was a great grandmother of the Atwood family and the daughter of Miles Upson who built the Atwood family home. I must note that Martha A. was not born until 1864, so if it were for her the quilt would be dated later than the1860s.

This exquisite quilt consists of fifty-six squares, eight down and seven across and the names scribed on them are as follows: Mrs. J.D. Pritchard, Mrs. Henry Harrison, Emilyett Upson, Mrs. Elmer Hotchkiss, Mrs. Stillman Bronson, Mrs. J.W. Upson, Mrs. Johnson Alcott, Evalena J. Upson, Mrs. A.J. Slater, Mrs. F. Dyer, Mrs. H.B. Carter, Mrs. Ira H. Merriman, Mrs. Mark Harrison, M Elodine Upson, Mrs. Wm F. Grilley, Charles E.S Hall, Mrs. Henry Minor, Mrs. Willard Plumb, Hattie E. Downs, Mrs. Fanny Bridgeman, Mrs. Geo. W. Carter, Mrs. Sabrina Thorp, Mrs. E.M. Upson, Mrs. J. Fairclough, Mrs. S.E. Frisbie, Mrs. - H. Hough, Mrs. Martha Howd, Mrs. Mark Tuttle, Mrs. S.L. Hotchkiss, Mrs. E.W. Warner, Mrs. John L. Bradley, ? Beecher, Mabel Upson, Mrs. A.A. Lane, Martha A. Upson, Mrs. Augustus Minor, Miss Salina Carter, Mrs. Dennis Pritchard, Mrs. Lois A. Plumb, Mrs. Rufus Norton, Mrs. Laura A. Hough, Eugenia L. Upson, Mrs. Ester P. Bronson, Julina Hall, C.A. Downs, Mrs. F.M. Upson, Mrs. Charles S.S. Hall, Mrs. H.D. Upson, Mrs. Ester A. Beecher, Mrs. A. H. Smith, Miss Marilla Linsley, Mrs. C.D. Blakeslee, Mrs. Ellen Somers, Mrs. Elihu Moulthrop, Mrs. James Alcott, and Louise C. Hall.

As I researched the family names, I noticed that the Upson family had the most names with ten and that was because the Atwood family had a direct line to the Upson family. Their home on 1089 Woodtick Road is known as the Miles Upson House. Miles Upson was a prosperous farmer born in 1820. The house was built between 1843 -1845 on fifty acres of land acquired from Selah and Nathaniel Upson in 1843. Miles Upson married Mary A. Hough on April 20, 1845 and they had five children; Emma born 1846, M. Elodine born in 1850, Evelyn M. born in 1852, Eugenia L. born in 1859 and Martha A. born in 1864. Martha A. married Francis Cole and they had a daughter Florence Cole who married Lyman Atwood. Lyman and Florence Atwood had a son, Clarence who married Gloria Haney; they had seven children, one of which was Walter; thus the connection to this wonderful family.

It is interesting to note that as I researched the names on our new quilt, I realized that some of them were the same women who worked on our 1885 Garrigus/Pierpont Quilt and one was on the 1848 autograph quilt. I also noticed that three of the Upson's that worked on the quilt were children of Miles and Mary A. Upson. If you want a closer look at this beautiful work of art, as well as our other two friendship quilts, please make an appointment to visit our Museum on Nichols Road, but wait until the snow melts, please!

(Information for this article was taken from A 1986 Historic Resources Inventory by Paul Loether, The History of the Town of Wolcott, Connecticut from 1731 to 1874 by Samuel Orcutt, a interview and quilt appraisal with quilting authority Sue Reich, an article from Womenfolk.com by Judy Anne Breneman, "New Pathways into Quilting History" by Kimberly Wulfert at www.antiquequiltdating.com and a discussion with Walter and Sue Atwood)

Martha A Upson

Martha A. Upson - b. 1864

M. Elodine Upson0

M. Elodine Upson - b. 1850

Eugenia L. Upson

Eugenia L. Upson - b. 1859

Upson/Atwood quilt

The 1860s Upson/Atwood Quilt, which is our newest quilt donation at the Museum.

Sue Reich

Sue Reich, quilt appraiser, discussing the quilt with Flo Goodman and Walter Atwood.

Sue Atwood

Sue Atwood looking at quilt with Sue Reich in the background.

Walter Atwood

Walter Atwood listening to Sue Reich's comments about his family's quilt.

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