My Civil War-era study quilt is a tribute to all mothers who have seen their sons off to war. My great-great-grandmother, Susanna Frock Wentz, was one. Born in 1818 in Frederick County, Maryland, she married Elder Wentz of York County, Pennsylvania around 1835, and over the next 27 years bore fourteen children. Two of her sons served in the Union Army.
For this project I needed a Pennsylvania German inspiration quilt. One of the quilts in Pat and Arlan Christ’s collection was perfect, inscribed with the initials of the maker, L.A.M., and the date, 1859. Thank you, Pat and Arlan!
Pennsylvania German quilts are known for their bright colors – white is rarely used. This quilt combined many red prints with yellow, green, and a bright orange border. I loved working with the red and yellow prints, but struggled over the orange. Be faithful to the original, or use a more yellowish orange that coordinated better to my eye? The quilt won out. Would Susanna have chosen these colors? I think she would have.
The album blocks in this quilt were commonly used in name-inscribed quilts during this time period. It was a time of migration, and my Wentz family was no exception: they moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Illinois and back to Ohio between 1850 and 1865. Susanna might have received an album quilt like this, with names of family members on it for remembrance.
I gave my quiltmaker a name, Lydia Ann, as I worked. Her border had a corner resolution problem, so when I ran out of green triangles I followed her lead and used what I had on hand. I added my initials and the date in counted cross stitch just as she did, using an alphabet from a sampler and a strong magnifying glass – how did Lydia Ann manage without one? Finally, my quilting patterns were drawn freehand, spacing by eye as she did.
As I worked on my quilt I thought about Susanna. Did she make quilts for her sons’ safe return, as I did for my son while he was in Operation Desert Storm? And what did Lydia Ann experience during the war? Did this quilt comfort her during those hard times? I thoroughly enjoyed making this quilt, which connected me with Lydia Ann and with Susanna, my Pennsylvania German ancestor.