Remnants of War

By: Nancy Ostman
Groton, New York

Several years ago, a boy in a middle school sewing class selected red and black scraps of heavy wool and hand stitched them together. He created a dramatic work that sent me in search of historic quilts sewn by soldiers. Annette Gero’s 2015 book, Wartime Quilts, and recent national exhibits document this genre.

A stunning graphic of a red and navy blue wool quilt held by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum caught my attention for the Quilt Study. Boyd family donors identified the quilt as made by Mrs. James Strough in Herkimer, New York from War of 1812 uniforms. Unlike soldier-made quilts, this has a feminine hand and despite the heavy fabric, it appears to be made with piecing and quilting techniques of the period. A pinked edge to the binding on the back is not seen on period quilts, but had been used by soldiers, and may have been a tailor’s technique to reduce bulk.

The DAR questions the family history. My genealogy searches reveal no James Strough. Baltus Strough is the only Strough cited in War of 1812 military records. His gravestone reads, “A soldier in the War of 1812” and “Born in Herkimer Co. NY.” Upstate New York saw much of the United States’ action in the War of 1812. Herkimer men moved supplies and equipment up the Mohawk River and overland to forts on Lake Ontario and fought in the battle at Oswego, New York. Thus, the Strough and Herkimer connection to the War of 1812 can be documented.

An early 1800s marriage connects Baltus Strough to the Boyd family. If a Strough made the quilt, has the quiltmaker’s name become distorted? Jemima Strough or Jane Keller Strough, wife of Jeremiah Strough, are possibilities. If either Jemima or Jane were the maker, the quilt likely was made after 1835, possibly as late as 1850.