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Full text of "Indiana coverlets and coverlet weavers"

LI E> RARY 

OF THE 

UNIVERSITY 

Of ILLINOIS 

977 2 
InZ 



SIX. «i!ST. SURVH 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://archive.org/details/indianacoverlets88rabb 



INDIANA COVERLETS 

AND 

COVERLET WEAVERS 



By 
KATE MILNER RABB 



Indiana Historical 

Society Publications 

Volume 8 

Number 8 



INDIANAPOLIS 

PRINTED FOR THE SOCIETY 

1928 



INDIANA COVERLETS AND COVERLET WEAVERS 

The Processes of Coverlet Weaving 

Until a few years ago, very little was known of the hand- 
crafts of our early Indiana pioneers. While many specimens 
of their work have survived, little interest has been shown in 
them, and many specimens of beautiful weaving of the pioneer 
mothers have been relegated to the attic or have been degraded 
to the most humble household use. Not until the celebration 
in 1916 of Indiana's centennial of statehood, were attics ran- 
sacked and old chests opened to reveal the wealth of handcraft, 
the work of our pioneer men and women, which still remains 
in the state. Most beautiful of all these specimens were the 
coverlets, double and single, whose intricate patterns and rich 
coloring set off the centennial displays of pioneer furniture. 
A year or so before, a book on the subject of hand- woven 
coverlets had been published in the east, and a study of its 
plates revealed the fact that examples fully as beautiful were 
to be found in many Indiana homes, some of them brought 
from other states as part of a pioneer girl's dowry; many of 
them the work of Indiana weavers. Then it was deeply re- 
gretted that these pieces of pioneer weaving had been so hardly 
used, sometimes as covering for ironing boards, or, in the 
country, as horse blankets, or to spread over vegetables or 
tobacco. The interest aroused at this time by the study of the 
patterns has resulted in the accumulation of a considerable 
amount of information concerning these covers and the men 
and women who made them. This information, while as yet 
incomplete, is collected in this pamphlet in the hope that it may 
result in arousing still further interest in hand-woven coverlets 

(395) 



396 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

and stimulate research in the history of coverlet weaving in 
this state. 

Until recently so little has been known about coverlets that 
the name itself is often misapplied, so that the coverlet is some- 
times called a spread, sometimes a counterpane, and sometimes 
a quilt. A newspaper picture some months ago showed a group 
of Berea College students presenting a coverlet to Mrs. 
Coolidge, but the caption read that the "quilt" which they 
presented her was "spun, dyed, and woven" by students of the 
college. The mistake is not surprising, since the words are used 
interchangeably in the dictionary. As the terms were used in 
this country in the days when these articles were all made by 
hand, the spread and the counterpane were bed coverings woven 
of cotton or linen, and the quilt was pieced of scraps of cotton 
materials, laid over a piece of muslin with a layer of cotton 
between, and quilted by hand in intricate patterns. The cover- 
let was woven on a loom from materials prepared by the 
housewife, usually linen or cotton for the warp, and wool for 
the woof. The word "coverlid" is a mispronunciation of 
"coverlet" which means, presumably, a little cover. It is said 
that the mountaineers of North Carolina, Tennessee, and 
Kentucky, among whom this ancient art has been preserved, 
gave the word this mispronunciation, and sometimes they 
shorten it to "kiver." There is no reason why we should 
perpetuate the mispronunciation "coverlid" any more than we 
should say "kiver." 

The art of coverlet weaving was brought to America in the 
seventeenth century from the Netherlands, France, the British 
Isles, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden. It is said that a 
coverlet weaver came over with the Pilgrim Fathers, and that 
French Huguenots carried the art to the south. From the time 
of the earliest settlements until long after the Revolution, 
coverlet weavers came to America from these countries, partic- 
ularly from Scotland, and followed the stream of emigration 
across the Alleghenies. 

In order to understand the history of coverlet weaving in 






Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 397 

the United States, one must first learn the method of its manu- 
facture. There are two kinds of coverlets, known as the 
"single" and the "double." The "single" coverlet was woven 
by the housewife on the hand loom on which she also wove 
sheets, blankets, and linsey-woolsey. This hand loom was as 
much a part of the household outfit in colonial times and later 
in pioneer days of the middle west, as were the "big" wheel, the 
"little" or flax wheel, the reel, and other implements required 
for the manufacture of cloth. The "double" coverlet was made 
on a different kind of loom, much more complicated, and there- 
fore always made by a so-called professional weaver. Some- 
times this man set up what he often called his "factory" in 
a town or in the country on his farm ; sometimes he was an 
itinerant weaver, though we have no record of itinerants in this 
state. His covers are called "double" because in certain parts 
of the design the fabric can be taken between the fingers and 
pulled apart, as though it were two coverlets, joined in places by 
the pattern. The late Arthur Osborn, of Spiceland, Indiana, is 
authority for the statement that this was sometimes called 
"division weaving." 

In the case of both "double" and "single" coverlets, prepara- 
tion of the material was the same. A brief account of this 
preparation and the labor involved should inspire a greater 
respect for the makers of these coverlets. For both varieties 
of coverlets the loom was strung with either flax or cotton 
thread. The flax thread was used in the earlier days, before 
cotton was procurable. The following description of the 
preparation of the flax for household use was prepared by 
the late Rufus Dooley, of Rockville, Indiana, who states : 

There are not many people now living who remember the intricate 
details and many complex variations of the flax industry of the early 
times. Some seventy or seventy-five years ago it was no small part of 
the economic life of the people who built their homes and lived their 
lives in the woods. The larger part of the wearing apparel for men 
and boys was made of home-made flax cloth. Bed sheets and grain 
sacks, towels, and many other household articles were made of the same 
material. The grain sacks held three bushels of wheat, and the boy who 
could not shoulder three bushels of wheat had not yet arrived at man's 
estate. 



398 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 



The various divisions of the industry were conducted by both men 
and women; there were many processes, and a small piece of special 
machinery was required for each process. The seed was sown in the 
early spring in the usual broadcast way, on about half an acre of ground, 
and was harvested by pulling it up by the roots, following the hay 
harvest. It was then bound in bundles as wheat was bound, up to the 
time of the invention of the self-binder. After it had dried, it was opened 
and spread out on a clean, level meadow, in nice straight rows, and 
allowed to remain there for two weeks or more, subject to the rain, the 
dew, the wind and the sunshine, until the woody part of the stalk had 
decayed and become brittle, and could easily be separated from the 
fiber by the succeeding processes of breaking, scutching, and hackling. 
After rotting, it was stored in the barn until thoroughly dry, and during 
the cold dry days of the later winter, the process of manufacture began 
in earnest. 

First, the "brake," the indescribable flax brake, operated by a man 
with muscle ; this broke the woody part of the stalk into small bits, and 
made it ready for the next process, the scutching board. This, too, was 
usually a man's job, but from that on, through the first, or coarse hackle, 
the second or finer hackle, and the third or finest hackle, the work be- 
came woman's prerogative. 

This third hackle left the flax in a perfect condition, ready for 
spinning, which was done on a small spinning wheel, operated by foot 
power. The material to be spun was held in place by a "rock" attached 
to the little spinning wheel ; it was usually of home construction made 
from the limb of a tree with four prongs brought together at the top 
and tied with a string in the form of a cone. From the "spindle" the 
material was wound off onto the "reel," and from there to the "winding 
blades," back to the little wheel again, where it was run on "quills" to 
fit the weaver's shuttle. The loom was a very practical piece of old time 
machinery, not a nail in it, held together with mortices, tenons, and 
wooden keys. It could easily be taken down when necessary and put 
away in a small place. On such looms as this were woven the beautiful 
coverlets so much admired to-day. 

Later, when cotton was available, cotton thread was used 
instead of the linen. The preparation of the wool was fully 
as elaborate as that of the flax, for it involved shearing, wash- 
ing, picking, carding, spinning, and dyeing, all in preparation 
for the weaving. Mrs. J. J. Netterville, of Anderson, and the 
late Mrs. Almira H. Hadley, of Mooresville, have given de- 
scriptions of this work. Sometimes the sheep were washed in 
a running stream before shearing, but more often the sheared 
wool was taken through a process similar to the family wash- 
ing (minus the boiling) and spread on the grass to dry. Mrs. 
Netterville mentions the old method of heating the water out- 
doors in big iron kettles hung on a pole with forks at each end, 
over a fire. When the wool was ready for the picking, the 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 399 

neighbor women were invited in to do the work, which was 
followed by a dinner, making a most desirable gala occasion. A 
clean sheet was spread in the middle of the room on the floor 
and the women took up hands ful of the wool at a time, pulled 
it apart, and plucked back and forth until it was entirely free 
from any sediment, Spanish needles, or "stick tights." The 
cleaned wool was then tossed on the sheet in the center. 

Carding was the next process, the cleaned wool being 
"combed" with the hand cards into so-called rolls for spinning. 
Later there were established "carding mills" to which the wool 
was taken to be carded. A distinctly middle-western story is 
that told by Lydia Morris Arnold, a pioneer teacher of Grant 
County, of the primitive methods of the carding mill. When 
the wool was carded at the carding mill, the rolls were "put in 
layers on the sheets the wool was brought to mill in, then rolled 
up very tight and pinned with thorns. My brother earned his 
first 'big money,' as he thought, by gathering thorns to sell to 
the proprietor of the mill at so much a dozen." 1 

Spinning came next, the "big wheel" being used for this. 
F. M. Wiley, of Indianapolis, recalls from his boyhood that the 
wool was held at the end of the spindle till it twisted fast. Then 
the spinner whirled the wheel rapidly, walking backward, until 
the wool stretched out into a long thread. The spinner then 
stepped out from the wheel and stretched out an arm to keep 
the thread at such an angle that it would twist with the spindle 
but not wind up on it. When the twisting was completed, the 
spinner stepped in and held the thread close to the wheel so that 
it would wind up on the spindle as she walked forward again. 
Another roll was attached to the first by lapping the thin ends 
and holding them together with thumb and finger until they be- 
gan to twist, then backward again as she drew out another 
thread. The thread thus spun was wound upon a clock reel, 
which, after a certain number of revolutions, would click, an- 
nouncing that a "cut" had been spun. 



1 Baldwin, Edgar M. f The Making of a Tozvnship, p. 86 (Fair- 
mount, Indiana, 1917). 



400 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

The "cuts" thus prepared must next be dyed, a process which 
greatly taxed the ingenuity of the housewife who must find 
her materials for dyeing in roots, bark, flowers, and plants. 
Little did she guess how superior were her products to the 
aniline dyes which were destined to supplant them in the days 
when the machine would succeed the hand loom. Mrs. Mary 
Carter, founder of the English Society of Hand Weavers, a 
Scottish woman who learned the craft in her native village 
where spinning, dyeing, and weaving are done at home in the 
fashion of primitive days, in a recent article in The Arts and 
Crafts, published in London, says that despite the skill of the 
chemist and chemical knowledge used in the great dyeing works, 
vegetable dyes still maintain a superiority dependent upon quite 
simple qualities. These colors from vegetable dyes are full, 
lustrous, and bright, and have remarkable endurance. Even 
when considerably faded they keep their beauty and charm. 
Dyeing is a very distinctive process, and no two people can ever 
be depended upon to get exactly the same color. The individ- 
uality of each dyer comes out in the dyeing, just as the 
individuality of the musician comes out in the playing of a 
particular piece of music. It is this individuality in dyeing and 
weaving that doubtless gives the old coverlets half their charm. 

The colors most frequently used were red and blue, combined 
with white, but many old coverlets are found in which are 
mingled green, pink, yellow, saffron, and purplish lavender, 
perhaps best described as wistaria. In her Book of Hand-woven 
Coverlets Eliza Calvert Hall gives many recipes for vegetable 
dyes which she got from mountain women in Kentucky and 
Tennessee. Very few recipes of this kind have been collected in 
Indiana, but the tradition has been handed down of dyeing dull 
yellow or butternut with the inner bark of the white walnut 
tree ; and blue and red, with indigo and madder respectively. 
Hal C. Phelps, of Peru, took down from Mrs. Magdelena Hiner 
Wilson, of Miami County, Indiana, the dyes she used in color- 
ing the yarn for a coverlet of the "Virginia Ring" pattern, made 
in 1850, and now in the historical museum at Peru. 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 401 

For the blue used in this coverlet : rainwater and indigo in a sack ; 
a handful of bran. Work the indigo in the sack with the hands each 
and every day until it is dissolved. Let it work or ferment until it has a 
bad odor. Then place the material in it to be dyed and heat it or boil it 
until it has the desired depth of color. 

For red : water, and a handful of bran and madder. Place in a 
kettle and scald. Place the yarn in the kettle and heat it, boiling until 
the desired color is obtained. 

For green and yellow : smart weed in water makes yellow. Peach 
leaves in water make green. Place material to be colored in this liquid 
and boil. All these are fast colors. For walnut brown, boil white 
walnut bark in kettle and then put in yarn or material and boil until the 
light or dark brown desired is obtained. 

C. G. McNeill, of Cincinnati, formerly of Perrysville, Indi- 
ana, writes as follows of the blue coverlet dyes. 

The old coverlet dyes were mostly home made, and the one color 
that seems to have in greatest degree the charm of remaining fresh and 
bright through all the years was the blue, the indigo which was home- 
made from home-grown plants. 

I have known two garden beds of indigo which were in recent 
existence ; one is still in growth and plants are given away to visitors 
at an old Ohio home. My grandmother, Hannah Maher McNeill, had 
such a garden at Perrysville which was still kept to the fourth generation 
of her family and may be growing yet. I have not been there in the 
growing season for several years, and do not know whether it still exists 
or not. The house passed out of the family and the bed, about 4x12 
feet, may not have been preserved by the present occupants. 

What sometimes seems to be an additional color in a design 
is due to the ingenuity of the old weaver, who discovered that 
"warping" or twisting two threads of different colors tightly 
gave the effect of a different color. Dark red and blue twisted 
tightly gave the effect of brown, and two different shades of 
blue gave a third entirely different. 

While no one thought, before it was too late, to take down 
the recipes for vegetable dyes used by these pioneer Indiana 
women, there is every reason to believe that they were fully as 
adept with the dye pot as were their Kentucky and Tennessee 
and North Carolina sisters, and the proof of this statement is to 
be found in the beautiful greens, reds, and blues, with an 
occasional touch of wistaria in the "double rose" designs of 
Henry Adolph, and the blue, old rose, and pale yellow of one 
of F. A. Kean's coverlets, to say nothing of other, unknown 
weavers whose work has been preserved. 



402 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

The wool being carded, spun, and dyed, its disposition must 
next be decided by the pioneer housewife. Before the day of 
the professional weaver, the "single" coverlet was woven by 
some member of the household, or a woman of some other 
household who had time for such work outside her round of 
daily duties. As has already been said, the hand loom was an 
important part of the family equipment. Hal C. Phelps, of 
Peru, quotes an interview with Mrs. Mary M. Phelps Miller, 
then eighty-eight years old, whose mother and grandmother had 
learned the art of coverlet weaving in New York state. The 
loom, according to Mrs. Miller, occupied a small room in the 
house, and her grandmother warned her, as a child, not to touch 
anything about it for fear she would break a thread. Mrs. 
Miller, when a young woman, with her mother worked with the 
wool from the time it was sheared until it became the finished 
coverlet. Mrs. D. A. Porter, of Orleans, Indiana, tells the story 
of her aunt, Mollie Bowman, of Morgan County, who brought 
her hand loom from North Carolina and did weaving for people 
in her neighborhood. 

Having decided to weave a coverlet, and having her 
material prepared, the next decision must be the selection of the 
pattern. Many of these "single" coverlets are to be found in 
Indiana ; many were woven in this state by the old patterns of 
colonial days, still preserved in the remote districts of the Ap- 
palachian mountains where Elizabethan English is still spoken. 
I have seen in many Indiana coverlet exhibits the familiar pat- 
terns, "King's Flower," "Sunrise," "Pine Bloom," "Cat Track," 
"Single Chariot Wheels," "Double Chariot Wheels," "Snail 
Trail," and others. Some of the "drafts," by following which 
the weaver evolved the chosen pattern, have been preserved. 
At first glance, one might easily take them for bars of music, 
but on looking closely, he sees, instead of notes on the lines and 
spaces, numbers, or — in the more primitive ones — marks to in- 
dicate numbers. This was probably done for those — and there 
were many at that time — who could not read ; two marks stood 
for the figure two, eight for the figure eight, and so on. These 



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PROFESSIONAL WEAVER'S PATTERN 
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SINGLE COVERLET, FOUNTAIN COUNTY HOUSEWIFE 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 403 

doubtless denoted the number of times the shuttle was to be 
thrown. 

The late Arthur Osborn, of Spiceland, Indiana, had a large 
collection of these very old, crude patterns, some of them found 
in this state, others, in North Carolina. Probably one of the 
most unique articles in the history of hand-woven fabrics is a 
little home-made handbook of coverlet designs which he found 
at Staley, Chatham County, North Carolina, some years ago 
and purchased of Miss Lylna Jane Cooper, an aged woman who 
had used it in her youth. 

Back in 1828 some humble weaver of coverlets with beauty 
in her soul, desiring to keep her patterns in permanent form, 
made, with the crude materials at her disposal, this little book, 
eight inches in length, seven inches wide, and containing thirty- 
six pages. The cardboard cover, of a softness and pliability 
that suggests leather, is embellished outside and in with coverlet 
patterns in blue and white. Inside, drawn by the same pains- 
taking hand, with a goosequill pen, on soft, hand-made linen 
paper, are the coverlet patterns, colored blue and white, a most 
difficult task, requiring many fine lines and squares. On the 
opposite pages are the drafts for the weaver, strange designs, 
meaningless to us, with marks instead of figures, directing the 
weaver how many times to throw the shuttle through the warp 
strung on her loom. Beneath the drafts are written the names : 
"Single Chariot Wheels," "Twelve Snowballs," "Floating Dia- 
mond," "Double Compass," "Rings and Roses," and several 
others. 

On the first page of this little book, instead of a draft are 
twenty-one closely written lines. "Process to dye cotton or 
linnen turkey-red with — " and then follows, of all things, a 
cipher! A cipher in the North Carolina mountains in 1828! 
Mr. Osborn explained the cipher in this way. These women 
weavers of early days guarded the secrets of their art jealously. 
The red dye made of madder used at that time was a dull and 
rather ugly color, which, if boiled too long, became brown. 
The maker of this little pattern book had doubtless discovered 



404 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

some plant decoction by which she could dye a color ap- 
proximating the beautiful color known as turkey-red, and set it 
down in cipher so that no one else could steal her secret. Alas ! 
among the old linsey-clad women with whom he talked and of 
one of whom he purchased this book, he could find none who 
could read this cipher. 

Mrs. Valina (Reynolds) Millis, of Guilford College, North 
Carolina, upon seeing the book recognized the handwriting 
and code used in the directions for ''Dyeing Cotton or Linnen 
Turkey Red" as those of her Aunt Delilah Reynolds, of lower 
Guilford County, North Carolina, since she was familiar with 
a diary and notes of Delilah Reynolds in the same handwriting 
and code. 

ALPHABET AND CODE 



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PROCESS TO DYE COTTON OR LINNEN TURKEY RED, 2Qth, IimO., 1829. 

First — make a lye of one part of good potash, dissolved in four parts 
boiling water; then slack a half part of lime in it, next dissolve one part 
powdered alum in two parts boiling water and whilst this last solution 
is warm, pour the lye gradually into it, stirring and mixing them well 
together. Then add to the above mixture, thirty-third part of flaxseed 
oil, which when well mixed with it, will form a rich milky substance, 
resembling thick cream. As the skeins of cotton are dipt into this alkaline 
mixture it must be stirred, as the oil will rise up to the top of it when at 
rest. To ascertain the respective parts of the different ingredients as 
named above, they must all be weighed, beginning with the water first, 
of which there must be enough to permit each skein of cotton to be 
entirely immersed in it. 

Before the cotton or flax thread, when that is to be dyed, [is] 
dipped into alkaline mixture, it must first be well bleached and cleaned 
by washing, of every foreign extraneous substance : then boiled in 
strong lye made of potash, and dipped into alkaline mixture while it is 
hot and as wet as it [can] well be, when the lye is well gotten out of it by 
drawing the skeins through the hands until they become well soaked. As 
each skein undergoing the above process [is finished], it is to be put 
upon a pole in the shade to dry. After remaining in that state for 
twenty-four hours, they must be well washed in pure running or rain 
water, and again dryed, after which they are to be washed in a strong 
lye of good hickory ashes (or better, of potash). 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 405 

Surely, however, he is lacking in imagination who can look at 
this thing of beauty — for the correctness of line of this little 
book, its soft coloring, and the sincerity with which it was 
wrought, do make it beautiful — and not feel a thrill at the 
thought of the woman in her isolated mountain home who so 
long ago sought thus to express her love of color and form. 

The state of Pennsylvania cherishes in its museum as one 
of the most interesting documents in American hand weaving a 
book of coverlet patterns which had belonged to John Landes, 
of whom nothing is known save that he was an itinerant coverlet 
weaver. These patterns have recently been published by the 
Shuttlecraft Guild, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, because of 
the revival of interest in hand weaving, and particularly in 
hand-woven coverlets, throughout the country. Some of the 
Landes patterns are identical with those of the Osborn book, 
but the Landes patterns have no such artistic form as has the 
North Carolina booklet, which should be preserved in a museum 
in this state to which Mr. Osborn brought it. 

Among the separate drafts in Mr. Osborn's collection, some 
of them pinned together with hand-made pins which have held 
them in place since 1828, is one of the rare and much-prized 
"Bonaparte's March," and the pattern owner's name, "Jane 
Ward." 

The pioneers who brought their hand looms with them, or 
who constructed them after their arrival, were compelled at 
first to crowd them into the one-room cabin, or in a small room 
built off to one side. Later, the people of greater means built 
loom houses where the weaving could be carried on without 
interruption. The description of an old Indiana loom house 
which follows comes from the pen of Charles G. McNeill. 

The noise of a loom was considerable. The clicking of the shuttle, 
the beating of the reeds against the web, the shifting of the treadles and 
the heddles would all begin when other work about the house was done. 
It might last an hour or all day, or perhaps well into the night. These 
noises, if in the dwelling, would waken a sleeping baby, disturb the rest 
of the aged members of the family, or prove quite annoying to any who 
were sick. So in many pioneer families where there was much weaving to 
do, it was found a great advantage to have the loom in a separate building. 



406 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 



Then, too, the storage of materials, of finished products, and of the 
extra equipment of the loom took space that could be provided in a loom 
house better than in a living room. 

The same loom would be used for various kinds of weaving; fine 
linens or coarse, woolens of various grades including blankets, and 
even carpets, could all be had from the same loom by changing reeds, 
heddles, etc. There would be need for storage room for these extra 
parts which might seem unsightly in a dwelling. Even the loom, 
though sometimes its posts and beams were carved and nicely finished, 
could hardly be thought an adornment, and the space in a dwelling which 
such things might occupy could be put to other use. Young children, 
too, might injure some of the parts, such as the reeds. One can see that 
in many families there was real need for a loom house. 

I am fortunate to be able to send you two good pictures of the 
only family loom house I know of that is in a good state of preservation. 
I do not know its age. It is at Perrysville, Indiana. The first settlers 
there came prior to 1824. The town was platted that year. I think the 
land on which it stands was doubtless "taken up" about one hundred 
years ago, or perhaps a little earlier, and that this loom house is well 
along towards one hundred year old. 

It stands on a bluff in a bend of the Wabash River, almost directly 
across the street from the old seminary (now used as a grade school) and 
the new high school. About half way down the bluff a wonderful spring 
of water bursts out from a great crevasse in the rock which underlies 
the region and right at its origin is a stream as large as a man's arm, 
sleeve and all. 

In the old days when the well at the seminary got out of order, the 
school was permitted to get its water supply from this spring. A couple 
of boys would be sent like Jack and Jill "down the hill to fetch a pail 
of water." Each of the four rooms had its pail and dipper. They must 
pass right by the loom house to get to the spring; but I suspect that 
few, very few, knew that it was or ever had been a loom house. They 
perhaps thought it was an old smoke house. Who ever heard of a two- 
story smoke house ! It ceased to be used as a loom house about seventy 
or eighty years ago, however, when a woolen factory was erected at the 
other side of town by B. W. Riggs & Company. Home weaving, 
except rag carpets, soon thereafter was discontinued throughout the 
neighborhood. 

This house belonged to a Mrs. Carter, now long dead, and stands 
directly in front of the dwelling, though in the side yard. Mrs. Carter's 
brothers, Hiram and Lemuel Chenoweth, settled on the next two farms 
south. Hiram's children still own all three of the properties. Mrs. 
Carter lived to great age. One son died from wounds and exposure in 
the Union army during the Civil War. Another son, Richard, also a 
Union soldier, served as county clerk at Newport, Vermilion County. 
His daughter, Grace, now Mrs. Bird Davis, assists her husband in editing 
and publishing the Newport Hoosier State. She was born at the old 
Carter home at Perrysville and in her childhood played all around, and 
in, and perhaps over, this old loom house. And, oh, what a play house 
it must have been ! 

After the seminary was built and students came from all over the 
county, and from other counties, and from Illinois, they found boarding 
places among various families in the villiage, and some at least "kept 
bach." Among the latter were Martin J. Barger and Samuel M. Barger, 
brothers who came from Illinois. These two boys rented this old loom 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 407 

house and kept bachelor hall in it, cooking and studying down stairs 
and sleeping upstairs. It doubtless made very comfortable students' 
quarters and certainly was convenient to the school. 

The loom house was probably built by a Mr. Benefiel, a carpenter by 
trade, one of the earliest settlers in Perrysville, coming there from 
Kentucky over a century ago. 

Professional Weavers 

As the state became more thickly settled and the people 
became more prosperous, the professional coverlet weaver ap- 
peared, a man who had learned the art of "double weaving" in 
Europe, and who came out to the middle-western states, and set 
up his elaborate looms in the towns or in some prosperous 
settlement in the country. As will be seen in the account of 
Indiana professional weavers which follows this, some of these 
men came alone, and some came with their brothers, all skilled in 
the trade. That there was a great demand for their work is 
shown by the account of William Muir and his brothers, of 
whom it was said that their work was promised as far ahead as 
three years, and that they sat at their looms for hours without 
sleep in order to get their work out at the time it was promised. 

The housewife's joy can be imagined at the thought that 
now she was to be relieved of the tedious labor of weaving, and 
was also to be able to possess bed covers of more elaborate and 
beautiful patterns. As before, she prepared the wool, dyed it, 
and when it was all ready, carried it to the weaver. Mrs. J. J. 
Netterville, of Anderson, remembers, as a little girl, going with 
her mother in the wagon driven by her father to the home of 
William Hicks, a weaver, on Killbuck Creek, Madison County, 
and playing about while her mother selected the patterns for 
her coverlets. 

These "double" coverlet patterns were many and elaborate. 
In the Indiana collections are found many "double" coverlets in 
the "Lover's Knot," the "Double Roses," "Frenchman's Fancy," 
"Liberty," and other elaborate designs known in other states 
as well as many presumably original designs. They could 
be woven in blue and white, red and white, or in mixtures of 
red, white, and blue, varied with the warping, or in other colors 



408 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

if the housewife could prepare them. These "double cover- 
lets" were woven almost always in two strips, as were the 
"single" ones, but occasionally some weaver possessed a double 
loom and wove the coverlet in one piece. Few of these one- 
piece coverlets were woven in Indiana ; it is probable that most 
of those now in Indiana came from Pennsylvania or Ohio, where 
many such skilled weavers abounded. 

The "double coverlet" had, usually, borders along the two 
sides, and across the lower end. The reason for not weaving a 
border across the top is evident — pillows covered this end of 
the coverlet. These coverlets overhung the high "poster" bed, 
and the end came out under the turned or straight piece at the 
foot which usually connected the two posts. It was a pretty 
fancy of the weavers to make this lower border different from 
the two sides, and one rarely finds a coverlet with the three 
borders alike. In the corners of this lower border, the weaver 
sometimes wove his "trade-mark," a subject which will be dis- 
cussed later. 

On the occasion of a visit to the Fountain County, Indiana, 
home of the LaTourettes, the description of weaving on the 
"double" coverlet loom was given the writer some years ago by 
Captain Schuyler LaTourette, son of the famous John La- 
Tourette, weaver, a sketch of whose life appears later in this 
pamphlet. 2 Captain LaTourette, who died in March, 1926, was 
so brisk in movement and so gay in manner as to give the im- 
pression of being much younger than eighty-eight, which age 
he claimed at that time. His French inheritance was evident 
in every look, word, and gesture ; his intelligence and his inter- 
est in every subject made his conversation delightful. He 
related the history of the family, showed us the old family 
Bible with the records, and deplored the fact that his father had 
changed his name from Jean to John. 

Captain LaTourette did not learn the art of coverlet weav- 
ing, but his brother Henry, who also lived in this county, was an 



2 See post, p. 419. 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 409 

expert weaver who carried on the business for twenty years. 
He gave us an elaborate description of the process, however ; 
calling the making of double coverlets "division weaving," as 
did Arthur Osborn, a very good descriptive name. The patterns 
were of heavy cardboard (we saw some later, looking much as 
music rolls for the pianola except that the holes are much 
larger). These patterns came in strips fifteen inches long and 
three and a half inches wide, and were joined together to make 
a strip half the width of one of the strips that make half a 
finished coverlet. These strips, numbered and joined together 
by threads, turned on a metal cylinder and there were needles 
which fitted into the perforations. Complicated as this sounds, 
it is nothing to what is to come. There were linen threads 
weighted at one end and controlled by what he called "hand 
holts." There were many treadles, and the weaver, who sat 
before the loom, must feel for the pedals with his foot, much 
as does the performer on the pipe organ, throw the shuttle, 
reach up without looking to catch the proper one of the many 
"hand holts," release it, catch the returning shuttle, and so on. 
The more I heard the process described, the less I understood 
it, but nevertheless it was interesting to hear Mr. LaTourette 
describe his father's skill in weaving, how he could throw the 
shuttle so fast that one could hardly see it, how he and his 
daughter could reach up without looking and unerringly take 
the proper "hand holt," and how much he enjoyed standing 
by and seeing the pattern reveal itself as the fabric grew. 

"If I could see a loom, perhaps I could have a better idea of 
how it was all done," I said to Mr. Fred LaTourette, a nephew. 
"What is left of the old loom is out here," he said, and took me 
out to where he had dragged out the loom just before the 
original log house, used as a loom house, had fallen to ruin. 
We looked with awe at this old loom, to which some of the 
threads and needles are still attached. Lying around it were 
some of the cardboard patterns, which have defied the weather, 
even to the penciling which indicates their number. 

Some of the professional weavers in this and in other states 



410 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

made a practice of weaving on the two lower corners of the 
coverlet, making the device on one corner right side out, and 
wrong side on the other, so that whichever side of the cover 
was put "up" on the bed, the inscription might be read. The 
"double" coverlet repeats the design on the so-called wrong side, 
with colors reversed. Sometimes these weavers wove only the 
date, as "1846," in a square; sometimes they wove their full 
names and the date ; again, the name or initials of the owner of 
the coverlet, the weaver's name, place of residence, and date; 
sometimes a design of some sort and the date. So far as I 
have been able to learn, the suggestion that this device was a 
trade-mark, used by the weaver to identify his coverlets, was 
made for the first time by William Ross Teel, of Indianapolis, 
who has a number of rare hand-woven coverlets. Since Mr. 
Teel has made this suggestion, I have been able to identify a 
number of trade-marks, and thus to discover the weavers of 
some beautiful coverlets. Other trade-marks still remain a 
mystery to be solved by some future student of the art of cover- 
let weaving. It has been observed that sometimes these 
coverlet weavers changed their trade-marks, as in the case of 
William Craig, Sr., or that some other weaver of the same name 
endeavored, by a different trade-mark to maintain his identity, 
as may be the case with F. A. Kean. It should be noted that 
some professional coverlet weavers never used a name, date, or 
emblem as a mark for their work. I have never seen a coverlet 
of the beautiful "Lover's Knot" with pine tree border pattern, 
a very old Colonial design by the way, marked in any way. 

The student of these trade-marks will find much to confuse 
him. He must remember always that the old abbreviation of 
Indiana was "la." ; that when William Craig wove "Greens- 
burg, D. C. la." in the corner of his coverlets he meant Decatur 
County, Indiana ; that when J. Craig wove F. L. County, he 
meant Floyd County. 

Some mystery surrounds the markings found on the William 
Craig coverlets, the Greensburg weaver whose history appears 
later in this pamphlet. It is believed by some that he did not 




DOUBLE COVERLET, CRAIG TRADE-MARK 




CRAIG COVERLET, DECATUR COUNTY 
Note Different Trade-mark 




GRAHAM COVERLET, HENRY COUNTY 




G1LMORE COVERLET, UNION COUNTY 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 411 

adopt a trade-mark until later in his career, and that some of 
his coverlets bear neither name nor emblem, but merely a date. 
While the "crossed pipes" has become his familiar trade-mark, 
and is believed to have been adopted after 1853, he, or his son 
William also used a bell-shaped flower, and a house for trade- 
marks besides the frequent use of his name, and the words 
"Decatur county, la." Favorite Craig patterns help also to 
identify these coverlets — borders of bell-shaped blossoms, of 
birds feeding their young, a church with high steeple. Some 
believe that the unmarked coverlets were woven by the younger 
Craig. 

A coverlet woven by J. Craig bears the trade-mark, "J. 
Craig, 2 miles N. East of Greensburg, D. C. la., 1854." Another 
coverlet marked J. Craig also bears the mark, " Anderson ville, 
F. L. [Floyd] County, la." This may have been the same J. 
Craig in another location. 

David I. Graves's trade-mark was a square containing his 
initials "D. I. G." and the date of the weaving. Sometimes he 
inserted the initials of the owner of the coverlet ; sometimes 
"Wayne county." Samuel Graham, of Newcastle, marked his 
coverlets with a queer sort of bird with outstretched wings and 
the date; never using his name. Joseph Gilmore, of Union 
County, had a little ship with date below for a trade-mark. A 
favorite lower border with him was a row of two-story houses, 
interspersed with branching trees and with a paling fence in 
front. A Henry Adolf trade-mark is "Henry Adolf, Hamildon 
county Indiana, 1851," the misspelling due, perhaps, to his 
German pronunciation. One of George Adolf's marks is 
"George Adolf, Peace and Plenty, 1857." 

According to William R. Teel, F. A. Kean, a coverlet weaver 
of Vigo County, used a trade-mark with the words "Made by 
F. A. Kean 1838," and in the lower corners of the square, a pine 
tree, with crosses between. Mrs. Isaac Daniel, of Indianapolis, 
has a coverlet woven at Peeden's Mill near Charlestown, Indi- 
ana, marked with a basket of flowers in the center of the 
corner square, and below the basket the words, "Made by F. A. 



412 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

Kean, 1846." This opens the question as to whether this was 
the same man who changed his location or was an itinerant 
weaver, or whether there were two men of the same name pur- 
suing the business of coverlet weaving in this state. Another 
Kean coverlet has been reported which has the date 1846, and 
the name F. A. Kean is in the tapestry weave, a flattened weave, 
rather rare and very beautiful. 

Eliza Calvert Hall in her Book of Hand-woven Coverlets 
mentions the names of three Indiana professional weavers of 
coverlets, John LaTourette (or rather, she gives the name of 
his daughter, Sarah, who worked with him), Ann Hay, and 
John Getty. The last named did not exist, as least as a weaver 
of coverlets. Ann Hay married a man named Getty, and Mrs. 
Hall jumped at the conclusion that he was John Getty, of Lock- 
port, New York, a coverlet weaver. Information from her grand- 
children would lead to the belief that Ann Hay was not a weaver 
of coverlets, at all. With her father and mother she came direct 
from Scotland to Jefferson County, Indiana, and settled near 
the Carmel Presbyterian Church. She married Andrew Getty 
and reared five children. After Mr. Getty's death she married 
James Oldfield and lived for a short time in Lexington, Indiana, 
near Chelsea, about one mile from the Scott County line. Later 
the house was bought by Andrew Getty, her grandson. She was 
buried in the Carmel Presbyterian cemetery in Jefferson 
County. Miss Getty, her granddaughter, seems doubtful that 
her grandmother ever wove coverlets. There were coverlets in 
her possession, one dated 1854, probably woven by some pro- 
fessional weaver for whom she had prepared the material. 3 

A study of the art of coverlet weaving in this state within 
the past ten years, however, reveals the fact that Indiana has 
had more than forty coverlet weavers whose names and in some 
cases complete histories have been discovered. These names 
and histories follow, together with an account of coverlet weav- 



3 Notes concerning Ann Hay were furnished by Miss Permelia Boyd, 
of Scott County. 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 413 

ing in Switzerland County, Indiana, prepared by Mrs. A. V. 
Danner, of Vevay. 

WILLIAM CRAIG 

The story of William Craig, coverlet weaver, comes from 
his granddaughter, Mrs. Rena Craig Gilchrist, 4 of Greensburg, 
who writes : 

Many homes in Decatur, Rush, Shelby, and adjoining counties have 
one, two or more double coverlets which are heirlooms. Not many 
know the history of an industry which gave occupation and livelihood 
to the few who knew the process by which these valuable and beautiful 
bedspreads were produced. They only know that in some way they 
possess rare and intricate patterns in their spreads ; that they seem 
to be everlasting in their durability of color and texture; and some 
properly value them as relics, which, if lost, can never be replaced, as 
double coverlet weaving is a lost art. The looms were intricate and 
differed from other looms, and have all been destroyed. Many of the 
patterns have been preserved, but are entirely beyond the comprehension 
of those now living, and with the passing of a very few of the older 
people of our community, no one will be left who ever saw them woven. 

William Craig, Sr., a Scotchman born in Kilmarnock in 1800, came 
to America in 1820, landing in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1821 he 
was joined by some of his brothers and sisters and several members of a 
family of his friends named Gilchrist : One of these, Jane Gilchrist, was 
his sweetheart, and they were married as soon as she landed. Two of 
the Gilchrists were weavers. All were young, and there were only two 
married couples in the company; these made homes for the others and 
the closest friendships always existed among them. They brought with 
them looms and necessary equipment for weaving. 

We will not dwell upon the years intervening between their landing 
and 1832, when all but one family reached Mt. Carmel, Indiana, except 
to say that William Craig, Sr., was foreman in a large eastern cotton 
goods factory during that time. There was some weaving done in Mt. 
Carmel, but the people were all busy for some years in clearing their 
land and building houses, using their spare time in weaving, yet there 
were homes well supplied with the beautiful covers. Farmers kept 
sheep, clipped wool, washed and dyed it, then took it with a cotton warp 
to the weaver. They were the cheapest bedclothes they could get, be- 
sides being the most beautiful outside covers. 

At the weaver's, the yarn was spooled and carefully "set up" and tied 
into the loom. This, we remember, was the most particular part of the 
process. The patterns must be copied exactly, the knots tied with speed, 

4 Mrs. Gilchrist is the only surviving child of William Craig, Jr. In 
preparing this article she was assisted by John M. Craig, and Mrs. 
Elizabeth Craig Perry, only surviving children of James Craig, and 
Mrs. Jennie Reeves Moore, only surviving child of Jane Craig Reeves, 
all grandchildren of William Craig, Sr., all living in Greensburg. All, 
says Mrs. Gilchrist, have seen and known personally of the double 
coverlet weaving. 



414 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 



security, flatness, and precision; hence, the weaver's knot was always 
used. If the thread broke or the slightest imperfection appeared, it was 
darned so that an expert could not detect it. 

In 1838 William Craig, Sr., brought his family to Decatur County, 
locating on a farm three and a half miles northeast of Greensburg, and 
there again set up his loom and was assisted in spare time in weaving by 
his two sons, James and William, Jr. The father spent much time on 
the loom until after the Civil War. James married in 1846 and lived in 
Anderson for eight years as a weaver, supplying the adjoining community 
with these popular spreads. William, Jr., married in 1845 and located 
his home and shop in Greensburg where, for eight years, he kept at the 
loom constantly. 

Coverlet weaving became a large industry. People drove in farm 
wagons fifty and sixty miles, often bringing material for enough cover- 
lets to supply each child at marriage, always leaving some in the home. 
Often after show days and big campaign days the shop was filled and the 
weaver had all he could weave in six months. 

In 1853 William, Jr., exchanged with his father, he taking the farm, 
his father taking the shop, and until William, Sr., retired, the demand 
for coverlets continued. He later moved to Milford or Clifty, where he 
died in 1880. When the looms were taken down and stored they soon 
became junk, and there is nothing left of them. 

William Craig, Sr., was a cousin of Matthew Young and James 
Craig, of Canton, Indiana, who wove extensively in that part of the state. 
It is no wonder that these beautiful pieces are found all over the world, 
when they were for many years a necessary part of a child's dowry and 
have never been known to wear out. 



JAMES CRAIG 

The following account of James Craig is furnished by C. L. 
Trueblood, of Washington County, Indiana. 

My first recollection of James Craig, a Scotchman who was a 
weaver, begins about 1850. He was living near my home in Canton, 
Indiana, and his family and my mother being on intimate terms, I had 
frequent opportunities to watch him at his work, weaving coverlets. He 
had a shop on the southeast corner of his lot, where he dwelt, facing on 
the street. The shop was used exclusively for the loom and his work. 

I was much interested in watching his operation in weaving and the 
construction of the loom, which was different from any other loom I 
have ever seen in that the threads of the warp were each run through 
a loop of cords to which were attached leaden weights about the size of 
an ordinary lead pencil, and I should think from twelve to fifteen inches 
in length. I do not remember accurately about that. The other end of 
each cord was attached to a pedal, of which there was a considerable 
number. A number of cords may have been attached to a pedal, accord- 
ing to the colors and figures being used. This enabled him to depress 
any of the threads of the warp that he pleased by operating the pedals 
with his feet, thus opening a space for the passing of the shuttle, of which 
he used as many as he wished colors in the pattern. By this means he 
was able to expose or cover any of the colors at his pleasure, thus being 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 415 



able to produce figures in the proper colors. He sat on a long bench 
in front of the loom so that he could operate the pedals with his feet. 
I remember James Craig as a man of medium weight, rather heavy 
for his height, and I think he had blue eyes. He was not given to sport, 
was rather of a reflective disposition, pretty well fixed in his opinions, 
and very neat in his habits. His wife was Margaret Craig. They lost 
two children by Asiatic cholera in 1852. 

Mrs. James Young, of Evanston, Illinois, writes of James 
Craig : 

James Craig, coverlet weaver, of Canton, Indiana, was my father, 
and Matthew Young, also a weaver, was my husband's father. William 
Craig, Jr., coverlet weaver, was the son of James Craig. James Craig 
was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, June 17, 1819, one of a family of ten 
children. He died in Brazil, Indiana, August 23, 1896. I remember the 
old loom very vividly. It was taken to Michigan, where we lived for a 
while, but never used, and I suppose it went for junk after father's death. 

SAMUEL GRAHAM 

Clarence H. Smith, curator of the Henry County Historical 
Museum, has furnished the following information concerning 
the weaver Samuel Graham. 

Samuel Graham, the coverlet weaver of Newcastle, was an English- 
man by birth, a native of Lancashire, coming to this country from 
Darwen, a manufacturing city, long noted for its mills and weaving in- 
dustries, some eighteen miles distant from that busy metropolis, Man- 
chester. It seems probable that he belonged to the middle class, perhaps 
to a well-to-do manufacturing family. This I infer from the money 
that came to the family in later years. He was born on July II, 1805, 
and when eighteen years of age, came to the United States. Landing in 
New York, he seems to have stayed there or in Philadelphia for a short 
time, and then to have joined the great stream of emigrants who were 
moving to the "great new west," as the states beyond the Alleghenies 
were called by the easterners. I wish we might know what caused this 
young man to choose the little county seat of Henry County, of about 
two hundred inhabitants, as the place for his abode. Was it, I wonder, the 
business enterprise of the postmaster, who was an old Indian trader, Isaac 
Bedsaul, or that of his newly arrived competitor, Miles Murphy? Or 
perhaps it was the legal mind of Jacob Thornburg, or Samuel Hoover, 
or the deeply religious character of that early Methodist, Father Cole- 
man? Or it may have been the untiring efforts and sacrifices during the 
dread scourge of cholera that year of Dr. Joel or Dr. John Elliott, the 
county clerk, who fell a victim to the disease after caring for the many 
sick, that influenced the young artisan to stay in Newcastle. I doubt not 
at all that these sterling citizens had an influence on his choice, but I 
would say that, as usual, in the affairs of men, fate played a part. 

Soon after coming to Newcastle, the young Englishman, Graham, 
established a loom for weaving coverlets. His daughter, Lucy Graham 



416 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

Clark, of Dixon, Illinois, thinks that upon first coming to the county, her 
father wove at the McAfee-Mowrer Woolen Mills near Hillsboro, later 
known as the Blue River Woollen Mills, although my impression is that 
these mills were not in operation until about 1841. Mr. Graham pur- 
chased the old log courthouse, a small two-story affair, and for some 
years plied his trade in the upper room. For over twenty years he 
carried on a thriving business here and in other locations. His reputa- 
tion became established, and many from adjoining counties brought their 
wool, all cleaned, carded, and ready to be made into his attractive cover- 
lets. One of the boys of that day recalls how, as children, they used to 
go up and watch Mr. Graham at his loom; but he was a dour English- 
man, stern and unapproachable, and not attentive to his children visitors. 

Probably at the time he wove in the old courthouse, he was living 
at the present corner of Walnut and Twelfth streets, but more people 
here today remember him while he resided at the northwest corner of 
Walnut and Fourteenth, in a house that is still standing. In the back part 
of this, or it may be in a part separate on Walnut Street, Mr. Graham 
had his loom. Mrs. Clark says that about 1858 or 1859 Mr. Graham 
went to Cadiz. I do not know whether it was before or after his residence 
there that he moved on a farm where he also had a loom, located about 
where the Weiland greenhouses stand, near the Mahlon Harvey place. 

Mr. Graham had a brother of much wealth in England, who was 
anxious for him to return to his native land. He gave him a large sum 
of money, saying that he wanted his relatives to have the good of the 
property during his life. After his death, however, each of the three 
children of Samuel Graham received five thousand pounds from his 
estate. This was in 1874. About 1863 Mr. Graham took his family to 
England, where they stayed until 1865 or 1866, when they returned to 
Newcastle. Mr. Graham did not weave after his return. He lived on 
East Broad Street, also on the Boone Highway, or Haguewood farm, two 
miles northeast of town. His sons also bought large farms north of 
town. Mr. Graham died in 1871 ; his widow in 1881. A granddaughter, 
Mrs. Asa Hernly, is the only descendant living in the state. 

Mr. Smith gives a human touch to his portrait of the "dour 
Englishman" by describing his fondness for the game of 
checkers, to which he gave much time, always being able to 
defeat his rivals, one of them Edmund Johnson, a prominent 
member of the Henry County bar. A portrait in oil of Mr. 
Graham, by a contemporary artist, hangs in the Henry County 
Museum. 

JOHN KLEIN 

A weaver named Klein, Kline, or Cline, lived in Noblesville, 
Hamilton County, in 1861. "J- Klein, Hamilton county, Indi- 
ana — 1859" is one of his woven marks. Mr. J. F. Kline, of 
Noblesville, son of the weaver, gives his father's name as Klein, 
stating : 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 417 

The Klein mentioned by Madge Demerit, of Connersville, was John 
Klein who came to Hamilton County in the early fifties and established 
his coverlet loom in the home of Martin Forrer, about three miles south- 
east of Noblesville, where he received the wool direct from the farmers 
and put it through the different processes of manufacture by hand and 
returned to them the finished product. He was an expert in making 
fast-color dyes as proved by the present condition of his handiwork. He 
continued weaving at this place until 1857 when he married Lydia Heiny, 
of Clarksville, and moved to Noblesville and continued weaving in his 
house until 1861. At this time he and his brother purchased a woolen mill 
located at the corner of Conner and Sixth streets in this city, where now 
stands a flour mill. He moved his loom to the third floor of the 
building. This mill and contents were destroyed by fire about 1864. 
There are a great many of these coverlets in Hamilton County, and 
adjoining counties to my knowledge, as I have investigated in my 
effort to procure some of them, but have been unsuccessful so far. He 
always wove his name and the date in the corner of the coverlets. Being 
his son, I am greatly interested in this matter and would greatly 
appreciate any assistance in procuring a specimen of his handiwork. 
When a child, I spent many hours watching him weave, and in winding 
bobbins for him. 

JOHN MUIR 

John Muir, a weaver of coverlets, ingrain carpets, silk plaids, 
and Paisley shawls, was born December 4, 1812 in Kilmarnock, 
Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, Thomas Muir, weaver, was 
born near Glasgow, Scotland. John was well educated in the 
parish schools, and at the age of twelve years applied himself to 
the loom. In 1834 Mr. Muir was married to Harriet P. Gil- 
christ, who was born July 8, 1812. Kilmarnock was their home 
city and here he worked at his loom almost seven years. On 
May 15, 1841 they and their four children set sail from Glasgow 
in the American vessel "Oglethorpe" and landed in New York 
on August 3, having been on the water seventy-eight days. 
They stayed in New York three days to buy some necessary 
equipment for weaving, then went by rail to Pittsburgh, by boat 
to Cincinnati, and by wagon to Germantown, Ohio, remaining 
there until February 18,. 1842 when they continued on their 
journey, driving on to Richmond, Indiana, thence to Indian- 
apolis, arriving at Greencastle in February, 1843. Mr. Muir set 
up his loom at Greencastle and wove coverlets and carpets, but 
soon afterward he moved to a small tract of land on the Dan- 
ville road about five miles east of Greencastle. Here his home 



418 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

and household goods were destroyed by fire, but he saved the 
material that his patrons had brought him to be woven into 
coverlets, there being enough to keep his loom going for one 
year. He then located at Filmore and continued his weaving 
until 1859 when he moved to Parke County, locating about 
three miles southeast of Mansfield. Here he bought 520 acres 
of land and remained until his death, June 23, 1892. 

One of his brothers, William Muir, came from Scotland to 
Indianapolis at an earlier date and wove coverlets, but later went 
to the south part of Clay County and bought several acres of 
land in the Eel River bottom. One of his daughters, Mrs. 
Viola Peavey, lives at Clay City. John Muir's son James helped 
his father weave in later years. James was born in Scotland, 
December 29, 1840, and died in Indianapolis June 25, 1921. 
Two other sons — Thomas, who was born in Scotland, and 
William, the first child born in America — were soldiers in the 
Union army during the Civil War. 5 

WILLIAM MUIR 

The following information about William Muir was given 
by George Branson, of Brazil, Indiana. It will be noticed that 
{he account differs in some details from the above information 
given by members of the Muir family. 

William Muir was born March g, 1818, at Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, 
Scotland. . His father, Thomas Muir, was a weaver and when William 
was six years old, he was apprenticed as a draw boy and later he 
was placed at the loom and taught to weave silk fabrics, and later to 
weave Paisley shawls and coverlets. In 1836 he came to America, 
landing at New York after a stormy voyage of sixty-five days. He 
came to Germantown, Wayne County, Indiana, where his brother, John 
Muir, resided and continued weaving. In 1842, he moved to Indianapolis, 
where he operated three looms for a period of eight years. While in 
Indianapolis, he exchanged some unprofitable railroad stock for a 
tract of land in the south part of Clay County and by purchasing 
adjacent tracts became one of the largest land holders in the county. 
A beautiful lake near this tract of land is known as Muir's lake. 



5 For most of this history of John Muir, the writer is indebted to 
his two grandsons, Elmer Muir, of Parke County, and Charles Muir, 
of Indianapolis. Mr. Muir wove many coverlets in Parke County, his 
patrons coming from an extensive territory, and bringing their material 
ready for the loom. 




MUIR COVERLET, CLAY COUNTY 




DOUBLE COVERLET, WEAVER UNKNOWN 
Owned by Mrs. Ann Mayer, Indianapolis 



"^■■v. *••■---'- --—"■ /-'. ... .\'V- 




SEAMLESS DOUBLE COVERLET, SO-CALLED COLONIAL PATTERN 




SEAMLESS DOUBLE COVERLET, WILD TURKEY CORNER DESIGN 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 419 



According to his daughter, his only schooling was in night schools, 
but he was really a well educated man. He carried the brand of his 
early work at the looms, for the tendons of both of his little fingers 
were severed, causing his fingers to be deformed. The four brothers, 
Robert, William, John, and Thomas, worked at the looms together for 
some time. William Muir said once that their work was promised 
ahead as far as three years, and that they sat at the looms for hours 
without sleep, except as they dropped their heads on the looms for a 
few minutes at a time for a nap, this, in order to get their work out 
at the time it was promised. 



JOHN LA TOURETTE 

Among the professional coverlet weavers in Indiana, the best 
known was John S. LaTourette, of Fountain County, and his 
daughter Sarah, who were widely known for the beauty and 
perfection of their work. 6 A branch of this family came to 
America and settled on Staten Island in 1773. John, a son of 
the emigrant, came out to Ohio in 1820, and to Fountain County, 
Indiana, in 1826. The family had been weavers in France, and 
brought the art with them to the new world. John LaTourette 
bought land on Graham's Creek, Fountain County, and built a 
log cabin near the creek in 1826. In 1839 he built a brick house 
on the hill above the creek, a mansion in its day, with central 
hall, wide fireplaces, panelled woodwork, no two floors on the 
same level. The brick for this house was made on the place: 
the surface soil was taken off, the clay dug and moistened with 
water from Graham's creek and trampled by oxen to the proper 
consistency. When the house was complete, the log cabin was 
brought up the hill and set beside the house for use as a loom 
house. A grandson, Fred LaTourette, lives in the house and 
his uncle, Captain Schuyler LaTourette, lived in a house nearby 
until his death in 1926, when past ninety. 

FRANCIS KEAN 

Francis A. Kean lived and wove his coverlets about four 
miles east of Terre Haute on the National Road on what is 
known as the Kean farm, now the Catholic cemetery. Some of 



6 See ante, pp. 408-9. 



420 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

his coverlet dates are 1838, 1844, 1851, according to W. R. 
Teel, of Indianapolis. 

Mrs. Isaac Daniel, of Indianapolis, describes a beautiful 
double coverlet in her possession made at Peeden's Mill on the 
Charlestown-Henryville road about five miles north of Charles- 
town, Indiana. Each corner has an eight inch square with a 
basket of flowers in the center, and above the basket the words, 
"made by F. A. Kean," and under the basket the date 1846. 
"We do not know," says Mrs. Daniel, "whether F. A. Kean 
worked for Peeden or whether he was Peeden's successor." 
The question arises as to whether this was the Terre Haute 
Kean, who had a different trade-mark, or another Kean of the 
same name. 

HUGH GILCHRIST 

Hugh Gilchrist, born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, October 24, 
1824, came to the United States at the age of twenty-two. He 
had learned the art of weaving in Scotland. Coming to Franklin 
County, Indiana, near Mt. Carmel, he and his brother entered 
one hundred and sixty acres, and on this farm built their loom 
house of logs, a building sixteen feet high, for the loom. He 
later moved to Decatur County, where he died. William Craig, 
the weaver, married Gilchrist's sister. These notes were given 
by the late George Gilchrist, of Indianapolis, the weaver's son. 

DAVID GRAVES 

David I. Graves is remembered by John Edwards, who lives 
near Monrovia. Mr. Edwards recalls the day of the carding 
factory, which superseded the pioneer housewife's carding of 
the wool. As a boy he worked in this factory and recalls the 
various steps in the process of making the wool into the rolls 
from which the housewife spun the woolen thread. The thread, 
spun and dyed, was taken to the weaver, Graves, whose loom 
was in the top of the two-story mill. Mr. Edwards recalls the 
lead weights which hung to the cords of the loom. David 
Graves came, he thinks, from Richmond to Morgan County, and 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 421 

was considered a fine weaver. His coverlets were usually 
marked with his initials, "D. I. G." One of the handsomest 
coverlets in Henry County bears in the corners the letters "E. 
S." Below that, "by D. I. G.," and the date 1839. This was 
given by David Hoover, pioneer settler of Richmond, as a 
wedding present to his daughter Esther, who married Henry 
Shroyer. The date on the coverlet is therefore the date of her 
marriage. The coverlet has the "goldfinch border" — in each 
square of the border, perched on twigs, are two small white or 
light colored birds, with dark wings, facing each other. 

GABRIEL GILMORE 

W. E. Crawford, of Union County, Indiana, writes of 
Gabriel Gilmore: 

Reverend Archibald Craig came to this country from Scotland in 
1820 and settled in South Carolina. With him came his daughter Janet 
and her husband, Gabriel Gilmore. In 1826 the Reverend Craig with 
Mr. Gilmore came to Mt. Carmel, where the former became pastor of 
the Presbyterian church there. Gabriel Gilmore had been a weaver in 
Scotland, as were also his three brothers, William, Joseph, and Thomas, 
who came to this country either with Gabriel or later. The four 
brothers bought a farm two miles west of Dunlapsville, Union County, 
Indiana, and built two dwelling houses and a two-story, hewed log 
loom house, where they set up their looms and patterns, said to have 
been brought from New Haven, Connecticut. Later, Joseph moved to 
Missouri, and Gabriel and Thomas moved to Decatur County, Indiana, 
about 1858. William moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, taking the looms with 
him, but they were never used after reaching there. 

ROBERT MILLER [MILTON?] 

Robert Miller [Milton?], a coverlet weaver, came to Salem, 
Indiana, about 1857 or 1858 to work in the woolen mill of 
Campbell, Allen & Company. He had a loom built on the 
corner of Market and Mill streets on the property of Joseph 
Allen, one of the owners of the mill. He sent to England for 
his loom. He made a business of weaving coverlets in one 
piece, no seams. These were mostly blue and white. A beauti- 
ful coverlet of his weaving is owned by Mrs. Earl Adams, given 
to Earl Adams by his grandmother, Mrs. Lucinda Conner. 



422 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

Robert Miller boarded with Mrs. Conner's mother, and not 
being able to pay his board, gave her two coverlets valued at 
that time at ten dollars each. Mrs. Conner says that Robert 
Miller was about five feet tall, very broad shouldered, and had 
a very dark complexion. He left Salem about the time of the 
Civil War and nothing is known of him after that time. 

JAMES MCKINNEY 

Franklin County in its pioneer days had a coverlet weaver 
known as "Uncle Jimmy" McKinney. He lived up the West 
Fork of Whitewater about three miles, in what in that early 
day was known as "the Carolina Settlement." He was a Scotch- 
man and both he and his family were somewhat above the 
average in education and general intelligence. His daughter, 
Mary, known as Polly, married Graem Hanna, one of the most 
prominent young men of that period (1815). His sons, James 
and John T. McKinney, became prominent attorneys, the latter 
dying while judge, in the year 1837. His remains lie in an old 
cemetery in the north end of Brookville. There are none left 
of this name, but grandchildren of Mary McKinney are, a few 
of them, near the old settlement. The Graem homestead is 
still in the family name. 

Mrs. S. S. Harrell, of Brookville, has in her possession two 
handsome double coverlets of this Scotch weaver's workman- 
ship, but has reason to believe that there are few of them left 
in the country. 

CHARLES ADOLPH 

From Clarence H. Smith we have the following information : 

Looking through the original files of the census enumeration taken 
in Henry County in i860, and in Liberty Township, postoffice, Mill- 
ville, which is about six miles east of Newcastle, I found the name 
Charles Adolph, aged 35, occupation "weaver." Place of birth, France. 

Value of real estate ; value of personal property, $100. Other 

members of the household were Emerance (presumably the wife) aged 
37, born in Wurtemburg, Ger., and children all born in Indiana. 
Catherine, aged 11 years; George, aged 9 years; Pheba, aged 8 years; 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 423 



Mary, aged 4 years ; Elizabeth, aged 4 years ; Jacob, aged 2 years ; and 
Nancy, aged one year. There is a coverlet in the county which has 
woven in the corner, "Charles Adolph, Henry County, Indiana, 1857." 



JOHN WHISLER 

John Whisler had a loom at Milton. He came to Milton in 
1826 from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and lived on a farm south 
of Milton. He followed his vocation of weaving coverlets and 
seamless grain bags ; about 1843 he moved to Milton where he 
continued his work until cotton advanced and such work was 
no longer profitable. Mrs. L. P. Zeller, of Milton, formerly 
Emma Wilson, a granddaughter of John Whisler, says that 
she can remember when he wove coverlets. When he stopped 
weaving coverlets, he turned his attention to weaving rag 
carpets and rugs. Mrs. Zeller has a part of a rag carpet 
he wove many years ago. He has one son, Sanford 
Whisler, the last of the family, now past eighty-six years old, 
living in Milton. 

Mrs. Edgar R. Beeson, of Milton, Whisler's great-grand- 
daughter, says that her grandfather wove into the two lower 
corners of his coverlets his name, John Wissler, Wayne county, 
and the date. At first, he spelled his name in the German 
fashion, but in 1840, he changed it to Whisler to conform to the 
usage of his Indiana relatives. 

OTHER WEAVERS 

Henry Adolf, of Hamilton County, who misspelt it "Hamil- 
don," in his trade-mark, is said to have been an employe of John 
Whisler of Milton, Indiana. 

John Marr and John Snyder also are said to be employes 
of Whisler. 

Peter Lorenz, Wayne County. A coverlet made by Henry 
Adolf and Peter Lorenz, of Wayne County, is owned by Edward 
Hatfield, of Brookville, Indiana. 



424 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

William Hicks was a weaver in Madison County on Kil- 
buck Creek, in the fifties. 

William Kerns was a weaver in Parke County, near Leather- 
wood Creek, where it crosses the Rockville-Montezuma road, 
about seventy-five years ago, according to George Branson, of 
Brazil, Indiana. 

A coverlet in the Northern Indiana Historical Museum has 
woven in the lower corner, "South Bend, 1846." The weaver 
is unknown, but the wool was spun by Mrs. Peter Ballenger, ac- 
cording to a note attached to the coverlet. 

Vogel, a German weaver of coverlets, unmarried, lived in 
a two-story building on South Washington Street, in Crawfords- 
ville about 1846-47. 

The name is given of a weaver, Ballentyne, date 1849. The 
coverlet is owned in Delphi, Indiana, but the origin of the 
weaver is unknown. 

Bissett, Franklin, Indiana. 

John and Damus Huber, living near New Alsace in Dear- 
born County. Indiana, 1840-50, are names given by W. D. 
Robinson. 

Joseph Nurre [Dearborn County, 1850?]. 

Schrontz, Dearborn County. 

Ritchie Thompson, Brownsville, 1834. 
William Fairbrothers, of Henry County. 
J. Craig, of Andersonville, Floyd County. 
Samuel Stinger, of Carthage, Rush County. 
John Striebig, 1834, Wayne County. 

Henry Wilson, 1852, who lived near New Winchester, 
Hendricks County. 

Accounts of the professional weavers, Thomas Cranston, 
George Simpson, and James Baird are included in the following 
sketch of Switzerland County weavers. 

Weavers mentioned, but not included in headings on earlier 
pages, are : Matthew Young, in the sketches of William and 
James Craig on pages 414 and 415; George Adolph, on page 
411 ; the Gilmore brothers, Joseph, William, and Thomas, on 
page 421 ; and Henry La Tourette, on page 408. 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 425 

Coverlet Weaving in Switzerland County 

By 
Mrs. A. V. Danner, Vevay 

The art of Coverlet weaving was brought to Switzerland 
County, Indiana, by the Scotch and Irish immigrants as early 
as 1815. The oldest example of their art that the writer has had 
the pleasure of examining is the Cowan coverlet, rose and blue 
in color and the pattern of the "door and window" design. It 
was in 1815 that Donald Cowan and his bride, Jennie Ewing, 
left the "Auld Countree" and sailed seven long weary weeks 
in an old schooner across the seas. We hear that they were 
seasick and homesick, but they never faltered as the long miles 
by land, over mountain and down the mighty river, were slowly 
traveled, until they reached Craig Township, Switzerland 
County, Indiana, about six miles back from the river on Long 
Run Creek. There they gathered the limestone from the creek 
and hillside and built a limestone house. No attempt was made 
in these houses to dress the stone, which was laid up in a rough 
but artistic wall, often two feet thick, with large stone chimneys 
and fire places as large as a modern kitchenette, a fortress for 
defence and an advance in architecture over the log cabin. 
This house and many more of its time and style are now in a 
good state of preservation. Donald raised sheep and Jennie 
set up her loom. Together they went into the primeval forest 
and gathered the barks and herbs for her dyes, for she wove 
the Scotch tartan, flannels with graduated stripes, to clothe the 
family. The hickory bark, walnut bark, white ash and black 
oak, maple and red oak, yielded different color dyes and lark- 
spur, bloodroot, poke root, burdock and the flowers from black- 
eyed-Susan, were dye-yielding herbs. So that in every sense 
the Cowan coverlet is a Switzerland County home product, made 
in 1820 and now owned by a granddaughter, Mrs. Emma 
Ramseyer, of Vevay. 

Henry and Ann (Chambers) Andrews, from Ireland, came 
to Switzerland County in 1820 with their young widowed daugh- 



426 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

ter, Mrs. Susan Betts. She, too, lived in a limestone house on 
the Fairview Pike, Jefferson Township. She delighted in 
weaving Irish linen sheets and plaid blankets, also coverlets 
in blue and white and Irish rose color. One of her coverlets is 
a "Whig rose" pattern in blue and white, another a honeycomb 
in blue and white with a rose frame, a very dainty pattern and 
the colors are still deep and clear, neither is there a mistake in 
these intricate patterns, woven by count of thread and the beat 
of a common loom. These coverlets are owned by her family. 
She later married Mr. Nash and a treasured bit of linen of her 
weaving was made into a sampler by her step-daughter, who 
embroidered the alphabet and numerals in cross-stitch with 
brown thread, and below, her name "Matilda Nash, 1838." This 
sampler and the "Whig rose" coverlet are owned by the writer. 
Mrs. Susan Nash died in 1876. 

"Away down in Craig Township," eighty years ago, Naomi 
Bray was weaving a "lover's knot" coverlet in blue and white, 
verily a maiden's dream, for the next year she married Mr. 
Wiseman. This is the only coverlet she made and when asked 
why she did not weave another, she replied that she had too 
many housewife's cares and different things to distract her 
mind from count and beat of the pattern, for the weaver must 
keep her mind on the work incessantly until it is finished when 
weaving on a common loom. However, she did weave plaid 
flannels and many yards of jeans. Her daughter, who owns 
the coverlet, said, "I used to help my mother thread the loom, 
the chain was doubled and twisted on the big wheel, then 
bleached and spooled, put on the warping bars, taken off in 
loops and laid on, so many yards on the beam of the loom, 
unwound through the gears, the reeds and the temples to keep 
it straight, for it was a difficult task to keep the selvage even." 
This loom was later sold to a rag carpet weaver. 

Mrs. Wiseman, who was an expert in the dyer's art, colored 
wool for several coverlets made by the professional weaver, 
Thomas Cranston. She set the "blue pot" with madder and 
flour. The indigo was sewed up in a flannel bag and put to 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 427 

soak in a kettle of water ; then the indigo yeast was added, which 
had been carefully saved from year to year. It was thick and 
greenish in color when poured into the new dye. This mixture 
was kept warm day and night on the hearth of the old fire place 
for four or five days until it was "ripe." It was then brought 
to a boil and the wool dipped and aired, and dipped and aired, 
until it became that deep, dark, beautiful blue we see in these 
hand-dyed and hand-loomed coverlets. 

She also colored wool in scarlet and crimson with madder. 
The scarlet and white Cranston coverlet in the honeysuckle and 
wreath pattern with a large dove in each corner and basket of 
roses in the border is as much a tribute to her dyer's art as to 
his craftsmanship in tapestry weaving. Mrs. Wiseman colored 
"clouded yarns" by wrapping the yarn tightly with cotton cord 
for an inch every eight or ten inches, dipping it all in the dye. 
When the wrappings were removed that space was white and 
when woven or knitted made a clouded or variegated effect. 

The Scotch settlement in Pleasant Township, Switzerland 
County, developed the art of hand-woven fabrics that seems to 
be all their own in the history of the county. About thirty 
Scotch families immigrated here before 1825 and settled ten 
miles back from the river, without regard to county lines, in 
both Switzerland and Jefferson counties, among the braes and 
glens and dales that resembled their native home, brought with 
them their craft and thrift, and made a bit of Scotland for them- 
selves. Their church, Caledonia, was built on the county line, 
the "kirk" in Switzerland, and the "kirkyard," where they 
buried their dead, in Jefferson County. When the Wither- 
spoon family came over, they brought their silver spoons and 
brass candlesticks. They floated down the Ohio River in a 
flatboat. They were weavers of Scotch tartan flannels, the 
mother weaving and the girls spinning. Miss Maggie said, 
"Eight cuts was a day's stint for us, or 120 threads, and some- 
times we were through our stint by 3 o'clock on the afternoon." 

About 1835 or 1840 a Scotch tapestry coverlet weaver named 
George Simpson arrived in the settlement. He and his wife 



428 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

lived in a log cabin on the Witherspoon farm. He operated a 
Jacquard loom and wove for housewives of the neighborhood, 
who spun and dyed pounds of wool that each child might have 
his own coverlet. His first coverlet was made for Mrs. Uzzia 
Stow. After weaving the center he waited several weeks for the 
border pattern to arrive from England. This border was a 
trailing vine with small birds scattered along. Miss Wither- 
spoon has a Simpson coverlet in blue and white, design of oak 
leaves, blocked off in twelve inch blocks by fancy columns, end 
border of basket of roses, side border a vine, and in each corner 
an eagle with spread wings. We have heard of several others 
of similar designs. 

Before the Civil War, Mrs. Cockerill, of Cumberland Gap, 
Tennessee, engaged a man there to make eight tapestry cover- 
lets, one for each of her children. When he had woven one and 
half of another, he died. She could not find a Jacquard 
weaver in Tennessee or Kentucky and hearing of Mr. Simpson, 
sent her yarn to Switzerland County. He wove the seven 
coverlets for her. Of late years, her son, Major Cockerill, 
wanted to buy the loom on which they were made. It was 
found stowed in dust and cobwebs of a crib, but the Major died 
before it was shipped to him and it is at present owned by Mr. 
Ed Lamson, of Craig Township, Switzerland County. Mr. 
Simpson died about 1855. He is referred to as Simpson, the 
weaver, father of Dr. Robert Simpson, a popular physician in 
the county, who was born in 1845 and practiced from 1870 
to 1900. ' 

A Scotch bachelor, Thomas Cranston, arrived about the 
time Mr. Simpson died. He brought his Jacquard loom and 
began weaving the tapestries. He had served a seven year ap- 
prenticeship in Scotland to learn his craft. He married Miss Ann 
Glenn, of Jefferson County, and bought a farm on Brushy Fork, 
where he built a limestone house in the garden where, as one of 
his Scotch friends told the writer, "he wove at odd times and 
wet spells." He had a book of patterns from which his patrons 
selected the one they liked. I have seen six of the Cranston 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 429 

coverlets and heard of several more in the county, all blue and 
white except Mrs. Wiseman's scarlet and white. All of these 
coverlets were dyed by the county housewives. Some of the 
tapestry patterns are "moss border with snails," "moss and 
roses," Scotch thistle patterns, large medallion and small polka 
dots, with a small bird in a wreath of leaves in the corner of the 
borders. One conventional geometric pattern had no border. 
He delighted in baskets, roses, and borders of birds — eagles, 
larks, and blue buntings. In 1870 after modern machinery had 
supplanted the hand loom, Thomas Cranston with his family 
moved to Kansas, where he was elected to the state legislature 
several times. 

Mr. Frances, a Scotch weaver, believed in advertising his 
craft by solemnly stating to each patron that he wove his 
clover blossoms so perfectly that the bees flew on them to suck 
up the honey. A blanket weaver amused his patrons by always 
speaking of making his tartans "cleek" instead of match. 

James Baird, an Irishman, was a professional weaver, but 
I have not seen any of his work. It is the housewife's coverlet, 
of which there are many in the county, that has the strongest 
appeal to me. The sacrificing woman "who, seeking wool and 
flax, worked willingly with her hands," who dreamed and spun, 
and dreaming, wove a fabric unique in form and rare in color 
from homely products around her, "covering the household 
with tapestry," deserves great admiration. Alas, her skill and 
the pride of her art died with her ! No one now in the county 
can thread the old loom, can give a receipt for the bark-herb 
dye, or can count the thread and beat of the "lover's knot" or 
the "Whig rose." We would think it were all tradition if it 
were not for the beautiful coverlets that in their perfect fabrics 
and the beauty of their fadeless colors testify to a forgotten art 
of the past. 

Interesting Old Coverlets of Indiana 

Many interesting bits of information concerning coverlets 
in Indiana have come to light during the search for the history 



430 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

of old coverlet weavers. One of the oldest coverlets in the 
state was shown at Brazil during the Clay County centennial 
celebration. It was made in England in 1798 and brought to 
America by the grandmother of Dorsey Arvin, its present 
owner, first to Kentucky, and then to Daviess County, Indiana. 

Another very old coverlet is the property of Mrs. Dan Car- 
ter, of Rockville, Indiana. It is in three colors and of an 
unusual pattern. When Mrs. Carter bought the coverlet, she 
had the owner make an affidavit as to the truth of his state- 
ment. Dr. James Corie stated that this coverlet was two hun- 
dred years old. The yarn was spun and woven and colored by 
Mrs. Johanna Verlam and bequeathed to her daughter, Mrs. 
Mary Comstock, who in 1814, gave it to her daughter, Mary 
Wanamaker (fifteen years of age) in exchange for splitting 
rails to enclose their cabin. Mary Wanamaker at her death in 
1885, gave the coverlet to her good friend, Mrs. Mary A. Corie. 
On Mrs. Cone's death on April 8, 1921, it passed into the 
hands of her husband, Dr. James Corie, who sold it to Mrs. 
Carter. The Wanamakers, says Mrs. Carter, were settlers 
of Parke County. 

A coverlet story which illustrates the high esteem in which 
coverlets were held and the desire of the parents to present each 
child with a coverlet is told of Harry M. and Rachel A. Clemons, 
of Decatur County, who had eleven coverlets made by William 
Craig, of Greensburg. Mr. Clemons sheared the sheep and 
spun the wool which was then turned over to the Craigs. Each 
year for ten years he had them weave a double coverlet, paying 
each time five dollars for the weaving. These passed into the 
possession of the Clemons' children. The dates of the covers 
are all in the forties. 

An unusual coverlet shown at the Tippecanoe County centen- 
nial exhibition of relics has an intricate pattern showing a 
farmer plowing in his field, with birds flying overhead, and 
farm buildings scattered about. The figures are quite small 
and the pattern is repeated over the entire coverlet. It has no 
trade-mark. 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 431 

A woman of North Vernon describes a coverlet which is 
said to have been woven for her grandmother by an un- 
known weaver near Richmond, Indiana, in 1855, as having a 
border design of hunter and hounds. A somewhat similar de- 
sign forms the border of a coverlet in the possession Mrs. 
Walter Q. Gresham, of Indianapolis. The design is a hunting 
scene, with trees in the background, and in the foreground, a 
hunter with his gun, and a dog in pursuit of a fleeing deer. In 
the corner is a trade-mark, a small but neatly designed two- 
story building with an elaborate cupola. The date, 1848, is 
woven below. 

Three child's coverlets, the only three known to exist, are 
owned in this state. One was woven in Ohio, and its descrip- 
tion, by Mrs. J. D. Fogle, of Bourbon, Indiana, gives its size 
as three by four feet. The colors are dull green, dark blue, and 
white. The design is that sometimes known as "Young Man's 
Fancy" and the side borders are of birds and roses while the 
border across the foot is of grapes and leaves. In the trade- 
mark square is the weaver's name, "Vernon township, Crawford 
county, Ohio. J. C. Cole, 1861." The second, in the possession 
of Mrs. A. L. Flanningham, of Thorntown, Indiana, is thirty- 
six by thirty-two inches in size, with a four-inch fringe on two 
sides and one end. The colors are blue, green, and two shades 
of red. The name of the weaver is unknown. The third, 
woven by John Whisler, was shown at a coverlet exhibit at 
Milton, Indiana, in 1928. It was the duplicate in pattern of a 
large coverlet by the same weaver, and was evidently ordered 
with the idea of having the covering for the large bed and the 
child's bed match. 

A story which shows a woman's regard for a coverlet which 
has been a family possession for many years is told by Mrs. 
Ann Mayer, of Indianapolis, concerning a beautiful blue and 
white coverlet in a pattern of large five-pointed stars, alternat- 
ing with elaborate curved designs, and with four borders. The 
trade-mark is a large single flower, without date or name, and 
the weaver is unknown. Mrs. Mayer states : 



432 Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 

I was only twelve when my parents died, and our home was 
broken up and our goods put up at auction. Of course it was all 
hard enough, but the last straw, it seemed to me, was the loss of this 
coverlet. Although so young, I bid it in, with the understanding that 
the amount bid should be deducted from my share of the estate. I 
wish I could give you the exact age of the coverlet. I am eighty-one 
[this letter was written in 1926] and I know it has covered four 
generations, and as the first recollection I have of it was from a sister 
of my grandmother, I think I am safe in saying five generations, 
anyway. 

A passage from a will of Dubois County, dated April 29, 
1905, disposing of over $50,000, shows the high regard in which 
hand-woven coverlets are held in some families. In this will 
Mrs. Margaret Sherritt gave to John H. Sherritt "a coverlet 
made by Margaret Gibson Brown more than a hundred years 
ago." 

It is not possible, within the limits of this pamphlet, to list 
the names of "single" coverlet weavers, since such coverlets 
were woven in many households, and a number of these names 
have been preserved. The collector of coverlets should re- 
member that, with the exception of Sarah LaTourette, who 
worked with her father, no woman is known to have mastered 
the intricacies of the loom for "double" coverlet weaving. 
While the tradition has come down in many families that the 
coverlets were woven by the grandmother or great-grandmother, 
it will be found that in the case of the "double" coverlet, her 
work was confined to the preparation of the materials, which 
were then taken to the professional weaver. 

The Civil War, improved machinery, and aniline dyes 
brought an end to the work of the hand weaver. For a time 
some coverlets were made by machinery in factories after the 
old patterns. These are easily distinguished from the others 
by the coloring and the style of weaving. They have little of 
the beauty of the old covers with their soft rich dyes and beauti- 
ful weaving. 

The period of the hand-woven coverlet may be said to lie 
between the Colonial days and the Civil War ; in Indiana, from 
the coming of the first settlers into this territory until Civil 
War days. 



Coverlet Weaving in Indiana 433 

Much material remains to be collected regarding this branch 
of art, and this research should be a part of the work of the 
county historical societies. As has already been done in Wash- 
ington County, the coverlets in the county should be listed and 
their history, so far as possible, recorded. Those that were 
the work of the housewife should be listed separately from 
those that were the work of the professional weaver. In old 
sheds and outhouses, old looms are falling into decay ; every 
county historical society should preserve one of these that the 
children may learn from it something of the laborious art of 
weaving. The names of the weavers of "single" coverlets, in 
addition to those of the professional weavers should be collected. 
Trade-marks should be studied, as well as the weaving pat- 
terns, many of which seem to be peculiar to some of our 
weavers. 

Enthusiasts over handcraft in other states have for some 
years been making collections of hand-woven coverlets. Our 
state has a few collectors whose collections show some notable 
examples of the weavers both of this state and others. Those 
who would undertake this branch of collecting should be re- 
minded that even a fragment is desirable, since it shows pattern 
and dyes, and that both "single" and "double" coverlets should 
be included in the collection. A collection for a future state 
museum which would include an example of the work of each 
of our professional weavers as well as of coverlets woven at- 
home would form an illuminating page of early Indiana history. 
Perhaps half the charm of coverlet study comes from the fact 
that in it one reads so much of the story of the Indiana pioneer.