Learning More About Our Quilts and Their Makers

Historical Article Series May 3, 2020 > Learning More About Our Quilts and Their Makers

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 50, No. 4, November 2014

Two noted quilt historians, Susan Reich and Barbara Garrett, visited the museum this summer and provided us with additional information about the quilts in our collection.  They were able to date the quilts more accurately based on the fabrics used and their construction.  With their help we added some valuable information to our accession records.

Polly Hanks Freeman
Polly Hanks Freeman and her daughter, Sarah

The earliest quilt in our collection was made by Polly Hanks Freeman (1786-1861) of Mansfield, probably in the 1810s – 1820s.  Not only do we know who made the quilt, but we also have a record of her image.  This is exceptionally rare.  

Polly Hanks married Shubael Freeman on January 14, 1810.  Her brother-in-law, George Freeman, was a budding artist who later became a noted miniaturist. About 1814 he painted a pair of watercolor portraits of Polly and Shubael Freeman with their children. Those por-traits are now in our collection, a gift from Clarice Deming, a direct descendent.  (You can read more about the artist in Wilma Keyes’ book, George Freeman, Miniaturist, 1787-1868, published by the Mansfield Historical Society in 1980.)

Polly Freeman’s variable star quilt has an unusual asymmetrical design. It follows no known pattern and was probably of Polly’s own invention. It has five blocks 23” x 23”, three blocks 16” x 16” and one block 11 ½” x 11”.  The front is composed of three cotton fabrics – a larger floral sprig pattern, a small pink and white geometric print and a plain white fabric.  The backing is homespun linen that Polly probably wove from flax grown on their farm at Spring Hill. The quilt is hand pieced and is quilted with an overall clamshell pattern.

Detail of Polly Freeman’s quilt
Detail of Polly Freeman’s quilt

Sue Reich noted that the floral print fabric is considerably older than the other materials in the quilt. She identified it as a mid-eighteenth century fabric imported from England.  Such printed fabrics were often used for wedding dresses during that time period. Reich surmised that Polly Freeman may have incorporated scraps from her mother’s wedding gown in her quilt.  Her parents, Sarah Webber and Silas Hanks, were married on October 20, 1762. 

The quilt was given to the Historical Society by Mabel Freeman Kirkpatrick, a great-great-granddaughter of Shubael and Polly Hanks Freeman.

In doing research for our quilt exhibit, we also learned quite a bit about the maker of a beautiful appliqued coverlet given to the Historical Society by William A. Hahn.  This coverlet is composed of sixteen 18” blocks and has a hand appliqued oak leaf and reel pattern in apple green and red calico.  The appliqued design is outline-quilted with very fine stitches.  It shows little sign of use and the colors are still as vibrant as when it was made.

The coverlet’s maker was identified with a small paper tag attached to it inscribed “Virginia Hahn – your great-great Aunt Lucrecia Clark”.  Further research identified the maker as Lucretia Ripley Clark Gager (1803-1895), who was born in Windham and later moved to Ohio.  In 1824 she married Jeremiah Clark, a native of Hampton, Connecticut.  The couple returned to Connecticut and settled in Mansfield.  Land records show that they owned property in Mansfield from 1826 until 1834.  At least one of their children, Maria Louisa, was born in Mansfield. Following her husband’s death, Lucretia and her four children moved to Ohio to be near her parents.  In 1838 she married Marvin Gager and with him had two more children.  She lived in Ohio the rest of her life.  The coverlet in our collection was made prior to her remarriage, perhaps while she was still living in Mansfield.

Lucretia Ripley Clark - Coverlet
Lucretia Ripley Clark – Coverlet

Research on the Internet turned up an article written by Lucretia Ripley Clark Gager in which she gives further details of her life.  It was published in the Urbana Daily Citizen on February 14, 1888.

“I was born in Windham, Connecti-cut on 25th October, 1803, and lived there until 15 years of age. In 1818, my parents moved to Ohio. We came across the mountain with an ox team, we were on the road 3 or 4 weeks. We stopped near Dayton that summer and in September removed to Darby Plains where my father built a cabin about one mile south of Woodstock. At age of 21 and on my birthday, I was married to Jeremiah Clark and with him traveled back to Connecticut, crossing the mountains in a wagon. I lived there eleven years where my husband died in 1833, and in 1835 I came back to Ohio with my four children, the eldest being nine years old and the youngest three years. I came by steamboat and canal as far as Columbus and then by wagon to Clark County where my parents then lived. In 1838, I married Marvin Gager and in 1845 we moved to Woodstock where we have lived most of our lives. Two of my six children have passed on, of the four left, the youngest is 42 years. I am now at the advanced age of 84 years and enjoying good health.

What a fortuitous discovery to find something written by the coverlet’s maker!

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